I made my first trip to Japan with nothing but a backpack. I didn’t want to be bothered with checking luggage or lugging around a bulky bag during my 19 hour layover (ouch!).
Of course traveling with only a backpack isn’t the most practical way to travel, especially if you’re going on vacation. That’s why in this post we’re going to discuss luggage. I am of the opinion that luggage is a good way to make or break a vacation. Think about it. It’s the first thing you handle when going on a vacation and the last thing you handle when coming home. Broken or even hard to handle luggage can quickly kill that yay we’re on vacation feeling. With that said let’s jump right in to the things you should know when choosing luggage.
Let’s start with what type of luggage to purchase. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of luggage options out there and available to you. Shapes, sizes, colors and functions all vary offering you just what you are looking for. That being said what should you look for? Keeping with the stress free and easy to handle theme I suggest luggage that is easy to carry, easy to move, practical and of course affordable.
The first thing I like to look for in purchasing luggage is the outer material that will suit my needs. Here in Okinawa we have a lot of humidity which means that cloth luggage can easily pull in moisture and ultimately mold. For this reason I prefer hard shell luggage. Not only is the luggage plastic and solid on the outside making it durable but it is also easy to store for long periods of time with a desiccant or dehydration pack inside preventing mold and ultimately securing a long life for your luggage. Hard shell luggage is also easier to clean and relatively waterproof making it no big deal if you splash through a puddle on the way to the airport or accidentally spill something while waiting for the bus.
The next most important item on the list is size and maneuverability. If you’re planning on visiting Mainland Japan you are most likely going to be in a situation which requires you to move your luggage with ease. Common scenarios include on and off trains, up and down stairs and of course in the occasional taxi. It is for this reason that it is important to ensure that your luggage is a size that you can manage on your own without the assistance of others. Ideally you should have the ability to not only pull your luggage but also pick it up with ease. This will ensure that what you end up at a train station and need to go up a flight of stairs (we will discuss this more when we cover transportation) you can do so without breaking your neck or dropping your luggage. Maneuverability of your luggage is just as important as size. Rolling luggage is most certainly a “must” however, the types of wheels on your luggage can greatly improve your experience. I prefer luggage with four wheels that move independently. This allows you to not only move your luggage with ease while walking through the airport, station or to your hotel but it also allows you to navigate your luggage through tight spaces like a crowded train or a turnstile. Although this seems insignificant after making two trips with luggage that did not have independently rotating wheels and one with I would never go back.
Now it’s time to discuss the most important factor. . . . . cost. If you’re like me then you don’t want to break the bank paying for luggage. Luckily there are a lot of great places here on Okinawa where you can purchase luggage without spending half of the money you’ve saved up for your trip. In my experience the best prices on luggage can be found at department stores like San A and AEON. Both of these locations have a wide selection of generic and name brand luggage at reasonable prices. If you plan accordingly you can even purchase luggage at a huge discount just after peak season when it tends to go on sale. This year we were even able to find a huge suitcase for only ¥5500. Of course there are also other places that luggage can be purchased including specialty shops, however, the price is generally much higher.
With luggage purchased you are almost ready to go. It is important to remember, however, that storing your luggage in as dry a place as possible and with some type of desiccant inside is the best way to keep it fresh and long lasting. I also like to check on my luggage periodically to ensure that the desiccants don’t need changing. This makes sure that I avoid any and all mold and must that may occur with out humid weather here in Okinawa.
Have a question that wasn’t answered here? Please feel free to ask it in the comments below. Also please stay tuned for more “Off Island Travel” blog posts and videos.