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Choosing the wrong luggage for a trip leaves you with a cumbersome problem – you can’t just take it home and switch it! But there are so many types of bags available these days, that making an informed decision can be the most difficult part of your trip!

Whether it’s trying to lug a suitcase through the jungle and beating the crap out of your wheels (been there), or throwing everything into a hiking pack for a stay at a luxury hotel, a travel experience is often about choosing the right kind of bag.

The most important thing to remember is that different types of luggage will be suitable for different types of trips. So in this article we’ve broken down four popular styles of travel, and the type of luggage that is best suited to that trip.

4 Different Styles of Travel, and the Luggage You’ll Need for Each

The Relaxing Two-Week Vacation

Luggage: A Huge Suitcase

Whether you’re staying at a swanky hotel or an Airbnb, a ‘relaxing’ vacation is one where the only place your bag travels is from the airport, to your room, and back again.

This is the type of trip where you can take liberties with your packing – feel free to pack a hard-shell suitcase the height of a ten-year-old child if you’re not going to be lugging it around here there and everywhere!

Packing for these vacations is a complete joy, as the only thing you need worry about is not exceeding your hold luggage weight limit. With a huge suitcase, packing that extra pair of shoes shouldn’t pose a big issue.

For advice on the best brands of luggage, check out guides and reviews from Luggage Guru.

Women’s Ash Waterproof Parka

The Gap Year

Luggage: Rucksack / Backpack

Now, here is where packing gets very sticky. Packing for a gap year means you need to keep a range of thing in mind when choosing a bag, including things like the need to carry it on public transport, leave it in hostels, and have room to fit everything you need for a year.

Juggling all of these things can easily add up to a packing nightmare. Realistically, we can discard a carry-on bag as an option, as that’s simply not big enough to hold all the items you’ll need for a year-long trip, unless you are some kind of minimalist earth-child.

Now we’re left with the great Suitcase Vs. Rucksack debate. On the one hand, suitcases have wheels, are easily locked, and take a literal weight off your shoulders. On the other, rucksacks are highly portable, free up your hands, and don’t take up an annoying amount of room on buses and night trains.

All in all, we’ve decided that rucksacks are the way to go, unless you’re embarking on a bougie gap year where you’re staying only in hotels and dodging coaches in favor of flying everywhere. It’s called ‘backpacking’ for a reason!

A practical wheeled travel backpack, with the versatility of a zip-off daypack and generous internal space.

The Weekend Away

Luggage: Carry-on

Ah, the leisurely city break. You can take these mini-vacations frequently because they allow you to visit new places and see new sights on a budget; especially if you book accommodation last minute.

A helpful money-saving tip for the weekend traveler is to refuse hold luggage and only take a cabin bag. Yes, it’s a squeeze to fit in your hairdryer and the essential three pairs of shoes, but it saves you vital cash to spend on cocktails in the sun and shopping in street markets.

In this case, your big decision is between a carry-on bag or a wheelie suitcase. Depending on your upper-body strength, choose which is best for your length of travel and how many extra t-shirts you can fit in.

Carefully check the cabin baggage allowance for the specific airline you’re traveling with, as it varies between companies.

CabinZero Urban Carry-On Review

The Festival Camping Trip

Luggage: Dependent on the Weather

You’ve got your tent and planned your outfits… now how to carry it all? This problem should always be considered with the weather in mind.

If you’re off to a music festival in the British countryside, a suitcase on wheels is basically a no-go, due to the high probability of rain and mud. Mud-caked wheels = not going anywhere fast.

This is where your trusty rucksack comes in very handy. Put your clothes and supplies on your back, leaving your hands free to carry your tent and camp chair!

The situation differs where mainland – European or American summertime festivals are concerned. If the week looks hot and sunny, whip out your suitcase by all means – dry ground makes the perfect conditions to wheel your things from your car to camp!

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Pack-It Original™ Starter Set

 

Pack-It Specter Cube Set – 3pc

ProCase Toiletry Bag with Hanging Hook

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    10 Comments

  1. Nice mix Meg. I always do long term travel when going international so it’s a pretty big suitcase with a backpack. But if I am doing a quick weekend in NYC I may even just backpack it, or perhaps a smaller carry on type deal. Definitely gotta think of the location too, for picking the proper luggage, in addition to the length of the trip. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Ryan

    • Thanks Ryan, glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 They’ve recently come out with hybrid models of a suitcase / backpack, which allows you to have the best of both worlds; a suitcase with straps which zip out and converts to a backpack, or a backpack with wheels which zip out. Could be an alternative which might suit you guys 🙂

  2. Choosing the wrong luggage will create problem on your whole trip, so you should give some time to pack your bags.

    • Absolutely Stephen – I think people take luggage style for granted, but it really can make or break a trip.

      Happy travels 🙂

  3. This is helpful. Packing has always been a huge challenge for me.

    • So glad the post was helpful for you Alice 🙂 The right bag goes a long way to helping with successful packing 🙂

  4. Since I’m both too old- and against- gap year travel,I have no advice on that luggage. But, I believe that carry on luggage is almost always the right answer. There are different carryons- one for 2 suits and dress shirts, another for informal clothes and bathing attire, and a knapsack for those adventurous trips.
    All to avoid the pointless (lack of exercise) waiting for one’s luggage at the airport.

    • I’ve always envied those who could travel carryon only! For exactly the reason you’ve said about not having to wait for it, ease of navigation once you get somewhere etc. Lol but I fear I will be forever cursed to be a serial overpacker 😀

  5. It is also important to know yourself and your packing/traveling style.

    My daughter and I were going on a 3 week trip overseas and planning on staying in hostels.

    We decided after much research that packs would be better than suitcases. But being new to that we researched and bought packs we felt would be great for the trip.

    We had a 10 trip in the States 4 months before the 3wk one and decided to use it as our “test run”.

    By the end of the 10day I knew I was never going to make it in the long trip with my pack (various reasons)

    With our new knowlege and experience we researched more and returned the original packs and bought new ones.

    The 3 week trip went off without a hitch and all the “luggage” based issues from the 10 day were no longer an issue.

    We still used packs but the style and features were completely different and better fit our previously unrealized “packing styles” and mental/emotional needs.

    • Great advice Cindy, and I absolutely agree with you. It was a very clever idea to do a test run before hand – I try and do this with anything new, whether it’s packs, shoes, or electronics. It makes life (and travels!) so much easier when you’ve smoothed out all possible issues before a trip, and in your case, actually caught and prevented something which would have been an ongoing issue.

      Hope you had a wonderful trip!

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