Airline Luggage and Suitcases

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Luggage Brands: There are many trusted travel luggage brands, such as American Tourister, Samsonite, Atlantic, Eagle Creek, Hartmann, Briggs & Riley, Travelpro, and Tumi with our providers. It is convenient to use larger-sized travel luggage for long trips, while keeping your luggage sizes smaller for shorter trips. You can buy a full luggage set that includes suitcases, carry-ons, and garment bags in a variety of sizes to suit multiple sorts of trips.

Tips for Selecting the Right Luggage

Not all airline luggage is created equal. Even luggage bags of a similar type vary tremendously from manufacturer to manufacturer, so when you're buying one you should always look closely at how it's made. Here are some things to check:

1. Frame - Fiberglass inner frames ensure both strength and light weight. Aluminum and durable plastic luggage frames also provide sturdiness and light weight. Inner structures may also be made of wood, durable molded plastic compounds, or any combination of the above. Always be wary of how heavy airline luggage will be. Frame materials are often listed on the airline luggage tag; your luggage salesperson should also be able to tell you what they are.

2. Construction - On cases with zippers, look for taped seams, in which a strip of cloth reinforces the zipper and bag connection; this prevents fraying. On the outside of the luggage bag, joints should be covered with leather, nylon piping, welts to reinforce the seams and absorb wear and tear. Also, seams should be lockstitched -- a method in which each stitch is reinforced, or locked, to stay in place and stand alone. This way, if one stitch happens to break, it won't take the next one with it and unravel your seam.

3. Fabric - Fabric is important. Leather luggage often is too heavy for today's airplane luggage weight limits. In general, heavier fabrics protect your belongings better and stand up better punctures and tearing stresses. Popular these days are ballistic nylon and Cordura nylon. Ballistic nylon is a bit more expensive but worth it. But Cordura and Cordura Plus cost less and are still pretty sturdy. Nylon luggage should be a minimum 400 denier, woven in a tight construction. Look for a ballistic weave that is more resistant to tearing. Tweed and brocade bags may appear sturdier than nylon bags, but they have less resistance to tearing or slashing and have significant weight. Discount luggage may use inferior fabrics. There are some other unusual fabrics that are perfect for the traveler concerned about the environment. These include fabric woven from hemp as well as Fortrel EcoSpun, a strong material made from recycled plastic bottles.

4. Waterproofing - The best all-around fabric is a Cordura or ballistic nylon with a waterproof seal -- most luggage bags are not waterproofed on the outside, but treated on the inside with a moisture-resisting sealant. Check the tags on the luggage for information or ask a salesperson about waterproofing. If you require special protection from water for camping, rafting, or some other adventure expedition, then avoid the department stores and buy at a store that specializes in more rugged gear.

5. Zippers - Larger zippers are easier to use and usually last longer than smaller zippers. Zippers should be double-stitched (stitched on both sides of the zipper) and self-repairing or large, very sturdy, and smooth-running. Zippers made of polyester coils that have been woven or sewn to tapes can take a lot of pressure and can be fixed if they pop open. Get luggage with taped seams between the zipper and the bag for less fraying. Zippers may be inferior on discount luggage.

6. Locks - Airlines will break locks if they find they need to inspect your bag. Use at your own risk. However, during most of your vacation or other trip, you presumably will not be on an airplane but sightseeing by foot or by car, staying at a hotel, riding a ferry, dining, etc., so locks are important regardless. Combination locks are especially useful if you tend to lose keys.

7. Handles - Handles that stick out can be bumped, clipped, or stressed by other bags and their handlers during transport. Make sure the handles are recessed so they are not exposed to damage. Be sure to pick up the suitcase, and make sure that it's comfortable in your hand. Most suitcases with wheels are equipped with a telescoping handle that pulls out of the case when needed. Be sure the handle is sturdy, especially if you plan to hang a briefcase or tote bag over it.

8. Straps and Webbing - Shoulder straps for duffels and garment bags should be made of wide material (webbing) and should be padded where they rest on your shoulders. Make sure the straps are well-stitched into the bag. For duffel bags, choose one with a shoulder strap in addition to two center handles. See if the duffel hangs well from your shoulder, and see if it seems unwieldy when held by its handle.

On pullmans, notice where the handles are placed. It is helpful to have both side and top handles, for easier portability. It's equally important for the straps of travel packs to be padded, because they will be resting on your shoulders for long periods of time. Look for a padded waist or hip strap as well, to steady and center the bag on your body. All straps should be adjustable for height and weight.

9. Wheels - The best wheels have a wide track, a bearing system, and are recessed into the actual frame of the bag to prevent them being clipped. The wheels should be spaced as wide apart as possible for balance. Large, sturdy in-line-skate wheels provide the ultimate in rollability and performance. Insist on smooth-rolling wheels that are firmly bolted in place.

10. Carts - If your bag lacks wheels, you might look for cart to wheel your bag around the airport.

Luggage Types

Hard-sided suitcases: Hard-sided travel suitcases have wheels, locks, and pull straps and are especially durable against wear and tear. Many are constructed of plastic, metal, or other molded materials or combinations thereof. Some are covered in an exterior fabric. The chief drawback is weight.

Semi-soft suitcases: Lightweight semi-soft travel suitcases offer more room for expansion than other types of suitcases and most have wheels and straps for easy transport.

Soft-sided suitcases: Light and expandable soft-sided suitcases have zipper closures and stiffeners instead of an interior framework.

Duffle bags: These are large and will carry a lot of clothes and accessories. Since they do not have a frame, they will not be immune to potential damage during transits. For general travelers, duffle bags have the drawback that they do not work for organizing your clothing. Duffle bags are more useful when you will be lodging long-term at one location during your trip and using bureaus and drawers to store belongings when you arrive. Modern duffle bags often come with handles and wheels to ease maneuverability.

Garment bags and carriers: Use garment bags to transport suits, dresses, and other special clothes on hangers. Garment bags can hold two to four items and are typically available in 40- to 60-inch lengths. Look for models that have two straps that crisscross over the top half of the clothing as well as a center strap. These keep your garments from sliding around and wrinkling.

In garment bags, pay special attention to the brackets that hold the clothes hangers in place. Some bags come with two brackets, which allow you to form alternative layers of clothing and cuts down on wrinkles. The hook that you'll hang the bag from should be well secured when not in use: Does it retract into the bag, snap tight to the bag, or dangle uselessly? Is the hook itself strong or flimsy? Remember that it must bear the weight of the entire bag when hung in a closet. Also consider the clothes hangers. Are there enough of them? Or can you use your own? It's handiest if you can move your garments straight from your closet into the bag, without having to switch hangers.

Remove wrinkles from clothes with a garment steamer.

Carry On Luggage: Carry-on luggage is small enough to stow under an airplane seat, usually less than 22 inches in size. Carry-on luggage is available in hard, semi-soft, or soft varieties.

Business/Attache Cases: These are designed to carry your laptop computer, important papers and, sometimes, an overnight change of clothes.

Totes and casual bags: Simple tote bags in every size are ideal for day trips and other casual outings. More elaborate models feature pockets and shoulder straps.

Backpacks: For day trips and hikes, these are ideal. For plane rides, if you are traveling light, a backpack may occasionally make sense as a carry-on, but it is not designed to withstand the beating it may take in the luggage compartment and loading or unloading of a plane.

Carry-on baggage

Most airlines allow at least one (1) piece of standard carry-on baggage and one (1) personal item. Carry-on baggage should not exceed 8" x 16" x 21" (21 cm x 40 cm x 54 cm) and the weight should not exceed 10 kg (22 lbs). Sample carry-on items include small bags and small suitcases, briefcases, laptop computer bags, diaper bags, camera cases, etc. Most check-in locations provide a sizing unit where you can double-check that your carry-on luggage mets the size requirements.

Checked baggage

Most airlines permit two (2) pieces of checked baggage per customer. Many US carriers will charge an extra fee for a luggage bag or suitcase that exceeds 50 lbs (22.7 kg). Meanwhile, some European carriers set those limits lower, at 44 lbs (20 kg). Some airlines restrict pieces of checked baggage to a maximum of 70 lbs (32 kg) even with fees and 62" (158 cm) in overall dimensions (height + width + depth).

Fees may be charged for baggage, up to a maximum number of pieces, in excess of the allowable limit and for special items such as bicycles, ski poles, and surfboards. Please check with each airline on your itinerary for their applicable fees and restrictions.

General packing tips:

Weights / Sizes: Airlines often strictly enforcing maximum checked baggage and carry-on baggage allowances. You may need to check with the airline directly if you are unsure of the size and weight limits for each airline on your itinerary. Be sure before packing a suitcase. Valuables & Medicines: Do not pack valuable items or important medicines in checked luggage. Money, laptop computers, jewelry, cameras, electronic files, and other items of high importance should be kept in a carry-on bag, preferably in a bag small enough to stow under a seat.

Destination Tags: When checking in luggage, make sure that the airline tag on your checked luggage is for the correct destination. Every piece of checked luggage should have a three-letter airport identifier that should match your destination airport. If you are unsure of the three-letter code, ask the ticket agent. Importantly, make sure you have removed all old airline tags from previous trips or directions of travel.

Luggage Stubs: Make sure that you keep the stub from your checked luggage. This stub is a critical document that will be needed if your luggage is lost by the airline or if you are trying to prove that you own a piece of luggage.

Cords / Straps. Do not wrap bungee cords, ties, straps or similar luggage accessory items around baggage.

Attach identification tags to the inside and outside of the bag, giving destination as well as home address and phone numbers. This should be performed for each back, including your carry-on luggage, just in case you are forced to check that bag at the last minute or someone with an identical bag to yours accidentally removes yours from an overhead bin at the end of the trip.

Customize the look of your bag to make it easy to identify. Because there may be many bags with a similar design on a flight, customize the bag to make it easy to spot on a baggage carousel. This will also help prevent another passenger from taking your bag by mistake.

Baby supplies: Passengers may continue to bring aboard baby formula, breast milk and baby food in small containers when travelling with a baby or a small child two years of age or under. Prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger's ticket, insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines are allowed.

Other items are permitted neither in carry-on nor checked baggage. These include strike-anywhere matches, lighter fluid, nail polish remover, and some alcohol products. For details on the requirements of particular airlines, please check with your airline: Airline contacts.

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