Our intrepid traveler Susan is sharing her lugging and packing strategies with us over her next three posts. This first one focuses on criteria to use when making your luggage choices …
THE SCHLEP: Which luggage works best
Less Truly is More
We all already know this, but knowing isn’t always doing – so, here’s a reminder:
â€¢ Never pack more than you can carry;
â€¢ Lay everything out and take half;
â€¢ Think of upcoming situations and make packing selections accordingly – don’t just pack your favorite things (actually, you most likely won’t even need them);
â€¢ Pack wrinkle-free neutrals and accessorize with scarves instead of jewelry – the latter are a worry and bother.
What if the weather changes, if different shoes are needed, if clothes get spoiled or not as comfortable as imagined? It’s a fine balance, but what you don’t pack now you’ll be pleased about later.
Picking the Right Suitcase
Suitcases with wheels are de rigueur, but which makes sense? The overriding determinants are:
Weight: Most important — pick the lightest that meets all other requirements ( see below). Generally, this means nylon or other material. But, there are hard sided options that are also lightweight (most don’t expand – a limitation).
Size: Pick the smallest you can manage – you’ll fill anything larger with more than you need. Size 22″ are typically allowed as carryons; full heavy ones are best checked (especially when expanded). The next size up – 25″ – is handy for longer trips when you’ll probably be checking your bag anyway. Personal opinion: Anything larger than 25″ is too hard to handle when loaded, especially if moving around a lot – particularly in trains with steep steps up and where space onboard is limited. ALERT: Many European airlines limit carryons to one per person (even in business class) with a weight limit of 8 kilograms (about 17.6 pounds).
â€¢ Durability: Go for good zippers, good handle extension, sturdy wheels. TIP: Handles on both the long end and short side as well as by the wheels are essential for lifting/pulling bags off carts, carousels, etc.
â€¢ Compartments/divisions: How do you like to arrange your things? Will you use a foldout suit/garment holder? Like special pockets? An expandable function is most useful – even if you don’t add items as you travel, the neatly folded laundry you started out with somehow expands as you go along. ALERT: If your suitcase is difficult to close when you depart, you’ve got a problem – it will only get worse.
Buying a Suitcase
While checking out suitcases in person is the best, websites such as ebags.com (free returns) and luggageonline.com (free shipping and free returns) are great for comparison shopping – or if you don’t have a great luggage store nearby. These sites offer “categories” such as lightweight to define your search, “specifications” such as exact size and weight and, especially useful, “user reviews” on ebags.com. A maker of various lines of lightweight luggage is Eagle Creek – eaglecreek.com (also available via the sites above). Luxe luggage manufacturer Tumi – tumi.com – has come out with some new lighter weight bags. Also check out packinglight.net for their take. Numerous other options are also available. (There will be website overlap).
A SNOETY THOUGHT: I find when I’m traveling with my husband, I’m better taking a hanging bag while he’s better of with a duffle — both on wheels, of course. That way, I can just woosh my stuff out of the bag and let it hang in the closet, and he’s always happiest working out of his suitcase (which makes me happy, too, because I avoid the “where is it?” syndrome).
Happy avoid-lugging luggage as much as you can,