New Luggage

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Most people don't think about luggage too often.  Many people receive luggage as wedding gifts and they enjoy it for many years of road trips, family vacations and occasional air travel.  I have a different relationship with luggage.  My luggage needs are even different from most business travelers who make frequent, short trips.  My travel is usually 3-4 weeks in a single location, so maximizing space to pack as much as possible is always a priority.

My previous suitcases were from the Leisure brand at Younker's (a midwest department store chain, similar to Dillards.) They were 28" polyester uprights that go on sale each year at Christmas for...$20. Yup, twenty American dollars.  No lie, that is a great deal.  The price tag was around $100, but are usually on sale for 50% off.  Buying two bags per year for the last three years worked for two hundred flights -  so at $0.60 per flight, those bags held up their end of the bargain.

After all those flights, the bags had taken a beating.  Between flights to India, layovers, and commuter flights, the bags were showing signs of wear.  The wire and plastic internal frames were starting to bend, certainly not as a result of my over packing (okay, maybe that was part of the problem.) Some of the aesthetic stuff was worn or missing, but those bags had always stood by me - always arrived on time and kept my stuff protected.  But with future travel plans in the works, I felt like it might be time to get some "grownup" luggage.  You know, maybe spend more than $20?

Yikes!  But where to start?  My first visit was back to Younker's, to see what options they had.  I was instantly overwhelmed with options for materials (hard sided, and different denier polyester), wheels (two fixed, four swivel) and sizes.  And the price points for each started around $100 and could go up to the mid $300s.  Ouch.  I knew luggage would be an investment, but that was a steep jump from $20 to $300.  I knew that I shouldn't make any decisions, but instead I should make a plan. I needed to figure out what I wanted and how much I wanted to spend.

Setting a budget
After looking at a few different bags, I decided I was willing to spend up to $100 on each bag.  I set this limit a little higher than I originally intended with the intention to build my luggage collection over time - no need to rush out tomorrow and spend a bunch of money.

What I wanted
I laid out a few basic needs - lightweight and durable.  Both seemed pretty logical;  lightweight because of the 50lbs weight limit on checked bags and durable because I want it to last.  As I thought about my upcoming travel plans, I decided to change my approach to luggage.  Instead of two big bags, I wanted to get a smaller suitcase that could be used for short trips, plus maybe a big bag for my long trips.  I also wanted the smaller bag to double as a carry-on for my camera and laptop; so a hard sided suitcase made the most sense for the smaller bag.

Fortunately, I knew my Leisure luggage still works and would continue to meet my needs while I search for the best deal.  After years of $20 suitcases, you didn't think I was going to pay retail, did you?  I put the smaller bag at the top of my priority list and began shopping.  I started checking out specialty stores like Landmark Luggage at Valley West Mall, retail stores like Younker's, JCPenny's and Dillards.  After a few weeks of looking around, I still hadn't found anything that met both my needs and budget.  At Younker's I found a bag that was a bit larger than I wanted and was at the very top of my budget with the 50% off sale.  But I decided to keep looking.

A friend suggested I check out Marshall's and I found a bag that met my requirements!

But it came in two patterns; plaid and zebra.  I debated for a while - if I'm looking for "grownup" plaid or zebra really the look I'm going for?  I liked them, but I realized I didn't love them, so back to the drawing board.  After weeks of casual looking without results, I took some time off from the great luggage search of 2010. 

My employer recently started a new recognition program where we can get gift cards to participating retailers.  I checked it out, and I had enough points for $30 in gift cards, and chose TJMaxx/Marshall's for mine.  When the cards arrived on Saturday, I knew they would be the perfect way to jump start my luggage search!  With an afternoon of errand-running and shopping planned with my mom and sister, I easily added TJMaxx to our list of places to go - mostly because I was the driver.

Ten minutes after walking into TJMaxx, I walked out with not one but TWO matching pieces, and stayed under my $100 budget! Here's the breakdown:

The smaller bag is a Heys Sidewinder 20" upright with 4 spinner wheels and can double as a carry-on if needed.  The retail price tag said 179.99!  Amazon currently has it listed for $120.00, TJMaxx price was $59.99 and it was on sale for $49.00!

The larger bag is a matching Heys Sidewinder 24" (which it looks like they no longer make, I could only find the 26" for price comparison), again a hard sided suitcase that also expands (for my over packing) with 4 spinner wheels.  The retail price tag said $219.99, Amazon price of $134.99, TJMaxx price was $69.99 on clearance for $39.00!

Let's do the math!
Retail Price = $399.98
Amazon Price = $254.99
TJMaxx Price = $88.00!

The price I paid was $166.99 cheaper than!  Factor in my $30 gift card, my total out of pocket expense was $63.28 including sales tax!

So that concludes the great luggage search of 2010!  Anyone else have any stories of getting deals - brag about them in the comments!

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