Long gone are the days when luggage meant just a bag to hold your travel essentials. These days, it doubles up as a fashion accessory for stylish jetsetters too. Available in an array of bright and trendy colours which make them easy to spot on the baggage carousel, suitcases also now come in a variety of travel-resilient fabrics, such as the stain-repellent Teflon or ultra-lightweight polycarbonate.
As Singaporeans travel more, they are now willing to spend extra on luggage they can depend on. Industry sources estimate that the luggage market here is worth $50 million, with more than 30 international brands on offer.
As a frequent traveller, I've used many different bags and tried out different check-in luggage bags, but my favourite has to be those from Rimowa. My parents, on the other hand, swear by Samsonite luggage. Not really sure why.
But anyway, here's what we love.
Get this luggage: RIMOWA
The popular German luggage brand founded in 1898 is known for its ultra-lightweight luggage bags that are made from polycarbonate material. The company was the first to develop and launch the innovative design and material in 2000.
Rimowa also offers bags made from other materials such as aluminium.
It has three standalone stores in Singapore – 01-68 Millennia Walk and B1-148 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands and 02-19 Mandarin Gallery.
The classic: Topas 73cm Multi-wheel
Material: A mix of aluminium and magnesium alloys. This has been known to be one of the toughest cases in the world since it was launched in 1953. The bag can withstand more than
80kg of weight without damage.
Features: TSA combination lock, adjustable compartment dividers as well as a retractable handle. Comes with four multi-directional wheels for easy handling.
The latest: Bossa Nova Multi-Wheel
Material: Made from polycarbonate, it can withstand about 70kg of weight stacked on top of it without damage.
Features: TSA combination lock, adjustable compartment dividers and a retractable handle. It also comes with multi-directional wheels.
Get Travel Wallets
Travel wallets help keeps you organised during your trip. The different compartments allow you to arrange your itinerary, plane tickets, etc. We love the Smythson one as it is big enough to be a travel clutch instead of a wallet. What's good is that you can keep your receipts and keep tabs on what you have spent as these documents will be stored in its respective sections.
When choosing cabin bags....
I swear by Longchamp's Travel Bag. It weighs 0.6kg and features one main zipped compartment with snap closure flap, 1 detachable adjustable shoulder strap and 1 central zip to enlarge bag. I love how the bag can be expanded to pack in more things! It is also great as a shopping bag when you're out and about.
Others prefer a more sturdy arm candy, like the Louis Vuitton Keepall bag. It's dressier and less casual of course. Also adds that bit of chic factor to your whole "airport style". Here, you can pack in your snacks, travel wallets and things you need for the plane, such as your magazines and tablets.
What to look out for when choosing luggage bags
■ Hard cases
Experts recommend hard-shell luggage bags as not only are they hardier and can better withstand impact and the elements, they also provide better protection for the contents.
Ensure that the luggage features sturdy clamps and that the top and bottom shells are well-aligned when you close them. This is to prevent them from bursting open when they are fully packed.
However, hard shells are not very flexible, especially when you want to stuff last-minute items into a full case. Also, they tend to be heavier than soft-shell cases.
Plastic cases may weigh less but are not recommended as they crack easily. Instead, choose those that are made from polycarbonate material, which is versatile, tough but lightweight and used in the making of bullet-proof windows. Aluminium, too, is strong yet lightweight.
The downside is that these materials are susceptible to dents and scratches.
■ Soft-shell bags
If you prefer soft-shell luggage, get those made of sturdy yet lightweight fabrics with close weaving and a hardy feel, such as ballistic nylon, a type of thick and tough synthetic nylon. The material is thick enough to prevent rips that can result from rough handling.
While they are more flexible than hard-shell luggage bags, soft-shell cases are not as long-lasting. Look for quality full-framed soft cases which will not collapse even if heavy items are stacked on top of them.
Look for luggage bags with organisational features that meet your needs. These include pouches for various items, belts to secure the contents and waterproof pockets to hold toiletries that may spill due to changes in air pressure during a flight.
Choose trolley bags with strong, retractable handles made of steel or aluminium and whose heights can be adjusted to suit different users. Always check the inside of the bag to see if the handle takes up space. A good luggage is one with handles that do not occupy any internal space and thus gives you more packing room.
Find bags with multi-directional wheels for easy manoeuvring. The good ones feature protective cusps over the wheels to prevent damage.
Choose angular luggage, which let you fit more things in them than suitcases with curved edges.
The contents will also stay in place better as there is no room for them to move once you have packed your bag properly.
Black may be chic but it is such a common colour that you may have to spend more time at the baggage carousel trying to spot your bag.
A luggage in a more uncommon colour, such as bright purple, or one featuring graphic prints is far easier to identify. The chances of getting your bag mixed up with someone else’s are also lower.
Travel Sentry locks, which are certified by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of the United States’ Department of Homeland Security, are commonly used by travellers heading to the US as they are required by law.
After the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, the country’s rules state that TSA officers may open a luggage for inspection when it is out of the owner’s sight.
Travel Sentry is an American company that establishes and manages standards used in travel security in America. A Travel Sentry TSA-approved lock comes with a combination code and a keyhole at the side for a master key which is held by the TSA.
When going through customs, such a lock will help minimise damage to your suitcase. Otherwise, custom officers can break the lock of your bag. Even if you are not travelling to the US, it is still recommended that you use a Travel Sentry lock as it is sturdy and provides added security. These days, many luggage bags from top brands, including Rimowa and Samsonite, come with built-in Travel Sentry locks. You can identify them by the TSA stamp on the locks.
If you want better protection, shrink-wrap your suitcase, especially if it is a soft-shell one, to prevent tampering. In Singapore, the service, called the Baggage Wrapping Service, is available in Terminal 1. Prices vary depending on the size of your bag. Other airports which offer this service include John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Heathrow Airport in London and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Do note that shrink-wrapping your bag protects it from being opened by those who are not authorised to do so. But if the customs officers at your destination want to check your bags, they can rip apart the wrapping.