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10 tips for selecting best luggage for international travel

When selecting luggage for international travel, it's important to be realistic.

Rick Steves 21" Roll Aboard expands to fit last minute shopping!

It’s vital to understand what type of traveler you are. Travel advice from friends alone may not be the best way to help decide what will work best for your travels. If you are a different type of traveler, their favorites may not be ideal your trip.

Instead think about what activities are planned and what the ideal vacation looks like for YOU. Be honest about what type of traveler you are as well.

Here are 10 things to note when selecting luggage for international travel:

1. Baggage restrictions of all airlines.

Airlines all have different baggage policies. It's important to note the restrictions of the airline you are flying and not necessarily the airline you booked through (codeshare flights). Note which airline the flight is "Operated By" on the ticket. Some European airlines have tiny overhead bins and are very strict on kilos allowed. (Yes, you need to know luggage weight in kilograms!) *Tip: Pack light to eliminate many hassles. Watch Travel Guru Rick Steves in the video on the left as he offers tips for lightening the load.

2. Transportation mode and frequency.

Will you base out of one location the whole time? Will you use public transportation or rental cars? If remaining in one location for most of the trip, baggage requirements will be different than if hopping on and off crowded buses and trains or walking versus driving a mile to reach the hotel.

3. Length of your packing list.

Do you tend to over-pack? Do you tend to collect souvenirs at the destination? Does your shopping extend to the last minute at airport stores? An expandable bag may be something to consider for checked baggage. Also consider adding a small convertible nylon bag or duffel bag that can be used for last minute airport purchases. Be realistic on this one. If you tend to over-pack, even if you know you SHOULD pack less – be realistic and purchase a bag that accommodates your tendency to have to sit on luggage to close it!

4. Attractiveness to potential thieves.

Does your bag attract attention? Fashionable and glittery are not a good idea when transporting belongings. From the viewpoint of a thief- whose bag would you rather steal: a nothing-fancy plain old bag or one that screams $$?

5. Weight of suitcase when empty.

Is your bag heavy before you even pack? Not a good start. Seriously respect the advantage of lightweight luggage in today’s world of overweight and checked baggage fees. If flying with budget airlines in Europe, be very careful to note the restricted carry-on and checked baggage limits. Often the carry-on bags are limited by weight on international carriers and that awesome airfare savings will disappear in high penalties.

6. Who will be moving and carrying luggage?

If you plan on enlisting the help of children, your spouse, or your parents in carrying the luggage, keep in mind bags that work for them as well. Tall people really appreciate long telescoping handles! Fewer complaints from them mean more help for you.

7. Will your carry-on be able to contain all you need while in transit?

The airplane carry-on is for more than a magazine and some gum. Consider the potential for delays, cancellations, illness, boredom, and noisy neighbors in flight. The contents of this bag also may be all that you have for the first 24-72 hours if your checked luggage is lost in transit! (Yes, this does happen more often than we like to admit.)

8. Is your travel bag practical?

Travelers multi-task when arriving at destinations and exploring. Looking at street signs, maps, landmarks, etc. keeps us busy. Having to stop and put luggage down to free up hands can be frustrating. Hands free luggage is fantastic when possible. Consider luggage that converts to a backpack if transporting luggage through unknown territory.

9. Is your luggage quality made?

Spending less on luggage is not always a good idea. Quality luggage is built to last. Purchasing cheap luggage every few years rather than investing in the good stuff may not be wise. A broken piece of luggage may also cause loss of belongings and stress on vacation. Avoid the bargain rack and think long term investment.

10. Does your packing list represent quality versus quantity?

Just because you would use something once or twice doesn’t mean it should make the list. Think needs over wants and pack quality products that make sense.

Pack your bag and walk around the block. Are you regretting your decision?

Enjoy your vacation more by wisely selecting luggage.


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