6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage

6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage

I get this question all the time: What should I consider when buying luggage?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have my own luggage line carried exclusively by HSN. I designed unique gear that looks great and overcomes some common shortcomings.  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 when buying luggage, plus 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. How I travel is probably very different from how you travel.

Here are some tips to ensure the 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? It’s easy to over-pack a large suitcase and end up crushing the 50 lb. limit. Overweight fees are worse than taxes, so make sure the bag isn’t heavy when it’s empty.

Bags are often marketed as “lightweight”, 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.

6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage

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. Here are a few things you need to know to get the one that will work best for you.

  • Size Matters: The airlines control this size, not the TSA. 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. 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.
  • Four wheels vs. Two:  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 “the 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 only want 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.

6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage

Things That Always Seem to Break

Luggage is like a car. Before you buy you have to kick the tires, check under the hood, and take it out for a spin. Pay close attention to 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.

6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage


Construction and Durability

I’m often 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.

6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage


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.

6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage

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 your 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. 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.

6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage

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

Like this post? Save it on Pinterest!

6 Things to Consider When Buying Luggage

Shop Samantha Brown

CLICK HERE: Samantha Brown on Amazon

60 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. Lafleche Masse April 30, 2013 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    Samantha, I am in need of the 28″ purple/brown luggage. Went on HSN and they’re out. Will you be on there soon and will this item be available again? Thanks, That is the only missing piece I need.

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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!

  11. 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!!

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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

  16. Joy January 30, 2014 at 12:35 am - Reply

    Please bring back the navy blue tweed 28″ suitcase from your HSN line. I have the rest of the set and love it! It’s looks so classy and keeps me incredibly organized. I want to finish my collection.

  17. Denise T February 6, 2014 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Sam, You are such a fantastic entertaining and wholesome individual. I recently purchased your Tweed carry on luggage, the underseater, duffle bag, roller carry-on and the big tote. I also had to have the passport wallet to match. The only piece I did not get was the 28″ check bag. Only because I was worried about the rough handling the baggage people give our bags. The luggage is so very pretty in the Burgundy. It looks so rich and sophisticated. I will be traveling to Louisiana next week and on a cruise in March, your bags will be with me. I have decided I will attempt to travel with a lighter load and use carry-ons for the majority of my trips. I
    ‘m looking to simplify traveling. I have always taken to much i the past and found I was returning with things I never even unpacked at my destination. So I’m paring back. 🙂
    Your carryons should do the trick.
    Would love some tips on solo traveling for the older traveler. I find I will be doing more trips alone in the future and at 63 want to know the best places for safe and enjoyable travel. Thanks for all you do,and looking forward to 1st birthday photos of the twins. Regards, Dee

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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

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

  22. 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.

  23. Trudi June 1, 2014 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    I went to buy a buy a set of your turquoise Embossed, the color is gone in all your styles, did you discontinue it disappointed!!!

  24. 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.

  25. Dominique October 7, 2014 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Love this incredible website, great information here, would
    have been a little bit sceptical about acquiring a steam shower unit for our house having said that the content here sorted my mind out, brilliant
    thank you

  26. Chris October 18, 2014 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    Will you ever bring back the turquoise underseater? I keep checking!!!

  27. Ardena November 14, 2014 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Samantha, Please bring back the canary yellow luggage!

  28. Troy November 28, 2014 at 4:33 am - Reply

    1. Go to onebag. com and learn how to fly with the least amount of luggage.
    2. Buy a decent backpack that fits most airline regulations.
    3. Travel without worry.

    Btw, who the hell spends $7 on a “double caramel soy latte”?

  29. mimi December 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Hi Samantha , Love everything about you and your luggage line. Any chance that you might bring back your Aqua colored luggage? i just missed buying it the last time you had it on HSN .It is such an uplifting color ,I think it is so refreshing in the dingy airports. i’ll be traveling to south Florida frequently and would love to have the aqua fo put me in the tropical vacation mood! Any chance of an international size of 20″ carry on? The last time I went to europe I had a 21″ and they gave me a rough time about carrying it on! I need this aqua luggage to keep a smile on my face with all the regulations and rules that airlines are putting on us! Thanks for your beautiful personality and luggage!

  30. vicki jackson January 2, 2015 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    I love your luggage. Please bring back the 25in in Tangerine please. I really need it to complete my set. You brought the 28in back on hsn and I grabbed it quick, but no luck with the 25in.

  31. Becky Mitchell April 7, 2015 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Do you have a 4 piece collection in the crocodile with the 28″,25″,21″ and dowel bag? When is your next presentation on HSN?

  32. lori July 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE bring back more of your croco 3 piece luggage sets. Missed your show on HSN and th navy is sold out!!!

  33. Doris Baldwin July 7, 2015 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Please, please, please make more of the embossed ombre 28″ and 25″ in black and white. I purchased the carry on set but the larger sizes were so limited that I could not get them. Will buy both as soon as they are available. Truly love this luggage.

  34. Cathy Foley July 7, 2015 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    I need the Dowel bag in Burgundy. I love the set but am missing this piece! Can I get it separately???

  35. Ann Murray July 25, 2015 at 10:45 am - Reply

    Senior citizen short in stature. Overhead compartments very difficult to reach, thus need to check bag on airplane. That leaves me having to carry my wonderful doctor’s bag thru airports…sometimes can be a very long walk.

    Has any thought been given to a tote similar to doctor’s bag (I.e. would have peace of mind pocket and could piggy back) but could also roll. That might be an engineering impossibility, but if it could be done it would be so helpful.

    Also, as so many have expressed in the past, an underseater with four wheels and if possible a peace of mind pocket would be great.

    Keep up the good work!

  36. elaine moncrief July 27, 2015 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    I am very much in need of the Aqua croco luggage to come back…. I need the 28 inch to match the rest of my luggage I have searched everywhere and can’t find that color. I got the set when you had on HSN never had a need for 28 inch but now that we are taking cruises I can pack everything in there and just take 1 bag

  37. Adele August 22, 2015 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Really need to buy just a bag that fits on top of my croc bugundy underseater with wheels . I can not seem to buy one just by its self made by Samantha Brown . How can I get one ?

  38. Renita October 9, 2015 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    I just started using Sam’s Lugg and I love it I have the burgundy underseater and just bought the matching 28″ piece. I also just purchased the burgundy hard side in 24″ and 28″ as a gift but wanted to know if anyone knew anything about it. This was my first time seeing the hard side and wandered how well does it hold up before I actually give it away . Would someone please let me know. Thank you

  39. Debbie October 10, 2015 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    The telescope handle on my 21″ upright will not retract. Where can I get replacement part? The luggage repair stores told me they have nothing that is compatible.

  40. ROZ mandelcorn November 17, 2015 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    the question is: SAMANTHA, does ALL of your luggage meet your own recommendations? for example, you advocate spinners for carry-on…but your carry-on underseaters only have 2 wheels, NOT the SPINNERS YOU RECOMMEND. what of the fabrics? how wheels are embedded into the luggage etc??? also PLEASE STATE WHAT SIZE LAPTOP YOUR UNDERSEATERS WILL ACCOMODATE? i have 14-15″ AND MUST have onboard plane. i so want to buy your luggage but i worry they dont meet your recommendations.

  41. Gina February 24, 2016 at 10:08 am - Reply

    I bought your luggage and it ripped within 2 months. Who do I contact for a warranty replacement?

  42. Jacqueline Sciotto February 24, 2016 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    I purchased the Ombre Collection 3 Pc Spinner Set and the 28″ Upright Spinner (Black and White) via HSN. When it arrived I was thrilled ~ it is beautiful!.
    I was quickly extremely disappointed. There is a chemical odor so strong I packed it back up and put it in the garage. It was literally permeating my entire condo.
    The next day, I unpacked it again, placed it on my screen porch for the entire day to air it out. Then, placed it back in the garage opened up for 5 days, to continue airing it out. It still smells.
    I was surprised to find on the tag a statement regarding the CA Prop 65 Warming: “This product contains chemicals known to the State of CA to cause cancer, or birth defects or other reproductive harm”.
    My trip is this weekend and I am sad to say I cannot risk my clothes smelling like this luggage when I unpack.
    Do you have a recommendation about how to remove the chemical smell. And, I would really like your explanation of the warning statement and whether this is a real concern when using your luggage.
    If there is no viable solution, then I will need to return the luggage.
    Thank you.

  43. Pam Sich March 2, 2016 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    LOVE my carry on, but handle won’t retract. I see others have had the same problem. What do I do?

  44. LINDA JOHNSON March 4, 2016 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    On 7/29/15 I purchased 28″ Houndstooth Expandable Spinner luggage. I had no luggage at the time so when I saw the preview on HSN I was too excited. Went on my cruise in January, 2016. I am a senior citizen and Ms.Brown I had the hardest time with the so-called spinner wheels. They didn’t spin at all. I had to pull it, and going over carpet was unheard of(at the hotel). I called HSN when I returned and of course they referred me to the company’s customer service (Eric Anton). Being so upset with these non-spinning wheels, I asked for a reimbursement. He informed me there was a process I had to go through, firstly, I needed to return said item for repair, or have it repaired myself and receive reimbursement. Pray tell who repairs wheels on luggage? Anyway, repair will not solve the problem. I seemingly am stuck with this pretty piece of luggage, and am traveling again in May, 2016. I am unable to use this piece because of the hardship I suffered on my cruise. Please help me solve this problem. I would like to add that the wheels are entirely too small for the 28″ luggage. Thank you for any assistance you can give me.

  45. Lois Childs March 15, 2016 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    I have your 2 piece Tweed travel set, tan. It works fine and I get many complements, especially from flight attendants!
    There’s just 1 problem. The wheeled carry-on weighs 15 lbs empty. Hawaiian Airline charges for carry-ons weighing more than 25 lbs so we got nabbed on that.

  46. marie forrest March 16, 2016 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    I own the ClassicCollection and absolutely love it. One of the flight attendants fell in love with the ‘doctor’ bag. Unfortunately on my last trip, while going through TSA screening, one of the handles broke on my ‘doctor’ bag. It must have got caught somewhere in the xray machine. I am heartbroken. Can it be purchased separately??

  47. Mary Byl March 17, 2016 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    I bought your black/grey basket weave carry on luggage with tote from Amazon. IM MISSING THE BLACK COVER TO protect THE CARRY ON. Can I order one? Please advise. Thank you. Mary

  48. Allie Madison March 24, 2016 at 7:46 am - Reply

    The maximum bag size could use some clarification. The 45″ inches (or whatever) means the sum of the length, width, and height. Generally, what’s sold as a 22″ bag is about it, although people try to drag as much onboard as they possibly can.

  49. Melissa Barber March 24, 2016 at 10:55 am - Reply

    I have the purple Crocodile set. I purchased it in 2009. I love it and get lots of compliments on it. Yes, I was channel surfing and saw Samantha and had to stop and see what was going on!! Lol!! So glad I did!!

  50. angel bustamante March 30, 2016 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Sammantha Brown sells her products as strong and durable but after purchasing a wallet of hers that tore at the seams after only a couple of months. Her home site does not have any warranty information. Making her claims of durability invalid.

  51. marie forrest April 6, 2016 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Does anyone from this site monitor these comments? I and others have asked questions with no answers. Please advise.

  52. Susan V April 17, 2016 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Your luggage is v pretty and I so wish I felt comfortable using it, but the dowel tote I got in a set broke before I got out of the house. This is marginally better then breaking when I got to the airport but leaves me v concerned about traveling with something this delicate. Mi called HSN and they gave me a phone number that is not answered. Sigh.

  53. Suzan April 23, 2016 at 3:38 am - Reply

    HSN is very good on their return/replacement policies. If your item is not up to YOUR standard, or it breaks/tares under normal use, they’ll usually exchange the item or refund your money back as long as you have the return label no matter what the return-by-date is. The retun-by-date is really for those items that were purchsed and then you changed your mind. I love my Croco set. The underseater I use for my gym bag and get lots of compliments. For those having problems with their luggage, the best thing to do is call HSN. ps…..If you don’t have the shipping label, they’ll send you another one.

  54. Shannon Kitchen May 4, 2016 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I suggest always looking to see if it has a handle on the bottom between the wheels. A lot of them do. It will lengthen the life of your wheels. As a ramp agent, I grab bag after bag coming off the belt loader when unloading the plane. I need two opposing areas my hand can grip on the bag especially if it is large or heavy so as not to lose my grip and drop it. I will grab the wheels if nothing else is available. These bags are coming down one after the other at a fast clip so I gave a fraction of a second to get a good grip and pick it up. I always try to handle it well but this little addition will help immensely!

  55. Mary May 14, 2016 at 1:02 am - Reply

    I purchased your three piece lavender croc set in brown trim. I would love to get the 28 Inch piece to add to my collection. Will you be offering that color again for purchase?

  56. Cynthia Seitz May 14, 2016 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    I would like to see the underseater bag work like the dowel bag along with the 22 inch suitcase with wheels. This would make it a more manly type bag. My husband and I travel and it would be so nice if he could have something that is convenient for him to take on the plane. Please make a men’s verson of what you sold on HSN today!

  57. carla williamson May 17, 2016 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    Just got my new luggage in the burgundy. My question is what is the warning mean-the CA prop 65?
    Does this mean handling or the smell causes cancer?

  58. carla williamson May 20, 2016 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Hey still waiting can I get some info. Now paranoid about using the luggage

Leave A Response