A Luggage Buying Guide: As Told by an Airport Baggage Handler

A luggage buying guide: As told by an airport baggage handler - AIMINGFORAWE.COM

Your trip is planned and you arrive at the airport boiling with excitement...

...You've worked hard for this vacation and you can't wait to be laying on that beach with the sand between your toes and the sun beating down on your skin. You get to the ticket counter to check in and you throw your suitcase on the baggage belt. You know that feeling you get after the ticket lady tags your bag and sends it on its way down the conveyor belt? You know the feeling I'm talking about - that feeling in the pit of your stomach, that uneasy, anxious feeling like your bag's going to get lost, or it won't make it to your destination and you'll be stranded on the beach wearing the clothes you have on now...

Having an Airport Baggage Handler as a husband doesn't make that feeling any better, believe it or not. He comes home with all sorts of luggage horror stories. And I'm not gonna lie - I love my stuff. I love my clothes, my shoes, my accessories, my makeup, and you can call me materialistic or whatever, but I do love my stuff. And the stuff I bring with me on our trips is the good stuff. Hey, I want to look good exploring the world, you know? But he comes home with luggage horror stories about people's luggage being banged up by the bag boys or just flat out breaking on the baggage carousel and the belongings it once protected are scattered all over on display for everyone to see. And most of the time, it's harmless stuff - just clothes and toiletries, but sometimes a lonely lady may bring a little vibrating friend with her on vacation, and that friend is now on display for everyone working in the bag room to see. How embarrassing.

You get the idea. Bag boys break luggage. The bag room breaks luggage. But what's shocking to me is that people's luggage break luggage. The saying that goes "common sense isn't so common" very much applies here.

Like the time a suitcase with 3 tags went through the bag room (3 tags means they've been to and from about 7-9 airports) reeking of fish. Just a bit of background info: In most cases, all the suitcases going on one flight is stored in something like mini shipping containers. These containers can fit about 20-40 bags depending, and are then loaded onto the plane. So the suitcase reeked of fish, and because the stench was so horrid, they inspected the source of the smell, opened it, and found some dead, raw fish surrounded by a couple of melted ice bags (like the kind you get at the grocery store). The punchline of this story though, is that the leaky fish water got into everyone else's suitcase that came from the same container...

Or the time someone packed cooked stir-fry in plastic bags and tried to bring it home with them in their suitcase. Except it didn't make it home because going through all the rapid temperature changes, it exploded and got into everyone else's suitcase.

And if I could count on my hands how many times my husband has told me a story about broken bottles of liquor or bags he's handled smelling like wine, or suitcases stained with wine, I'd have a few extra fingers. Guys (and by "guys", I don't mean to address males, I'm addressing YOU ALL), I know you like your alcohol, but COME ON. Wrap it up or something, be smart about it, don't just throw your bottles at the bottom of your suitcase and call it a day! 1. If it breaks, that's such a waste of the good stuff, 2. You're not going to be happy about your wine-smelling clothes, 3. Your friends and family will probably slip some AA meeting pamphlets into your pockets when you're not looking because you WILL smell like an alcoholic, 4. Stains, and 5. Everyone else is not going to be happy about the same problems you're facing because you made all their clothes smell like wine too.

Needless to say, you're going to have to buy luggage that also protects your stuff from other people's stuff too.

You want to buy luggage that...

... will protect all your stuff. From both airport employees, the weather, and as we have just recently learned, from other passengers' stuff too;

... is the right size. Depending on whether you're looking for a carry-on suitcase, something that can pack your stuff for a week, or a month, the size will obviously matter. And yes, there is such thing as too big;

... is lightweight. You don't want to be that person panicking at the check-in counter, scrambling to choose what not to bring or what to stuff into your carry-on, because you surpassed the weight limit. This is when shedding a couple lbs. off the weight of your empty suitcase will come in handy;

... is easy to manoeuvre. If you're only going from airport to cab, then cab to hotel with your luggage, then I guess this part won't really matter. But if you've just landed in London, and you've got to trek through the giant Heathrow airport to get to the Tube station, where you'll then have to jump on a train to get to point A, then hop off and back onto a bus to get to point B, then walk for 15 minutes to get to your destination, ALL with your luggage, then finding something easy to pull or push around could probably help you here.

... is durable enough to survive being hot-potato'd. I don't think it's a secret that airport baggage handlers aren't all that nice to luggage.

Things to look for when buying luggage:

- At least 4 wheels. This makes it easier to manoeuvre.

- Size of wheels: Not too big (they tend to break in the bag room more easily if they're too bulky).

- A built-in handle at the bottom of the suitcase is a plus. Baggage handlers will love you for it and will less likely toss your stuff around.

- Expandable compartments. Self-explanatory.

- Suitcases with a wider bottom than top ensures it won't tip over once packed.

- Colour. Having a generic black suitcase will be challenging to identify on the luggage carousel.

Chart of pros and cons of hard shell luggage and soft case luggage


- Wrap a plastic bag around all your liquids (ie. shampoos, sunscreen lotion, hairspray, WINE, etc). And then wrap another plastic bag around all your liquids. And for extra precaution, one more time.

- Wrap all your breakables in something soft (a beach towel or a chunky sweater works).

- STUFF your suitcase. Don't pack a luggage that has so much space your stuff can bounce around in there. Use a smaller suitcase if you need to, but make sure there isn't a tonne of extra space.


- Don't use one of those buckle strap things that go around the outside of your luggage. They've started a collection of lost and broken ones in the bag room.

- Don't spend your money on luggage tags. More often than not, they fall off.

- Don't pack any alcohol. And if you absolutely must, make sure it's thoroughly wrapped in LOTS of padding (use sweaters, towels, etc). There's nothing worse than trying to wring out red wine from all your clothes.

- Don't over pack. It's actual people lifting and lugging your bags around. Not machines. If you can't pick your bag up easily, chances are, they're going to have trouble with it too. Just be considerate. 

- Don't use old broken luggage. They easily rip, easily break, and are not treated as well by the baggage handlers, since it's more difficult to be handled.

- Don't spend a fortune on the luggage you plan on checking. Sure, a Louis Vuitton might be AWESOME to have, but keep it at home and just marvel at its beauty in a safe place, because and I quote "When the guys at work see an expensive designer luggage, they're more rough with it". I don't know why, and he doesn't know why (maybe they're a little jelly you could drop $5000 on luggage you're rolling around on pavement), but it's just the way the cookie crumbles.

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A luggage buying guide: As told by an airport baggage handler - AIMINGFORAWE.COM