Choosing a travel bag is not an easy task. It is an important purchase that requires reflection.
In this guide, thanks to Cyril, a 30-year-old traveler, we help you make the right choice by detailing the different criteria to take into account when choosing a travel bag.
Travel bags can be bulky and difficult to carry. If you choose a travel bag that is too small, you won't have enough room for everything you need. If you choose a bag that's too big, you're going to have to lug it around with you and risk making it harder to carry. The good compromise is an average travel bag of about fifty centimeters.
How to choose the size of your travel bag?
It is difficult to choose the size of the perfect travel bag. You need equipment adapted to your destination , your lifestyle , your outfit and your tastes . That's why you should make a list of your needs and wants to make it easier to find the perfect bag.
Before you start buying a new travel bag, you can start by carrying out a small test . Place various objects of different sizes and weights in your current suitcase (possibly with a sample of clothing).
Then take measurements of the volume of the contents and the volume available in your suitcase, this will help you better measure your needs .
When choosing the size of your bag, you must also take into account its destination. If the person is traveling in Europe , a small bag, such as a backpack, will be sufficient during the day, since the hotel is often close to tourist places.
But for holidays abroad , a large bag, such as cabin or checked luggage, will surely be necessary.
In addition to the dimensions of your bag, you must take into account the size of your hand luggage. If you are shopping, a small bag is best for carrying accessories.
Suitcase sizes: The essentials
Traditional suitcase sizes range from 45 to 82 cm.
Suitcases up to 55cm are generally considered hand luggage, while any larger bags are considered checked (or hold) luggage. But that's not always the case - some airlines allow larger cabin bags and accept a 60cm suitcase as hand luggage.
In most luggage collections, you will find three or four different sizes for the same suitcase. These are usually 21", 25", 28" and sometimes 31". Of course, this is not a rule. Some brands offer smaller cases, while others struggle to find cases under 63cm.
How to pack well?
Packing Lesson 001: Understanding What You Really Need
I have a friend that I love very much, (pleonasm). But every time we leave, she has three pieces of luggage. And guess what? In fact, she only uses 40% of the items she has on board.
Don't pack your bags based on "what if" scenarios . I made those kinds of mistakes when I was much younger, and I learned from them.
What made me think is that I had to transport on a ferry and a train an overloaded 60 cm suitcase with a broken wheel. And I had another bag that contained my $700 laptop, and everything that didn't fit in the suitcase.
My arms hurt for the next three or four days. And it's all because of the "what if" scenario - it turns out the chances of you needing a proper jacket and rain boots in a seaside town in the middle of July are non-existent.
You need to understand what you really need , and what you don't need. You don't need the third pair of jeans or the fifteenth pair of socks, or even your compression socks. And you definitely don't need that shirt you haven't worn since graduating.
Once you understand what you really need, you will be able to pack for long trips in small suitcases. Especially if you know some really cool packing tricks.
The art of packing
What exactly is your skill level in The Art of Packing?
Over the years I have learned to pack my bags for two weeks in a small 40cm travel bag. And you can too - it takes time, practice and a Marie-Kondo understanding of the things you really need.
There are many useful tips and tricks that will allow you to significantly reduce the space you need in a suitcase. One of the best tricks I've learned is to roll my clothes - if you haven't tried it yet, you're missing out!
Next time you're packing, try rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Not only will you save a lot of space in your luggage, but you will also prevent your clothes from getting wrinkled.
Another incredibly useful trick I've learned is to put my underwear and socks in plastic bags and then stuff them inside my shoes.
I also found that it doesn't work with all types of shoes, like soft Converse sneakers or espadrilles. But it works wonders with bulkier shoes, and it really helps you make the most of your suitcase.
I don't know about you, but before learning this trick, I used to store my socks and underwear in the zippered mesh pockets on the lid of a softshell case or on the divider of a hardshell case.
Now I use that space for cosmetics , towels , or swimwear , depending on what I'm packing.
When you really know how to pack, you'll realize you don't need a 64cm suitcase for a two-week vacation.
How do you travel ? Do you take the plane, the train or the car?
And if you're flying, does your ticket allow you to check in baggage? I find it easier to justify packing a big suitcase for myself if I purchased a ticket that includes a checked suitcase . But this is not always the case, especially for short flights and low cost airlines.
In this case, I would say that the size of your suitcase depends mainly on your ticket. If you have already paid for checked baggage, then feel free to take a 63cm suitcase and put whatever you want in it.
But if your ticket doesn't include checked baggage, you'll save time and money by opting for carry-on baggage . Especially if your trip is short and you don't need to pack too many things.
But if you travel by train or bus , it is better to opt for a smaller suitcase. Think about it: you'll have to drag her to the station and then to the hotel. Maybe you will even change trains or take a ferry at some point?
The lighter your luggage, the easier it is for you to get around . You won't be stressed and you won't be in pain if you're not carrying a 20kg suitcase.
If you're going somewhere by car , think about trunk space. Sure, there's plenty of room for your luggage if it's just you and your partner, but if you're going with a group of people...
Once I went on vacation with 4 friends in one car. None of us were allowed to bring a big suitcase because there just wasn't enough space in the trunk. You talk about being crushed like sardines.
This is something to think about - if you're getting in a car with three or four other people, you really need to pack light . The trunk will fill up very quickly and there will be very little (if any) room in the back seat. And believe me, you don't want to ride for 5 hours with your bags under your seat.
Why do you need a suitcase?
Do you need a suitcase for a specific trip, or are you just looking to expand your luggage collection?
If you're buying a suitcase for a particular trip, it makes sense to choose a size that's suitable for that trip. If you are going away for a very long time, you need a large suitcase . But if your trip is two weeks or less, you can get by with a 50cm suitcase.
If you're buying a suitcase because you want to add another to your existing luggage collection, be sure to buy something you'll use . Don't buy a 63cm suitcase just because you don't have one. If you've come this far without it, chances are you won't use it often. And if you don't use it often, you won't get your money's worth.
Instead, think about the size you use most often. And buy another - it's good to have a spare if your favorite suitcase is beyond repair. Plus, if you always travel with a 21-inch carry-on, you'll definitely get your money's worth if you buy another one.
It's a bit like buying perfume online: would you rather buy another bottle of your favorite perfume or order a perfume you've never smelled before and risk not liking it?
We have written a special article on choosing the size of your suitcase
When do you travel most often?
Are we talking about summer or winter vacation? Because the difference is huge.
Summer clothes are light, thin and take up very little space. But winter clothes are bulkier and heavier – a puffer jacket will take up as much space as jeans, two tops and a beach towel .
It therefore makes perfect sense to buy a larger suitcase if you are going to the mountains. Especially if you want to ski or snowboard and need all the extra gear. This is actually one of the few scenarios where I will tell you that it is better to buy a very large suitcase.
For most other scenarios, you will rarely need anything larger than 70cm . Especially in spring and summer, when you pack thin and light clothes, and you can wear the only jacket you want to pack.
Lots of luggage: Who are you traveling with? Are you traveling alone? With friends ? With a spouse?
If you are traveling alone , it makes more sense to take a small suitcase. You don't really have people who can carry it for you, and it's much easier to get around with small and light luggage.
But if you are traveling as a couple or with one person, it is best to share a suitcase with them. I always recommend it to couples and they always thank me: why take two small suitcases, when you can put clothes for both of you in a big bag?
You can alternate who carries the suitcase so neither of you gets too tired, and you can also both have a backpack or a small duffel bag for any extra stuff you need.
This trick is very useful for air travel : you don't have to pay for two large suitcases. Instead, you can have one checked bag and two carry-on bags. And it can hold enough stuff for about a month.
How many races do you do?
Do you only buy a few souvenirs or do you go crazy if you see a good deal?
If you plan to do a lot of shopping during your trip, opt for a larger suitcase, preferably with expandable capacity.
But don't go too big - go a size or two up. And don't completely fill it. Leave some space inside, so you can store all the things you buy on your trip.
Even if you're not used to doing a lot of shopping while traveling, you'll want to have an expandable suitcase . You never know, you might find the pair of trainers you've been eyeing for months but sold out everywhere else.
Where are you staying?
Are you going to stay in a hotel or an AirBnB ? Maybe even visiting a friend or family?
If you're staying somewhere where you have a washing machine , you don't need to pack too many clothes. Instead of packing 7 shirts for 7 days, you can pack 4, wash them and wear them again.
So if you have access to a washing machine, you can pack fewer things in a smaller suitcase. But if you're in a hotel, you don't have that luxury. In this case, you will probably need a larger suitcase, which will be able to contain all your clothes.
In summary, the most important points
- Always choose the smallest suitcase size you feel comfortable with.
- Don't buy a giant suitcase just because you don't have one.
- Don't pack your bags based on what-if scenarios - if something is missing, you can always buy it.
- If you are traveling with a partner or a friend, you can share a very large suitcase.
- If your plane ticket includes checked baggage, do yourself a favor.
- If your plane ticket does not include checked baggage, take a carry-on bag.
- If you are traveling alone, take a small suitcase.
- If you're traveling in the winter, pack a bigger suitcase, as boots, jackets, and sweaters take up a lot more space than dressing gowns and shorts.
- If you have access to a washing machine, you don't need too many clothes.
I think that covers most of what I was saying earlier. Anyway, if any information is missing, report it in the comments.
Now let's take a look at some travel bags.