My high school graduation present from my parents was a Samsonite suitcase. It was 26-inch, hard-side with wheels in bright cranberry. It saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, the transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom, and the introduction of the Euro. When my trusty luggage and I took separate vacations, I decided to switch to a soft-side carry-on which has traveled with me to fill the pages of two passports.
The wheels and zippers on my luggage are getting too worn to trust on another journey, so I have started looking for the perfect replacement. Here are three things I will be considering when shopping for luggage:
Independent v. Escorted
I am an independent traveler—meaning that I am not on escorted tours that include baggage handling. I have to be able to lift and stow the luggage on many forms of transport—from planes and trains to water taxis and tuk-tuks. So I am going to look for luggage designed with handles on both the short- and long-sides and wheels tucked into the frame. I will also consider empty weight of the luggage. External pockets and zippered sections that unzip to allow for extra packing just add weight.
Weights and Measures
The TSA does not set the guidelines for size or weigh of luggage. It is set by each airline and depends on the aircraft in service for the flight. You can find out the dimensions and requirements by checking the carriers’ websites. Keep in mind that measurements must include the wheels, so if you have a spinner-style suitcase be sure allow for the wheels and casters. I travel on Southwest, but have a second suitcase that meets most international requirements. A friend, planning a vacation in Asia, recently told me that her in- and out-bound flights had different weight requirements. It was a difference of ten pounds that she had to accommodate in packing.
Although it was not my choice, the cranberry luggage my mom selected was clearly distinguishable. I could pick it out in a luggage line-up in hotel lobbies; I could see it on the tarmac from inside the boarding gate area; and, in Norfolk, I knew it was my luggage that flew off the conveyor belt, bounced once, and opened strewing my clothes all over the baggage claim area.
It is important to select luggage that reflects you, and is easily distinguishable without calling undue attention to yourself when traveling. The fabric of my current luggage is forest green tweed. It is nondescript, yet easily recognizable amid the basic black, trendy high-end label knockoffs, animal prints, neon-impact colors and Katy Perry polka dots.
It takes time to find the perfect suitcase, so I’m starting before my next trip is planned. And, yes, I am taking my mom with me to shop for new luggage. She has an eye for color!
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