I’ve done my fair share of traveling over the years and have learned a whole lot about luggage as a result. I used to opt for the prettiest of bags so I’d look good wheeling through airports and be able to spot my bag easily on a conveyer belt. That didn’t last long. The more I traveled, the more I realized that the kind of shell a suitcase has can really impact your trip. Here’s what I’ve learned about when to opt for hard shell luggage and when to opt for soft shelled.
You plan on shopping (a lot)
If you’re heading out for a weekend shopping trip to New York, or simply know you’ll be bringing back souvenirs from your trip, a soft shelled suitcase is likely your best option. Simply put, soft luggage is much more forgiving and accommodating when it’s jammed full to the brim (I can’t be the only one who has had to sit on her suitcase to get it to zip shut!). Plus, a lot of soft shelled luggage, like the 29” 4-Wheeled bag from Travelpro (shown on the right) and the 28” 4-Wheeled Scout from Tommy Hilfiger are expandable, so you can add extra packing room when you need it.
You crave organization
I’m the kind of traveler that is over-the-top organized. I mean, I typically have all my paperwork, including tickets, airport transfers, and hotel confirmations all printed and in order of when I’ll need to use them neatly folded in my passport wallet for crying out loud. Needless to say, I like a suitcase that has multiple compartments, and pockets so I can pack efficiently and keep my travel essentials organized. If you’re anything like me, this 2-Piece Soft Side 4-Wheeled Luggage Set from it is ideal as its packing compartments are separated by zippers so you can keep your clothing, shoes, and toiletries easily organized. In fact, suitcases with multiple compartments and pockets are also ideal for business travelers. It also comes in pink, grey, purple, and blue, so you can add a little fashion and fun to your luggage.
You’ll be taking multiple modes of transportation
If your trip involves multiple modes of transportation, like planes, taxis, busses, or trains in which case you may need to squeeze your bag into an overhead bin or under a bus, soft shelled luggage is again your friend. True, hard shelled cases are a little more durable and you might think better for such a trip, but you can’t squish them into tight spaces, which will really put a kink in things.
You’ll be transporting something fragile
When I was in Peru, I fell in love with and brought back with me a beautiful stone and wood carving. I wrapped it as well as I could and put it in my soft shelled suitcase, but the entire flight home I envisioned it getting smashed to bits en route. It made it home safe and intact, but if you do plan on transporting anything fragile, opt for a hard shelled suitcase as they are much more durable than soft shelled cases. This 28” Hard Side suitcase from Kenneth Cole is a great option because not only is it stylish looking, but its interior is fully lined, adding a little extra protection for those delicate items.
You’ll be getting dirty
If your travel plans include doing things off the beaten path, like traveling via a rickshaw through Delhi, or venturing out on a multi-night trek through the desert in Egypt, go with a hard shelled case. Why? Because I can tell you from experience that your bag is going to get seriously dirty, and hard shelled cases are much easier to clean. Suitcases like this 28” one from Swiss Gear also tend to be much more water resistant than soft shelled cases, so provide better protection against the elements, spills, and other accidents.
You like maneuverability
While each of the three soft shelled suitcases listed in this post all have four wheels for added maneuverability, this feature is more prevalent with hard shelled suitcases like this one from Samsonite. It comes equipped with four multidirectional spinner wheels so you can glide with ease down any hallway, and rotate and turn it sideways so it can fit through narrow entryways, aisles and corridors like those found on trains and busses.
As you can see, both soft shell and hard shell suitcases have their pros and cons. If you travel a lot, it might be worthwhile investing in one of each style so you are prepared for wherever your travels take you next. Bon voyage!
View all the luggage available at Best Buy here.
When choosing luggage…. consider bringing a luggage scale. All those wheels, handles and dividers add up.
I prefer the 2 wheel luggage. They hold more and the spinner wheels are less likely to be smashed off.
I have two sets of luggage…. one set for car trips where I can baby them. A second set for airlines and cruise ships…. they take all the abuse!
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