This is the first in a series of infrequent articles about Travel Gear for budget travelers
Quick….name the one thing that every serious traveler must own? If you said some form of luggage, backpack, duffel bag…you win! Unless you plan to buy everything you need at your destination, you will need some way to carry your possessions in an orderly fashion. While I am usually the first to extol the virtues of spending as little as possible when it comes to travel, I have to make an exception for luggage.
I’ve gone the discount route when it comes to luggage. There’s always some deal for a 4-5 piece set for 80 bucks or less at the local department store. If you happen to come across such a deal, walk away. OK, let me rephrase that. If you are simply taking a road trip and there will be very few people handling your bags, get the cheaper ones. But if you will need to check your luggage or if anyone will be responsible for hauling your luggage from the plane to the baggage return, invest in the sturdier pieces. I learned the hard way during my trip to Myrtle Beach. I had forgotten to prepay for my carry-on bag on Spirit airlines. As it turned out, it was actually cheaper to check my bag (25.00 vs. 30.00) so I did. Little did I know that my poor bag would be spat out of the baggage return like a kid hacking up ipecac syrup!
My formerly pristine, but cheap, Pierre Cardin carry-on looked like it had been run through a paper shredder! I was so ticked off, but what can you do? It would be my word against theirs….I just thanked my lucky stars that everything was still intact and none of our souvenirs were broken. This was my wake up call. I asked myself why I didn’t think it was important enough to invest in something that (if I took my traveling seriously) I would need to see me through seven continents? I had to make a resolution that I needed to reserve the Pierre Cardin for road-trips and INVEST in a decent set of luggage.
There! The resolution was made….now…where to start? I decided to surf the internet to determine what luggage brands rated higher than others. It was common knowledge that you couldn’t go wrong with Samsonite, but higher end product usually came with higher end prices. I decided to limit my search to the better discount stores like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx and just to make it interesting, Ross Dress for Less, which was my first stop. Surprisingly, they had a half wall of luggage in all different sizes, colors, brands, hard-side, soft side….I was amazed. I was drawn to a blue soft-sided beauty that would make a perfect carry-on….as I got closer, I noticed the label: Samsonite! I was beyond stoked when I saw $39.99 on the tag. Could that be right? Yep…it was. I grabbed it, certain there was a mistake and quickly headed to the checkout counter in case it wasn’t.
Once I had safely made it out, I realized that I should still check around to see if maybe I could get a great deal on a set. Remember, I was looking to make a solid investment, so if I plan to travel a lot, I would need more than this lonely carry-on. Luckily there are three Ross stores within a seven-mile radius of my house. I proceeded to check out each one, but no luck. So, my next move would be to visit my local Marshall’s. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a nice representation of high-end luggage like Samsonite, Liz Claiborne, Travel Concepts, Victorinox, Kenneth Cole, Atlantic and American Flyer among others.
I stopped dead in my tracks when I spied candy cotton pink luggage with spinners. I looked closer and it was a Travel Concepts 29″ hard-sider. The price? $69.99! There were two smaller matching pieces that obviously added up to a three piece set. I decided that two pieces would be sufficient. I didn’t want to overdo, but I wasn’t going to deny myself the largest piece. Yes, I have extolled the virtues of traveling light, but since it’s apparent that I will probably start checking luggage in more often…..why not?
An online search found the cheapest price for the three piece set to be $202.50 and the most expensive price was $300.00 even. Had I bought the third piece, my total would have been $180.00. It pays to shop around!
I like the fact that the zippered pocket is plastic. Comes in handy when and if those 3 ounces decide to go all liquid on you and make a mess.
If you are tired of being ‘led’ by your wheeled luggage, four directional spinners are the answers to your prayers.
I opted to go with the 21″ carry-on as my second piece, it will come in handy when I have shorter treks and won’t need to carry as much. I left the 25″ that sold for 60.00 behind as I didn’t think I would need a third one.
Ok, even I will have to admit that if I need to start expanding this piece, I may need to stay home. lol
Don’t worry guys, not only can you find this luggage set in various colors such as my dusty pink, but also in blue, black and silver.
After my last experience, I decided to buy the hard-side luggage because it is more durable and would protect my clothing in the event someone else’s collection of toner cartridges flooded the cargo hole. Hey, don’t say no one’s ever thought of it! Go for luggage that has several compartments and is deep enough to accommodate footwear in addition to your clothes. Be sure to invest in only the pieces you truly need if you want to stay under any semblance of a budget.
So, the moral of the story is that you get what you pay for. Even the budget conscious traveler must realize when it’s time to back off on the choke-hold and let old George Washington breathe. You can’t skimp on quality and if you think about it….you’ll save money in the long run because you won’t have to keep replacing junk!