Here they are – the six types of luggage pieces you will ever need to own. At least, that’s what my own trial and error have taught me. Weirdly, one of the most common questions I get when people write me emails or messages is about luggage – how much of it to have and what I have and so forth, so I finally got it all down in one place!
We move about every two years (even before we were diplomats), and for my own work plus personal travel, I was on over a hundred flights last year alone (plus road…plus train)… we seem to be in perpetual movement sometimes. Whether they have been solo trips, family trips, trips with kids, work trips…these are the pieces that have been tried and true over the years. This list doesn’t include things like any specialty luggage which I don’t really use (for example, frame back packs etc), or carry-ons (though for the curious, it nearly is always my LV carry all tote or work bag since I can fit just about anything in there, and a Skip Hop diaper bag if I’m traveling with kids for me, Skip Hop backpack for them). This is just the list of the basics that won’t let you down.
1. Samsonite Lightweight 21″ : I’ll start with the newest addition to my arsenal since I’m a creature of habit and I rarely make changes but this was an important one this year for two reasons. First, since I was doing a lot of intra-european travel, certain airports and airlines started to become really fanatical about carry-on luggage and making sure that it fit well under the limits, which are just a tad smaller here on this side of the pond. My Tumi luggage (which I adore and swear by for its quality – see below) was just a tad outsized for that. I would have toughed it out but when I then found out I was pregnant, I was struggling a little bit with the weight of Tumi luggage, especially for such short but frequent jaunts. I could have solved my problem with another, smaller Tumi but since I wasn’t sure how I would feel about going down in size, I tried the Samsonite first (as it was about a fourth of the cost) and I have to say I kind of fell in love with it. It was a transition to be sure – it doesn’t have the sturdiness of my other Tumi bags, or the indestructibility of the ballistic fabrics I love – it won’t last as many years and you can feel that instantly. But, it performed solidly and the light weight can’t be beat. I’ve packed for a week in it before but it definitely is made for shorter haul trips or trips where you don’t need a lot of “addendum” things like lots of shoes or formal wear etc. The petite size forces you to be efficient – once you get used to that, you’ll always regret taking more.
2. Tumi International Expandable 22″: If you have to make only one quality luggage purchase, this is it. You can solve just about any problem with this bag – and up until I broke down for the light weight place holder, this was my go to back for just about everything. My model is a few years old so the frame is a little heavier than what they put on it now, but that additional heft will mean that it holds it’s own and lasts for years. I think I have had mine for just about ten so it literally has millions of miles on it – I bought it when I started traveling shorter trips for my current job and the price tag hurt. But I think of how much use it’s gotten over 10 years and the fact that it still looks great, and there is something to be said for that. If you don’t travel frequently, then I’m not sure if it makes sense to spend that much on a bag – Samsonite, as I learned above, has perfectly good options for much less cost. But this bag has seen just about everything and the Tumi ballistics hold up to just about whatever you can throw at it, so in that sense, it has been worth it for me.
3. Tumi Short Trip Expandable: Again, I have the older model of this version – now they are lighter and have 4 wheels instead of two so I’m sure they make them even better. But the roomier size plus expandability give you flexibility for when you’re really going to be gone for awhile – or alternatively, sometimes when just I and my daughter are going somewhere, I’ll pack us both in this one bag. But this is the one when you just have a bit more to take along.
4. The L.L. Bean Duffle: Also known as the “body bag”. This is what half of the diplomatic corps swears by for the larger global moves we do on a regular basis. Sturdy “enough” and roomy – these are conducive for when you get to the “just throw it all in there” phase of big pack outs. And they’re not too precious if something happens to them and you need to replace them. When we first got married and filled out our luggage set, I made the mistake of getting a Tumi ginormous suitcase. An expensive mistake. Frankly, I don’t know if they even make them any more. It seemed like a good idea at the time – something that could hold our things for the many moves we would make – but since then, the restrictions on luggage and weights have become so much stricter that frankly the suitcase alone, empty, almost hits the limit on most airlines so you can imagine the fees it incurs if it actually has things in it. We still use it but I definitely wouldn’t buy it again if given the chance – for the big moves, just stick to this simpler and less expensive solution.
5. Truffle Pouches: This is how I organize all the little “doodads and sundries” that invariably end up in luggage. I have one for make up – and one for cords and chargers – and so forth. Truffle is great for this – I like a lot of the clear ones but they have a variety of options. Their document cases are on my list to get next. And if its not in one of these in my bag, it’s in a ziploc bag, and my shoes go in hotel shoe bags. That’s it for the inside.
6. Longchamp Duffles: Trust me, you can never have too many. Each person in our family now has their own color. You’ll always find one in my suitcase regardless of if traveling for fun or work to handle any potential overflow. I also use them to pack my kids since it’s so easy to just get all the kiddie clothes and their stuff in there without overthinking (also, it makes it easier to know who’s stuff is where when we have to do an overnight en route or grab stuff out of the car etc). They’re also perfect for one night or weekend trips.
With the exception of the last two things (the pouches and the Longchamps duffles), we keep everything in black so that it looks coordinated, and have recognizable luggage tags to make our bags easier to spot on the carousel. I’ve experimented with other bags before – for example, when I was a student, I traveled more with a back pack but those days seem long gone now. The back packs are still around but we rarely use them. Instead, this has become our “capsule” – instead of adding something different or bigger to the mix when you add more family members or go on bigger trips, the best solution here is just to plus up/combine any of the basic pieces. And of course, organized and thorough carry-on bag packing is key, especially with kids. But as far as luggage goes, these six items will get you just about anywhere you need to in the world – bon voyage!