What to pack for a vacation? Backpack or suitcase?
Backpack or suitcase? How about travel bags or… shopping bags/bags? One suitcase and one backpack? How about two suitcases and two small backpacks? That is, simply: what to pack for a vacation!
There is no clear answer to this question, because there are too many variables. Much depends on the type of trip, mode of transport, direction, length of the trip, etc. Below we describe what to pack in, when and how to pack best.
The following text comes from our eBook "Family Travel – Packing".
Whether to pack in a suitcase?
It's best to pack in suitcases when you're not traveling much on foot or by public transportation. If you are flying by plane, have transfers provided or rent 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 further or travel with transfers.
Suitcases 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).
Note! If you are traveling with children take a maximum of as many large bags as there are adults (that is, for example, two suitcases for 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 can find more details on how and what to pack. In addition, you can download there free sample list To pack for yourself and/or for the whole family.
Which suitcase to buy?
We won't recommend any particular brand to you here, but if you're going to be traveling a lot by plane, it's better to invest in a good suitcase. Let's not kid ourselves, they are often thrown, pushed, pulled and subject to various dents (broken wheels or a broken handle are common). Cheap, market suitcases last for several flights (especially when they're 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 your suitcase was, if it gets damaged during the flight, report it right away at the airport to the carrier. You have the right to complain!
When it comes to size, we certainly advise against buying the largest suitcases. On airplanes there are weight limits anyway, so the suitcase will not be filled and you will be carrying air, and the things 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 your packing space (even visually) makes you pack less stuff.
If you're packing for a specific airplane flight, be sure to check the dimensions of your suitcase before packing and the weight of your luggage after you've packed it. 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 things in your suitcase by categories. 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 at the hotel, you will know where what is, without unnecessarily unfolding the whole suitcase.
We pack things for the suitcase in regular plastic bags (we use them repeatedly) or cloth bags. It is important to pack shoes in the bags as well (this way they will not dirty other things in the suitcase).
Even though the suitcase is generally hard-sided and the risk of damaging things inside is lower, it's still a good idea to additionally wrap items that could potentially get damaged.
…Or maybe pack in a backpack 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 plan 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 it as an additional motivation to reduce the number of things).
What kind of backpack to choose?
First of all, it has to be comfortable. It is worth trying on several types, try to pack heavier things into it, put it on your back and walk around. Not just take three steps around the living room, 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:
Suitcase and backpack is not the only solution. See what else you can pack for your vacation:
Sports bags, that is, shoulder bags that are soft, sometimes also with wheels, are worth considering if you are going 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 the distances to travel with luggage are short (for example, when you go to one hotel and the parking lot is right next to the facility).
We don't recommend packing in such bags for the airplane – there's too much risk of damaging things inside the luggage during the flight.
Bags and cloth bags
You probably have at least one big blue bag from Ikea at home. Use it for packing! They are very roomy, take up a tiny amount of space, and are light and handy. The only downside to these 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 on offer at the store – it's nothing for tires ;-)).
You will pack a lot into such a bag, you have easy access to things and they 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 like to find it.
A large zippered plastic bag will work great as a
Backpacks and suitcases for kids
On principle, we are against packing toddlers' things in separate suitcases, but there is one exception – when the baby WANTS to pack things in HIS backpack.
Let the child take what he wants, give a choice of several things and let him feel like an adult and have his own backpack for the trip. Let's get things in there that he likes and that will make him feel safe and comfortable.
If you are traveling by plane, consider a suitcase-riding for your child – these are small suitcases on which the child can sit and ride. In addition, it is cool to use on the plane as a footrest 😉