How To Choose Luggage

Photo of family luggage

The self-destroying suitcase! The handle-less handbag!!! The splintered hardshell! The 20-Kilo-when-empty mega-case! The one-trip-wonder!!!

You probably have luggage experiences that range from funny to frustrating and you undoubtedly have bags that don't make sense anymore in the new travel environment.

The concept of luggage has evolved.  Quantity is still an issue...but today it isn't "How Much"....but "How Little". This really affects your choice of luggage. The search for that magic bag starts with looking for the lightest you can get at the perfect size to give you enough carrying space without taking you beyond the airline weight limits. Of course, weight is not the only concern when you choose your luggage. You probably have seen your luggage cracked or its zippers burst or probably gone with all your things placed inside the airline plastic bag. Here's some help in getting the perfect bag:

Step 1

Luggage material. You can get a soft- or hard-sided, nylon, polyester, leather or mystery fabric canvas.

The soft-sided ones are the most expandable. The hard-sided cases protect fragile items that you might carry with you. However, hard-siders are sometimes heavy and can be cracked and shattered when handled in airports as most likely they will not be handled with care.

Nylon (1,000 denier cordura or the ballistic one used to cover bullet-proof vests are the most tear resistant) and polyester are the best materials as they are much lighter and can be treated to make them stain-resistant. Go for brightly colored luggage as it is easier to pick out as it circles around the carousel. Forget leather...the baggage guys won't be impressed!

Step 2

Construction. Go for the lightweight and expandable cases... preferably, with outside pockets. Choose the ones with large zippers and wide, rubber, recessed wheels. Get one with spinner wheels on each of the four corners of the luggage. You can spin this easily in any direction you want without tilting. As such, you don't feel the weight so much, making the trip less tiring. If this is too pricey, then get the ones with two wheels spaced far apart for more stability. Look for double or triple stitching as well as extra reinforcement at corners, around handles and other stress points.

Step 3

Handles and grips. Make sure the telescopic pull handles work smoothly, are padded, and have good length, locking into both short and long handle positions so you can adjust them appropriately for a range of heights.  If this is your carry-on and you have to lug it around the shops in a multi-hour wait for a connection, you will welcome some comfort. Multiple hand grips are very useful especially when present on each side as well as top and bottom. When you pick up your luggage in crowded carousels, you will be grateful to have those grips. Check that the grips are REALLY well anchored on the suitcase...or guess what.......?

Step 4

Price. Often, the bargains come in sets. Usually if you look at the life cycle cost of the bag, the cheapies are the most expensive you will ever buy...unless your need to impress those same baggage handlers forces you into leather! Cheap is almost never a bargain if you will use the suitcase several times.

Before you go shopping, read the internet reviews on luggage. There are several sites where they review many of the products and brands available in the market. It is worth reading the features and warranties that go with each of the product as well as people's experiences on returns and warranties. Make a list of the ones you are interested in so you know exactly what to look for in the store. This also gives you a watch list for luggage sales. Some stores also list their products online. This will save you time and money.

Over and beyond these considerations, though, get the ones that will serve your needs best; that you can lift when full; that you can spot on a carousel; and that will "take a lickin' and keep on tickin'!"


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Timely! I just bought a perfect carry-on luggage some 3 months ago. And yes, you pay for what you get. So this one was pricey enough, but it had everything I needed - small but spacious enough for my laptop, a few toiletries, a change of clothes, my little travel blanket, neck pillow, eyemask, stereo headphones, a book, some chips, etc. etc. and best of all, it has four wheels, glides smoothly every which way, light, and was made of sturdy stock! It's a Samsonite! People should read your article before going out and grabbing any luggage they see. Hard-side cases are a big no-no for me. Too heavy! I can barely lift one even without anything inside!

By Enid Sevilla

Even business class now has luggage restrictions. Before, it was unlimited. Watch out. Some airlines are now starting to charge for blankets as well. More to stuff into that luggage!

By Mary Norton