I’m the type of person who, when traveling, likes to bring some local flavor with me. And by that I mean bottles of alcohol, be it wines from Italy or whiskeys from Ireland.
In the past, getting my cargo home safely meant randomly rolling bottles into T-shirts, stuffing them into my checked luggage, and hoping for the best. But then I found the VinGardeValise Grande suitcase, luggage specifically designed to make it safe and easy to travel with a large amount of drinks.
I immediately ordered one before a trip to Ireland to try it out.
For those who like to come home with wine or other spirits, this checked suitcase is a must. We found it incredibly packable and lightweight (even with six bottles), and it kept our bottles safe during a transatlantic flight.
The Grande Suitcase comes with 12 game-changing foam inserts for a wine and spirits connoisseur. Shaped like traditional 750-milliliter wine bottles, they hold bottles of any shape. In our tests, three whiskeys, a bottle of wine, a bottle of gin, and a bottle of olive oil (all part of a balanced travel diet, of course) fit easily but comfortably despite their different shapes and sizes. The inserts, as well as a foam top panel that rests flat on top of the bottles, which is then secured with straps, are designed to keep your bottles safe and sound, and they did a great job on our ride.
What was most impressive is that not a single bottle showed the slightest sign of rattling during our seven-hour transatlantic flight (and the usual tossing by baggage handlers). That’s quite different from my previous method of rolling the bottles up and in, which ultimately left all my finds at the bottom of my suitcase bumping into each other.
The VinGardeValise exterior also proved durable, though it’s generally less scratch-resistant than the Away bag my travel companion brought with me. After dragging it overseas twice and through two busy airports, it only showed a few scratches on the corner guards, but no scratches on the face.
One of my main concerns was that by having half the suitcase dedicated to bottles of alcohol, not much else could fit. And as a chronic overpacker (four nights out? Of course I need 14 pairs of boxers!), I was sure I’d need another checked bag.
I removed six of the inserts from the middle of the bag so I could pack the clothes. Using the 12 inserts that come with the Large bag means you are using the bag solely for bottles, which to me is a a little extreme. I managed to hold back a bit, but even with half the box devoted to bottles, I was able to hold enough clothes for two weeks of cold, rainy weather in Ireland: one Barbour jacket, one fleece jacket, six heavy sweaters, five pairs of pants, various shirts and other knick-knacks. However, I had to put my extra pair of shoes in my carry-on.
It is surprisingly easy to handle.
When unpacked, the suitcase weighs 14 pounds. Compared to two of the best hard-shell checked bags we’ve tested, the Away Medium and the Samsonite Freeform Medium Spinner, which weigh 9.9 pounds and 8.48 pounds, respectively, I was concerned that the bag would easily exceed the airline’s weight limit. .
But even filled with six bottles and two weeks worth of clothing, the packed bag weighed only 45 pounds (20 kilograms), well below the 50-pound limit on most airlines. So my fears of paying additional fees were alleviated. Comparatively, the Away Large checked bag my travel companion took, which weighs 11.6 pounds when empty, was packed with a few more clothes and three pairs of shoes (along with a few other things) and weighed 50 pounds for our trip. So while the larger Away was roomier and we were able to fit more clothes inside, it was ultimately a bit more of a pain to lug around, and more susceptible to overpacking and extra fees for overweight bags.
The handle is too short.
This is certainly finicky, but a big downside, especially for someone with long legs, is that the telescopic handle was shorter than the handles on our favorite checked luggage. It doesn’t extend as far as the handles used on the Away Medium Bag or the Samsonite Freeform Medium Spinner Suitcase, and it was noticeable as we walked through the airport.
Dragging the bag behind me, I found myself kicking it with my heels more often than I would prefer. So, I resorted to rolling the VinGardeValise to my side to avoid doing it.
Obviously, not everyone is looking to bring home multiple bottles from their destination. While we liked just about everything about the bag, if you don’t share our hobby, there’s a better-suited bag for you. We recommend the Away Medium Bag or the Samsonite Freeform Medium Spinner for general travel.
While the VinGardeValise is sturdy, relatively lightweight, and will hold everything you need, you’re paying an unnecessary premium if you don’t use it to transport wine compared to the $345 Away Medium and $180 Samsonite Freeform.
The VinGardeValise is primarily aimed at travelers looking to take wine and other bottles with them. So it’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison to other luggage.
Also, if you have another suitcase that you love and want to keep, you can purchase VinGardeValise inserts separately to turn it into a wine saver savant. We have to mention that we think it’s the overall strength of the VinGardeValise – not just the inserts, but also the heavy-duty corner guards and tough outer shell – that helps provide total protection against bottles being dragged around or knocked over. break.
Comparing the VinGardeValise as an everyday bag, we found it was less scratchy than the Away bag on the front, and felt sleeker and more reliable than the slightly cheaper-feeling Samsonite.
For anyone who likes to bring bottles back from their travel destinations, VinGardeValise is a no-brainer. She keeps bottles snug and protected throughout the travel experience while also proving to be incredibly packable and lightweight.
If you’re not a wine or spirits connoisseur and just need a regular checked checked bag, we’d recommend the Away Medium or the Samsonite Freeform Medium Spinner.
Are you looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards for travel currently available.