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Baggage, Literally

I usually write about baggage in terms of all the excess stuff we own that can cause disorganization or the metaphorical emotional baggage that is behind hoarding and obsessive-compulsive shopping and other tendencies that result in a chaotic life. But today I’m writing about literal baggage—luggage. Having the right suitcase or carry-on is one of the best investments toward organization and sanity while traveling.

Having luggage appropriate to the trip you are taking can feel like an upgrade to first class. Even better, a first class ticket is only good once but your luggage will last you multiple trips. Here are a few of my favorite lessons learned in airports and on the road.

Wheels are essential on nearly everything, even carry on duffle bags. But not all wheels are created equal. The best I’ve found are on the very expensive Rimowa suitcases, which I also love for their tough, lightweight construction. Rimowa wheels spin 360 degrees and you can literally run through the airport terminal if you need to with one of these suitcases right at your side. There’s no drag whatsoever.

Rimowa suitcases are a hefty investment, so if it’s not in your budget, I suggest trying one out at the store and then comparing with other brands to see which comes close and is affordable. I bought a large suitcase at the Container Store on sale for about $100 and it has lasted really well and rolls pretty well. I use a small Rimowa as a carry on because I am wheeling it around the airport more and the investment for the amazing wheels made more sense. With a check on bag you only need to get it from the car to the check in counter.

That said though, my carry-on Rimowa will not fit in the overhead bin of smaller planes, such as commuter planes out of Santa Rosa. Gate checking a carry-on defeats the purpose of a carry on for me, which is having items on board if I need them and being able to get off the plane and race on to the next destination without waiting. So if I know I will be on a small plane with teeny overhead bins, I take a squishy duffle that will fit under the seat or up in the tiny bin.

I like the baggallini (with a small “b”) brand of duffles. Baggallini has recently come out with a neat tote that has wheels and was designed by flight attendants. It has pockets to separate toiletries and a laptop for and easier pass through security lines, and it fits under the seat. I can’t wait to try it.

I recently purchased the Rise duffle bag (available on amazon and other online sellers). Not only does the Rise have wheels, it has an interior system that acts almost like a portable dresser. With two heavy hooks to hang it over a door or in a closet, the interior of the Rise duffle bag expands out into a series of shelves so that you can organize clothing into each one and then collapse it back down into the bag. An extra pair of shoes can be zipped into a lower compartment. It packs very tightly, and I’m sure it will fit into large plane overhead bins; if it is filled to the max, getting into one of the slim prop-plane overhead bins may be impossible. I’m going to give it a try. Having my clothing already organized onto shelves I can hang in a hotel closet is worth having to gate-check this bag, and I’ll take the few items I need on the plane in a small shoulder tote.