NEW YORK — In an age of increasingly inhumane air travel, the right luggage can go a little way to making journeys more bearable.
With fees to check bags, more fees for luggage that's overweight and crowded terminals making carry-ons unwieldy, the right bag is a must.
Nowadays, the premium valise is as lightweight and durable as possible, with four smooth, multi-directional wheels and a flat interior. Ideally, it will fit in an overhead bin, although the baggage space differs with different airlines.
Soft or Hard?
My education started at the Lower East Side's Altman Luggage — a no-nonsense purveyor of sensible bags which has been in business since 1920. I was presented with the first set of choices: soft or hard? Hard luggage is extremely popular now because many lines, following the high-end German company Rimowa, use polycarbonate, a material which is as light as a feather and indestrucitable.
But the salesman there steered me towards a soft roller by Briggs and Riley, which is about the same weight as the Rimowa but expandable, and therefore roomier. The Briggs is a cheerless piece of luggage, but it's matchless in its practicality.
Business or Pleasure?
Are you a backpacker or a suit-wearer? The backpacker will want the lightest piece of luggage that can be filled to the max. Flight 001, a store on Greenwich Avenue, seems to be on a mission to make luggage cool again. It carries Rimowa, Hideo Wakamatsu and a huge selection of nifty travel accessories. Its own snappy line has a 1960s vintage feel that appeals to the stylish traveler. The Avionette ($240) is attractive, light-weight, has four wheels and is most appropriate for youthful vacationers not planning to wear a suit. The Spacepak carry-on suitcase ($325) contains a system of small bags designed to compress two weeks of clothing. You can also buy the interior bags separately. The Lipault 30 inch rollable duffel ($249) has the benefit of being ultra lightweight and collapsible for easy storage. It only has two wheels, but their 28 inch Paris Trolley ($259) has four.
The person who cares about his or her clothes not creasing, or the person who plans to transport breakables, will want a bag with more structure. I was drawn to a very smart Italian line called Bric's. The Olive Pronto range has the same benefits as the practical Brig's and Riley roller at Altman's—but it's much better looking.
Celebrity Airport Style
I headed down Greenwich Ave, which has a strip of luggage stores including the wonderful, old-fashioned, custom leather shop Joseph Hanna and Pertutti, which carries all the premium brands, attractively displayed.
Rimowa is the Mercedes Benz of luggage. It stands for good German design and precision, and is the brand you see most often in paparazzi shots of celebrity airport style. The main draw of this luggage is that it requires the least amount of effort to move. The wheels are so good, you can push it along with your finger. The Salsa Air ($575 for the 30 inch) is their best priced, and lowest weight case. The Salsa Deluxe ($725 for 30 inch) has a better handle, and even better wheels. And then they have the Titanium line, at the high end of the spectrum.
Laptops, ipads and cameras weigh down your carry-on, so you'll want a small roller bag to give your back a break. And you'll want to be able to have it piggy back on your larger suitcase, or be able to roll them both upright with one hand, which means both bags need four wheels.
Air travel may be a drag, but good luggage makes it less burdensome. Now I can concentrate on my travel style. I recently got my hands on a beautiful travel hoodie by Arjuna, a line of silver-plated fabric pieces which help regulate your body temperature and are super chic, created by designer Mikaela Bradbury.
Calling all designers. There is a fortune to be made in making travel more civilized.