The best road trip luggage for car travel

The best road trip luggage for car travel

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Hitting the road and not quite sure what is the best suitcase to take on a road trip? There are many options to choose from, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. But whatever road trip luggage you choose you’ll want to think about what you need, where you’re going, and how you like to travel before buying something new.

Different road trips have different luggage needs. A month-long journey on Route 66 might require a large softcase while for a weekend getaway you might just need to tote along a tote bag worth of things. On a solo road trip you won’t have to worry as much about size but on a family vacation, where trunk space is more precious, you’ll have to adjust your suitcase size to accommodate everyone’s stuff.

In general, one of the perks of choosing road trip luggage is that you don’t have to worry as much about size or weight. There are no TSA size restrictions and you don’t have to worry about fitting a carryon suitcase in the overhead bin. And you’ll only really handle it on the short distance between your car and hotel room.

That said, you don’t want to bring too much, too little, or worry about having to buy new luggage every time you take a vacation.

What to look for in road trip luggage

Olympia 8 Pocket Rolling Duffel Bag

Wheels

While your luggage will spend most of its time in the trunk of your car, wheels are a must-have feature for smoothly transporting your goods from your car to your hotel room with ease. Look for an option with spinner wheels for even better control!

COOLIFE Luggage 3 Piece Set

Size

When packing for a road trip you aren’t confined in the same way you are when taking a flight. There are no TSA guidelines, weight or size restrictions, or carry-on fees. Pick a size that works for you. A larger trip might require a larger suitcase. A short trip, a smaller one. And a solo trip where you have the whole trunk to yourself might allow for bigger luggage than on a family trip where trunk space is at a higher premium.

Nicole Miller New York Luggage Collection Softside Expandable Suitcase

Compartments & Pockets

When it comes to road trip luggage, the more compartments, the better. It helps to have a deep inside to keep what you’re planning to wear, a separate area for shoes and other travel essentials, a pocket for your toiletry bag, and another for the bathing suit you might take out when you reach the beach. Compartments help keep you organized.

American Tourister Moonlight Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels

Weight

Weight doesn’t matter as much when choosing a suitcase for a road trip versus a plane trip, but you should still keep weight in mind. Sure, you don’t have to battle with check in restrictions, but you do have to battle with hotel hallways and awkward trunk angles. So pay attention to how much extra weight your suitcase carries and how much you can/want to handle.

Steve Madden Luggage Wheeled Suitcase Under Seat Bag

Travel Style

Chances are you aren’t just buying luggage to take on a single road trip. If you’re investing in a good-quality suitcase you’ll want to make sure it fits for all your travel needs. Are you a frequent road tripper? Do you take a log of flights and prefer to check your bag? Do carry on only? Even if your suitcase is a little too small or a little too big for your trip, it’s always better to buy something that will support every trip and not just one.

Types of road trip luggage

Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels

Hardside Luggage

Hardside luggage is always a solid choice. The tough exterior makes it durable when transporting your things in and out of your trunk and the plastic coating keeps everything safe and dry. Of course, there are also some cons. Hard luggage often comes with extra weight from the exterior materials (look for a suitcase made from polycarbonate to help reduce the weight) and the ridged design offers little flexibility when trying to “Tetris” together multiple bags, coolers, and equipment in your trunk (and when trying to fit in one last pair of shorts).

Pros:

  • Sturdy
  • Waterproof

Cons:

  • Added Weight
  • Not flexible
  • Scratches easily
DELSEY Paris Chatelet Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels
Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels
Amazon Basics Hardside Carry-On Spinner Suitcase Luggage
Steve Madden Designer Luggage Large Softside Suitcase

Softside Luggage

Softside luggage is a great pick for car trips. They offer more flexibility than their hardsided alternatives, allowing you a better chance to pack in just one more thing or squeeze it into an already full trunk. They also often come with multiple compartments, extra pockets, and expanding sections to create a more organized bag.

Pros:

  • More flexible
  • Durable
  • Many compartments
  • Lighter weight

Cons:

  • Rigid design
Travelpro Platinum Elite-Softside Expandable Spinner Wheel Luggage
SwissGear Sion Softside Luggage with Spinner Wheels
American Tourister Eclipse Softside Spinner Luggage
DALIX Signature Travel Duffle Bag

Duffel Bag

Duffel bags are one of my favorite ways to pack for a road trip. They come in a variety of sizes to accommodate a week-long adventure or a weekend excursion, are soft all around to make packing stuff in and stuffing it in the car easier, and often have lots of compartments that make organizing a breeze. For ultimate flexibility, look for a rolling duffel with wheels.

Pros:

  • Flexible
  • Multiple uses
  • Variety of ways to carry
  • Multiple compartments

Cons:

  • Not as sturdy
  • Most don’t have wheels
Herschel Novel Duffel Bag
Plambag Canvas Duffle Bag for Travel
Foldable Duffle Bag with Compartments
Large Organic Tote Bag

Travel Tote

For overnight trips and weekend getaways, you might not need to pack much more than what fits in a travel tote. Travel totes are small and easy to pack making them the perfect option if you just need a change of clothes and a toothbrush. Even if you think you’ll need more room, a travel tote is a great investment to use as a second bag for road trips or any vacation travel.

Pros:

  • Flexible
  • Easy to carry
  • Can double as a second bag

Cons:

  • Small
BAOSHA Canvas Travel Weekender Bag
Lug Ace 2 Convertible Travel Tote Bag
Silvatrip Carry On Travel Tote Bag
Osprey Packs Renn 50 Women’s Backpacking Backpack

Backpacking Backpack

If you love camping or hiking on a road trip (or backpacking Europe or South America when you’re not) and backpacking backpack is a great choice. They are roomy and durable, and can be easily carried on your back. This is a great option for campers who might walk through a forest instead of a carpeted hotel, but also for any road tripper who appreciates a little adventure.

Pros:

  • Flexible
  • Easy to carry
  • Good for camping/hiking trips

Cons:

  • Can feel heavy
  • Awkward designs
  • Harder to get things in and out
Osprey Rook 65 Men’s Backpacking Backpack
Kelty Coyote 60-105 Liter Backpack
TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack

Pin this post about the best road trip luggage to save for later:

Hitting the road and not quite sure what is the best suitcase to take on a road trip? There are many options to choose from, and it's not a one-size-fits-all answer. But whatever road trip luggage you choose you'll want to think about what you need, where you're going, and how you like to travel before buying something new. #RoadTrip #RoadTripLuggage #Luggage #Travel #Suitcase #Suitcases #RoadTripPacking
Hitting the road and not quite sure what is the best suitcase to take on a road trip? There are many options to choose from, and it's not a one-size-fits-all answer. But whatever road trip luggage you choose you'll want to think about what you need, where you're going, and how you like to travel before buying something new. #RoadTrip #RoadTripLuggage #Luggage #Travel #Suitcase #Suitcases #RoadTripPacking

Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

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Val

Val is the founder and head road tripper at Silly America. Having grown up near Berwyn's famed car kabob, The Spindle, and a restaurant with a cow on its roof, her fascination with roadside attractions started early. Today, Val has visited over 300 roadside attractions across 31 states and is constantly on the lookout for the next BIG thing!

Val also blogs about her life, travels, and cats on her personal blog, Choosing Figs.

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