Before you leave on a trip, there is one thing you must do. Pack. If you’re a Spartan traveler who can live out of a backpack for the week, you can do this in your sleep. For everybody else, it can be a small challenge to pick out the right suitcase or luggage for a trip. Here are a few pointers for your next trip.
What Are Your Luggage Options?
How you pack largely depends on where you’re traveling and your travel budget. If you’re flying by plane and do not want to pay the checked bag fee (some airline credit cards waive checked bag fees) you will be limited to one carry-on and a smaller personal item like a purse or messenger bag.
Pay attention to weight limits for your checked bags. Each carrier has different weight limits and will charge an extra fee if it weighs more than 50 pounds when you fly coach with most domestic carriers. You will also need to pay attention to your baggage dimensions as well. The total dimensions allowed for a checked bag could be 62 inches (length + width + height).
If you plan on using a luggage lock, make sure your bag has a TSA-approved lock that can be opened with a universal key. TSA agents are authorized to break locks to inspect bags if their keys cannot open it.
Carry-on baggage also has limitations that vary from carrier to carrier. While they usually have a small cabin bin mock-up in front of the check-in line at the airport, that won’t do you much good as you pack. Check the carrier website for the specifications. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a bag no larger than 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches.
In short, Grandma’s suitcase that made the back of her station wagon look small will most likely be too big the carry-on.
Hard or Soft Sides?
After deciding on the maximum dimensions for your luggage, you will need to decide if you want a soft-sided suitcase or duffel bag or a hard-sided one that provides maximum protection from the continual slinging from cart to conveyor belt by the baggage handlers and protect your belongings from getting crushed in the process.
Soft bags can be a better option if you will not be carrying any fragile items and can still protect your personal valuables like cell phones, tablets, or jewelry. Having a soft bag can make it easier to “stuff” the item underneath your seat or in the overhead compartment. Soft bags can also be a good option for checked bags if your potentially fragile belongings are securely packed.
Depending on the size of the planes you will be boarding, the gate attendants might require most carry-on bags, regardless of size, to be checked at the gate and will be picked up planeside when you land. If that is the case, pick a duffel bag, backpack, or suitcase that is durable enough to protect your belongings.
A Tip for Buying Hard-Sided Luggage
If you decide to buy hard-sided luggage, make sure to buy a high-quality piece. Hard suitcases that are poorly made will crack or shatter when placed under a lot of weight. Quality-made pieces come in different levels of thickness that offer different degrees of protection.
Thankfully, it can be easy to research different product reviews from travel websites and online retailers including Amazon or LL Bean.
Push, Pull, or Carry?
Most bags nowadays come with built-in wheels and telescoping handles. It doesn’t matter if it’s a suitcase, duffel bag, or a backpack that doubles as a laptop case.
You will want to make sure the wheels and handles can actually assist you in sprinting from Terminal A to Terminal F or from the baggage claim to your car. There are many different designs to choose from so you will want to take a few minutes to do some research.
A good place to start is asking your friends on Facebook or reading customer product reviews online. To get a true feel for how the luggage rolls and weighs, go to your local store and test them out. Take a few minutes to walk up and down the aisles to see how it rolls and sways.
If the bag is constantly trying to “eat your shoes” or you continually brush your legs against it, that piece might be more annoying than helpful. You might try looking luggage that you can push, instead of pull, to avoid those nuisances and still keep the weight off your back as you navigate the airport.
For bags that you will carry by hand or on your back, try out the straps to make sure they comfortably distribute the weight of the bag. If you can buy a two-piece carry-on combo, you might be able to get a matching luggage set that allows one piece to “piggyback” on the other so you can push or pull both pieces and keep one hand free.
Personalize Your Bag
As there are only so many different brands of luggage, you are bound to find identical baggage if you travel frequently. To avoid walking off with the wrong bag, you might choose a unique color or design pattern to distinguish your bag from the rest.
Of course, you can also add a personal touch to your bag after your buy it by putting on a personalized luggage tag or piece of cloth that will make it easy to spot as you deplane or watch bags come appear on the baggage claim turnstile.
Packing Your Valuables and Liquids
In regards to your carry-on luggage, you should also think about how you will pack your valuable and liquids. All electronics and liquids need to be taken out and scanned as you go through security.
To expedite the process, pack these items in a separate pocket that is easy to access. That way, you only have to drop the items into a bin and can easily put them back into your bag after you pass through security without having to repack your entire bag.
Will You Pick Out the Right Suitcase?
There are three main factors you need to consider to pick out the right suitcase. Those factors are size, mobility, and durability. You want a suitcase that is large enough for your belongings yet small enough to fit on the plane, has handles and wheels that can make walking easier (not harder) and built strong enough to endure the rigors of travel.