Travel Luggage to Pack it Up Right

These days, finding the perfect piece or set of travel luggage is as challenging as finding the perfect little black dress or the best-fitting, most comfortable jeans. You know that what you want is out there somewhere�but where? The process can be challenging, frustrating and overwhelming.

Luggage, however, could potentially have a longer shelf life than that fabulous dress. So it may deserve as much attention.

How many possible types of luggage could there be, you may ask. Lots, even a basic search on the Internet will tell you. There’s backpacks, business cases, computer cases, cosmetic cases, duffel bags, garment bags, soft luggage, hard luggage, (deep breath) tote bags, carry ons, uprightsâÂ?¦add wheels on to those and you’ve got a whole new list.

Any traveler who has been on an airplane in recent years will tell you suitcases with wheels are hip, hot, now and wow. In addition to enabling you to zip around confused airport navigators, they lessen the pain of standing in line for ages. Even better is that they often fit conveniently in overhead compartments. Of course, the downside to this comes when every other passenger on the plane has the same brilliant idea. Then, of course, someone’s bag will be left out in the cold; or more literally, placed under the plane.

But let’s get back to the basics. The main question, when shopping for your special piece, is are you interested in form or function? If style and trends are your main focus, you have some fine options. There are travel bags for $26 and a Mulholland Brothers garment bag for more than $1,000. For high-priced, high-style options, some with tradition include Louis Vuitton with its signature luggage line that is bulky, boxy and screams, “I have money to burn, baby, and I want you to know it.” In general, travelers may want to beware of the heavy bags because there is typically a 50-pound weight limit on domestic and international flights. Coach, with its long-standing reputation for understated elegance, stays closer to its specialty realm with sophisticated and high-priced carry-on bags and large women’s purses. Even longtime fashion designer, Diane Von Furstenberg, whose claim to fame is still the edgy wrap dresses from the 1970s, today makes “fashion luggage.”

A newer company, Gravis, was founded in 1998 by a snowboard company. To wit, it combines usability (bags are designed specifically to maximize internal space while still being able to fit in the overhead compartment) with a simple design that appeals to a hipper crowd. Prices for Gravis bags are much lower than designer bags. Roxy, another company that appeals to the young extreme sports crowd, has branched out from its clothing line for junior girls to include luggage. Its surfer-inspired styles reflect the image of its clothing.

If trendy isn’t your thing, there are many companies that have a long history in the luggage industry. Samsonite, a well-known name in luggage that has been around since 1910, is a major player internationally. Its prices are typically higher than some of the new trendy labels, but the buyer can rest easy knowing that this manufacturer knows its stuff and makes quality products. Due to the fact that Samsonite specializes in luggage, it has more expertise which is often evidenced in the design features. For example, a description of the Samsonite Signature Spinner Expandable 26 Upright Suiter indicates that when a person rolls this case vertically, the weight of the case is directed on the ground, not on your arm. This particular product also has a 15-year warranty.

Looking for more special features? Briggs & Riley (www.briggs-riley.com) boasts a lifetime warranty against accidental damage, no matter how it is caused. Wow! And Tumi (www.tumi.com) created Tumi Tracer in 1999 to keep its customers from becoming statistics; each year about 3 million bags are lost in transit.

How much you want to spend on your travel luggage and what type of material will be best for you is completely subjective. Airline baggage handlers certainly aren’t known for their tenderness, so your bag will get banged around plenty. But if the majority of your travel is by car, bus or train, then that’s not a major concern for you. Are you tough on your bags? Do you bang, smack and smush them to fit in that extra pair of shoes that you might not really need? Then durability is a key factor for you. Also remember that if you prefer to carry your suitcase on board the airplane with you (like everyone else is doing these days) the size limit for most flights is 22 inches tall.

Certain online sites can even help you with this. For example, at www.ebags.com, you can create a comparison chart between all your options. But where do you go to buy your luggage? Well, when you have finally waded through all the options – brand, size, color and set vs. individual piece, you need to consider what type of shopper you are. When I shop for a new car, I do all my research online first. I compare, contrast and start with about a million options before narrowing it down to a more manageable amount – say five or six. Then I test drive this short list. Well, it may be wise to approach luggage the same way. Again, because of weight restrictions, it is important to feel the weight of the bag. Ease of carrying is another detail that can’t be measured online. It may fit well under the arm of the model on the Web site, but your arm is another matter.

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