Traveller’s Tips for Buying New Luggage
I recently came across a blog post on the website of Luggage Direct – an Australian online luggage retailer – where they were reviewing the latest models of the American Tourister travel luggage range. The review was written in response to the announcement that Cristiano Ronaldo had signed on as a brand ambassador for the luggage brand.
But it wasn’t the brand’s association with a famous footballer that caused me to take note – it was the fact that the review contained almost as many negative comments about the luggage models as it did positive comments.
It’s not often that you see a review like that where a retailer is really giving an honest assessment of the pros and cons of the products that they are selling. Usually, reviews by retailers are all hype about the great features of the products they are selling.
That got me thinking about how to give good advice about buying travel luggage, given that most websites associated with luggage brands won’t tell you anything about the shortcomings of a product.
Go For The Highest Quality You Can Afford
In 50 years of travelling I’ve had bags that have lasted me 10-15 years, and others that haven’t even lasted one trip.
The bag that did the most miles was one I bought about 20 years ago. It was a soft-sided Victorinox folding suitpack with inline wheels and a retractable handle. It cost me more than any other bag that I’ve bought but came with a lifetime guarantee.
After about eight years of regular use, the retractable handle got stuck, but Victorinox repaired it free of charge. I stopped using it five years ago because the rubber had peeled off the inline wheels, but the fabric was still in good condition (albeit stained in places) and all the zippers still worked,
The manufacturer would have replaced the wheels for a nominal charge, so I could have still got even more years use out of it, but because of the stains on the fabric, it wasn’t worth spending the money.
Even though the bag was expensive to start with, when I divide the cost by 15, the annual cost of using the bag was way less than buying a cheaper comparable model every few years.
That really is the secret to buying good quality luggage that will last. Go for a bag that is the highest quality that you can afford with the longest warranty period.
Warranty Length Is An Indicator Of Quality
Not many manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty period, but a few still do. Such a warranty doesn’t cover normal wear and tear, but will certainly cover handles that break, or wheels that come off, which are the two major problems with travel luggage – and the most expensive to fix.
The other brand that has served me well is Samsonite. They’ve been around for longer than I’ve been travelling. In terms of quality, it falls somewhere between Victorinox and American Tourister. I’ve still got several of the company’s famous Oyster suitcases tucked away in a storeroom.
My storeroom is also home to a few unknown brand Chinese-made suitcases that I bought in Asian markets for a very cheap price. I bought them only because I needed extra space for bringing back items from overseas trips. In several cases, the bags didn’t even make the trip home without the handle coming off or a zipper bursting.
Cheap travel bags are just not worth the money unless you are intending to use them only once. They may look stylish and sturdy in the market, but at the hands of airline baggage handlers, they don’t last long at all.
There are of course many other brands that sit above and below Samsonite and American Tourister in price and quality. Delsey, Antler and High Sierra are some of the better-known ones.
Stick With Known Brands Wherever Possible
The advantage of going for the known brands is that most of them offer global warranties so that if a new bag suffers a manufacturing defect whilst travelling, you don’t have to wait until you get home to get it fixed.
Looking for a global warranty that is for as long a term as possible is a good strategy when buying a brand that you may not be familiar with. You can be reasonably sure that the longer the warranty, the higher the quality, because manufacturers are only going to give long warranties to bags that they know are going to last the distance.
Other factors to look for when buying a new bag is the quality of the stitching and zippers on soft-sided bags, the quality of the locking mechanisms on hard-sided bags, and the quality of the rivets on leather bags.
Read reviews online where possible before making the final choice of a new bag. Don’t be deterred by bags that are on sale. That doesn’t always mean there are problems with those bags. More often than not it’s because the model has been replaced by a new version or the style hasn’t appealed to other consumers. If you don’t mind travelling with a bag that’s not the latest style, you can find some good deals when retailers start stocking up on new models.
Buying the best quality that you can afford is good advice for any product, but it’s especially true for travel luggage – it’s the well-established long-term value for money principle. Of course, if you want to travel with Louis Vuitton or Hermes luggage then you are going to be paying a premium for the brand, but if you stick with the established luggage brands and avoid those that are spinoffs from the fashion industry, the long-term value for money for argument holds true.
About The Author
David Astley has been travelling internationally for 50 years. During that time he has traversed the globe more than 20 times, travelled to 96 countries, stayed in everything from the most basic backpacker hostels to luxury five-star hotels, and used just about every imaginable form of transport. In 50 years he’s been through about 50 travel bags and I hope you enjoyed his tips on buying luggage that lasts.