Pretty, pretty Steph writes:
Pretty Pretty Mir, I have a question for you. I am going to Hawaii in June of this year, and April of next year, and the Samsonite luggage I got when I graduated from high school 10 years ago is falling apart. My family does alot of traveling (the trip this June is to get my sister and I to the state of Hawaii, we’ve been to all the other 49 states, the trip next April is a high school band trip), but does it in short time frames. We rarely stay in one place more than two nights, when we are gone for 1 1/2 to 2 weeks each summer. So…I need luggage that can take a beating, then get put in the closet til the next time. II don’t want to spend a LOT of money, but I would like something with a liftime/long guarantee. Any suggestions?
Actually, Steph wrote me this email a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been mulling it over for a while, because I’m of two minds on this issue. Usually I have a strong opinion and no issues with sharing it. For this… well, I’m just not sure.
On the one hand, luggage that lasts forever would be a great thing, because who wants to keep spending money on luggage? Yes, definitely invest in the good stuff!
On the other hand, most of us (not Steph, but most of the rest of us) don’t do a whole lot of traveling, and how much money do you really want to spend on something you won’t use all that much? In addition, if you’re flying or engaging in other modes of transportation where other people handle your bags, it’s out of your control whether that bag is subjected to a normal amount of wear and tear or a hairy gorilla who likes to jump up and down on suitcases. I personally have an issue with spending a lot on something that has a higher-than-normal chance of being wrecked.
But a better suitcase will withstand more damage!
But a cheaper suitcase will be less painful to lose!
But a broken zipper mid-vacation is a crisis unto itself!
And before you know it, I’m opting to just stay home because it’s all too complicated.
(Yes, it’s hard being me, sometimes.)
Okay, all of that said? I personally would go one of two routes, if it were me doing the purchasing.
Option 1: Buy luggage from a merchant who offers a “Guaranteed. Period.” warranty. My two favorites are—as you well know—Lands’ End and LL Bean. You are unlikely to get a deal at either of these stores, though it’s not impossible; occasionally last year’s color or style will go on sale, plus the Bean Outlets and the Lands’ End Inlets often have some markdowns. The advantage of going this route is that if anything goes wrong—it rips, the zipper breaks, a wheel falls off, whatever—you can get a replacement with no cost and minimal hassle. This would be a forever investment. The outlay is large, but it’s a one-time thing, basically.
Option 2: Buy “pretty good” luggage at a discount, and hope it lasts. Frankly, this is my preferred path because I personally cannot stomach hundreds of dollars for a single suitcase. But again, I don’t travel all that often. If you do, Option 1 may indeed make more sense for you. If you choose this option, though, check out the choices at Overstock. There are lots of great, pretty-good, and less-known name brands there, so you can balance your need for a known entity against what you want to pay.
[Truthfully, the customer service at Overstock isn’t all that it could be. If you buy something there, you pretty much buy it assuming it comes with no support. That’s a gamble I’m usually willing to take because the prices there are so amazing, but again, you have to consider what you’re buying and whether money saved is more or less important than customer service.]
What else do you need to consider? Well, hard-sided luggage is more likely to protect its contents, but it’s heavier and also harder to store. Wheels on bags are great, but they’re one more thing that can go wrong. These are the sorts of things to think about. So first determine what sort of bag(s) you want, then decide whether you want to go high-end, full-warranty or reasonably-good-quality at a bargain price.
Readers, what did I forget? I’m sure many of you are more seasoned travelers than I, and have plenty to add. Have at it.