Backpack or suitcase? How about travel bags or…. shopping bags/bags? One suitcase and one backpack? How about two suitcases and two small backpacks? Which is simply: what to pack for vacation!
There is no clear answer to this question, because there are too many variables. Much depends on the type of trip, mode of transportation, direction, length of the trip, etc. Below we describe what to pack in, when and how best to pack.
The following text is taken from our eBook “Family Travel – Packing”.
Table of contents
Should you pack a suitcase?
It’s best to pack in suitcases when you’re not moving much on foot or by public transportation. If you are flying by plane, have transfers provided, or are renting a car right away, a suitcase is the best choice.
A suitcase will work better than a shoulder bag, but worse than a backpack when you need to get somewhere farther or travel with transfers.
Suitcases will also work well for short weekend trips when you don’t take too much stuff (it’s best to pack in a smaller suitcase or all together in one large one).
Attention! If you are traveling with children take a maximum of as many large bags as there are adults (that is, for example, two suitcases with a family of 2+2). If you absolutely must take more, take a backpack plus a suitcase so that you always have one hand free.
Looking for a complete list of things to take with you on your trip? We recommend our post
What to take on vacation?
where you’ll find more details on how and what to pack. In addition, you can download there a free packing list template for yourself and/or the whole family.
What kind of suitcase to buy?
We won’t recommend any particular brand to you here, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of air travel, it’s better to invest in a good suitcase. Let’s not kid ourselves, they are often thrown, pushed, pulled and subjected to various dents (broken wheels or a broken handle are common). Cheap, market suitcases last for several flights (especially when stuffed to the brim), so it’s worth paying for quality to get an unbroken suitcase off the luggage belt. Remember that already after the first flight the suitcase will flop ;-) It will have scratches, signs of use, so there is no need to overpay for the design alone.
Remember! No matter what quality the suitcase was, if it gets damaged during the flight, report it to the carrier right away at the airport. You have the right to complain!
When it comes to size, we certainly advise against buying the largest suitcases. There are weight limits on planes anyway, so your suitcase won’t be filled and you’ll be carrying air, and the stuff inside will fly loose. It is better to buy a medium plus possibly a smaller one (for weekend travel). If you want to pack less stuff, get a suitcase that is smaller than what you plan to pack. Reducing packing space (even visually) makes us pack less stuff.
If you are packing for a specific airplane flight, be sure to check the dimensions of your suitcase before packing and the weight of your luggage once it is packed. Different carriers impose different limits and like to check this at the airport (exceeding the limits incurs additional fees).
How to pack things in a suitcase?
Arrange the items in your suitcase by category. For example, you can have children’s stuff in one part of the suitcase and adult stuff in the other; clothes in one, toiletries, kitchen stuff and first aid kit in the other, liquid stuff in one, electronics in the other. Being already in the hotel, you will know where what is, without unnecessarily unfolding the whole suitcase.
We pack things for the suitcase in ordinary plastic bags (we use them repeatedly) or cloth bags. It is important to pack shoes in the bags as well (this way they won’t get other things in the suitcase dirty).
Even though the suitcase is generally tough and the risk of damage to the items inside is lower, it is still a good idea to additionally wrap items that could potentially get damaged.
…How about backpacking after all?
Large backpacks will work well for trips where you move often and a lot: walk with all your luggage, take public transportation, change hotels frequently and don’t have a car to use. They will work well in places where there are no level sidewalks and the space is not suitable for strollers (that is, it is easier to have a backpack than to drag and carry a suitcase up the stairs, for example).
They will also be the only solution if you are planning a trip to the mountains with overnight stays in hostels.
We like backpacks because they give us free hands, which when traveling with children is at a premium :-) Having a backpack, you can still easily push a stroller or have a baby in a sling in front.
The downside of a backpack is that you will fit less into it (although look at this as an added incentive to reduce the number of things).
What kind of backpack to choose?
Above all, it has to be comfortable. It’s worth trying on a few types, trying to pack heavier things into it, put it on your back and walk around. Not just take three steps around the salon, but walk a little longer :-)
Pay attention that the backpack has a hip belt, inside compartments, that it has many extra pockets and has a rain cover included.
There are other options for what to pack in:
A suitcase and backpack are not the only solution. See what else you can pack for your vacation:
Sports bags, or shoulder bags, that are soft, sometimes also with wheels, are worth considering if you are traveling by car. They are lightweight, take up little space, and can be crushed – perfectly filling the trunk space in the car.
The downside is that you have to carry them, and only on one shoulder or in your hands, so they work better when distances to travel with luggage are short (for example, when you are going to one hotel and the parking lot is right next to the facility).
We do not recommend packing in such bags for the plane – there is too great a risk of damaging things inside the luggage during the flight.
Sacks and cloth bags
You probably have at least one big blue bag from Ikea at home. Use it for packaging! They are very roomy, take up a tiny amount of space, and are light and handy. Their only downside is the lack of a zipper, although you can certainly get similar zippered models without a problem (there are such large transparent zippered bags also in the store’s offer – it’s nothing that for tires ;-)).
You will pack a lot into such a bag, have easy access to things and fit well into any trunk. Such a capacious bag is worth having permanently in your luggage or in the car – for larger purchases on the spot it will be as good as it gets.
The large zippered plastic bag is great for
Backpacks and suitcases for children
On principle, we are against packing toddlers’ belongings in separate suitcases, but there is one exception – when the child WANTS to pack things in HIS backpack.
Let the child take what he wants, give a choice of a few things and let him feel like an adult and have his own backpack for the trip. Let there be things that he likes and that make him feel safe and comfortable.
If you’re traveling by plane, consider a child’s ride-on suitcase – these are small suitcases that the child can sit on and ride. Plus, it’s fun to use as a footrest on the plane ;-)
An eBook about packing for travel with a baby
The above text is from our eBook ” “Family Travel – Packing“.
We encourage you to buy it. The item itself is packed with tips for traveling families, but even if you’re going on a trip with no children you’ll also find a lot of interesting information there.
You will get a decent dose of information while supporting our work. Thank you in advance :)
You can purchase it here: ” eBook “Family Travel – Packing“.
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What do you guys choose to travel with?
What do you travel best with? Do you have any of your favorite travel kits? Do you adhere more to team backpacks or team suitcases? :) Or maybe you have completely different patents for packing?
Let us know in the comments!