What I Learned About Luggage from Working at a Luggage Store

6 years ago I worked at two separate luggage company stores in New York state for over a year. It was a random job I picked up to just fill in the gap while I found my “real job”. I knew zero about luggages and didn’t care before then either. It turns out purchasing luggage can get complicated and expensive.

This was before I discovered that I wanted to travel long-term. At the store, I met people from all over the world coming in wanting to know if certain pieces would fit as a carry-on, weight restrictions for airlines, and liquid restrictions. Little did I know I was learning all of this for a much bigger plan years later.

Many of you are backpackers but at some point you might need actual luggage. Maybe for a business meeting, family travel, or weekend trips. Whatever the case may be, these are some tips on choose the best luggage from what I learned working at the stores.

Weight Is Everything

Most of my decisions in choosing a good piece of luggage is dependable on weight. I want my luggage to be as light and as small as possible. I don’t want to have to pay an extra $50 because of the extra weight and I don’t want to have to lug around a heavy bag since I’m constantly moving around. In the luggage industry, weight and durability are probably the single most important factors in terms of competition. Many of the top quality luggages pride themselves in light weight and durability.

4 Wheels

Personally, I hate four wheeled luggages. The added weight of two extra wheels isn’t worth it for me. If any one of those wheels break off, the whole thing becomes useless. Each of those four wheels are dependable on each other and if one breaks off then it becomes impossible to balance. While you might be taking good care of your luggage, you have no idea what’s happening to it on the outside once you check it in. They can be pretty rough with the bags so you never really know if your bag might come out with a missing wheel.

Luggage handling

Hardside Luggage

Hardside luggage is typically heavier than fabric luggage so you’ll never find me with one of these. They do however have a bit more durability than fabric. I found though that most people who use hardside, don’t need it at all and end up just putting clothes in their luggage and put their delicate stuff in their carry-on. Polycarbonate shells or ABS would be your best bet. They are normally very prone to cracks and scratches and in the long run may require more repair services.

I recommend checking out Rimowa.

Casing

I found most of the cheaper luggages have a soft backside. This might be something you never thought about but next time you buy a set, check the backside. I prefer a hard backside for durability but it does add on some extra weight.

Briggs and Riley Bag - Photo by Robert S. Donovan on Flickr (Creative Commons)

Briggs and Riley Bag – Photo by Robert S. Donovan on Flickr (Creative Commons)

Quality. Not Style.

There’s a lot of brands to choose from. Pretty colors should be the last thing you should be looking at but it’s what many customers look at first.

Size

I had a lot of customers come in complaining that their luggage was not carry-on despite the bag saying it’s for carry-ons. International and domestic flights have different regulations and in most cases, international flights have a smaller allowance for carry-ons. Check with your airline before you go purchasing a bag that says carry-on when it’s not for your particular airline or flight.

My Recommendations

Briggs and Riley is by far my favorite brand in luggage. It’s quality luggage and their warranty is top notch. In second I’d say Travelpro is good and cheaper. Victorinox Swiss Army (which I currently own) is pretty good but I feel so much of it you’re paying for the brand name than the actual quality. I’m not really huge fans of Samsonite or Tumi.

There’s some affiliate links in there. Everything mentioned is my real personal opinion.
Support me by purchasing here if you’d like but know that you’re not being tricked and never will be.

26 Comments

  1. Jeff Broman on June 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    The bag I use depends on where I am going.  On domestic trips I use my trusty Travelpro roll on.  On International trips I always use my backpack.

  2. Jeff Broman on June 8, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    The bag I use depends on where I am going.  On domestic trips I use my trusty Travelpro roll on.  On International trips I always use my backpack.

  3. Durant Imboden on June 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    I have both a TravelPro and a Briggs & Riley (same size–22″), and the TravelPro has been more durable. The screws worked their way out of the Briggs & Riley’s sliding expansion mechanism, and on a trip to Munich, one of the spring-loaded wheels came off. (The airline paid for the repair, which involved replacing both wheels since the repair service didn’t have Briggs & Riley parts.) 

    On the other hand, I do prefer the Briggs & Riley’s simple boxlike design to the TravelPro’s, and the sliding, rigid expansion mechanism is a great concept. Either bag does the job: I’ve loaded both up with books, press kits. etc., and on occasion I’ve put a bottle in the middle of my clothing with no dire results. (Both the TravelPro and the Briggs & Riley have fully-reinforced surrounds, unlike cheaper bags that often use a simple metal hoop in lieu of a frame.)

    • Michael on June 13, 2012 at 10:23 am

      You should try contacting Briggs & Riley about that. I know they have a lifetime warranty which they seem to be popular for.

  4. Durant Imboden on June 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    I have both a TravelPro and a Briggs & Riley (same size–22″), and the TravelPro has been more durable. The screws worked their way out of the Briggs & Riley’s sliding expansion mechanism, and on a trip to Munich, one of the spring-loaded wheels came off. (The airline paid for the repair, which involved replacing both wheels since the repair service didn’t have Briggs & Riley parts.) 

    On the other hand, I do prefer the Briggs & Riley’s simple boxlike design to the TravelPro’s, and the sliding, rigid expansion mechanism is a great concept. Either bag does the job: I’ve loaded both up with books, press kits. etc., and on occasion I’ve put a bottle in the middle of my clothing with no dire results. (Both the TravelPro and the Briggs & Riley have fully-reinforced surrounds, unlike cheaper bags that often use a simple metal hoop in lieu of a frame.)

    • Michael on June 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

      You should try contacting Briggs & Riley about that. I know they have a lifetime warranty which they seem to be popular for.

  5. Reinier italy travel on June 10, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I use Samsonite fabric when traveling back to my native land, with wheels and tug handle as we are permited to bring as much as 40 kg.

  6. Reinier italy travel on June 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I use Samsonite fabric when traveling back to my native land, with wheels and tug handle as we are permited to bring as much as 40 kg.

  7. ☺ roy marvelous. on June 11, 2012 at 7:01 am

    I use Samsonite for my carry on and love it actually. As for checked luggage, I’m still looking for the elusive perfect one. Right now I’ve settled on a cheap, super-light soft-casing one. It’s actually worked out well – after 3 long-haul flights, it fell apart. But the airline I was on actually replaced it with a new one! 

  8. roy marvelous ϟ on June 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

    I use Samsonite for my carry on and love it actually. As for checked luggage, I’m still looking for the elusive perfect one. Right now I’ve settled on a cheap, super-light soft-casing one. It’s actually worked out well – after 3 long-haul flights, it fell apart. But the airline I was on actually replaced it with a new one! 

  9. Florine on June 14, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Quite useful, indeed… There is nothing worse than the “surprise! you need to pay an extra $100 because your luggage is over-weighted!”. (It reminds me of bad memories here…)

  10. Florine on June 14, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Quite useful, indeed… There is nothing worse than the “surprise! you need to pay an extra $100 because your luggage is over-weighted!”. (It reminds me of bad memories here…)

  11. Famous destinations on June 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Who would have thought buying luggage can be that complicated.

  12. Famous destinations on June 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Who would have thought buying luggage can be that complicated.

  13. Kenyatalii on June 25, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Thanks for the insights.  I agree with you on the kind of bags and luggage that one may need varies especially if  I may need to have a business meeting as well as adventure.  Great insight on your articles. Asante. 

  14. Kenyatalii on June 25, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Thanks for the insights.  I agree with you on the kind of bags and luggage that one may need varies especially if  I may need to have a business meeting as well as adventure.  Great insight on your articles. Asante. 

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  16. Ashish Bhardwaj on April 27, 2013 at 2:03 am

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  17. Kevin Thomas on June 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I used to travel to Mexico and Central America with up to 3 pieces of luggage, yikes!!! After countless cut hands, sore shoulders, and heat sweltering days of dragging bags I’m down to 1 piece of lite luggage and 1 carry-on for my devices.

    P.S. I have been using the same American Tourister bag for the past 6 years, it’s been through some rough stuff, but still rolling.

  18. Kevin Thomas on June 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I used to travel to Mexico and Central America with up to 3 pieces of luggage, yikes!!! After countless cut hands, sore shoulders, and heat sweltering days of dragging bags I’m down to 1 piece of lite luggage and 1 carry-on for my devices.

    P.S. I have been using the same American Tourister bag for the past 6 years, it’s been through some rough stuff, but still rolling.

  19. mandaj812 on March 4, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Would you suggest getting hardside luggage to prevent the transfer of bed bugs?

    • Michael on March 4, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten bed bugs. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Don’t choose your luggage based on the off chance you’ll get bed bugs.

  20. Cruz Peinado on August 19, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    How much wealth do you have? That’s my question? What is your net worth? What is your R score? What is your PRI? What is your S factor?These are simple numbers to indicate if you are financially free?

  21. Amirah Mari on October 8, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    I’m getting ready to move overseas…and thinking about investing in a couple of new suitcases to ease my transfer. What I have now has lasted awhile, but the bags themselves are quite heavy & uncomfortable to lug around. I realize I can’t take everything I own, but I need something that will fit my things, be light weight, durable, and easy to move around. (I’m 5’2). I’ve read & read but having a tough time making a decision. Any advice/recommendations? Thank you for your post!

  22. bigim on May 15, 2016 at 12:44 am

    I bought a luggage set via telephone in my country. Their selling it on tv. Its a swiss military polycabonate luggage set. 24″ and 20″ luggage with ordinary boston bag for 180$. But i was disappointed that it was not swiss made but made in china.

  23. jayson dollosa on August 31, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    i bought a american tourister luggage with four wheels then i put 23kg. of my things inside but suddenly i found that the wheels is not spining because of the weight, any suggestion sir to fix my problem? even i remove other things inside but still the wheels not spining.

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