Joy Magazine

Planning a Winter Vacation?


When autumn rains start to fall in the Rogue Valley, many people begin planning their winter getaways. Whether it's a local ski trip, a beach holiday or an international adventure, buying the right luggage can make a big difference. Here are four helpful suggestions.

1. Know your travel habits.


If you upgrade your luggage, or find that there are some pieces that you just don't use, what should you do with it? A good option, suggests travel expert Anne McAlpin, is to donate it.

"We collect luggage all year long," says Becky Lonctot, Regional Manager for AAA Oregon. Luggage that is clean and in good condition is collected and distributed to foster care programs, women's and family shelters and other organizations that can make use of it. It's a great way to keep older luggage out of landfills and to help out others, says Lonctot, "especially for kids that have to move from place to place." Something as simple as having a suitcase instead of a black trash bag can make a big difference to a child or family in transition.

For more information about donating used luggage, contact the Medford AAA office.

"People tend to get fixated on what they need for THIS trip," says Bob Bestor, owner of Travel Essentials in Ashland, "and forget to consider options that offer more versatility. "We try and find out what kind of travelling they [usually] do." Are you a weekend traveler? Road warrior? Do you travel for business, adventure or pleasure? Do you typically travel by car or airline? "We ask questions"¦so they become educated and make the best choice for themselves."

2. Find the right features.

"I compare [luggage] to computers," says travel and packing expert Anne McAlpin and author of Pack It Up. While luggage has gotten lighter and more durable, the many features can seem bewildering. Some to consider:

  • The wheel system. "What you're looking for is a wheel that is partially recessed into the bag," says Bestor. A wheel that sticks out might get knocked off although some brands offer an easily replaceable wheel unit in case of damage.
  • The fabric. "It's gotten lighter weight and more durable," says McAlpin but she points out that sometimes there is a balance to be made between weight, durability and function. An example, says Bestor, is ballistic nylon. "It's super abrasion-resistant, but is a little heavy and a little expensive." A lighter-weight option is to check that corners and edges are reinforced with a more durable fabric. "It's going to be banged around and knocked around and most of us will have to check it at some point," says McAlpin.
  • Self-healing zippers. A feature McAlpin calls "brilliant," newer zippers are designed to "self-repair," avoiding the challenge of a broken zipper on the road.
  • Handles. Always check that a handled bag is the right length for your height and has a sturdy feel.

3. Know your limits.

With airline charges for overweight and checked baggage changing on a continual basis, size plays a huge role in a luggage purchase. Instead of one large bag, says Bestor, you might get the same packing space in two smaller bags that piggyback to offer more versatility and are easier to manage. Good basics for weekend or short-term travel? Both Bestor and McAlpin recommend a 20-inch rolling carry-on and a 16-inch rolling tote or duffel. "That's a combination that you can carry both pieces," says Bestor. If you anticipate returning with more than you took, pack an expandable tote that can be checked on the way home.

Even if you don't fly, weight can become an issue. For that reason, says McAlpin, "I don't recommend those sets of five nested bags." Typically the largest bag (or any over 24 inches) is heavy to lift and awkward to navigate when it's packed. "I don't recommend that for anyone's back."

4. Look for quality construction.

"You want to look for a bag that feels and looks solid," says Bestor. "We know what feels well-made. If it feels flimsy, it probably is flimsy." Take wheeled bags for a walk, run the zippers and fasteners and check handles, stitching and construction. And don't forget to check the guarantee. "The better the guarantee, the better the bag," is Bestor's guideline.

With some savvy shopping and planning ahead, your new luggage should carry a lifetime of travel memories.

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