When our migration date was looming, we realised we didn’t have many suitcases. We’d been given a large luggage allocation each as we were moving abroad, so we planned on taking a lot of stuff with us. Although taking lots of cases when you have three kids under five is a logistical nightmare, we knew we wouldn’t get our container for eight – 12 weeks and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of things to keep us going in the meantime.
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As our move to Australia approached, I started shopping online and managed to pick up four cheap, lightweight, huge cases from Amazon. I stupidly thought to myself that a suitcase was a suitcase – what could possibly go wrong with it. The answer is, quite a lot. The night before we left the UK, we set them at the door ready for the early morning taxi. It was the first time we’d ever used them. We could see that the stitching was already coming undone! They weren’t overstuffed. They were just poor quality – because they were so large, the quality wasn’t up to them being heavy. We were so scared about whether they’d make it all the way to Australia in one piece.
Thankfully, they made it here and we binned them all after we landed as we couldn’t risk using them again on another flight. What a total waste of money.
What did survive the flight perfectly, was two large travel rucksacks on wheels that we’d owned since our backpacking days almost ten years before. So given how incredibly those cases have worn, versus how utterly rubbish my new purchase ended up, I thought I’d write a little list of things to look out for when buying new luggage to migrate with.
What to look for when buying travel luggage
Weight of travel luggage
I became obsessed with finding lightweight cases as it meant we could take more stuff with our luggage allowance. In reality, we were well under the extra allowance they gave us for the five of us (as we each got the extra allowance as my youngest was two and paying a full fare). Lightweight luggage, in theory, is a good idea, but lightweight and cheap is not so good. In my opinion, if you are going for lightweight, spend a bit more to get better quality.
Compartments in your travel luggage
How many compartments does the case have? Is it just a straight suitcase that opens up with one section, or is it a large rucksack that gives you access to different sections. Are there compartments on the front? Think about how you want to organise your things, especially if you’re travelling around a bit en route to Australia. Also, think beyond your one-way flight to Australia and think how you will be using the luggage in future for holidays.
Security with your travel luggage
The main section should be lockable, but how secure does it feel? Some zips are a lot sturdier than others. Again, you get what you pay for – a cheaper product will have a zip that is easier to pull apart. Can all of the compartments be locked?
Colour of your travel luggage
Everyone has black suitcases. Do you want to pick something that stands out on the luggage carousel? (If not you can easily buy some bright luggage straps and put a bright luggage tag on your case to make it easier to spot in a sea of black.)
Wheels/handles/straps on your travel luggage
I think it’s essential to have a pull up handle and wheels on your luggage. We even made sure our backpacking travel rucksacks had wheels and a handle as we knew we’d mostly be using them in airports where it would be easy to pull them around. We also made sure they had rucksack straps too (and this proved invaluable when on a longtail boat on a remote Thai island the tide changed on us and the skipper had to drop us on a beach about a mile from our beach bungalow so we had no choice but to carry them!) Adding in shoulder straps AND wheels and a handle adds to the weight of the bag/case, but I think it’s handy having a couple of cases or bags that are flexible like that.
It depends on how much luggage you need to buy for your journey over, but it could be worth buying a mixture of types – some cases with wheels, and some rucksacks on wheels. For every trip we go on now, we still go back to our old rucksacks even though we have since bought new cases, but if you are never going to go anywhere off the beaten track where the rucksack straps will come in handy, then just go for wheels instead.
What makes the best travel luggage
Weigh up if you’re happy to buy cases that are only going to last you a couple of journeys, or whether you’re looking for luggage to last you at least ten years. Remember that there is a good chance you will want to go back to visit your home country again in future, so think about your long-term travel plans.
I always think it’s worth investing in your hand luggage as your travel rucksack is likely to be something you use regularly as a day sack as well as cabin bag. When choosing this, be sure to think about all of the things you’re going to pack in it – laptop, camera, guide books, travel hairdryer – and all of the occasions you might use it (days out at the zoo, bus trips, conferences…) the chances are you’re going to want to fit a lot of different items in it.
My top pick for luggage:
Osprey is the brand we travelled with and having seen the poor quality of other cases, it’s now my go-to brand and I’m the most loyal fan. They haven’t sponsored this post and have had no involvement in me writing it at all – I just wanted to shout about my favourite travel brand.
Osprey make sturdy, high-quality gear with strong stitching, quality zips and they can handle a lot of weight. When we went travelling, we seriously overstuffed the bags as we only had two bags between us to live out of for seven months. Although we’re good at travelling light with shoes and clothes, we can’t travel light when it comes to everything else (we took travel books, lots of cameras and chargers, a laptop and all kinds of extras). Literally, at every stop we had to sit on the bags to squish them closed, and yet the zips never once gave up. The buckles are still working, the wheels and handle still work as good as the day we bought them, despite the fact we’ve used them for many, many trips over the last ten years. There is no reason these cases won’t last our lifetime, that’s how good they are!
These are two products I can really recommend (these aren’t exactly the same as what we have but the most similar I could find available ten years after purchasing):
The Osprey Shuttle 130 Travel Luggage grey/black 2017 travel backpack is a really large holdall on wheels, but a REALLY sturdy holdall that is way stronger than any suitcase I’ve ever owned.
The Osprey OSP MERIDIAN 75 is a much smaller pack at 75L but it’s just as sturdy. It also comes with a detachable daypack which saves you hauling two bags separately on the way to the airport as you can attach your flight bag to the main case.
Having had so many bad experiences and wasted so much money on luggage (seriously, a replacement case I bought had the handle snap on me on a trip recently too), I’m now determined to only invest in things that are going to last.
Do you have any favourite travel luggage brands? If so, I’d love to hear what they are!
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