A good carry-on bag is the best way to avoid checked baggage fees. When traveling with kids, though, the best carry-on bags are lightweight and durable.

When buying luggage, here are few things to keep in mind:

Look for heavy duty wheels and a sturdy telescoping handle. Take it from one who’s been there: few things can put a damper on a vacation like losing a wheel on your suitcase or having the handle break as you’re running to catch a flight. If you want your kids to pull the bag, look for one that has two handle heights, one for little people and one for big people.


Choose the bag that expands. You might fit everything in there nicely when it’s all clean and folded on your way out. But you’ll be coming home with new purchases and souvenirs, not to mention mounds of dirty, crumpled clothes, which always take up more space. Those space saver bags that allow you to squeeze out the air once the bags are inside help, but the extra two or three inches you’ll get from an expanding suitcase are always welcome.

Look for a handle on the bottom. It helps provide stability to the bag when you’re standing at the ticket counter (fully packed, front-heavy bags tend to fall forward, especially when they have been zipped open to an expanded size) and it makes it much easier to heft a heavy bag into the overhead compartment.

Consider spending a few extra bucks for a better carry-on bag. It will serve you better over the long haul and it could pay for itself in savings from checked baggage fees.

For a look at carry-ons even kids can carry on, click here.

Cindy Richards is the editor of TravelingMom.com, the mom of two terrific teens and a woman who can carry on about a good carry-on. She also writes the TravelingMomwithTeens blog  at TravelingMom.com and the Suitcase Packin’ Mama travel blog at ChicagoParent.com.