Traveling soon? Unsure about the best bag for travel? There are different reasons you might need a backpack, duffle bag, or suitcase for your specific trip. I’ll share my tips on how to pick the right bag for your upcoming travels, based on the trip length, transportation, and your personal preferences.

The best bag for travel based on transportation mode

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 on which travel bag to choose, I put together a few questions and answers to guide your thought process.

Travelling by plan and then taxi or rental car?

If your trip involves a plane ride, after which you’ll be picked up by a taxi or rent a car, you won’t have to carry your luggage at any point. In this case, it’s your choice! Pick a carry-on-sized suitcase or check a bag. You’ll have the luxury of being able to wheel your luggage at every point of the trip.

Are you travelling by plane and then taking 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. Something that you can pick up and keep close to your person will make it easier to move about. Want a guide on foreign public transportation, click here.

Travelling by train or bus?

Train and bus travel do allow the option to bring large pieces of luggage, but like planes, it costs extra. View the Amtrak luggage fees here. Consider how much walking your travel will involve while making the decision of suitcase vs backpack.

Taking a road trip?

Anything goes here, 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.

The best bag for travel based on trip length

Now that we’ve tackled transportation type, the next question is: How long is my trip ?

Bags for weekend trips

If your trip is a weekend and you don’t need a lot, a duffle bag or backpack works! If you have special activities, are bringing specific gear for your activities, or require multiple outfits, then a small carry-on can work, as long as it fits with your mode of transportation from question #1.

3-5 day trips

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.

6-12 day trips

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.

2+ weeks

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 need my tech gear, a blowdryer, and other things that take up space.

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Shop Away suitcases and bags

Best travel bag for your trip preferences

The third set of questions is about your travel style.

Do I need to be nimble and hands-free?

If Yes, I vote Backpack or duffle all the way. If you want to be comfortable, a backpack will help you distribute your weight evenly for a more ergonomic fit. A duffle has its perks too, but the best is a bag that can do both and be worn multiple ways.

If the answer to that question is no, pick wheeled luggage.

If I don’t have a specific reason 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.

Do I mind checking my bag ?

For those who do carry-on only, backpacks, duffles, and small carry-ons (often called “international carry-ons”) are pretty much safe. If this is your preferred style of travel, make sure you subscribe to my Youtube channel for lots of lightweight packing tips!

People who don’t mind checking a bag, have all the choices of luggage. Use the factors mentioned before to determine if a checked bag works for your length of trip and transportation methods. There are plenty of reasons a checked back can be a huge bonus, like bringing extra liquids, gifts, and things that aren’t carry-on friendly.

I hope this helps you make the oh-so-important decision on which type of luggage to take. The next challenge is making everything fit.

Happy travels xox