Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Packing Tips: Part 1, The Luggage

This is part one in a series of packing tips.  There are just too many factors involved in good packing to write about it all in one post.  Today we’re going to talk about how to pick the right luggage for your needs.

Contemporary luggage comes in a wide variety of materials, colors, shapes and sizes.  The choices are virtually endless.  So, how do you start your search for the perfect travel bag? 
First, consider your budget.  How much can you spend, and more importantly, how much do you want to spend?  If you travel lightly and/or infrequently, almost any cheap bag could do the job.  However, if you plan to put a lot of miles or stress on your luggage, you might want to invest a little more money and get better pieces. 

Next, think about the type of traveling you do.  Do you generally stuff duffle bags in the trunk of your car for weekend trips to visit friends?  A nylon gym bag might be all that you need.  Will you be dragging your suitcase countless miles through airport corridors?  If so, you should choose sturdy pieces of luggage that roll along smoothly.  Do you plan to cram your belongings into a backpack and hike the Appalachian Trail?  Then you will want a lightweight but durable backpack.
Once you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, go on-line or to a store.  When I started shopping for new luggage, I first looked on-line, arming myself with information about the various options.  After I narrowed down my choices, I went to the store so that I could personally handle and get the feel of the bags that I had in mind.

I took my time in the store.  I travel quite a bit and will be living with and relying on these bags for years to come, so picking the right ones was very important to me.  I picked up each bag in the set to check the weight.  I was pleased to find that each one could be easily lifted with one finger. 
I also tested the handles.  In the past, I’ve suffered the pain of having bags with handles that either dug painfully into my hands or, worse, came off in my hands.  The handles on these bags were fabric and woven in.  Those handles will never separate from those bags.

Next, as silly as I might have looked to other shoppers, I rolled each bag up and down the store aisles.  Testing the wheels on your luggage is step that should not be skipped.  So many bags are not balanced properly, causing them to wobble and rock as they roll.   The bags I picked soundly passed the no-wobble test. 
The last choice I had to face was color.  The set I was eyeing came in bright pink in addition to the traditional black.  I seriously considered the pretty pink but thought about how quickly it gets dirty and ultimately opted for the black.  I did, however, customize my bags with bright pink luggage tags that set them apart in the sea of black bags on the luggage carousel at the airport.  My inexpensive luggage tags can be easily cleaned or replaced when they start to show dirt.

Taking the time to do a little research and to handle my bags before buying them has really paid off.  I've already logged over 12,000 miles on them and they remain as good as new. 
Come back to this site in about four days.  The next entry will be about how to get the most mileage out of that “one personal item” for air travel.  Believe it or not, that item can make a big difference in how easily and economically you travel.

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