The Only 6 Pieces of Luggage a Frequent Flying Author Needs

This started as a tumblr post, Gentle Reader, and has now migrated to the main blog. I travel so very much these days that the pursuit of the perfect luggage is never ending. Here is where my collection currently stands:

1. Large: Izod hard sided expandable case
Got this puppy at Ross or TJ Maxx for $60. The hard sided case is great for hats and larger quantities of costuming. Sadly it got a massive crack in it on my New Zealand trip, so now I need to replace it.
Pros: weatherproof, protective, durable, rolls easily, light interior.
Cons: light exterior means already quite scuffed. No extension strip for attaching second rolly.


2. Medium: Eagle Creek (Switchback 26) convertible backpack (with zip-off mini backpack)
I have had this piece for almost 15 years. It works as a rolly or big backpack (although I’ve only used it as such a handful of times), and the front zips off to be a little backpack (which I’ve used a lot). I love it. I can travel somewhere with it stuffed full of gifts, check it, then zip off the front backpack, stuff it inside, and on a larger plane, carry it on to fly back. It is the ultimate versatile traveling machine. And if you only want one, pick this one. I used only it for a decade, before plane restrictions got complicated and needed to be hacked.
Pros: versatility & durability, trailing strap.
Cons: black interior (they seemed to have fixed this in the latest iteration), not great as an actual long term backpacking pack, not weatherproof, tippy.


3. Small: square-ish Lucas travel case with multiple pockets
This is my new replacement case for my baby* (see lamentation at the end of this post) and is the luggage I use on tour and in any other instances where I’m flying carry on only. I can live out of this case plus the tote for a week, quickly and on-the-go constantly. It passes through as a carry on on most domestic flights—necessary as I often do not have time when I land to wait to pick up a bag, not even gangplank valet.
Pros: basic carry on size, nice long, strong carry straps, full handle rather than the new single telescopic handle.
Cons: does not fit in all overheads or under seats, wheels stick out too much and 4 are not necessary for this size, plastic pockets inside rather than the superior stretchy mesh, no stacking sleeve (likely too big anyway), wide end handle (narrow end is better, it allows you to pull through the aisle). I’m looking to replace this one.

4. Very small Travelon underseat
I purchased this specifically for long haul international flights and longer writing retreats. In it I can stash all the things I would be devastated if I lost in my checked bag, but don’t necessarily need for the flight (like computer, note books, corsets, first day outfit, jewelry, etc….) and it still works to wheel a stacked tote as a I run to catch a connection. It’s good for those situations when I have to pack a tote heavy and really need something to rest it on at the airport. It’s also great as an event bag for actually walking around conventions, so that as I collect books and gifts, I don’t have to carry them over my shoulder.
Pros: cute, water resistant, many color options, very light.
Cons: perhaps a little too small, quilting style adds unnecessary bulk, no computer sleeve, straps are not long enough to hold jacket so I need to pack a large s-beaner to compensate.

5. Kate Spade long weekender tote with multiple pockets
What you can’t really tell from the picture is that this tote is almost as long as a duffel bag, but it still looks like a purse (perception is everything when boarding planes). It would certainly carry more than the above Travelon and possibly I could pack more than my Lucas rolly, but that would be a lot of weight on my shoulder. I got it so that I can do a steampunk event, and this bag is long enough to carry any or all of my corsets and parasols.
Pros: cute, very long, light interior with tons of pockets.
Cons: perhaps a little too light in color so hard to keep clean, perhaps a pinch too big, not padded at all, not weatherproof, likely won’t get as much use as my other bags but cost more because of designer tag.


6. Ultimate practical tote
I have the two different sizes and types of totes to compensate for any residual quantity of stuff that doesn’t fit into the bag I’ve chosen to bring, but this one is most commonly used. Believe it or not I was resistant to the style at first, but that mesh top and the way it sits and opens so easily is PERFECT for under the seat. I had to modify it, for it came with two pockets, one zipper and one Velcro. I slit the bottom of the Velcro one and superglued on some ribbon to stiffen it so it could become a handle sleeve for stacking on other luggage.
Pros: cute, padded, durable, weatherproof (sides, not top), mesh top and wide mouth is very convenient for flying.
Cons: needed modifications to work, no interior pockets, trim/straps not leather and beginning to fray, I’d rather a single strap over two smaller ones, a pinch too small—if it were 4 – 6 inches longer I wouldn’t have needed a second tote.

In general, this luggage hoard allows me the freedom to travel to any possible event. I’m not one of those who thinks you have to pay bank for luggage. You can usually find a good knock off or surplus at your local bargain bin. Unless you really do travel constantly and only want the one perfect piece, then you might have to really shell out.

Gail Recommends when Buying Luggage…

1. Ideally all bags should:
a. match but stand out from the crowd
b. be weatherproof
c. have light colored interiors
d. come with leather (or strong canvas with leather pad) detachable straps
c. have multiple interior pockets; particularly appealing is the stretchy mesh variety

2. All wheeled bags except for the largest one should only have two wheels. In the end, the latest craze for spinning bags is more annoying than useful. It tends to add lot of length and the constant spinniness can get quite annoying when at a standstill or on a ramp.

3. No handles that are from a single pole, in the new “T” style (because stacked bags spin off when running).

4. Ideally, the 4 smaller bags should all be very light weight, have a shoulder strap, have a sleeve for going over handles so they can be stacked, and be somewhat reinforced for carrying computer stuff.

As you can see, given my above collection, I haven’t managed to hit all 4 requirements. But this is an ongoing project, and after five years, I’m pretty happy with what I have amassed.

My favorite piece is dead and sadly no longer in production (it was a cheapie from Ross, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did).

I’ve never loved the color, and I’d rather it were a short end handle, rather than a wide end handle, but it worked so well as a rolly carry on, fit in almost every overhead, and could be squeezed under the seat in a pinch. I’ve never had it taken away at the gate, not even by Spirit. (I know, right?)

Must keep looking for the perfect carry on.

{Gail’s monthly read along for May is The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley}


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

La Belle Assemblee Date-  Thursday, June 1, 1837 Item ID-  v. 18, plate 87

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Cute via michaelmoonsbookshop tumblr

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
20 Things Every Traveling Gal Needs

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
 The Traveling Author ~ Packing Tips

Book News:

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Quote of the Day:

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Posted by Gail Carriger

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  1. Sam Kay said:

    I actually love the four-wheeled spin-type suitcases. They sit upright and can be pushed along so that even the heaviest bags do not drag on the arm, and putting two together back to back allows me to control both easily with one hand (a necessity for me.)

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