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We have had a bit of a love / hate relationship with suitcases over the years and have tried all sorts in attempting to get a set that will stand the test of time and do the job properly. Granted we put them through their paces, but finding one that won't break the bank, but that will last more than a couple of trips seems to be near on impossible. I can't bring myself to spend the big bucks on one of the Samsonite hard cases (and I've read mixed reviews on them anyway) but after our most recent soft sided cases only lasted one holiday, we decided to try some hard sided ones. I had a few Amazon vouchers knocking about, so after doing a ridiculous amount of research for a relatively small purchase, we settled on one of the medium size cases from the Five Cities range
I'm not one to judge a book by its cover (or a case for that matter), but the look of this one is the thing that drew me in originally and is is also the thing that sealed the deal. The design on the front of the case is pretty funky and unique, with pictures of cities from around the world (Shanghai, Delhi, New York, London and Paris) in a sort of grey colour with splashes of colour, like those arty photos you can get. One of the best things about this design is that very few other people have it which means that it is easy to spot your luggage as it comes off the belt at arrivals - no more rainbow straps required! I have also had lots of compliments on the case which is odd because I didn't think that people complimented you on cases, but apparently they do if you have this one!
The case is available in a number of different styles as well as this one and all of them are vibrant and unique. There is one with lots of green, red and blue parrots on that might make your eyes water. There is also a bright blue Beatles themed on that had a yellow submarine on it. The other one that caught my eye and forced an 'ip dip sky blue' situation in me was a Route 66 themed one that is similar to the one I have but obviously has iconic pictures of Route 66 in America on in a sort of faded beige colour with splashes of red on - it was a close call between the two I can tell you, but I am pleased with my choice.
===How Does It Measure Up?===
The case is available in three sizes; large, medium and cabin sized. The one we have is the medium which measures 63cm long by 48cm width by 28cm depth. To be honest the case is a lot bigger than i thought it was going to be. We were originally planning on getting on medium to try it and then getting a large one to cover all bases, but having seen how roomy this one is, I'll be getting another this size. When we took it on holiday last, we didn't fill the case but were only a few kilos under the luggage weight restriction so I imagine having a bigger one would be a bit pointless and would encourage you to fit more stuff in and therefore end up paying huge excess baggage fees. We used it for a week for two of us and easily had enough room for all our clothes, shoes and toiletries.
The small cabin case says that it is small enough for most airlines but I'd imagine you want to check properly because that doesn't mean much these days. It'd be worth finding out if the dimensions are including or excluding wheels too if you are thinking about using it as cabin luggage because the wheels on this case do add a bit to the length as they are quite big.
The medium case weighs 3.8kg empty which is remarkably light because it actually weighs less than the last two soft sided cases we had which I was surprised about - it also means that you aren't using much of your precious luggage allowance on the actual case.
The case is extremely roomy inside as it is one of those that splits in half, if you know what I mean, so that it has two sides that you can use. This is particularly handy because it means that you can separate your shoes and toiletries from your clothes in a bit to prevent the dreaded moisturiser or shampoo spillage disaster!
===Can It Stand Up To A Baggage Handler's Beating?===
This is the one thing we were worried about with the hard case; whilst they do offer more protection to the things inside, I've heard lots of stories where hard cases have literally cracked under the pressure of being handled not so lovingly by baggage handlers. We have taken this one on a few trips now and I am pleased to say that it is still very much intact.
There are a few scratches on it, but that is to be expected and actually we saw that as good sign as it meant the case hadn't been delicately handled and so had stood up to the beating it was clearly given. We were a bit worried at first that the sides of the case weren't as solid as we'd hoped and that they were very flexible. However it seems to be an unfounded worry as it is almost as if the flexible sides take up the flack and therefore offer more protection than we'd thought.
===Any Extra Features?===
This case has a surprising amount of extra features for a suitcase actually and it is these things that have really sold the case to me - they are all quite simple things but they make the difference between an acceptable suitcase and a really good one.
Like I said before, the case splits into two, which makes packing a lot easier and protects your clothes and things a lot better. On one side of the case there is one of those straps that you fasten over your clothes to keep them in place. It sort of criss crosses across your clothes, is really easy to use and does the job really well. On the other side of the case is a zipped covering that holds everything on that side in nicely. We tend to stick all our liquids and shoes in there as we find it offers an extra layer of protection. There is also a hand pocket on this piece of fabric that is good for all your little things that get easily lost.
The suitcase has an integrated lock which is really easy to use. There are instructions on one of the labels that come with the case on how to change the code for the lock which is very easy to do in the first instance. It is obviously strongly recommended that you change the pin straight away as it is a generic one that it is set up with and don't forget your pin as you'll need that if you ever want to change it again in the future! The lock seems pretty sturdy and the zips on the case actually lock into place. The lock is one that can be opened by US customs so you don't have to worry about them smashing your case open if you are heading over that way.
The case has four wheels that offer 360 degree movement which is good. I found that when we first got it, the wheels stuck a bit, but that seems to have gone now so perhaps there was just a bit of packing plastic on them. The 360 movement is pretty handy for when you are in queues, which is often the case at airports.
There are a couple unfortunately although neither of them are deal breakers for me and I will still be buying another suitcase to match this one despite them. The first problem is that the retractable handle doesn't feel that sturdy really. The button to push it donwn works well but the handle feels a bit flimsy. I find that sometimes when I am pushing it along (rather than pulling it in the traditional manner), it feels as though it might snap. It hasn't and it could just be my imagination, but it does feel a bit wobbly if I am honest. Secondly, I find that when it is empty, it is sometimes difficult to zip up. Like I said it isn't a massive problem, but you really have to make sure you have lined up the two sides of the case when you have closed it to make sure that you can zip is closed easily. This isn't a problem when the case is fully loaded - presumably because it squares itself up naturally.
===Price, Availability and Value===
I bought this from amazon.co.uk and it cost me £39.99 including postage which I thought was really good value for money especially when I compare it to cases I have had in the past that have been more expensive and have lasted nowhere near as long. I am rather annoyed to see that that price has now increased to about £50 including postage, but I still think it offers really good value for money at the higher price. A quick look on the internet shows that you can get it from various other sites but it tends to be more expensive. I found that the buyer on amazon we got it from was excellent and it was delivered much earlier than we were expecting and it was well packaged, so I'd recommend them.
Yes, although there are a couple of little niggles with this case, overall I think it is a really well designed case that offers good value for money. It is nice and roomy and above all it has a really funky design that it easy to spot on the luggage carousel even if you are almost asleep after a long flight! So far it has stood the test of time for us and it has all the features you could need - definitely recommended.