You look at your old, beat-up suitcase and wonder how it'll hold up on your next great adventure. After all, your suitcase is a valuable travel companion, so you need to make sure it's a good one. Is it time to ditch your old luggage? Only you can make that decision. However, if you're contemplating an investment in a new one, here are some considerations you shouldn't ignore.

Consider How and When You Travel

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When you shop for new luggage, the first thing you'll need to consider is your travel preferences. Basically, how do you travel? If you want to embrace the thrill of a year-long sabbatical on the road, then a hiking backpack is your best bet. If, on the other hand, you're the kind of traveler who takes everything but the kitchen sink with you on a weekend getaway, then you'll want luggage that maximizes your packing space.

Think about where you'll be traveling, as well. If you generally take domestic flights within the United States, you'll get away with slightly larger carry-on bags. If you're flying to major European countries, however, carriers there are notoriously strict about luggage size.

So, you'll want to read sizing guidelines for the most popular airlines and ensure that your luggage complies with the size requirements. For many travelers, the most important piece of luggage is going to be their carry-on suitcase. That's because it's the one piece of luggage they'll have with them throughout their flight. So, if you need to cut down on pre-travel expenses, choose inexpensive options for your check-in bags. This will allow you to spend a little more on your carry-on.

Lighter Really Is Better

Man holding three suitcases in his arms
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Airlines have become extremely particular about boarding heavy luggage. They charge hefty fees if your luggage weighs more than the prescribed limits. Don't waste poundage on the luggage itself. The lighter it is, the more you can pack inside. Plus, lighter luggage is going to be easier to lift into those crowded overhead bins. You don't want to be the person struggling to heft a heavy bag overhead while a long line of irritated passengers waits behind you.

Luggage manufacturers have noted passenger concerns in this area. They understand your need for light but durable suitcases, and there are currently many on the market.

When Wheels Matter

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No matter what size or type of luggage you purchase, the wheels do matter. Make sure you give the wheels on your potential new suitcase a good look. You'll want to find wheels that are big enough to roll over cobblestone streets and strong enough to withstand the wear-and-tear conditions in the overhead bins.

Two wheels aren't enough anymore, either. If your suitcase only has two wheels, you'll need to tip your luggage to move it, which can be inconvenient in a crowded space. Additionally, it can be cumbersome to navigate if your luggage is top-heavy. So, look for luggage that has four wheels that can be spun 360-degrees. This gives you better maneuverability down tight airplane aisles and through crowded airport lines. Good wheels also come in handy when your arms are full of shopping bags.

Soft Versus Hard-Sided

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So, should you pick a soft or hard-sided suitcase? The answer is a matter of personal preference. There are pros and cons to both, so you'll need to think about what's most important to you. The biggest advantage of the hard-sided suitcase is the extra protection it affords the items inside. The shell provides a barrier against damage. However, the soft-sided suitcase has a distinct advantage in that you can afford to pack a little more and still get it zipped. You can also squeeze it into tight spaces since it's malleable.

If you're traveling with delicate objects (a laptop, tablet, or fragile souvenir), purchasing a hard-sided suitcase may be your best bet. However, if you like the idea of having a little more wiggle room in your luggage space, opt for the soft-sided case.

Do Sweat the Extras: They Really Make a Difference

Busy broker at the airport with his laptop and suitcase
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Has the question of luggage ever been this complicated? Today, the carry-on suitcase has evolved to include new hi-tech features. Some options may make a fair dent in your wallet, however.

Other options may be worth looking into. One of the most popular luggage features is the built-in charger. If your suitcase has this feature, you won't have to hunt around for an outlet at the airport ever again. Instead, you can plug your phone or tablet into your suitcase for a quick charge.

However, keep in mind that the battery is going to add weight to your luggage and may take away from space inside your bag. That said, these minor inconveniences may be a small price to pay for some reliable battery backup power.