6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage

6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage

In the interest of full disclosure, as some of you already know, I have my own luggage line carried exclusively by HSN.  I had the chance to design unique luggage that looks great and overcomes some basic shortcomings that many luggage lines exhibit.  The purpose of this article is not to promote my line, but to give you some insight into the types of things I look for in my own experience with luggage and what I considered when designing my own line. One thing I’ve learned in this process is that there is not one piece of luggage that fits everyone’s needs or travel personality.  And how I travel is very different from others.

Here are some tips everyone can use to make sure that next piece you buy is a love match.  Did I mention I have my own luggage line?

Size and Weight

Do you think anyone in the history of travel has ever under packed for a trip? You could easily over-pack a large suitcase and end up over the 50 lb. limit. Overweight fees are worse than taxes so make sure the bag isn’t heavy empty. Lightweight bags have proliferated on the market but don’t take their word for it. Make sure you find the actual weight of the bag printed on the sales tag.  A carry-on should be less than 10 lbs. A lot of lightweight bags are soft-sided which is great for stuffing the bag into a small overhead bin space.  If you tend to travel with items that could be easily damaged, then go with a harder side piece of luggage.

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Carry On Bags

The carry on bag…it was supposed to make our lives easier and avoid fees but it’s become such a pain in the rear.  I blame the airlines and their inconsistent regulations.  So here are a few things you need to know to get the one that will work best for you.

  • The airlines control this size not the TSA, so just because you got passed security doesn’t mean your bag is compliant with the airline’s regulations.
  • The ugly truth:  Not all overhead bin space is the same (not airline to airline or even plane to plane) of the same airline.  That’s why all carry on luggage states that it fits in the overhead bins on most planes.
  • Measurements:  What airlines will allow ranges from 45 linear inches up to 55.  Delta, United and American being stingy and Virgin and Southwest being very generous.  So if you fly mostly Southwest then don’t go with a 45” bag.  (Hot tip: The bag I fly with is 48 ½ inches and it has always fit in the major (stingy) airline bins)
  • The wheels:  Now that you know the smallest carry on size is 45 inches you also need to know how the luggage industry measures the bag.  Those measurements only refer to the container itself NOT the two to three inches the wheels use up and this could possibly make the difference of you fitting your bag in or not.  I always look for bags where the wheels are slightly embedded in the case itself not “up on roller skates.”  It keeps the bag closer to its true measurements and protects the wheels from being damaged or ripped off.
  • 4 Wheels vs. 2:  Travel purists may shun the 4 spinner wheel bag as for amateurs but when you walk onto a plane, spin the bag to its narrowest side and effortlessly roll down the aisle without spilling your $7 double caramel soy latte.  You’ll be a believer too.
  • Pockets: Whoever thought more pockets the better on luggage obviously has never found themselves on the floor of an airport panic stricken searching for their boarding pass and passport.  I want only two pockets on the front of my bag: one shallow, one deep.  The deep pocket is perfect for a magazine I’ll want handy during my trip and the shallow one is for anything I might need in 2 seconds…and freak out if I can’t find.  Compartments on the inside are excellent for separating stuff but remember whoever designed this might not pack like you pack.  I like to keep these simple and want luggage to be an empty vessel so I can use it as I wish with no obstructions.

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Things That Always Seem to Break

Luggage is like a car. Before you buy you have to kick the tires, check under the hood, take it out for a spin.  Especially check the things that usually break when you need them the most: wheels, straps/handles and zippers. Make sure you visually check the seams, stitching and hardware.

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Construction and Durability

Many times I’m asked to give advice on the best materials for durability and ease of travel.  Typically there are four elements to consider: frame, fabric, and waterproofing. If the bag has an inner frame, look for fiberglass which provides strength but is very lightweight.  If you are choosing fabric, choose a light and sturdy fabric such as ballistic nylon.  Waterproofing is important too, look for DuraGuard® fabric protector coating.

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Stand-Out Style

Just say no to black luggage! A few years ago I introduced my favorite color, canary yellow for a few of my bags (did I mention I have a luggage line?) and it sold out immediately. Last year was the dawning of the age of colorful and stylish luggage and I couldn’t be happier.  Hard case luggage has taken this to a new level with incredible designs that become movable art.  People do notice the bag you travel with and who knows you may get an upgrade from an airline or hotel clerk just because they like your style.

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Brands and Warranties

Some brands have a reputation for standing behind the quality and durability of their bags.  Briggs and Riley has a lifetime guarantee that will repair you luggage free of charge for life.  Tumi has a five-year warranty that gives you full worry free protection in the first year and covers defects in years two through five.  TravelPro and Victorinox (limited number of collections) both have limited lifetime warranty.  A lot of warranties I’ve seen are for defects in materials or workmanship not how a baggage handler has ripped it to shreds.  To me that means you would have to make a pretty strong case it was an original defect if a wheel popped off during travel.  Take the time to consider warranty in your decision but don’t let it be the deciding factor unless you are the type that will follow up on every warranty repair.

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What’s the one thing you look for in luggage that is a must-have?  What’s your favorite brand?  Or least favorite?

More from Samantha Brown:

Cruise Tips: 7 Things To Do Before You Leave

6 Things I Always Bring on a Plane

10 Travel Mistakes I Always Make

My Airport Survival Guide

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CLICK HERE: Samantha Brown on Amazon

22 Comments

  1. Sherri Lorenz March 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    My favorite is the canary yellow Samantha Brown luggage I purchased last year. I have three pieces, and LOVE them. I actually had an overweight bag because I could get so much in my large wheeled suitcase. You did an awesome job on the design, it works well!

  2. Vicky Mull March 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    I am obsessed with Samantha Brown luggage and have purchased every set she has had on HSN!! I travel on business quite frequently and am constantly asked about my beautiful luggage. I have all sizes and most colors and also many of the beautiful accessory pieces. I hope to see some of the yellow luggage pieces return as I would purchase that as well. Hope Samantha will be back on HSN soon.

  3. karla April 4, 2013 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Hello samantha! Great to see you on hsn! Wanted to share with your ladies that if they want chick glamour and durability then they need to. Purchase the printed cabin bag and tote! I have the solid black and its hot! Love this set! Great fabric! My sons in navy and I took it to his graduation. The things you can get into it! Thank you! Congratulations on all that you are and do. And the answer to your 10 minutes to yourself shape up. Salsa!! Free style. Like zumba. It works! Have fun! I’m pron am ballroom salsa dancer of 13 yrs and that’s my 10 minute workout.

  4. Ernie April 7, 2013 at 12:29 am - Reply

    I hope Samantha Brown Weekender City Bag will have a male or at least a manly version for men. I love you Sam!

  5. Juliann April 7, 2013 at 8:01 am - Reply

    I just saw the yellow luggage on HSN and can’t wait to buy it. Ironically, I’m on a trip right now, so have to wait til I get back. But on my next trip, I’ll be stylin’! :)

  6. Denise April 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    I always look for stack and roll combo’s…I just purchased your Clay cabin set and it is beautiful but does not stack …wish it did. Maybe you can make that change in your next round of luggage. Love your “Peace of mind” pocket concept. It’s a winner.
    Love it Sam.

  7. Bruce Welker May 1, 2013 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    I try to find luggage in unusual colors to make them easier to spot on the caousel. Too many times I have seen someone pick up my bag, because it looks just like theirs.

  8. Kimberly May 14, 2013 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    I love your luggage on HSN! But I need a 24″-25″ bag. Do you plan to sell any this size?

  9. Michelle Willis June 9, 2013 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Samantha, I recently purchased your purple alligator 2-piece carry-on set with the doctor’s bag. I traveled to LA for Mother’s Day and I loved it. I want to know when will the 28 or 27-inch bag in purple be available again? I need it for longer trips? Hurry ’cause I am traveling several times this summer and I need it. I luv ya, girl! Keep it up!

  10. Donna July 13, 2013 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Hi Samantha, I have your luggage and I just LOVE it!! It went to Sweden and Denmark with me and I got a ton of complements on it, and those Scandinavians know good stuff. I DVR all the luggage shows so I don’t miss the new stuff. I would love it if you would do a wheeled backpack – I want to travel with my nieces and nephews who travel with backpacks, but I want something with panache and citified, not something schleppy and student looking, eventhough it’s a backpack! Plus your pocket placement is inspired and I think you would do justice to something like a backpack. Keep up the great work!!

  11. Ranelle DuPont July 24, 2013 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Samantha,

    Please make all your wallet selections in matching luggage colors.

    Also, please bring bag your printed luggage in other colors besides red.

    LOVE your luggage.

  12. Phyllis Stinson August 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    My daughter and I are loving the croc embossed luggage. She has the aqua and I have the sea glass. I’m looking to add to my set. Any chance of getting the 21 and 1/2 inch spinner and/or the doctors tote? It was great to see you on HSN.

  13. Janice Asuncion August 30, 2013 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    Hi Samantha!
    When are you going to be back on HSN? I have and love your burgundy croco underseater and 21″ piece. I get so many compliments on my luggage every time I travel! My daughter has been trying to steal the underseater because it is the perfect size to carry on a plane. I planned on getting her one for Christmas but there are no more on HSN? Will the stock be replenished soon?

  14. Rosemary Barici November 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    Several years ago I bought my dad your carryon luggage that had Dr bag that slipped on top of the carry on. The bags were navy material with brown trim. Do you still carry this style? I bought from HSN

  15. Lisa Seaberg February 14, 2014 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    My husband and I really miss ALL of your shows on the Travel Channel..we used to DVR every show that you were apart of. Travel is our passion and we absolutely go away/abroad for the 2 weeks that we have off a year. LOVED ALL of your tips, advice and funny sense of humor. Best wishes to you, your husband and adorable twins!

  16. Brave Tran February 25, 2014 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    I love your blog, I wish many topic same as this. It good for backpacker as me.

  17. Smichel May 1, 2014 at 12:34 am - Reply

    Good and proper considerations, I’m more on the construction and durability and stand-out style type.

  18. Johna28 May 14, 2014 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    I really enjoy the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

  19. Mark May 15, 2014 at 4:13 am - Reply

    My personal best is Briggs & Riley Torq, it is durable, quality, easy to move around, I don’t have one bad thing to say about it.

  20. Shane July 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    I agree I would really love for you to come up with a line of luggage for men or take what you have an make it more masculine. I love the idea of all your bags but they are a bit to feminine. Love to listen to you.

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