It used to be so easy. Pack your items in a hard case and check them through. You were allowed 2 bags, and nobody bothered to weigh them at check in. Your sales samples could go with you, and you could be sure they would be there when you got there. Times have definitely changed.
One of the biggest challenge now facing traveling salespeople is how to get their product samples, clothing, and personal items all on the plane without taking a significant haircut in fees. For many, the 50 lbs. and 60 dimensional inches limit on free baggage is a very tough hurdle to climb. The one-bag limit is just icing on the cake. To solve this headache, there are two paths that are worth exploring.
Here is a trick question: Which is stronger, an oak tree or a willow? The answer is that they are both very strong, but in different ways. An oak tree, like a hard case, relies on a rigid external structure that stands up to outside forces. A willow, like a soft case, flexes in the face of outside force, and absorbs its energy without breaking. Exiting from this analogy, the point is that a properly designed padded soft case can, in many instances, take the place of a much heavier hard case. With proper case interior construction, the soft case will allow the same amount of contents to be protected equally well, even in the rough-and-tumble world of airline baggage handling.
The other option to look at is a custom designed case interior. Foam padding, pluck foam and bubble wrap may be fine when you have plenty of space to play with, but when it all has to go into a relatively small case, a custom cushioned interior may make it happen. The better custom cases and interiors are CAD designed and incorporate plastic trays and partitioning, along with custom foam cushioning, so that the internal structures work together as a supportive unit. In many cases this will make the difference between getting everything in, and having to leave some items behind.
The bottom line is; exploring your options in this area can potentially save you money, and reduce travel headaches. Although people associate “custom” with “expensive”, a custom case and interior may be less expensive over the lifecycle of your case.