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I love to travel. Whether it be to an exotic destination if I’m going on a dream vacation. Or a business trip to the city to finalize a big deal. Travel is exciting.
However, there are a few things which take the shine off travel for me. Top of the list has got to be luggage problems. Which is saying something given that this ranks higher than delays, upset stomachs, and grumpy cab drivers! I’ve had a whole range of luggage ‘challenges’ in my time. Whether it be wonky wheels, security locks that won’t open, or “Airline Approved Carry On Luggage” that (a) won’t fit in the overhead lockers and (b) isn’t actually approved by the airline that I’m traveling with today. Sigh…
So, I thought I’d do a bit of research on the luggage brands to avoid. Turns out there’s quite a few! But there’s also some really good brands. We’ll take a look at one of these and also answer a few common questions about luggage.
The brand to choose: Coolife
First up, it comes in 4 different color options – for me, it’s the Caribbean Blue, but maybe that’s just because I’d like to go to the Caribbean? It also comes in 3 different sizes – 20”, 24” and 28”. A great feature of the 28” suitcase is that it can be expanded with the zipper to add an additional 15% extra volume – fantastic if you went a little wild in the holiday shops.
On the outside there’s a tough plastic shell and a built-in TSA lock, to keep your dirty laundry safe and secure. All of which sits on top of 4 quiet wheels – a massive bonus. I always think that squeaky luggage wheels must drive airport staff insane.
As one reviewer on Amazon says – “Sweet little suitcase” Read more+
Should I lock my luggage when flying internationally?
I always think that locking your luggage is a great idea, as it makes it much harder for opportunistic thieves to dig about through your gear at the airport. Locks are also good for holding your zippers closed so that they don’t work their way open and spill all your dirty laundry over the baggage carousel. Even when you’re at your destination they can be really useful for deterring hostel roommates or light-fingered housemaids.
Just popping a padlock on your luggage won’t guarantee that your gear will stay safe. It’s also not particularly difficult to cut open a soft bag. However, locks do discourage casual robbers, and hopefully, they will move over to find easier bags. Even with a lock, you should always keep your valuables with you in your carry-on bag and not in your checked suitcase. Airlines will usually not accept any liability for the loss of expensive things like jewelry or electronics.
If you choose to lock your luggage, then it’s a good idea to go for a TSA-approved lock, such as this one. TSA agents have master keys that let them open all types of TSA-approved locks, if they decide that your suitcase needs further screening. Bags that have a non-TSA lock will just have the lock cut off.
How to measure luggage weight?
Airlines are becoming more and more stringent about how much your luggage weighs, aren’t they? My normal method of checking the weight of my suitcase used to be by using my bathroom scales. Stand on the scales and weigh yourself (this is ‘A’), hold your bag and weigh yourself (this is ‘B’). The difference between A and B is the weight of your bag. Grinning, you skip off to the airport, knowing you’re not going to be hit with dreaded excess baggage charges.
That’s fine. But on the way home your bag might be stuffed full of extras: clothes, holiday souvenirs, etc. It’s unlikely that your hotel room will have bathroom scales, so now what do you do?
I hunted round for the best solution to this and decided to get myself one of these. These are compact luggage scales that you can use to weigh your bag before you go away, pop them in your bag, then use them to weigh your bag again before you come home. They will easily pay for themselves if you avoid even one excess weight charge.
How to prevent lost luggage at the airport?
If your baggage gets lost it can really start the shine of a vacation or trip. Not only are you left with only the clothes that you’re standing up in, but you also have the stress of filling out claim forms, and waiting…and waiting in the hope that your lost bag might eventually turn up.
So, what are some of the best ways to avoid this happening on your travels? Well, the best and only guaranteed way, is to pack everything in a carry-on. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily practical if you’re going for a longer trip. I’ve done some research and pulled together the following advice from seasoned travelers for how to prevent your bag from going AWOL.
1. Check-in as early as possible
The earlier you can check in the better. It takes time to process your luggage through the airport and on to the plane. If you check in late, then your bag may not have time to complete this route before the plane leaves and it will end up on the next flight (or just disappear into Baggage Hell never to be seen again.
2. Put a copy of your travel itinerary in your suitcase
I love this one. The idea is that travel tags attached to the outside of bags can easily be ripped off, leaving the bag with no identification. In order to reunite lost bags, airline staff will usually open bags to try and find contact details. If you have a copy of these and your travel plans inside in an obvious place, then this will make their job easier, and your bag can be returned to you faster.
3. How about shipping your bags instead?
Not as crazy as it might sound, particularly if you have a larger quantity of luggage. The costs can be similar and you can get your suitcase shipped to the hotel in advance, so you know it’s arrived. It also means that you don’t have to lug heavy bags around the airport yourself, which can be a big benefit for seniors, or if you’re traveling with younger kids.
4. Take photos of your bag and belongings
If your bag does get lost in transit, then having photos of it will be a massive help. Take photos of your luggage from various angles, plus the baggage reclaim ticket. Also take some photos of the contents of your luggage, as this will be useful in the event that you have to make an insurance claim.
5. How to personalize your luggage?
Personalizing your suitcase can help you spot it easy and fast on the carousel, ensuring you can collect it before any opportunistic thieves have a chance to swipe your dirty laundry. One great way to do this is with a brightly coloured luggage strap. This has the added benefit of stopping your suitcase flying open if a zip should come loose.
How to protect luggage from damage?
In my travels, I’ve found a few great ways of protecting my luggage from knocks and scrapes in transit.
The easiest is to wrap your suitcase in shrink wrap / cling film after you’ve finished packing it. This not only protects it from damage, but also keeps opportunist thieves from taking a look inside. It’s really easy to do and very cheap – one roll of shrink wrap will do quite a few pieces of luggage. The downside is that if you forget to put something in your bag, then you’ll have to completely unwrap and re-wrap it. But it’s still cheap to do. TSA agents are allowed to unwrap bags for inspection and aren’t obliged to re-wrap them – but at least you’ll know if they’ve been inspecting it.
If you like the idea of shrink wrap, but don’t want the hassle of doing it yourself, then many airports have this service available for a fee.
Another clever way of getting people to take more care with your luggage is to buy ‘Fragile’ stickers like this and stick a few to your luggage. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a really cost-effective method. As a bonus, it also makes your luggage a bit more recognizable.
How to protect luggage from theft
There are some simple steps that you can take to stop your baggage from being stolen at the airport:
- Make sure you keep your luggage close to you at all times. You can also pop one of your bag straps round your arm or leg, so it can’t be snatched easily
- Keep an eye on them at all times
- Lock them with a TSA-approved padlock
- Get off the airplane quickly and head straight for the baggage carousel – don’t dawdle and let your suitcase go round and round, like an open invitation
How to choose luggage bags
If you’re looking to buy a new suitcase, consider the following best practice tips to choose the right one for you.
a) What size suitcase do I need for 2 weeks?
Luggage with enough room for 15 days’ worth of gear needs to be larger and more robust than one for occasional short-stay trips. It also depends on whether or not you are traveling by plane or by train or some other means of transport. There are many types of bags for air travel that are limited to a specific size and weight. Other forms of transport can have more flexibility and probably won’t restrict your baggage to a particular size or weight.
It’s also a matter of style and taste; some folk prefer backpacks or travel holdalls rather than suitcases and some prefer the style over function. Either way, it’s highly recommended to decide what you need your luggage for so you can choose a good one to suit your needs taking into account the points below.
b) With wheels or without wheels?
More controversial than you might think! On the one hand, those little wheels and extending handles mean that you don’t have to carry the weight on your shoulder, but on the other, they add extra weight to your suitcase. They can also slightly reduce the internal space available. If you choose to have luggage with wheels, then there are several types to choose from: two-wheel systems to four castor wheels and other more advanced rolling technologies.
c) Hard or soft luggage for international travel?
Again, whichever you choose has its pros and cons. Hard suitcases give better protection for your gear but they do weigh more, will tend to be bigger and, because they’re not flexible, it can sometimes be difficult to fit them into tight luggage compartments. Soft suitcases provide less protection for your luggage. But they weigh less, tend to offer more flexible storage space and are often easier to fit into small compartments or tight spaces.
d) Cabin suitcase or check-in?
The weight and dimensions of your suitcase are critical if you travel by air. Every airline will have its own restrictions. If your luggage meets these, then you should be able to carry your bag in the cabin without having to pay extra cost. If not, you would have to check your bag in for travel in the cargo and pay the extra cost.
Always check with the airline that you’re traveling with on their luggage restrictions, before you turn up at the airport.
One thing that can make packing a smaller suitcase easier are compression packing cubes like these.
e) Other things to watch out for
Many good suitcase brands offer multi-year guarantees, spare parts, and other additional features, so it can really pay off in the long run to invest initially in a top-quality suitcase.
The construction materials are reflected in the strength and durability of the suitcase. For example, many rigid cases are made from Polycarbonate, which is lightweight and will tend to deform rather than break. So it can regain its shape if pressed from inside the dent.
Many cheap or less well-known brand suitcases will often have better prices, but will usually also use low quality/weak materials (which could break earlier) or heavier materials (adding more to the weight of your luggage).
Luggage Brands To Avoid
Based on my research, I would suggest steering clear of these brands.
Reviewers talk about rollers coming off and the fabric tearing as it drags along the floor.
It’s also only got one giant compartment, so it’s not a very versatile piece of luggage. Read more+
It certainly looks sturdy, but there seem to be question marks over its durability (as can be seen from the customer review photos). Read more+
Reviews mention the fabric quickly ripping, the zippers breaking, and the noisy wheels. Read more+
This expandable trolley bag from Biaggi is certainly light and spacious. Unfortunately, it appears to be unbalanced so that it tips over (not great if you have a laptop or other tech stored inside). It also seems to have an issue with the structural wiring coming loose. Read more+
I love to travel. But luggage problems can really take the shine off it. I hope my research has helped answer a few questions you’ve always wanted to ask about suitcases and baggage and steered you clear of some of the brands that seem to get poor customer reviews.
The Coolife suitcase is our top pick for its sturdiness and range of sizes. It’s a great choice that will take your luggage in safety for many years. Safe travels!
**The reviews in our articles are based on customer reviews, star ratings, and online complaints. Therefore ThisButNotThat are in no way liable**