Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hard or soft? The luggage question.

Hard-sided luggage or soft-sided luggage? My usual answer to this question is: have you seen how they load luggage into an airplane? Your luggage will fall off conveyor belts onto the tarmac. It will get tossed, dropped, squashed, crunched, squooshed, smooshed, smashed and occasionally trashed. When you choose your luggage, you should at least be aware of how it's going to be treated.

The hard choice

Our luggage: about as ancient as the dinosaurs.
I favor hard-sided luggage. My red Samsonite has traveled with me since I got it for my birthday in 1987. It still comes along. Sure, I had to get one of the locks fixed a couple of years ago, and the front handle is slightly bent these days, but it's still one heck of a suitcase.

The other suitcase we use for family travel is another Samsonite, a humongous green thing with wheels. It's not as old as my red one, but it's still been traveling with us for about 15 years.

My son loves this suitcase because he can pull it along by its little leash. It's hardsided, and pretty much indestructible. The one problem with it, and it is a big problem, is that it the suitcase itself is so heavy that it's pretty much impossible to pack it and not get dinged for too much weight. Not very practical, but as long as I don't pack it too full of stuff (which can be a challenge when you're traveling with children), it's ok. And it keeps my son entertained, so that's another plus.

The softer side
Soft-sided luggage does have its points though. It's lighter, easier to stow away for storage when you're not using it, and a lot of softsided luggage is really durable as well. On our long trips, we usually bring our two suitcases and one soft-sided duffel bag. I only put clothes and maybe shoes into the soft-sided bag, nothing that can split or crack or break. Wheeled duffel bags are great. We have one with the pull-out handle and I love that one. Easy to bring along, easy to pack, and as long as it's just clothes in there, I'm fine with it.

Spot the bag!
This game keeps my son entertained while we're waiting for flights. My daughter isn't in to it as much, mainly because she's usually busy enough with her own toys and games, while my son prefers to watch what is happening on the tarmac.

The game is to see if we can spot our bags going onto the airplane. First you have to spot your plane, and then you have to look for the little truck pulling the luggage train along behind it. Then you watch as the baggage handlers throw and toss all the boxes and suitcases off the carts and onto the conveyor belt going into the hold.

It is actually kind of fun to watch these professionals haul and maul all that carefully packed and tagged luggage. And it's also kind of cool if you actually get to see your luggage arrive on board, meaning it's not forgotten in some heap in a forgotten corner of the airport! Small favors, right?

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