How to choose the right luggage and pack like a pro inner banner

How to choose the right luggage and pack like a pro

Hard or soft; large or small; with or without wheels, locks and retractable handles; there are endless options to consider when buying a new bag. Here are some tips for how to choose the right luggage, thanks to the Qantas Store.
20 Oct, 2019
How to choose the right luggage
How to choose the right luggage

Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure, going on a short trip or a long holiday, you need a good travel bag.

It’s one of the few things you can’t leave home without. Your travel bag is your best friend on the road, and you have to find one that will serve you well — depending on the style of travel and your destination. For example, there’s no point in dragging an expensive designer suitcase on safari through Africa.

But how do you choose the right travel bag when there are so many different types on the market? It’s all about finding the one that will best suit your needs. In order to do that, there are several factors you need to consider. Here are some tips for how to choose the right luggage for your trip, and some packing hacks that you may find useful.

How to choose the right luggage
How to choose the right luggage

1. Choose the right size of bag

Travel bags come in different sizes — generally small (carry on), medium and large. If it’s a short trip and you are only taking carry-on luggage, you will need a bag that complies with your airline’s rules and requirements in terms of size and weight. If you don’t want to spend time measuring each bag you like, you can buy luggage online from Qantas. Not only will you save time and money, you will also be sure that your bag has the correct dimensions.

A larger bag may be needed if you are going on an extended holiday, although even then, most seasoned travellers still choose to travel light. Just remember, if you pack it, you have to carry it!

2. Consider the material

There’s often a debate about whether soft or hard bags are better. There are some obvious differences between them. Soft bags are generally more flexible and able to be squeezed into tight spaces (think the car boot, luggage compartments on a bus, or the overhead lockers on an aircraft. Also, they are usually expandable, which means you can squeeze more of your belongings inside (however, don’t over-stretch them and possibly damage the fabric or stitching). Backpackers prefer soft bags because they are lighter and easy to carry on your back or over your shoulder — leaving your hands free.

How to choose the right luggage
How to choose the right luggage: Choose between a soft and hard bag.

Hard bags, on the other hand, are often viewed as a better option because they can protect your belongings, especially fragile items, from damage. They are also easy to clean (you just wipe them down) and generally more durable. And although they are usually heavier than soft bags, you can now find many ultra-lightweight hard bags on the market. The material used is often polycarbonate, which is super light, strong and durable.

Although colour doesn’t play a crucial role when choosing the right style of bag, most people want a colour that reflects their personality — or makes it easy to recognise their bag amongst everyone elses!

How to choose the right luggage
How to choose the right luggage: Colour can help your bag stand out from the crowd.

3. Weigh up your choices

Airlines are getting progressively stricter with their rules on checked and carry-on luggage weights. You will now often see budget airlines weighing customer carry-on bags at the departure gate, when it’s too late for the customer to add any excess weight to their checked luggage. The airline may then charge a fee for the bag to travel. You’ll also often see passengers repacking their checked luggage at the airport to meet the weight requirements. The problem is that you never know how much your bag weighs until you are fully packed! A set of portable luggage scales can help.

To help ensure that your bag complies with your airline’s weight rules, you should start by choosing a light-weight bag. Soft fabric bags are generally the lightest option, but we mentioned the polycarbonate material now often used in hard luggage construction. It tips the scales at a fraction of what a hard suitcase used to weigh!

4. Get a handle on handles

The type of handle on a travel bag is an important consideration when choosing your new luggage. The most common types of handles are the retractable ones, which collapse down inside your bag when they’re not needed. Some of the retractable handles have one bar and some have two. While a two-bar handle can make the bag more stable when you are pulling it along, it will also add some extra weight.

How to choose the right luggage
How to choose the right luggage

It’s also worth selecting a bag that has side handles and even a handle on the base. It will make it much easier to retrieve your bag from the airport’s luggage carousel if there are some extra handles to grip on to.

5. Lock up and go

Everyone likes locks. They make us feel that our possessions are safe, and that principle certainly applies to luggage — especially when it’s out of your sight. Although the use of a lock doesn’t guarantee that your bag is 100% safe, it may at least deter someone from tampering with your luggage.

When comparing bags, you’ll often see reference to a ‘TSA approved lock’. TSA locks are required if you are travelling to the USA, where the Transport Security Administration screens every passenger’s luggage before it’s loaded onto an aircraft. They may choose to open a bag to inspect the contents, and having a TSA lock means that they can do the inspection without damaging your luggage (they can open the lock with a special key). While TSA locks are not a requirement in Australia, Australian Customs are able to open them if the need arises.

How to choose the right luggage
How to choose the right luggage: TSA approved lock

The best advice when it comes to luggage security is not to pack anything of value in your checked luggage. Carry it on board with you.

5. Watch the wheels turn

Let’s face it — having a set of wheels on your main case, whether it’s hard or soft, is a big advantage, and makes travel that much easier. Even if your luggage isn’t particularly heavy, why bother carrying it when you can pull it along on wheels?

There are a few different types of wheels you can choose from. You can opt for a bag with recessed wheels (which are partly set inside the construction of your bags to minimise the overall dimensions of your luggage). You can also choose a bag with large external wheels, which will make maneuvering your bag easier, but will add size and weight to your kit.

6. Name your price

You get what you pay for, as the old adage goes, although these days you don’t have to spend an absolute fortune to get a good quality bag. It’s true that the more expensive bags are usually of higher quality, but those polycarbonate bags we mentioned are strong, durable and reasonably priced. You can often find quality luggage at a lower price when buying online, so take advantage of the internet to research and buy a good travel bag.

How to choose the right luggage
How to choose the right luggage: Roll clothes to maximise space in your bag.

Packing tips

Here are some packing tips that will help you maximise the space in your new bag.

  • Do a preliminary pack, then reduce it by half. If you haven’t worn something in the past six months, don’t take it with you. Chances are you won’t wear it.
  • Dark coloured clothes tend to wear better on the road than light coloured clothes, and will reduce the need to wash your clothes as often.
  • Use plastic packing sleeves or even pillowcases to divide your clothing into self-contained units — underwear, t-shirts, shorts, shirts etc. When you need something from your bag, you can just take out the required section — no more rummaging! Repacking your bag is also much easier.
  • Pack shoes and heavy items at the base of your bag, as close to the wheels as possible.
  • Stuff shoes with socks and underwear to save space.
  • Roll clothes rather than fold them. They will crease less and take up less room.
  • If you are packing your toiletries in your checked luggage, it’s a good idea to enclose moisturiser and shaving cream in plastic bags to ensure that the contents don’t ooze out due to the pressurised environment on the aircraft.


Do you have any packing tips or ideas for how to choose the right luggage? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock


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