Garment Bags vs. Carry on Luggage
Since some airlines now restrict on-board baggage to one item, there's the important choice between taking a garment bag or a carry-on luggage piece. Both bags have pluses and minuses, depending on use. Notwithstanding the garment bag/carry-on rolling hybrids that exist, it's time to analyze and compare garment holders and carry-on baggage.
What's Best for Clothing Type
Think about the sort of clothing you'll be wearing on your trip. For business travelers, a garment bag is necessary to avoid ruining the fruits of the dry cleaner's labor, while a college student headed out on spring break doesn't have the same concerns. Suits, especially jackets, require the neat, flat form of a garment bag. Save the suitcase for those trips that require folded clothing only.
While a garment bag may keep dresses and skirts crisp, it probably won't hold as much clothing as a carry-on bag would. Consider whether two suitcases will carry as much as one garment bag and one suitcase. For longer trips, minimize the high-maintenance, pressed garments for easier-wear fabrics that can be rolled and placed in a carry-on. A carry-on suitcase is simply a better use of space and is easier to tote around.
On-Flight Space (and Strength) Restrictions
As mentioned before, a garment bag can be cumbersome to carry around. Though there are super-compact specialty models on the market like the SkyRoll, most garment bags aren't that small and user-friendly. Keep in mind that many carry-on-eligible garment bags are too short to hold long dresses, skirts and coats. Most carry-on suitcases do fit under seats and in compartment comfortably. However, the bigger the bag, the heavier it is, making the overhead heft particular daunting. A garment bag might be best for those who don't want a potential wrestling match with their bags on the plane.
Depending on your garment needs, a garment bag may have to be checked. If this is the case, the garment bag will have to be sturdy and able to take a beating, just like a suitcase. However, there's usually not the possibility of surprise with a carry-on luggage piece. Airlines accept carry-ons that are under 55 inch - just about the size of a medium suitcase. However, a small- to mid-size garment bag can easily be taller with only a few inches' thickness worth of clothing. To avoid last-minute checking, stick with a carry-on bag.