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How to Pick the Perfect Luggage
by Denise McCluggage

Mobility, flexibility, expandability, compatibility, packability.

All those “abilities” should be your guide when you choose your travel equipage. And that goes for both luggage and what you put into it.

Let’s start with exteriors for now - your luggage, part one.

If you haven’t yet taught your bags to heel, get with the program. It’s far easier to roll a bag than lug it by its handle or dangle it from your shoulder.

The wheel has been invented and found good. So either buy a bag with built in wheels or get a luggage cart of some sort.

Those devices of collapsible tubing, large wheels and bungee cords are inexpensive and do the trick, but they pose almost as many problems as they solve. Airlines do not permit them to be carried in overhead bins, they are awkward underfoot and are easily damaged when checked.

Try instead the lightweight, flat-folding ones that fit in a carry on. One such is the CompacCart by Moveasy. The 100 model weighs three pounds and carries 40 pounds, the 200 weighs five pounds and totes 110 pounds. (Try Similar carts can be found at and one called Roleasy at

When wheels first appeared on bags they showed up on four corners at the bottom of conventional suitcases. These were pulled with attached leashes. This arrangement - still around - is notoriously unstable tipping easily in corners, making for a high annoyance quotient.

Airline personnel were the first to adopt the now ubiquitous dual-wheel vertical cases that are towed by a pullout handle, wide side at your heels. Variations quickly hit the market and now some are even pulled narrow side. These are obviously easier to tow down narrow airline aisles, but their narrow wheel base makes them inherently less stable when dodging about busy airports.

All the cases have some way to attach smaller pieces (handbags, briefcases, computer carriers, etc.) to them. The first ones used a detachable J-shaped wire hook to hold the add-ons. Theses hooks had a penchant for detaching themselves and getting lost forever in overhead bins and taxi trunks. More satisfactory are today’s adjustable, removable, stow able straps.

On some matching sets of luggage the smaller bag has an open sleeve that slips over the pulling handle of the larger bag. This solves any problems of the smaller bag sliding off to one side and unbalancing the towing operation as you indulge in gate-to-gate airport aerobics.

Travel tip: It’s a fact of physics that if the most weight is carried low and away from the fulcrum (your towing hand on the handle) it makes for easier pulling. Tip PS: Sometimes with heavier or poorly balanced loads try pushing rather than pulling.

But before we leave wheels, consider their size and construction. Most rolling bags now use inline-skate wheels, which roll easily and in relative stealth. The wheels on one of my first rolling bags had wheels without ball bearings. They overheated easily and then would bind so that the bag was being dragged rather than rolled. (They were also as annoyingly noisy as squeaky shoes at a funeral.)

A final word about wheels: If you often traverse rough terrain in parking lots, mount curbs or steps or tow over thick carpeting, look for the largest wheels you can find to ease your task.

Besides the mobility of wheels consider the size and empty weight of your bags.

Some airlines are stricter than others but if you want to have a bag you take with you aboard most of the world’s airlines limit your search to those that do not exceed 21” or 22” in length (with all the dimensions totaling 45” or less.) Southwest, TWA and US Airways are the most generous allowing a 24” bag with a total of 50” for a carry on. (Check carry-on limitations for most airlines on

The empty weight of a bag, particularly a carry on, is important because a bag heavy to begin with might require an extra Wheatie to heft into the overhead once it’s packed. Of course, somebody might come to your assistance (prompted by their own self-preservation if they are seated nearby), but my travel maxim is: “Never take more than you can handle alone.”

More Luggage Tips