The first step in choosing your luggage is to check with the airlines that you will be traveling with what their maximum allowable is as you will need to ensure that your luggage fits in with the baggage restrictions. The next step is to decide what you are packing, how long you are packing for and how much weight you can carry. You then need to decide, relative to your trip, what type of suitcase to purchase. Why would you purchase a suitcase as opposed to a backpack for your trip?
Backpack or suitcase
Backpacks and suitcases come in carry on as well as checked baggage but your trip style will be all important in deciding which one is best for you. The more active you are likely to be, the better a carry-able case is as opposed to one with rollers, whereas a smart looking wheeled suitcase looks more professional and has a better chance of getting you upgraded on a flight. Choosing the right size ensures your wheeled suitcase fits into the overhead compartments and the wheels prevent back strain, but if you are going to be hopping on and off buses and trains, a spinner suitcase may not be practical. A spinner suitcase can also be detrimental if you are likely to be in buildings that don’t have elevators as you would have to carry the suitcase up the stairs, which can be rather awkward. Backpacks are easier to carry around, but look less professional and can cause back strain. Remember that if you go for a wheeled case, get one with quality wheels or you may end up with broken or jammed rollers on your trip and still have to lug a suitcase around.
Hard or soft shell
When choosing a suitcase, another factor to consider is whether to get a hard or soft shell. It depends on your packing requirements. Hard shell cases protect your belongings better, especially if you are carrying any fragile items. Hard shell cases are not necessarily heavy either and are usually designed to fit into an overhead compartment properly. Your hard cases won’t easily squeeze into other places though, so depending on your trip type again, you would need to take into consideration where your bag will be on your trip. Poor quality hard shell cases can be dented, cracked and broken easily, which doesn’t bode well for the contents. Soft shell suitcases can handle a lot more rough handling and can be compressed better to squash into spaces as the softer exterior has some give in it. You would again need to look at a good quality soft shell case as lower quality materials can tear easily and show wear a lot faster as well.
Other aspects to consider
Try and choose the smallest size luggage you will need for your trip and plan to leave a little space in your case if you plan to bring back any souvenirs from your trip. You don’t want to pay excess baggage prices on the return journey either. Check your strength! You don’t want to end up with a bag that is too big or too heavy for you to carry in the event that you need to do so. Even wheeled luggage may need to be picked up at some point and you need to know you can do it yourself if there is no one around to help. When choosing your luggage, ask if you can pack it with some heavy items while still in the shop, that way you can try it out with weight and test out the rollers or how a backpack that is heavy feels like on your back. This can be a huge deciding factor on the type of bag you choose.
Remember to take into consideration the destination and type of places you will be visiting when choosing your baggage. Lighter baggage means less stress on your body when carrying, lifting and otherwise handling your bags. There is always the possibility that you may have to carry your luggage some distance or up stairs, so make sure it is manageable. Your travel type and place you stay at is also important to the travel gear you decide to use. If you are using rental cars or taxis, a smarter set of luggage will be fine as there is less need to carry it around. If you are using trains, buses and other forms of public transport, you might find a backpack more convenient. Staying at a backpacking lodge would make your smart pink hard-shell suitcase stand out like a sore thumb, while the same is true if you lug your tatty old backpack into a luxury hotel. Your destination can also be important in the luggage you choose a spinner luggage is unlikely to work well on areas that are not well paved or have a lot of snow.
Choose the colors well, a taupe colored case may look gorgeous in the shop but after a few trips it will start to look rather dingy and dirty. Your fluorescent pink backpack is easy to spot when collecting your luggage, but it will also stand out to other people such as thieves. If you are going backpacking, you would probably be better off with darker colors and earth tones as they will show dirt a lot less as well.
Here is a quick guide to luggage size, no matter if you choose a backpack, duffle or suitcase:
18“ to 20“ Case (Carry on luggage)
This is the recommended size as a carry on for international flights and are big enough for short trips of a day or two as you can fit in 3 or 4 outfits, a couple of pairs of shoes and your toiletries and you won’t need any checked luggage.
21“ to 22“ Case (Carry on luggage)
This is the regular size for carry on luggage for most domestic flights. These bags are great for short business trips or 2 to 3 day stay overs. Most of them offer removable sleeves for a dress or suit for business meetings or smart wear. Make sure you don’t over pack and exceed the thickness allowable.
23″ to 24″ Case (Small checked luggage)
These bags are usually used by people that want to travel light and still be able to pack for a stay of 3 to 5 days or so. You can usually squeeze in 3 to 4 full outfits, 2 pairs of shoes and still have space for your toiletries. These often have removable sleeves to use for garments as well, which can take 2 suits or 2 to 3 dresses as a bonus extra.
This is by far the most popular size checked bag and should hold enough to see you through a week of travel if you pack well. This bag allows for a few sets of shoes and clothing, toiletries and more. The garment bag allows for 3 normal or 2 thick suits and 4 to 5 dresses depending on their material thickness. This case should still be light enough to carry around fairly easily and still gives you plenty room to pack for a longer stay..
28″ to 32″ Case (Checked luggage)
These large cases are suitable for long trips of more than a week at a time. They can generally hold quite a number of outfits, shoes and accessories. They are suitable for staying at one place or if you are traveling via taxis or hiring a vehicle as they are very difficult to maneuver and can also be quite heavy. Make sure you weigh your case once it is packed as it is easy too exceed weight limits with cases of this size. Make sure that the airline you are using will allow the size of the case to be checked in as well, as some airlines restrict the overall size to around 62 linear inches. This is around the largest size you would be allowed to travel with on most airlines, but check before you purchase a case of this size to ensure you meet airline restrictions for your specific flights.