This Training Center article is written by the editors of SNEWS®
If travel packs are for Third World adventurers and global vagabonds, then wheeled luggage is for the urban wanderer and business traveler. Though not as ideally suited for adventure travel as a travel pack in one respect (hard to tote and carry wheeled luggage long distances and forget about using wheels on a muddy road), today's wheeled luggage will more than outperform a travel pack in any urban environment worldwide. They hold up in almost any travel situation where the roads are paved (even with cobblestones), sidewalks are hard surfaced not sandy or muddy, stairways are relatively negotiable and not too numerous, and distances for toting the luggage not too extreme. Wheeled luggage is also perfect for the traveler who enjoys weaving through airports clutching that last Grande latte in one hand, while using the other hand to guide the luggage through crowds like a skilled ballroom dancer.
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Essentially, there are two basic types of wheeled luggage -- one that looks more like luggage and one that looks more like a duffel. Which one your customer will prefer and which size they will need to choose, depends a lot on personal preference, and ultimately need.
The traditional approach
Think business traveler and urban adventure traveler with this category of wheeled luggage. In the more traditionally styled wheeled luggage, there are two distinct approaches -- standard and convertible. Standard really is nothing more than a nicely designed suitcase that incorporates a sturdy frame with a heavy-duty, extendable handle and durable in-line skate wheels.
Convertible luggage adds the element of hidden shoulder straps designed to be used for shorter carries when, for example, the sidewalk disappears into a muddy swamp and there is nothing left to do but tote the luggage by hand to the hotel one-half mile away. Still, convertible luggage is NOT well suited for long carries, since most convertibles in the wheeled luggage category lack waist belts completely or have waist belts that serve more to protect suits and clothing from the wheels than actually providing support for the weight.
The warehouse on wheels
Enter the wheeled duffel. Typically, wheeled duffels are intended for use by travelers who absolutely have to transport a lot of gear, especially bulky gear -- scuba diving trips, mountaineering, multi-sport vacations, etc. Some wheeled duffels even come with convertible straps for carrying like a backpack, but trust us on this one -- that's the last thing your customer will want to do. Bottom line is, wheeled duffels are ideal solutions for large loads that are more easily transported through miles of airport corridors and train station platforms when the load is on wheels.
Features to point out:
- Pull out handle that stows securely and will withstand the bellhops and luggage handlers using it as a primary hold to grab and toss the bag.
- Large wheels that look equally at home on a skateboard as they do on the luggage. These type of wheels roll more efficiently, are more durable and certainly more quiet.
- Reinforced corners and bag edges to minimize wear and tear at all the typical, and not-so-typical, points of abrasion from bags jostling against each other, encounters with curbs, door corners, taxicab trunk lids and airport luggage belts.
- Sturdy handles for lifting, lugging and slinging the bag when needed at various strategic points on the bag – typically one on the top and one on the side.
Think system management
If your customer is a business traveler, think in terms of a system -- a wheeled suitcase, with either a zip-off backpack that can serve as a briefcase and carry-on, or a matching computer bag/briefcase carry-on that will easily hang from the wheeled luggage via the handle strap or attach using buckles.
Just because it has wheels, don't overload
Remind your customers that most airline carriers allow no more than 40 pounds for a carry-on bag and 50 to 70 pounds for a checked bag -- even less with some international carries. Tell your customers to err on the safe (and comfortable) side and keep checked bags to 50 pounds or less. Some restrictions might even be tighter for second and third bags, so advise them to check directly with their airline. While few airlines will refuse overweight or excess luggage, the add-on fees your customers might experience can be, well, shocking.
Skipping by the long check-in lines at many airports these days, and going straight to the gate counter and on to the airplane is magical. For overnight use and very efficient and experienced travelers, a carry-on bag no larger than 9 by 14 by 22 inches will be accepted by most airlines and hold all the travel essentials effectively – just keep the weight under 40 pounds.