How the heck do you buy a suitcase?

I need to buy a suitcase for a trip that is less than a month away, and I am totally lost. This is even more confusing than mattresses for me, especially since none of the stores I’ve found that sell them actually have staff that know anything about them, and none have a wide selection in one place to compare (Kohls, Marshalls, TJMaxx, where else can I look?).

First of all, there are about 30 different brands in some of the stores. How do I know what is a respectable brand? Second, within a brand, what kind of features differentiate the models? It’s not obvious to me.

I’m about to line up all the 26-28 inch models and throw a dart blindfolded.

Thanks for any advice.

P.S. I tried searching to see if this topic had ever come up, but I repeatedly got timed out.

Buy the one in a color you like that looks like it’ll hold up in Airport baggage handling. Unless you’re looking for specific features, they’re pretty much all the same in their own categories. IMO, any 26-28 inch suitcase with wheels and a retractable handle is all you need.

TravelPro seems to be popular among flight attendants.

If you want to go the yuppie route, Tumi is good but expensive.

I’ve never bought the high-end luggage, and I’ve never had any bad experiences. The kind I’m using now is a three-piece American Traveller set which has made it through six years of very rough handling with no problems.

What I look for is good, heavy materials used in construction, strong zippers and durable stiching. There really isn’t much more to it than that. You should be able to tell with a brief inspection if it’s well-made.

Give a seam a tug and see how stong it is. Poke your finger into the fabric-- does it seem thick and durable? How are the wheels? Are they made of cheap plastic or a heavier rubber material? Are they fastened on well?

Lastly, don’t ignore that horribly ugly flowered set that’s on sale if it’s well made. EVERYONE has black, blue and brown luggage. I usually tie bright ribbons to mine to try to spot it on the baggage claim belt, but think how much easier life could be if your luggage is polka-dotted fuchia.

I bought a bright blue trolley case from www.luggagebase.com. Sorry, can’t remember the brand name right now, but it is wonderful. Flap in the back, pockets on front to hold stuff, expands an inch more, has a good lock, and is a bit lighter than some of its counterparts.
They were very, very fast with delivery. I only paid about $60 or $70 for the thing and it came in a day or two.

Duh…here it is:

http://www.luggagebase.com/btc/search.aspx?l=00060067000000000000

Delsey Helium Lite. I recommend it.

Pull it along by its handles at a fairly good clip, to see if it tends to try to tip over. You want one that stays on its wheels and doesn’t try to turn over so you have to drag it when you’re in a hurry.

And if you’re considering one that isn’t the pullman type, don’t. You’ll regret it when you’ve had to run through the airport with it a few times.

I never buy luggage in common, tasteful colors- my current suitcase is lavender. It’s great, because it’s obvious on the baggage carousel which bag is mine.

Are you kidding? Don’t buy anything that can’t resist a gorilla attack.

Based on the OP I amo going to guess that you don’t travel often. :smiley:
I on the other hand travel a lot. 25-30 weeks per year, 50+ flights per year lots. 600,000 + total airline miles lots.
The names mentioned here are great units. Travel Pro, Tumi, Delsey are all top notch stuff. They are probably way nicer than what you need for the little you travel. Unless you plan on uping your travel a bunch, I think that you would be spending more money than is necessary. Mind you I have owned Tumi, and other high end brands.
For a garment bag I always buy Samsonite Ultravalet
For soft sided rollers I have used Travel Pro, Tumi, and Dakota (Tumi’s low line). However this time around, I wanted something larger than my 21" Travel Pro and smaller than my 26" and 28" Dakota and Tumi. I went with this from Ricardo of Beverly Hills. I’ve had it almost a year and 50,000 miles and other than being a little dirty it is fine. I paid about $140 for it. At the time I bought it the Travel Pro I liked was over $150 more for the same size. Now I admit that the Travel Pro had a few features that are nicer, but not $150 nicer.
In your case you could probably get by with a few less features than the suitcase I bought. Here is a Skyway 25" on sale for $29.99.
My suggestion is go look at the bags. There really are differences if you look close. Try opening them and see how they pack. When you find one you like check the price. For you I would look at no more than $130 for a 24"-26" bag. You can spend more, but I really don’t think it is necessary. As long as you stay out of K-mart and Big Lots I think you will be fine.

I forgot to add this.
I highly recomond H. Savinar as a good place to buy luggage. I have been a satisfied customer for over 14 years. No financial interest etc. Good people, great service.

In short: whatever will take the knocks.

If you ever travel for business, consider a wheeled garment bag. That’s what my husband uses and he swears by it. Click on the ‘alternate view’ to see the interior.

I have never bought store-retail luggage.
I have either inherited, permanently borrowed or found some great stuff via the Salvation Army, Ebay or even trashpicked**. Hey, it was an avocado green hard shell samsonite case. Never used [size=1] I can tell. and it is now under the bed storage for one child.

Also have had some really high end rolling suitcase given to us from my husbands boss. It was on sale for $300 on line when I did a check on it. Original price was $600 or so. He only used it once.
I.love.luggage.
If you are looking to do alot of travel, finding a piece that will hold up to the gorilla attack is important, if it is once or twice a year thing, hit TJ Max or even a resale shop to see what they have.

I have a luggage fetish.

I bought the advertising of Tumi - and I must admit, it’s some damned durable stuff. The bags are also VERY heavy.

My cloth American Tourister was fine. Just don’t get it in black (everyone has black baggage these days).

Don’t buy black or navy if you can help it. Whichever color you buy, buy also one of those iron-on stickers and iron it on - something not likely to be very common. My big trolley is known as “the cow”.

The last case I bought was a computer case and it had to be large enough to hold a largish laptop and a change of clothes. So I brought the actual laptop to the store.

For “real” suitcases, the whole family moved to trolleys ages ago. We get a feel for size and look at how well do zippers etc work: any button that’s too hard in the store will get harder; any snag it has in the store will get worse. Corners are always rounded, but the bigger the radius, the better it will last (otoh, a bigger radius means less efective volume).

Pockets Are Good For You.

Don’t buy a suitcase, buy a travel backpack and you can laugh as you deftly maneuver through the airport with free-footed ease while everyone else is messing with those hinky little wheels and futzing over stairs and curbs. A good one will have straps that tuck in if you need to look respectable (or you can buy a cheap light duffle to put over it). Though it seems uncomfortable, they are very well designed in the end it’s a lot less uncomfortable than contorting in odd positions to lug regular luggage around. Even older people like them once they try them.

Here is what the best packer in the world has to say. Everything this guy says about packing is gold.

I guess it also depends on the type of travel you’ll be doing and your own preference. I have a suitcase that I can either carry with a handle or wear as a backpack. It holds enough for at least a week’s travel, but it fits in the carryon space on airplanes. I love it, but it was a graduation gift 10 years ago and I don’t know where to buy it. A similar one is available at www.ricksteves.com, and he has a number of other bags, too. They’re intended for heavy-duty travel and use, so they should be able to take a lot of abuse. My husband has one similar to mine that he got from Rick Steves’ store 8 years ago, and it’s still in great shape. So I can recommend them.

sven that packing guy site is gold. Thanks!

As to what makes a backpack so great- a good one becomes an extension of you, and so it become live weight and not dead weight. Much easier to deal with. Plus, you can still use your hands without rearranging your baggage and you can naviagate any kind of ground with ease.

If you do go this route, go to REI and they will spend as much time as they need fitting you with a good one for your body. Most of the weight should be in your hips, not your back- make sure it has a hip belt and sternum strap. I have an old Eagle Creek one that I’ve had since high school graduation and I’ve lived out of it for up to three months at a time.

Read the rest of that one bag site. If you can travel like him, you will find 90% of your troubles in this world melt away. Real life changing stuff.

A fabulous resource for travel sized stuff: minimus ( which is from the packing site that sven gave.)