Affordable Travel Guide to Travel Totes

Having the right luggage streamlines travel

Travel Totes

Classic black, leopard print, flowers or stripes, luggage comes in a wide range of colors and patterns, but styles, too, and it’s not all created equal. When you are planning a trip, be sure to include your suitcases in your plans. How to decide what luggage to use or purchase? It depends mostly on your mode of travel and the length of your trip.

Traveling by bus generally means that you or the bus driver loads your luggage into the storage compartments in the underbelly of the vehicle. There are also overhead bins for smaller items. Because you are present, probably loading your own luggage, the strength of it is not too significant; beware, though, because if other items being stowed in the baggage compartment are large, and heavy (some passenger buses are dual purpose and transport packages), they could fall onto your luggage and damage any fragile items inside.

Anything that could be easily damaged should always be taken on board a bus, train, plane or ship in your carry-on bag. There are exceptions (such as wine, which because of being in a glass container is not allowed on board airplanes and must go in checked baggage) and those must be packaged very carefully, preferably in bubble wrap and a leak-proof outer layer, sealed tightly, and are safest tucked inside a heavy sweater or jacket in the very middle of your suitcase.

Luggage for train travel is best to be lightweight because odds are you’ll have to haul it onto the train yourself. Most train carriages have luggage bins at the end of the car where you enter; your luggage, therefore, will be stored with dozens of others, so a plain black bag could be easily mistaken. It’s a good plan, then, to buy distinctively colored or patterned luggage when traveling by train; this avoids the possibility of someone grabbing your bag, thinking it’s theirs, when the disembark at a stop before yours, and when you find out, it’s too late.

The suitable baggage for ship travel, mostly cruises, should take into account the length of time you’ll be on board (in case there are no laundry facilities), the climate in which you’ll be cruising and most importantly, the size of your cabin. Many guest cabins are tiny and a huge suitcase will be hard to store such that it is out of your way.

Luggage for use in air travel is and always has been a challenge. With conveyor belts and baggage handlers involved, your check-in luggage goes through many hands and sometimes great distances before it reaches the hold of the aircraft. If you’re going on a lengthy trip, you have no choice but to pack a large suitcase and check it in, but an great deal of time and nuisance can be avoided if you are able to organize what you need into one smaller suitcase (airlines post their carry-on baggage dimensions and weight limits on-line) and a briefcase or purse.

If you must check-in luggage on an airplane, here are a few tips:

  • buy strong, either hard-sided or very tough, waterproof soft-sided luggage
  • lock your suitcases
  • don’t go for the cheap stuff; it may not stand up to airport baggage handling
  • pack anything fragile or fine in the center of the bag
  • either buy distinctive colored or patterned luggage so that it is easy to identify at the carousel after the flight; some people attach a piece to colorful ribbon or wool to help identify their suitcases easily, but any extruding items run the risk of being caught in conveyor belts and that can delay or damage your luggage
  • not only should you attach a tag with your home contact information and the name of the hotel at your destination, also put that information, every detail, on a piece of paper and pack in inside each piece of check-on baggage you have

And if you are traveling with specialty items, such as skis or musical instruments, be certain to check them on as special baggage, clearly marked with fluorescent red “FRAGILE” stickers. Never use soft-sided carriers for musical instruments; invest in a heavily padded interior and extremely hard shell that has metal “bumpers” and locks securely.

The right type of luggage leads to worry-free travel, and be sure your bags have home and destination information, because if they get waylaid or lost, you don’t want to be in Jamaica when your suitcases got sent home to your flat in New York!

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