I am always asked what kind of luggage I travel with, near and far, hot or cold, east or west. I do not have a simple answer, other than I try to select luggage that meets the requirements of the trip. I prefer carry-ons over checked baggage. It is always lighter, faster, and of course, lessens the chances of lost luggage to nearly zero. And I almost always carry a back pack for in-flight necessities and valuables, like a camera, netbook, paperback book, magazine, snacks, iPod and Bose headphones, cell phone and travel documents, like itinerary, passport, and frequent flyer cards.
But getting back to the main bag, I prefer to travel most of the time with a Kiva* roller bag. It measures just large enough for a long weekend trip, and just small enough to fit in the overhead bins of the airplane or Amtrak car. I use a larger duffel bag on wheels for longer trips, to Hawaii, and overseas, where more clothing is required, and gifts fill the empty spaces.
According to luggage gurus, the most important features of your bag should be the warranty, a strong manufacturer’s replacement and repair policy. Having traveled on business for years, I always relied on the Hartmann line of garment bags and briefcases. They would fix, repair,and refurbish their products at no charge, no questions asked. But for leisure travel, it seems both Kiva, and Eagle Creek rise to the top of the luggage wars. Though I am not familiar with Briggs and Reilly, they also seem to have good products and warranties. Hartmann seems to heavy for regular leisure travel.
Some people expect high-end luggage to have better warranties. But experts say otherwise. Tumi has beautiful luggage, but their warranties have too many exceptions. Besides that, I would not buy or use luggage that draws so much attention. I can almost guarantee that the Tumi bag will have better stuff in it than mine!
Since we are into the wheeled luggage rage of the last twenty years, wheels are the key. Make sure your wheels can be replaced if broken or “lost.” And telescoping handles that reside on the outside of your bag allows for more space inside the bag. Great logic!
Paper or plastic? No, I really mean leather or nylon? If you want looks, and good smell, go leather. If you want durability, light weight and protection from dirt and moisture, go nylon. I have duffels in both canvas and nylon. The canvas duffel has been everywhere, like Africa, the Amazon, and SE Asia with no problems. But it did get soaked in rain on a barge in Costa Rica. Then again, anything short of the strong seal of Tupperware would have had the same result. Hard-sided luggage tends to be better at water-proofing your clothing.
If you check bags, mostly on longer and overseas trips, weight is important. The magic number seems to be 32 pounds. If you go over that limit, surcharges will be assessed. Keep in mind the weight limits are even less on specialty flights, such as those in Africa on their way to safaris. These flights also have weight limits for people, almost always 200 pounds is the limit!!!
Most bags are made in Asia now. In years past, all luggage was made in the USA. So, to check the quality of the bag, look for features that are best for you. This could be easily accessed exterior pockets, comfortable handles and grips, and waterproof zippers. I prefer simple, since it has fewer things that can go wrong or break.
Another good rule is that frequent travelers should spend more for a quality bag. I say, from personal experience, buy the best you can afford, as it will last the longest. Many times in my business traveling years, my garment bags lasted only a year. And almost the same for briefcases, until I bought Hartmann. I find this is true as well for my carry on back packs as well. Once I bought a higher quality bag, I found greater durability. The luggage experts say about $300 for a travel bag is correct for a once a month traveler.
The shiny and colorful hard-sided bags from Tumi and Rimowa are the rage these days. But the trade-off is no exterior pockets. In addition, the bag must be packed full to keep the sides from collapsing under pressure. And again, I think they are ripe for thieves since they seem to indicate a better demographic in the purchaser. If you check these bags, they seem to collect more scratches than the neighbor’s flea-bitten cat. In general, soft sided luggage weighs less than hard sided luggage.
I always thought a spinner was either a singer or a pin-wheel that we played with as children. No! Spinners are the four-wheeled luggage that can be seen in airports, and pushed by owners who seem to think they rule the road. But the spinners have smaller wheels, and tend not to roll so well on all surfaces, such as carpets or grass. Check them out thoroughly before buying!
Gerry’s rule is never buy a black bag, since everyone has a black bag. Furthermore, the thief loves the nondescript black bag since it draws so little attention. Go with your favorite color, like red, blue, green or orange. At least, buy a brightly colored luggage tag, or tie some bright yarn to the handles. It is much easier to find on the luggage carousels or the storage room at big hotels.
So, are you more confused than ever? I use two main types of luggage. I have the smaller, carry-on roller bag for 3 to 4 day trips, and the wheeled duffel for longer trips. That’s it. Plus I carry a back pack for in flight essentials. For full disclosure, I do use a golf travel bag for golfing trips near and far. On the return flight home, it works well, since it holds all of my shoes, dirty clothes, and durables.
Here is a secret of experienced travelers. Buy a see though plastic storage bag that can be sealed tightly. Inside, keep your valuables, along with batteries, medication, and passport. They will NEVER get weight. It will even float should you have an over water emergency landing. You will be the only one who can be identified!!
*Kiva factory outlet is located just up the road on 680 in Benicia.