You’ve saved hard, you’ve dreamt about that holiday for months, even years but one thing that’s easy to overlook in the excitement of planning your dream holiday is your luggage. Yet, when you travel, the suitcase you choose is really important because it’s going to travel as many miles as you do and it needs to arrive in one piece with your possessions intact and undamaged.
Hubby and I travel quite a bit and decided recently that it was time to update our suitcases. The old ones had travelled many miles, the zip on one suitcase was broken and they were both looking tired and shabby. So before I set out to buy some new ones, I put together a list of features that we thought were important and that would be an improvement on the suitcases we had previously owned. So here are my tips when choosing a new suitcase:
- Price. Set a budget for what you can realistically afford and stick to it. Shop around for the best price. If you’ve planned ahead and you’re not in a hurry, wait for a special. Department stores like Myer regularly have sales with discounts of up to 40 – 50% and that can save you heaps. Boxing Day sales here in Australia are a great time to buy things like luggage. Also, if you have loyalty points either through your credit card or from using programs like Fly Buys, these can be a great way to reduce the cost of an expensive purchase like luggage. Another great idea is to ask for Gift Cards for birthday and Christmas presents and use those towards your luggage.
- Size. Before choosing a suitcase do your homework with regards to size restrictions that might be imposed by different airlines. The biggest suitcase you can find may not necessarily be the best if it doesn’t fit those measurements and you may end up paying for excess luggage. I also think having a huge suitcase encourages you to pack more and the more you pack, the more you have to carry.
- Hard or soft. We’ve typically always bought canvas style suitcases. They seem to be the most common and they are definitely cheaper than hard-shell cases. This time, however, we decided to go with a hard-shell case. I had previously purchased a hard-shell carry on bag and had been so happy with it, that we went for that style again.
- Wheels. There are two different types of wheels you will find on suitcases. A lot of suitcases come with two fixed rollers attached on only one side of the base of the case and you need to drag the case using an extendable handle and, while these are better than having no wheels at all, they can need a bit of work to manoevour. Other suitcases will come with 4 wheels that will spin and rotate in any direction usually called spinners. These are what we have on our new cases and they are wonderful because they allow you to move the suitcase in any direction with very little effort. I was also able to push the case around without using the handle at all. A word of advice, however, don’t leave this style of suitcase unattended on a sloped surface or it will roll away.
- Internal zips and compartments. I like to organise my luggage when I pack and put similar items together in piles. I find this makes it easier to locate things when I need them particularly if we are staying in places for only one or two nights and don’t have the chance to fully unpack. Many suitcases also have external zips and pockets. These can be great for organising and separating items in your case but will require extra padlocks to lock them.
- Locks. Whether you buy a case with a built-in combination lock or not I don’t think really matters but just make sure the style of the zip allows you to attach a padlock. It won’t necessarily prevent someone with dishonest intentions from getting inside your suitcase but hey, why make it easy for them!
- Handles. Suitcases will generally come with two kinds of handles. The usual handle will be either on the side or the top of the suitcase and will mostly be used when lifting the bag in and out of the car and on and off luggage conveyor belts. It needs to be sturdy to bear the weight of a fully packed case and if the handle is padded and a reasonable width it will be more comfortable to use. The second handle will usually retract inside the bag and will be made of metal. These should also be sturdy and fairly rigid and not wriggle around too much when fully extended. Extending and retracting these handles should be smooth and easily done with only one hand. These should always be pushed down when not in use to reduce damage when sent through to baggage handling.
- Weight. This for me is probably the most important feature of all. It’s hard enough to keep the weight of your case inside weight limits without the weight of the actual suitcase being huge before you even pack. This was the main reason we purchased the Samsonite hard-shell case because it is one of the lightest on the market. It weighs less than 3 kgs … wow! Another word of advice … I will be sharing packing tips in anther blog post but don’t be tempted to totally fill your suitcase before you even leave home. Make sure you always leave room for any extra shopping (you know what I mean, girls). Airlines can be tough on baggage weight limits and excess baggage fees can cost you “an arm and a leg” so, pack lightly! This is especially important once your kids get to an age they can pack for themselves. My girls are now older and while it may seem tough, we have a very simple rule with luggage … if you pack it, you carry it!
- Style and Colour. Choose a case you like the look of. Chances are you’ll be using it for years so it’s important that you actually like it. With regards to colour, choose something you like but one trick I use is to buy a different colour for each family member. If you need to open someone’s case in a hurry, it’s easier if you can quickly identify who owns which suitcase. While we’re talking about identifying your suitcase, always label every case clearly with a study luggage tag that won’t come off and think about tying a coloured ribbon to each case to make them easy to identify on a luggage carousel at the airport.
One final thing to consider … if you need a new suitcase, should you buy the full set with a range of sizes? It will be more expensive but it will give you a couple of different-sized cases to choose from depending on the length of your trip.
So tell me, can you share any other tips that you think are important when choosing a suitcase and where is the one city or country you dream of travelling to?