The Consummate Traveler: How to Buy the Right Suitcase

August 28, 2014 Updated: August 28, 2014

Finding a great suitcase is a lot like finding a significant other. You may try out many different sizes and types, but once you find the perfect fit, you don’t want to let it go. There are many different materials and price points out there, but if you stay focused on what is important to you, finding the right one is definitely easier. Here is a list of key questions to ponder when shopping for your next suitcase.

1. Size Matters: I would first suggest that you identify what your overall travel plans will look like. Are you mostly doing short business trips or weekend getaways where you don’t want to check-in any bags? Or, will you travel internationally in coach where you will be restricted to 50-pound weight limits? The type of traveler you will be completely drives the size of the bag you will want to shop for. Anything taken into the cabin must be approximately 22″ x 14″ x 9″ (or 56 cm x 35 cm x 23 cm). A good size for easily keeping within the 50 pound limit is a 25″ (or 63.5 cm). If you travel business class, then your weight limit will likely be 70 pounds, and you can get away with a larger bag.

2. Shape: I made a big and expensive mistake once by purchasing a very fancy hardside suitcase. Although it was incredibly lightweight, the shape was totally inappropriate for what I needed. Each side was equal in terms of packing space, so it closed like a book. This made it really hard to shut, and it cut back pretty drastically on how much I could pack into it. What I prefer is to have one side of the suitcase deeper than the other so that I can pack more in.

3. Built-in lock: It is always a bonus to find a suitcase that has a built-in TSA approved lock. This spares you the hassle of fussing with externally attached versions and worrying if you will lose it during your trip.

4. Expandable zipper: As someone who loves to shop and always comes home with souvenirs from any trip, having an expandable zipper is another key feature for me. This is so convenient and gives me peace of mind that a few purchases here and there will not force me to buy another bag to check-in.

5. Weight: It is a good idea to take along a hand-held luggage scale with you when shopping for new luggage. Some bags are heavier than others when empty. This depends on what the frame of the bag is made of. If a super lightweight bag is what you are looking for, be precise and weigh them before making your final choice.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels!