Almost all travelers have a Nightmare Luggage story. You spent a lot of money on a fancy brand-name bag that breaks 2 minutes after you leave the house. Or you found some cute cheap luggage and got exactly what you paid for. Or you realized the bag that you thought would be comfortable and versatile turned out to be neither as you dragged it all over the place with you.
Choosing the wrong luggage can waste precious travel time and energy and can cause a lot of aches and pains. Choosing the right luggage will free you up to enjoy your trip without any unnecessary aggravation. To help you pick the best possible bag for your next adventure — here are five simple questions you can ask yourself to help you decide which type of bag is best for you.
What are the baggage restrictions and limits of all the airlines I will be traveling with?
Some countries have more restrictive guidelines that are more stringently enforced. Smaller airlines in Europe, for example, require smaller and lighter bags than in the US. Make sure you know what the requirements will be so you don’t get stuck having to pay hefty fines or finding new luggage at the last minute.
Am I an over-packer or a shopper?
If you know that you tend to bring more than you need and buy when you get there, opt for an expandable bag or take extra luggage with you.
I’ve been known to take 2 pieces of luggage when I anticipate coming home with more items than I left my house with. When I am leaving for vacation, I place the smaller luggage (which carries my clothing) into the larger one and check it in at the airport, as usual. Since I know my clothes fit in the smaller bag, that leaves me with a whole large suitcase to fill with goodies. When it is time to fly back home, I check the larger suitcase and use the smaller as a carry on and don’t get charged extra fees for bringing back 2 bags (as long as I don’t go overweight).
If you’re worried about going overweight, you can always invest in this handy little device.
How much attention do I want my luggage to get?
Yes, sometimes it’s tempting to get the stand-out, fashion-forward luggage set in fuchsia — but if you’re heading to a destination that’s known for theft, sometimes the better option is to pick a suitcase that blends in with the crowd. There are always things you can do to help with identification — a colorful ribbon, a sticker, a unique tag — but if you don’t want your luggage to be a target for opportunistic thieves, just opt to keep it simple.
How much transferring will I be doing on this trip?
Are you heading to one location that will be your “home base” or will you be constantly on the move? Will someone be available to help you lift your bags if you need assistance (partner, children, travel companions) or will you be the one fully responsible for handling your luggage, at all times? The more you’ll be moving and lifting, the more you should aim for simple, lightweight, durable, and versatile. Pack only the essentials, and look for bags that offer more than one transport method — for example, a carry-on with hidden pull-out straps and can be transformed into a comfy backpack for hands-free movement.
And lastly, Does my luggage match the type and terrain of the trip I’m taking?
Wheeled suitcases are great — if you have lots of flat floors and smooth sidewalks along which to roll them. But after two days of lugging a heavy suitcase through bumpy streets, broken sidewalks, dirt paths, or up endless flights of stairs, you’ll be praying to the luggage gods for a simple backpack with padded shoulder straps.
The last thing you want to be focused on while you’re on the trip of a lifetime is some annoying, avoidable luggage irritation. With a little investigating and preparation before you pack up and head out, you can make sure your luggage fits seamlessly into your travel plans.