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What are Different Types of Suitcases?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated: May 23, 2024

There are many different types of suitcases to choose from, each with its own pros and cons. Not only can one choose different types, but one also can determine whether the structure is hard, soft, or semi-soft.

Large suitcases, sometimes also called Pullmans, are of three varieties, and can range in size from 2 to 3 feet (0.60 - 0.91 m) per side. They are often equipped with wheels. Large, hard-sided ones are the heaviest, but also provide the most protection for breakable items one might need to transport.

Soft suitcases offer more flexibility for stuffing it a bit beyond capacity. Semi-soft large ones tend to offer a little more flexibility than hard suitcases, and a little more protection for delicate items. In most cases, large suitcases cannot be carried onto a plane and must be checked.

Generally, one does not pack suits in suitcases, or dresses that are likely to wrinkle. Instead one would use garment bags, which usually come with a hanger and can be easily hung as needed. They also may need to be checked, depending upon size, and don't always work as carry-ons.

Carry-on suitcases are often ideal for a couple days of travel. These are usually soft or semi-soft. They almost always have wheels and measure less than 22 inches (55.88 cm) in length. One may want to check airline requirements, because an overstuffed carry-on bag may actually be too large for overhead storage as a carry-on bag.

Business cases often hold items like laptops, legal files, or memos. These types may have zippers or may more resemble a briefcase. Just in case one must check a business case, be certain that zippers or locks can secure any items inside the case.

Duffel bags are suitcases that come in a variety of sizes. They tend not to have wheels and are usually soft. These may actually be ideal for wrinkle-proof clothing and for kids’ clothes. Smaller duffel bags can usually be used as carry-on luggage.

In place of suitcases, one might instead choose a backpack for short trips, or a tote bag. Backpacks and tote bags are usually carry-on items, unless one has an exceptionally large backpack. Tote bags may not have zippers, so one should not carry items that require secure placement.

Consumer advocates suggest that one not spend a lot of money on luggage, especially when it must be checked. Very expensive, designer suitcases are a beacon for those who might potentially steal items from them. Travel worn or inexpensive ones are considered less apt to tempt those with light fingers. However, regardless of expense, all bags should be in good repair prior to traveling.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By RagingFlower — On Dec 17, 2014

I've been shopping for luggage for months and have compared all of the types mentioned in this article. I'm scheduled for two lengthy stays away from home this year. For the first one, I'll be at a single hotel for an entire month and will probably fly to my destination. My second trip will keep me away from home for almost three months. Although I'll drive to and be living in a "home" location, my job will require frequent overnight travel of three or four days duration. In order to simplify my life, I've been looking into those luggage collections that almost mimic the antique steamer travel trunks that collectors covet. The largest bag is made to stand up when opened. One side is designed like a garment bag to hang up clothes and the other is composed of soft "drawers" that can store items much like a dresser at home. I'm hoping that such a piece will minimize packing and unpacking regardless of my location. Do any readers have experience with this newer type of luggage or tips on minimizing packing given my travel plans?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseTour contributor, Tricia...
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