Packing Guide: The Best Luggage and Bags for Travel

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There are a lot of things to consider when planning a trip. Domestic trips come with questions like: How can I get there? and What is there to do? International trips come with extra questions like: Do I need a visa? What currency do they use? and How will I get around?

But there's one universal question that can apply to any trip, whether you're going halfway around the world or just to the next city over: What should I pack?

And the first thing to decide when it comes to packing for travel is what kind of luggage you're going to use.

There's SO MUCH luggage out there to choose from, and if you go into luggage shopping without an idea of what you need and want, you're likely to get overwhelmed by it all.

So, to help you out for your next adventure, here are all my recommendations for the best backpacks, luggage, and bags for travel – all of which I have used myself!

The best luggage and bags for travel

The best luggage and bags for travel

1. Great travel backpacks

As I've gotten older and my travel style has somewhat shifted, I've more or less hung up my backpacks, so to speak (they're actually currently sitting on a shelf in my closet). But for the first few years of my travels, I traveled almost exclusively with a backpack. And I can confidently say that there are some travel situations where they're just the right choice.

When backpacks are ideal: Backpacks are best for independent travel to destinations where you either a.) want to keep your belongings close on travel days or b.) will need to carry your bags frequently over uneven ground or unpaved roads. Backpack-friendly trips that come to mind are non-luxury travel in Southeast Asia, when using public transport in most of South America, and overlanding trips in Africa.

And my top picks for travel backpacks are:

Kelty Redwing

The Kelty Redwing 44 was the very first travel backpack I ever purchased back in 2013. Mine traveled with me around Europe with me for 3 months, and Southeast Asia for nearly 2 months.

I love how small this backpack is (it always kept me from over-packing), and love that it unzips fully to be front-loading. There are also some extra side and front pockets that make organizing easy, and the hip belt is comfortable to wear for long slogs to a hostel or hotel.

The only downside is that, when fully packed, the women's Kelty Redwing is slightly too large to pass as a carry-on on most international airlines (and the 50L version would definitely be, as well). But the upsides far outweigh this in my opinion; get a backpack cover and check that baby if you need to.

>> Shop Kelty Redwing backpacks here. (This is also a very affordable backpack option.)

Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP55

Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP55 backpack

If you need something a little bigger, I recommend checking out the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP55. This 55-liter backpack is roomy without being too big (even on a shorter frame), and comes with the added bonus of all the anti-theft features that Pacsafe is so well-known for. This bag is made from slash-proof material, and has interlocking zippers to make it even more secure.

It also has an internal frame and adjustable back harness to make carrying everything more comfortable.

Again, though, this bag is too big to act as a carry-on. But the shoulder straps and hip belt on this one can zip away whenever you have to check it.

>> Shop this Pacsafe backpack here.

2. The best hybrid bag

What if you're planning a trip where you want the ease of wheeled luggage, but might also be tackling some stairs or uneven ground frequently? Then a hybrid bag might be right for you. These bags generally have two wheels, but also hidden backpack straps.

My all-time favorite bag is:

Osprey Sojourn

Osprey Sojourn

I've had my Osprey Sojourn 60 for more almost 10 years now, and it's become my go-to bag for trips of any length because it's so sturdy and versatile. (Osprey bags are seriously awesome, and come with a All Mighty Guarantee, where they'll repair your bag for free for life.)

They don't make the exact model of bag I have anymore, but the 65L Wheeled Fairview/Farpoint is almost the same – and they still make an 80L version of the Sojourn.

These bags have a rigid frame but soft sides, and zip all the way open to be top-loading. They also have removable backpack straps in a separate compartment in the back of the bag, making it a hybrid. I've admittedly rarely used the backpack straps (I use the compartment for shoes and toiletries instead), but it's nice to have the option.

>> Shop these Osprey bags here.

3. My favorite suitcases / rolling bags

Backpacks aren't suitable for everyone or every trip, though. (And, to be honest, I've used a backpack only twice since 2013!) Sometimes a bag with wheels really is more convenient and therefore more ideal to travel with.

When rolling bags are ideal: I go for a rolling bag or suitcase for any trip when I know I won't need to carry my belongings for long distances or need to lift them over my head. They're best-suited to destinations where you won't be pulling them over uneven ground or up/down lots of stairs, and instances when you want to check a bag. I've used rolling bags all over Europe, the US, and even New Zealand.

My favorite wheeled bags are:

Osprey Shuttle

Osprey Shuttle

If you love Osprey's rolling bags but don't need the hybrid version with backpack straps, then the Shuttle is a great option. The 100-liter version is perfect for any sort of trip, and comes complete with extra sturdy construction, several inner storage pockets, and even a zippered compartment on the bottom for dirty laundry.

>> Shop this Osprey bag here.

DELSEY hardside luggage

If a traditional suitcase is more your style, I would go with one of DELSEY's hard-sided spinner suitcases. I like this brand because they make quality hardside luggage that's actually pretty affordable. The suitcase pictured above is from DELSEY's Chatalet collection, which is possibly the most attractive hard-sided luggage I've ever seen! They come in 24-inch (medium) and 28-inch (large) versions in either white or brown.

I also like DELSEY's Helium Aero spinners, which have TSA-friendly locks and come in several colors and a few different sizes.

4. The best carry-on only bags

Even though I often check a bag on longer trips (it helps when you get free checked bags through mileage programs/airline credit cards), there are plenty of times when I don't need to pack so much. In that case, having good carry-on-only options is a must.

When going carry-on-only is ideal: For shorter trips when you don't need to pack as much, traveling with just a carry-on bag is a no-brainer. It's also smart to do when you have really short layovers or multiple layovers on a long international trip (because lost/delayed luggage is never fun!).

RELATED: 10 Tips for How to Pack Carry On Only for Your Next Trip

My favorite carry-on-friendly bags right now include:

Osprey Farpoint/Fairview 40

Osprey Fairview 40

For a backpack that's carry-on-friendly, my pick is the Osprey Farpoint 40 (or Fairview 40, which is the women's version). This bag is well-made like all of Osprey's gear, and comes with plenty of pockets (including one in the front for a laptop). I like that it has padded straps and a hip belt that can be stowed away when you don't need them.

I've used mine so far on a couple trips in the US, and am happy to report that this bag works fine as a carry-on on even the most picky budget airlines. (Though note that it's not small enough to pass as a free “personal item.”)

>> Shop for this bag here.

DELSEY Cruise Lite

Do you prefer a carry-on that has wheels? A lot of people do, and I agree that they're often much more convenient (plus then you can bring a small backpack as your personal item!). My favorite carry-on suitcase also comes from DELSEY's new Helium Aero line.

The 21-inch Helium Aero spinner is perfect for domestic and even some shorter international trips. It has the usual double compartments inside, and a built-in TSA-compliant lock. DELSEY's bags in my experience also have some of the smoothest rolling wheels, which makes getting through airports easier.

(If you travel a lot within Europe, check out the smaller 19-inch version of this bag, which complies with most international carry-on size restrictions.)

>> Shop for this carry-on bag here.

5. Personal items

Charging for carry-on bags is unfortunately becoming the industry standard for many international airlines (especially the budget ones), but so far you're still allowed to bring a “personal item” onboard for free! Usually this means a small backpack, tote, or handbag that can fit under the seat in front of you.

I've tried out a lot of different personal-item-complying bags over the years, and these are my current favorites:

Pacsafe Metrosafe backpack

Pacsafe Metrosafe 25L backpack

Pacsafe is a line of durable and theft-proof bags that are perfect for travel. The Pacsafe Metrosafe 25L is the perfect personal item backpack. It has anti-theft features like slash-proof material and locking zippers, along with several pockets and a laptop sleeve that can fit a 15-inch laptop..

>> Shop for this bag here.

Pacsafe Citysafe CX

Pacsafe Citysafe CX backpack
Pacsafe Citysafe

If you don't need as much space in a personal item backpack AND want something that can double as a cute and fashionable daypack, then the Pacsafe Citysafe CX is for you!

This bag again has all of Pacsafe's theft-proof features (slash-proof straps, locking zippers, RFID-safe pockets, etc.), but is super fashionable and easy to carry. It doesn't look anything like a pickpocket-proof bag.

>> Shop for this Pacsafe backpack here.

6. My favorite travel purses

Lastly, a good travel purse is a must for any traveling women! I've tried many over the years, and these are the ones that are still in rotation when I travel:

Travelon Bucket Bag

A cross-body bag is a must for any traveling woman – and one that is anti-theft is even better. This Cross-Body Bucket Bag is made by Travelon, and is for anyone who needs a large purse for traveling.

This bag is big enough to fit everything: wallet, Kindle, a small camera, and even a scarf and snack. I also love the side pockets for water bottles or an umbrella. And as an added bonus it's made from slash-proof materials and has RFID-blocking card slots inside.

>> Shop for this bag here.

Pacsafe Citysafe crossbody

Pacsafe Citysafe purse

This little Pacsafe purse is small but mighty. It doesn't have a huge footprint, but it's deep enough to fit everything you need on a day out. You can also wear it two different ways, which is fun.

>> Shop for this bag here.

Pacsafe sling pack

Pacsafe sling pack

The fanny pack/bum bag is back in style, folks! (Except now they're being marketed as “belt bags,” “hip packs,” and “sling bags” to make them sound slightly cooler. Regardless, I've gotta say that I'm a fan!)

The Lululemon Belt Bag may be all the rage, but my favorite is actually the Pacsafe Go Anti-Theft Sling Pack, which is slightly larger and can fit everything I need on travel days (phone, wallet, power bank, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, maybe a granola bar, etc.).

It's got all of Pacsafe's safety features like a lockable zipper and slashproof material, too, and you can wear it either as a hip/belt bag or as a sling pack.

>> Shop for a Pacsafe sling bag here.

So there you have it: the best luggage and bags for travel, based on my opinion and experience. Hopefully I've given you some inspiration for your next trip!

For more of my packing tips, check out my Packing Lists page, and my top travel essentials.

What are some of YOUR favorite bags or luggage brands for travel?

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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88 Comments on “Packing Guide: The Best Luggage and Bags for Travel

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  1. I love your tips and suggestions on the different types of luggage. I have a couple of duffel bags, roller suitcases, and carry on bags. It’s always depended on where my destination is and what I plan to do. For the most part, I prefer my roller luggage, because I hate lugging super heavy bags. However, backpacks are great especially when I plan to do a lot of hiking. It’s crazy to see how many different types of luggage are out there.

    Hi Amanda! Wow, your site is awesome and your photos are absolutely gorgeous! Thank you for all of the great info!

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