Tips for Choosing Luggage
Look around the airport and you’ll see luggage of every shape, color and style imaginable. Which style is right for you? And how do you tell the difference between a $90 bag and a $200 bag?
First determine the type of travel you’ll primarily be doing. Will it be for business use, or vacation? Will you be traveling by air, car or train? Are you packing for a weekend, a week, or more than a week? By answering these questions you will probably be able to determine whether you need to focus on carry-on pieces, luggage that needs to be checked on airlines, or tote bags that carry a laptop. You will most likely develop your own collection of luggage that fits your personal needs.
Second, give consideration to the features, materials and ‘carry-ability’ of the luggage. Traditional luggage, including roller bags, comes with two wheels or four (aka ‘spinners’). The extra wheels add weight, but also give more maneuverability, a key feature when trying to squeeze you and your luggage into a tiny airport bathroom. Speaking of weight, pick up the bag when it’s empty and see if it feels heavy. If it feels heavy and there is nothing in it yet, chances are you’ll struggle to get the bag in the overhead bin on the plane. Know what features are important to you and which are nice-to-have. For example, if you travel with suits and dresses, you’ll probably want to fold-out garment holder. Shoe holders, jewelry holders, large inner or outer pockets all need to be considered. My husband likes a small outer pocket where he can keep his airport parking documents and other easily-accessible items; I prefer a large outer pocket to hold a few magazines or folders.
Soft- or hard-sided styles are another choice. This choice may be a personal preference, but the decision may be influenced by what you intend to pack. For example, if fragile items and breakable equipment are frequently packed, hard-sided luggage may be the better choice. Soft-sided luggage is very durable and made in puncture and tear-resistant fabrics, such as ballistic nylon.
When it comes to luggage on wheels, here is where I see an obvious difference in quality luggage vs. lesser priced bags. Select a bag with wheels that matches the type of travel you’ll be doing. If you do frequent air travel, you will want strong wheels for running through the terminal, traipsing through car rental lots, and lugging in and out of hotel rooms. If you primarily have driving trips, or fly only once or twice a year, you’ll usually be able to get away with a lesser wheel quality. Just think of a grocery cart with wheels that want to go their own way or keep sticking vs a smooth-rolling cart. That to me is the difference between fair-quality wheels and good wheels. You grocery shoppers will know what I’m talking about!
Third, consider the size of the luggage. If you primarily are a carry-on traveler, you’ll want to look for lightweight bags that do not exceed 22″. Check with your primary air carriers to get their size limits. If you can you fit everything you want in a carry-on bag, which I can for a 4-day, 7-day, even a 10-day trip, then a 22″ may be just fine. Otherwise look for a larger piece of luggage and know that you’ll always be checking that bag when flying.
Fourth, consider whether your bag should be dual-purpose. Business cases on wheels with room for one change of clothes, a laptop tote/handbag, a backpack on wheels, are all items that do double-duty based on the type of travel you do and the features you’re looking for.
Fifth, enlist the help of the pros. Go to a specialty luggage store when looking for your luggage. Their sales people are knowledgeable about the broad selection of luggage available and they can do product comparisons for you when it comes to features and prices. They’ll also be able to show you the differences between various price points. I’ve had buyer’s remorse when I bought luggage on my own. I’d select a bag because of a few features and the very next week see a different bag that I want more. I buy better luggage that matches my style when I enlist the help of a luggage pro.