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Travel Smart with the Right Luggage and Accessories

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There’s a price, size and look to fit every traveler

I was in the midst of chaos in our neighborhood pizzeria/arcade that caters to the 10-year-old and under crowd when I got the call. “I have to go to Dublin next month on business,” said my husband. “Not without me,” I fired back while an oversized stuffed mouse threw tickets to a crowd of pizza and soda crazed kids.

It dawned on me as I pried my 4-year-old off the top of the skee-ball machine — I hadn’t been anywhere in years. This trip was overdue and I was going to start packing immediately.

After I looked up the seasonal climate in Ireland, I opened the doors to my closet and started to put together appropriate outfits for castle touring when I realized I didn’t have anything but an oversized military-type duffle bag and a medium-size canvas tote with “The Patricks’ Pool Stuff” embroidered across the front to put them in. I was going to need professional intervention — but where to go?

Luggage and Leather

As soon as I walked through the doors of Luggage and Leather, I knew I was going to be well-taken care of. The folks at this family-owned and operated business have been helping Houstonians travel right for 29 years. Initially overwhelmed by the amount of inventory they have (they carry more than 15 manufacturers in luggage alone), Devon Corley, the owner’s daughter and store’s vice-president of sales and marketing, took me by the hand and told me everything was going to be OK. (Where was she yesterday at the arcade ticket redemption counter?)

The first thing the professionals at this store do is assess each customer’s needs so they can recommend the appropriate bag for the job. Devon asked me where I was going, how I was getting there and how long I was staying. They serve a lot of seasoned business and pleasure travelers and trust me when I say, they have something for everyone. There were bags of every shape, size and color that ranged from under $100 to over $800 a piece. Where to start?

Travel Tip #1 – Find out what your specific airline’s luggage rule is.

Devon knew I wouldn’t need to make a large investment in an upscale bag that some of her customers choose. “We have clients who spend more time on the road than they do at home,” Devon explained. But size is important and in addition to how long I was going to be gone, Devon needed to know what airline I was flying. Each carrier has different rules and regulations about what you can check in and carry on. If I didn’t want to get in a situation at the airport where I would have to pay more for additional pieces and overweight bags, I’d have to think ahead.

We are flying economy class on Continental and according to the information on Luggage and Leather’s website (a handy tool for looking up the rules and regulations for each airline they provide their customers at www.luggageandleather.com) each passenger is allowed to carry on one bag and one personal item such as a purse or briefcase. (Assistive devices and outer garments do not count as personal items.) All carry-on luggage must fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you and not exceed 51 linear inches (length + width + height) or 40 pounds.

For checked luggage, I’m allowed two bags, each no more than 62 linear inches and weighing under 50 pounds. Devon said a 24-inch bag with a 2- to 3-inch expansion option would be my best bet.

“It’s the most functional size bag and, unless you are packing eight pairs of shoes, usually helps you stay within the weight limit.” She said in case I was worried (I was—I love my shoes) they offer a portable scale for only $24.99. Apparently, it will make you very popular with other passengers in line at the airport.

Travel Tip #2 – A full suitcase is a happy suitcase.

Devon says to always pack full and tight to avoid damage to the suitcase and contents within. Luggage and Leather carries tools such as the Eaglecreek Pack-It System to help you pack efficiently, as well as wrinkle-free clothing and even antibacterial underwear that can be washed in a hotel sink.

Travel Tip #3 – Put your original passport in the hotel safe and carry around a copy.

Luggage and Leather also has purses with metal-lined handles, making it impossible to cut the handles and hard to steal, as well as belts and passport and money holders that go under your clothes to keep you and your belongings safe while in a foreign country.

I selected my bag, one on sale that was just a bit over $150, and several accessories I felt I couldn’t live without. After asking Devon nicely if my kids could stay at the store with them while we were away (she said no…they focus on travel, not child -care) I did find the perfect kid- size suitcase suitable for them to take their most prized possessions to grandma’s house.

Erin Go Bragh!

Things to Consider When Selecting a Bag

•Wheels – A bag with four wheels (spinners) is easy to roll by your side and goes down the aisle of the plane better. Two-wheeled pieces are good for adding a bag strap and piggy-backing another piece on the front.

•Handles – If you are traveling a lot, it’s good to invest in a piece that has a well-constructed handle as they are treated roughly by baggage handlers and one of the most common things on a suitcase to break.

•Material – Most luggage today is made of micro fiber (long gone are the vinyl bags susceptible to scraps and tears). The more you spend, the tighter the weave and less destructible the piece is. Another popular option is polycarbonate. These hard case pieces are often lighter than they look and extremely durable.

•Color – According to Devon, almost everyone ends up choosing a black bag, although they carry many other colors (chocolate brown and red are current favorites) and even luggage with wild designs developed by well-known artists that can’t be missed on the conveyer belt in baggage claim.

The Current Rule About Carrying on Liquids, Gels and Aerosols

With certain exceptions, the following rules apply to all liquids, gels and aerosols you want to carry through a security checkpoint.

•They must be in 3-ounce or smaller containers. Larger containers that are half-full or toothpaste tubes rolled up are not allowed.

•They must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Gallon size bags or bags that are not zip-top such as fold-over sandwich bags are not allowed.

•Each traveler can use only one, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag that must be removed from their carry-on and placed in a bin or on the conveyor belt for X-ray screening.

*Generally, any travel originating from the United States follows U.S. regulations. But if you plan to travel between other countries while abroad, be sure to look up their regulations regarding carry-on and checked luggage as they often differ.

The Story Behind Luggage and Leather

Rick Gilger worked at a local department store as a luggage buyer and then for a luggage manufacturer before opening Luggage and Leather in Houston in 1981. Today the company, run by Rick and his wife, Carolyn, along with two of their three daughters, Jennifer Pace and Devon Corley, includes three stores in Houston (including a repair shop) and one in Sugar Land. Each store carries an inventory of more than 15,000 products with half of the store devoted to travel accessories including TSA approved suitcase locks, travel clothing and hats, packing devises, easy-to-hide wallets and belts and electric converters and adaptors for overseas travel.

“We are really your one-stop place for all things related to travel from head-to-toe, start-to-finish,” said Rick.

The store is especially popular during the holidays as they carry many items great for presents and even offer embroidery for personalized gifts.