Field Tested: A wheeled tote for airport ease

For the last six years on the road, we’ve traveled with the same luggage configuration: a 21-inch wheeled suitcase plus a shoulder tote, both of  carry-on dimensions. We would stack the two and breeze through the airport with ease.

Now that many airlines limit the number of carry-on items, we often find our wheeled suitcases getting sent to the luggage hold while we slog those heavy shoulder totes through the airport. It was time to look for a tote with wheels.

Camera icon Eagle Creek
Eagle Creek offers tons of options for your travel needs- the new Expanse Wheeled Tote is great for short trips.(EagleCreek/TNS)

In addition to being lightweight, our ideal bag needed to have a large open compartment to stow bulky items like cameras and shoes (so wheeled briefcases wouldn’t work). Also essential was the elusive “trolley strap”: the band on the back of the bag that allows you to slide it over the handle of your larger suitcase. Several bags we tried in the store failed this crucial test, making them essentially unstackable. For us, this is a serious flaw; ease of mobility is a must when traveling.

After a great deal of searching, we found the Eagle Creek Expanse Wheeled Tote Carry-On, which we refer to affectionately as the “bowling bag.” It really does look like something Fred and Barney would be carrying into the Bedrock Bowling Alley (except for the wheels). In addition to meeting our other requirements, this bag has an elasticized back slip panel that enables it to be stacked with just about any piece of luggage.

The bag measures 13.75-by-14.5-by-8.5 inches, small enough to fit under an airplane seat, but large enough to fit a 13-inch MacBook Air along with assorted items (medications, reading material, electrical adapters, and personal papers) that we don’t want to put in checked luggage. It also weighs a mere four pounds.

We’ve been traveling around Europe with this bag for four months, and it has been a solid, reliable performer. It is sturdily built and provides just enough pockets for separate storage areas while still having enough room for chunky items. Best of all, there is no strain on our shoulders, which takes away some of the sting of having to pay baggage fees for our other suitcases.

Philadelphia natives Larissa and Michael Milne have been full-time global nomads since 2011. Follow their journey and pick up more travel tips at