10 Pieces of Advice for Buying the Best Luggage for Your Trip
What’s Your Preference?
It can be your best friend and your most trusted companion. It will always bring a smile to your face when you see that it arrived safely at the airport, and it will tug at your heart strings when you see it getting knocked around.
It will hold all of your secrets, your most valuable possessions, and at times your whole life. It goes without saying that choosing the right piece of luggage is of great importance to any travel venture.
After all, it’s going to be there with you from beginning to end. Whether you are looking to buy your very first piece of luggage, or want to retire and replace an old one, there are many luggage reviews available and a few tips on buying luggage you should keep in mind when making that all-important purchase.
Carry-On or Checked Luggage?
One of the biggest questions in life. Weighing the pros and cons of each is an important part of the luggage-buying process.
Airlines often charge extra (hefty) fees for checked luggage, so if you travel with only carry-on bags you can take advantage of “seat only” deals and save yourself a significant amount of money. Plus, you never have to let your bags out of your firm grip, meaning zero stress over airlines sending your luggage off into oblivion, never to be seen again.
If you are heading down the carry-on road though, familiarize yourself with TSA carry-on restrictions: airlines can be very strict about the weight and size of carry-ons. Remember liquids are restricted in carry-ons, which means no fancy toiletries.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many packing hacks you use — you just can’t fit it all in your carry-on. If you value your hygiene, it might be worth just upsizing your bags and being able to pack a few extra changes of clothes.
If safety and security are your priorities, look into luggage lines that specialize in anti-theft features. Some manufacturers build slash-proof wire mesh into the fabric of their luggage, or offer a removable mesh to be sold separately and laid over the top of your bags.
Most zips can be easily popped open with a ballpoint pen, or similar sharp object. To avoid this, you can look for specially designed zips that prevent people going through your things uninvited.
You can also keep an eye out for zips that are designed to be easily padlocked together, for your peace of mind.
Your Purpose for Traveling
Keep in mind the kind of trips you will be taking. Don’t let pretty designs and bright colors get in the way of making a practical purchase.
You’re unlikely to need the same kind of luggage for a business meeting and a four-week stint in Thailand.
Are you going to be moving around a lot? Are you going to be jumping on and off chicken buses? Are you going to spend a lot of time walking to avoid paying taxi fares? If so, buy a backpack.
There is no point trying to maneuver a wheeled suitcase through the manic backstreets of Bangkok, no matter how gorgeous the purple leopard-print design is. Carrying your things on your back may sound inelegant, but it will make you more mobile and just simplify your life in general.
If you are just going to be hopping from airport to taxi to hotel, however, then that purple wheelie suitcase will do just fine.
This mostly applies to the kind of luggage you will be carrying on your back as opposed to rolling behind you. If you do choose a backpack, it is important to note how well it sits on your body, whether there are hip straps to take the weight off your shoulders, or if there is sufficient back padding to cushion you from the weight you might be lugging around for hours as you search for your next hostel bed.
Because durability is usually closely related to price, consider whether you want something cheap and cheerful for a few weekends away, or a lifelong travel companion that is going to be with you through flood, fire and famine. Before buying your luggage, give it a once-over: examine the handles, straps, seams and zips to see how well constructed they seem to be.
The equivalent to kicking tires on a new car, don’t be afraid to give them a good tug to see how sturdy they feel. A higher price tag doesn’t always equate to a longer lifespan, though.
The cost of designer brands doesn’t necessarily mean better quality — often you are paying for the name. A reputable travel or outdoors brand will function just as well, and is often preferred by experienced travelers.
Traveling is tough on luggage. Your shiny new suitcase won’t stay shiny and new for long, so warranties are worth taking into consideration, especially if you are going to invest in something more expensive.
Some brands offer lifetime warranties, some offer five years, some one, and some none. Not all warranties are created equal, though.
While some warranties cover all kinds of damage to your luggage, some will only cover manufacturing or workmanship faults. This is usually in the fine print, so it’s worth ascertaining whether the warranty that comes with a more expensive piece of luggage will cover repairs for that wheel that popped of when you dragged it too enthusiastically up the hotel steps.
What Are You Going to Be Carrying?
The hard shell versus soft shell debate is best addressed by thinking about the kinds of things you want to put in your luggage. If you are going to be transporting your grandmother’s antique glass vase it might be a good idea to go with a hard shell, to give and extra layer of protection against aggressive baggage handlers (that fragile sticker probably won’t do much).
On the other hand, if you are just going to be packing clothes then there is nothing wrong with a soft-shell suitcase or a simple duffel bag.
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How Much Stuff You (Really) Need
Put some thought into the length of your future trips. If you will be jetting off on an extended getaway, you may want to think about selecting a suitcase that is expandable, to accommodate all of the bits and pieces you will pick up along the way.
Be realistic in your wants and needs, and try to strike a balance between small enough to be conveniently movable and large enough to fit in a few souvenirs. If you absolutely can’t get by on just three changes of clothes, and are tempted to purchase something larger, it pays to bear in mind that excess baggage fees for checked bags can be astronomical.
So pay close attention to how much it will weigh when full.
Do you want fancy wheels that spin 360 degrees, making it easier to wheel your way down the airplane aisle? A backpack that unzips like a suitcase, saving you from digging from the top down to find your socks?
Or would you like wheels on your backpack, to speed up your progress through the airport? How about hidden pockets for valuables, waterproof pouches, or designated documents pockets?
These days, all types of luggage come with fancy add-ons, so think carefully about which ones will make your life easier. Some are just gadgety, but others may change your life (or at least the way you travel).
Last but not least, ignore practicality for a second and indulge your personal style when choosing luggage. You are probably going to go through many airports, hotels, countries and new adventures with your luggage, so you want something reliable and trustworthy, but also lovable and easily recognizable at the baggage carousel.
So maybe go for that purple leopard-print after all: at least you know you will never lose it in a crowd.