Travel Luggage: Selecting Your Suitcase or Backpack

After you decide to travel often the first shopping trip you take is to select luggage for your trip.  Travel bag shops offer what can be a dizzying selection of options.  Each luggage option will suit particular travel options and personal taste.  Here is how to decide which luggage option and features to select.

When you are travelling you should plan to use the smallest and lightest bags possible.  Otherwise your luggage will become a major hassle and inconvenience.

Airline Carry on or Check In?

With the advent of having to pay extra to check bags into an aircraft hold the option to travel using only a carry on size bag has become increasingly popular.

The first consideration is whether you want your main luggage to meet aircraft airline carry on limits or whether you intend to check it into the aircraft hold.  If you choose the carry on option, be aware that there are different sizes of carry on bags depending on whether they are for international or domestic travel.

Check with your airline for information on the maximum dimensions and weight for carry on and check in bag options.

Suitcase, Backpack, Rucksack or Hybrid?

The second consideration is whether you should purchase a suitcase, backpack, rucksack or hybrid as your main luggage.

If you will mostly be travelling door to door using taxis, cars and tour buses with your luggage then a suitcase is the preferred option.  If you decide to opt for the suitcase option you will also have several options to choose from as follows:

  • A conventional suitcase has no wheels and can be difficult to carry.  This option is not recommended.
  • Two wheel or four wheel suitcases with extendable handles are very popular as they are easy to move around.
  • Suitcases come as either a hard or soft case.  The hard case can be more durable but will typically be heavier than a soft case.  Both hard and soft case options can come with options to expand the suitcase which is a useful feature.
  • Other shape luggage options are available which all include retractable handles and wheels.
  • If you will also be carrying an additional smaller bag check to ensure it has a strap which will fit over the retractable handle of your suitcase.

If you intend to regularly utilise public transport options, walking and climbing up and down steps when you travel then a backpack or rucksack is the preferred option.  If you decide to opt for a backpack or rucksack option you will also have several options to choose from as follows:

  • A travel pack is a single section pack with a backpack harness which zips open like a suitcase.  If you are using a standard travel pack it is worthwhile to purchase a small compressible day pack for daily use while you travel.
  • A travel pack with a zip on external day pack is a popular backpack format.  The day pack can be removed and the main pack left in accommodation.
  • Most travel packs will include options to stow the backpack harness so it does not get caught in automated luggage handling equipment at airports.
  • A hiking pack or rucksack usually has two main sections, one accessible from the top and one accessible from the bottom.  A hiking pack or rucksack is a better option if you intend to carry your pack in varying weather conditions, as they are much more waterproof than a travel pack.  The shape of a hiking pack or rucksack is also better suited to walking long distances.

A hybrid travel bag which can be used as both a wheeled suitcase and a backpack can be of value if you will be using a combination of both door to door and public transport options.

Cheap or Expensive?

For each type of luggage you will usually need to choose between cheaper no name bags and more expensive options such as Samsonite suitcases.  The option you choose will depend on several factors, including the length of your trip and the type of activity that your luggage will be exposed to.

If you intend to travel to a destination where options to replace your luggage are limited or non-existent then a better quality luggage option makes sense to give it the best chance of surviving the trip.  Better quality luggage also makes sense if you will be travelling for a long period of time or undertaking more adventurous activities such as hiking.

An argument for cheap luggage is that it is usually less likely to draw the attention of thieves.  Cheap luggage is also cheap to replace if it gets damaged, providing you are in a location where you can readily shop for a replacement.

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