Whether you are a seasoned traveler or an occasional one, having the perfect suitcase for your journey can make a world of difference. Yet with so many options to choose from, it can be a little challenging to select the right one for you. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while you shop for new luggage.
First, Smarter Travel recommends that you consider the size and weight of the bag, without your belongings inside it. Whether you plan to do strictly carry-on or checked baggage, the empty weight of the bag is of utmost importance. Almost all travelers will agree that the lighter the bag, the better. This way you can carry as much stuff as you need to – and have room to bring back souvenirs, if you so desire.
If you tend to travel light or mainly just for weekends, you can get away with a larger carry-on suitcase. You will just need to ensure that it does not exceed your airline’s size restrictions. As a general rule of thumb, carry-on luggage should not top 45 linear inches. (“Linear” means the sum of the bag’s upright height, depth, and width.) Airlines include the wheels when measuring dimensions, so be sure that you do this too. For ultra-lightweight carry-on bags, Smarter Travel recommends Delsey’s “Helium Lite Carry-on.”
For longer stays or for those who travel with more belongings than others, checked baggage is the way to go. Not only do most airlines have size restrictions (generally maxing out at 62 linear inches) for checked luggage, they also have weight restrictions. The lighter your empty bag weighs, the more you can fit and the less likely you are to incur expensive overweight baggage fees.
In your browsing, you will notice that some bags have only two wheels, while others have four. Those with two are less likely to sustain damage to the wheels and do better on uneven surfaces. However, they must be dragged behind you, which can cause strain on wrists and shoulders. Suitcases with four wheels allow for movement in all directions and can be pushed in front of you, towed beside you, or dragged behind you. Their main drawback is that the wheels are not recessed within the bag, making them more prone to being damaged. It is best to go to a store and try these two variations in person, to see which you are more comfortable with.
You should also consider the construction of the bag. There are two main options in this area: hard-sided or soft-sided. While the former offers more protection, they do tend to weigh more, which can be a problem for travelers who pack more on the heavier side. Soft-sided bags are usually lighter in weight and offer more flexibility (which is particularly important when you are dealing with cramming them into overhead bins).
Other things to keep in mind while shopping for a new suitcase include handle construction and length (for your towing comfort), zippers (the bigger they are, the longer they last), TSA-approved locks (for extra security), and pockets (soft-sided bags have more pockets than hard-sided ones, which is great for super-organized travelers). You will also want to pay close attention to the warranty on the suitcase. Obviously lifetime warranties are ideal. Smarter Travel claims Victorinox, Briggs & Riley, and TravelPro have the best warranties on their products. Finally, price is always an important consideration. When it comes to luggage, you definitely get what you pay for. You may want to consider investing a little more in your suitcase, especially if you travel a lot.
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