Remember to KISS before the travel – Keep It Simple and Short
Well-traveled life is filled with loads of adventures and unforgettable events, experiences and enthusiasm. There is no argument in saying that your baggage is the most important associate of your travel life. Well, at least your luggage.
Your kit and kaboodle may have seen extensive distances with you. And buying new gear today could be a money-saver in the long run. And carrying the right type of luggage that fit to present-day airline luggage rules will definitely help you in avoiding extra fees enabling you to be complied with carry-on restrictions, check-in weight limits, etc.
To decide exactly what luggage to buy is not an easy task. The task can be overwhelming as there are countless styles, sizes, and price points to compare with each other. However, we thought of offering you a helping hand by giving you most essential background information and points to consider before buying the luggage that perfectly matches you.
Table of Content
- 1 Solving the Case: Luggage Basics
- 2 Soft-Sided or Hard-Sided?
- 3 What about Luggage on Wheels?
- 4 Feeling to Upgrade? Here are Some Shopping Tips
- 5 Important Parts of a Bag
Solving the Case: Luggage Basics
Decide on General Usage
First you must decide whether it is for flying, cruising, driving, or some other purpose. If it is for flying, it is always better to know the luggage rules of the airlines that you are frequenting for your travel purposes. If it is for road trips, the bags should be pliable enough to make best use of your trunk space. Flat, rigid luggage is optimal for cruise ship travel.
Consider About Storing
When the luggage is back at home, think where you are going to keep them until your next expedition. If there is no designated space for luggage, especially for stand-up suitcases, think about buying unstructured duffels or collapsible bags. Soft-sided and structured bags give some comfort of shrinking on the front and back sides but the footprint is fixed. So storing is not so bad as Hard-sided bags that are the most unforgiving. You have no chance of squeezing them into a storage space, other than arranging them a proper place to stand.
Decide of Size You Need
This aspect depends mainly on the length of your trip (number of days) and what kind of activity you are willing to engage (what gear you have to carry). If you are flying, airline luggage restrictions also direct you to decide on size (dimensions and weight). Your habits also will play major role in deciding how you pack and how much space (of luggage) you will require. Some smart people can pack their two weeks’ gear in their carry-on and an underseat personal item.
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Specs on the Valise
This is purely your decision. What kind of bag; a duffle, soft sided or hard sided, what sizes and how many are required to meet your need.
Carry-on bags are the ones that could be taken aboard the airplane and kept in the overhead bin. To avoid the chances of being forced to check your luggage and retrieval on the conveyor belt, find a bag that conforms to the firmest rules in air travel industry.
At present the US carriers, the top ones; American, Delta, and United, have decided on following dimensions. Height 22” x width 14” x depth 9”. (The maximum linear size is 45”. However other aforesaid dimensions are to be strictly adhered to.)
Height is measured, when the bag kept standing, from the floor (including wheels) to the top when the handle is kept at lowered position. Depth is the measurement from front of the bag to back and width is from side to side.
Some of the US carriers permit bit larger carry-ons. However international flights, which are originating AND ending outside US, the size limits are generally smaller (than for US domestic flights).
If you are flying frequent with different carriers, you should decide whether to buy several carry-on bags that conform to the various size restrictions, or you will decide with one that meets the most restrictive rules. Unfortunately, a rule-abiding luggage in size is not a guarantee that your bags will not be transferred to the plane’s underbelly, as the flight crew can change their rules, even after boarding has begun.
A personal item is a bag that you are allowed to keep underneath the seat in front of you. It may be a tote bag, a briefcase, a laptop bag, a camera bag, or a small backpack. However, if you buy a bag specifically designed to carry personal items, you will be able to get the most out of your allowed personal items.
Nicely designed personal item carrier should contain compartments for your passport, wallet, phone, and pen. A padded section for a laptop and a main compartment suited for some clothes and overnight essentials. These under seat personal items are meant to serve you well for a one to two day trip. If you coupled the personal item and carry-on you can easily survive in a week-long trip.
Unlike to the overhead compartments, there is no standard size for the personal item. In US domestic flights, the measurement rules for personal item range from a generous 16”x12”x14” (Spirit) to a meager 17”x9”x10” (United), and some airlines like American and Delta do not specify dimensions. So you are at your own risk.
The room under the seat can differ even within the same aircraft. Aisle seats are the worst ones for having the least under seat room. Before you buy personal item, check the specifications of your frequent airlines. Alternatively you can check the aircraft’s guidelines as well.
Any valise larger than carry-on size must be checked. The most available size options are 24” to 30” in height. However, you can find suitcases up to 36” as well. But better to check with your airline if there are any size limits. Most commonly there are weight limits than size. If you exceed these limits you will be charged with extra fees applied for excess weight per bag. Outside the US, sometimes, controls over total cumulative weight of your checked luggage might apply.
Soft-Sided or Hard-Sided?
Soft-sided luggage continues to dominate the market, but hard-sided also in the way of gaining popularity due to latest, lightweight materials.
Soft-sided luggage is made of woven nylon fabric that moves and yields. Most popular such materials are Ballistic and Cordura nylon. Ballistic is shinier material of the two but over time it can abrade. However, the strength of the fabric will outcast abrasions that come in to effect with the usage. Cordura is little softer than Ballastic and abrasion-resistant. Hence, these are preferred as over-the-shoulder bags. If you consider a luggage made of Ripstop nylon, or “parachute material,” make sure that it is with a high-denier (pronounced duh-NEER) number. (Fabric denier is a measurement of weight, not quality).
Pros: Soft sided are lighter in weight. They can flex and compress to fit in to tight spaces. This flexibility might enable you to squeeze in an extra outfit, (but think of over-packing). Also, a yielding material will be the deciding factor whether you will be allowed to keep the bag on board or having it relegated to gate-check. Fabric flexibility will be handy when packing a car trunk as well as storing the bag back at home.
Cons: this kind is not as protective as hard-sided ones. They are vulnerable to accidental or intentional ripping if not made with high quality materials.
Present day hard-shell or hard-sided luggage is made with lightweight and durable high-tech plastics such as ABS and polycarbonate. ABS is the lightest and polycarbonate is more durable. However, the most durable material is aluminum and on the other hand, we cannot forget that it is lot heavier than plastics. Hard-sided luggage features a 50/50 split opening, which facilitates you to pack both sides equally. Further the contents are stabilized with an x-strap or middle divider. However, the bag opens like a clam shell and you should have enough space, say, double the surface space, to open it. Almost all the hard sided luggage are built in this manner, but if you try bit harder you might be able to find one in the market with a top-lid opening.
Pros: This type offer best protection for breakable contents, and offer better security as well with integrated locks. They cannot be ripped open easily with a blade. However, some of the composite plastic hard-sides are fixed with a zipper, which can be vulnerable. Aluminum luggage mostly has metal draw-bolt latches in place of zippers. Hard-sided luggage could be stacked easily. So they are favored especially for cruise ships, which stack the baggage in the belly of the boat before departure. If you tend to pack little bit extra, a hard-sided piece will rein you in. There will be no chance at all for over-stuffing it. For carry-on, this bag guarantees that it will fit comfortably in most of the airline’s luggage-size.
Cons: They scuff and scratch easily and are inflexible. So that you cannot squeeze in extras. Hard-sided suitcases do not generally have outside pockets.
What about Luggage on Wheels?
Wheeled luggage is the most popular ones and accounts for more than 70% of the luggage sales today. If you wish to have your luggage rolling besides you, first decide whether to go for a two-wheeler or for a four-wheeler.
Suitcases with two wheels; you can call them rollers, are with the same type of wheels that you find on in-line skates. They roll forward and backward, but not side to side. As you pull your suitcase from the extending handle, it will roll behind you.
Pros: Wheels are recessed so that they will not snap off when you pull the suitcase on a rough ground. Two wheelers are ideal for urban travellers as they could easily clear steps, curbs, cobblestones and sidewalks without creating any problems.
Cons: Some users complain that dragging of the suitcase at times causes wrist, shoulder, or back pain. It can be cumbersome to drag a two-wheeled luggage in a crowded place like at railway station or a bust street because it needs reasonable clearance between you and the bag.
Four wheeler, also known as spinners, as each wheel is able to swivel 360⁰, like on a shopping cart. You can push the bag, pull it or wheel it along with you, and turn it in any direction you wish to. You can keep the suitcase upright without any difficulty as it is supported by four wheels in four corners of the bottom side of the luggage. According to experts, wheels attached with screws to the suitcase are more secure than those fixed with rivets.
Pros: Easier to traverse in tight spaces and busy places. Even a heavy or large suitcase could be easily managed with four wheels. The spinner is more user-friendly; hence a better choice than the roller as the spinner does not put extra stress on your shoulder or hand.
Cons: Wheels are vulnerable to snapping off as they are externally mounted and not recessed. So that it consumes valuable overhead-bin space, as the height of the wheels and their structure are also included in the overall allowable dimensions (height). A spinner has to be kept laying on its side if the floor is with even a slight gradient as the bag will move freely on wheels.
No Wheel Luggage
You can forget about wheels in following instances:
- When you need to utilize the maximum possible interior volume. So that you can eliminate the space consumed by the wheels and the handle structure.
- When you expect to take your bag on rough, bumpy, icy, or sandy surfaces, where wheels are hard to manage.
- If you are on a luxury tour and you ever need not to handle your own luggage.
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Feeling to Upgrade? Here are Some Shopping Tips
Do not rely on tags or labels that state, “official carry-on luggage” or “approved carry-on luggage.” As we mentioned above, there is no regulated carry-on size. Various airlines have their own restrictions. The measurements could be differ from one airline to the other and even within an aircraft. Try to find the luggage rules of the airlines you plan to fly or frequently flying. Take the dimensions yourself. Ensure that your measurements cover all parts of the suitcase, including outer pouches, handles and wheels.
Check the Handle
Check whether the angle of your wrist when holding the handle feels uncomfortable and how you feel the grip. In ensuring maximum durability, the handle should not have wiggle or rattle when you pull the bag or it should be at a minimum level. Also, be sure that it has smooth movement when you pull it up and retract it.
Move It Around on Wheels
Check whether the wheels roll smoothly and they stay in place. Gently jiggle them with your hands to be sure that they are firmly attached. Do not forget; experts say that wheels attached with screws are better than reverted ones.
It is always important to check how roomy the inside is after you are satisfied with outside measurements. This operation will be challenging a bit as many manufacturers do not speak about the interior volume. Search for the following features that maximize interior space.
- Squared edges are always better than curved ones as the curves eat up some interior volume.
- Integrated outer compartments: Outside zip compartments should be in line with the front body of the luggage. If they are overhanging, they waste space.
- If you badly need to make the most of every interior inch, forget about wheels and handles. They invade to the total pack-able space.
Do Not Forget Warranty
Do Not Forget to Check the Warranty
If you are expecting your luggage to use extensively, it is always advisable to go for the one which comes with the best manufacturer’s warranty. To have a lifetime warranty to repair or replace the bag would be the best option if available. There are several manufacturers as well as marketers or sellers are in and around who offers best warranties. Following are some of the leaders.
- Briggs & Riley
- Boyt (for certain product lines only)
- Eagle Creek (for certain product lines inly)
- eBags (a house brand)
- Lands’ End
- L. Bean
- Travelpro (Platinum 7 Collection)
It is always advisable to check the warranty statement if there are any specific requirements or conditions, such as exclusions for air cargo damage.
If you don’t shop for luggage often, and stumble across an online deal, try to find the item in a brick-and-mortar store first so you can handle it, wheel it, and lift it to make sure the bag is suitable for you.
You can choose some from Samsonite (for low budgeted luggage) and from Enkloze to have some exclusive one (your budget should be little higher for these). Enkloze luggages are looks like suitcase and long lasting for hardest travel.
Important Parts of a Bag
Your suitcase comprise of several important parts; the material; wheels, handle, zippers, compartments, weight of the luggage, locks and nowadays some smart features. So we think of providing you some helpful hints on what to look at when selecting and deciding about your new luggage.
Almost everything can go wrong with a zipper. If it breaks or malfunction in the middle of your trip, you might have no other option than tossing it out and look for a new bag. Zippers are in two types: chain and coil. A chain zipper, usually made of metal, consists of two sets of interlocking teeth. Coil zippers are usually made of polyester and zipper slides on two parallel coils. Chain zippers are stronger than coil zippers and much more difficult to break into. Coil zippers can easily be pulled apart with the tip of a ballpoint pen and reclosed even without a trace of wrongdoing. Zippers could be considered as a quality symbol of the bag. Highly recognized brand of zippers is YKK in the industry as the most reliable zipper on the market.
Wheeled luggage, which is more than 70% of the total travel luggage market, usually have retractable handles. For a maximum comfort, look for soft-grip handle, which is with adjustable length. Handles that retract completely into the bag is less likely to sustain damage. Two-wheeled bags have either one or two post handles. However many travelers prefer two-post handle system as they can piggyback a smaller bag while in transit, or can support a laptop, a briefcase, or a tote while the bag is at rest.
Number of compartments, their size and their configuration are the points to consider. Most of the present day travel bags are coming with a dedicated, padded pocket for a laptop giving you the freedom from carrying an additional bag. Suiter is another such important compartment that allows you to pack your suit within and you need not to carry separate garment bag. You should be careful not to select a bag with exterior protruding pouches as they reduce the total volume of packing space (they are considered for calculating the overall dimensions, while the adjacent spaces leaving empty.)
Frequent travelers are well aware of the fact that raveling light is easier than taking too much. Baggage fee that you must pay when checking in is even more of a reason to carry less. So it is always recommended to start the mission with lightweight luggage. According to experts, a non-wheeled bag should not exceed four pounds while a wheeled bag should weigh no more than 7.5 pounds. When traveling on a plane, you should utilize your eligible weight for your belongings at maximum, but not for the bag. Before you start your voyage, it is advisable to check with your carrier about weight limits. So that you can avoid of paying a fee for overweight checked baggage and check an overweight carry-on.
For travel in USA, luggage locks should be TSA-compliant, which means that the security agents possess a universal master key, to open and inspect your baggage, without breaking the locks, in the event that they decide to physically inspect the contents in your bag. If you are expecting to buy a lock separately, check the package of the lock for notation that state if it is TSA compliant. For integrated locks, check the luggage’s sales tag whether it is indicating if the lock is TSA compliant.
Nowadays the valises are equipped with built-in electronic capabilities. A “connected” suitcase tells you where it is, how much it weighs, and who’s allowed to handle it with the assistance of functions such as location tracking, built-in digital scales, fingerprint recognition locks, digital locks, proximity sensors, built-in power sources (for charging your mobile/tab or for your laptop) and trip tracking. You have the option of upgrading your analog bags to create your own customized high-tech luggage by adding aforesaid electronic gadgets separately.