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What to look for

The best bags are made of high-quality nylon (ballistic or Cordura), which resists tears while providing give. Another sign of quality: a lifetime warranty that also covers damage caused by airlines, says packing expert Doug Dyment. Finally, to avoid hefty checked-bag fees, opt for a bag with combined height, width, and depth under 45 inches, the biggest carry-on allowed on most domestic flights.

Our pick

The Briggs & Riley 21-inch Transcend, at right, meets the criteria above (in fact, all B&R bags have the right nylon and warranty). While it neatly fits in overhead compartments, this roomy roll-aboard also expands by as much as three inches. Yet because it's from Briggs & Riley's "casual" line, it runs just $299-$60 less than the premium label's business-oriented collection.

How to save more

Shop now! Luggage sales are still down, and retailers are eager to clear inventory before new lines start arriving in May, so you may find markdowns of 20% or more this month. Alternatively, check Briggs & Riley's outlet, via, for savings of up to 30% on discontinued styles.