Friday, April 6, 2012

Our travel-gear & my luggage tips

My next big trip with the kids is not coming up until the summer. Then we'll be doing our usual trek halfway across the world to hang out with grandparents and assorted family and friends in Sweden.

With three people traveling, we can bring three pieces of checked luggage without extra fees (as long as each bag doesn't weigh more than 20 kg). That's usually what we end up bringing, especially when we're staying for about a month and bringing gifts as well as hand-me-down clothes for baby-relatives.

Here's a breakdown of what type of luggage and hand-luggage we usually bring, and why.

Checked luggage
Currently, with my favorite suitcase out of commission, these are the three pieces of luggage we'll be bringing:
  • 1 hardside suitcase - A Samsonite with 4 wheels, and a "leash" (as my kids call it) to pull it. This is a very tough, durable and protective suitcase. It can, and has!, taken a severe beating while still protecting whatever is inside. The one problem with this suitcase is that it's a bit on the heavy side even when empty, and it's so big that if you fill it totally full, it will definitely be overweight when checked for a flight. I try to limit what I put inside it, and use it mainly for things that need some extra protection during our flights. Based on my own experiences, I swear by Samsonite gear, like this hardside suitcase, but other manufacturers, like Delsey, make good suitcases as well.
  • 1 wheeled duffel bag - This is a great bag. Softside of course, but tough, roomy and easy to bring along because it has a pull-out handle and wheels. It may be all fabric, but it's stood up to a lot of abuse over the years with its zipper, handle and wheels all still intact. I use it for clothes: they don't always need the protection of a hardside suitcase, and they can be easily folded, rolled, squished and flattened into this bag and still pop out OK. Samsonite's wheeled duffel bag looks good, and so does this one by High Sierra.
  • 1 expandable duffel bag - Probably my least favorite of our bags. It can hold a ton of stuff, which is why I like it, and the ends have zippers that can be used to expand the bag even more. This bag has proven to be as tough and durable as I could wish, but it has no wheels, which means that it has to be carried if we can't locate a luggage cart. It is definitely a plus if all your luggage has wheels so that you have the option to pull it rather than carry it. I usually put clothes and shoes into this bag. It's also where I usually pack our jackets: then they're easy to bring out once we get our luggage at the other end, but we don't have to worry about carrying them (and forgetting them!) on our flights.

  • My backpack - A SwissGear ScanSmart laptop backpack. Lots and lots and LOTS of pockets and internal compartments to keep me organized. It also has a nice special "checkpoint friendly" compartment for my laptop. So far, I've been asked to remove my laptop anyway at all checkpoints, but maybe one day they'll allow me to just unzip that laptop compartment, open up the backpack and send it through, just as the bag was designed to do! I love this backpack. It's well-made, well-designed and comfortable to carry even when I pack it full of stuff.
  • My travel purse - This little Travelon travel wallet holds all my most valuable items and travel documents. It's smal, and easy to carry and I never put it down (just so I won't forget it anywhere). Passports, credit cards, money, cell-phone, all go in this purse.
  • My son's wheeled backpack - This one we bought at The Children's Place 4 years ago. He has used it every day for school since we bought it, and it has come with us on all our trips in those 4 years too. Not a lot of bells and whistles on it, but it has held up amazingly well. Wheels, zippers, and handle all work great.
  • My daughter's wheeled backpack - Her Olympia backpack has now traveled with us for about 2 years and it's holding up pretty well to all our travel-abuse. The outside mesh pocket did get ripped at some point during our travels (I think a toy with wings and legs got tangled in the mesh), but the rest of the backpack seems very durable.
My kids love their wheeled backpacks, and so do I. They're easy for them to handle, I don't have to worry so much about the packs being too heavy for them to carry, and in an emergency (like if there's a tantrum or meltdown), I can pull their backpacks while carrying my own. There are lots of different brands of wheeled backpacks, including High Sierra, Samsonite, and CalPak.

Other travel accessories
  • Luggage tags - Big and garish Canadian flags, made from hard plastic, one for each piece of checked luggage. Each tag holds a printed piece of paper with our family name, address, cell-phone number and my email. Bright-colored tags do make it easier to spot and ID your bags on the luggage carousel.
  • Luggage strap - Another garish "Canada" item to make it easier to identify our bags! I usually use this wide, adjustable strap on the wheeled duffel bag just to reinforce it a little bit for the trip, especially since it's often stuffed quite full.


  1. Ohhh! Traveling in Sweden could be a memorable adventure for you. It's great to hear that you are prepared and ready to share what you have with your relatives. These luggages look tough and can go through any destination. Have a safe trip!

  2. Thank you for this post. I have been looking at some luggage sets and trying to decide what I needed for my trip to London. I appreciate the tips!


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