When I’m not writing for Penny Thots, I do a lot of traveling for my other job as writer, teacher, judge and appraiser — from 1-4 times monthly. That means luggage — strong suitcases that can hold teaching samples, fresh clothes, books and general stuff. I’ve tried everything, from cheap to expensive…and here’s the conclusion I’ve come to:
Unless you’re feeling stylish, cheaper is better.
A teacher colleague who travels even more than I do found herself going through a new set of luggage every year. (Those airport handlers can really be rough.) So she tried a test. One year, she bought the cheapest sturdy luggage she could find, and used only it for a year. The next year, she purchased the best-rated expensive luggage she could find, and similarly used it for just that year.
Know what she discovered?
Each of the luggage sets barely lasted for a year, regardless of price or rating.
My luggage lasts a little longer than a year — but only two or three, at most. If I try to go longer, I’m plagued with bursting zippers and handles that break down. On the last gig, I tried to get by one more time, and was forced to drag my busted-handle suitcase, caveman-style, for most of the time. Not a pretty sight.
Honestly, I don’t get the cheapest items I can find. (Though my Hollander dad is probably reeling at the thought.) Instead, I compromise and get the best-rated frugally priced luggage I can find. Something reasonably sturdy, like this Samsonite Lift Spinner.
Here’s What I Look For In A Check-In (Or Any) Luggage Bag:
- Good reviews. Do other people like it? Has it done well over the long run for them?
- Sturdy construction — without being too heavy. No use giving up more than 7-10 lb. of my 50-pound allowance. After all, I paid extra for the privilege. (With the exception of blessed Southwest Airlines. Thanks, guys — we love ya.)
- Strong zippers and clips. You’ll be using these over and over — they’d better last.
- Meshed areas or zipper bags inside. Easier to keep your items separate and ready for use.
- Wheels…preferably those which let you rotate your bag 360 degrees. (Like the example above.)
You’ll need a good carry-on, too. The Victorinox Avolve is more sturdily-built, and has more rave reviews on Amazon — but it also costs more than quadruple the $66-and-change price of this equally well-reviewed American Tourister Splash 21.
For Your Carry-On, Look For:
- A width of no more than 22″. You’ve got to be able to fit that bag easily into an overhead compartment, and you’re pushing it with a width more than that.
- Lightweight. Your bag won’t generally get banged around as much as a check-in…and unless someone beefy is nearby to help, you need to be able to lift it almost over your head.
- Expandable. A little ‘ease’ helps items fit in better.
Unless you’re flying Southwest, though, and traveling for fun, you’re better off just going with a carry-on. The average bag price is $25/$35 each way — and even more on some airlines. Pack your clothes carefully (rolling gets approx. triple the normal amount in the same space), and you can save big bucks. Use this helpful how-to guide as a starting point; it was inspired by a stewardess’s efficient packing technique.
Have a good trip.
Cindy Brick is a personal property appraiser, judge and national teacher who loves to write about frugality and other personal finance topics. She has written six books and hundreds of articles, but often focuses on quilting, her teaching specialty. She lives in Colorado with her husband, two golden labs and a flock of very suspicious chickens. Find out more at Brickworks, http://www.cindybrick.com, or visit her personal blog: http://www.cindybrick.blogspot.com