Buying the Best Luggage for the Money

Yes luggage has come a long way from the old commercial in the 1970s where a gorilla is seen throwing luggage around before it gets put on the airline cargo hold. Luggage today has to be stylish and functional, but each aspect is a formal requirement, no one travels with ripped bags or tapped boxes, and we mean this seriously.

The newest luggage has nylon which is impenetrable and has secure retractable handles that won’t pull out of joint or come out of the track. The wheels are built in and swivel in every direction so that the traveler can change directions at the drop of a dime, which is a realistic situation in an airport when the gate has been unexpectedly changed. Of course, everyone wants a piece of luggage which is different and unique – so that it can be spotted quickly on the turnstile when luggage is being retrieved at the end of the flight. In the old days, there were scrunchies sewed to the handles or even duct tape slashed down the sides of the bag for ease of identification. Those days are over and now unusual patterns, designs and custom colors are de rigueur if one wants to be considered a world traveler.

Luggage is made for several markets: students, teens, upscale travelers, reasonably priced pieces and practical all the way luggage for everyday use. With the upscale markets, imported leather and designer labels rule with luggage price tags which range in the several hundred to several thousands of dollars. Luggage for youths includes reflective straps for safety and can have blinking lights to help parents find their children in crowded airports. Women are by far by the most luggage and they have the coolest patterns available from plaids to floral designs. They have secret compartments galore and are able to store toiletries, makeup, magazines and all clothing items securely in the new trend luggage made just to fit their needs. Most men are happy with the basic black luggage which is functional, can hold a business suit and has an outward compartment for golf shoes.

When choosing luggage it is still important to go over the basics. Do you want a hard side case in metal or plastic or a soft nylon sided case which will offer no protection if crushed against other bags, but has more give in it when over packing is necessary. If the nylon luggage is the best option for the traveler for ease of transport and light weight even after fully packed, the nylon itself should be the best and strongest fabric available. Some manufacturers call this nylon ballistic (like the stuff of bullet proof vests) and the fabric  is typically puncture and cut proof to protect the belongings especially on long international flights.

When it comes to zippers, the best ones may be plastic since the metal zippers tend to get tangled up and are difficult and expensive to repair. The wheels should revolve in a smooth circle, not get stuck when pushed in different directions (consider the horror of the “shopping cart wheels syndrome” as you are rushing for a last call of your flight while standing at the wrong gate, you want those wheels to fly through that airport as fast as you do, not be a dead weight you have to carry down several concourses to your destination). The carrying handles on the luggage should be larger than your hand and should have a wide enough handle that a person’s hand will not be pinched or injured when pulling it in any direction. If the handle locks in place but is easily retractable, this is the best deal. If the handle is telescopic and is smoothly opened or closed, it makes it easier for the traveler to operate when walking, sitting, getting into a bus or cart or when getting into a car or taxi at the final destination.

Remember, most airlines have a limit to the size of luggage taken on the plane (22 inches domestic and 20 inches for international flights) and some require gate checking even if the bag is under the requirement. The total dimensions of the bag cannot exceed 62 inches (domestic) and have a weight limit of no more than 50 pounds (international is usually half this weight). So consider the weight of a hard sided bag before it is even packed, it may be over the weight limit at half full. Finally, forget locking the bag since TSA requires that all bags be accessible. There was a lock offered years ago with a universal TSA accessible key, but most people forgo this as one more hassle at the airport – if it is locked expect that it will be required to be opened for that reason alone. In terms of identification, Tumi luggage offers specific bar codes on bags which can be traced to the original owners and new innovations in luggage are being developed to make the bags easier to find among other bags.

Jeff covers travel safety and other travel topics for the Travel Insurance blog hosted by the Consumer Media Network.