Planning a trip requires putting together many pieces of many different puzzles. Once you’ve booked your airfare, decided on a place to stay and handpicked some unique things to do, there’s one thing left to do: determine the best luggage to use.
Whether shopping for new luggage or choosing from the variety of rollers, duffels and backpacks in your closet, there are a few things to consider before you start to pack.
Size is the Most Important: Checked Bags or Carry-On?
The most important aspect of any piece of luggage is its size. It needs to fit all of your essentials while still following airline specifications; choosing the perfectly-sized piece is a skill within itself.
First, decide if you plan to check your luggage or use it as a carry-on. Checked bags can be bigger because you don’t have to worry about cramming it into the overhead storage bins. And even then, the sizes can vary greatly. 30 inch? 36 inch? Just remember that you're likely to fill the amount of space that you have.
If you give yourself a smaller bag, you force yourself to travel a little lighter. If you pick a 36-inch bag, which is quite large, you will always find a way to fill it up.
If you do choose to travel carry-on only, do your research ahead of time. The size specifications for carry-on bags are determined by individual airlines, not national travel authorities. Once you’ve booked your flight, make sure you’ll be able to carry your bag on. Otherwise, you’ll have to check it or select a different piece of luggage.
The Material: What's Your Bag Made Of?
With both soft and hard shell suitcases, deciding the material of your luggage can be important as well. You want something that won’t rip or break, of course, and possibly something waterproof, depending on where you’re headed. Especially if you're carrying your best travel gear, you want to make sure you have a bag that's going to protect everything inside.
Hard-shell luggage tends to last a little longer because it's crafted with smooth materials that don’t typically tear. While some, like those made with aluminum, are heavier to tote around, most on the market are pretty lightweight. Hard-shell suitcases are prone to dents, but remember, if the airline damages your suitcase, you can file a claim and they'll replace your bag at no charge.
Suitcases made of softer materials may also have either one or multiple compartments, but you can sometimes squeeze a little more inside.
Color and Shape: Match Your Luggage to Your Personality
While color and shape don’t play much role in the function of your luggage, they are things that avid travelers should consider.
As traveling is a pastime for many and a lifestyle for others, suitcases are moving as much as people are. Whether grabbing your suitcase off of the baggage claim, out of the overhead bins or out of an uberPOOL trunk, it’s beneficial to be able to easily identify your bag.
One of the best ways to make sure you know which bag is yours is to choose a bag that is a vibrant color, as black infiltrates the market. Finding a suitcase with a unique shape can also make a difference.
1, 2, 3, 4: How Many Wheels Do You Wish?
Many may not realize it, but the number of wheels on your luggage can make or break it. It all depends on what you’re using it for.
Those with no wheels tend to have more space because wheels add height, plus they require a thicker frame, which takes up space. Consider wheelless luggage if you’re traveling somewhere covered in sand or ice, or somewhere with a lot of stairs. Honestly, if you're looking to lose the wheels, you might consider a backpack.
Pieces with two wheels work well in urban cities, making it easier to pop up curbs or move over cobblestones. Additionally, the wheels may be recessed, making them more stable and less likely to break.
On the other hand, four-wheeled pieces of luggage are easier to navigate. The wheels can turn in any direction, making it quick to turn or change direction. It’s also easier to maneuver these types of suitcases down the aisle on an airplane. Luggage with four wheels can also be a great option for really heavy bags.
The Durability Factor of Your Luggage
Durability is another thing travelers should consider. One way to test this is to research the brand’s reputation and check out reviews online. You want to get something that will last for various trips.
Examining warranties can be another way to test durability. If things that often break, like zippers and handles, are covered by a warranty, it means they’re either confident their product won’t break or willing to fix it if it does. This may be the way to go, to avoid buying endless pieces of luggage in the future.
Extra Features of Your Luggage
If you’re willing to spend a bit more on your luggage, check out bags that have extra special features. With advances in technology, some suitcases are equipped with unique and exciting additions.
These include things like built-in GPS units that can help you locate your bag, an app that helps you determine its weight or a finger-recognition lock feature. Some bags also include USB ports with which to charge your gadgets. If you’re an avid traveler, a bag with these features may be worth checking out.