The Best Luggage For International Travel – Buying Guide

The Best Luggage For International Travel – Buying Guide

Before you go and buy just any luggage, ask yourself a few questions to decide on the best luggage for international travel; this will help you to find the best choice based on your needs.

So you’ve decided to go on a big trip; maybe you’re going on a business trip, or maybe you’re lucky and are heading for a well deserved holiday, or maybe you’re combining business with pleasure?

You’ve never been overseas before and don’t know what to get luggage-wise or maybe you just need to upgrade your current luggage?

Or maybe you would like to get something a bit more fancy, or maybe you’re just seeing what’s out there for the next trip in the (hopefully) not-too-far future?

No matter the reason, we’re here to help you find the best luggage for international travel. The following recommendations are the most important aspects when deciding what’s best for you:


Checked and Carry-on Luggage

The Best Luggage For International Travel

Depending on where you’re going and how long you’re staying, a smaller sized suitcase or even a carry-on bag might be enough for your needs, but as soon as you’re going for longer than just a few nights, you should consider taking a checked bag and if it’s a long distance flight, you’d also want to take a small carry-on.

Remember that you’ll have to bring back loads of gifts and souvenirs

for your loved ones, otherwise you’ll get in trouble!

Carry-on bags are usually no bigger than 22 inches high x 14 inches wide x 9 inches deep (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters); these measurements are including the handle and wheels.

Most airlines also allow at least one personal item, which must be able to be stowed away under the seat in front of you.

Some airlines might be a bit more generous than that, so it is best to check what the specific size and possible weight restrictions might be. 

Checked luggage allowance would usually be 62 linear inches (158 cm), which is 27 inches high x 21 inches wide x 14 inches deep and no more than 50 lbs (23 kg), many times you’re allowed to take more than one bag.

These are the measurements most common for economy class flights, but again, check with your airline for their specific size and weight limit, as it might slightly differ.

If you are one of the lucky ones who’s flying Business Class, your luggage weight limit might be up to 70 lbs (32 kg).

A good size for a checked bag would be 27 inches, which is perfect for the 27″ x 21″ x 14″ limit, so anything over you’d have to check with your airline whether it will occur extra costs, which might well be.

If that limit does not apply to you, I still wouldn’t recommend going over 29 inches, as it might otherwise tempt you to pack more than you actually need and you might go over your weight limit more easily. Also remember that it might be harder to manoeuvre it around, the bigger and heavier it gets.

I can’t stress this enough, before you decide on a size for your checked luggage get the size and weight limit according to your flight class from your specific airlines. 

Suitcase vs Duffle Bag and Backpack

Backpack for adventure

When it comes to checked luggage, you have a few options, such as a suitcase (which sometimes comes in a set with a carry-on – yay, bonus!), a duffel bag or even a backpack.

Let’s just say that you’re going on a long distance flight for a minimum of three weeks, you’re not in your early twenties and not doing the whole work and travel experience thing; then I’d say it is definitely a suitcase for you.

A suitcase is going to be the easiest to pack things neatly into and most times has a few different compartments to make packing and finding things again even easier for you.

A suitcase is also going to look more professional when you’re on a business trip and is also going to look much better when you’re checking into the nicer hotels.

But, if you don’t mind just throwing all of your things into a big bag without caring what your clothing is going to look like when you’re getting it out again, and you also don’t mind having to go through the whole bag to eventually get to the nice clean pants that you put right in the bottom, then a duffle bag or even a backpack might be the right thing for you. (I am not judging here, I’ve done it all.)

Of course there are now options for wheeled duffle bags, which make them more versatile as well.

A backpack or duffle bag are easier if you’re going off the beaten track, might be easier to stow away depending on the size, and might even be sturdier in extreme weather conditions, as many backpacks are made to be waterproof. They are also much easier to get up small staircases.

There are definitely always good arguments for either of the above choices, and sometimes it’s just a personal preference.

Personally I have found though that for international flights a good suitcase is the better choice for me.

I don’t really want to carry things on my shoulder or on my back as I’m definitely above the age for backpacking experiences (unless I’m going hiking that is) and am really enjoying the comfort of staying in nicer hotels with properly working lifts.

Mind you, I was once staying in a nice old villa close to Amsterdam in The Netherlands and there were no lifts at all and just a small staircase to my room.

But that is usually the exception these days, and can be helped by the lovely staff carrying it for you, or just slowly getting it up step by step. A wheeled suitcase would be very helpful here.

Hard Case vs. Soft Case

Hardside suitcase American Tourister

Hard sided or hard case suitcases usually protect your items

better than soft sided or soft case suitcases. 

Let’s just quickly go through the pros and cons of either hard case or soft case.

Obviously, you’re going to get a lot more protection from a hard case in terms of what your belongings are going to look like after a flight – all in one piece most likely.

Also it is harder to break into a hard case suitcase, especially if you have a built-in lock; just don’t forget the code. Usually hard cases will be waterproof as well.

The downside is that they don’t expand and won’t fit into tight spaces, and they might be more easily scratched, dented or cracked, but that also depends on the quality of the material.

Hard Case Pros: Protects breakable contents, more durable, waterproof, better protection against thieves. 

Hard Case Cons: Don’t expand, scratch or damage easily if cheaper quality

Soft Case suitcases, however, are usually lighter and more flexible. Many times they are expandable and fit more easily into tight spaces.

They are also not as sensitive to shock, i.e. being thrown around when being loaded or unloaded into the belly of the plane.

Unfortunately, they are more easily ripped or torn, which also makes them more vulnerable to thieves, who might try and cut the bag open.

Most of the soft shell suitcases are also not waterproof, which might leave you with wet clothing and in the worst case, ruined souvenirs etc.

Soft Case Pros: Many times lighter and more flexible, expandable

Soft Case Cons: More easily torn, vulnerable to thieves, might not be waterproof

Read my other post Hardside luggage vs softside luggage – These are the differences to find out more. 

Roll it or Spin it – 2 or 4 Wheels?

Nowadays the most commonly displayed suitcases have 4 (or even more) wheels, but there are definitely still some with only 2 wheels around and both have their pros and cons.

Spinner or roller

The 2 wheels are definitely good when you have to walk a fair bit, for example, you’ve just arrived into Amsterdam and have to find your way through all the traffic, cars, bicycles, trams, and pedestrians all at the same time. You need something that is easy to manoeuvre.

The downside is that you still have to either push or pull the suitcase and if you miss the curb, the whole thing might swing around on you, which in turn could put a bit of a strain on your back.

4 wheels are great for your back, you don’t have to push or pull, just guide the bag using the extendable handle. The problem with the spinner is that the bag will continue to move if you’re on an angle, so you’ll have to hold on to it.

I recently had to get a damaged spinner suitcase replaced (the damage happened while the luggage was unloaded, you can claim it through the airline) and had to walk a fair bit through the city.

The streets were mostly even and so even a longer walk was manageable quite easily and didn’t cause a strain. But of course it might be different with a fully packed suitcase, so keep in mind where your travels are going to take you when you make your choice between a roller or a spinner.

Read my other post Spinner or roller luggage- which one is better  to find out more. 

Things to Remember

Whatever your choice, and while we’re talking about protecting your back, it is good to check for an extendable handle which can be adjusted to your height.

Also, as with most of the above mentioned points, don’t go for the cheapest option; you don’t want the handle or the wheels to break or snap off after your first leg of the flight.

The weight of your empty luggage shouldn’t exceed 7.5 – 12 pounds (3.4 – 5.4 kg). Remember that you still have to carry the thing at times, and the lighter the empty luggage, the more you can pack before you reach the weight limit of your airline.

My choice would be a good quality (mid range) checked suitcase (27 inch so I don’t pack too much), roller or spinner, most likely hard case over soft case unless I intend on buying lots of souvenirs and gifts, with an extendable and adjustable handle.

I also usually take a small carry-on and a small handbag as my personal item (a small handbag so I’m able to store it away under the seat in front of me, but also so I can just put it into my carry-on and lock it).

I usually try and find a deal where I get a warranty as well. Especially when you’re not buying the cheapest luggage, you want some peace of mind that you’ll get a replacement or repair.

Colourful Carry On Suitcase

A colourful suitcase will stick out when waiting to collect your luggage at the conveyor belt!

Let’s also quickly talk about the colour. Of course it would make it much easier to find your suitcase if it has a very distinct colour or design.

I have bought quite a few dark suitcases, which is not necessarily a problem when collecting it later on as you can use something colourful such as a ribbon to mark it.

If you’re using a soft case suitcase I’d recommend using a suitcase belt, which will also make it easier to find your bag, and will secure it a bit more against damage at the same time.

The choice is yours! Have a look at what some of the best luggage brands are.

If you’ve got any questions or have found the ultimate suitcase which has it all, please share it with us!

Safe and happy travels!

4 Replies to “The Best Luggage For International Travel – Buying Guide”

  1. Thanks for your comprehensive article about luggage for international travels. I gotta agree with you, I had a hard time deciding between a hard case and soft case luggage myself. I went for the soft case luggage in the end as I prefer it to be expandable and is lighter. However at times I wished it can be more robust and durable. Well, I might probably change to a hard case the next time i change my luggage. I will keep this for future reference when I decide to change my luggage. Looking forward to more awesome sharing of yours!

    1. The main thing to remember is to check for quality. It’s tempting to buy cheap, but that can quickly cost you more. I will keep doing my research for you 🙂

  2. I recently went on a hunt for a good suitcase and although there were many sales around town, most were selling the hard case ones. They also come in a set of 3 different sizes, so it was a very tempting buy.

    But after a lengthy discussion with a nice salesperson, I ended up with a soft case unit which has a lovely red fabric and a 70% discount. For easy transportation, I would recommend using the 4 wheels – it just makes walking in the airport so much easier.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Yes, many times you find hard case spinners are favourited by shops. Online you might have a bit of a bigger choice, also you might find good discounts on there as well. 

      The sets are definitely tempting, and if you are doing regular travel and have different needs, they might be a good investment. 

      Yes, the spinners are very handy when walking through airports and on even surfaces 🙂 

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