When you’re busy planning your next holiday, it’s easy to overlook the smaller details in the excitement. Like “what kind of luggage am I going to use”? When traveling, a good bag is one you don’t notice. Your trip should be all about your trip, not dragging a failing bag through customs as the zips split, the wheels seize, and the seams fall apart.
Buying right the first time means you’ll have luggage that’ll be your trusty travel buddy no matter where you go. Get it wrong and you could be stuck with dodgy wheels, poor handles or not enough space to bring your holiday splurges home.
You can spend hundreds on a suitcase, but price isn’t always an indicator of quality. It’s important to do your research before buying, to make sure you end up with the right luggage for you.
So what do I need to look for in a suitcase?
Traditional luggage comes loosely in two styles: hard shell and soft. Hard-shell bags are molded from difficult-to-pronounce materials like polypropylene and polycarbonate (or known as composite materials). Soft bags can be made out of fabrics such as microfibre, leather, nylon, PVC or polyester. Some soft bags are expandable and can accommodate up to 25 percent more if you need the space. They also typically have pockets on the outside for easy to reach items. However a hard shell is naturally more water resistant than a soft bag (although the better soft bags come with a water repellent coating), making them ideal for checked luggage; they provide inherent protection against the luggage handler’s careless throw. In the end soft vs hard is a personal choice.
American Tourister HS MV+ – Limited edition Gold. Sleek and modern design will have you feeling like a celebrity at the baggage carousel. Ultra light weight design, finished in a high gloss.
Don’t get too carried away with choosing the largest size of suitcase. Remember the larger it is, the more you’ve got to cart around with you. The wheels and extendable handle take up some of the internal space, so check first that the case has the right volume for your needs. If you want a small suitcase for cabin baggage make sure you check the dimensions. Each airline has its own size restrictions for checked-in and carry-on luggage. If in doubt, it’s always a good idea to check with your airline before you depart.
Whether you have a small suitcase that you’re using for carry-on, or a large suitcase that you need to check-in, the weight of the case counts towards your baggage allowance. Composite materials often make for a much lighter empty weight, so you can use your luggage allowance for your clothes (or shopping on the return leg). Corners get trashed on luggage, so the rounder they are the better (but that starts to compromise on your internal space). Make sure the corners look protected and strong.
Look for handles that are firmly riveted to the body of the case. These are less likely to have weak points and break. When it comes to lifting, it helps to have carry handles at the base or sides of the suitcase. Zips should open and shut smoothly. The zip tags should be big enough to grip easily and have holes so you can padlock them or a built in locking mechanism.
Hedgren – Spinner Retreat in Dark denim is a trendy trolley with its stylish detailed coloured bindings. Great for shopping holidays as it is expandable and has a security padlock on the side.
This should be easy to extend and retract, comfortable to grip and should lock firmly in place when extended. It should extend to a comfortable height, so the case doesn’t bump against your legs as you pull it along. It’s cheaper for a brand to stick telescoping handles on the outside of luggage, but any knock on the housing can damage it, and stop the handle opening. Quality bags have a handle that is housed inside the bag.
The case should roll easily, and not bounce or tip when being pulled along. For wheels, bigger and softer wins every time. They roll easier, are less likely to get jammed. Spinner luggage with four wheels that can twist 360 degrees, allows for greater control and ease of movement than two rigid wheels, but can make the exterior dimensions larger.
The better suitcases are lined and have internal compartments. These are handy for keeping your belongings organised. Compare different luggage interiors to see what suits your style. Lots of pouches are great for the super-organised packer, and features like a plastic waterproof pouch can hold wet swimsuits or leaky shampoo bottles.
Internal straps help to compress and hold your belongings in place. They should be a suitable length and have quick-release buckles. Sandwich construction (a bag that opens into 2 halves) is great on one hand for organising your clothes, but remember it also takes up a lot of space in your hotel if you plan to live out of your suitcase for any length of time.
Make your luggage stand out in the crowd – instead of black (which you see time after time on the airport luggage turntables) opt for something different, an unusual fabric or bright colored case. If it’s black you really want, grab a funky name tags to attach to the handle so you can easily identify it in the baggage lineup.
Antler Juno – Guaranteed to receive on-board stares, Juno’s cool yet oh-so chic range is high up on every jetsetters wish list. Extremely light but also impact-resistant, this stand-out case is guaranteed to stand the test of time.
Cabin suitcases have a wide price range starting from around $90
Larger suitcases for check-in range starting from around $170
If you’re a traveller then consider the price an investment, as quality bags should last you a long time, and you definitely get what you pay for. Look for a long warranty with your travel bags – at least 2 years.
Team wellthy’s personal picks are:
Cabin Size: Antler Juno cabin
Soft: Hedgren Retreat Spinner (check it out in Denim for something on trend)
Hard: American Tourister HS MV+ (hurry for the limited edition Gold, for celebrity glamour)
Need more help? Check out American Tourister Bag Finder
*The carry-on baggage allowance for the major Australian airlines for domestic or international travel is generally 7kg. If you exceed this you could end up with an extra fee, or you may need to check in your baggage.