Buying luggage - 5 features I look for


My faithful travel-companions.
Shopping for a new suitcase means really thinking about how you pack, what you pack, and what's going to work for you when you're traveling. Whether you're traveling with kids, or solo, you will probably be looking for similar features, with some slight differences. Here are 5 features I consider when choosing a new piece of luggage.

1. Wheels
When it comes to luggage, luggage with wheels beats luggage without wheels every time in my opinion. Even small suitcases and bags can weigh a lot once they're fully loaded, and the wheels really help move them around. If you're traveling with kids, a wheeled suitcase can be very practical, especially at the airport: depending on the model and style, even a child can pull a pretty big bag if it has wheels. Also, if you can't locate a luggage cart, the wheels can really make it easier to get around with the kids until you find one.

2. Hard or soft?
If you've ever seen how suitcases are handled when they're loaded onto airplanes, you probably already know that a hard-sided suitcase can be a very good idea. However, a hard suitcase weighs more, and is often more expensive. When I travel with my kids, I have one hard-sided suitcase, and two soft bags (one of them wheeled). Anything that needs extra protection goes in the suitcase, while clothes can travel safely enough in the soft bags.

3. Durability
Luggage takes a beating if you travel by plane, that's a fact. Buy bags and suitcases that look and feel well-made: thicker fabric, good quality stitching in the seams, and strong zippers will be worth paying a bit extra for.  I swear by my old Samsonite suitcase, an Oyster that traveled with me for 25 years all over the world: it took a licking and kept on ticking. Many other brands are also great, just remember that cheap doesn't always mean cheap in the long run!

4. Color
Silly, right? And no, color is not a primary consideration when I pick a piece of luggage. However, when you're looking for your luggage on the baggage carousel at the end of a long flight, it does help if it's easy to identify and stands out from the crowd of black, and dark blue and dark green bags. Make it easier to ID any bag you get with stickers, luggage tags, and luggage straps. My kids are well-trained by now and will eagerly keep a look-out for "the green one", "the blue one", and "the other one".

5. Size
When you're traveling with kids, you obviously need decent sized luggage to fit everything you're bringing, especially if you're going on a longer holiday. However, a suitcase or bag that is TOO big isn't ideal, mainly because it is a) hard to handle, and b) will easily weigh too much for the airline. I have this problem with one of our hard-sided suitcases, and I've just learned to pack it about half full rather than stuff it to the gills.

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