Not until I actually had a decent one did I realize how important a well-designed suitcase is for an academic. And not until it broke did I realize how important a durable one is. We academics travel quite a bit--to conferences, to archives, to give talks, and also occasionally for fun. Three years ago, I got new luggage. As with many things, I followed the lead of one of my mentors on getting a hard case, and I ordered a small carry-on rolly hard case for one- or two-night, single-talk trips, and a mammoth hard case with spinning wheels for conferences. Both were Delsey. The spinning wheels, I kid you not, improved my travel experience by about 15%.
That may seem high, but trust me, when you can wheel your suitcase sideways both tilted and upright and in all directions--forward, backward, sideways, diagonally--navigating through aisles narrowed by people's gargantuan feet, you too will appreciate the brilliance of spinners. That large case also had a tri-fold suit bag, which is nothing short of brilliant. It had tons of room for the kinds of things we academics (especially we academic women) have to lug--e.g., suits, a sweater and boots in winter, running shoes, running clothes, file folders, books, for the paranoid, extra copies of your talk in case your carry-on gets stolen, comfy pants for the hotel room, washable clothes for when the conference is held in a state without smoking bans. Oh, and if you are addicted to strong coffee and can't be bothered with leaving your room to find a starbuck's, an unbreakable french press.
Alas, the large case, much like myself, emerged from last year's job market stint with a slight bit of damage, but still going: the suitcase spine split open, and the zipper stopped working properly. I made that case last almost another year, but after my train trip to Rochester last month, I laid it to rest. The piece of shit. The carry-on is still great, but I vowed to find a more durable brand.
After much research, and after realizing that JM and I will sometimes travel at the same time and sometimes--gasp!--together, I have ordered up a three-piece luggage set made by Coleman, pictured at right. It's a basic set, also hard case, and the two large pieces have spinning wheels. They got great reviews online, and the whole set is much cheaper than other brands. Besides, coleman is kind of old school durable, or at least that's my impression. I think I can use the trifold suitbag from the not-so-durable Delsey with either of the larger pieces (a boon). They're also lighter weight than most hard cases, which is important for tightening weight regulations, as we learned from JM's sister who lives abroad and travels everywhere all the time.
With six trips coming up in April and May, I'll know pretty soon if these will last.