Travel Then & Now: Luggage Revolution

Gone are the days of footlockers and steamer trunks- for which baggage handlers everywhere are undoubtedly grateful. The last century has seen astonishing changes in the way we travel, and even within just the past few decades our luggage has undergone a dramatic change as it transformed from the break-your-back luggage to the modern, rolling suitcase.

At the start of the 1980s suitcases (which we might consider “vintage” today) were bulky, clam-shell affairs that had, at best, four tiny wheels and a strap by which one might pull their bag along. They had a tendency towards tipping such that half the time it was easier to just carry your bag, rather than trying to control it via the strap.

The first “Rollaboard®” suitcase, the type most popular today, was created in 1987 by airline pilot Bob Plath, founder of TravelPro® luggage. The vertical redesign of the trunk stabilized the case while in motion, the next step in ease of travel.

Nearly thirty years later modern luggage manufacturers continue to appeal to the traveler with added features to ease the journey. Trunk handles, a staple of the old steamer trunk, have been added back on to the bottom and side of a suitcase, for ease in lifting into the overhead bins. Instead of just two wheels we now have the option for four spinner wheels, allowing you to roll your luggage beside you rather than dragging it behind you- dragging your spine out of alignment along with it. Wheels no longer break off at the slightest provocation, and handles are built to fit your hand, rather than leave you with a strained wrist.

The new Crew line from Travelpro®, Crew10 (new in 2014) has taken the technology of the spinner wheel about ten steps further. Their MagnaTrac™ wheels automatically align in any direction, eliminating the moments where you may have turned, but your luggage is still trying to go in the direction you were headed ten seconds ago. Next thing you know your luggage will be following you without you having to pull it along at all. (It’s in the works!)