The Best Luggage for International Travel
Investing in luggage can be a daunting task as there are so many types, sizes brands and so on to choose from, where does one start. Well I have broken this article down into 4 main categories to be aware of when choosing the best luggage for internal travel.
There are not many of us out there that can honestly say that budget does not influence our decisions at all. That level is reserved for the ultra-rich that most of us do not qualify for. With that in mind, the old saying of “You only get what you pay for” is completely true in this case.
If you buy cheap, do not expect that it will still be around in 5 years. Even though most airport baggage handling companies try to promote the safe and carefully handling of baggage, be assured that they are going to be taking a beating while in transit so be wise when you purchase.
I have seen some branded luggage in the airports i have traveled to with the most obvious branding by the famous Louis Vuitton. The pattern sequence on the bag makes it almost impossible to miss. Those bags cost $1,000s so why would you spend that on a bag you know is going to be manhandled and possibly scuffed and damaged in a short span of time. This in my opinion makes no sense what so ever so why buy these bags.
American made Samsonite in my opinion makes some of the most robust and reliable luggage on the market today. The company started manufacturing luggage in 1911, so they have over 100 years of experience in an industry that quickly uncovers inferior or defective products. As far back as I can remember, my family has been using this product and some of the bags are over 20 years old and still as robust as anything. This brand is by no means cheap with bag typically costing $150 – $300 depending on the size and configuration. There are more expensive bags but these are really specialized units.
I experimented with Samsonites lower cost brand called American Tourister which has been around since 1933. This is modelled after the Samsonite bags but is manufactured slightly differently to save costs. I have had the first one I bought from them for almost 5 years with the only casualty being the wheels which I have subsequently replaced. These bags cost typically 60% of what a Samsonite would set you back but then again the lifespan might not be as long. In my opinion, if you budget between $100 – $200, you will be investing a really good quality travel product.
Weight is always a huge consideration when travelling with an aircraft as the heavier the bag, the less stuff you can take with or bring home with you. Fabric bags almost always weigh less than their hard shelled cousins but that is not the only consideration. There are 2 main problems that I have personally experienced that are related to fabric or soft shell luggage namely, a soft shell does not afford the same protection to the items that you are travelling with and the fabric tends to scuff and become dirty much faster than a hard-shell. The materials being used in the manufacture of hard shell luggage has progressed to the point where there is little to no difference in the weight of similar sized luggage from the same manufacturer.
This can be seen for instance with the Samsonite S’Cure Hardside Carry On and Samsonite S’Cure Hardside Carry On. Both are around the 25 – 28 inch size with the weight around 10.5lbs. So the considerations in this case revert back to budget and material selection.
Dimensions vs Suitability
It’s important some flexibility in this department. Having the right size bag for the duration of your journey will ensure that you do not take huge bags with for a 2-day vacation nor a carry on for 2 weeks in Alaska where warm clothes will fill it quickly.
Here is a general guide to size your luggage correctly based on the average female/male heights of 163/176cm:
2 Days: S 55cm Luggage
1 Week: M 69cm luggage
2 weeks: L 75cm Luggage
More than 2 Weeks: XL 80cm Luggage
I personally own the small, medium and large luggage units all from American Tourister as these fit my budget better than the Samsonite ones that I would like. All of them are black to reduce blemishing and hard shells for protection. I use coloured cable ties to differentiate them from other people when collecting them from the carousel.
I have not purchased the XL units as I have little need for something that large. If I travel for more than 2 weeks which is very rare, I would rather factor in purchasing clothing or doing a load of washing at some point in the journey rather than invest in such a large unit.
Its important to remember that you will not be getting the same quality when purchasing American Tourister as compared to Samsonite. This does not mean that you will be buying an inferior product by no means. American Tourister in my opinion lives up to and often exceeds expectations with regards build quality.
Let’s start with the wheels. These can be damage during transit and can become worn after prolonged use and both brands have recognized this as something that needed to be addressed. In the past, when a wheel on luggage became damaged, one would often have to throw the bag away. These days, spares are available both online or at a number of outlets. Good quality luggage is seen as an investment and spares of this nature and the easy by which one can change these out is important to the consumer and manufacturer alike.
I have mentioned the possibility of the bags becoming dirty in transit. This is a result of the environment being a dirty one. Not that areas when travellers frequent but if you go down into the belly of the airport where processing and sorting occurs, these machines are often coated in grime, oil and grease not to mention the rain and other environmental factors that can leave their marks on your bags. For this reason I recommend a hard plastic shell that is easy to clean with some basic soap and water. Soft Shell bags will often need to be professionally dry-cleaned to remove stains and general grime accumulated during your adventure.
Most modern luggage is manufactured from polypropylene as it is both durable and lite weight. While bright colours are great when identifying your luggage from other travelers, be aware that bright colours show dirt and grime much faster than black and other darker colours so think carefully about this. There are other ways to make luggage such as coloured Cable ties that I have used with great success that are both inexpensive and durable.
When its comes to locking systems, I would not be too focused on these are I have written an article about how easy it is to pick the locks on most luggage systems with only some basic tools. Focus more on the body of the bag and wheel system when evaluating the quality of the luggage you wish to purchase.
A Final Word
If you are unsure of a specific brand that you have found, purchase some of the more inexpensive luggage from their range to test and see. I have tested a number of brands and I choose American Tourister as it fits both my budget and my needs perfectly. I have tested these bags travelling to Tanzania, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Mali, Egypt, Bali, Thailand, USA just to name a few and what I can say about these places is that the baggage handlers have more often than not, not been very gentle with my luggage and while it looks often scuffed on the other side, they tend to last a good number of years before succumbing to their injuries.
One can often save quite a bit by purchasing a set rather than piecemeal so if you are looking to invest, this will definitely be something to investigate both online or at the local brick and mortar store. Buy brands that are reputable as these will provide support and spares when you need them. Airline baggage handlers will at some stage or another break your bags and there is nothing worse than being told that there is no support for the brand you purchased especially when it is still relatively new.
I hope you found this article useful and I would love to hear from you and your suggestions of some great luggage systems available on the market.