Travel Luggage: Tips for Choosing the Best for You

When it comes to choosing the best travel luggage to buy there is no one size fits all.

Finding the right luggage or suitcase is personal.  I have found that my choices for travel bag styles have altered over the years, according to my travel needs.  When I took a road trip around Australia, I threw soft duffel bags into the back of the car.  When I backpacked around Europe, I chose a backpack that zipped open like a suitcase.  When I first stayed in luxury resorts, I bought the biggest suitcase EVER (I’ll explain why that was a bad move later).  Now I’m using a hybrid trolley bag – it’s a bit of a combination of all the above.

So as you move through the phases of your travel planning and preparation, how will you choose the right travel bag for your needs?  Well, let’s look at all the pros and cons of each of the various luggage styles to help you discover which will be the best travel gear for your trip.

This Article Will Explain How to Choose the Best Travel Luggage for You:

* Style of your travel
* Protruding parts
* Hardshell v’s soft shell luggage
* The ease of access within your luggage
* The size of your luggage choice
* Luggage for kids
Tips to choose the best travel luggage for you #TravelLuggage #BestLuggage

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Criteria for Selecting the Best Luggage for You

Style of Travel

The first step in choosing the right travel luggage is knowing what type of trip you are planning to take now and in the future.  Buying luggage is expensive.  You want to choose a bag that you are going to get lots of use from.  A bag you will not only use now, but for years to come.

Are you backpacking – you may want a large backpack/rucksack?  Staying in resorts – a suitcase to lay out your clothing may be better?  Taking a road trip – the ease of throwing a duffel in the back of the car sounds good?  Or a combination of all luggage styles?

Beyond your style of travel, you will also need to consider how you are transferring from your arrival point (airport, train station, ferry port) to your accommodation and the ease of getting your luggage through that process.

Are you:

  • Catching a taxi or Uber
  • Hiring a car
  • Taking public transport

If you are catching public transport it may mean making your way down steps at train stations.  But don’t discount the ease of negotiating non-public transport options.  Ferry galley planks can be narrow making it awkward to carry a suitcase.  Historic towns are riddled with cobblestone footpaths making it tricky to wheel a trolley bag.  Small heritage boutique hotels often don’t have an elevator, you will have to carry your bag up to your room.  All of these things can hinder your ease of getting your travel gear about.

Consider your travel style and how you get there when looking for new travel luggage

Will you have to carry your travel luggage up these stairs?

Protruding Parts

Now that you are starting to narrow down the type of luggage you need there are still a few more things to think about before you decide on a new bag.

When assessing your preferred luggage style look at the protruding parts.  Do the spinner wheels stick out from the bottom?  Can you push the handle all the way down into the bag?  Are there any straps hanging from the bag?  Are you able to tuck these items away?

Each of the things that stick out from the bag can get caught on luggage carousels or just between bags.  This can cause your travel bag to be damaged.  Meaning repairs will have to be made or a new bag purchased.  Be aware, airlines will rarely take responsibility for this damage.  However, if your bag is damaged during transit report it to the airline.  They will create an exgratia report for you to claim through your travel insurance*.

Hard Shell v’s Soft Shell

Step three to assessing the best travel luggage for you is to decide if you want a hardshell or softshell case?

Hardshell suitcases are typically more secure and protective of your belongings within the case.  However, the hard shell can crack and thereby render the case useless, again a new travel case may need to be bought.

Softshell cases typically do not break easily.  However, if they get wet water can soak through, and on a rare occasion can be slashed open by a knife by a would-be thief.

It’s your personal preference which needs you want to be met and thereby choosing the best suitcase for you.

Ease of Access into the Travel Luggage

The next step to selecting luggage is to look at how easy it will be to access your travel packing from your bag.

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When I backpacked around Europe years ago I bought a backpack that zipped opened like a suitcase.  This meant I could access easily get at most of my travel packing.  My girlfriend, however, had a backpack that was loaded from the top only, she continually struggled with trying to find a specific item.

But ease of access isn’t just restricted to backpacks.  Suitcases and duffle bags can also pose similar issues, as they can be quite deep.  You may like to consider choosing a suitcase that zips open in half.  Or perhaps something as simple as packing cells can alleviate many problems.

Size Does Matter

Weight

Now that you have narrowed down the style of the travel bag that you want, the final step for selecting a travel bag is choosing which is the best luggage size for your trip.

If you are backpacking think about how much weight you can carry on your back.  Typically men can carry more, a 75L backpack is possibly suitable.  But for most women, this is just too much and a 65L is a better option.

Allowance

If you are looking at a suitcase or duffle bag on a plane, cruise or bus tour, research what you are allowed to take.

Many tours and cruises will stipulate the recommend physical size of luggage.  This is due to room available in the bus luggage compartment or within your cabin on the cruise.  I did a quick Google and learned that the P&O Cruises and Carnival Cruises allow up to two bags per person with dimensions of 140cm x 60cm x 40cm (55″ x 23″ x 15″).  While Contiki bus tours only allow one bag with dimensions of 73cm x 50cm x 25cm (29″ × 20″ × 10″).  Ensure you read the fine print for your tour or cruise company.

If you are flying remember to read the fine print on luggage allowances for your airline.  There is an allowance in weight and number of items of luggage allowed.  There are huge variations depending on which country you are flying within.  The biggest variation is with hand carry-on luggage.  For example, carry-on luggage in the USA is 55cm x 35cm x 22cm (22″ x 14″ x 9″) with a weight allowance of 18kg (40lb), whilst in Australia maximum hand carry weight is 7kg (15lb).  Yet, most airlines seem to agree that checked in luggage should be no longer than 158cm (62″).  But that doesn’t mean you should just buy the largest luggage.  Remember I mentioned that really big suitcase I bought – I can easily fit up to 40kg of packing into it.  Let me tell you, it is not fun sitting on the airport floor reorganising your travel packing.  It’s just best to learn how to cull your travel packing and pack light and choose a more appropriate sized luggage.

TOP TRIP TIP: Worldwide Occupational Health and Safety standards restrict luggage to be no more than 32kg (70lb) per piece.

  • (Sizes and allowances correct at December 2017)

Luggage for Kids

Now that you have chosen your travel bag what about the kids?

First up, you need to be aware of your luggage allowances.  Most airlines allow about 10kg or one piece of baby paraphernalia eg. pram or cot or car seat – NOT ALL three at once.  You baby’s travel packing including clothing and nappies is separate.  You may need to pack them into your luggage (again don’t forget to consider your luggage allowance).

Once your baby grows up you may want your child to have their own luggage.  Luggage is expensive, consider choosing something that has longevity in its design eg. your 9-year-old may not be happy with the Wiggles on their bag.

This goes for choosing their hand luggage as well.  Start with something inexpensive for a pre-schooler (this could be the moment to get that Wiggles bag or one of those cool Trunki cases) and then upgrade when your child grows.  My 9-year-old can no longer reach the extendable handle on his Spiderman hand luggage case and is now using an adult carry-on bag.

Ultimately when choosing travel luggage for yourself or your children think long-term use with the best features that will continue to meet your growing needs.  Finally, remember just like anything else you do pay for what you get.  Quality luggage does come at a cost, this doesn’t mean that cheaper luggage is bad, it just probably won’t last as long.

Top Trip Tips: Packing and Keeping Your Travel Luggage Safe

  • If you buy a bright or multi-coloured travel bag don’t assume you are the only person with that bag.  When I worked for Qantas in the lost luggage department most wrong takes of luggage (that is a person takes a bag incorrectly believing it to be theirs) happens with unusual coloured bags – rarely on the black bags.
  • Add a luggage tag* you can get some really fun coloured ones to help identify your luggage.  If your airline thermal tag comes off during transit your personal luggage tag will help airline staff to reunite you with your luggage.  This also applies to cruises.
  • Don’t forget to lock your bag with a TSA approved luggage lock*.  If security staff cannot gain access to your luggage then they will damage your bag to get that access.
  • Before you leave home check the weight of each piece of luggage.  You can either use your person body scales or buy a travel luggage scale* that you can then pack into your luggage for the return journey (handy because you have all that shopping now to pack).
Travel tips to help in your travel planning and choosing new travel luggage

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Sally-Ann
Hi, I'm a Perth born and bred travel tips blogger/writer with 20+ years experience in airlines, hospitality and tourism. I love sharing my travel lessons learned to help you plan for your travel dream with my travel tips for trips. Please follow along to receive all my travel planning tips, packing lists and destination inspirations.

7 Responses to “Travel Luggage: Tips for Choosing the Best for You

  • Your list is a wealth of information. I have followed your posts since day 1 and saved every one of them for future reference. My wife and I are nearing retirement with plans to travel the world. You have inspired us!! We want to live your adventures, minus the scams, dead body, being ripped off, etc 🙂

  • I prefer to have the hard-shelled luggage in a way that it is easy to keep and you can just clean it with a piece of cloth. Also, it’s always good to have personal markings on your luggage because there are possibilities that someone from your flight has the same as what you have. Do it and it’s hassle free.

  • You have some good suggestions here. I recently discovered a great suitcase cover that protects my luggage from scratches and dirt during transportation. I am no longer worried about having to wash it after every journey or whether it is a soft or hard shelled suitcase. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • I have always had the soft shelled luggage and I try to stay away from black. It is funny that you had so many colored bags where people took the wrong ones. I do always check the tag! #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • I have to say Anisa, when not having a black bag it is always so much easier to spot your bag on the luggage carousel. Glad to hear that you do double check your luggage.

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