Best baggage

Making the best of your baggage

Tim Takeoff
4 pictures
4 minutes

We’re all familiar with the sight of travellers encumbered with heavy suitcases, numerous rucksacks and carrier bags staggering through the terminal. Fearing potential “sudden” weather changes during their summer holiday, they have, of course, armed themselves with the entire contents of their bedroom wardrobe. The result? Their luggage has become an instrument of torture.

But is it really necessary? As you cram your almost forgotten swimming trunks into your hand luggage for the return journey, squeezing out the last remaining inch of air in the process, beads of sweat break out on your forehead. After all, all those souvenirs have got to get home, too!

While there’s never a perfect solution, making a few clever changes to the basics could make life considerably easier.

The suitcase

Let’s start by choosing your luggage. Theoretically, you can never go wrong with having a large suitcase to hand for all trips longer than two nights. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that it needs to be unwieldy or bulky.

After all, few people know that there are maximum dimensions for checked baggage – the maximum intercontinental dimensions are 158 cm (length x width x height). To ensure that you don’t end up paying a fortune in excess baggage fees at the check-in desk for a trip to the USA, for example, you’ll need to do your homework in advance.

You can, however, turn your suitcase’s size to your advantage if you choose your hand luggage carefully. Some kinds of hand luggage have special attachments that fit over a suitcase’s telescoping handle, enabling you to stack your bag on top of your case to form a single stable unit.

Assuming, of course, that your suitcase fulfils several characteristics. Top of my personal list is a model with four high-quality, easy-rolling, solid casters; the kind of bag that can be manoeuvred upright at your side with one hand.

There is a huge amount of choice when it comes to manufacturers, with both designer and generic brands producing models which fulfil this requirement. Of course, the more upmarket brands come with guarantees and can be repaired at facilities in most of the world’s airports if a wheel or zip gives up the ghost. Which model you choose depends on how often you travel and how long you want your new suitcase to last.

Baggage: elegant, practical, or both?

In addition to your suitcase’s dimensions, you also need to consider its material. An aluminium suitcase always has a certain stylish charm due to the patina of dents it acquires over the years, but this is often outweighed (literally) by its weight. For many national – and international – flights, the magical threshold of 20 kilos per piece of checked luggage applies – and is usually exceeded on the return journey, if not before.

Help comes in the shape of fabric suitcases or modern polycarbonate models. Compared to their aluminium counterparts, these will often save you between two and four kilos.

Whereas fabric will eventually fail, plastic suitcases are often equipped to face the roughest encounters with overly motivated loading crews. Impact and crush resistance are the key qualities here. During rainy conditions, too, a polycarbonate or aluminium suitcase can often protect its contents for considerably longer.

If you have a little hook on the outside of your suitcase, you can even hang your last-minute purchases conveniently on the outside before your flight leaves. Then all you have to do is personalise your case by adding an attractive sticker to make it easily recognisable on the conveyor belt, as well as a label stating your name, address and international phone number.

To lock, or not to lock?

As suitcases are opened for random routine checks at most airports, it is advisable to use what is known as a TSA luggage lock. These are combination locks which can be opened and closed by airport security staff with a universal key – no force needed. This makes your life –and the lives of the employees tasked with performing these checks – considerably easier.

Say goodbye to the rucksack

My ultimate goal is always to keep one hand free so that I don’t have to keep putting my luggage down. Thanks to its wheels, this “tower” of suitcase and hand luggage can be steered through the terminal with two fingers, leaving nothing in the way of a stress-free stroll to the plane. Envious glances? Guaranteed!

Want more tips for pleasant journeys? How about an article on dealing with jetlag?

Main image Pixabay – JESHOOTScom

by Tim Takeoff

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