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I made the mistake of traveling with a duffel for years. A $90 carry-on from Target solved all my problems.

Amanda Krause   

I made the mistake of traveling with a duffel for years. A $90 carry-on from Target solved all my problems.
  • For years, I made the mistake of traveling by plane with a duffel bag as my carry-on luggage.
  • So I recently spent less than $100 on a hard-shell suitcase from Target's Made By Design brand.

When I started traveling by plane regularly about two years ago, I constantly made a big mistake: using a duffel bag as my carry-on.

Throughout my childhood, teenage years, and early adult life, I'd only ever traveled by car — and duffels are perfect for road trips. You can fill them to the brim, throw them in the backseat, and only carry them when arriving at and leaving your lodgings.

But carrying them through the airport is a whole different story. I quickly learned that there's nothing worse than lugging a heavy bag on your back through security and to your gate, which can be a very long walk depending on the airport.

And that's not to mention how vulnerable your belongings can be in a duffel.

On multiple occasions, I've watched other passengers struggle to fit their hard-shell suitcases into the overhead bins — until they spot my bag. It's soft and flexible, so why not shove it to the side and crush everything inside in the process?

So ahead of my most recent vacation, I knew it was time to invest in a hard-shell roller bag. And to my surprise, I found the perfect one at Target for under $100.

Admittedly, I wasn't too picky when I chose my new suitcase.

My only qualifications were that it had to roll, cost around $100 or less, and be available at a store like Target or TJ Maxx (I had limited shopping time before my trip).

I found all of the above in a suitcase from Target's Made By Design Brand. The hard-shell luggage is currently sold in seven colors — a few shades are sold out online — and retails for $89.99.

Though I was initially drawn to the light-pink shade of the one I chose, I quickly realized that it also did everything I needed it to do. It seemed big enough to fit most of my travel items, but small enough to tuck into overhead compartments. It also had spinning wheels that made it easy to transport, expandable sides, a zippered pocket, and multiple handles.

Plus, it was on sale and cost $80 when I purchased it.

So I bought the suitcase and immediately tested it out on vacation a few days later.

Now, I'm happy to report that it worked perfectly for my trip (a flight to Florida and a short cruise to the Bahamas). In the small suitcase, I was able to pack multiple pairs of jeans, at least 10 tops, a pair of shoes, a curling iron, and other necessities.

The zippered pocket made packing especially easy, since I could store clothes on one side and other items on the opposite.

And even when full, it was still light enough to lift into an overhead bin, where it fit snugly against other suitcases. It also rolled smoothly and quickly through the airport and my hotel, though it struggled a little on carpet.

I'm not sure how well the suitcase will hold up over time, and I'll have to see if it's useful on longer vacations in the future.

But for now, one thing is certain: I'll never travel by plane with a duffel bag as my carry-on again.


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