Luggage choices for your next trip

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As you prepare for your next trip, you begin to feel the excitement that travel often brings and then you start thinking about packing a suitcase.  The cost of checking a bag or maybe even having to pay for a carry on bag might make the difference in what you eventually bring along with you.

In general, most domestic airlines allow one carry one bag in a range from 45” up to 50-52” (that’s L+W+H), but weight varies from 16-50 pounds. Checked bags generally range from 62”-70” (L+W+H) and generally can’t exceed 50 pounds.  On international flights, the size limit for a carry on bag is about 45” in general and with a weight range of as little as 11 lbs. (Malaysia Airlines) up to 40 pounds. (Delta and United).  Checked luggage is 62” (L+W+H) across the board, but for British Airways, which allows for bags up to 81” with an average weight of 50 pounds with a few exceptions.  These include Thai Airways (44  pounds) and 70 pound weight limits with Cathay Pacific and Saudi Arabian airlines.

Of course, what they allow you to either carry on or check isn’t always as important as the fees involved.  Spirit charges for carry on luggage, which is still mind blowing to me.  Checked-luggage fees domestically range from my favorite, which is FREE, all the way up to $35, which again is Spirit.  International airlines as of today aren’t charging for carry on luggage.  The only carriers that charges for checked luggage that I could find were Air Canada ($25), Delta (Puerto Rico, USVI, and Canada) and United (Puerto Rico, USVI, and Canada).

Dominican Republic: American Airlines employee inspects passenger's suitcase at Cibao International Airport in Santiago de los Caballeros. (Larry Luxner)
Dominican Republic: American Airlines employee inspects passenger’s suitcase at Cibao International Airport in Santiago de los Caballeros. (Larry Luxner)

Once you get past all of the fees involved with the airlines, how do you choose a suitcase?  In the past, I used to choose my luggage solely on price.  However, the more I travel, the more I want a piece of luggage to hold up and do its job and not fail, especially when I’m far from home.  Here are some things that I look for in my luggage:

  • Lightweight luggage: Whether a piece of rolling luggage, an over the shoulder bag, or backpack, the lighter, the better.  This also allows you to pack more on the trip home.
  • Name brand luggage: Although not a huge fan of name brands elsewhere in my life, I do tend to stick with name brands on my luggage.  If I have a choice between Samsonite or Sam luggage, I’m probably going with Samsonite.
  • Leave the big name designers at home: This is where I will deviate from my prior suggestion.  When I think about luggage getting stolen from the airport or hotels, I think that robbers are going to go after the Louis Vuitton luggage and leave my less important looking luggage alone.
  • Four-wheel rollers vs. two-wheel rollers: When I first saw 4 wheel roller bags, I was hooked.  I can roll my bag next to me instead of behind me, which I love.  This is important when you have a heavy bag or a long distance to travel like from a bus or a train.
  • Choose the right size for the job: For carry on bags, you’ll want to pay close attention to the size limits of the airlines.  Carry on bags tend to be somewhere between 20-22” and checked bags are around 25-29” or larger.
  • Choose a bag that’s right for you specifically: At 5’4”, my bag needs are different than my 6’ tall husband’s needs.  He needs a bag with a handle that will reach him or he will just pick it up and carry it with him and that is no fun.
  • Luggage material: Soft or hardside?  That’s up to you completely.  Whereas I love my hardsided luggage, my husband can’t stand it and chooses a soft bag every time.  He likes to have the ability to overstuff his bag if he needs to whereas I like knowing that my bag will protect everything inside.
  • Lockable luggage: Throw away the little lock and key that comes with your bag and invest in a sturdy and dependable TSA approved lock.  Some have keys, some have combinations, and some come with a little credit card-type card to open the lock.  Whatever you decide, choose one as a deterrent to protect whatever is inside your bag.
Luggage need not be expensive. Shop around. Don't break the bank.
Luggage need not be expensive. Shop around.

There are numerous sites online where you can buy luggage, like ebags.com, but nothing beats taking your bag for a spin in person.  Stop in at any large name store like Macy’s, Sears, or any mall store and try one on for size.  True bargain lovers will pay a visit to Marshall’s or TJ Maxx to take advantage of the deep discounts on the same luggage.

Don’t forget when booking your flights to see if you can prepay to check in your luggage ahead of time.  It might save you a few dollars and extra headaches.  I highly recommend purchasing a portable luggage scale so you can weigh your bag before you get to the airport to avoid any surprises.  No one wants to be that person at the airport with his or her bag open moving things from one bag to another to make the bag lighter.

Plan ahead and choose a bag that will be reliable and dependable so all of your vacations end on a happy and memorable note.

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