Not that long ago, people chose travel bags based on appearance as much as anything else. A nice looking suitcase was as much a fashion statement as a way to transport your things. In those days, porters, skycaps or bellmen handled your luggage, so it didn’t matter much how easy it was to carry.

In 1989, a pilot for Northwest Airlines developed the roll-aboard bag. Not long after, travelers started carrying their own luggage, and porters went the way of buggy whips. Nowadays, no matter where you’re traveling, you’ll likely have to carry your luggage yourself once in a while, so it’s important to buy travel luggage that will make that as easy as possible.

Since the airlines started charging to check bags, carry on luggage will save you both time and money. And several new features that can reduce travel hassles are now available. So if you’re shopping for luggage, make sure you get bags that incorporate the latest bells and whistles.

Today, four wheels are just as common as two. And two or four of them may swivel a full 360 degrees. With swivel wheels, you can turn on a dime, and it takes a lot less effort to move the bag. But on inclines, bags with swivel wheels can roll away on their own.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sometimes needs to open luggage, so if you want to lock your bags, you’ll need to use the kind that can be opened by the TSA with a master key. Some luggage makers, such as Tumi and Victorinox Swiss Army, have built-in locks that are TSA compliant.

Lightweight luggage superstars.

When it comes to weight, the lighter the better. And several different kinds of luggage are available that weigh less than seven pounds in the 20” size. The nylon Hartmann Zoom is one of the lightest soft-sided bags at six pounds.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, hard-sided luggage is now extremely lightweight. Bags made of polycarbonate and ABS plastic (PC-ABS) — the material that bullet-proof glass is made of — are very durable but flexible enough to cram into an overhead bin. Many of these bags come in bright colors that make them easy to spot on the carousel.

If you can afford it, Samsonite’s Cosmolite line is light as a feather. Made of layers of woven polypropylene, the 20” carry on weighs in at just 4.9 pounds. Slightly smaller, the 20” x 13” x 9” Tumi Vapor carry-on weighs a little more, but is suitable for international flights. Both are priced around $400.

In a novel twist, Delsey has come out with a Pullman case that features a built-in scale that weighs itself. When the total weight exceeds 50 pounds — the limit for most airlines these day — an indicator light turns red. Made from the lightweight fiberglass-graphite composition used for tennis rackets, it’s another good choice.

The right ergonomic design can redistribute the weight of a bag and reduce the effort required to carry or move it. Some designs minimize stress on the shoulders, arms, and back. And straps, harnesses, and handles can make luggage seem lighter than it is. So be sure to wheel the bag around, carry it with the shoulder strap, and try out all the handles before making a decision to buy it.

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