If you’re heading out of town for the holidays, make sure you’ve got a suitcase that can handle the job. Consumer Reports surveyed 65,000 readers and combined their satisfaction scores with research to help make shopping for your next piece of luggage an open and shut case.
The experts at Consumer Reports say considering several key factors can put you ahead of the pack when you’re shopping for luggage. The material is the first decision you need to make, and you have two choices: hard-side or soft. Nothing beats hard-shell suitcases to keep fragile items safe or clothes from being creased.
Aluminum weighs a little more but it’s probably the most durable. Newer plastics can be both rigid and lightweight. Soft-sided bags are lighter, still, and compress more easily to fit into overhead bins.
One way to gauge durability is to give the handle a good shake. You want to make sure that it feels solid, that it doesn’t jiggle around. You also want to make sure that it telescopes up and down really smoothly. And last, you want to make sure that it telescopes flush into the case, so that you can fit it in the overhead very easily.
Next, deal with the wheels. Four-wheel spinner bags are easier on your back and let you maneuver through crowds regardless of what else you’re carrying. Dragging a two-wheeler can be less ergonomically sound and awkward to navigate through tight places. But two-wheel bags do have an advantage in clearing curbs and being easy to pull over uneven surfaces, like cobblestone streets in Europe.
And consider color; it’s helpful to find your bag in a sea of black.
Consumer Reports also warns against relying on size claims on the label if you’re looking for a carry-on bag. Instead, take a measuring tape to the store to verify the dimensions yourself, making sure to include the wheels, outer pouches, and any handles that stick out.