I've just been shopping for new luggage.
There was nothing wrong with my old luggage, which has been round and round the world with me countless times in the past 15+ years. It is still in great condition, is super sturdy and ready to go, but it was time for an upgrade on two fronts: I wanted 360 degree wheels, and a lighter suitcase.
I bought a Samsonite 25 inch Spinner.
This is the suitcase I'm taking to Italy on the Corinna B's World Glam Italia II Tour next month.
There are so many options to choose from when it comes to luggage, and it can get confusing, so here are my tips for how to buy luggage.
1. Where are you going?
I have chic leather weekender bags and I have durable suitcases for international travel. They don't really crossover, so you need to be looking for luggage specific to where you're going/what you're doing.
2. Hard Case or Soft Case?
A musician friend of mine had his hard sided suitcase burst open as he was running through an airport. He has never used a hard sided case since and neither have I.
It's all personal preference though.
3. Size Matters.
It really does.
So does weight. With a larger suitcase you will almost instinctively pack more, which means your case will weigh more, potentially costing you excess weight fines at the airport. It is also harder to maneuvre large suitcases off baggage conveyor belts, in and out of cars, on and off trains etc.
The thought of traveling with only a carry-on sized bag is mortifying to me, so I have split the difference. My old suitcase was 29 inch, my new one is a far more compact 25 inch.
The big trend in luggage is to go super lightweight, but you need to be careful when buying lightweight luggage. I found plenty of 25+ inch suitcases that were 7lbs and under, but the problem with most super lightweight luggage is the structure of the case can't withstand weight on top of it.
Have you ever watched them throw suitcases onto baggage carts at the airport? Chances are a heavy case will be on top of yours. Or even a middle weight case. Try piling other cases on top of the one you are considering buying and watch how the frame holds up.
I found most just collapsed or buckled under the weight of empty cases.
The key is to look for a durable fiberglass frame which provides strength but is lightweight.
Assuming you are not going with a hard case, the fabric of your soft sided suitcase is really important.
It must be waterproof, and tear proof. Ballistic nylons are great as are industrial strength polyesters.
Also think about fabrics that are stain proofed.
If baggage handlers toss your case into a puddle or leave it on the tarmac in a storm, you don't want to find dirty water has soaked through and ruined your clothes, and also you don't want your case to be stained and ruined.
Have you ever stood at a medium sized baggage claim conveyor belt and noticed just how many black suitcases come flying down the chute? I always think you have a far higher chance of your suitcase being mistakenly taken by another traveler if yours is black - they all look the same!
Pale colors are more likely to show scuffs and stains, but deeps reds and blues, greens and burnt oranges etc won't get lost in all the blacks and also won't look stained as quickly.
I chose scarlet for my new luggage. It's easy to spot in a crowd, won't look dirty after it's inaugural flight, and isn't goofy looking like the hot pinks and purples that the stores were full of.
7. The Zippers.
Test the strength of the zippers, and look at how well they are attached. Big name luggage brands such as Samsonite will use industrial strength zippers that won'r separate from the case itself. Check the strength of the zipper pulls too.
8. The Wheels.
Save the strain on your shoulders and back by investing in a case that has four 360 degree wheels. Check to see the wheels are mounted on sturdy stems that can handle the weight, and that won't break off when the baggage handlers throw your case. The wheels also need to be large enough to support the size and weight of the suitcase.
9. The Pull Handle.
Check to see how sturdy the pull handle is - it has to be able to withstand the pressure of an overstuffed, overweight bag.
My Samsonite has a beveled alloy pull handle that is super strong and ultra light.
Also look at the ergonomics. Does the pull handle have more than one height setting? You need to be able to push or pull your suitcase without crunching your back or shoulders.
10. The Top and Side Handles
No matter how great the rest of the case is, you still have to be able to haul it off baggage conveyor belts and load it in and out of cars.
Look for at least 2 handles, top and side, or top, side and bottom, so that you don't kill your back by taking the full weight of your suitcase by lifting just one handle.
The handles need to be strong and well constructed into the case itself. Handles that break off or tear turn a great suitcase into a liability.
One of the features I love about my new Samsonite is that the handles are integrated into the body of the case, top and side, and are padded for comfort.
11. Outer Pockets.
You need them, but just how many do you need??
Ideally you need two. One shallow one to put documents/boarding passes/papers that you need easy access to en route to and from the airport check in, and one larger one that can take your folded coat/scarf/ neck pillow etc.
12. An Expander.
A second zipper that expands the depth of your suitcase by an inch or two can make a huge difference, especially if you are shopping!
13. Internal Organization Pockets.
One cavernous compartment is okay, but suitcases that have plasticized pouches, mesh pouches, internal zippered sections all help to keep your items separated and organized.
If you are a super organized person you cannot beat the
Eagle Creek Packing Cubes and Folders
14. Brand and Warranty.
Invest in a well known luggage brand. A designer who is sidelining in a luggage collection isn't going to be ruined if their luggage falls to pieces. An established luggage brand will.
I chose a Samsonite suitcase because that's what they do - build suitcases. And because that's what they do, and they do it exceptionally well, they also give a 10 year warranty. The shorter the warranty, the less faith a company has in their product.
Samsonite has a 25% discount available on all of their Spinner luggage until August 25th 2015. Use this link to access the discounts: 25% Off All Spinners at Samsonite with code: SPIN25 Ends 8.24