Why don’t more people roll their carry-ons like I do?

Admittedly I might not always be on the cutting edge of travel tips. After all, I’m the guy that learned the benefit of plastic bags just last week.

That being said, I’ve noticed other people not using my method on this one, and I’m curious why. I travel with a rollaboard and a laptop bag, and I’m sure I’m not alone. What I can’t rationalize is why most people place their laptop bag on top of their rollaboard attached to the handle, and roll it around that way. I don’t get it — that’s damn heavy and hurts your arm if you’re rolling around an airport like Heathrow or Frankfurt, and it must do a good amount of damage to the handle.

My method is to place the strap around the handlebar of the bag, and let it hang off the back of the bag, as shown below.

It makes things so much easier. The bag is so light this way that you can literally “roll” it with one or two fingers, and both bags are well protected.

There’s a reason flight attendants use this method (either that or they have a clip they place on their bag to hang the smaller bag from), but I’m curious why 90% of frequent flyers still seem to put the laptop bag on top of the carry-on. Can anyone explain? Anyone else use my method?

Filed Under: Advice, Travel
  1. Yes that is a better way it distributes weight and keep balance on the bag. Don’t usually take a laptop bag (I’m more of a backpack kind of girl) but when I do I use attachment to join to stroller bags to hold te briefcase instead.

  2. For an extended walk “your” method is probably more comfortable. “Our” method works pretty well when:
    1- the distance walked is not too far
    2- you need/want ready access to the computer bag without having to bend down
    3- you want to have to shorten the laptop bag’s shoulder strap so that it d/n drag on the floor when using “your” method. Long waisted folks may have that problem.
    4- the roll aboard handle hasn’t complained a bit

  3. What laptop bag and rollaboard is that? I like the remove before flight tag too.

    I put my back on top of the carryon because my bag has a nice pass-through sleeve for it on the bag. It’s messenger style and not so heavily loaded that it messes up the weight distribution. I tried it with a backpack, but one sized for a 15″ laptop ended up being too large to work well on top like that. It also seems to work better with a 4-wheel bag instead of the usual 2 back wheels.

  4. When I use a roll-aboard I attach the laptop bag as you do – as you say the combination is as light as a feather. More and more, I’m using a lightweight duffel bag and the laptop bag, where I just cross-sling one over each shoulder.

  5. I keep my laptop bag atop the rollaboard, attached to the handle. That way, items in the laptop bag (e.g., passport, sunglasses, etc.) remain close at hand. The bag is also much more stable on top than dangling off the back by the shoulder strap, especially when navigating over curbs or other uneven terrain. My laptop weighs about four pounds, so the added weight is insignificant.

  6. We use your method, especially for short distances. Our roll-aboards have a tendency to topple backwards when the bag is attached like that and if we’re walking a long distance knowing we won’t have to go up or down stairs we’ll attach the computer bag directly to the handle.

    We’re currently nursing a couple of old Skyway roll-aboards and hoping they’ll last awhile longer.

  7. My laptop bag has a strap on the back of it specifically designed to fit over the rollaboard handle. And, my rollaboards are all designed with a handle and top that are meant to carry the weight of the laptop bag, so it’s no big deal to pull it around that way. I notice no real difference in weight with my laptop bag on top of the rollaboard versus not on there. I’d also prefer to have it on top, where it takes up less floor space in the airport, and I’d prefer not to have my laptop down low where someone could trip over it and damage it.

    Usually when I see flight crews with a bag on a strap in front of the rollaboard like you describe, it’s not a laptop bag they’re carrying.

  8. What you are missing is that when you carry your laptop bag “our” way, every trip to the airport counts like 30 minutes at the gym šŸ˜‰

  9. Doesn’t it drag on the floor when using “your” method? or fall off the rollaboard behind it where your feet are when walking? That’s what happens to me.

  10. @ Albert R — It’s the Tumi T-Tech 22″ and Tumi Alpha laptop bag.

    @ Roland — Nope, it hangs off the back around the handlebar.

    @ Matt — LOL, good point!

    @ pointsandtravel — Nope, it’s level with the rest of the bag, so when you pull it it’s slightly above the ground.

  11. I can’t say i have an issue with the first way of doing it. That said a couple of things that make it easier.. Make sure you pack your heavy stuff at the bottom of the case, and secondly i’m now using a case with 4 wheels, which is friggin awesome!

    The second way looks like it would be really easy to loose your laptop bag if the strap came loose.

    Plus with the first way you have easy access to your laptop bag for getting to/storing tickets/passports/ipads/phones etc.

  12. I’m a tall guy and I store items I need easy access to in my laptop bag. Having my laptop bag on top of my roll-a-board means I can reach need-it-soon items quickly and easily. I’m in the process of retiring my previous roll-a-board that followed me to Asia and Europe as well as a dozens of locations in North America across sidewalks and cobblestones without any problems with the handle. I’ve never noticed it being any sort of workout to carry my items this way. Maybe you need to spend more time in the gym if it’s that big of an ordeal. j/k. šŸ˜‰

  13. travelpros have very strong handles. additionally, dragging near the floor makes me nervous… i feel like if something fell out i wouldnt feel it… and if i’m in like, a pick pocket can easily steal something if its lower on the ground – while i’d feel the vibration if someone tried to pull something out of my bag while its on top of the handle. safety trumps minor torque issues.

  14. Physics at work! It all has to do with torque. The closer the weight is to the fulcrum (think the middle part of scales, or in this case the wheels) and the further your grip is from the fulcrum (in this case yor grip being on the handle), the lighter the item will feel and the less work you will need to employ.

  15. I do the same thing as you with a backpack. Only downside is that over time, the bottom of the backpack rots out from friction, water on the street, salt in the winter, etc…

  16. Both my pieces are Travelpro Flightcrew. The handle seems plenty strong and the tote has the attachment to go over the hendle. I would worry about hits to the tote (and laptop) down low like that. Seems more protected up high and leaning towards me.

  17. I am a laptop bag on top of my carry-on person (my laptop bag straps to the handle with a strap and Velcro -between the two bars). Being taller it’s more convenient, my carry-on is a 4 wheel (Olympia) which completely solves the weight issue (and keeps the bag footprint small). One added bonus – when I reach a curb or shuttle/bus/tram, the Olympia’s top handle is set out just enough that I can lift it with the laptop still attached and the handle still extended easily. This has come in super handy for the last minute dashes in travelling!

  18. I carry my messenger bag around my shoulder, so it’s not an issue. But I have experimented.

    With many bags, there is no convenient way to secure it in your preferred way. The strap may look steady, but it could also slip further down and the bag will fall to the floor. You need a hook or something to secure it. The alternative way, putting one bag on top of the other, will work with any bag that has short handles (instead of using the shoulder strap).

    The extra weight comes from the angle at which the bag is tilted becuase it functions as a lever. If you don’t tilt it too much, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. This is probably more of an issue for shorter people.

  19. The best combination is a roller bag with a built in strap just to carry these items as well as a rolling laptop bag. This way, when you aren’t rolling both bags, they are both secure and you aren’t worried about the bottom of your laptop bag getting dirty.

    I’m sure there are quite a few out there but I am very happy w/ my 22″ B&R rolling carry on and medium rolling laptop bag.

  20. Many airlines in Africa refuse to allow wheeled bags as carry-on under any circumstances (mainly because people tend to overload them and cause safety issues). I’ve had to dump my preferred rolling bags in favour of regular totes and backpacks that I can carry across my shoulders.

  21. I’m more amazed people see the need to travel with so much stuff. No need for separate laptop and carry on bag, I can get everything I need for long enough trips into one small bag. I am always amazed by the amount of crap people take with them.

  22. Whoa, physics at work!

    I can’t stand the shoulder strap because (1) I never carry the bag on my shoulder, and (2) it just gets in the way and until now I thought it was completely useless, given #1.

    But you might have given me a reason to re-attach it.

  23. I use a backpack most of the time, but when I am using a laptop bag, I will have you beat through security. It is much faster to pull my laptop out and place it on the tray and slide the laptop bag off of the main bag when it is at the top, then after collecting post security, it is faster to slide it back on the handle than strapping it.

    I watch FAs all the time and they take forever to unstrap the bag from the bottom, unpack whatever they need to take out with the seconadary bag eating up space on the counter, etc.

  24. I have taken my Rimowa Salsa all over the world with the laptop bag on top. It’s the polycarbonate model and is totally stable and easy to roll even with a fully packed tumi alpha on top. It’s pretty pricy, but I wouldn’t travel any other way now. It seems to just walk along side you if you rest you hand on the handle.

  25. Computer bag on top works better if your roller bag has two shafts for the extendable handle. My Briggs & Riley 21 inch and 22 inch bags have a strap for hanging a smaller bag which I use sometimes. On my Starlite cabin bag, it tilts forward when stationary if I hang the bag as you show and there is no built in strap.

  26. Another vote for using a spinner. I can walk a long time and leave my backpack on top of it. Feels much safer and I always have it in sight.

  27. For reasons beyond my control, I must carry much more that I’d like to, so my “personal item” is a backpack that holds my laptop, electronic gear, and other items. It generally weighs in ~15 pounds. My backpack has a sleeve to allow it to slip over the handle of a rolling bag. It also opens so that I don’t need to remove the laptop.

    As a 2 million mile flyer — and on the lower side of median US adult height — I’ve found the best solution is a strap that “locks” around the handle of the attached bag and has a locking “quick release” attachment to the frame of the rolling bag. As JW mentioned earlier, this approach keeps mass low and, for me, very close to the fulcrum.

    When the heavier items are kept low in the bags (toward the ground, as they are carried) and on the bottom (away from the “front”), a child can manage the bags when using the straps.

    My B&R bags have them, as do my Costco bags. Although different designs, both are effective.

    It is just as fast to take apart and faster to reassemble than bags that have a sleeve that go over handles. Stacking vertically to minimize footprint (at very crowded gates, for example) is still an option.

    I have travelled this way in S. America, Asia, Europe, and N. America without incident.

  28. I agree with Naif – your method does not work with spinners. My backpack has an opening so it can slide over the handle. I find that this is the easiest configuration for me.

  29. I have a 4 wheeler from Rimowa, so putting the laptop bag on top is not any heavier on my arm or the handle. I always use all 4 wheels – the thing rolls by itself if I don’t actively stop/hold it… By putting the laptop bag on top, I do NOT have to bend my back compared to reaching down. That’s why I prefer the laptop bag on top, at least for a 4 wheeler.

  30. Your problem is (based on the photo) that your bag only has one bar. When a roller board has two bards, the laptop bag fits neatly on top and doesn’t hurt. Your way looks strange and you have to bend over to get out docs etc from your briefcase. Very odd!

  31. A good suggestion: just don’t carry so much stuff with you, travel light! You don’t need half your household when travelling. Simple as that. 12-15kg checked in, regardless of the length of your travel and bare necessities as carry on-just in case your ‘checked-in’ does not make it. My heaviest carry-on is my camera bag, but that’s me. It gives me the willy-willies when I see the sh*** some pax carry on board – yes I am talking of the disrespect towards other pax on the plane by hogging half or more of the overhead locker. Remember this next time you fly.
    Happy travelling

  32. From a super traveller which I am…

    Very simply, your method has a tendency for
    1) the bag to drag on the pavement destroying it
    2) the bag to flip around and get caught under the wheel, or just to be a general nuisance
    3) If your taller than 5’6 then the strap will be too long to suspend the bag off the ground. Your choice is to keep your bag with an unnaturally short strap or to constantly adjust it when you use it. This is a hassle.
    4) many “on the handle” bags have a sleeve to fit over the handle securing it from all of the above problems.

    having it on the top handle allows you the have a hand on the handle of the bag as well as the handle of the roller board. Also, you have access to your bag (which probably holds things necessary for boarding, phone tickets etc). You can feel it so it does not fall off. Yes it is “heavier”, but I’d rather do that than have a destroyed bag or destroyed laptop.

    You can only use your method if you have a real clip securing the bag in place. Just dropping the shoulder bag strap across the top is a disaster otherwise.

  33. I’m a semi-pro photographer and travel constantly with heavy carry-on gear. What you need is this handy little shoulder strap from Think Tank Photo. It has split strap design that allows you to carry an second bag suspended low, as you show above,but securely held to the roll aboard handle.


    Think Tank gear is the bomb, designed to hold much heavier weights than standard carry-on gear, so you can travel with confidence that your laptop won’t end up in pieces.

  34. I will give the low hanging option a go, for my flight tomorrow in fact.

    I have put my cabin bag on top and, over the handle using the built in cuff/band and, yes it is top heavy and, I had to re-fix it a couple of times when it swung right around. So even the top loading method isn’t without it’s frustrations.

    In response to the couple of commenters re: traveling lighter. Here in Australia Qantas and Virgin carry on bags are restricted to 7kg with one personal item to a total of 10kg. But Jetstar, like Ryan Air, the total carry on limit is 7kg.

    If your bag itself is 2/3+kg that leaves less than 4/5kg for clothing, toiletries, shoes, digital etc. I can only ask how they can pack enough for a week. I really have tried and have had to either pay for extra weight or lighten my load because my scales at home were calibrated different to the check in counters. I am Not going away on holidays and have to wash every other day in the interest of ‘one bag/no checked bag’ travel. Or without a handbag which can be anything from 2 to 5kg. So doing the maths you are saying: 7kg limit – 2kg [min] handbag + 2kg cabin bag = I can have only 3kg total for all my possessions for a week/month/year???

    I do try to limit my ‘just in case’ items and have minimised my toiletries and digital but still struggle to do the one bag thing for any trips lasting longer than a week.

  35. The only problem with this method is that the briefcase straps can slide off the back of the bag, unceremoniously dropping the bag some distance (depending on the length of the strap).
    I do this but have a little strap that holds the briefcase shoulder strap sides together in the center of the bag.

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