There are times when you need a sturdy and secure luggage to protect delicate items on a long-haul flight or to bring back your purchases from successful shopping trips, and times when you need a lightweight cabin-sized luggage that you can easily lift and put in the overhead compartment when you jet off for a short getaway. Let us share with you tips on how to select the perfect luggage for your needs when you go off on your next trip and some of our best picks.
Cabin-sized luggage works well for those on weekend jaunts, short business trips or who just want to save on checked baggage fees.
Airlines vary slightly in cabin baggage restrictions, but a general guide, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata), which represents about 290 airlines or 82 per cent of total air traffic worldwide, is a maximum length of 56cm, width of 46cm and depth of 25cm. These dimensions include wheels, handles and side pockets.
The average traveller should be able to pack five to seven days of clothing into a cabin-sized suitcase, says Ada Yuen, deputy merchandising director at Seager. The Singapore-based company distributes a host of travel brands and owns travel concept stores The Planet Traveller and Boarding Gate.
For those on longer trips, a medium-sized checked suitcase with a length of about 61cm is good for one- to two-week trips and should weigh 15 to 18kg when fully packed. This is well within the 20 to 23kg weight limit per baggage of most airlines.
Those who prefer larger suitcases should note Iata guidelines, which state that the sum of the length, width and height of each checked baggage should not measure more than 158cm.
Soft cases weigh less and can expand to a certain degree. But they are more vulnerable to being cut, pierced or abraded on rough surfaces.
Hard cases made of polycarbonate or aluminium are more durable and offer better protection for your belongings, especially if you are buying fragile items such as wine or condiments in glass jars.
If you are buying a hard case, look for material that is flexible, rather than rigid, as it will absorb shocks better.
When it comes to zippers, look for those with two layers of interlocking teeth, which are more difficult to prise apart with a pen or penknife. Large zippers are usually more durable than smaller ones.
Two-wheeled luggage is lighter and manoeuvres better over uneven ground, such as dirt paths or cobbled streets. The wheels are usually recessed, which offers some protection.
Luggage with four wheels, also known as spinners because the wheels rotate 360 degrees, makes it easier to change direction and navigate through small spaces such as plane aisles. Spinner luggage usually does not have recessed wheels, so look for large and sturdy ones instead.
Most luggage wheels are made of rubber. Ada recommends cleaning and air-drying them after each trip and storing the luggage with a dehumidifier to eliminate moisture and prevent mould. “Treat your luggage as you would a favourite pair of shoes,” she says.
Consider the length of your warranty, what it covers and where you can get help for repairs or a replacement. Most brands offer a two- to five-year warranty for manufacturing defects, but do not cover wear and tear such as damage to the wheels or zips.
Brands such as Eagle Creek and Briggs & Riley, both of which are American, cost more, but offer a lifetime warranty and more extensive coverage. For instance, Briggs & Riley guarantees that it will repair luggage if it is broken or damaged, even if it was caused by an airline.
Meanwhile, Australian luggage start-up July says it will repair or replace luggage defects no matter where in the world they take place.
Every additional feature adds weight to a suitcase, so go for only the ones you need.
If you are bringing both heels and flats on your trip, consider multi-stop handles which work at any height, rather than conventional two- or three-stage ones.
Travelling with a laptop or tablet? Get a suitcase with a zippered external compartment for easy retrieval when going through airport security. And power banks built into your suitcase will ensure that your devices never run out of juice during long layovers.
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Text: Clara Lock / The Sunday Times / December 2019
Additional text: Valerie Toh
Images: Unsplash, Boarding Gate, July, The Planet Traveller, 123RF.com