It's time to buy a new suitcase, but they all come with wheels, a handle, and zippers. Do you choose the cheapest one, the biggest one, or the lightest one? Not all suitcases are created equal, so it's important to do some research before biting the bullet (particularly if it's expensive). So what factors should you consider before shopping for luggage Durability, price, size, warranties, and weight are obviously important, but so is luggage satisfaction among consumers. The right type of luggage can make or break you when you're jet-lagged and stranded in an airport, so choose carefully and avoid the extra headaches and fees.
Here are 10 things to consider when purchasing a new suitcase.
Have you ever under-packed for a trip, because I sure haven't! It can be a struggle to find a suitcase big enough for all your crap that will actually fit in your trunk and not blow past the 50 lb. weight limit. Take a look at lightweight bags that are soft-sided, making them easier to stuff inside a trunk (or an overhead bin space). Remember, the overhead space on an airplane differs from airline to airline. Delta, United, and American are pretty stingy on space (45 linear inches up to 55, but that's not including hardware on the bag). A tip? A 48 ½ inch bag will always fit in the major (stingy) airline bins.
Airlines impose pretty big baggage fees and penalties for heavy baggage, so it's important that whatever bag you purchase is sufficiently lightweight (even without anything in it). Even seasoned travelers who know how to pack lightly struggle with not going over the 50 lb. weight requirement (remember, carry-ons should be less than 10 lbs). Hard-topped suitcases are often lightweight, but make sure they're sufficiently durable (with good wheels and sturdy handles). Check out this list of the ten best lightweight suitcases of 2018.
8. Type Of Travel
Not all travel plans require the same kind of luggage, but I'm sure you know that. A seasoned backpacker, for example, isn't going to be opting for a Louis Vuitton 4-wheel carry-on (no matter how fabulous). How far do you plan on traveling over the next 10 years? Do you plan on traveling via plane, car or train? Will most of your journeys be short in nature, or do you plan on going to Europe or Asia for a couple of weeks? No want wants to haul a heavy-duty extra-large suitcase with them on a three-day work trip, so make sure your purchase fits your future travel plans (and your storage space at home).
7. Construction And Durability
When it comes to the best suitcases for durability and ease of travel, there are four elements to consider: frame, fabric, and waterproofing. Look for bags with a fiberglass inner frame that's both strong and lightweight. If you're looking at a fabric suitcase, ballistic nylon is the best material by far. If you travel enough, chances are you're going to get caught in the rain, so make sure your suitcase also has some kind of fabric protector coating.
In addition to these elements, consider the suitcase's "wheelability." Four-wheeled suitcases can spin 360 degrees, making them easy to maneuver, but two-wheelers are better for clearing sidewalks, curbs and other uneven surfaces.
When it comes to travel, how high tech do you want to be? Are you just looking to get your belongings from point A to point B, or are you interested in "smart luggage?" New luggage technology offers GPS locators, USB ports to charge your devices, solar-powered batteries, and remote lock systems. Although this might sound a little much for people who are just looking to fly to Grandma's every now and then, these options are great for frequent flyers who spend the majority of their week in hotel rooms.
5. Brands And Warranties
Make sure you're familiar with the brand name that you're buying, as some brands have a reputation for standing behind the quality and durability of their bags (and have good customer service). Look for brands with lifetime guarantees (Osprey, Tumi, and Swiss Army, for example) that will repair your luggage free of charge for life. Trust me, if you travel a lot it's totally worth the investment. Watch out for brands with limited warranties (for example, defects in materials or workmanship). Many times they will contest whether or not it was an original defect or your own fault, so be prepared to put up a fight.
Remember, the price of luggage can be justified by how long/often you use it, its brand name and its warranty details. When it comes to suitcases, the price is often reflective of quality. That amazing steal on a suitcase might not be worth it if it rips open in cargo! Don't worry, you don't have to spend over $1000 to get a good, high-quality suitcase. Check out Travel + Leisure's list of the best luggage brands for every budget, which includes many popular brands such as Samsonite and TravelPro (both with lifetime warranties).
3. Product Reviews
We live in an age of online product reviews, so you'd be a fool not to take advantage of it! Just because a piece of luggage has a lifetime warranty doesn't mean it's going to fit your needs, so make sure to visit sites like Amazon's "Best Rated in Suitcases" or the company's website and check out what others are saying about the product. As always, you'll have to take some online reviews with a grain of salt as many people are just on there with an axe to grind. Even so, it's important to do your research before making any big purchase.
2. Manufacturing Location
It's a well-known fact that certain countries make certain products better, so it's worth checking what country your luggage comes from. For example, a bag made in China can be supervised by best leather workers from Italy, making it a piece that will last you a lifetime. Looking for a suitcase that was made here in the USA? Here's a list of the 10 best-selling brands in the United States. Wherever your bag was made, make sure you pay attention to the details (the stitching, the quality of the hardware) before you bring it home.
You're out shopping for a new suitcase and you have two choices -- a hardcover bag or a soft cover bag. Softcover bags made with durable leather or ballistic nylon can withstand years of wear and are often easier to squeeze in cars and overheads, but keep in mind that leather (while it looks nice) is also prone to scratches and stains over time. Ballistic nylon might not look as nice, but if you're looking for a material that won't tear or wear through, it's definitely something to consider.
For hard luggage, the choice is usually between metal and hard plastic. Hard plastic might be cheaper, but it's not nearly as durable. Choose metal if you want to protect souvenirs, cameras, gadgets or computers.