IT’S OFFICIAL: Fr. Z has baggage problems!

I have been using the same luggage for over 20 years and it has finally given up the ghost. I’ve repaired it, patched it, reassembled it, glued it, stitched it.

It is no longer a match for the way airlines bash it around.  The last trip to Rome has pretty much done it the smaller of the two, which I use the most.  This time they busted the handle and torn a zipper on an outside pocket.

So… I am looking for input in particular from pilots and attendants and those of you who travel a lot.

I have been using the kind that has hard sides and back but has a flexible top that zips shut and can expand.  Two straps then buckle/snap around it.  The inside of the top unfolds.  There is a mesh cover for longer garments or a suit that unfolding flap which zips up the middle.  Over the years I have figured out how to pack a suit so that it doesn’t wrinkle.

I have started to research different bags, but I could use some pointers from the readership.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. lucaslaroche says:

    Father, I’ve found great success with Saddleback Leather’s luggage. It’s a bit on the pricey side (close to $1k last I checked), but each piece has a 100 year guarantee. The stuff they make looks good too.

    They don’t have the mesh separators you mentioned, but the suitcase is large enough so you should be able to store a suit (or cassock) flat with minimum wrinkling. They’re made with no breakable parts, so you shouldn’t even worry about patching them up.

    Their website is if you want more information.

  2. Robbie says:

    I’m a pilot and I think you should look at the Ricardo Luggage Beverly Hills selection. It’s what I use for personal travel as opposed to work. It’s made four trips to Europe and back (plus a few other trips) in three and a half years and is as good as new. I’m pretty sure I use the 25 inch version. It has two wheels, an easy to use handle, and several different zippered areas for extra storage.

  3. Dr Guinness says:

    I’ve used a CAT bag for years and years, still going strong…

  4. dwfinke says:

    A seabag will never fail you.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    Before you buy anything, be aware that the airlines are changing sizes and weights even as I type. I was in a luggage shop today and three of the airlines just changed sizes for carry-on luggage drastically, as well as cutting down number and sizes of hold luggage. This is for international flights. I would check the airlines you usually use online to make sure if these are some which are changing. For example, here some info from an article this week. And, my once carry on will now have to go in the hold. Ryanair, Easy Jet and others are downsizing. Only bags of 50cm by 40cm by 20cm or less will be guaranteed a place and even then, one can be asked to put the smaller ones in the hold if there is no room. Here is the snippet:

    The budget carrier Easy Jet will only guarantee to store luggage in its overhead lockers that is 37 per cent smaller than the current limit.
    Passengers who travel with bags that are larger than the new size but meet the old requirements will not have to pay to have them checked in but may have their bags stored in the aircraft’s hold, meaning they would have to wait for them to appear in baggage reclaim.
    The airline said it has introduced the new rules as there is not enough room to store all baggage on some of its flights. It is asking passengers to pack a smaller bag in order to avoid the inconvenience of waiting for their luggage in the arrivals hall.
    The size now deemed suitable for overhead lockers, 50cm by 40cm by 20cm, shaves roughly 5cm off each dimension required for a bag to qualify as hand luggage – 56cm by 45cm by 25cm.
    Many passengers only take hand luggage on shorter flights in order to escape paying charges to put their luggage in hold. Other airlines have followed suit, with British Airways and Air France now offering cheaper, hand-luggage only fares.Charges for passengers whose hand luggage is not the required size vary but can amount to as much as the price of the flight itself, the consumer watchdog Which? warned in April.

  6. frjim4321 says:

    Good luck with any bad.

    My recent trip on United the must have buried my back under a dozen other, plus left it out in heavy rain.

    It’s a sorry business.

  7. faithandfamily says:

    Your Reverence, my husband has been a pilot for 23 years and we both use Travelpro. They make a rugged bag that holds up very well, without breaking the bank. With the airlines, unfortunately even the best bag can occasionally be destroyed. Regarding Wrinkle-free suit packing: I suggest turning the jacket inside-out before packing to help prevent wrinkles. I don’t know why it works, but I have had great success with this technique.

  8. Rick63 says:

    Dear Father, I travel about once per month. I have had nice luck with bags that double as a check-in or carry-on. I recommend a two-wheel over these new “spinners.” I use a Travel Pro 8 carry-on now that is 20″. It is small but has been quite durable. I recommend the new Travel Pro 9 in the same size. Here is a link.

    It is great to have this and a backpack for travel up to two weeks.

    God bless you.

  9. PostCatholic says:

    One more endorsement for Travelpro from a road warrior. Good quality, won’t break the bank.

  10. Lucas says:

    Saddleback makes *amazing* stuff, but it will break the bank. However if you do spring for it, their customer service is second to none. A friend had a bag break and they overnighted him a new one the next day.

    I have a Red Oxx Air Boss that I love. Great quality, can fit a ton of stuff it in it, plus its made in the USA.

  11. Hank Igitur says:

    I have had many suitcases over 30 yrs of long haul international travel. For carry on ballastic nylon soft side 22inch (or 20 if you can do it) wheelabord is good. Hardside carry ons do not take well to overhead bins. For checked bag go hard side but do not go ultralight weight as the plastics are more brittle and you will lose more luggage damaged in the drop chutes at the airport. Soft side checked bags get their contents squashed. I used Travelpro a lot in the past but quality even in Platinum series, is decreasing and I incline more to Samsonite now. Briggs and Riley are sturdy but expensive. Go for models which the air crew buy and if you can buy from a store/site which specialises in selling and REPAIRING crew luggage, they know the most about durability and drawbacks. Spinner cases are manouevreable in airports but have flimsier wheels and twice as many to break. They move poorly on 2 wheels compared to 2 wheelers with large in line skate wheels, which are the most durable and long lasting. Crew usually favour 2 wheel models for carry on. If you need a second carry on get a cabin bag which will sit in a stable pattern on top of your wheelabord and make sure it has a sleeve on the back to sling over the extended handle to be sure it cannot fall off. A built in integrated TSA lock is also a plus.

  12. lh says:

    My husband travels all the time. Sometimes two to three different places/countries in one week. His Samsonite hard shell finally gave out after about ten years. He purchased another similar to it.

  13. Hank Igitur says:

    PS: 2 wheel wheelabords are more prone to falling over than 4 wheelers if you load a cabin bag which is too heavy on top of them. Hardside checked bags will not allow water to enter and damage the contents when they are sitting on the tarmac in the rain or snow. Some models now have built in wifi tracking devices so you can use your mobile phone to help locate a misplaced bag in the arrivals hall.

  14. Tumi – I have had it since 1997 and it is still going strong.

    It is rather pricey, but the quality is great and it can withstand a lot…and as someone who has lived/studied/worked/traveled abroad many times, I have been known to pack far over the weight limit – and it still held up wonderfully.

  15. Priam1184 says:

    I’m sorry Father I have no advice on the luggage; I get a roll duffel bag at WalMart that doesn’t usually last 10 trips much less twenty years. But can you please explain the suit packing trick? That has bedeviled me since forever.

  16. Montenegro says:

    I also endorse Travelpro. Been using their first to market “rollaboard” for years. Tumi also has a good reputation and solid construction but it is pricey.

    Re packing: i use plastic dry cleaning bags over all my clothes before packing. This cuts down on the wrinkles.

  17. ckdexterhaven says:

    I don’t have a luggage recommendation, but a shopping tip. Marshall’s, TJ Maxx carry name brand luggage at half (sometimes more) the price. (Most of the brands recommended here) They usually have matching pieces. [Good tip.]

  18. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    1. Get luggage with four wheels, both for the carry-on and the larger bag. Such roll much more easily.

    2. Buy quality, Briggs & Riley for your big bag, the same for the carry-on or Swaney.

  19. mikeroesch says:

    Even if you are not endeavoring to be a “one bag” traveler, I highly recommend checking out the guidelines and suggestions here (and really all of their articles) for at least your carry-on needs:

    I recently bought the Red Oxx Air Boss recommended on the site, but have not had a chance to travel with it.

  20. memoryman says:

    Why do you need the luggage anyway?As Thomas a Kempis said:”those who rove abroad much are seldom holy”

  21. VexillaRegis says:

    memoryman: Nah, that’s not a nice thing to say! Today’s transportation is much swifter than it was in Thomas a Kempis’ time, when a trip abroad meant that you had to be away for months or even years! Now one can make a trip to Rome from the US and be back in a couple of days and be holy at home again. I hope you were joking :-)

  22. acardnal says:

    I prefer luggage with recessed wheels. If they are too exposed, they are subject to damage my the luggage monkeys.

  23. joslire says:

    Father, I’m with ckdexterhaven. I fly trans-Pacific 6~10 times per year (& have for decades but will quit next year :) ). [Exactly the sort of person I am looking for advice from!] I am almost always at max weight for each bag: 70# of expat supplies like good coffee, good beer, good wine, dried beans, cornmeal & other staples. When it starts to look worn I head to Marshalls & buy a replacement. I’ve never paid more than $50 for a bag & usually get at least 5 years out of one. I pay most attention to wheels & zippers. I like big wheels that are not too exposed, metal zippers with large teeth and any color but black so I can easily see my bags.

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