Luggage. In my years as a porter, I have seen all types. Big, small. Heavy, light. Wheels or no wheels? Bright, bland. Which is better? Which is the best? What is the most durable?
Answers will vary depending on your destination, how long you plan to travel, where you intend to stay, and whether or not you are comfortable with others looking after your bag.
It is important to have the right luggage. Luggage is used to carry things. It should be suited for its purpose, which is to transport your belongings securely and safely for the duration of your trip. What is useful in a city today may not be practical in the cobblestoned old towns, outback, or on the snowfields.
You should carry a bag if you will be in the snow or the outback. You won’t need a porter if you’re in the outback or the snow. Wheels don’t work well on sand, ice, or snow. Use a backpack or something with a sturdy shoulder strap in these situations. Prepare for the possibility that it could get dirty or soaked.
Are you going to a tropical resort island? There will be several people handling your luggage if you are flying in or out (or taking a boat). There will also be other bags being held at the same moment, so your bag may be thrown, shoved, and heaved onto a luggage heap in a complicated game of luggage Tetris. Take a suitcase with a rigid interior and softer exterior. There isn’t much you’ll need to bring with you. People who take more than one set of swimwear, casual clothes, and formal clothing (all in one size) will be scolded by the porter.
If you plan to stay in a few hotels, but you don’t need the porter service as you are confident that you can manage your bags yourself, then a hard-shell suitcase with four wheels is suited for you. These suitcases are easy to handle, easy to recognize, and nearly indestructible. We call them R2-D2 Bags because they are so popular with porters. Imagine them saying “Beep, beep, beep” when you drag them.
If you are traveling to a European hotel in a city or by train, rigid hard cases may be too heavy. It’s better to have a bag that you can drag behind you and can withstand some weathering. You’ll also want to make sure it can be secured.
The best bag for a hotel located in a nearby town is one that fits easily in the boot. The bag can be placed on trolleys for porter services or in hotel storage rooms, along with other bags of the same type. You can trust that the staff will take care of it. These bags are our favorites because they can fit into small spaces and have large, soft handles.
Expensive, brand-name luggage? One question – why? I had a manager who dealt with luggage complaints. Guests would demand compensation for damage done to their Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags.
She asked how much clothing was torn due to the porter’s messy handling. The answer is often: “None. But he dragged through the snow!”
The lovely manager would let the guest know that the luggage has done its job, and no compensation will be given. She was saying that a suitcase is a piece of luggage used to hold your clothes when you travel. That’s it. It’s not an accessory by itself.
All luggage is the same; it has a shelf-life and can be scuffed or scratched. Don’t buy something expensive unless you want to stroke your ego. It’s better to go with something less expensive that still does the job.
Airport and hotel staff will move all bags around and place them where they are most appropriate. No one will judge you. Your porter?
Raymond Thew worked as a bell captain, porter, concierge, and parking attendant in Australia, Scotland, and Canada for over 20 years. He now lives in Broome.