Study Abroad: Finding the Right Luggage
Luggage is certainly not the most exciting part of going abroad, but it is necessary. When you're going abroad, good quality luggage is a must! Whether you're heading out to a store or simply climbing the stairs to your parent's attic to choose your luggage, I've written this section in order to help you find luggage that will work for you!
Adhering to baggage guidelines
First off, you need to remember that all airlines have baggage guidelines. Go to your airline's Web site or call its customer service number to find out what those guidelines are. With international flights, you typically can check two bags, and your airline will impose luggage size limits. Ask your airline what the maximum total dimensions of your luggage should be. One carry-on bag (total dimensions cannot exceed 45 inches) is usually allowed, but it must fit under the seat. In addition to size dimensions, many airlines also have weight limits (usually 40 to 70 pounds).
If your luggage exceeds size and weight limitations, most airlines charge you an extra fee. This limitation shouldn't be an issue, because you just don't need that much stuff.
Whenever you're worried about exceeding the baggage allowance limitations, measure the height, width, and length of your bags when they're all packed, and use the bathroom scales to check their weight.
Choosing your luggage
You want to invest in luggage that is of good quality, making sure that it offers plenty of space, is made of durable material, has wheels, and is easy to carry. I found my canvas duffel bags, with wheels and shoulder straps, worked very well. A small carry-on bag that can double as an overnight bag for weekend trips also is a good idea.
Don't buy the lowest priced luggage you can get your hands on if you want it to last for a long time. Also, because you're packing the luggage for a trip that will last one month or longer, buy luggage that has at least 5,000 cubic inches of storage space (you can find this capacity information on the luggage tag).
Luggage comes in many varieties. If you're looking for a travel backpack, I devote an entire section later in this chapter to picking the perfect pack. The classic suitcase often falls into the wheeled luggage category. Suitcases with durable wheels and reinforced handles (that usually retract) are great for whizzing through airports and train stations. The convertible luggage category includes wheeled bags with hidden shoulder straps that allow you to convert the bag into something you can carry on your shoulder. And then there is the duffel which you usually carry using straps, but larger sized duffels may offer wheels to make transporting them easier.
Other suggestions to keep in mind when choosing luggage:
- Luggage with multiple storage compartments and pockets makes it easy to organize packing and to secure items.
- Compression straps on the inside of the luggage are helpful in holding down clothing.
- Don't worry too much about the weight of the empty bag in the store. The weight of your bag is primarily determined by what you put in it! Think of it this way: What is another pound or two when you are already packing 40+ pounds of stuff in your bag?
- Wheels should be securely fastened to your suitcase by durable hardware. In-line skate wheels often work best.
- Zippers should pull smoothly and not catch on corners.
- While leather is the most expensive material for a suitcase, it is also the most durable. Ballistic nylon is the most popular material in high-quality luggage today. It's durable and has a stylish, high-tech look. Other popular, durable materials for luggage include high-denier fabrics, canvas-like nylon, and parachute nylons.
- Hardside suitcases adequately protect items inside the case but are more likely to receive dents and scratches during baggage handling. Softside suitcases allow more flexibility and therefore can better absorb and withstand rough baggage handling, and they protect fragile items that are packed carefully just as well as a hardside case does.
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