Travelers have always relied on luggage to help carry their belonging from one place to the next and stay organized. Luckily, modern travel bags offer way more usability than the clunky travel trunks of the mid-19th century or monster suitcases of the 1940s. Today, you have an array of bags and suitcases available at different price ranges. But all the options can leave shoppers feeling overwhelmed.
So where should one begin that search for the perfect piece of luggage? Here are some tips from the experts on how to compare and buy.
Types of luggage sets
Traditional luggage comes in a variety of different types and an array of sizes. Most luggage sets advertise anywhere from two or more bags included. Bags range from small carry-ons to medium-sized ones to super-sized suitcases. They can be purchased separately or in a set.
Hard or soft shell
Today, most traditional luggage pieces are referred to as either hard or soft shelled.
Hard shell suitcases, sometimes made with quasi-flexible polycarbonate, tend to be the most appealing for the gadget crowd, due to their durability. The outside hard shell is also considered easier to clean and designed to endure the elements. The material also comes in a variety of easy-to-spot colors and patterns.
Soft shell luggage is typically made mostly of heavy fabric or leather. These tend to be easier to scrunch down into overhead bins, and sometimes come with more pockets and zippers.
Whether opting for soft-or-hard shell luggage, weight should be one of the first concerns when comparing travel bags, according to Michael Connelly, who writes the Fodor’s Approved: Best Checked Luggage Guide, “Lighter luggage is a no-brainer: There’s a direct correlation between the weight of your bag and the amount of money you can save while you’re on the go, so weight should be a major deciding factor in purchasing new pieces. Traveling with a light suitcase means you’re less likely to incur overweight baggage fees, and you’ll be able to bring back more gifts and souvenirs without having to pay to ship those separately.”
Travelers will find many luggage manufacturers are now advertising lightweight baggage options. For example, Samsonite’s MIGHTlight collection offers a carry-on bag that is less than 6.25 pounds.
The amount travelers should spend on luggage comes down to personal preference and budget.
At Wayfair, a home goods shopping site, the majority of 3-piece luggage sets with good quality ratings range between $100-$200. Currently, 3-piece hard shell and lined luggage sets from Traveler’s Choice and Rockland are the highest rated from customers and best sellers. They can be found under $200 when on sale.
Luxury and designer luggage pieces can run several hundreds of dollars.
To help travelers with their luggage purchase, The Container Store offers a helpful comparison chart to aid shoppers when evaluating luggage options based on price, weight, capacity potential and additional options like anti-theft features, retractable handles and warranties.
Travelers should be aware that the majority of U.S. and domestic airlines require baggage to be a specific size. Checked baggage is typically 62 inches when you total length, width and height. Carry-on pieces typically must not exceed 45 inches, including handles and wheels.
Most luggage manufacturers will clearly post size dimensions in its product description.
Wheels are one of the most important features of luggage sets to consider. They must withstand rough treatment.
Traditionally, suitcases come with two wheels. However, some are designed with four wheels and may be referred to as “spinners.” With four wheels, the idea is to allow travelers to roll upright so there is little to no weight on the arm or shoulder. Samsonite makes many of these types of bags.
Consider other bags
Traditional luggage may not always make sense for every trip. There are also backpacks and duffel bags to consider. These may make more sense for multi-destination trips. Also companies like SOLO are designing bags that can easily transition as a travel or laptop bag.
Organizing and efficiency expert Kristin MacRae (who recently made a video tutorial on packing) says after choosing the best luggage for your travel needs, consider packing methods and accessories to help maximize space.
For more money-saving advice, see our Travel section.