Luggage is not one-size-fits-all, so it’s important to consider your travel style and cater to those needs when making your next luggage purchase. With that in mind, check out the most important things to consider before making your next travel investment.
The Best Luggage Brands
I should note that brands are not everything, and nobody should pay the price for designer luggage unless they are proven durable and have a warranty. For those of you that don’t want to spend a fortune, don’t be afraid to buy those 3-piece luggage sets you see on Amazon (we’ve been using this set for 3 years and love it!).
Wear and tear – like cracks and worn wheels – can be expected with these, but they’ll likely last you several years. If you have the money and warranty is important to you, this 3 Samsonite 3-piece set is an amazing deal!
With that said, there a few brands out there that are favorites among experienced travelers, and even come with lifetime warranties. Keep your receipts!
Samsonite: Although Samsonite luggage only comes with a warranty limited to manufacturer defects, their typical hard-side luggage is known for its durability. It’s a great option if you’re traveling with breakables, a camera, or plan on bringing back a bottle of wine from your trip. Plus, this hard-sided case has an expandable zipper which is unusual for hard suitcases, but perfect for adding a little extra space and flexibility in packing.
North Face: For you outdoorsy types, check out North Face’s rolling duffels. They double as a backpack with straps, which is convenient for traveling in areas that don’t offer smooth walkways everywhere.
L.L.Bean: A great brand for space efficient travel backpacks, as well as personal organizers that can be used as your in-flight personal item – again, with a lifetime warranty!
Osprey: Another popular brand for backpacks, especially for women; Osprey has travel backpacks designed to fit women’s bodies, and come in feminine colors like teal and purple – easy to spot on the baggage carousel! Their convertible luggage is also convenient for easy luggage-to-backpack transitions in difficult terrain.
How to Choose the Best Luggage for Your Trip
Hard vs. Soft.
It’s important to choose the right type of luggage for your needs. Are you the adventurer type, or do you generally travel for business? Photography buff, or fashion enthusiast? A hard-sided carry-on is ideal for those traveling to areas with temperamental weather or toting cameras, as it offers ultimate protection. Soft luggage is easy to stuff into overhead compartments, and has expandability – perfect for “over packers” or people who want to bring home souvenirs from their travels. Soft-sided bags are also great for added organization!
Don’t buy a carry-on larger than what you can lift overhead! Get one that meets both international and domestic requirements. Some European airlines have smaller size restrictions for carry-ons, so limit yourself to approximately 21 x 13 x 9 and 15-20lb. in weight to clear nearly all international airline restrictions.
Also consider getting two smaller suitcases versus one large, heavy one. You may have to pay to get the extra one checked, but stuffing everything into a larger one can incur oversize and overweight fees – ultimately costing you more money in the long run.
- Pack your bags only 2/3 full. Since you’ll likely be bringing home items from your trip, you want to make sure you don’t over pack your bags to the point of breaking zippers. Roll your clothes (rather than folding) to create more space.
- Consider a TSA-approved lock (this Samsonite comes with one) or cable ties on zippers for added security.
- Don’t buy black. Avoid the endless search of your bag in sea of black luggage by buying a brightly-colored or printed suitcase. Checked bags should be easily recognizable to save time and avoid theft or mix-ups, because, unfortunately, leaving the airport with someone else’s bag unknowingly happens all too often. If you do end up buying a black bag, (sometimes options are limited!) place a few large stickers, buy a colorful luggage tag, or tie a brightly-colored ribbon or scarf around the handle.
- An under-seat bag doesn’t always mean “under seat.” Due to its compact size, these bags are technically considered a personal item – essentially allowing you to bring an additional carry-on. But if you’re traveling coach on a small or budget airline I wouldn’t suggest trying to fit it under tight seats and narrow aisles, and use it as your carry-on instead.
- If you know your seat will have a bit more room (e.g. business or first class) then an under-seat bag with wheels and a handle may just be your way of getting by with an additional small carry-on! Fashionable brands like Nicole Miller and Steve Madden offer such bags with a little style at an affordable cost.