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Luggage. There is SO much luggage out there! Odds are, your family has a suitcase or two laying around the house. My parents have a TON of luggage. Some old, some new, some big, some small, some giant. This post is going to help lead you through the pros/cons of different types of luggage, from the perspective that you might be looking to buy a new bag for the trip, or at least trying to figure out which of the bags you have access to would be best for you to take. Of course, you don’t need to buy new luggage to travel. And you may be stuck with whatever your family has, like it or not. Still, thinking about how to get your stuff from here to there is important.
I will begin this with a disclaimer–I am a HUGE supporter of traveling light. If you can go carry-on only, there are lots of benefits. Keep your eyes peeled for my post about light travel, and also you can follow my packing journey to spend 3 weeks living out of my carry-on bag leading up to and during July 2018!
For my student trips, as well as many other international study programs, travelers are allowed ONE checked bag and ONE carry-on bag, plus a small personal item. I’ve been fortunate there have been no extra fees for our luggage charged by our carriers, but do realize that some carriers charge for checked bags even on international flights. If you’re booking by yourself and going with a budget airline, check their specific rules and fees. Some give a super low ticket price, but charge high fees for all types of luggage…and those fees are higher if you don’t pre-purchase them with your ticket!
While each airline makes its own rules, here is the general low-down:
|Bag Type||Measurements MAX||Weight Max|
|Checked Bag||27” x 21” x 14” is a typical size. Many will simply say 62 linear inches.||Normally 50lbs.|
|Carry-On Bag (must be able to fit in overhead bin or under seat in front of you)||21.5” x 14” x 9”, give or take a bit here or there. Some will simply say “45 linear inches” which means add length + width + height||15-22lbs or so. Some have no specific limits, some are as much as 35lb.|
|Small Personal Item (must be able to fit under seat in front of you)||Often about 9” x 10” x 17”. Again, give or take an inch, if measurements are specified.||Usually not specifically stated, but this should be a SMALL item.|
A comparison of common US airlines can be found here. Some international airlines are more generous, some are famous for having very strict policies.
There are several types of luggage on the market, each with its own pros/cons.
PRO: Items inside are less likely to get crushed or damaged. Offers somewhat more water resistance, easier to clean. Four-wheeled ones are easier to maneuver than ones with two wheels.
CON: Hard bags are heavier. And the more wheels, the more weight that is added. The shape can’t flex easily.
PRO: Lighter. Pockets on the outside allow for access to smaller items & possibly more organization. Possibly more durable for longer periods of time. Can compact & stretch a bit. Same Pro/Con with wheels.
CON: Not water resistant. Same pro/con with wheels.
These are my favorite! I love having a bag that is easy to lift, and I just enjoy carrying it on my back–keeps my hands free and saves my poor arms from lifting over and over again. Sometimes I do miss the ease of just dragging my bag on its wheels, but for me this is totally the way to go!
PRO: Lightest of all. Flexible soft size to compress/expand. Easy to maneuver over rough terrain (carried as a backpack).
CON: Usually don’t have wheels.
If you start with a large bag, you will often feel free to FILL that large bag. When planning to pack, start with the smallest bag you think MIGHT be okay. And then only move to a larger bag if and when you absolutely need to.
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