Luggage: 8 Things to Know Before You Buy

May 19, 2014 16

Luggage: 8 Things to Know Before You Buy

You decided on where and when to travel and what you would like to see. Now it is time to consider what luggage to bring. These few tips will help you to travel light, with suitcases that are not only simple to pack, but also easy to carry and maneuver.    

1. In This Case, Size Matters

Luggage comes in a range of different styles and sizes so you’re bound to find the pieces that fit your needs. Start by assessing your travel habits. Are you a light traveler or do you prefer having extra changes of clothing?  For light travelers, carry-on bags generally range from 17- 21” in height and will stow easier in smaller spaces such as overhead bins. (Be sure to check your airline’s carry-on size restrictions.) For those who like to pack extra outfits, you will want larger suitcases, also called Pullmans or uprights, which range up to 31” in height. While you’re at it, don’t forget duffels and garment bags to organize all the little things and round off your luggage set.

When selecting luggage, keep the weight of the suitcase in mind. By the way, don’t assume hard-sided luggage is heavy. Due to durable yet light materials this type of luggage can be lightweight too.     

2. The Right Seams Are Strong Seams

Whether or not you travel a lot, when you do hit the road, your luggage is going to be tossed around quite a bit. The seams of your baggage are more important than you think, so check them out before buying. Look for exterior seams that are piped for reinforcement, and lock-stitched seams that help ensure durability. Choose luggage with taped inner seams between the zipper and the bag, which will help avoid fraying. Speaking of zippers, big ones are more durable than smaller ones and are easier to use.

3. Material … It’s Not Just About Looks

The material of your luggage plays a part in durability. Semi-soft fabric and soft-sided bags are usually made of nylon or polyester. Look for the terms “ballistic weave” (resists tearing) and “denier” with a strength number of 400 and above on the fabric description.

Leather luggage is another durable option but can be expensive and requires frequent cleaning to keep them looking great and stylish.

For frequent travelers, hard-sided luggage made of plastics (usually ABS or polycarbonate), metal or other molded materials, tend to stand up to the rigors of wear and tear.

To keep your luggage looking clean, use a gentle soap and water on hard-sided luggage and then rinse clean. You can also use a silicone-based car or furniture polish to keep it in top condition. As for soft-sided luggage, spot clean with a mild soap or product made especially for stain removal from fabrics.

4. Frame It with Strong, Yet Light Support

The frame of your luggage can play a part in how heavy it is. Look for fiberglass and aluminum frames that provide support without weight. Bags with heavy-duty plastic frames are lightweight; however, they’re not as sturdy as other frames. Soft-sided suitcases use stiffeners instead of an interior framework which makes them really light.

5. Roll It or Spin It for Easy Traveling

Easy maneuvering of your bags is probably at the top of your luggage must have list. Look for suitcases with wide-track wheels and a bearing system for stability and balance. Also, choose luggage with wheels that are recessed into the actual frame for better durability. Luggage with four multi-directional spinner wheels, rotate and pivot a full 360 degrees make turning corners and changing directions a breeze.

6. Give Yourself a Hand with the Right Straps and Handles

Wheels or no wheels, sometimes you’re going to have to pick up your bag. A larger bag should have handles on both the side and top for easy lifting, while a smaller bag should have a wide, padded, ergonomic-shaped over-the-shoulder strap. Many suitcases will also have an add-on strap so you can attach a carry-on bag. Make sure these straps are detachable or can easily be tucked in a pocket so they don’t get caught on anything when not in use. Pick a model with a telescopic handle that pulls out, retracts and locks easily.

7. Let It Out

If you’re the type that always comes home with more than you started with, your best bet is expandable semi-soft or soft-sided luggage. This is a good thing considering the last thing you want to do on vacation is buy another bag! However, as always, check with your airlines about penalties if your luggage is above a certain weight before you bring home all those souvenirs.  

8. Extras Without the Pounds

That’s right; you can enjoy extras without worrying about adding pounds to your luggage. Make sure your new suitcase has pockets to store shoes, underwear, toiletries and more. It’s also a good idea to look for waterproof or water-resistant linings which make your luggage easier to clean in case that bottle of shampoo leaks in your suitcase. Once you’re all packed, secure your bag with a TSA-approved lock. This way if your luggage is inspected, it can be easily opened and closed by a TSA agent.

No one wants to deal with extra bags, heavy suitcases, or luggage that is clumsy or ready to burst at the seams. So take these tips into consideration and you’ll be traveling light and easy!


Comments (16)

  1. Very helpful! Never thought to consider seams and framework. Thank you!

    - Cynthia Grimes
  2. Interesting things I didn’t really think about or know to look for…thanks, very heplful

    - Dedeene Thompson-Montgomery
  3. What is and where can you find a TSA
    approved luggage lock?

    - Bill Nordmann
  4. Very practical and informative. Thanks.

    - sylvia thacker
  5. Great advice!!!! I didn’t know any of this information so it will help when I go looking for luggage.

    - carol
  6. Wonderful tips for travel with the appropriate suitcases!

    - Karen
  7. I appreciated the article but would like some suggestions as to which brands meet the criteria cited.

    - pat gibbs
  8. Great tips on choosing the right luggage. Thanks! Very helpful.

    - Kenx
  9. anyone have any tips on a brand or material to buy? need help

    - Linda
  10. Thanks for the great tips and food for thought. My son is a frequent flier and if I wanted to buy him a gift of luggage, I’d like it to be close to what he would find useful. Gone are the days of strapping an old suitcase with a belt and checking it in! Haven’t seen a ladies train case in awhile, tho I still have mine from 1963!

    - Saundra L Pratt
  11. ok, this didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know … “Check with your airlines for size and weight regulations”

    - Joycellia
  12. love all the tips for luggage

    - Roberta Ray
  13. Very informative. Thanks.

    - Sadat Karim
  14. Very good information. Liked that you said the kind if material to buy if
    you are considering buying soft luggage.

    - Karol
  15. great articles and good tips

    - Lilly
  16. Great tips for picking a suitcase.
    Married to a professional pilot for 30 years. Spend lots of time in airports so I see first hand the mistakes people make choosing luggage. Sometimes its funny sometimes it’s just sad.

    - Paula ellis

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