Popular Brands, Types and Sizes: How to Find the Best Luggage for Your Needs
Choosing luggage is a balance between practicality and style.
You’ll already know what style feels right for you. This could be hard-shell cases, soft-shell, a smart black design – or something more brash and bold.
With a style in mind, the next step is to make sure you get a solidly built case that is flexible enough for your travel needs. Brands help – reputations for quality, customer service for any issues and warranties provide peace of mind. This comes at a price, however compared to the disaster of a ‘no brand’ suitcase falling apart mid-trip, it is a price that I consider well worth paying.
Getting the Best Value
The next step is to take your style, build and brand choices – and get the best possible value for your luggage purchase.
This is where it helps to think in years of service.
Those knock-off suitcases will last a year or two. Spending more on a brand like Samsonite, American Tourister or Antler means your case will still be working five years from now… and possibly even longer.
In addition to the individual reviews, I have created ‘specials’ which cover popular luggage brands:
Simplifying the Types of Luggage
Let’s start by simplifying the complex array of cases, bags, and accessories out there.
The line dividing sizes is set by airlines. Suitcases 55cm and under are hand luggage (this is airline dependent) and bigger bags need to be checked in. For that checked in luggage, you find medium (67cm), large (75cm) and XL options at 80cm and up. These small increments in height have an outsize effect on capacity. A typical XL suitcase will have double the capacity of a medium. For example, 50 litres vs 110 litres.
Materials Science and Suitcase Choice
Materials science is booming, leading to lightweight, tough new plastics for luggage.
Soft-shell cases are now wipe-clean. Hard-shell cases are super-light. And spinner wheels can easily withstand the rigours of airports.
For you the buyer, the weight of luggage is now an important buying factor.
Why compromise when you can get extra kilograms packed for your holiday?
As with the brand names, it is the latest designs which carry hefty price tags. Go back just one or two years, and you get super-light, super-tough luggage at a fraction of the price. Popular examples in this category are ‘World’s Lightest’ cases from IT and the best-selling Lite-Shock range from Samsonite.
Hard-Shell and Soft-Shell Suitcases: A Matter of Taste
I’m a hard-shell suitcase fan, with only one ‘softy’ in my growing collection.
You might prefer a soft-shell suitcase, or maybe a wheeled duffle bag is more your style?
My point here is that taste comes first with luggage. Nobody wants a case that does not suit their sense of style – even one that is objectively better. Let’s admit that preferences for hard, soft, bold, or black, retro, or modern styling and even a floral print come first – and that comparisons of features follows.
The alternative is to pretend that the case we loved all along has just the right balance between quality, price, and features.
I have you covered here at Luggage Review. These sections of the site highlight the different options hard-shell and the best soft-shell cases. For those that want to be inspired, check out my page covering luggage created by fashion brands.
Luggage Security: From TSA Locks to Tracking Devices
Most thefts from suitcases are opportunistic.
This means a thief sees an easy target, grabs whatever is easy to steal, and gets away. While it is difficult to stop a determined thief, deterring opportunistic thefts is easy. If your case is locked, the chances are that the theft never happens. Add a little more security, and your suitcase quickly moves into the ‘too much hassle’ category.
Luggage security devices include combination locks (with TSA overrides for US travel), straps with locks, tracking devices and covers that make fast access difficult.
One thing I don’t recommend for security are those horrific plastic wrapping services you find at airports. As well as being brutal for the environment, they make it hard for you to access your cases when you reach your destination.
The Best Children’s Luggage: From Ride-On Cases to Disney Designs
From Star Wars to Thomas, from Marvel to Mermaids – there are plenty of contenders for the best children’s luggage these days.
Ride-along cases were pioneered by Trunki. They combine a case with wheels – and let your child ride them like a bike with no pedals. You can pull them along (a safer option in busy airports). Trunki have serious rivals in the ride-along niche these days. This comes from big brand names and from generic knockoffs. Safety is paramount with these cases, those suspicious sounding brand names are not going to be around if there is a problem – and should be avoided.
Alternatives for kids are themed backpacks. These range from TV characters, films like Frozen and Marvel Universe to football teams. They make for excellent school bags, as well as packing for your holidays.
Full suitcases (both hand-luggage and check-in) with Iron Man, R2D2, Frozen and many other designs are also available.
Check out my detailed Children’s Luggage section for reviews, comparisons, and those all-important discounts.
Business Luggage: Choosing the Right Cases is a Serious Business
I still remember how the excitement of my first business trip slowly morphed into ‘oh no, not another one.’
Over time, you figure what works and what does not – and the right hand-luggage is a key factor. Getting your laptop and documents in, alongside your overnight gear, makes business travel smoother. That business hand-luggage will double-up as a laptop roller bag when you are not travelling too.
Impressions count, and there are times when your case will be on display to clients, colleagues, or future bosses.
That said, you don’t need to break the bank to get the best business luggage. My guide to the most popular choices (and their pros / cons) explains all.
Making Travel Easy: Popular Accessories
Making travel easy without cramming your luggage with every conceivable accessory requires planning.
Your must-have list and mine will feature unique items, though the core list is broadly similar. Luggage scales are a lightweight (and cheap) item which will save you the distressing task of repacking at the airport check-in. Add packing cubes, an eye-mask for the plane and earplugs to the list and you have a great starting point.
Where things get personal is when we include travel kettles, irons, and security straps.
Whatever type of travel accessory you need, I have you covered here at Luggage Review.
Packing Guides to Popular Destinations
There are thousands of destination guides online, and packing tips are common too.
The link between them is missing. Should your packing really be the same for every destination. Do people pack the same things for a trip to a Thai beach and New York city break?
Alongside these destination specific packing guides, you’ll find the top places to visit and must-do activities. This group of articles covers packing for UK destinations as well as the biggest international ones. You will find packing guides for Paris, Cornwall, Iceland, Vietnam, the Lake District, Edinburgh… with plenty of new ones in the pipeline.
Not every guide here at Luggage review is a ‘pack for’ piece. Practical tips include getting between London’s airports, travelling with kids, avoiding jet lag and many more. While news and discounts are not my focus, you will also find evergreen guides to getting the most from airline points and when to book for the best prices.