Recently a friend of mine invested in new luggage, and since I travel a lot, she asked me for recommendations. As someone who takes dozens of trips a year, I’ve gotten my packing and luggage situation pretty stream-lined. I know some people have circumstances that will require them to do things differently, but I’ve noticed that my other friends who travel a lot tend to have similar habits to mine. Here’s what works for us, and why.
Rules of Thumb
- Go for four spinning wheels. Buying 4-wheeled luggage was a game-changer for me. It is so much easier to maneuver, I don’t know why people carried suitcases for as long as they did.
- Carry-on whenever possible. This is one I learned from my dad, and it’s a must for frequent travelers. I even carry-on when I go to Europe for a week. The benefits are huge: you can arrive at the airport later since you don’t have to drop off a bag at the luggage counter; your luggage stays safer (have you seen the way airlines treat suitcases!?); you eliminate the risk of lost luggage; you don’t have to wait for the bag at your destination; and you get extra flexibility in case you want to do something like give up your seat on an over-sold flight. To me, these benefits greatly outweigh the benefit of having my whole closet with me. I’ve learned that I don’t wear or use most of that stuff anyway! Plus, everywhere I’ve ever traveled has had stores where I could buy something I desperately needed.
- Expanding luggage is a plus. It seems like no matter how nicely I fold things, they always take up more space on the way home. My suitcase has a zipper that gives my an extra inch or so of space, and I end up using it almost every trip.
- Pick your color carefully. My last set of luggage was green and my current set is gray. Both have gotten quite stained – especially in the rare instances where I checked them. Black luggage can be hard to distinguish from other bags, but at least it ages well. I think a deep red is also a good choice.
- Where to shop: I have found great deals on brand name luggage at discount stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross, etc.
- In addition to my carry-on suitcase, I always have a shoulder bag that goes under the seat in front of me on flights. Longchamp bags are perfect for this. They fit a lot, are lightweight, a pocket keeps valuables easy-to-access, and they zip shut so your items don’t go flying if you hit a patch of turbulence. I usually put my toiletries, computer, purse, and in-flight entertainment in this bag. Having the toiletries and computer handy makes getting through security a breeze.
- Buy a la carte. My last set of luggage was a gift and it came with three pieces (similar). I used the big one a few times, the carry-on sized one a ton (until it broke), and I never even took the tags off the smallest piece. When I purchased new luggage, I only bought the pieces I wanted or needed. Why buy pieces I’ll never use!?
- If you don’t travel a ton and you care more about price than quality, you might want to check out the Amazon Basics line. The pieces are nice-looking and priced affordably, but I don’t know how they’ll hold up over time. I’ve had issues with cheap luggage in the past – especially the telescoping handle.
- My luggage is Samsonite and I’ve been really happy with it. The carry-on that I use all the time is at least three years old and I haven’t had any trouble with it yet. I got a pretty good deal at one of the stores I mentioned above, and it came with a 10 year warranty. I made sure to save that paperwork – with the amount of use my bags get, I expect to need it someday.
- If you’re willing to spend a few hundred bucks on top-of-the-line luggage, Tumi is the way to go.
I hope you find this advice useful. Good luck shopping and happy travels!