Welcome, and thanks for stopping by my humble review site. Before we go any further I’d just like to say a few words about myself. I’m not a professional reviewer. I don’t get paid by luggage manufacturers to write pretty words about their bags and I don’t have any ‘skin in the game’. That is, I don’t own stock in a luggage manufacturing company or own a luggage retail outlet. What I am is a guy who took early retirement a few years back and decided to spend as much time as possible living out my adolescent dream of traveling to distant lands. That’s about it. My wife of 28 years, Patty, is my constant companion on these adventures and we plan to continue living life on the road as long as our bodies will allow.
That said I decided to start this site after spending more time than I’d like to admit hacking my way through the forest of online luggage reviews trying to find versatile, high-quality bags that wouldn’t break my bank but would stand the test of time. Most reviewers however, seemed more concerned with hyping certain products than providing honest insight and helpful information. Now I have nothing against marketing, some of my best friends are marketers. But few things get my dander up quite like a review that purports to be unbiased but is actually little more than a thinly veiled (paid) plug for this product or that. So let me state up front that’s not what you’ll get here. On this site I’m all about providing useful, free, unbiased information.
Value over Price
The best values in luggage, duffle bags and garment bags are typically found in the $200 to $400 range with anything above that likely being overkill. After all, who is looking for a bag that will outlive them? Durability is great but unless there’s a chance my progeny could one day in the distant future make a killing with my bag on Antiques Roadshow then what’s the point of getting a second mortgage just to buy something to hold dirty socks?
Finding The Best Luggage Sets For You
Finding the right piece of luggage is not an event, it’s a process. A process that starts with a very simple question: “What do I need?” While Patty might say I need hair transplants and an attitude adjustment we’re talking about luggage here so I’ll try to stay on point. In short, to answer the question “What do I need?” ask yourself a few other questions first.
- Do I Need a Luggage Set? – Luggage sets typically come with 2 to 6 pieces that range from small carry-on bags to jumbo-sized creations that double as studio apartments. Seriously though, sets can be purchased in one fell swoop or acquired piece by piece until you have all the components. The how though is not as important as the why in this case. That is: “Why do I need a luggage set?” If you don’t, move on.
- Do I Usually Travel Light? – Some folks are born to travel light. Others, not so much. Which one are you? If you are the type who packs a change of clothes and map then you are halfway toward determining what type of bag you should have. Also, if you are a light traveler chances are you don’t need your smallish carry-on to have a hard shell. Soft shell bags are easier to squeeze into those crowded overhead compartments and typically have extra storage pockets on the exterior to hold your travel related ephemera.
- How Much am I Willing to Spend? – Finding a really serviceable piece of luggage for less than $200 isn’t easy. But that doesn’t mean they’re not out there (and I’ll review a couple of them below). At the end of the day you need to decide how much you’re willing to spend. If you don’t typically travel a lot you might want to just get the cheapest bag you can find. If, however, like Patty and myself you head out for parts unknown with regularity you’ll definitely want to invest in something more substantial.
- Am I a Wheeler or a Carrier? – The age-old tradition of throwing out your back while slogging through the airport with your 120 lb bag is largely a thing of the past. Most people today prefer wheels although 2-wheel hard shell bags are gradually but certainly giving way to 4-wheel bags that can be wheeled in an upright position. Still, if you’re like me you’re something of a pig-headed traditionalist (Patty’s words) who prefers to sling it and wing it.
- Have I Considered Alternatives? – Most folks default to 2 or 4-wheeled hard-shell bags but in fact a good number of them would be better off with something like a backpack or duffle bag. They’re not going to be checking into the Hotel Raphael in Paris at $500+ per night. They’re heading for that perfectly serviceable mom and pop 2-star job in the Latin Quarter so there’s no need to keep up appearances.
- How Important are Looks? – For some folks being seen traveling is as important as traveling itself. They want to know that when people behold them in the airport they look their best from their shoes to their hairstyle to the bag they’re rolling next to them. If this is you you’ll want a bag that speaks to your tastes. You’ll also want to consider weight since there’s nothing sexy about struggling to move a really heavy bag.
Important Things on Wheels And Off
While my quest to find the best luggage set out there is hardly the thing of legend it has nonetheless been rewarding in its own way and yielded a number of surprises. Until I began researching the topic I never in my wildest dreams imagined there was such a variety of luggage available to the contemporary traveler or that there was such a difference in quality between pieces that were often really close in price and appearance. But live and learn. Here are pieces of luggage, both individually and collectively in sets, that I found to be the best value on the market today:
If you need to take more than a single piece of luggage with you on your next sojourn you’ll find the 3 piece Tasmania Traveler’s Choice Luggage Set to be the perfect traveling companions. Easy on the eye and easy to maneuver through crowded terminals the Traveler’s Choice 3 piece set have handles on both top and sides and 4 dual spinner wheels. The top handles telescope and self-lock for added convenience. The tough, polycarbonate outer shell will protect your belongings from the most indifferent baggage handlers and the toughest environmental conditions and can also be expanded to provide 25% more space when you need it.
The number and variety of cute duffle bags on the market is mind-blowing so narrowing things down to a clear favorite was not easy. But at the end of the day both Patty and I agreed that the Target TLS Mother Lode eBags stood out from the crowd for their combination of outstanding design (both outside and in) versatility and price. The eBags are logically organized, flexible where they need to be but durable as all get-out and able to withstand whatever the cargo hold has in store. The Mother Lode Junior is also compact enough to carry on most flights.
Crossbody bags are one travel item that won’t set you back an arm and a leg yet are indispensable, especially for moms traveling with young kids. Versatility, functionality, durability and style are all considerations when you’re spending days and weeks shuffling through airport terminals and hotel lobbies. With that in mind we feel that the RFID Double Dutch Cross-body Bag is your best choice. Lightweight, practical and polished the Double Dutch has just the right balance of structure and looks. When you exit the terminal toss it over your shoulder and it becomes your safe, stylish purse.
Some things endure for a reason and Samsonite luggage is one of those things. Their Aspire GR8 Garment Bag is a heady mixture of practical and stylish and will provide everything the high-end businessperson needs from their suit bag. With enough structural integrity to keep your 3 piece from getting crushed and enough style to say you know where you’re going the GR8 can double as a full on suitcase when that’s what the situation demands. Inside it sports an integrated hanger system that will accommodate multiple suits and logically laid out pockets for shoes and toiletries so you can leave the dopp kit at home.
The Delsey Helium Aero Spinner has looks and style to beat the band. Each Helium Aero has a dial lock built into the suitcase that ensures no busy-body baggage handlers are going to rummage through your personal belongings. The fact that there’s no key to lose is a huge plus as is the Aero’s expandability. Not every hard-shell piece of luggage has the expanding function so to find it in a piece that’s so attractive and functional is a pleasant surprise to say the least. You can pick up a single piece of Aero luggage at a time until you have the whole set. There’ll be no stopping you then!
The American Tourister Luggage is a real steal at under $100. With the styling cues you’d expect from Cole and top of the line durability it’s hard to justify buying any other single hard-shell bag. The Reaction has 4 independent spinner wheels, flexible top and side handles and side bezels that allow you to set the Reaction down in a more traditional manner. The Reaction is flexibility personified (if a bag can be personified). This bag has the looks and versatility of more expensive bags and the convenience of everyday carry-ons. If you have one mid-sized back in your luggage collection make it this one.
For our pick of best 3 piece luggage set we return to Rockland Melbourne whose Winfield 2 Fashion 3 Piece Set is a winner at any price. Extremely lightweight with space age design cues and a tough 100% polycarbonate shell the Winfield 2 luggage set gets your essentials to the destination in style and safety. That safety comes courtesy of the TSA approved combination locks that not only prevent unwanted invasions of privacy but do so without the hassle of a key that could get lost. The interior of each piece is fully lined and has cross straps and zippered pockets to ensure things stay organized.
The Olympia Rolling Duffle bag is designed with usability in mind. As its name implies it has 8 conveniently located pockets of varying size to accommodate all your accessories from T-shirts and socks to diaries and iPads. There’s no need to worry about being too precious with the Olympia it’s been engineered using supreme polyester so scuffing and scratching is not in the cards. The in-line wheel system and hideaway retractable handle make transporting the Olympia through crowded terminals a breeze and the U-shaped upper access point makes packing and unpacking a hassle free experience.
Carry on luggage must be between 45 and 51 linear inches. Linear inches are determined by adding together the length, width and depth of your bag. In most cases carry on bags cannot exceed 40 pounds and you must allow them to be thoroughly checked by security before boarding your plane. It is forbidden to stow laptops in your carry on until they have already passed through security due to regulations that state it must be placed by itself on the x-ray belt along with things like keys, shoes and the like. As for checked luggage each piece must be 62 linear inches or smaller and weigh less than 50 pounds. Should your bag exceed 62 linear inches or 50 pounds you will incur additional fees that may vary depending on the airline.
Duffle bags run the gamut from cutsey-wutsey to formidably stylish. Because duffles occupy a kind of grey area in the luggage universe they’ve attracted a lot of attention lately so below we’ll take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of these workhorses of the luggage world.
- Lots of space – Who can deny it? A duffle bag is one big receptacle for all your travel related items and whether you want to arrange them carefully or toss things in quickly and get going is up to you.
- Durability – Duffle bags are made to take abuse. You can dump them on the x-ray crawler, throw them into the trunk of the taxi, stuff them rudely into a crowded overhead compartment and toss them absent-mindedly into your closet to unpack at a later date.
- The nature of the beast – Look, a duffle bag is a duffle bag and no matter if Giorgio Armani himself designed it it’s still a duffle bag.
- Wrinkle free? I think not – If you absolutely want to ensure your outfits get to the hotel in London in the same well-pressed state they were in when you packed them a duffle bag may not be for you.
Note: Some folks won’t take a duffle bag on a plane. Personally I think that’s more than a little silly. If you’re going to get on your trans-Atlantic flight wearing a t-shirt and jeans why should you get all highbrow about your bag? Use a duffle bag if it seems like the right choice.
What You Should Know About Brands Before Buying
The luggage industry is swamped with cheap knockoffs built in faraway sweatshops. So perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind about name brand luggage is that it may not actually be name brand luggage. And if you try to get on a flight in a Western country with a counterfeit bag you could be in for a very unpleasant surprise. In order to ensure your brand name luggage is really brand name luggage make sure you always buy from a reputable retailer and not some tiny shop in a hidden corner of a mall in a major third world city. Keep in mind also that brand name designers don’t actually design inexpensive brand name luggage. They license their name to the manufacturer contingent upon the manufacturer meeting certain design and fabrication guidelines that ensure the brand won’t be brought into disrepute.
The Bottom Line
Luggage is one of those things that most everyone uses but few people give much thought to. However, since the quality of your vacation or the success of your business trip is in many ways dependent on the quality of your luggage you should always think carefully before purchasing luggage whether online or in person at a retail store.I hope this short guide has helped you get a better idea of what is out there, which pieces represent a true value and how to determine which is the right piece of luggage for you. As I said at the outset I’m not a professional product reviewer, I’m just a guy who’s trying to help. The fact is you don’t need to be a professional to know quality when you see it. You just need to be able to blind yourself to the marketing and see things for what they really are. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back for future reviews and updates.