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What We Looked for in Luggage Reviews

Before buying an individual suitcase or a multi-piece set, pay attention to luggage reviews. We found numerous comments online asserting that ostensibly durable bags broke in one way or another, or that supposed carry-ons were in fact too large for the overhead bins.

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Although not perfect, the budget-priced bags we added to our list of favorites seem less prone to such disappointments than others at this end of the market.

Durability.

The most important attribute of any travel bag, regardless of price or features, is durability. In other words, the suitcase must have a shell that's strong enough to withstand the rigors of travel. For the most part, luggage reviews indicate that our top picks pass this all-important test: They survive the abuse meted out by luggage handlers and baggage-claim carousels, by travelers who haul them hither and yon over uneven surfaces, and by children who use them as props for play.

The rugged polyester-nylon blend of the Samsonite Hyperspace Spinner Boarding Bag (starting at $80) showed no evident signs of distress after being dragged two miles along cobblestone streets, according to a luggage review at Amazon. And the 1200x900 denier polyester shell on the 25-inch American Tourister Splash Upright (starting at $72) suffered only a bit of fraying, with no loss of functionality, after five years of heavy-duty service, noted one frequent traveler. Users' take on the smaller Splash Upright is equally positive, with adjectives such as "sturdy" and "hardy" peppering their reviews. Similar accounts and wording show up in posts about the American Tourister Fieldbrook II set (starting at $70), with its 100 percent polyester construction, and the Rockland Impact Spinner upright set (starting at $135), which is made of 1680 denier nylon, although reports popped up here and there about balky zippers on the latter.

Enough users' experiences with the SwissGear SA8395 Upright (starting at $70) seemed sufficiently problematic to relegate this bag to the bottom of the list. Several luggage reviews at Amazon report a variety of malfunctions, such as broken plastic buckles, a pull handle that fails to retract, wheels and zippers that fall off, and puncture holes in the shell -- all after minimal use.

All the suitcases on our list come with a warranty, which provides insurance against any manufacturing problems but does not cover any damage caused by the carrier, be it airline, cruise ship, bus, or train. The Samsonite Hyperspace Spinner is covered by a 10-year limited warranty, as are American Tourister bags, being part of the Samsonite family. The Rockland Impact Spinner set is protected by a three-year limited warranty and SwissGear offers a 10-year limited warranty. One reviewer who had four zippers on two SwissGear SA8395 Uprights fail during a trip writes that she doubts the warranty would cover it, although she had yet to file a claim at the time of the posting.

Overall Functionality.

If the suitcase suits the type of travel demands placed on it, reviewers seem generally pleased with the bags on our list. Users rave about the Samsonite Hyperspace Spinner Boarding Bag, noting it's just right for "anytime traveling," holds more than expected despite its compact size, incorporates easy-access outer pockets, and sometimes fits under an airplane seat. The 360-degree wheels afford maneuverability in tight spaces and over bumpy terrain and the option of pushing the suitcase while it's standing upright is a user-friendly boon, according to luggage reviews. Reviewers also applaud the removable toiletries bag, additional organizational aids for small items, and padded laptop/tablet compartment located inside the front flap.

The 25-inch American Tourister Splash wins kudos for longer trips and the 21-inch upright garners same for its spacious carry-on size. (Unless it's overstuffed, that is. One luggage review at eBags.com tells of having to remove some items before being allowed to bring it on board). Travelers commend the colors that stand out on luggage carousels, the roomy interior, which offers extra packing space with an expandable zipper, the strong zippers, and the multitude of pockets. They also note the two-wheel design that lets the bag stand upright reliably, unlike a spinner that may roll itself away when set on its wheels.

Satisfied users of the American Tourister Fieldbrook II luggage set write in reviews that the price is right, the three bags with wheels roll easily, and the smallish size of all four pieces works well for short hops -- although that same size disappoints some who wind up needing greater capacity. In general users say the bags are very portable and easy to maneuver in most any environment. Function and price balance out for users of the larger Rockland Impact Spinner set who comment approvingly about the classy looks and the expandability of each luggage piece, which provides welcome extra space when everything must fit in one suitcase. As with the Samsonsite boarding bag, they report that the spinner wheels roll easily over any type of terrain and in multiple directions. Several reviews, however, grouse about telescoping handles that break or get stuck in the bag.

Reviewers are torn about the durability of the SwissGear SA8395, but they do appreciate the copious packing space and the convenience of features like the laptop storage compartment, telescoping handle, and expandable zip.

by Maralyn Edid (Google+ Profile)

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