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Which brand of luggage should you pick before you pack?

Posted at 7:02 AM, Jan 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-03 13:10:55-05

Leading an adventurous and well-traveled life comes with baggage. Well, luggage at least.

But figuring out which bag to take with you isn’t always easy. With countless styles, sizes, and prices to compare, shopping for luggage can be overwhelming. To help you find the right bag or bags, here are the factors about how you travel to consider, details on luggage types, luggage features to look for, and other shopping tips. Bon voyage!

Deciding What You Need

How Do You Travel?
Do you mostly fly, drive, or go on cruises? For airplane travel, familiarize yourself with the luggage rules of the airlines you plan to fly on. If you go on road trips, look for bags that are pliable enough to maximize your trunk space. For cruise ships—which stack baggage in the boat’s belly before departure—flat, rigid luggage is best.

How Will You Store Your Luggage?
Once the luggage gets home, where will you put it? Hard-sided bags are the most unforgiving; you can’t squeeze them into a storage space. Soft-sided, structured bags have a little forgiveness on the front and back. If you have no place to store a stand-up suitcase, you may have to limit yourself to duffels or bags.

What Size Luggage Do You Need?
This will depend mainly on the length of your trip and, if you are flying, airline luggage restrictions. It also depends on what you’ll need while you are away. If you mostly travel for business, you’ll need enough room for business attire; for vacations, you’ll have more leeway on what to bring.

Best Luggage

Brands and Retailers From CR's SurveyFor some on-the-ground intel about various luggage brands out there, CR turned to our members. In CR's Fall 2018 survey on members’ travel behaviors and luggage preferences, we gathered data on 12,626 carry-ons representing 21 brands, including American Tourister, Briggs & Riley, Delsey, Samsonite, Travelpro, and Tumi. Members also told us about their experiences with 25,551 suitcases that they check when flying; 32 checked-luggage brands were covered, including American Tourister, Delsey, Ricardo Beverly Hills, Samsonite, and Travelpro.

Members told us the features they care about most, with the top two being a suitcase's wheelability, cited by 64 percent of respondents, and its durability, cited by 58 percent. Of these, durability—how well zippers, handles, fabric, and other features hold up—had the strongest correlation to members' overall satisfaction with their luggage.

Members also told us how easy their luggage is to carry, pack, and, for carry-ons, stow in airplane overhead bins. Four carry-on brands and five checked suitcase brands gained top overall satisfaction scores.

Another important factor in your luggage-shopping experience? How easy it is to make a purchase, the quality of customer service, and—if you're buying online—how easy it is to use the website. So, we used the responses of nearly 17,000 members who purchased new luggage within the past two years to rate 29 luggage retailers.

Click here to take a look at the three main types of luggage.