Picking which bag to take on your next adventure is the first step in starting to pack. It helps you determine the amount of stuff you can bring and how you plan on schlepping your stuff during your trip.
To help you make an informed decision, I put together a few questions and answers to guide your thought process.
How will I be travelling?
By plane and then by taxi or car .
If you won’t have to carry your luggage at any point, it’s your choice! Pick a carry-on sized suitcase or check a bag.
By plane and then public transportation or walking.
Choose wisely. If you don’t mind rolling a bag behind you, a small suitcase can work, but the best would be a travel backpack that helps you navigate streets and crowded areas easily.
By train or bus.
Train and bus travel does have options to bring large pieces of luggage, but like planes, it costs extra. Consider how much walking your travel will involve to make the decision of suitcase or backpack.
Anything goes, since you’ll just be loading it up into the back of your car. I prefer soft bags, so I can easily access things I need with the trunk open, and don’t have to unzip my whole suitcase to get to them.
How long is my trip ?
If you don’t need a lot, a duffle bag or backpack works! If you have special activities, are bringing gear, or require multiple outfits, then a small carry-on can work, as long as it fits with your mode of transportation in question #1.
Again, if you don’t need much, 3-5 days worth of items can still fit nicely into a duffle or large travel backpack. If you’re travelling by plane or car, a suitcase won’t hinder you at all either.
For these trips, my preference is a large carry-on. With smart packing tips like packing cubes and a travel capsule wardrobe, I can make this work without laundry access.
While I can still make this work in a large carry-on suitcase, above 3 weeks, I usually cave and take a checked bag, because I usually need my tech gear, a blowdryer, and other things that take up space.
Do I need to be nimble and hands-free?
Backpack or duffle all the way. If you want to be comfortable, a backpack will help you distribute your weight evenly for a more comfortable fit. A duffle has its perks too, but the best is a bag that can do both and be worn multiple ways.
Wheeled luggage for the win. If I don’t have to carry my stuff, my preference is to be free of extra weight and wheel it alongside me. With a personal item that I can attach to my suitcase, I only need one hand to wheel it along anyway.
Helpful carry-on measurements
International carry-on size average
21.5 x 13.5 x 9”
Domestic/Large Carry-on size average
22” x 14” x 9”
Do I mind checking my bag ?
Backpacks, duffles, and small carry-ons (often called “international carry-ons” are pretty much safe.
Up to you! Use the factors above to determine if a checked bag works for you. If you don’t mind, you can even check a small bag, just for the option to bring liquids.