GO away for any longer than a few days and you’ll need one companion who causes you the least possible bother: a suitcase.
But with so many variations in shape, size, weight, material, colour, wheels and locks, where do you start buying something that not only comfortably carries your clothes but withstands the punishment inflicted by baggage handlers, hard terrain such as cobblestones and potential theft.
Here are some tips to make your choice easier.
1. Bigger isn’t always better and, while you might fit most of your wardrobe into a monster 72cm unit, a more compact 62cm case is better. Not only will you clear an airline’s weight limit but the smaller bag will be easier to lift and lug around.
2. The Australian Luggage Co’s director Clint Pearce says Australians regularly default to soft-sided luggage when buying a lightweight suitcase but it’s not always the ideal purchase.
That’s because structure and sturdiness are compromised in the quest for easy lifting.
“Hard-sided trolley cases are generally made from different types of plastic and the best option, financially and structurally, is polycarbonate which is a lightweight plastic with more flex,’’ he says.
“The lower end of hard-sided luggage is known as ABS, which is a cheaper plastic but it’s heavier and more prone to cracking. Polycarbonate luggage costs a little more than the lower-end material but it’s worth the investment in the long run.’’
3. After speculation that Schapelle Corby’s boogie-board bag was covertly crammed with 4kg of cannabis by an airport worker, I only travel with a lockable suitcase. A TSA-approved padlock looped through the tiny rings on each zip’s slider is enough to deter anyone keen to commit a crime of opportunity.
4. Patrick O’Meley, general manager of Sydney’s new Veriu Broadway hotel, says colour is a crucial factor and travellers should go for a bag in a bright colour or loud pattern.
“Not only will it avoid mistaken identity on the baggage carousel, because a conspicuous bright-yellow suitcase is less likely to get stolen at even the most basic airport, but it will also make your bag easily identifiable to concierges,’’ he says.
5. Trafalgar and CostSaver travel director Antonella Perfecto recommends “considering your path before purchase’’.
“The unique cobbled laneways of Europe transport travellers into another century but they can be a pain for those who don’t invest in a sturdy suitcase,” Antonella says.
“I recommend purchasing a hard, four-wheel suitcase with thick and strong wheels and a durable handle.’’
6. Wheeled units make up almost 70 per cent of all suitcases sold these days and the biggest decision is whether to pay for something with two wheels or four.
The advantage of a pair is they sit slightly recessed so are protected from damage, but the energy needed to drag a full load stresses shoulders and backs. A “spinner case’’ with four wheels is easier to manoeuvre and control in a crowd but they do have the tendency to slide away on even the slightest slope.
7. Luxury Gold tour director Daniele Nannetti says the secret to a good suitcase is compartments, which allow travellers to secure incidentals away from larger items stored in the body of the bag.