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On luggage

It also doesn’t pay to buy expensive luggage, unless if you travel frequently by first class where your bag is handled with care.

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There’s an interesting photo on Instagram this weekend that shows actress Joan Collins being followed by a bellboy who was pushing a cart with about five monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage. And these weren’t just ordinary suitcases; they were huge.

Of course, Joan Collins can have all the LV suitcases that she wants. You wouldn’t expect less from Alexis Carrington of Dynasty fame.

The photo actually made me wonder why she had suitcases and not a steamer trunk, the kind that Blanche Dubois lugged all the way to New Orleans from Belle Reve. A trunk, though heavy, really functions like a wardrobe — you don’t have to fold your gowns and instead just hang them inside. There are even drawers where you can safely stash your valuables.

In the day and age before the pandemic, when budget airfare gave so many people a chance to see the world, traveling with less was the norm. I remember a friend who booked a red-eye flight to South Korea with her boyfriend that had no baggage allowance. They didn’t buy any. Being the spendthrift that they are, they didn’t bother with a suitcase. Instead, they carried all their belongings in backpacks, cramming all they needed for the next two weeks in their carry-on baggage.

They literally lived out of a bag — not a suitcase, mind you.

I’ve never been able to travel without a proper suitcase. In fact, I always looked forward to bringing down a suitcase from above the high closet in our spare room. Dusting the bag and filling it with clothes I plan to bring with me are starting points of every trip I embark on.

Remember that trip to Tokyo in 1993? I used my aunt’s suitcase that she had left behind in Manila when she moved on to a Samsonite, an early model clamshell. It was an old-fashioned one and had no wheels. It served me in good stead until the return to Manila. When I went down the coaster at my stop, the handle promptly snapped. I don’t remember how I managed to drag that bag to the tricycle line at the next block and go home.

Eventually, I got to use my aunt’s Samsonite once. It proved to be a hassle because it was just too big for my needs.

Years later, I bought my own suitcase, a huge and heavy one that drove me over my baggage allowance. At that time, I didn’t know anything about allowances. I always thought you can just haul anything into the plane. The airplane didn’t charge me on the way out, because I was just within range. However, on my return, the bag was full with things I had shopped and was 10 kilos over the limit. That cost me a bundle.

Later on, I would buy smaller and smaller suitcases to fit my needs. The bag that served as workhorse is a generic blue one that didn’t cost me even a thousand pesos. It had a front pocket, which I filled with used clothing, and enough room inside for my shopping.

When I had enough money to buy a new one, I bought a green Delsey that I could use as a hand carry and a yellow Echolac that was bigger than a hand carry but smaller than my suitcase. I used both once, and promptly consigned them in the spare room. They were both impractical — the Delsey was too small for my needs, and the Echolac was too big for hand carry and too small to check in.

Eventually, I had to buy another bag for a trip that only gave me a 10-kilo baggage allowance. Since I would be away for almost a week, it should be big enough for all my needs. You can just picture me at the department store carrying bags to check their weight and space. The bag I settled on had a fabric body and an expandable side. This is the one I now use on most weekend trips.

After so many years of travel, I’ve come to realize the best suitcase should have a heavy-duty frame, a durable cloth body and sturdy wheels.

It also doesn’t pay to buy expensive luggage, unless if you travel frequently by first class where your bag is handled with care.

On a trip to Phuket, we had to change planes in Bangkok. After we disembarked, we were ushered into a coaster that would drive us to the other side of the airport. The vehicle passed by the luggage drop — you know that place where your suitcase goes to after the check-in counter takes them from you.

I had the shock of my life. Airport personnel would literally toss bags from here to there. Some bags would miss the mark and fall to the ground. Others would be crammed into every available space in a luggage cart without much thought if doing so would deform them.

If luggage is not treated properly, why even buy an expensive one? In case, the bag breaks, just buy an inexpensive one to replace your old suitcase. Makes perfect sense to me.

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