If you’ve been traveling with the same luggage bag for quite some time and often find yourself thinking it is not suitable for all the different trips you embark upon, it’s essential to know that there are different types of luggage available for your consideration. You can choose from these various options depending on your packing preferences, the duration of your trips, style of travel, and whether or not you want to take your luggage with you on the plane or send it through baggage claim at the airport.
For some fashionable folks, luggage can also be a style statement and help them build impeccable first impressions. Needless to say, choosing the right luggage is imperative in ensuring your travels are hassle-free and comfortable, and some luggage has explicitly been designed for flying. If you want to know more about the various kinds of luggage under each category, keep reading!
Table of Contents
- 1 Different Types of Luggage on a Plane
- 2 Different Types of Carry On Luggage
- 3 Different Types of Checked Luggage
- 4 Concluding Thoughts
- 5 FAQs
Different Types of Luggage on a Plane
There are three different categories of luggage that are allowed on a plane. It’s vital to know the difference between these luggage types, as transportation companies have varying size and weight restrictions for each of them. The following are the different luggage types you can consider for air travel:
Carry On and Checked Luggage
The primary difference between a carry-on and checked luggage is that you can take and store the carry-on with you during the flight, while the checked luggage will be stored away in the cargo compartment of the plane.
Typically, the allowed weight and size of the carry-on are significantly lower than the permitted weight and size of the checked luggage. However, if you want to know the specifics of each luggage type allowed at the airport, you can review the internationally recognized baggage type chart, which can also be found at the lost baggage counters. The comprehensive list comes with specific bar codes that can be used for luggage tracking.
Wheeled and Non-Wheeled Luggage
Nowadays, you’ll come across several luggage types that are sold in two different variations; wheeled and non-wheeled. Usually, the non-wheeled luggage includes totes, duffel bags, and other overnight luggage, and it’s perfect for those who don’t mind carrying a little weight on their shoulders, back, or in their hand. These bags are also more budget-friendly and lightweight, which make for an ideal companion for short trips or to keep essential items that should be relatively more accessible during travels.
In contrast, wheeled luggage is heavier, more premium-priced, and typically used for items that can be sent through baggage check in. It is pertinent to note that almost all luggage types, including totes and duffel bags, now come with wheels because not everyone finds it easy to lug around a full bag for more than a few minutes. You’ll also come across two types of wheeled luggage; rolling luggage or two-wheeled luggage, and spinner luggage or four-wheeled luggage.
Two-wheeled luggage is pulled behind you, while the spinner luggage, courtesy of its 360-degree spinning wheels, can be easily maneuvered by your side. Spinner luggage is also an excellent option for those who want easy mobility through relatively smaller spaces. Since you can roll them in multiple directions, this luggage type is highly preferred by frequent travelers.
If you choose a wheeled bag, be aware that there are more parts that can get damage or break, like the wheels and handles. See here if you want to know how to fix a broken suitcase handle.
Hardside and Softside Luggage
As its name suggests, softside luggage is made of soft, flexible material, making it easier for travelers to squeeze them into small spaces. They are relatively lighter than the hardside alternatives and are also shock-proof. Some softside luggage might also be waterproof.
However, these aspects rely highly on the quality and type of material used for softside luggage. Additionally, you can also find several stain-resistant softside luggage options and even those with external pockets to store essential documents or even a laptop that you’ll likely need easy access to during your travels. You’d have to look hard to find a hardside case with an exterior front pocket.
Softside suitcases don’t need lots of space to open and unpack, as most of your belongings are packed into just one side of the shell, while the other side serves mostly as a lid. You will only find a few hard shell suitcases with an 80/20 packing split.
As for hardside luggage, it is considered to be more durable and long-lasting, and more water-resistant than softside luggage. However, this luggage type is also often heavier than the softside alternatives and you may want to be extra careful about weighing your luggage before a flight to avoid paying high overweight baggage fees. The hard shell will keep your valuables relatively safer and allow you to store items on both sides of the body.
If you’re the kind that likes to add some color to their luggage stack, then hard shell luggage is available in many more colors and patterns than soft shell. However, you do have to be prepared to see scratches and scuff marks on the outside.
However, one significant drawback of hardside luggage is that it can easily bend or form a dent if not handled carefully. For this reason, it’s vital that you invest in the proper materials known for their durability and resilience to damage. Read our review of the various hardside luggage materials, including ABS, polycarbonate, polypropylene, and aluminum, to find out which material will be best suited for your travels. And we go into more detail about whether airlines prefer softsided or hardsided luggage.
Different Types of Carry On Luggage
Carry-on luggage is either small enough to fit under the seat directly in front of you on the plane or in the overhead bins. Each airline has its specific rules and regulations regarding the size and weight of the carry-on bags. However, the following are some common carry-on luggage types that you can consider for your travels:
Day Pack or Backpack
Backpacks can be both wheeled and non-wheeled, depending on your purpose of taking one for your travels. If you’re simply taking a backpack as a carry-on on the plane, then a wheeled backpack may suit your needs more. However, if your journey entails walking for longer periods or going hiking, then a non-wheeled travel backpack or hiking backpack might be the best option.
A daypack is just a small version of a backpack that’s good for carrying your essentials and maybe a laptop. On a plane, it should fit under the seat in front of you. At your destination, it’s easy to carry it about while sightseeing, however, they’re easy for skilled pickpockets to rifle through, so you might want to get an anti-theft backpack for that.
It is essential to note that most modern backpacks can be converted from a backpack to a wheeled bag, depending on how you want to use them in a particular circumstance. The shoulder straps can usually be tucked away into a pocket while you extend the telescopic handle to wheel it around.
This combination is best if you typically have to climb a few stairs or traverse some European cobblestone streets in between mostly smooth floors and pavements. Additionally, these bags come with an ergonomic, lightweight design that makes them suitable for travelers who prefer traveling light. These bags are known to offer relatively more accessibility and comfort, especially those that come with padded shoulder straps.
If you’re considering investing in a day pack or backpack, it’ll prove advantageous to review the ones with sturdy zippers and organized pockets and compartments for various essentials. You can also choose to send the backpack through baggage or store them in the overhead compartment on the plane, depending on the airline’s luggage regulations. Typically, mid-sized backpacks are used as personal item bags, while full-sized carry-on ones are used by leisure travelers that have more than one base throughout the trip.
Tote Bag or Briefcase
Travel tote bags are like fancy shopping bags that are oversized enough to fit all your daily essentials but not too big to make it overburdening during your travels. These spacious and fashionable bags are easy to carry. However, they typically lack the organization added via compartments in other carry-on bags. Totes can have wheels, shoulder straps, or both and offer easy access to items one might need shortly after landing.
Some people prefer tote bags for short weekend trips. However, they are typically used as a personal item bag along with a larger carry on.
In contrast, those who prefer a more sleek and professional look often go for a briefcase, which has several more compartments than tote bags and are better for carrying a laptop or documents on a business trip. Some briefcases can also come with wheels so that wheeling them along in the airport is easy.
Both tote bags and briefcases come in various designs, shapes, and sizes and are typically used to store electronics, makeup, medication, skincare, and other essential items one takes with them during travels. They generally are used as an alternative to a handbag, with the only exception being that you might have to hunt for a few seconds before finding the item you’re looking for in the tote bag.
While totes are great for a lightweight bag that carries essentials everywhere or just a few things on a 1 day trip, duffel bags are perfect for those who want to pack a few extra essentials for their short trips.
You will also find several durable duffel bags with back straps to convert the duffel bag into a backpack. These bags have more compartments than totes and are relatively sturdier. Previously only used as gym bags, duffel bags have made their way into traveling and are often used as carry-on luggage by those who like traveling light. They’re also great for adventure travel where you may need a waterproof duffel.
You can also find duffel bags with 2 wheels attached. These usually have a more structured floor so that it doesn’t sag in the middle while being wheeled around.
The heavy-duty straps also often include padding to make the duffel bag easier to carry and are specifically more reliable if made of durable nylon or polyester. However, since duffel bags are more difficult to carry than some of the other carry-on luggage options, most travelers don’t prefer them over others.
If your travels include outdoor activities, such as camping or fishing, taking a duffel bag will prove highly beneficial for your trip. These rugged bags are traditionally made of heavy-duty materials that can withstand rough handling.
A garment bag often only includes a single shoulder strap, but many brands are now also incorporating wheels into their garment bag design. These bags are best suited for those who are traveling for a wedding, business meeting, or going on an official trip. The bag comes with a hanger to hang gowns, shirts, and coats and make the transportation process as wrinkle-free for them as possible.
A good travel garment bag also includes several compartments, including those for toiletries, shoes, ties, and shirts. While these bags make for a great carry-on, it’s mostly not sufficient for all the travel essentials, and one might need to carry an additional bag for the remaining luggage.
While these bags can ensure safe and wrinkle-free travels for your finer clothes, they are often not the most desirable option as they can be relatively longer than most bags. These bags have a more considerable length because they are made to fit long dresses and coats. However, before you decide to invest in a garment bag, it’s best to check the airline’s carry-on requirements and maybe get a bigger garment bag on wheels for checking in.
Crossbody bags are smaller than most tote bags and come with a longer strap to make them easier to wear across the body, as the name suggests. These bags are perfect for travelers who are not traveling with anything but their ticket, passport, cash, and cards. A few snacks and a tablet may also be possible. A special type of crossbody bag is a messenger bag. This kind is much better for your back, as the design helps alleviate some of the stress placed on the single shoulder that the strap rests on.
The crossbody bags can also be turned into a mini shoulder bag courtesy of its adjustable strap. These bags are only suitable for those who have already sent their luggage through airport baggage and only need a few relatively smaller items at hand for their air travels. In this case, it is usually considered to be a personal item bag.
A crossbody bag is more secure than a backpack when you’re sightseeing in a crowded city or taking public transport, especially an anti-theft crossbody bag.
Similar to crossbody bags, fanny packs are used to carry relatively smaller traveling essentials but are even smaller and more like a purse in function. However, these bags are worn around the waist and are typically connected to a belt. They are often preferred by travelers who fear losing their essential traveling items, such as their cards, cash, or tickets.
Carry-on wheeled suitcases include four specific types: softside, hardside, spinner, and rollaboard luggage. People who prefer the ease in maneuverability and additional organization offered through suitcases mostly opt for this luggage type.
We’ve already discussed the four types of luggage that can also be found in the wheeled suitcase category. However, these suitcases also come in zippered and latched variations. While the former is the typical suitcase design you often find in most, if not all, brands, the latter is generally found in vintage-style wheeled suitcases and a few high end modern suitcases. Zippered suitcases may be designed with an inbuilt TSA combination lock for the zippers to be secured, but latch-locking suitcases without zippers go one step further where each latch can be locked and can’t be tampered with. Zippers, on the other hand, can be tampered with as we explain here.
Additionally, there’s a lot of extra room in wheeled suitcases as there are compartments on both sides of the suitcase and the softside wheeled suitcases even have pockets on the exterior, adding to their spacious design. Although heavier and more premium-priced than most of the other carry-on luggage options, it is still a lightweight option to consider.
Different Types of Checked Luggage
Now that you know the different types of carry-on luggage options, it’s time to take a look at the checked luggage options available for those who are likely to check their luggage through the airport baggage terminal. Let’s take a look at what these types entail:
2 and 4- Wheeled Suitcases
Two-wheeled suitcases and four-wheeled suitcases that exceed the maximum allowed weight and size of carry-on luggage must be checked through and transported in the cargo compartment of the plane. We’ve already discussed the difference between the two suitcase types. Other than the main difference in the wheels’ type and functionality, both these suitcases share several similar attributes.
Both 2- and 4-wheeled checked luggage are used by those who prefer to travel with a decent amount of clothing and essentials for their travels. These two luggage types are specifically designed for those who are traveling for a relatively long period and wish to take several clothing items and essentials for their trip.
Both the bags come in softside and hardside variations, and you can choose any of these depending on your preferences and needs. The checked size suitcases typically have fewer features than their carry-on counterparts, and they are also relatively heavier. If you want to travel for more than a few days and wish to take several essentials with you on your trip, this will be an excellent option to consider.
Wheeled Duffel Bag
Wheeled duffel bags in checked sizes, like the ones in carry-on sizes, are also great for travelers looking for a spacious luggage option for their travels. However, even the larger duffel bags can lack the compartments required for organized packing, and the lack of structure in construction makes them, with their large size, more difficult to maneuver around on wheels unless the model is specifically designed with a harder back.
However, since you will be checking the bag through luggage, the awkwardness of the large, wheeled duffel bag may not be a problem. The relatively larger duffel bags also come with shoulder straps and grab handles.
Travel trunks are shaped like the immovable trunks you might have seen lying around in old houses. The rectangular, hard-shelled travel trunks are best for students going to study abroad or moving to a new location. The padlock on these trunks helps secure the belongings you’re taking, and the durable exterior is known to withstand damage, pressure, and shock.
However, it’s crucial to note that travel trunks can be extremely heavy and hard to move, meaning you might need an extra pair of hands to help you move this chunky treasure chest from one location to the other. Although most modern travel trunks come with wheels, you might also come across some travel trunks without them.
Specialist Sports and Musical Equipment Bags
As the name suggests, the specialist sports and musical equipment bags are used for the tools and equipment not common for every traveler but essential for some travelers. Depending on which bag you pick and for which item, you might find several compartments in the specialist sports and musical equipment bag. Those traveling to a winter sports destination might need to transport their skis and snow boots as separate baggage, while a guitarist will need to carry on their instrument in a protective guitar bag.
Needless to say, each airline has a different set of rules and regulations for such bags and if you plan on traveling with this luggage type, be sure to check with the airline and confirm the allowed weight and size. These bags come in varying sizes, designs, and shapes to handle different pieces of equipment and tools.
Miscellaneous Luggage Types
A few travelers will need something more specialized than the most common styles of luggage listed above. Tradesmen who travel for work may need a tool bag that works for air travel, while oenophiles may like to bring back several bottles in a wine travel bag. If you’re traveling with food that needs to be kept cool, learn about how to check a cooler for air travel.
Now that you know the different types of checked and carry-on luggage options, you can make an informed decision and purchase the ones best suited to fit your traveling adventures. There are several other categories of luggage that have been created through a fusion of two or more luggage types. If you wish to learn more about the various luggage bags and find the best options based on your budget and preferences, take a look at some of the blogs on Travel Bag Quest. We have plenty of reviews about different luggage, their materials, and variations to help you bag the perfect bag for your journeys.
The following are some frequently asked questions that several travelers, like yourself, have asked regarding different luggage types:
There are four different types of suitcases under the checked and carry-on categories. These suitcases include four-wheeled/spinner, two-wheeled/roller, hardside, and softside suitcases.
The three sizes of luggage include cabin-sized luggage, suitable for short weekend trips; medium-sized luggage, ideal for week-long trips; and large-sized luggage, great for trips longer than two weeks. The last two sizes have to be checked in if you’re flying.
Choosing the best luggage type for travel is based on several factors, such as one’s budget, travel duration, packing preferences, and other requirements. Therefore, the best luggage type will vary from traveler to traveler.
Some of the latest models of suitcases and luggage come with a built-in strap that can be pulled and attached to other luggage and makes it easier for travelers to carry more than one bag. A small non-wheeled bag is attached to the telescopic handle of a larger wheeled bag. Or two to three rolling suitcases can be wheeled about together in one hand. This is often called an Add-a-Bag strap or piggyback strap. However, if your luggage doesn’t have a built-in option, you can buy one that’s compatible with your bags.