What To Look For When Buying Luggage


Travel is one of the great joys of life, but struggling with luggage is one of the great challenges of travel. Luggage issues are a very common reason for delays on the day of flights, making them a source of stress. Having luggage that slows you down, fails to meet size and weight requirements, or is difficult to store on the flight can add a serious inconvenience, and even extra cost, to your trip.

Conversely, having luggage that meets your needs makes travel far smoother and more enjoyable. At its best, luggage is not even something you should think about while traveling: instead, it frees you up to focus your energy elsewhere and get more enjoyment out of the experience of travel itself.

“Luggage should be treated as a genuine investment, one that should serve you well and serve you for a long time,” says Kevin O’Shea, the co-founder of Seek & Score, a lifestyle website dedicated to carefully curating top-quality products and experiences for adults and children alike. “That’s why it’s essential to do your due diligence before making a purchase. Regardless of how frequently you travel, the ongoing convenience and value provided by high-quality luggage will only increase as the years go by.”

Following are five of the most important features to look for when purchasing luggage:

  1. It’s durable. Luggage is a container for your personal belongings and, as such, should be able to withstand multiple years of use without showing wear and tear. Soft-sided luggage, which is typically made with materials such as nylon, tends to be the more popular option, as it better conforms to tight spaces and is easier to pack. However, it is more prone to ripping than hard-shell luggage, and fragile objects stored inside are more likely to break if the luggage is handled roughly. This is why it’s important to consider both the quality of the material and the types of items you will be packing when opting for soft luggage. When it comes to hard-shell luggage, take time to research travel guidelines surrounding carry-on luggage sizes, as these often vary, and hard-shell luggage cannot be made any more compact than it already is.
  2. It’s easily portable. While the amount of items you pack into your luggage plays a role in how comfortable it is to carry, there are also features of the luggage itself that impact the ease of transporting it. For soft-shell luggage, try to opt for products that have a study yet comfortable shoulder strap. Hard-shell luggage typically comes with either two or four wheels, both of which are more useful in specific situations. Two-wheel luggage is typically better for navigating uneven surfaces such as city streets, while four-wheel luggage is better able to effectively navigate crowded and tight spaces. “While aesthetics are an important component of any accessory, functionality should always come first where luggage is concerned,” says O’Shea. “There’s nothing worse than finding out that your luggage is cumbersome or uncomfortable when it’s already too late. Fortunately, there is no shortage of brands that have struck this perfect balance between form and function, so you should not have to make any major sacrifices.”
  3. It has enough space. Size is one of the most important and most tricky considerations to take into consideration when selecting your luggage. Although some suitcases are marketed as “cabin-sized,” there is no universal, standardized guideline for luggage size and weight between different airlines, so it’s important to be wary of this designation. Researching the various guidelines beforehand is key to selecting luggage that will serve you in the long term. Once you’ve decided on a size, take care to look at the luggage’s actual carrying capacity–many pieces contain additional pockets and compartments that can help you make the most of the space you have.
  4. It’s not too heavy. Having lots of carrying capacity is important, but it doesn’t mean much if you are unable to comfortably carry it all. Beyond that, having luggage that is too heavy might prevent you from checking your bag or leave you with extra baggage fees. “While this is often less of an issue with soft-shell luggage, it’s good to remember that the bag itself adds some weight to the overall package,” says O’Shea. “Opting for something that is both lightweight and durable is ideal, as it keeps your valuables safe without sacrificing convenience.” 
  5. It’s secure. Airports and train stations are often densely crowded spaces, which can put your belongings at risk. Investing in luggage with strong security features, such as heavy-duty zippers and a padlock, is just as important as comfort and convenience. A TSA-approved lock is essential, as these locks come with are able to be opened using a special key possessed only by TSA staff. If staff are unable to open a bag during random checks, they are entitled to destroy them, making an approved lock a highly sound investment.

“Luggage is often something that we don’t think much about until it’s too late,” says O’Shea. “Being selective about your luggage helps eliminate much of the stress of travel, allowing you to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.”

While there are no universal guidelines for what luggage will be right for you, the above list outlines some general principles that should help you make more informed decisions. Thinking closely about your needs and wants is the most important part: once you have clarified these, selecting luggage that meets these needs is a relatively simple next step. 

JL Staff

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