Monday, July 21, 2014

A Guy's Guide to Shopping for Luggage Upgrades

Finding the Best Collection for Your Budget

I didn't have to go shopping for my first piece of luggage. It was the olive-drab duffel bag I was issued at boot camp. I still have that old friend down in the basement, and more than likely, it still has a pair or two of socks stashed in the bottom. After I married, I graduated into the realm of civilian travel luggage. The current set is from Atlantic, gifted to us from the wedding registry. I realized while moving them the other day that I was living with a Goldilocks dilemma - the large piece was too large to travel with comfortably, and the small piece was too impractical for anything but one-night stays. This left me using just the medium size, and even that was a bit too large to bring as carry-on. Also, the standard black color posed a familiar problem - my bags looked like everyone else's on the just-before-Thanksgiving luggage carousel. It was time to start shopping around for a luggage set I could be happy with.

The High End Budget
 
shopping for luggage I started looking by disregarding price. Sure, I am a bargain hunter, but I am also aware that I get what I paid for. The first set I looked at was Revo's Hardside Collection at Macy's. The sets were unique with bronze-like coloring over a hard shell - these would be easy to spot on a carousel, and each piece had two things I was looking for. I wanted a slide-out handle, and four durable wheels for easy rolling. I thought my search had ended there until I saw the price range: from $79.99 for the smaller pieces to $680 for the one I really liked. The set was large enough to hold what I needed, and small enough to be used as carry-on so I could skip the holiday check-in nightmare.


The Middle Ground Budget
 
Not to be discouraged, I checked out a selection of the London Fog Chelsea Lites Collection, sporting retro fabric designs and ranging in price from $49.99 to $350 per set. The patterns were nostalgic of the 1950's, with a brown and tan plaid covering that created a durable exterior. These also had the extension handle and four solid wheels, but what piqued my interest was the attached label. It promised a hassle-free TSA experience should I choose this collection. The sets, it turns out, come with a 3-1-1 travel bag for liquid care products that won't hold more than the Transportation Security Agency's recommended amounts. Anything that can promises to keep the government off my back has my attention.

The Lower End But Not So Cheap Budget
 
Lastly, for new luggage sets, I looked at Delsey of Paris' Helium Collection. These sets started at $39.99 and topped out at around $300 for those I was interested in. Like the Revo's, these sets had a distinct shape and color selection that would make them easy to spot on a crowded airport carousel, and each also sported the required sliding handle with four sturdy wheels. But, I still wasn't ready to open my wallet just yet.

The Extremely Low End Of The Luggage Budget
 
cheap luggage
For those who have read my stories before, you know I am a thrift store hound. I can smell a quality piece of merchandise an aisle away, and haggle down a .99 paperback to buy it for almost next to nothing. Every thrift store in the country has a wide selection of second-hand luggage. To add to the mystery of these traveling treasures, the luggage is usually donated in sets of two-to-three, so I needn't forgo matching style when buying a selection. Goodwill Industries even has a luggage category for their online auction site if I don't feel like leaving the house. The pieces may be used, but the requirements would still need to be there - I want four solid wheels, and a sliding handle.

I want a piece large enough to pack a vacation's worth of clothes, and small enough to use as carry-on and not be a pain when running between terminals to catch a transfer flight. I'd prefer a matching cloth-covered, lightweight set, but if an old Samsonite feels right, then I'll go for it. On this day, I didn't see anything that struck my fancy, but with prices starting at $4.99 and topping out at $9.99, I think it's worth my effort to keep my options open.