Quirky Cruise
May 1, 2020

Packing Tips: Colorful Luggage is the Way to Go

Colorful Luggage.

By Elise Lentz.

I’m going to start this packing tips article by borrowing a line from one of my favorite movies The Birdcage: “Well, one does want a hint of color.“

colorful luggage

Elise at the Amsterdam train station. * Photo: Tim Lentz

As tour leaders, one of our many tasks is being responsible for the movement of luggage. For us, it is typically accounting for the groups’ luggage being moved from a hotel to the cruise ship. It is not uncommon for us to handle 100+ pieces of luggage in a single move.

Tim and I have often commented, “If we had $1 for every black bag we have counted over the years, we would be gabillionaires.” And YES that is a real word.

It would never fail, that after we accounted for all 100+ bags (which were strategically stacked like a life-sized Jenga game), Mable would approach us demanding that she needed to get something critical out of her bag. It shouldn’t surprise you that my first reaction starts off with my eyes rolling into the back of my skull. This is then followed by the phrase “lady, you’re kidding me…” screamed loudly inside my head.

This exchange is then finished with me actually offering a gentle smile. And in my most congenial tone I ask for a description of the bag.

“It’s black”… REALLY!!! At that time my face writhes in agony as I realize I’m about to dive into the deep, dark abyss of black bags to look for Mable’s needle in the proverbial stack of luggage.

So as I continued to think about this universal invasion of the black bags, my mind began to drift towards the dark side. I became curious as to what was the favorite luggage color of bag thieves? The answer was shocking…basic black.

I found an article by Bob Arno, author of “Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams While Traveling. The article said that when police arrested a Phoenix couple for baggage theft from the Sky Harbor International airport, almost every one of the roughly 1,000 stolen bags found at their home, was black.

He further remarked by saying: “Stealing black bags is a snap. If the thief is caught red-handed by the bag’s owner, he only has to say ‘Sorry, it looks just like mine.’ And he’s out of there, scot-free.”

I always hear travelers explain: “Well Black won’t show the dirt.”

Ok fine, but that logic doesn’t stop you from buying a white pair of sneakers, does it? People, it’s a piece of luggage  meant to offer a utilitarian way of transporting your underwear. Which by the end of the trip will be dirty. So I ask you, do you travel with all black undies so they don’t show the dirt?

Because Tim and I have to transport a lot of work supplies, we don’t travel light. It looks like we are running away from home and it’s not uncommon for us to travel with four large hard-sided bags, two carry-on bags and two backpacks. We have been told that we stand out in a crowd because our multi-hued ensemble looks like the Easter Bunny puked all over our luggage. Sorry, but we swear by colorful luggage.

lots of colorful luggage

Elise & Tim’s colorful collection of luggage.

It is true, when we shop for a bag we look for the brightest, boldest color available. I want to be able to quickly locate my bag. Whether it is coming off the luggage carrousel in the airport or it is a part of the mélange of bags lined up in the cruise ship terminal, the sooner I spot my bag, the sooner I can relax knowing all of my ‘gear’ has arrived.

As you know from my previous article — “Some Like it Hard” — we are also hard-sided luggage fans. It can’t be too hard or too bright for me. And while we are at it, let’s add into the mix — CHEAP.

We typically pay less than $100 per bag and we frequently shop at the discount department store chains like TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Ross. Now I know what you are thinking… ‘Why wouldn’t professional travelers invest in high-end quality bags with lifetime warranties?’

Well, to start, our luggage typically travels on a plane or cruise ship. It is rare that our bags get damaged while sitting in the closet.  So, before you file your damage claim with the manufacturer, you need to identify the perpetrator of the damage. Typically manufacture warranties only cover manufacture defects. The loving, gentle caresses bestowed upon your case by the under-paid, under-appreciated airport baggage handler are not going to be covered by most manufacture warranties.

Additionally, our schedule does not warrant the three weeks (or more) it may take to send our bag to a repair center and wait for its return. So, we chalk up this unpleasant annoyance to just being a part of the job hazard. When damage (beyond our standard home repair of Gorilla Tape and super glue) happens, we hop in the car and drive to TJ Maxx (or similar) and buy another bag. Once back home, we celebrate the arrival of our brightly-colored, new member of our family, with a tasty beverage.

Have we ever filed a damage claim with the airlines? No. However, if you are so inclined, give it a try. If the airlines can’t repair your bag (which is the cheapest option for them), you may be entitled to a reimbursement based on the value of the bag minus its depreciation. If you calculate that the airlines reimbursement value exceeds the value of your time and sanity — go for it!

Bob Hope once said “I love flying. I’ve been to almost as many places as my luggage.”

Venice water taxi

Luggage in a water taxi on route to Venice. * Photo: Elise Lentz

Join us next time when we will share some tips on increasing the odds of you getting your colorful luggage back after the airlines have sent it on an itinerary that is different than yours.


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