Travel Luggage: An Expert Guide

What to Look for When Buying Travel Luggage: An Expert Guide

Traveling can be stressful — from checking in at the airport to finding your way around a new city. With all the things you need to worry about when you travel, the one thing you don’t need to worry about is your luggage, assuming you make the right choice for your trip, personality, and lifestyle.

Having quality, lightweight, and durable travel luggage that meets all of your needs is essential for any trip, whether it’s a long vacation or just a weekend getaway. From spinner suitcases to backpacks, there are endless options out there when it comes to selecting travel bags and luggage.

Picking the right travel luggage can make all the difference when you’re packing for a trip. Whether you’re headed to a sunny beach or an alpine ski resort, having quality carry-on and checked baggage will ensure that your belongings are secure and organized, with plenty of room for souvenirs and stuff you may pick up along the way.

In this guide, I will dive into some expert tips on what to look for when buying travel luggage – from durability and security features to style and cost considerations. It’s essential knowledge whether you’re replacing existing bags or making an upgrade. Besides the price you might pay for a bag, many options exist.

I have also included helpful advice on which size depends on where you’re traveling, plus how to maximize storage space inside your suitcase so it’s easy to find items at the bottom of the bag. I wrap up the article with some key shopping tips so you can pick up the perfect travel luggage pieces without breaking the bank.

Durability

Durability is an absolute must when it comes to travel luggage. After all, the last thing you want is for your bag to give out in the middle of your trip, or worse, in the middle of the luggage carousel at the airport; it happens more than you imagine.

When it comes to durability, there are several factors that need consideration. Materials such as nylon and polyester are usually tough enough to stand up against wear and tear but be sure to check the sewing quality and stitching on the handles and straps of luggage bags. Zippers should also be checked; they should function smoothly so no precious items can fall out while on the move.

The handles of the travel luggage should be well-made, too, bearing in mind that they will undergo a lot of tugging since travelers often have their hands full with other items like purses or laptop bags. Also, look for waterproof options if you’re looking forward to taking them on spontaneous trips outdoors or near water bodies!

Materials

Travel Luggage: An Expert Guide
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Knowing what material your travel luggage is made of can give you an idea of its durability. Fabrics such as canvas, ballistic nylon, and polyester are commonly used in the manufacturing of good-quality travel bags.

Soft-sided is great for travel and tends to be flexible and will conform to space. Soft luggage can be made from different materials; some are more durable than others. Ballistic nylon is lightweight but strong and resistant to tears and abrasions. Higher qualities are often made of this material, but it does come at a cost. However, these bags last for many years. In 1999, I purchased a Tumi rolling carry-on made with ballistic nylon. This bag lasted nearly 20 years; I donated it just last year when I transitioned to a backpack-style carry-on.

Conversely, materials such as nylon are much more budget-friendly, water-resistant, stain-resistant, and lightweight. Poly luggage bags have some quality differences, but generally, they are not as durable as other materials and may not hold up well over time. Canvas is another common material but tends to be heavier. In general, these materials are often considered cheap luggage, and although they may get you through a few trips if you travel frequently, you will get much more out of a higher-quality bag.

In contrast, there are many hard-shell luggage options that are often made of high-tech plastic materials, such as ABS or polycarbonate. Hard shell luggage is good in terms of protection of the contents but is often heavier than soft-sided bags. This is especially true for bags that may be made of metal or other materials. As with soft luggage, there can be a lot of differences in price, weight, and, most importantly, durability.

There are many, many types of hardshell bags that can be waterproof, scratch resistant, expandable, and so on. One thing to note is that these bags are often heavier overall than soft luggage, something you may want to consider to ensure you stay under airline weight limits.

As with soft-sided bags, hard-shell luggage quality can vary greatly, and more expensive bags generally will be of higher quality. On the other side, low-quality bags may serve well for the most part but may be prone to scratches, cracks, and even breaks if dropped. While you may handle it with care, luggage handling is largely automated, and low-quality bags will take a beating on the conveyor over time.

When it comes to materials, the most important consideration is what type of travel, how long, and how often. A less expensive bag may serve you well if you take an occasional trip by plane, a weekend here and there. However, if you are somewhat of a road worrier, or aspire to be one, then you will soon appreciate the value of higher-quality luggage.

As for me, I have both. My primary bag carry-on is ballistic nylon, a backpack designed to fit overhead. When possible, I travel with just this bag and a smaller backpack. I use hard shell luggage for longer trips when I more or less relocate to a region.

Stitching

Stitching is a very important factor to consider when choosing the right travel luggage. Strong stitching ensures that your precious belongings stay secure and protected from wear and tear. This large applies to soft luggage but does also apply to hardshell cases too. Many of these zippers or expandable sections are stitched in, not to mention lining, interior straps, and so on.

There are several factors to look out for when examining the stitching of your travel carry-on. Firstly, make sure there are no loose threads or gaps in the seams. Such gaps allow air to pass through and weaken the material if left unchecked. The stitches should be closely knit together and evenly spaced throughout. Also, see if there are any reinforcing patches around areas with heavier stress points, such as handles, corners, wheels, etc., as they will help increase durability significantly over long-haul trips or multiple uses in general.

Zippers

Travel Luggage: An Expert Guide
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Zippers are incredibly important when it comes to travel luggage. Cheaper versions may come with plastic zips that can easily break or jam and get stuck. Investing in a bag with metal zippers will ensure your belongings stay safe and secure during the journey. Like stitching, making sure quality zippers are just as important on hard shell luggage as it is on soft bags; hard ones are often sealed with zippers.

For extra security, look for locks integrated into the zipper puller tabs – these provide extra protection from thieves trying to open your bag without being noticed. Some bags are specifically designed with security features that prevent thieves from un-zipping your bag when carrying or wearing it. Both my sling bag and small backpack are Pacsafe bags, which are specifically designed to keep your stuff secure.

When choosing a piece of travel baggage with metal zippers, make sure they glide smoothly and don’t catch on any material or fabric inside the bag. Be mindful that sometimes you will want to open and close your bag quickly, or you may need to reach into your bag in various settings that are not ideal, such as grabbing your headphones when your bag is in the overhead compartment on a plane.

Handles

Handles are an often overlooked feature when it comes to travel luggage. After all, you don’t always think about how you’ll carry the bag until you have it packed up and carrying it through an airport, and it is too late to make a change.

It’s important to consider handles when buying travel luggage, as they directly affect your comfort. First, look for handles with a good grip, such as rubber or leather-wrapped handles. Many quality bags also have some padding built into the handles for extra comfort. For heavier bags, look for double carry straps to distribute the load more evenly across both arms.

In terms of handle length and placement, consider whether or not the handle will properly extend upwards so that it isn’t dragging on the ground while you walk. Good handles on all bags are important, but it is especially important on hard-shell luggage. Make sure handles can be flattened or retracted into the bag. Handles can easily be damaged and even torn off of bags on luggage machines in airports. On the flip side, when the handle is open, make sure there is enough distance between the top of the bag and the bottom of the handle so there won’t be any bumping into walls or doors while traveling through narrow spaces.

Finally, opt for travel carry-on bags with telescoping handles if possible so that you can move around more quickly without having to pull behind like a cart at all times. While handles may be the primary way we look to “carry” luggage, there are many ways to ensure that all carry methods are well constructed.

Waterproof

Waterproofing is a great feature to have in your travel luggage. Accidents happen, and if you’re caught mid-flight or at the bottom of an escalator with an unexpected downpour, it’s best to be prepared. This may be especially true in regions where rain can be unpredictable and frequent, such as countries in Asia and tropical climates in general.

Look for water-repellent or waterproofed bags with plenty of protective material, such as reinforced fabric and coating on seams and zippers. Many carry-on bags come with a built-in rain cover for added protection from the elements. My primary bag (backpack carry-on) is water resistant, which is helpful when it is a little wet but hardly enough with hard rainfall. I have a waterproof rain cover for my bag to ensure my contents remain dry.

When it comes to luggage, it is not the bag we worry about but the contents. While it may be inconvenient for your clothing to get wet, some things like laptops, camera gear, and other electronics may be ruined by water. Always best to be prepared for any contingency when you travel.

Security Features

When you buy travel luggage, security is of the utmost importance. After all, no one wants to deal with stolen items or any other unpleasant surprises after a long flight. Some luggage has locking closures, and travel padlocks can also be purchased and added to many bags. Cable ties and locks, as well as shrinkwrapping luggage too, can add some additional security protection when you travel.

Luggage locks

As a traveler, security should be one of your top priorities when you’re shopping for travel luggage. Luggage locks can come in handy if you want to keep your belongings safe and secure during your trip.

These locks attach directly to the zipper or clasp of your bag, making it difficult for anyone to access the contents without damaging the lock or zipper. First, check the material’s durability – lightweight metals like aluminum are ideal as they offer better protection than plastic locks. Also, consider locks with a combination as opposed to keys that can get lost.

Look for locks that TSA agents can open without having them break the lock or force it open. It is important to note that if the TSA needs to open your bag for any reason, they will, one way or another; make it easy for them to avoid damage to your bag. When checking your bag, you have to have some trust in the system, as locks prevent most, but not all, people from accessing the contents. As such, the best practice is to keep your valuables with you and pack them in your carry-on luggage.

One more note about added luggage locks. While most will view luggage locks as an added way to protect the contents of your bag, many people do not consider the problems that can happen with adding something that may hang off your bag. Security officials opening or sometimes cutting off the locks is not the only issue. Locks can and often are caught in luggage machines, sometimes causing significant damage to the luggage. Check out this article from the TSA that describes the problem and shows a picture of 244 locks caught up on just two luggage belts in New York over just one month.

Security cable locks

Cable locks are one of the many security features to look for when buying travel luggage. Though often overlooked, these can be a great way to secure and keep your luggage safe as you travel.

Cable locks are small and lightweight, so they won’t take up much room in your bag or add any significant weight to what you’re already carrying. They come in different sizes and colors, so you can pick one that matches the other items in your bag or stands out for easy identification.

Travelers looking for extra security might also consider investing in TSA locks which use a combination code known only to the traveler and comply with TSA guidelines. However, this is not always necessary if cable ties do their job properly; they may be enough to discourage potential thieves from tampering with your luggage while keeping it within an acceptable weight limit for airlines.

Shrink wrap

When purchasing travel luggage, it’s important to consider its security features. One of these features is shrink wrap. This will help make sure your bags are secured and are more difficult for potential thieves to open.

Shrink wrap is a strong plastic film that can be used to secure baggage items in the same way that straps or cords can but with added protection from physical damage and tampering. It helps ensure that the zipper closures remain secure and can provide an extra layer of protection against would-be criminals who may try to access your belongings without permission.

Shrink wrap is commonly seen as protection for your bag, it also provides some added security as well as weatherproofing along the way. Shrinkwrapping is available at most airports around the world for $5 to $35 per bag, depending on the size of the bag and where in the world. Again, this will protect your content from many, but not all. The TSA (and other airport security around the world) will open your bag if needed for security checks. If wrapped, the TSA will rewrap bags, but this may not happen worldwide.

Size and Capacity

Your travel luggage’s size and capacity should always be considered when buying. Depending on the length, type of trip, and where you are headed, you may need a different size bag. Before you dig your suitcase out of the closet, it may be important to consider size limits.

First, despite any and all advice in this article, or from any other article for that matter, it is best to check with your airline for specifics. While general guidelines may work for the most part, the airline itself or your particular flight may have limits for both carry-on and checked luggage.

Another consideration is the weight of your bag. While you make seek the maximum size bag for your trip, there are also weight limits on the bag itself. When selecting a bag, it is helpful to know the weight of the empty bag alone. If your weight restriction is 50 pounds and you have a 12-pound bag, you can only pack 38 pounds in it without paying additional fees. Overweight fees can be very expensive, so consider these factors in selecting a bad.

I am often asked for advice on what size and capacity of luggage should be purchased for travel. My short answer is this: it does not matter how big your bag is at some point, as the weight will be a problem if there is too much in the bag. You can travel with large, heavy bags, but you will have extra fees for them. That said, I tend to put luggage into six different categories: personal, domestic carry-on, international carry-on, medium checked, large checked, and oversized.

Personal bag

In addition to a carry-on, passengers are allowed a small personal item in the cabin, such as a purse, small backpack, or a briefcase. While the specifics as to size and weight are not really clear, think in terms of 10-15 pounds in weight and pers no larger than a small backpack. This item will likely have to be stored under the seat in front of you, so bare this in mind as you choose your bag.

A personal ag is not necessarily something you may shop for, but you may want a durable bag with a good amount of room. I have a small, 25-liter Pacsafe bag, which stores my camera gear, laptop, items for the plane (headphones, chargers, etc.), and some snacks. If possible, I will try to pack this light just in case I pick up something. Best to have a little extra room for more snacks or a last-minute gift or souvenir.

International carry-on

International carry-on bag limits are generally the most restrictive. Overhead compartments are sometimes a bit smaller than US domestic. In short, this may mean that your usual bag may not fit on an international flight.

For international flights, choose a carry-on that is no larger than 21 inches wide x 14 inches deep x 9 inches high, including wheels and handles. While a larger bag may fit, you may also be forced to check a larger bag if it does not fit in the overhead. If traveling to a remote location using smaller planes, it is more likely that larger bags will be a problem; overheads are even small on these flights.

Carryon bags should weigh no more than 22 pounds (10 kgs); it’s best to choose a light bag so as to maximize what you can pack. Also, as you will be placed in an overhead, make sure that straps and handles can be tucked away so as not to get hung up on anything.

One more tip about carry-on luggage. It is entirely possible to fly carry-on only, meaning no checked bags at all, even on international trips. If you have aspirations of becoming a frequent traveler, make this a goal, as it will make your journey much easier.

Domestic carry-on

Domestic carry-on bags have a bit more flexibility. While they should be around the same size as international flights, overheads are bigger, so if you are slightly over, it will not likely be an issue. Also, weight limits are not so much a factor or not important at all. For example, Delta has no weight limit on carry-on bags, though you will still need to be able to carry them easily.

If you plan to check luggage, use your carry-on only; keep this light if possible as well. Toiletries, electronics, and items that have a high value should all go into this bag, along with some clothing items. However, you should pack most of your items, especially heavier items, in your checked luggage.

Choose a carry-on that has wheels for easy maneuverability when rushing through airports. Durability is a factor here. Even though it will be hand carried, it still will take a beating and will need to keep up with you as you change plans and load it into ground transportation.

Medium checked

Medium-checked luggage is a great option if you’re interested in packing more items while remaining within carry-on airline regulations’ limits. The size of this type of bag usually falls between 22–25 inches in height, so it has enough space to fit your essential items as well as any gifts or souvenirs you may pick up on your travels.

The weight capacity for medium checked bags will vary depending on the airline, but generally speaking, these should weigh no more than 50 lbs or 23 kg. It’s important to be mindful when packing heavier items in order to avoid any extra fees from the airlines due to excess weight.

Large checked

When it comes to luggage size, large checked bags are the biggest of all sizes. Generally, they measure between 28 inches and 32 inches in length and can weigh up to 50 pounds. When you move into this category, the overall dimensions of the checked bag (length + width + height) should be no more than 62 inches. Bags over this size may be subject to additional fees.

Just as with medium bags, choose something that will hold up over time, has ample storage, and can maneuver easily as needed. Large bags can be great when packing for two to help keep your total bags at a minimum. However, be mindful that it is very easy to overpack and exceed the 50-pound weight limit.

Oversized checked

Oversized baggage falls into a special category. These may be very large bags, over 62″ in total, or other items such as golf clubs or skis. In most cases, oversized checked bags will incur an additional fee of as much as $100-$200 (US). It is best to keep your luggage below the limit for oversized unless you do need to take a specialized item with you.

One thing to consider is the availability of a special item at your final destination. Is it something you can rent to pick up while you are away? Is this something you really need? Just consider your options if you fall into a range, as not only do you need to lug your item to the airport, but you will also have to carry it with you throughout your journey, and it may be possible to get or rent an item on location and not have to worry about transport at all.

Luggage Features

Aesthetics is an important part of travel; your luggage should reflect your style. There are multiple elements to consider when making a selection in this area. Things like color, expandable bags, pockets, separators, and accessories can help to make your journey more enjoyable.

Color

Many people overlook the importance of color when choosing their travel luggage. However, the color of your bag may be a personal preference and a way for you to find it on the baggage carousel quickly and easily.

Travel Luggage: An Expert Guide
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When selecting your travel bag, opting for one with a bright, easily identifiable color is best. Consider shades like red, orange, yellow, green, or even blue that stand out among the sea of black bags. If you’re looking for something more discreet and subtle for security reasons, select lighter hues like grey or tan that can still be spotted from afar.

In addition to aiding in recognition during transit and arrival times, picking a vibrant hue also reflects your personality and style – giving you an added sense of ownership over your beloved luggage.

Expandable

Expandability is another great option to look for when buying a piece of travel luggage. Expandable luggage can be a huge help if you find yourself with more items than you anticipated or are bringing home souvenirs and gifts.

Expandable luggage typically has extra sections that unfold like an accordion, providing additional storage space when needed. This type of travel baggage comes in all sizes, from carry-on bags to large checked suitcases, so make sure to check out this feature before purchasing your bag.

When considering expandability, also consider what type of material the bag is made of; some materials may not be suitable for heavy items or long-term use. If done right, having an expandable travel bag on your next trip may save you time and stress. However, be mindful that your bag does not exceed the size limits when expanded.

Compartments

Compartments are an essential part of any travel luggage. Having several compartments, both on the inside and outside, separates your items from each other, helping you stay organized throughout your trip.

Inside compartments are great for organizing clothes and other items that need to be folded or rolled up. Outside pockets can be used for easy access to items you might need at a moment’s notice, such as tickets, passports, or other documents. Hidden or secured pockets on the outside of the bag can be especially helpful in keeping travel documents accessible when needed.

Mobility

Being able to move around easily while traveling is key, so mobility features in your travel luggage should be an important factor when deciding what type of bag you need. There are two main elements when it comes to mobility – wheels and straps. Both are ideal, as there may be times when it is not possible or practical to use the wheels.

Straps: A good quality shoulder strap can really come in handy if you have several pieces of luggage that need transporting at once, such as from check-in through security or from the train station into town; this is especially true if one bag does not have wheels. Choose a detachable option with plenty of padding for comfort and adjustable length for convenience. Also, look for additional straps like compression straps that can help secure small items like books or toiletries inside your suitcase during transit.

Wheels

Wheels are a major part of any travel bag and are essential for ease of movement. When buying travel luggage, you should always consider the type of wheels that come with the bag.

In general, it’s best to look for luggage with spinner-style wheels that roll on multiple axes – they will make moving your bag through airports and stations much easier! If you’re looking for an even more convenient option, some bags now come with 360-degree spinner wheels, so you can move in any direction without lifting the bag itself.

Straps

After you have considered the material, size, color, and number of wheels of your travel luggage, it is important to consider straps. Straps are essential when it comes to traveling and protecting your belongings.

When buying a suitcase with straps, make sure they are adjustable and comfortable on your shoulder or back. Additionally, look for strong and durable buckles to help secure any items in the bag during transportation.

Having multiple straps can also be useful if you carry heavier bags or use them as a backpack. Multiple straps allow for an even distribution of weight between both shoulders, making it easier to carry heavy objects over long distances.

Certainly, there are many bags that do not come with a shoulder, or the strap may not be comfortable or it may just be something you don’t like. Straps are sold individually in various sizes, materials, and comfort levels.

Style

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For many travelers, finding the right style of travel luggage is just as important as durability and capacity. With so many different designs, colors, and brands available today, choosing the perfect stylish and functional piece can be daunting.

From traditional suitcases to soft side duffels, there’s an array of options to suit every style and budget. If you’re looking for something sleek and modern with plenty of compartments for all your belongings, then hard-sided luggage might be your best bet. On the other hand, if you need something lightweight yet durable for longer trips abroad, consider investing in a quality carry-on bag or backpack made from heavy-duty material such as ballistic nylon.

While things like color or bag style are important, they may not be the most important factor in your decision. There are many travel luggage companies, and each has many models to choose from. There is something for everyone. Keep in mind that this is something you will need to carry and essentially live with for your trip or trips, so make sure to choose wisely.

Cost

The cost of travel luggage is and should be a factor when making a choice on what to buy. However, it really should not be the primary deciding factor, but, in many cases, it leads to the decision about what luggage to purchase. This is obvious; discount luggage is available everywhere, and people flock to low-cost suitcases and duffels. While low cost is great, in luggage, low cost often means poor quality that will not hold up well over time.

It is important to consider how often you plan on using your luggage when buying one, as higher-quality bags usually last longer with repeated use. For example, if you are a frequent traveler, investing in a more expensive suitcase that can withstand wear and tear over time may be worth it in the long run. While some may think that a few trips a year may not necessitate a higher-quality luggage purchase. However, here is something to ponder:

How would that impact your vacation if your luggage is damaged and even torn open on a luggage carousel at the start of your trip? At the least, you may be shopping for new luggage in a resort town, not advisable, and it could result in replacements that were damaged as well.

While some affordable options are available on the market, keep an eye out for additional costs, such as airline baggage fees or excess baggage charges that could add up quickly. Additionally, always double-check any extra features, such as wheels or padding, that come with your purchase; these features tend to drive up the cost significantly.

The short version is this: low-cost luggage is more likely to be damaged on a trip and will need to be replaced more often. Higher-quality luggage will most often last many worry-free years. As I shared at the start of this guide, my Tumi carryon lasted more than 20 years of travel and was still in decent shape when I donated it. Two main reasons resulted in my change: I wanted a backpack style of carry-on, and older luggage is heavier, and it was time for an upgrade.

Cost is really difficult to discuss in a buying guide, as there are many factors to consider. However, a quality backpack is about $80 (US) and up; a quality backpack carry-on is about $180 (US) and up. Larger bags of similar quality start in the $150-$200 range and up. That said, you can get high-quality luggage at a good price, but you should expect to pay more for it, and you will not likely find it at a discount retailer. Read on for more in the tips section below.

Luggage Shopping Tips

Shopping for luggage can be daunting, especially with so many available options. To make the process easier, here are some key tips to keep in mind when choosing travel luggage; this list is in order of importance:

1. Size and needs

Start with what you need for your trip and also what you may need for future trips. If you are headed out of town for a long weekend, but planning a large trip in two months, then consider your long-term needs. It is okay to have extra room in your luggage; you never know what else may come up and when you will need a larger bag. Other factors to consider: solo or with a partner? Kids or no kids? Are you flying in a cold climate that requires bulk clothing?

If cost is a factor, then choose a larger bag that will provide more flexibility for your ongoing. Overpacking any bag causes stress on the materials and should be avoided when possible. Also, expandable luggage is great to use when needed at the end of your trip. However, if you are starting your trip with overstuffed luggage that is expandable, you are setting yourself up for challenges along the way.

Here is a recent, personal example to illustrate the shopping tips:

I started identifying a need to replace my carry-on. I wanted a 45 ltr, backpack-style carry-on. The bag needed to be within international standards, with at least some ability for expansion. As I was seeking a soft bag, I also wanted something that would expand and condense easily if not fully loaded.

2. Mobility

The ease of portability is a huge factor in your choice of travel luggage. Wheels and straps are a great asset when it comes to ease of transportability while moving around airports and hotels during travel days. Get a bag with wheels that rotate 360 degrees easily so as not to break your back even when carrying heavy loads, and opt for multiple straps like shoulder straps that provide support when carrying lightweight items over long distances.

Even healthy people without neck, shoulder, back, hips, legs, knees, and feet problems may have some along the way from carrying very heavy, overpacked bags. Reread that last sentence, as most people do not consider how many parts of their body will be impacted by a poor choice of travel luggage.

To continue my search, I determined that the dual backpack straps were important, and I also added a waist strap to my list to help better manage the weight of a heavier bag. I also wanted a shoulder strap so as to be able to grab and move quickly as needed. Wheels are always nice, but in my case, it was not a priority; wheels are not common on carry-on travel packs.

3. Research and window shop

Travel Luggage: An Expert Guide
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Armed with some basics, start to research some bags that fit your portability, size, and general need requirements. While the price may aid in this process, do not use it as a determining factor yet. In this step, you look for a bag that matches your desired style and comfort level. Aside from the cost, you can evaluate the construction and quality of materials, mobility, and other factors to help you decide.

In short, go out and find what you want if the price is not a factor. By doing this, you are considering quality products with the features you want or may need first, and you may not only broaden your search but also discover new products and features. This will help you to add to your list of what you want in luggage and not limit your options based on price.

As you identify bags you like, read reviews on the manufacturer’s website and other sites such as Amazon. Even if you do not purchase on Amazon, you can often see many reviews that will help guide your decision. Also, look at consumer-based websites that post unbiased reviews.

In my case, I discovered that a bag that opens like a clamshell would be more useful to me, ballistic nylon in black, with a padded laptop enclosure. I also wanted some internal and external compartments; a hidden slot for documents, cash, wallet, etc., is great on your bag. I also started identifying some high-quality brands with solid reviews, good support, and availability. In this stage, I also started to rule out some brands and styles for various reasons, even though some produced great luggage.

4. Decide and budget

It is now time to make some decisions regarding brands and prices. From your research, you have learned about different styles, brands, and quality of materials, and likely now have a better idea of how much quality luggage will cost. While you may have started to decide what you want, you may have also learned that some of your choices may be outside your budget.

At this point, you can now logically determine what is important to you in terms of price, quality, and features as opposed to making choices based on the cost alone. This is a much better way to shop for luggage because you know what you want; now, you have to find your travel luggage for the price you want to pay.

When I reached this point, I narrowed it down to several brands and styles. I was intent on finding a high-quality bag at a reasonable price (note that I did not say cheap) with all the features I sought. It was now time to shop. My challenge was the bags that I wanted were in the $250-$300 range, and my budget was $50 to $100 less.

5. Shop and Buy

This section sounds like an obvious no-brainer. We know what we want, buy it, right? Well, not exactly, or at least not impulsively. All that I described above can take a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks. the time and pace are up to you, but I recommend that you start this process well before your trip. This will give you ample time to search for deals online, purchase during a sale, and sometimes find something that is available.

If you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, you can easily search for it online and in stores. Searching for a specific brand and model is much easier and more effective than just looking for a bag that is in your price range.

Step 1 started about two months before leaving the country (I travel full time), but once I had a solid idea of what I wanted, it took just two weeks. The best part is that I found exactly what I wanted from a brand I did not initially identify for a great price.

While price shopping for one of the bags on my list, I found an alternative that not only matched what I was looking for but was also from a well-known brand at a price that was more in my range; about $180. The problem: they were backorder at the manufacturing level. As such, I made this my number one choice and periodically checked pricing on a few websites over about a week. The results paid off when, to my surprise, I found the bag, which was also on sale for $150. To make it even better, I completed a survey for the company, received an additional discount, and paid about $150, including tax and shipping.

I would like to say my hard work paid off, but really it was easy. Have some patience, as it may take some time to go through the process. However, I can firmly say that I love my bag. It has held up very well, having traveled more than 20K miles in the past 8 months on trains, planes, and automobiles, not to mention being strapped to a back of a motorbike while touring southern Thailand. I even met another traveler on my journey who had the same bag, and he shared he has had it for about 5 years and still loves it. Other than being a bit dirty, it was fully intact.

carry-on travel luggage
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This is my carry-on backpack and my personal backpack; my primary luggage.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing the right travel luggage can be daunting if left until the last minute. However, it really can be easier if done in advance. While there are many factors to consider, if you take your time and plan, there is no reason you cannot find a great deal on quality travel luggage.

At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to purchasing travel luggage; however, if you follow the shopping tips in this article, you will quickly and painlessly find the perfect bag for your travel needs.

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