I’m on Christmas luggage patrol this week. My boyfriend’s daughter needs a suitcase for a trip to Italy. The lucky college student is spending the remainder of her junior year in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe: Milan. An opportunity of a lifetime! My, how things have changed since I went to college.
The optimum luggage needs to be durable, space-efficient, easy to manage and long-lasting. The brand and color shouldn’t matter. Price is important but it shouldn’t be too cheap or too expensive.
Hard vs Soft
She wants a hard-side (or hard-shell) but I’m not a fan of polycarbonate. Yes, they have their good points: they protect belongings better, are lighter and can withstand extreme temperatures. If you’re traveling with chocolate and bottles of wine (wrapped tightly in clothes, of course), have no fear, a hard-shell will do the trick.
However, and here’s the defining criticism that trumps wine and chocolate: the compartments inside are equal, a 50/50 top lid opening. This means that when you need to open it (at the airport or the hotel) everything falls out willy nilly. When you prop it against a wall, especially resting atop a luggage stand, it doesn’t stay. The weight of the top is too heavy to stay propped. Other cons (for most models) include no outside pocket, scuffs easily and has unprotected wheels that pop off.
Briggs & Riley makes a 27″ Torq International hardside that finally eliminates all these issues but, with tax, it’s nearly $600. Then again, it’s guaranteed for life, so maybe it’s worth it.
Size and Weight Matters
Carry-on luggage is another ball of sticky wax. Airline dimensions (width/height) for carry-ons vary according to the airline. I play it safe and count the handles and wheels (spinners) in my measurement. A carry-on within 22″ (height) will fit nicely in the overhead space with the top end facing out. However, not all bins are created equal and super small regional aircraft will ask that you check it at the gate. Soft-shell are far more forgiving as they bend and flex.
In my experience, domestic flights carry little about the weight of a carry-on but it’s just the opposite on international flights. On my recent trip to Russia, Aeroflot Airlines enforced the rules. When they discovered my carry-on exceeded the 22-pound limit, they told me to step aside and remove five pounds. I lost my place in line and inconvenienced my traveling companions with extra weight. Not cool. Of course, the return trip from Moscow to JFK was a different story. Aeroflot reps didn’t bother to check the weight of my carry-on and barely batted an eye at one of the student’s luggage that weighed in at 55-pounds (50 is the limit). When I got home I immediately bought a luggage scale.
Decorate your Bag
Earlier I mentioned that color doesn’t matter. It’s true. Go ahead and buy black just remember to decorate it like a Christmas tree so you can recognize it coming down the luggage carousel. A flashy bag is also more thief-resistant than a generic looking bag. Tie one or more of the following to your luggage to personalize the look: colorful tags, ribbons, bandanas, neck ties, scarves, belts or shredded t-shirt. Apply colored duct tape with big writing on it. If you have a hardshell, affix iron-on patches or a variety of stickers to it.
Okay, that’s all the advice I have time for now. Time to shop at a local discount retailer for the gift. If you have any tips you’d like to share, feel free to comment. Happy traveling.