How to Pick the Right Luggage

Luggage, Dunheger Travel Blog


In the market for a suitcase? There are an overwhelming number of choices on the market and such an important investment piece should last you plenty of time. These guidelines will show you the top things to consider as you whittle down the field and find the right bag for you.

Your travel style
Don’t be too quick to dismiss a backpack. Even if you’re not a hostel-hopping twentysomething or an expert mountaineer undertaking a multi-day hike, you might find a backpack more practical than a traditional suitcase. First and foremost, they leave your hands free and are generally easier to transport. From cobblestone streets to Old World hotels without elevators, even a posh European vacation can be, quite literally, hell on wheels. If you think you might need to carry your bag frequently or over longer distances, skip the rolling suitcase and save yourself some trouble.

Girl with backpack, Dunheger Travel Blog
Backpack may be better than traditional suitcase

Size and weight
Airlines are constantly changing their policies regarding checked bags and carry-on sizes, so if possible, make sure you read the rules for the airline you’ll be flying before selecting luggage. You’ll be even better off if you decide on one preferred airline and sign up for their frequent flyer program or mailing list, so you can easily stay abreast of policy updates and save yourself some research the next time you fly.

Airport check-in, Dunheger Trave; Blog
Its important to know airline luggage size and weight restrictions, Flickr © Anne Jacko

You should also keep weight in mind as you select a bag. Know your limits and what you can comfortably lift and carry. If you’re selecting a backpack, most outdoors stores will have weighted bags for you to try on.

Whether you choose a backpack or suitcase, you should also invest in a luggage scale. Digital travel luggage scales are convenient and portable, ensuring you won’t go over airline weight limits even after you’ve added your souvenirs.

No matter what kind of bag you buy, you want to make sure it will last. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, a soft-sided nylon bag will be the most durable. Hard-sided bags are only truly secure when packed full. For all kinds of luggage, the weakest point will be the zipper, so be sure to check its durability as well. If you’re looking for a rolling suitcase, find a model whose wheels can be easily swapped out if one breaks.

Suitcases, Dunheger Travel Blog
Soft suitcases are usually more durable, Flickr © Mandy Jansen

Even though you’ll be choosing a sturdy piece of luggage, you should also make sure your selection comes with a good warranty plan.

Budget will surely always be on your mind, but take care not to let a low price tag distract from more important factors like sturdiness. Particularly if you’re a frequent traveler, you should invest a little extra in luggage that will last longer. Plan to spend about $100 to $300.

Trimming down your belongings to keep everything you need in a carry on is the safest route, but if you plan to check a bag, make sure you choose an easily identifiable suitcase. Black bags with red ribbons dominate baggage claims around the world. Spring for an unusual color or pattern, so you can pick your bag out from the masses more quickly. Colorful bags are also less likely to be targeted by thieves.

Colorful suitcases are easier to identify

Bells and whistles
Once you know roughly what kind of bag you’d like – either a traditional suitcase, a rolling bag, or a backpack –determined the size you’re looking for, and found a model in your price range, you should pay close attention to the extra features.

Don’t choose a bag with only one handle – having handles on both the top and sides of your luggage will make lifting and carrying throughout your trip much easier. Expandable bags can be handy for major souvenir purchases and external pockets can be a packing lifesaver.

At the same time, more features doesn’t equate to a better bag. Flashy features like spinner wheels and telescopic handles are typically designed to help travelers carry bags that are too heavy to be carried, and you should ideally steer clear of packing a bag you can’t lift.

Whatever type of luggage you’re looking for, shopping in person and paying close attention to these features will help you find a star.