Last week my friend Irina, an acclaimed art critic and seasoned traveler invited me to the local outlet mall to help her buy a new suitcase for her upcoming Romanian trip.As we were browsing and comparing bags we discussed the features that we should try to avoid and the ones we specifically looked for when investing in luggage.
Less than an hour into our quest we did find the perfect bag for her, not before we also came up with a list of the ten best tips detailing what to look for when purchasing a suitcase for all newbie travelers.
Stand Out with Color
Even if you choose to ignore the rest of the tips on this list, do take heed of this one.
Do not buy black luggage!
Apart from it looking identical to everyone else’s; you risk the chance of someone mistaking their luggage with yours and walking away with your bag.
Oh, and don’t be tempted to ‘personalize’ your black luggage with ribbons and bows either; they are hard to notice, fall off, and nowadays it is hardly original since everyone does it.
So, go out there and buy the brightest, most colorful and patterned luggage set you can find, as it will stand out and you’ll be able to see it from across the carousel, even in a large hall in a busy airport.
Hard versus Soft
The next decision can lead to a heated debate between many travelers: what’s better– hard plastic shell suitcases or the fabric ones?
There are plusses and minuses to both.
The traditional fabric ones tend to be more budget-friendly and can be lighter. The downside is that they can get wet, either in airplane and airport transit or between hotels, and are susceptible to tearing.
On the other hand; the hard-shelled bags provide better protection against most mishaps but are heavier and in rare cases can dent.
My personal preference is the hard-shelled suitcase since I know they will protect my items better, and they won’t get damaged in any substantial way.
Expandable is Better
Most people know about the different suitcase dimensions like 20 inch,25 inches,28 inches but aren’t aware that theses measurement are height and that some bags can become wider than others.In fact, many can expand up to 2 inches by opening a set of separate zippers. Personally, I‘ve found the extension option useful when I needed to pack extra souvenirs or items I had planned on buying.
If you choose this feature; make sure you check the luggage for two parallel sets of zippers. One that opens the suitcase and one that allows for the extra extension.
Self-Healing Double Zippers
This feature can become a life saver if your zipper decides to break at any point during the travel and you find yourself still trying to close the suitcase.
I’m speaking in particular about self-healing, double zippers. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, these zippers work in both directions as the bottom is angled the same as the top. If the one breaks, you can use the second part to close the suitcase back up the other way.
It’s all about the Wheels
Nowadays, all suitcases come with wheels, but you do need to decide whether your suitcase will have four or two.
Based n my previous experiences I recommend you do yourself a favor and buy the gear with four that rotate 360 degrees, highly useful for dragging your bag along different airport surfaces,
Furthermore, there are two main wheel mounts on the market currently inside or outside mounts.The ones with outside mount are slightly cheaper, but the wheel can be yanked off on a carousel or if the bag falls from a higher position.The inside mount is more pricey, but you will find the wheels better protected and less prone to mishaps., which might be priceless when you are trying to navigate a crowded airport or cobblestone street.
Top Telescoping Handles
Something that can make your life miserable in an airport setting is the top telescoping handle of the suitcase. The best thing to do is to check the handle and see whether it is the right height for you.If it is indeed too short, which some cheaper bags are, you will find dragging it in airports cumbersome and even painful when your shoulder locks itself in an unnatural position.
Another question to ask is what the handle is made out of, since that too, can make a difference in the longevity of the suitcase.
The plastic ones that are made out of two segments joined by a flimsy screw are the worse and can break at a drop of a hat.If you wish to buy a suitcase that will last more than one trip, look for a solid metal handle that slides smoothly into its suitcase shaft.
Side and Bottom Handles
Side and bottom handles, though less important than the top handle, do serve a purpose.
They serve as your ‘backup’ handles in case the top one fails, so having them on a suitcase is quite important. They are also the handles you can grab when your luggage is in the overhead compartment or the carousel.Never assume that all luggage pieces have them; stop and check your suitcase before you buy by turning around and upside down to verify there indeed are handles. Over the years, I have seen some suitcases, usually lower end products that did not have side or bottom handles at all.
Interior Pockets and Organizers
Depending on your preference, interior pockets and organizers can be an excellent option, though personally I wouldn’t pass on buying a good suitcase that didn’t have them. If you are one of those customers that do like the feature, you should double check as different manufacturers provide different designs; some more elaborate than others. Just like with the outside zippers; verify that the inside zippers are sturdy and self-healing to make sure you won’t have any problems with them.
Outer pockets are found on most fabric suitcases, and they are useful for last minute items like travel papers, magazines or even wet bathing suits you don’t want to pack with the other clothes. Unfortunately most hard shells don’t offer this feature which is a shame!
If you are interested in this particular characteristic; make sure you check the depth of the pocket and whether it is useful for your needs. If you intend to use them for damp garments, make sure they are suitably lined.
This feature is probably the least important for traveling but becomes more relevant for storing the suitcases at home.
Some companies build their suitcases in such a way that they fit one inside the other like Russian dolls. You can usually find this if you purchase a three piece set by the same company. Here too a word of caution is necessary; check and make sure that the first suitcase can be in fact, fully close when the others are resting inside.
I recall one instance when I purchased that didn’t and I ended up having to store the three bags side by side which took more space in my garage than I had initially anticipated.