Whether you’re travelling around the world or simply heading on an overnight excursion, having the right size and type of luggage is important.
But with so many choices, how do you decide which is the best large or mid-size luggage, carry-on, luggage set or duffle bag for your needs? Read on to find out more about travel bags, and to help choose the one that’s right for you.
When you’re shopping for luggage, size will be one the main factors you’ll need to consider. The number of people who will share your luggage and the length of your trip will help give you an idea about the amount of storage space you’ll need for clothes, shoes, and other travel items. Size is most often stated in inches, which is usually measured by a bag’s longest dimension.
Luggage that fits into this size category is most often used as a carry-on bag, as they usually meet the size restriction of many airlines. They’re best suited for 1-2 day trips, and give you plenty of room for an outfit or two, toiletries, shoes, and other smaller essentials. Some even feature an expandable design, so you can fit more into it. However, expanding your luggage might make it too large to be a carry-on bag.
Luggage pieces that are 23-24” are perfect for travellers looking to travel for anywhere from 2 to 4 days. They’re usually a small and light option that you’ll have to check, but give you plenty of room for a few outfits, shoes, and toiletries. Suitcases that are 25-27” are the most common size for luggage, and they’re ideal for up to 10 days of travelling.
For trips that last up to 14 days, these very large suitcases are perfect. They give you an incredible amount of space for just about everything you’d like to travel with. Be aware, however, that if you plan to fully pack a suitcase of this size, not only will it be difficult to lug around, it might also exceed your airline’s weight restriction; and an oversized bag means you’ll likely have to pay an additional fee, or remove some of your items to meet the limit.
Types of Luggage
Now that you know a little bit about the size of luggage that you might need, it’s time to take a look at the different types of bags that you can choose from, and their main features.
The traditional suitcase design – a large, rectangular shape with rigid casing and only one or two handles – can hold a lot and is very durable, but if you pack them full they tend to be quite heavy and difficult to lug around. Fortunately, most rolling luggage pieces come with wheels and extendable handles so they’re easier to pull around with you without putting too much strain on your body.
There are three types of suitcase designs: hard-sided and soft-sided, which are self-explanatory, and semi-soft suitcases that feature a frame to give them a defined shape, but have soft fabric sides and can usually be expanded along the top and bottom.
Carry-on luggage features a traditional suitcase design, but is usually no bigger than 55cm (21.5 inches) along its longest dimension. These bags are perfect for a quick 1- or 2-day trip, and are designed to fit under your plane or bus seat, or in an overhead compartment. Many carry-on suitcases also have wheels and an extendable handle so they’re easier to transport.
Be sure to check with your airline to find out their carry-on size restrictions. It’s different with each airline, so you’ll want to be sure you’ve got the right size carry-on before you get to the airport.
These all-purpose bags are designed to be carried by hand or slung over your shoulder. They range from simple designs to more deluxe models that are equipped with pockets, compartments, and ergonomic shoulder straps.
When you need your clothes to arrive unwrinkled, a garment bag is what you’ll want. They’re designed to store and protect your clothes, such as business suits and dresses, and work a bit like a go-anywhere closet that gives you room to pack several garments on hangers. Many even have wheels and a handle to help make transporting them easier.
A backpack offers total mobility and is great for a variety of trips – from trekking across the globe to heading out on a weekend adventure. And large or small, most backpacks have plenty of pockets and storage space for all your gear. They also feature ergonomic straps that are adjustable, so you can spread the weight of the bag evenly across your chest, waist, and shoulders.
Briefcases and Attaché Cases
These specialized cases are designed to hold and protect your laptop while you travel. Most feature a padded section that’s dedicated for your machine, while separate compartments make room for other accessories like your mouse, charger, documents, wallet, and more.
Features to Look for
When you’re out shopping for the right luggage, keep these features in mind so you can decide which one makes the grade.
When choosing the luggage that suits you best, look for the Denier number. The strength of a fabric is measured on a Denier scale and the higher this number is the tougher the material.
Strong and lightweight, nylon is used for a variety of luggage types. It’s tougher than polyester, and with a minimum rating of 400d, it can take on a lot of wear and tear. For greater protection, choose weather-resistant coatings like Teflon® or Scotchguard®. And for extreme durability, choose luggage made of ballistic nylon – it’s the same material you find in bulletproof vests.
2. Polycarbonate or Polypropylene Plastic
Most hard-sided, moulded luggage is made of one of these materials. They’re incredibly tough and lightweight, and usually feature a stylish, unique design that you might not get with other types of luggage.
This is the most common type of material used in luggage, because it is both inexpensive and durable. Most mid-price polyester bags have a Denier level of 1200d, while more expensive bags can go as high as 2400d.
Leather luggage is stylish and yet offers incredible durability. There are several types of leather for luggage:
- Full-grain leather: this is considered the highest-quality. It comes from the outermost layer of a hide, and is left untouched so its natural markings and original texture remain. It’s highly durable, but tends to be more expensive than other leather types.
- Split leather: is made from the lower layers of a hide that have been split off from under the top layers. It’s more fragile than top-grain leather, and is typically used in the form of suede.
- Top-grain leather: also comes from the outer layer of a hide but goes through a sanding process to remove any of its natural markings. It is considered less durable than full-grain leather but offers greater stain resistance and is generally less expensive.
- Nappa leather: is a full-grain leather that has been put through a tanning process that makes it extremely soft and durable.
A steel frame will give your luggage strong support, while plastic honeycomb structures are lighter and more flexible, allowing your bag to bounce back to its proper shape even after a heavy impact.
Choose a bag that features a zipper with large teeth, strong stitching, and taped seams to protect your contents inside. Lockstitched seams are great too. They’re individually reinforced, so if one breaks the rest of the seams will remain intact.
Look for waterproof materials, coatings, or seals to help keep your stuff protected from splashes, spills, and other wet mishaps.
Most luggage now comes equipped with wheels, making it easy to cart your stuff around. Larger wheels are durable and offer a smooth ride, while spinner wheels rotate 360 degrees so you can weave your way in and out of tight spaces more easily.
Grab handles are the ones that are directly attached to the top or side of your bag; and if they’re attached to the frame of your luggage, they’ll offer even more strength for heavier bags. A telescoping (or extending) handle extends from the top of the luggage for easy transportation, and simply slides back into your luggage when you're done. Have a look at the shape of the tubes on the extending handles: square tubing is usually stronger than round tubing, but can also be more expensive.
Some luggage bags feature zippered sections that let you expand so you can fit more stuff into them. Be aware that if you choose to expand your bag, you might exceed the size or weight restriction set by your airline. Be sure to check with your airline before you begin packing to avoid leaving stuff behind at the airport or having to pay an extra fee for a heavier bag.
A variety of features on the inside and outside of your luggage will help you keep your travelling items well organized. Look for:
1. Wide gussets
An accordion-style pleat that works like a pocket around the inside edge of your suitcase.
2. Outside pockets
Store items here for easy access without opening your entire bag.
Keep wet and soiled garments stored safely away from dry items.
3. Mesh pocket dividers
Items you store inside here will be easy to access and easy to see.
These extra factors aren’t necessities for your luggage, but they can help enhance your travel experience.
Matching Luggage Sets
A set of luggage that has the same colour and design will be easier to track when you’re watching the bags go around the airport luggage carousel.
Unique Colours and Straps
Choose luggage with bright colours and unique design patterns, or simply attach a luggage strap to it to help make yours stand out from the crowd.
Passport Safety Wallet
Using radio frequency technology, these handy wallets help keep your passport and cards protected from wireless identity theft and tracking. Plus, most wallets come with enough pockets for other essentials, such as cash and even your boarding pass.
Whether your luggage has its own built-in lock or you buy one separately, it’s a great way to keep your belongings safe and secure. Be aware that if you travel frequently to the U.S., it might be necessary for your bag to be searched again even after you’ve checked it. If this is the case, you might want to choose a TSA-recognized lock. These specialized locks allow a security agent to open your bag using a universal master key, so they won’t have to break your lock.
In the event that your luggage gets lost, a personalized luggage tag will hopefully help get your bags back to you more quickly.