3. Inspect the construction

Make sure zippers have taped seams (strips of cloth reinforcing the connection between the zipper and the bag). Exterior seams should be covered with leather, nylon piping or welts to reinforce them and help absorb shock. The seams should also be lock-stitched — that is, each stitch is reinforced, or locked, so that if one breaks, it won't unravel the next and undo the seam. Be sure handles are attached with screws (easy to repair) as opposed to rivets (not so easy). Check that telescoping handles can be locked into place, and that you can live with the loss of space inside the bag. In order for garment bags to allow for layering, hold clothes in place and reduce wrinkles, it's best that they have two brackets for clothes hangers, two upper cross straps and a center cross strap. The hook you use to hang the bag should be strong and retractable.

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4. Focus on comfort

Handles with underside padding are a plus. Shoulder straps should be adjustable; made of wide, padded webbing where the strap rests on your shoulder; and reinforced with box and cross-stitching for durability. Four-wheel suitcases are sturdier and easier to roll than two-wheel models. Make sure the wheels are at least 2 1/2 inches in diameter, can spin 360 degrees, are spaced as wide apart as possible, and are recessed into the bag's frame for protection (this also makes wheeled bags easier to stow in overhead bins).

5. Check out the warranties

Before you buy luggage, make sure the manufacturer covers accidental damage, not just manufacturing defects. Remember that price doesn't guarantee a better warranty. For example, Tumi, an expensive brand (ranging from $400 to $1,400 per bag), offers a warranty of only 12 months for in-transit damage and wear and tear. L.L. Bean, on the other hand, has inexpensive duffel bags (starting at $20 per bag) that have unconditional lifetime warranties.