Suitcase, Backpack or Duffel… the luggage quest!

Posted on Feb 8, 2015

Suitcase, Backpack or Duffel… the luggage quest!

Another blog in our series of planning for a RTW trip. Today’s article is all about the luggage choices.

While preparing for our trip I scouted the web to get an idea of what kind of luggage people choose on a trip like this, and discovered it depends greatly on the way of traveling: backpacking, slow travel, housesitting, and so on.

Then I also noticed that people with bigger kids often choose backpacks, and people traveling with smaller kids strongly advised to take something with wheels. We would be traveling with small kids and we would do some form of slow traveling, staying at one place for about 2 weeks and then travel on for the next 2 and the next, and we would travel by rental car between those locations.

We had been on the fence about hard shell suitcases, soft shell suitcases, duffel bags, backpacks… we recognised clear pro’s and con’s for all options and had a hard time choosing. We were not planning to travel ‘light’ because we would travel by car most of our trip, and to be honest… I admit I like to have my ‘home’ with me, and bring lots of things for the kids.

One requirement we had was that we wanted to bring our own car seats for the kids. Because we travel a lot by car and safety is important to us, we did not want to be dependent on dubious car seats from rental companies. So we bought two car seats that were robust enough to last for a year and thus we also needed two bags to fit the seats. We ended up with a rather large and basic but very robust chair for Emily that required a big army style duffel bag to check it in. For Lucas we decided on a chair that consists out of 2 pieces that can easily be put together and taken apart. We bought an XL duffel bag from Eastpak, this one has wheels on one end so that we can pull it along. Lucas his car seat fits nicely in this bag and we fill it up with soft things, like winter jackets, to create some decent padding, making sure the seat doesn’t get damaged by the handlers at the airport. Two decisions made, a few more to go.

The next requirement was that all our luggage should fit into the boot of a normal sized sedan, so we had more flexibility to find a cheap rental car. We quickly came to the conclusion that two suitcases or two more bags should be sufficient to carry all the luggage we wanted to take with us. Our experience from previous travels was that 2 large hard suitcases sometimes is causing problems. Because they are not flexible it is difficult to fit them in the boot together with the other luggage. Of the 2 duffel bags mentioned earlier only one half bag will need to go into the boot, but still, most car boots are not big enough to hold 2 hard case suitcases and our hand luggage. We liked the idea of having wheels, because we would have enough to carry already, so maybe soft shells would be an option? After some more browsing and looking at suitcases and bags in various shops, we decided to go for something else. We bought 2 size L base camp duffel bags by The North Face. Very different from what we first thought, but we are very happy with them! They don’t have wheels, but they do have backpack straps in case you have to walk a little distance with them. They contain a lot of space – 2 bags have enough space to hold baggage for 2 adults and 2 kids – , they are very sturdy, water resistant and they easily fit into the boot of a car. That’s our check in luggage sorted!

Now that we had that sorted, the hand luggage was the next quest. Travelling with small kids requires quite some more thinking, especially on long traveling days. We found we required much more diapers and spare clothing than we anticipated at first. We also take the kids blankets and cuddles so they sleep better in airplanes. And of course a whole array of books, toys and electronics to keep the whole family entertained. So we carry much more hand luggage then we would when traveling without kids. We decided to take one hard case roll on hand luggage in which we can put fragile items and which we also use as a ‘safe’ when required. The kids have their own soft shell kiddies roll on that contains the kids toys. Next to the roll ons we also have a large backpack, a large size ladies handbag and a kiddies backpack with diapers, wipes and spare clothes.

So, there you have it! 4 duffel bags of various sizes that just fit on 1 airport trolley and 5 pieces of hand luggage. And after 2 months of traveling this way we are quite happy with our choices! It easily fits into the boot of the car and it is manageable at airports. It’s still a lot of stuff to carry around the world, and sometimes there is the hassle of trying to squeeze the car seat into a bag, while standing on the airport curb side, but considering the benefits of having our own stuff and carseats… we  choose to live with this drawback.