Luggage buying guide

 

Buying luggage can be tricky. Hard- or soft-sided? Suitcase or holdall? With so many different types out there which one should you choose? It may seem obvious, but think about what you need it for, your mode of transport, as well as its security, looks and handling. Use this handy guide to help you, and view our range of luggage here. We also have a series of helpful videos you can watch.

Features of a suitcase

These days a suitcase can be hard- or soft-sided, mounted on wheels, with normally a telescopic handle, so it can be pulled along with minimal effort. As suitcases are upright and have large wheels, they are more stable and consequently easier to manage – particularly when full.

Some come with 4 wheels, so you don't even need to tilt and pull, you can simply wheel the case alongside rather than behind you. Another advantage of a trolley case is that some allow 2 pieces of extra luggage to be attached to the handle frame or to a “piggyback” strap, leaving your hands free.

Soft-sided suitcases

These days a suitcase can be hard- or soft-sided, mounted on wheels, and normally has a telescopic handle so it can be pulled along with minimal effort. As suitcases are upright and have large wheels, they are more stable and consequently easier to manage – particularly when full.

Soft-sided suitcases are normally made from polyester, nylon or both. Fabric is graded in denier and so the higher the denier, the thicker and more durable the fabric.

Top-of-the-range suitcases have a high denier, tightly woven fabric for extra strength, are scuff and soil resistant and difficult to tear. Most fabric will have a waterproof PVC backing on the inside.

Soft-sided suitcases come with all sorts of features designed to keep you organised and make travel more convenient. Look out for expandable cases that'll give you more room for those unexpected souvenirs, padlocks and combination locks for added security, and protected zips and closures that help reduce wear and tear.

Hard-sided suitcases

A hard-sided suitcase is the term used to describe a case which is rigid rather than flexible. Designed to stand up to the rigours of frequent air travel, as well as the extreme ranges of temperature your luggage undergoes in the hold of a plane, most are made from moulded polypropylene or ABS plastic.

Polypropylene is an oil-based plastic, also used to make car bumpers. It's extremely strong with a tough surface, and can withstand heavy impact.

ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) is made from plastic and a rubber substitute. It's also very strong and is the material used to make crash helmets. ABS can be given attractive finishes and shine, so it's usually used in the more expensive ranges where appearance is important, and the manual work involved in the production is reflected in its price.

ABS is not quite as strong as polypropylene and a particularly violent impact just might cause it to crack or dent, but generally it's a lot lighter and easier to manoeuvre.

Overall, hard-sided suitcases are more durable than soft-sided cases and more likely to be waterproof, although if a case is left standing in rain some water may get through the frame. They're ideal for protecting more fragile items, and top of the range cases have highly secure metal frames with key and combination locks. Most hard-sided suitcases have straps in the lid and base so the two parts can be packed separately, and there's often a middle divider to separate the compartments and protect the contents.

Cabin suitcases

Also known as flight bags, these suitcases are designed specifically to go in the cabin of an aircraft. They have several pockets for storing valuable items, and handy pockets to keep passports and travel documents close to hand. They're particularly convenient when you need a bag for your flight essentials, and double up as overnight or even weekend bags.

Please note: heightened security at airports means that restrictions are in place concerning carry-on luggage. Read the latest guidelines air travel hand baggage rules. Please be aware that these restrictions vary between airlines and airports, so do check before you fly.

Business travel and luggage accessories

Business travel

Work bags and briefcases are perfect for business because of their multitude of pockets and compartments. They can be made from leather, nylon or polyester and normally have one or more document pockets, extra accessory and reinforced laptop compartments, and a detachable shoulder strap. Most laptop bags and cases will indicate in inches what size they can hold.

Mobile offices are small suitcases designed for business travel, and will accommodate everything you need for an overnight business trip.

Suiter and garmet bags are designed to transport and protect a suit or dress with minimum creasing. They're available in leather, polyester or nylon and depending on size, will carry sufficient clothes for 2 or 3 days. Suiters and garmet bags are popular with business travellers, and some are fitted with wheels for easy transportation.

Travel accessories

We offer a wide selection of bright straps and luggage labels to help you identify your case, and combination and padlocks in a range of colours to keep your case extra safe and secure. You'll also find all kinds of handy travel gadgets, document wallets and electricals like mini kettles and hairdryers.

Travel tip 1: if you're travelling to the USA, then you should try to get your hands on a TSA-approved padlock. It allows American airline security personnel to examine your suitcase without damaging the lock or your case.

Travel tip 2: don’t forget an adaptor plug for all your electrical items, and look out for our fold-up casual bags – great space-savers and ideal for popping in the side of your case for all those unexpected holiday purchases!

Backpacks, holdalls and children’s luggage

Backpacks

Backpacks come in many shapes and sizes; some are fitted with wheels, while others feature a padded laptop compartment, mp3 pockets and/or mesh bottle pouches. In other words, the options are endless, which is why it’s important for you to establish what you’re going to use the backpack for.

If you need it for carrying your essentials on a voyage across the Andes, then opting for a backpack with a strong frame, waistband and padded shoulder straps is essential.

But if you only need it for transporting your laptop, book and lunch to and from work, then you may want to choose something more compact and fitted with a protective laptop compartment.   

Holdalls

A holdall can offer as much packing space as a trolley case,
as well as be much lighter, which is ideal when you’re flying. However, their flexible and lightweight structure can make them
a less protective shell.

Most models, whether they’re made of leather or polyester, will have 2 grab handles, an adjustable, detachable shoulder strap and a zipped main compartment with interior pockets. If you want to take the weight off your shoulders, then you should go for one with wheels and a telescopic handle.

Children’s luggage

Their favourite toys, a sack of sweets and a few games, these are but a few things that your little one will need, not just at home, but when you’re on the go. So whether you’re going on a day trip or a 2-week holiday, it’s vital that they have easy access to their favourite play things. The most convenient way to do this is to give them their own luggage to pack and (hopefully) carry. You could opt for a fun ride-on Trunki case. On the other hand, it’s probably better if they pick their own from our range of children’s luggage.

Guarantees with airline weight and size restrictions

All luggage is guaranteed against faulty workmanship, and some of the brands we stock offer guarantees covering many years. However, manufacturers' guarantees won't cover damage caused by overloading, mishandling in transit or airline damage. The exception is Briggs & Riley, where all products are covered by an unconditional lifetime warranty, that includes all damage caused in transit, including airline damage.

Always take a moment just to look over your luggage as you take it off the carouse. Should there be any transit damage, you need to inform the airline or their representative before you leave the terminal, as they won't entertain any damage claims against them once you've left.

Weight and size restrictions of hand and checked baggage varied from aitline to airline, so you need to check the allowances with them before you pack. Make sure you also check the weight of your luggage as you have to pay a hefty fine for each kilo you're overweight. Read the latest UK guidelines (opens in a new window) to find out what the current UK airport restrictions are.

Please note: These air-travel restrictiions vary between airlines and airports, so do check before you fly.

Successful packing is a fine art, and there are some tried and tested techniques to help prevent your holiday wardrobe looking as though it's survived a crusher on arrival. Find out more with this packing video, courtesy of Samsonite.