For me looking at luggage is like a kid in the candy story. I want one of each! I have purchased many pieces of luggage over the years and have learned what features are important.
For carry on rolling suitcases there are 3 primary things:
Are the wheels built with solid quality construction?
This is very important! Solid construction on the wheels will make the suitcase so much better. I prefer the spinner wheels (aka 4 wheels) so you can simply stroll the suitcase next to you.
What is the weight of the suitcase empty?
This should ideally be no more than 9 lbs otherwise you limit what’s in the suitcase.
Is the suitcase expandable?
I will often put extra items in my suitcase when in transit on a train. Or if I did some shopping and I need to check my suitcase on the return journey home.
My current suitcase that is utilized for nearly every trip at the moment is Travelpro Crew 10 21″ Expandable Spinner. Travelpro is a luggage brand that is very popular with pilots and flight attendents. I figure if they travel on nearly daily basis and it works for them; it must be good. BTW you will notice the link for the suitcase was to ebags.com which is where I purchase most of luggage and travel gear. The often have sales and there is usually a promo code floating around on the internet.
Keep in mind every airline has different carry on limits so take this into consideration before you buy something.
Regardless of what suitcase you utilize please do yourself a favor as most suitcases are black so find some way to distinguish your suitcase. A popular option is to put luggage handle wraps on the handles that will make your bag stand out. This will help you quickly identify your bag when you are deplaning after a long journey. Sorry one more thing, please ensure you have a luggage tag with your name and address information. I personally prefer a luggage tag that provides privacy to my address so the person standing behind cannot read my address and decide to show up at my door the next day.
Raise your hand if you enjoy standing in endless long lines? Do you enjoy taking your shoes off at the airport? or your belt? or your light jacket? or sweater? Or pulling out your bag of liquid items?
Most people would respond NO to all of the above questions. So if you don’t enjoy doing all of those things, then why don’t you change that and take control over your travel experience to make it a little more enjoyable?
Do you know how much TSA Precheck costs? Only $85 for 5 years. Let’s do some math here. Say you only travel 3 times a year and assuming all your trips include TSA Precheck airports this will cost you $2.83 per flight. I spend more than that on my morning latte and I don’t have to wait in a long line or take of my shoes!
For an extra $15 for the 5 years you can get Global Entry and avoid filling out the blue customs form every time you return to the USA. You simply fill out an electronic form and walk right past the immigration agent no questions asked.
Here are the top 5 things I bring on every flight even if it is only 30 minutes. You never know when you might flight yourself on the tarmac awaiting air traffic control for take off and that 30 minute flight quickly turns into 3 hours. How many times have you been there?
#1 bottle of water – Even if you are flying first class it takes time before the flight attendants can serve you a beverage of your choice. Throw in some turbulence and you might never ever see a glass of water.
#2 snacks – I hate paying $5 for a small bag of nuts at the airport because I did not bring anything with me and now my flight is delayed.
#3 headphones – Some flights have entertainment systems but you have to bring your own headphones or purchase from the airline. I also listen to music on my phone to drown out the crying babies around me.
#4 baby wipes or hand sanitizer – Often the line for the bathroom on flights is long and if you just want to wash your hands this provides a solution. I also wipe down my tray table to minimize any germs.
#5 book or magazine – I still like the “old school” paper version plus I enjoy the break from digital world. The added bonus that no matter how long the flight you never have to worry about the battery life.
We will talk more about packing the suitcase in another post. Safe travels.
In recent years I have learned to love the idea of carry on luggage. Some people may think it is to save money as most airlines have a fee to check luggage for domestic flights. However this can easily be avoided with airline status or simply booking your flight with the right credit card. In regards to international flights you are still allowed to check luggage for free with a few exceptions.
Even though I may have free checked luggage status for nearly all of my domestic travel I carry on. Given that most of my domestic travel is long weekends everything can fit into a carry on. Although I do make some exceptions to check luggage; especially if it involves sharing a couple bottles of wine purchased in Argentina with friends.
My primary reason for carry on luggage is to save time! Online checkin makes getting boarding passes easy prior to arriving to the airport and with no luggage to check I don’t have to wait for an agent. I have TSA Pre-Check so I get to fast track through security. We will save the topic of TSA Pre-Check for another post but if you travel 3-4 times a year you should seriously consider it!
So I have already saved anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour waiting to drop off my bag depending on the airport and current waiting time. Then upon arrival at the final destination I don’t have to wait to collect my luggage which can be again anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. So looking at worst case scenario when I add up the time spent for a return trip I have now saved 3.5 hours avoiding the wait for luggage. Yikes! I could fly from Chicago to Phoenix in that amount of time. Additionally if the trip is merely a long weekend that is significant amount of the weekend that I could be spending relaxing with a drink in hand.
For international travel my decision will depend on the duration of the trip, number of flight connections and the variation of attire required. For instance this past May I had a 10 day trip to Europe that involved visiting 6 cities, 8 flights and 2 train journeys. In addition the weather for the destinations varied from 55F to 105F and events ranged from casual to cocktail attire. It took a lot of careful planning but I managed to get everything into a carryon suitcase and one personal item. I was even more impressed that all my shopping purchases fit into the same luggage on the way back.
I do appreciate of course that packing for one person is much different from the monumental task of packing for a family of 6. When traveling with small children checking your luggage is your best strategy given the joys of unloading and reloading through airport security. For instance when traveling with my sister several years ago my nephew was 3 and my niece was 6 weeks old; I may have been the one who lost the boarding passes in all the commotion. Oops!
When have I checked luggage?
On a 2 week trip to Singapore and Bali with a long stopover
On a flight heading to a cruise given all that evening wear
On a last minute trip to Mexico and uncertain what our plans might be
On many return trips I will check a bag to balance out some of my travel purchases. I always travel with a small collapsable duffle bag that has been utilized many times!
I have a basic principle regardless of carrying on or checking luggage; it is your luggage so be prepared to carry it.