Choosing your luggage is an important decision, it determines how easy it is for you to travel and how much stuff you can take. You will want to choose it based on durability, size, transportability and security. The most important of these are:
- Durability and quality: Remember the Samsonite Gorilla commercials? All luggage takes a beating and it pays to get good quality.
- Size: take into account airline carry-one and maximum size limits. You should pack light so think carry-on bag only.
- Transportability: You will be carrying around your luggage so you will want it to be portable - again think about packing light and only taking a carry-on. If you aren’t going with a carry-on then think wheels.
- Security: There are thieves everywhere so make sure you can lock your bag either with a built-in lock or a padlock.
Your choice in luggage comes down to several general types of luggage: hard-sided, soft-sided, backpacks and dufflebag:
Hard-sided luggage is more durable, but much heavier (almost 10 pounds more). Good for a business trip, but not good if you are on the move.
Soft-sided luggage is more flexible in packing stuff in and fitting it into small places and is our recommended type of luggage if you want to take a suitcase. Ballistic nylon luggage is a great choice for durability and practicality. You will also want to check if the luggage is waterproof.
Backpacks are still the most practical way of carrying around your gear on a long trip. When you travel, your backpack will become your home from which you live. It will either make your trip easier and pleasant or it will be a cause of frustration and pain, or both. Choose your backpack after thorough research and many, many different fittings. It is definitely worth the effort. More information can be found in our special section on choosing a backpack.
For all of these types of luggage, keep in mind the following tips:
- Leather is not a very good choice for luggage. Although it looks great - it is very susceptible to mold and mildew and is generally heavier then most other materials. If you are traveling to a humid part of the world, definitely avoid leather.
- For hard-sided and soft-sided wheeled luggage, make sure they are sturdy, roll well and are spaced far enough apart so your suitcase is not prone to tipping over.
- For any travel you will also want bring along a day pack.
Before September 11th in America there was a general “45 inch” rule that was a good guideline for what airlines would accept as a carry-on bag. Now, all rules are under review and the gate and x-ray staff can impose restrictions on what can be taken on-board. So it is best to call to the airline for specifics of their current carry-on policy.
That said, the following “rules of thumb” are a good guideline of luggage size and weight allowances.
Most U.S. domestic airlines will allow a baggage allowance of three pieces (combined checked and carry-on baggage). Based on recommendations made by a DOT task force, the FAA has announced that all airline passengers will now be limited to just one carry-on bag and one personal item onboard all domestic flights. International flights may sometimes cut down the total baggage allowance to two pieces.
Carry-on baggage: must fit under the seat or in an overhead compartment. A good rule of thumb for most airlines is 45 linear inches (the total of the height, width, and depth of the bag) and weigh no more than 40 pounds (18 kg). Note: however, some The “45-inch” rule given above will satisfy most dimension-based regulations; a more conservative guideline is “multiples of seven” (i.e., no bigger than 7 x 14 x 21 inches).
How do you determine the total dimension of a carry-on or checked baggage? Simple - all you do is add Length + Width + Height = Total dimensions. 45” in total dimension is the standard or general dimension allowed on most planes. For example, If your bag is 10” x 15” x 20” the overall dimension is 45”.
Certain international airlines have very restrictive maximum weight allowances. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Quantas, and Singapore Airlines have weight maximums for carry-on as low as 11 pounds!.
After September 11th, the following items are no longer allowed to be carried onboard: Any cutting instruments or devices (including ice picks, straight razors, scissors, nail files and of course knives or box-cutters), corkscrews, baseball/softball bats, golf clubs, pool cues, ski poles or hockey sticks.
Checked baggage: Should generally not exceed a linear dimension (length+width+height) of 62” and a weight of 70 lbs. (each piece). Additional pieces of checked baggage may have lighter and smaller restrictions.
Most airlines will allow oversize or overweight baggage or additional baggage for an additional fee which varies depending on the situation. Please contact a particular airline or visit their homepage for further information.
Note: These guidelines can change at any time and this guide should only be used as guidelines to help you prepare or plan a trip. Always confirm this information with your travel agent or directly with the airline.