This Baggage is Literal
May 18, 2006 8:57 AM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: Got Luggage?

I've come to that point in life that when one must take the bold step of buying their first real set of luggage. The shady mom and dad suit cases I had been using since college got consumed in the fire that led to the insurance check which is now funding this adventure in luggage land.

The Details:
*I'm looking to spend no more than $700.
*I travel (the kind which requires multiple pieces of luggage) maybe 4 to 8 times a year (holidays and vacations), so their is no issue of needing bags to be ported around on a weekly basis.
*I want this purchase to last at least 5 yrs., hopefully longer.
*Definitely looking for at least a 3 piece set where each piece side fits inside the other making storage simple.

The Questions:
-What are your personal luggage experiences?
-What brands should I be looking at?
-Does anyone have experience in buying quality used luggage (craigslist is failing me)?

Any and all suggestions welcome!
posted by Smarson to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a specific brand recommendation, but you should definitely take a look on They often have some great bargains on sets of luggage.
posted by staggernation at 9:11 AM on May 18, 2006

Samonsite factory outlets have always been great as far as deals on quality luggage go. If I wanted to spend a lot on luggage, I'd probably go with Tumi.
posted by kcm at 9:13 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Ooooo....outlet stores, I forgot about those! I've also run across the name Tumi, I'll have to check out their site.

Thanks guys!
posted by Smarson at 9:20 AM on May 18, 2006

Tumi is excellent luggage, but not cheap. Tumi does look like every other black piece of luggage so do consider having some sort of "marker" like a laminated business card to make identifying your stuff easier on the luggage carousel.

I have not regretted purchasing my Tumi luggage at all.
posted by jadepearl at 9:26 AM on May 18, 2006

I'm a HUGE fan of They have great prices and the ebag brand luggage I've bought has been well designed and sturdy. (They say they consult flight attendants and pilots when they design their stuff.)

In particular, I bought a collapsing rollie bag that was just a brilliant idea for those of us with very little closet space. You hear about expanding luggage all the time, but this one folds down into a very thin thing you can easily stash away when not using it.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:27 AM on May 18, 2006

Look at sets with the spinner wheels and rollerblade wheels on the carry on bags (or any bags at all). I bought my first grown up set at the Samsonite outlet about four years ago. It was an American Tourister set that, aside from having been peed on by my cat, is still in fine condition. Samsonite and AT make great luggage.

I also asked a similar question over at MATH+1 a few weeks ago since I'm getting married and registering for stuff. I recall hearing good things about Briggs and Riley if you want to get spendy, as well as about TravelPro.

Happy travelling!
posted by wildeepdotorg at 9:29 AM on May 18, 2006

Look at sets with the spinner wheels and rollerblade wheels on the carry on bags (or any bags at all)

Amen! Make sure whatever you buy has rollerblade or wider wheels - the dinky wheels break off in planes and are terrible on cobblestones, rough sidewalks, and dirt roads - basically anything not smooth.
posted by whatzit at 9:36 AM on May 18, 2006

You can't go wrong with Samsonite, whether you want something more sporty or business style. Or Delsey, that's what I got. I have no experience with more expensive brands!

As for the 3-piece, there's lots of combinations of carry-on bag+trolley+briefcase/beauty case/whatever that could be strapped to each other when travelling and could fit inside each other when empty. The soft-case kind, that is.

For hard cases, have a look at this one: "The 3 sizes are nestable. Each piece can fit in each other for easy storage.".
posted by funambulist at 10:03 AM on May 18, 2006

I'm no good with brands, but I know what has pissed me off in the past, and I travel a lot.

Bad wheels - rollerblade wheels seem to work fantastically well. Don't get anything where the wheels might twist, or are made of a material that can break. Hard plastic wheels suck.

Bad handles - You really don't want one where the handle (or the frame) feels like it's flexing and in danger of breaking when you have your suitcase totally full. Also, it should lock reasonably well into the down position, so the airport guys don't break it, and should be sized such that you can walk with it, comfortably.

Lousy exterior - Really tough nylon, reinforced corners, and a design that lets you drag it right over curbs are clutch. You don't want that stuff breaking.

A good interior - I love an interior with sensible storage sections, easy to use straps, and a nicely designed place to stow suits without guaranteeing that they end up wrinkled.

Ignore their toiletry kit. Sure it matches, and it's black, but put all the explodable/breakable stuff in gallon-sized zip-lock bags. If you travel enough, eventually your shaving cream/toothpaste/mouthwash/hair crap/whatever is going to do something terrible.

Don't get something that screams "I AM RICH" even if you get it for a song. You don't want to attract the attention of the baggage workers in some very poor country.

Oh, and regarding the above suggestion for TravelPro. I think their stuff is crap. I bought one of their larger suiters, used it for one trip and threw it out because it had such significant design flaws (particularly in the design of the garment hanger bit.)

I have two pieces by Tumi and one by Kenneth Cole. I'm happy with all of them. The Kenneth Cole was designed fantastically well, but sadly it seems as though it isn't made any more.

I wouldn't worry about finding your stuff on the baggage carousel, either. It's easy enough to distinguish your luggage with a few bits of brightly colored string or tape by the handles.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:07 AM on May 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I carted two big beasts from Wal-Mart around europe for two years and never had one break. They handled planes, trains, and buses quite well, not to mention being dragged across cobblestones, and up endless flights of stairs. And the best part was knowing that if they broke I could cheaply buy more, and at the end of two years I didn't mind throwing them out. I couldn't of been happier paying $70 each.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:08 AM on May 18, 2006

$700!? Jesus.

I bought a Pierre Cardin luggage set (4 piece) at JCPenney for somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-$150. I've had it for coming on 4 years now, and use it fairly regularly (8 or so trips a year), and I have no complaints. Great durability, great wheels, great everything.

One thing I would recommend for luggage in general, though, is buy your set in an uncommon color (read: not black). The luggage I have is reddish purple, and not once have I had to wonder "is that my bag?" or have to flip bags and read labels on suitcases when they're on the baggage carousel. The purple bag is always my bag. Trust me on this one. Not black.
posted by jeffxl at 10:09 AM on May 18, 2006

An alternative to getting a rare color to distinguish your luggage (often you can't *find* certain models in anything but black/blue), is to put loud stickers or scarves or other obvious markings on your otherwise indistinguisable luggage. I improvised once with a piece of (yellow) paper kind of folded and tied around the handle. Survived two international flights and was easy to spot in the luggage area.
posted by R343L at 10:46 AM on May 18, 2006

I've been on the road an average of 2-3 weeks per month for the past few years.

I had a bad experiene with a hard shell Delsey bag which, despite being expensive and looking bombproof was destroyed on it's first trip through baggage claim.

I agree that roller bags--with soft rubber wheels--is the way to go. I can recommend Victorinox and TravelPro. After about five years of use the handle on my TravelPro carry-on rolly broke adn they speedily came through on their lifetime warranty and replaced it.

My current configuration involves a small rolly (overnight trip) adn a medium rolly (2-3 night trip), both of which fit in the overhead bin, and a large rolly. All are soft luggage and have expandable option which is really nice if you want to make it bigger to lug home something you picked uptravelling.

I also highly recommend buying some of the Eagle Creek Pack-It folders and cubes. They make packing/unpacking a snap, saves sapce, and helps you separate clean from dirty clothes
posted by donovan at 10:49 AM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Oh my gosh, so many great tips!!

luriete - I love Victorinox stuff, so that is seriously weighing on my mind.

funambulist - That Meridian case set looks tempting. I haven't decided between hardside or other yet.

I Love Tacos - Now thats some serious advice! Zip lock bags all the way. You can suck the air out of them so they take up less room (< --does that make me a travel nerd?). br>
blue_beetle - Totally good point. I'm trying to decide if it might be worth it to hit up my local K-Mart. But I really want qaulity and a warranty.

jeffxl - I know, after I posted I was like "$700 on luggage, dear god thats a ridiculous amount of money!!" But I'm serious when I say that I'm willing to pay more for some quality shizzle. Think of the $700 as a maximum, with $400 being the optimum.

To everyone else, keep the ideas/ experiences coming!
posted by Smarson at 10:53 AM on May 18, 2006

I second the Samsonite factory outlet idea. Samsonite also sells their inexpensive sets at Sam's Club from time to time, so that might be worth checking if you have a membership.
posted by vorfeed at 11:01 AM on May 18, 2006

Before I became a full-time baby wrangler, I used to work for a luggage company.

They're currently having their online friends and family sale with many pieces 50% off - type in

I am a big fan of the Victorinox pieces myself. I own several.
posted by Ostara at 12:33 PM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks vorfeed and Ostra.

I've been checking out Victorinox stuff and alot of their current pieces have the mono-support-handle design for their rolling luggage as oppossed to the more traditional handle which is dual supported. This seems like it would make it harder to manuver.

Anyone have experiece with mono-support-handle luggage?
posted by Smarson at 12:46 PM on May 18, 2006

I prefer the mono-pole design. If you go to the site I mention above and look at the WT Victorinox bags, you'll see that the top handle part actually swivels. Think about it - if you let your arm drop to your side, it's going to be easier to grip a handle that is parallel to your body. The WT bags are designed to be very lightweight, and the mono-pole handle accomplishes this as well.

The one potentially negative thing about those bags is that there is a hump in the middle of the bag to accomodate the mono-pole. I pack shoes and socks on either side and then layer on the clothes.

Victorinox also has a series of bags called the NXT series. These have the traditional U-shaped handle.

Both the WT series and the NXT series have inline skating wheels.
posted by Ostara at 12:53 PM on May 18, 2006

Whatever you buy, consider bag weight very seriously. All the airlines just lowered the weight of bags permitted to be checked. My boss is annoyed because he just went out and bought a (very nice) hardshell that is more than a third of the max allowed weight.

Also, everyone has a black bag. Navy blue is the second most popular.

Have you considered a garment bag? I often find my garmet bag is enough for a week with a carry-on.

Don't lock checked bags. It's a feature worth getting for leaving bags with concierges and so on though.
posted by bonehead at 1:40 PM on May 18, 2006

Sportsman's Luggage by L.L.Bean

I've linked to a set, but if you search around there are other pieces as well. Rollerblade wheels, exhaustively tested, plus L.L.Bean Guarantee means that if something breaks you can just return it for a new bag - forever. The last luggage you'll ever buy.
posted by anastasiav at 3:06 PM on May 18, 2006

I bought a five piece set (it packs inside itself) at costco for around $100. Its lasted 2+ years, 4-5 trips per year with no problems. I also have a Victronox which is used 10 - 12 times per year (2 years old) which as been repaired 4 times now through the warranty. I 've heard excellent things about Tumi, but don't have one. I don't recomend the Victronox at all. The cheap costco stuff is as durable or more so. Skyway is the brand I picked up at costco
posted by p8r1ck at 4:10 PM on May 18, 2006

I highly recommend Briggs & Riley. I've had my bags (and used them a lot) for almost 10 years now and they're still like new.
posted by trip and a half at 5:30 PM on May 18, 2006

I have two words for you, Red Oxx at Made in Billings, Montana by hand - when you order it. It takes about two weeks, but the stuff is awesome. I own the Air Boss, the Sun Chaser, and Slim Brief. Burly, manly zippers, heavy duty materials, and very intelligent designs. Not cheap, of course. Also, I am anti-wheels. You will never see me pulling luggage through an airport, which is good, because Red Oxx doesn't put wheels on anything. If you buy the three pieces I mentioned you will never need to buy another piece of luggage for the rest of your life. I have packed plenty of business suits in my Air Boss and it they don't wrinkle if you use the bundle method. The Sun Chaser is a small, minimalist duffle that I can actually pack a week's worth of casual clothes in - and its great for the gym. And the Slim Brief is a well-designed briefcase. You can order online, but call them up because they are cool.
posted by jdstef at 6:14 PM on May 18, 2006

Consider's recommendations. While you may not actually be able to fit everything in one bag for an extended trip, they have good packing tips that might cut down on how many bags you take.

Also, they point out the very valid info that wheels on bags add weight, cut down on space, and are only really useful on smooth roads/floors.

As for bags, I also love eBags, and their eBags-branded bags are very durable in my experience.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:53 PM on May 18, 2006

Two words: size matters. :-) It's really important to think about size when buying luggage. My husband bought a bag recently that looks like every other bag you see people carrying, but it's just a LITTLE too big to carry on and a LITTLE too big to take for a quick weekend getaway. It's great for longer trips where you need more stuff and want to check it. So think about what kind of travel you do and what size bag will work best. I'm also a fan of having A Bag Of A Different Color. I bought a red bag earlier this year and I love it. It's ugly, but I know it's mine on the baggage carousel. And a big amen to Ziploc bags. But don't forget to pack extras! When your "shaving cream/toothpaste/mouthwash/hair crap/whatever does something terrible" remember that you have to either clean it up or replace it and then pack it back up when you're ready to go home, so you'll need a clean Ziploc. One more tip I haven't seen here: You know the plastic that covers your dry-cleaning when you get it back? Use it when you pack and your clothes won't be as wrinkly at the other end as it would if you hadn't.
posted by angelfish at 8:00 PM on May 18, 2006

Even if your bag is a more unusual colour people will still mistake it for their own - plenty of people pay no attention. It's happened to me twice - one person took my beige, half-empty backpack instead of their stuffed-full navy one; another person took my grey wheeled suitcase with a brown luggage tag in place of their black one, which had no tag and no wheels. I now think the more identifying stickers and ribbons and so forth you can get on there, and the more unusual or gaudy it is, the better - and the less likely other people are to think your luggage is theirs.

The best piece of wheeled luggage I have is one where the handle not only locks down, but there's a little zippered flap over it so the handle can't come out accidentally and get broken off. It's also expandable, which is great for business trips where people hand you their folders and magazines and other assorted crap to take back with you.
posted by andraste at 1:56 AM on May 19, 2006

I second the Briggs & Riley recommendation. I have 6 pieces from them - a small wheeled bag, a regular duffel-like tote bag, a wheeled laptop case, shoulder laptop case, and two of the Superlight rollaboards - 18" and 20". I beat the holy living hell out of them. I've had the 18" for almost two years and upwards of 200,000 airmiles, not to mention the occasional Vegas roadtrip, and it's still like new.
posted by bedhead at 4:20 AM on May 19, 2006

Samsonite Black Label:: X'Lite collection
You'll never go back.
Weightless, super durable, stylish and the best guarantee.
posted by ruelle at 6:24 AM on May 19, 2006

All I can say, as someone who lives in a country where sidewalks are about as common as moon rocks, is this:

1. no wheels.
2. small.
3. carry-on.

The airport is nice, sure. And then you go outside. In the snow, on the cobblestones, through the mud, and your suitcase is a nightmare to move, especially if you've gone big and are depending on the wheels to get the thing around. I've tried to lug those huge 50-pound wheeled bags through the London Underground and up icy curbs, and I felt like a fool when I realized I'd need to traverse, say, 100 stairs during rush hour in a tiny tunnel. There is no glare like that of a seasoned British commuter blocked by an American who isn't paying attention to the rules because his bag is so ginormous that he's struggling to keep it upright.

You say you travel about once every two months - but for how long? Enough time to require, say, six or seven or twenty different outfits? You also say that you require multiple bags - but could you have, say, a really gorgeous over the shoulder tote thing (leather? fancy name brand?) and an equally fancy (matching) duffel?

To actually offer some where-should-I-get-my-bags advice, Flight 001 has lots of distinctive luggage. Here's their carry-on page.
posted by mdonley at 8:39 AM on May 19, 2006

« Older Shouldn't I be going in the other direction?   |   PureVision contact lenses: better than the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.