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How to Pick Out the Right Suitcase or Luggage for a Trip

Before you leave on a trip, there is one thing you must do. Pack. If you’re a Spartan traveler who can live out of a backpack for the week, you can do this in your sleep. For everybody else, it can be a small challenge to pick out the right suitcase or luggage for a trip. Here are a few pointers for your next trip.

What Are Your Luggage Options?

How you pack largely depends on where you’re traveling and your travel budget. If you’re flying by plane and do not want to pay the checked bag fee (some airline credit cards waive checked bag fees) you will be limited to one carry-on and a smaller personal item like a purse or messenger bag.

Checked Bags

Pay attention to weight limits for your checked bags. Each carrier has different weight limits and will charge an extra fee if it weighs more than 50 pounds when you fly coach with most domestic carriers. You will also need to pay attention to your baggage dimensions as well. The total dimensions allowed for a checked bag could be 62 inches (length + width + height).

If you plan on using a luggage lock, make sure your bag has a TSA-approved lock that can be opened with a universal key. TSA agents are authorized to break locks to inspect bags if their keys cannot open it.

Carry-On Bags

Carry-on baggage also has limitations that vary from carrier to carrier. While they usually have a small cabin bin mock-up in front of the check-in line at the airport, that won’t do you much good as you pack. Check the carrier website for the specifications. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a bag no larger than 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches.

In short, Grandma’s suitcase that made the back of her station wagon look small will most likely be too big the carry-on.

Hard or Soft Sides?

After deciding on the maximum dimensions for your luggage, you will need to decide if you want a soft-sided suitcase or duffel bag or a hard-sided one that provides maximum protection from the continual slinging from cart to conveyor belt by the baggage handlers and protect your belongings from getting crushed in the process.

Soft bags can be a better option if you will not be carrying any fragile items and can still protect your personal valuables like cell phones, tablets, or jewelry. Having a soft bag can make it easier to “stuff” the item underneath your seat or in the overhead compartment. Soft bags can also be a good option for checked bags if your potentially fragile belongings are securely packed.

Depending on the size of the planes you will be boarding, the gate attendants might require most carry-on bags, regardless of size, to be checked at the gate and will be picked up planeside when you land. If that is the case, pick a duffel bag, backpack, or suitcase that is durable enough to protect your belongings.

A Tip for Buying Hard-Sided Luggage

If you decide to buy hard-sided luggage, make sure to buy a high-quality piece. Hard suitcases that are poorly made will crack or shatter when placed under a lot of weight. Quality-made pieces come in different levels of thickness that offer different degrees of protection.

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