5 Tips to Make Your Luggage Last Longer
We tend not to give all that much thought to how vital our luggage is to our trips until we find ourselves dealing with a ripped bag or a broken handle at the worst possible moment.
We assume that our luggage will stand the test of time, but not many of us take the trouble to care for our bags properly and so extend their useful life for as long as possible.
Whilst you can’t control what happens to your luggage once you’ve checked it in for a flight, there are plenty of things you can do to keep it clean and in the best possible condition.
Whether you’re on the hunt for new luggage and wondering how long it will last, have just invested in new luggage and want to know how to take the best care of it, or have noticed that your luggage is starting to look a little worse for wear, read on for an in-depth guide to luggage care.
1. Having a good quality suitcase is essential
First things first. No matter how hard you try, if your suitcase isn’t good quality to begin with then it’s never going to last very long, as it won’t stand up to even the most responsible use and the best care.
Throw in the fact that seven out of 1000 bags are mishandled by airline staff, and it’s clear why you need to invest in quality. So, when you’re next in the market for new luggage, bear the following in mind.
Unsure as to whether you need to opt for a softside or hardside luggage? Click on the link below to read about the trade-offs involved when choosing one over the other.
The Hardside vs Softside debate
Here are some of the things you need to look for…
Collapsible handles are often one of the first things that break on suitcases, so make sure the one you choose doesn’t wobble around when you roll the bag. It should extend and collapse easily and smoothly without jamming.
Side handles or shoulder straps should be strong too, as having a handle break during a trip can make getting around with your luggage very tricky.
Often disregarded, zips are potentially the most important aspect of any suitcase, as they’re what keeps it all together, literally.
The best zips to look out for are by the YKK brand, with two sets of interlocking teeth, or are self-repairing nylon coil zips.
Whilst many people opt to add their own locks to bags, ones that have built-in TSA locks have the edge. They mean that agents can get into the bag safely without having to damage the bag in the process, a real bonus if you’re concerned about your bag’s longevity.
‘Spinner’ wheels (four wheels on the bottom of the bag) are, I think we can all agree, very convenient and make a bag easier to pull, but just bear in mind that a bag with two wheels is less likely to break than one with four.
Luggage with a lifetime worried or a long term limited warranty is usually significantly more expensive, but it will probably save you a lot of money in the long term when you don’t have to buy a new suitcase every few years. The best warranties cover airline damage, too.
A sturdy frame is great for keeping your belongings safe and means your suitcase will hold its shape well. Look for cases with reinforced corners and be skeptical of cheap ABS cases with poor corner impact resistance.
We’ve reviewed huge amounts of suitcases at Land of the Traveler, and our durable favorites include the Briggs and Riley Baseline, which is both hardwearing and wonderfully light thanks to its fiberglass frame.
Other great options are the Rimowa Original, the Travelpro Platinum Elite, and the Tumi Tegra Lite made of TEGRIS, a cutting edge woven polypropylene thermoplastic material, which gives carbon fiber a run for its money.
Keep in mind though that cases like the Tumi Tegralite & the Rimowa are extremely expensive and its actually more practical to trade away some level of durability to get a good weight/price/durability balance.
This is why cases from brands like the Travelpro, Samsonite, Briggs & Riley all regularly top our best checked luggage & best carry-on luggage lists.
2. Store your luggage properly
When they’re not travelling, lots of people just dump their luggage under their bed, in a cupboard or in their attic without giving it a second thought.
But if you’re serious about making your luggage last and want to keep it looking squeaky clean, then what you do with it when you’re not traveling is just as important as what you do with it when you are.
Before you stash it away, take a second to make sure everything’s where it should be. Zip up inner pockets, and if it’s an expandable bag then make sure you store it in its slimmest form. If there are any detachable straps, make sure they’re folded up and stowed away in an inner pocket.
Make sure the outer zips are firmly zipped up to prevent any creepy-crawlies from setting up home in your bag whilst you’re not using it.
Once you’re all set, make sure the spot you pick to store your luggage is cool and dry, as humidity can cause mold to develop, which would be a nasty surprise when you go to pack for your next holiday. On top of that, choose a spot where direct sunlight doesn’t hit it to keep the color vibrant for as long as possible.
If you have a luggage set, then you could do the Russian doll trick and store a piece of hand luggage inside a larger suitcase. You could even consider storing your beach clothes or your skiing gear that won’t see the light of day for another year in your case. Make sure anything you want to store in your suitcase is nice and clean, or pop it in a plastic bag first.
People generally find that under the bed or on a shelf at the top of the closet is the best place to store luggage as it means that the suitcase won’t have anything put on top of it, which could damage it.
If you know your suitcase will be sitting there for months on end, it’s worth covering it with a cloth or even a large rubbish bag to stop dust building up in it.
If you want something more aesthetically pleasing, which you might if your suitcase is going to be in view, there are luggage covers of all shapes and sizes in online stores.
3. Keep your luggage clean
No matter how careful you are with your luggage and how well you store it, it’s always going to get dirty. It’s just part and parcel of traveling.
If you keep on top of the cleanliness of your bag, however, it’s really not that hard to keep it looking like new.
For the inside
Whatever your bag looks like on the outside, the insides of most suitcases are pretty similar. Empty the bag out completely and then remove and wash any detachable pockets and liners. Double check the labels before you machine wash anything and if in doubt, hand washing is always the safest option.
Use a vacuum cleaner or a handheld hoover to suck up any dust, hair, or sand that’s been hanging around since your last beach holiday.
If there are any polycarbonate surfaces on the inside of the bag, they can easily be cleaned with a wet cloth and soap.
Once you’re all done, make sure you give your suitcase a chance to air out or dry completely before you reassemble it or stash it in a cupboard.
For the outside
Cleaning the outside of suitcases is slightly more complex than cleaning the inside, as it will depend entirely on what your suitcase is made of.
There will always be specific cleaning instructions that come with the bag and you should refer to those as much as possible, but the generic tips below should also help you keep your case in tip-top condition.
If your bag’s shell is polycarbonate, then cleaning is very simple, only requiring a damp cloth dipped in water with a squirt of gentle dish soap. If there are any tough grease spots, a toothbrush can be really handy for scrubbing them off.
Aluminum cases can be cleaned with just warm water, and there are metal polishes you can use after cleaning for extra protection.
If you have a leather bag, then firstly tackle any stains with a toothbrush and warm water with a little detergent, and then wipe it clean with a cloth.
If there are no obvious stains, skip directly to step two, using a leather conditioner and following the instructions on the bottle. When you’re doing, leave the bag open to air dry.
If the shell of your case is made of nylon and the main issue is dust, all you need is a regular vacuum with a brush attachment to make it look miles better.
Last but not least, if your bag is made of fabric then you can consider placing it directly in a bathtub full of warm water and a little detergent. You then move it around to help dislodge the dirt, drain the water, and repeat, letting the bag soak.
If your bag has any hard metal frames that can’t be removed for this soaking, however, then we don’t recommend full submersion as it can lead to corrosion. Instead, go for the damp cloth and toothbrush method.
As we mentioned above, make sure that your luggage is completely dry before squirreling it away anyway to make sure mold doesn’t develop between now and your next adventure.
4. Pack your luggage well
88% of Americans claim to be good at packing, but whilst they might be great at outfit planning, are they taking their luggage into account when they decide on their holiday wardrobe?
Tempting as it can be to cram as many things as physically possible into your suitcase, being overstuffed can shorten your luggage’s life significantly, as it puts pressure on the zips or seams. Make sure you leave enough room so that even if you buy souvenirs you still won’t be struggling with the zip.
Basically, you shouldn’t have to be sitting on your suitcase to make it close. If you need extra convincing, just think how much easier it’ll be to repack at the end of your holiday.
When you’re packing, make sure that any particularly heavy items are at the bottom of your suitcase, near the wheels. If your bag is top-heavy then it’s more likely to topple over, which could cause damage.
Related: Tips to Pack light & avoid excess baggage fees
If you’re carrying any sharp objects like scissors, then make sure you wrap them up safely in some kind of cloth and keep them in the center of the bag so that they don’t come into contact with the outer shell of the case.
Similarly, be ultra-careful with all liquids. Take it as read that liquids will leak, and prepare accordingly. Keep a separate bag for toiletries & liquids (preferably made from PVC or one which contains a PVC lined section) to avoid damaging your suitcase, or ruining your favorite holiday outfit.
Another thing to think about is straps. Anything loose could get caught up in the baggage conveyor system and damage your bag, so fasten down tightly or remove any compression straps or shoulder straps before checking in.
If your zip should get snagged, then don’t just keep tugging at it. Soap is a great way to free it without leaving any marks. Things like coconut oil should be avoided, as you’ll never get rid of those stains!
5. Use the warranty
In case you are dealing with a broken suitcase, before you do anything check whether it’s covered under the warranty provided by the manufacturer or the retailer. Good cases are built to last, so reliable brands often offer lifetime warranties, or sometimes 10-year warranties.
Just bear in mind that if you send your bag off for repair it might be gone for some time, which could be an issue if you’ve got another trip lined up. What’s more, you might be liable for shipping costs, which can get expensive.
Another thing to note is that some warranties exclude things like damage caused by an airline, so make sure you know what’s covered and what’s not. You might be able to claim from the airline itself for the damage it causes, but you’ll need to file the claim before you leave the airport.