Guides

How to choose the right luggage for your trip

Reading time: 4 minutes

Choosing the right luggage can make your trip a lot easier, but how do you decide which type of bag comes on holiday with you? Here are some pointers on how to choose the right luggage for your trip.

Travelling with a suitcase

The suitcase is the go-to for many travellers. Available in a variety of sizes in soft, semi-soft and hard sides, good quality suitcases are built to absorb shock and protect your belongings.

Pros:

Suitcases are sturdy, practical and perfect for holidays where you’re staying in the same spot for most of your trip. Whether you want to tuck it into an overhead locker or withstand the hard knocks of baggage claim, there are plenty of sizes and styles to fit your needs. The added benefit of wheels makes light work of transporting your bag and means the only weight restrictions you have to be conscious of are the ones enforced by your transportation. Expandable zips on soft and semi-soft styles also allow you to increase the size of your suitcase and come home with more than you went away with.

Cons:

Those wheels can quickly become a burden. Have you ever tried running for a flight with your wheeled luggage battling along behind you? Or dragged a suitcase through the snow? Despite all their bells-and-whistles, suitcases often suffer from wear and tear on the road. Retractable handles break. Wheels become ‘sticky’. Manoeuvring a bulky suitcase in and out of airports (and taxi cabs and luggage compartments and hotel rooms) can quickly become painful – literally and physically.

Choose a suitcase if…

  • you’re travelling through urban areas
  • you’re travelling to one or two destinations
  • you shouldn’t be carrying the weight on your body for health reasons

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Travelling with a backpack

The backpack has become increasingly popular. Available in a range of styles, sizes and shapes, it’s hard not to feel like an authentic traveller when your whole world is sitting square between your shoulders.

Pros:

Backpacks were the original ‘hands-free’. Running to catch the 6am train to Paris? No problem. You can navigate airports, public transportation, crowded streets and staircases with a map in one hand and a French pastry in the other.

Backpacks have come a long way in recent years, with technology greatly improving the way weight is distributed across your back and allowing straps to be easily collapsed and zipped inside a cover for checked baggage.

There are plenty of styles to choose from, some even with wheels for the best of both worlds. Top-loaders (where the bag must be packed from the top down) offer better support and tend to be more popular amongst hikers, while panel-loaders (which can be zipped open like a suitcase) allow easier access to your belongings.

Cons:

Like a snail carries around his shell, a backpacker must bear the weight of his or her belongings.

Packing a backpack can be tricky and requires a bit of skill – not only learning how to organise your things so your pack is comfortable to carry, but so you can access your items in a hurry (like when it’s raining and you have to unpack your entire bag just to find that umbrella you accidentally put at the very bottom).

Backpacks can quickly become hot (prepare yourself for back sweat), not to mention heavy (sometimes it’s like Crossfit, only worse). All those little outside pockets and hidey-holes are great for storing small items, but can make you either a pickpocket’s dream or a padlocked nightmare.

Choose a backpack if…

    • you’re travelling to multiple destinations via multiple transportation methods
    • you’ll be walking around a lot with your luggage
    • you don’t have a pre-existing injury which could get aggravated by carrying a backpack

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Travelling with a carry-on only

You can’t help but pay kudos to the savvy travellers who can pull off travelling with nothing more than a carry-on. It requires a little bit of organisation and the ability to make some frugal choices.

Pros:

Why head to baggage claim when you can claim the first taxi outside the airport and get on with your trip? Getting rid of your baggage helps avoid queues and paying fees for checked bags, while eliminating the chances of the airport losing or delaying your luggage.

You’d be surprised what you can pack into a standard sized carry on – the ‘Rule of 3’ (3 shirts, 3 underwear, 3 socks, 2 pants, 1 day-to-night dress, 2 shoes and the odd climate-dependent item) covers you for just about everything. Sure, you might be deathly sick of your clothes by the end of your trip, but what’s a little co-ordination and a few loads of laundry here and there? The key is leaving enough space to pick up the odd purchase along the way.

Cons:

Learning to live without some creature comforts can be a steep learning curve. While you may save a few dollars not having to check bags, you may find yourself spending money to buy emergency items or replenish your toiletry stocks (don’t forget all toiletry liquids have to be plane-friendly). Less clothes also means more washing, which can become a logistical nightmare if you’re trying to get things dry before departure. Fighting for overhead space can often prove problematic if you’re last on the plane.

Choose carry-on only if…

      • you’re up for a challenge of travelling light
      • you don’t need much on the road
      • you’re not fazed by limited wardrobe options

Tips for picking and packing lugguage

Make your bag distinctive

Choose bright coloured bags that you can spot a mile away or tie a piece of bright ribbon or material around the handle so you can easily identify it on the airport carousel.

It’s what is inside that counts

Opt for a suitcase or pack that has sectioned off pockets inside. This helps to organise and separate your items.

Security

Consider the many ways someone can break into any part of your bag. Put it on lock-down with TSA approved locks or zip ties to prevent pickpockets or people smuggling unwanted items into your bag.

Pack for the best case scenario

Avoid the inconvenience of over-packing and pack for the most likely conditions – you can always buy your way out of unexpected weather. You don’t need a back-up tube of toothpaste. Look forward to the experience of buying toiletries in the Bulgarian supermarket.

Be brutal

Lay out all the things you’d like to take. Then cut it in half. Then half again. Be brutal in what you need to take, compared to what you want to take.

Be prepared

Lay out your items and take a photo of everything you’re taking in case you have to make a claim for your belongings. List any additional items on your travel insurance policy and make sure you have all your receipts.


Author

Kristen Hyde is a freelance wordsmith from Sydney who now lives in London because she heard the weather was awesome. You can follow her adventures in ol’ Blighty at Where in the World is KH. For more instantaneous updates of her travels, what she eats, and what she sees on the Tube, you can follow her on Instagram.

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