I travel a lot. Something I never thought I'd say, because before 2013, I'd never left the USA. Since meeting my British husband, we have traveled a lot to see each other and also since being together. Because I now live in the UK, it's a lot easier (and cheaper!) to see other parts of Europe. I've had the change to visit Paris, the South of France, both mainland Spain and Spanish islands, Italy, Ireland, Bermuda, Amsterdam and more.
Traveling can be one of the best experiences in life. It can also be one of the most stressful. You read a lot of blogs or hear a lot of people's recommendations on where to visit, places to say and where to eat. You even hear a lot of tips and tricks for your plane journey, but I find you hear less about tips and tricks for your luggage. There's some things to think about before those bags are even packed so here it is...
If you're like me, my first piece of luggage was an old hand-me-down from my parents. Meaning I hadn't selected said luggage based on my own likes or preferences. It was great, because I didn't have to shell out any of my own money for it, but there were definitely some things I learned along the way that educated my future luggage purchases.
1. Hard-Shell vs. fabric
Luggage comes in two different types. A hard-shell case or a fabric. Initially, I thought I liked fabric (probably because this is what my hand-me-down was). I thought "I never want a hard-shell case, you can't shove any last minute socks in the outside pocket!" I also thought you could fit a lot more in a fabric case. Well, fast forward to becoming a more experienced traveler and my opinion has changed. I will choose a hard-shell suitcase over a fabric one any day of the week and here's why. When you choose a fabric case to be thrown under the plane, it's going to pick up and hold onto any dirt, dust and whatever else is lurking between conveyer belts, trucks and plane underbellies (even bugs)! They aren't very easy to clean and let's be honest, do you bust out a fabric cleaner on your suitcase on a regular basis? Even if you said yes, there is no way of getting your fabric suitcase totally clean from all dirt and for that reason, I recommend a hard-shell suitcase. I also think a hard-shell case offers your possessions a little extra protection from being thrown around. If you're worried about space, don't be! Most hard-shell cases still have that double zipper that allows you to expand your case ever so slightly.
This is a biggie, especially if you're purchasing your larger "checked" size luggage. We all naturally gravitate to the navy blues, black and even brown when it comes to luggage. Likely because it will hide the look of dirt and wear better. But here's the down side, there's about 50 dark colored suitcases coming off the carousel, you're tired, jet-lagged and just want to get out of the airport but instead your stuck standing there peering at each suitcase, inspecting them for some sign that it may be yours. Save yourself the hassle and go with a color that will stand out more. When it's loaded onto the carousel you'll be able to spot it right away without a doubt if it's yours. This also means there is less of a chance of someone taking off with yours because they mistook it for their own. If you already own said dark colored suitcase and don't have any plans to replace it any time soon, I suggest tying a colorful ribbon or marking it in some way that will signal to you and others that it's yours.
Make sure when you're looking for luggage that you take them for a little test drive around the stores, especially if you're comparing different brands. This is helpful because not all wheels are created equal! Some wheels have the ability to turn 360 degrees while some are in-line meaning they wont spin and rotate when you've suddenly realized you've passed your gate and need to make a sharp turn. I always recommend a wheel that turns 360 degrees. They are easier to pull and won't tip over when pulled to the side. It's also a good idea to crack them open and check out their inside features before buying. While fundamentally they're all the same, there can be subtle differences on the inside that allow for personal preference.
identifying your luggage
Being able to identify your luggage is crucial for a number of reasons. We covered the whole finding it on the carousel thing above but it's not just about being able to find it once it comes off the plane...because sometimes...it doesn't! If you've had a layover or any complications with your flight, it's possible that your luggage won't arrive at your final destination at the same time you do. This has happened to me on a flight home from London to NYC. I approached the lost luggage counter with such naivety. When the woman started asking me what color my luggage was, I suddenly couldn't decide if it was more brown than green or more green than brown. When she asked me the brand name, I had no clue. When she asked me the size, I wasn't sure if it was medium or large. After this encounter, I suddenly realized the importance of being able to identify my luggage if I ever wanted to see it's contents again. If lost, they will also ask you to name a few items in your suitcase so that they can ensure it's indeed yours.
1. Take a picture
It seems silly, but take a picture of all your luggage before you travel. That way you'll be able to describe it accurately and even show them to a lost luggage employee. This will ensure you know the color, maker and size off hand.
2. use a luggage tag
It seems like we all have them but never use them. At some point I'm sure you've been gifted one or maybe it came on your case but you've maybe left it blank. They exist for a reason! Fill those luggage tags in and tie them to your bag! This will help the airline if it's been left behind but also if someone takes your bag by mistake, they'll be able to contact you to make arrangements for returning your bag. It's important, simple and easy so just do it!
3. contact info inside the case
So all that info you just wrote on your luggage tag, write it again but this time on a scrap piece of paper you can place inside your case in one of your zipped pouches. This is really just an extra measure but something I wished I'd done when I was being asked to list things I knew were in my case so that they could confidently identify it as mine. If an airline employee needs to open your bag and for any reason your luggage tag is no longer attached, they will find all of your personal details (name, phone, address) on the inside. You can tell the attendant at lost luggage that this piece of information is located on the inside of your bag and it will help with getting your items back to you.
See the picture for this post? Those are pieces of luggage by a brand called AWAY that my husband got me for Christmas. They are well made, cater to personal preferences but above all they're SMART. What does that mean? That means that my carry on luggage has a charger in it with 3 USB ports which allows me to charge multiple tech devices during layovers. No more worrying about your battery dying during travel or looking for a rouge outlet somewhere in the airport only to be forced to sit on the floor under the water fountain (the working ones always seem to be in the worst places). One thing to note about these "smart" pieces of luggage, a lot of airlines (if not all) require that the battery pack be removeable for safety reasons so before purchasing, make sure this is a feature (FYI Away's battery IS removeable).
Do you have any other helpful tips when it comes to traveling and your luggage? I'd love to hear about them in the comments! Also, be sure to share on your social media for your fellow friends and Pin on Pinterest for later!