It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Monday, June 6, 2011

4 Wheels or 2? Hard or Soft?

Luggage?  We've got LOTS of luggage, of all shapes and sizes, and it gets worked pretty hard with all of our travel.

We tend to prefer Samsonite, but lately, thanks to a local supermarkets "collect stamps and get 70% off luggage", we've now got a bunch of new Wenger, to replace some of our old, battered Samsonites.

Samsonite is expensive, there's no getting around that, but if you're not in a hurry you can pretty much always get it on sale.  In the US it was on sale at Macys all the time, and in Australia you could pick it up at DJs or Myer in the Christmas sales for about 50% off.  Even if you don't have an immediate travel planned, if you see a suitable Samsonite at a good sale price, I would get it and store it away.  Good luggage is your friend and bad luggage can wreck a trip.

My friend Felicity recently raised this topic on her website Plane Jane - what do you prefer, a four wheel "spinner" or a 2 wheel "dragger"?

Personally, I'm a big fan of the 2 wheel dragger.  The spinners are fabulous on lovely smooth airport or train station floors, but are much less impressive once you're out on the footpath, trying to manouvre your heavy bag over cracks in the path, stones, cobbles and discarded bits of rubbish.

Two Wheeled Soft Sided "Dragger"

Spinners are designed to have all four wheels on the ground, gliding across the surface with the minimum of effort - and they work perfectly in perfect conditions.  The problem comes when you're on a rougher surface and you have to tilt them and pull them along like they were a dragger.  They're not designed for being dragged along on two wheels and are much heavier and harder to pull than the exact same case with only two wheels - no, I don't know why.

Four Wheeled Soft Sided "Spinner"

Another question is whether to go with a hard shell case or a soft sided case.  We've got both and I will always choose the soft sided case over the hard shell.  I know that your things are allegedly "safer" from being crushed in the hard shell, but, and trust me on this, when you've shopped up a storm in your holiday destination, and you're trying to cram in that last pair of "I had to have them, they were 75% off last price!" Nine West shoes, a soft sided case stretches to accommodate all of your stuff, the hard shell seriously does not.

Two Wheeled Hard Sided "Dragger"

Also, the soft sided cases pretty much always have "expander" gussets - an additional few centimetres of zipped out width that you can open up when you're at capacity.  It's a fabulous invention, and most hard cases don't have them.  Me?  I say go with soft sided every time.

Four Wheeled Hard Sided "Spinner"

But the most important thing to consider when you're looking at new luggage?  You absolutely need to know how much it weighs WHEN IT'S EMPTY.  If you've got a 20kg luggage allowance (pretty standard now on long haul economy flights), and your lovely new bag weighs 5kg when it's empty, that seriously cuts down on what you can take and what you can buy when you're travelling - every kilo counts!

These days you can get good, affordable cases that weigh around 3kg empty.  You can get fabulous ones that weigh less than that, but you're going to have to re-mortgage your home for them.  Good luggage departments will have a portable scale so you can weigh your case before you buy it, but if you're in doubt, take along your own portable luggage scale (a must have) so you can check it yourself. 

The better luggage brands are proud to boast about how light their cases are on the label, but the cheaper brands deliberately don't mention it, in the hope that you'll go with them because they're cheaper (and cuter - "Oh, look, it's pink with daisies on it, and that expensive Samsonite is just boring grey!").  As with most things in life, you get what you pay for, so do some homework - use the internet, look at travel forums and make sure you know:-

  1. how much your luggage allowance is for your flight (it'll be in the small print and you can always find it online if you look)
  2. how much your empty case weighs
  3. how much your case weighs when full and you're ready to head off to the airport

Oh, and it's definitely worth buying one of those portable luggage scales to take the guesswork out of the weight of your packed case before you head off to the airport.  As one who's seen someone have to pay $US700 for excess luggage at check-in (and they really weren't that much over), I can honestly say that it's better to be safe than sorry!

So, now you know what I prefer, but what do you prefer?
Four or two wheels?
Hard or soft sided cases?


  1. You have missed one important type of luggage: the plastic bag.

    I was over the weight limit coming back from New Zealand, but was allowed to check a second bag. The check-in desk generously donated a see-through garbage back for this purpose. I've never been so classy...

  2. That's taking classy to a whole new level! At least with a clear bag it's obvious that you're not flying your trash around the world?

  3. 2-wheel soft-sided dragger ALL THE WAY. I need every little breath the softies give and 4 wheels always end up pulling me every which way??? GREAT and VERY helpful post!! Useful information as always. Where do you find the portable scales and how much do they cost? I remember thinking I had to buy one, but don't remember where I saw them for sale???

  4. Just dropped Mum & Dad at the airport in Zurich, heading home to Australia, and they are 2 wheeled draggers all the way! Their bags were stuffed the the absolute limit and still weighed in at just over 20kg. Singapore Airlines were happy to let them go without any charges - yay for portable baggage weighing scales! I think that most luggage departments of stores would sell the scales, and Leigh Street Luggage in Adelaide should have some for Sada.


Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!