When it comes to selecting new luggage, “Yes, size does matter!”
A few years ago, I remember purchasing the largest suitcase possible for my travels and I was never stopped at any airport check- in counter (luckily!) I did however, feel sorry for the porters who had to deliver my bag to my hotel room door, especially if the elevators were not working. There is no way I would even try that these days with the weight and size restrictions placed on travelers by airlines. Often there is also the issue of filling up that extra space with “just in case” clothes and shoes. Those “just in case” items, may end up being very expensive when you are asked to pay for the extra weight at the airline check-in counter.
There is a reason why airlines have limits on the size and weight of luggage and this is in accordance with local health and safety regulations for both baggage handlers and the load a plane can safely fly with. All airlines are cracking down on the size, weight and the amount of bags you can travel with and you only have to look at the trash cans at the airport to understand the enormity of this problem. Too many times I have seen women crying, throwing clothes and toiletries into the trash at the airport, after being told that they have too much luggage! Airlines vary their rules and regulations, so check out their individual websites for both checked-in and carryon luggage for your domestic and international flights before you book your ticket. You could be in for a few surprises! Also, when traveling in Europe, many airlines have very small overhead lockers and your idea of “carry on” is not carry on at all.
Luggage is something you need to compare before you buy, so take your time and do your research for which is best for you and your family.
I have checked out the stores, compared the wheels, handles, stitching, zips and general appearance and this is what I have come up with… NO PIECE OF LUGGAGE IS GOING TO BE PERFECT FOR ALL TYPES OF TRAVEL.
Luggage sets, which also look great, are the most cost effective purchase and provide a variety of different sizes you may need for your next trip. The trick is in selecting a bag which is going to tick as many boxes as possible.
Consider the mode of transport, type of travel you are will be doing, activities you have planned, length of your trip and how much you want to take with you. eg. Domestic air travel, care hire, beach resort, swimming, snorkelling, 10 days, resort day and night wear.
These three factors should be considered before purchasing your ideal luggage…
Consider the initial weight of the bag without all your gear. You can easily perform your own weight comparison in the department or luggage store. I have some beautiful matching vintage leather luggage and the first time I used it, I felt like Audrey Hepburn on a movie set! The reality is, although my vintage bags look wonderful and smell great, they weigh a ton and are not practical if they get wet. Also, you should consider that you may not be able to do any shopping on your trip if your bags are heavy to begin with.
Shape. Did you know a “rectangle shape” is the best? Selecting luggage that is “round” means 27% less space for your gear.
Width. While many travellers would not consider width an issue, this is playing a big part in the selection of my new luggage. Many trains in Asia have narrow aisles and my present bag is too wide to fit down them comfortably.
Hard Side or Softy Traditional Luggage. Hard sides may protect your gear, but a soft shell is more likely to fit into a confined space. Another great feature of soft-sided luggage is they are often expandable – some up to 25% extra space.
Accessibility and Compartments. Luggage which allows for easy packing and access to your gear is a must. Internal and external zippered compartments help with organization and some of the brands I have looked at also include a bonus day pack. This feature allows you to enjoy a convenient and stylish matching backpack for day tours, but can also be attached to your primary travel luggage when not required. Remember that any zippered compartment on the outside of your bag will need locks!
Wheels – 2 or 4 wheels? Bags with 4 wheels can be easily maneuvered in small hotel rooms and are more stable standing upright. Look for wheels that are rubberized, widely spaced, enclosed and swivel 360 degrees.
Zippers. Large, self-healing sippers are the best. Check the manufacturer’s warranty, as this will determine the quality of the zipper used by the company.
Fabric. Look for the words, “water repelling,” “ballistic nylon” and “denier.” The higher the denier, the better.
Color. Bright yellow may be easy to spot on the carousel, but please consider your luggage may not look bright and clean for very long. There is a reason why most luggage is black! If colour is your thing and you want baby pink, then individualize your black bag with pink ribbons and tags, which makes finding your bag on the carousel much easier. This way, you can just replace the ribbons when your partner or teenage son needs to use your suitcase! If you are really into customizing your luggage, then check out coverlugg.com.
Handle. Retractile and preferably adjustable, with one handed operation. Also, see if the handle works well both pushing and pulling the bag.
Backpack Straps. Some duffle style luggage do provide hidden backpack straps. While I don’t want to look like a backpacker, these would be handy for carrying my bag up flights of stairs in railway stations and guest houses, which do not have elevators. Make the sure straps have the ability to be secured, as they can easily get caught on conveyor belts. Multi-grab fabric handles are an extra bonus.
Consider your budget before you shop. The more expensive brands will have a warranty, but from experience, this has “grey areas.” Often the fine print excludes “excessive wear and tear” and “transport damage”. After my recent trip to India and Nepal, I can tell you that “nice” luggage does not stay “nice” for very long. By the time my trip finished, my luggage resembled the ball tossed around in a local elephant polo match! My two year old luggage has a 15 year warranty and it will be interesting to see if that warranty is worth the paper it is written on. The good news is that there are a few brands out there that offer “no matter what” warranties. Ask the sales assistant for advice about what you should look for when it comes to buying good functional luggage and which bags are least returned for replacement. If you don’t travel very much, then a less expensive piece could suit you best.
My last bit of advice is fill up your bag with your clothes, shoes and toiletries and take it for a test spin around the block BEFORE your intended trip. It is always a good idea to “live out of your bag” for the last couple of days before departure. This way, there will be no surprises and you might just throw out some of those “just in case” accessories.
These days, many companies manufacture a range of matching luggage that not only looks great, but is functional, sturdy and durable. I can still pretend to be Audrey Hepburn, without the stress of worrying about the welfare of my luggage on my next exotic travel adventure.