Saturday, January 3, 2009

Luggage for Frequent Travelers

The airlines are brutal on luggage. If you are a frequent international traveler like I am, it is really disheartening to see what just one trip can do to your luggage. With the stricter weight limits, you need to have light weight luggage, but it would be nice to have something durable as well.

Two years ago, we got up early on Black Friday to go to Kohls to get a really cheap luggage set. Not only was this a colossal mistake because Black Friday brings out the worst in humanity, but the luggage was trashed after one flight. We've continued to use it, but every trip brings new holes and shattered plastic on the inside. We have to wonder if the bag is going to hold together every time we take a trip.

You can buy luggage in a variety of price ranges but it all tends to look the same. The PX has a very limited selection and it is not that cheap, so we wanted to get some new bags for Curt to take back to Korea tomorrow. He already has two long trips scheduled for January so he needs some more reliable bags. I did some research online to see the best reviewed suitcases and a few recurring comments came up:

1. Avoid the 5-piece cheap luggage sets available at discount stores unless you will primarily be using the bags for car trips and only a few airline trips.

2. Choose bags made from ballistic nylon instead of polyester. I have a bag from college that is one its last legs but it has lasted at least 10 years. I think it is made of nylon instead of polyester. One review used a butter knife to stab luggage and it went through on some bags. The ones we got at Kohls would have definitely failed the butter knife test.

3. Avoid bags with designer names on them because they are usually poorly made and can also attract thieves.

4. Spinner bags did not get good reviews.

5. It is worth spending more on luggage if you are a frequent traveler. Briggs and Riley was mentioned as long lasting luggage with a great warranty and customer service. Travelpro was mentioned as a decent lower-end luggage.

We went to Macy's today because they carry Travelpro. They also had Samsonite and a few other brands. We found some Pathfinder bags on clearance which ended up being cheaper than the Travelpro. The original price of each bag was $460. Crazy. It might be worth it if they really do last, but I don't have $920 to spend on luggage. They were marked down to about $80 a bag and we had a coupon for 15% off on top of that. It was more expensive than the 5-piece cheapo sets we've been buying, but affordable enough for our experiment. If they work out, we will keep an eye out for more sales to get more bags. Luggage tends to be put on sale periodically.

Anyone have any favorite luggage brands?

*Update: The Pathfinder bags are awesome! High quality. Great compartments and divisions. Smooth gliding as you pull them. Easy touch one finger expansion feature.They have been on 7 international trips (Curt's return to Korea after Chistmas and then 3 roundtrips after that) and are holding up very well.

I bought one hard-sided Heys and several Delsey Helium Breeze bags. I bought them at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. It is hard to tell what you are getting because not all the tags are on and not all tags say all the information you need. I didn;t buy any Samsonite because no Samonsite bag said what material they were made of. There are several quality levels in each luggage line and they look and the names sound very similar, so you have to be careful. The Heys and Delsey bags have done well on this first trip, but there aren't as nice as the Pathfinders. I still don't think you should ever pay $460 for a suitcase, but if you are rolling in money or you find them on sale for under $200 a bag, I would highly recommend them.


Connie said...

A couple years ago we had to switch out our old heavy-duty luggage (Ricardo brand, still in awesome shape after 5-6 years of heavy use, so it was a shame) for more light-weight luggage. We looked all over - the kids HATED it - and finally found some good Samsonite spinner luggage at a JC Penney. We've had 1 and a half big R&R's with the 3 pieces we bought (we bought pieces, not a set) and they still look mostly new. Here's the most similar piece I can find - link.
This spinner brand has proved AWESOME so far, better than most wheels - even the Ricardos we had and they were good. They are also very very light, but very sturdy. I would recommend a size smaller than the 30" - they hold a lot! even without unzipping the expander - and it is easy to overpack.

Mama Seoul said...

That is interesting that you like the spinner wheels. I found lots of reviews saying negative things about spinners.

Just got back from dropping Curt off at the airport so we'll get the report on our new luggage's first flight.

I want to get two more bags, probably 26". Good to have recommendations. Samsonite is easy to find.

Connie said...

We looked all over for luggage! A lot of the spinners were very cheap and crappy. Kinda like a lot of the cheapo in-line wheels back when wheeled luggage became common... wheels constantly snapped off! The wheels on our Samsonite are sturdy and set in to the bottom a bit, so are more protected from abuse. So far, they have held up well. Hard to keep the kids from wanting to ride on the darn things - they are that sturdy and easy to roll! Actually, it is pretty cool that a 5yo can truly help handle a fully packed 30" suitcase... you know how it can get in lines ;-p

Julian said...

I like HEYS. I have the 4WD XL ones in red and they have survived the brutal airport baggage treatment. The standard combo locks turned out to be crap and I have to replace them.

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