Your suitcase or luggage will travel just as many miles as you will, and will probably suffer more bumps and bruises than you too. Therefore, it’s a must that you have the best suitcase for your travel needs, but with so much variety on the market, which one is right for you?
This article breaks down the most important things you need to take into consideration when picking out a suitcase.
The Most Important Factors to Consider
Practically all suitcases (rolling luggage) share the same features as each other, with varying design and qualities. They’re designed for business and leisure holidays rather than adventurous travelling that backpackers go on, so mobility and convenience are top priorities. Below are some vital factors that should affect your purchase decision.
Hard Shell or Soft
At its most fundamental point, a suitcase can essentially be narrowed down to whether it has a hard shell or soft exterior. Both have their pros and cons, but the main differences between the two are:
- Hard shell suitcases are usually larger and often heavier than soft suitcases…
- …but they also tend to be more durable.
- Soft suitcases often have more compartments which helps to separate your belongings.
There really is no ‘best suitcase’ when it comes to these two, but I personally prefer soft suitcases as it allows me to keep more organised and any space not in use can be compressed down to fit into smaller areas, whereas a hard shell suitcase doesn’t have any exterior pockets and it always maintains its shape.
However, if you’re worried about your suitcase getting thrown around (which will happen) and you have delicate things inside your suitcase, then it would be a good idea to get a hard shell luggage.
You may also want to consider a wheeled holdall bag, which is a cross between a suitcase and a large holdall bag. It has a few advantages over your typical suitcase including they tend to be lighter, often have more pockets and can be more easily carried by hand.
Size and Weight
Every airline will have different size and weight allowances, and exceeding these limits will result in extra fees. If you need to pack a lot of belongings and weight is a concern for you, then you may want to get a lightweight suitcase (check out 10 of the best here).
You may also want to be able to carry your luggage on-board with you, in which case you’d need a small cabin suitcase that doesn’t exceed the size and weight restrictions.
If you’re going on a short trip, then this would be ideal but if you’re going away for at least 2 weeks or more, then you’d probably need a bigger capacity suitcase which would have to checked in as normal luggage.
2 or 4 Wheels
The difference between having 2 wheels and 4 wheels on a suitcase is very noticeable. Suitcases that only have 2 rear wheels can only roll backwards and forwards, thus maneuvering the suitcase is a bit more difficult when compared with 4 wheelers.
Suitcases that adopt all 4 wheels have a swivel mechanism that allows them to rotate 360 degrees in any direction which makes mobility much better. However, you can expect to pay a bit more for having this extra luxury. You can check out 10 of the best 4 wheel suitcases here.
Type of Luggage Lock
Many suitcases nowadays have some type of lock that normally secures the zips together. The most basic and cheapest form of lock included with a suitcase is a standard small luggage padlock which is opened and closed using a key or combination code.
This is less durable and a bit more inconvenient than an integrated lock, since you may have to carry around a separate key and lock that can get lost.
An integrated lock may be found at the side of your suitcase which allows you to lock down the zips of the main compartment by way of a combination code. This is more convenient but it only allows you to lock the main section, and not the other exterior pockets (if there are any).
In either case, certain locks are made to TSA specifications which basically allows the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States to access your luggage using a master key without your consent.
This is not a mandatory requirement, but if your luggage locks are not TSA certified and you’re travelling within the USA and they want to check your luggage for whatever reason, then they’ll just cut your suitcase open and you’ll have to buy a new one.
One of the main parts of a suitcase is its telescopic handle, which needs to be functional as you’ll be constantly pulling on it to move your suitcase around. The majority of them consists of two bars but certain suitcases have a single centre bar. There really aren’t any significant differences between them other than how it looks.
One important aspect of a telescopic handle is whether it’s made from plastic or aluminium. You can already guess which one is sturdier (…it’s the second one). Fortunately, most suitcases especially highly rated ones use aluminium already as it has benefits of being more durable and lightweight.
Along with the telescopic handle, there’s usually at least another handle on the suitcase which allows you the carry it by hand in situations where it’s hard to roll the suitcase around such as walking up and down a flight of stairs.
On cabin sized suitcases, sometimes there is only a single carry handle at the top (although there can also be an extra one at the side) but for larger suitcases, there’s usually two handles – One of the top and another at the side, which lets you carry your luggage vertically or horizontally for more convenience.
What’s the Best Suitcase for Your Travels?
If you know what you prefer based on all those factors above, then this shouldn’t be too hard to answer. But if you’re still having trouble deciding what the best suitcase is for you, then the following questions and answers should give you a much better idea.
Do you prefer a hard shell or soft suitcase? Refer to the relevant section above to see the pros and cons of each.
- How long will you be going on holiday for? Anything more than 2 weeks you should get a suitcase with at least 40L capacity (though it’s possible to have less if you like to travel light).
- Are you packing for yourself only? If so, then a cabin sized suitcase is suitable unless you’re going away for several weeks or you need to carry some things for your partner or children too.
- Is mobility a priority for you? If so, then pay the bit extra to get a multi-directional 4 wheel suitcase instead of 2 wheels.
Those are really the most important things you need to answer when picking out a suitcase. The rest are just personal preferences rather than priorities. If you’re looking to buy a suitcase soon, then I recommend you to check out our:
- Top 10 Best Lightweight Suitcases
- Top 10 Best 4-Wheel Suitcases
- Top 5 Best Hard Shell Suitcases
- Top 5 Best Wheeled Holdall Bags
They each feature a comparison table of the best suitcases in each category based on real user reviews and ratings, as well as a brief overview of each product in the list.