7 Ideas For Improving Carry-On Luggage

Including RFID tags, built-in phone chargers, and more

Travel challenges strike a chord with me. I've been going more than 100,000 miles a year for nearly a decade, and have never been satisfied with roll-aboard luggage; it can just be so much more than a nice-looking box that rolls. Here are seven ideas for making carry-on luggage more usable:

1. Bigger wheels
Maneuvering over curbs, stairs, subway grates, cobblestone sidewalks, puddles and snow is always a challenge, but bigger wheels would help a lot. What's with the tiny wheels and low ground clearance anyhow?

2. Built-in phone charger
Since few airports or train stations have adequate electrical access, why not generate electricity from those big wheels spinning while you walk? It'd be the same principle as those 1950s Russian flashlights with squeeze grip hand-generators. Capture enough energy from those big wheels while walking to the gate to charge a cell phone. USB port on the top, please.

3. Security
Arrive late? Can't find a cab or the hotel? Not to worry, a little button for a built-in alarm or siren would be comforting to have in case you wander into the wrong neighborhood, like I have.

4. More security
Add an RFID tag, so if the bellman misplaces it or a cabbie runs off with it, your luggage can be easily tracked and located. Some night reflection tape would be helpful, too.

5. Versatility
The main compartment on most soft luggage expands, but I'd like to have some extra pockets on the outside that pop out for more external storage. These could zip closed for the plane or train, and then expand open outward significantly to hold a coat, hat and gloves, briefcase, cosmetic case or tote, camera gear, and other things you need access to on the run.

6. More versatility
An interior sleeve pocket for an umbrella would be lovely. I don't typically carry an umbrella on the airplane, but many times I've arrived somewhere and walked outside, only to find it raining. I've then had to stop, open my suitcase on the sidewalk, and hunt for the umbrella I hope I packed. I'd also like to have a pop-out upper side pocket for a water bottle and other gadgets.

7. A built-in cup holder
Now that you've arrived safely, how about that double latte? But wait, it's almost impossible to hold a hot coffee, a pack or briefcase, drag the luggage, and open a door at the same time. I'd recommend a pop-up cup holder on the top of my roll-aboard, with a little swivel on it to hold my cup upright. Oh, by the way, I'd also like waterproof fabric and zippers throughout.

Travel will still be challenging, but these little design details would make roll-aboard luggage much handier--a better user experience, in fact. And maybe we could enjoy traveling a bit more.

[Image: Pile of bags via Shutterstock]

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  • Don

    #1) Bigger wheels would make a carry-on too tall and won't
    necessarily help with most of the examples you cite, but wheels that
    extend outwards to improve stability would. The only luggage with wheels
    that extend outward is called SkyRoll on Wheels. www.skyroll.com

    #5) SkyRoll on Wheels also has a wrap-around garment bag that extends
    outwards to hold more clothes. It also has a compartment on top to hold
    small items you need to get to quickly, like a hat, gloves, cosmetic
    case, camera gear, etc... It also would satisfy #6 and hold a water
    bottle and small umbrella. SkyRoll has been around for over 10 years.

    #7) The luggage cup holder also already exists, https://goodtugo.com/

    I don't see how an RFID tag would do any good, it would have to be close to a reader and these don't exist for luggage.

    And regarding the suggestion of a built-in scale, Ricardo introduced this
    over 6 years ago. I think a few other companies also tried this but I
    couldn't find any of them with a Goggle search, so I'm guessing people
    didn't want them and they've been discontinued.

  • Philscbx

    I've mopped up a few airports with London Fog raincoat that gets loose dragging bags through terminals 1/2 mile jaunts.
    Seriously - a full pull out stretch net on back & front is needed.

  • überfahr

    How about NO carry-on luggage - or charges for it - rather than charges for check-in luggage? Certainly SMALLER carry-on luggage would be appreciated by those who have to deal with the masses of odious carry-ons that require everyone on the plane to accommodate these 'speedy' folks who think of themselves as savvy and seasoned business travelers. Not.

  • Philscbx

    Legal size carry on $400 roller filled with $10,000 camera gear - would never be seen again - checked in.
    The trouble - the size rules are not followed.
    One idiot takes up the space of 2-3 in overhead.

  • longlivemyword

    Totally agree, Thomas! And what a refreshing topic to talk about! For luggage that needs checking-in I would also think that a built in weight scale would be highly beneficial to most people - especially if you travel with my wife! :)

  • Thomas Lockwood

    Great idea! One time I booked a 10 euro flight on Ryan Air for a short flight in England, and got hit with a 70 euro fee for luggage weight at check in!