From hardshell cases to soft and stylish holdalls, we’ve rounded up some luggage that really packs a punch
With long security queues, airport delays and plenty of flight cancellations, the much-anticipated return of summer travel has been largely overshadowed by travel chaos. One thing you can do to reduce the pressure ahead of your holiday is to pack smarter, and ideally pack cabin luggage only.
“Based on my travel recently, I would definitely not be checking a bag. I would only be flying with hand luggage because the queues that you’re encountering in airports around the world are all around bag drop,” says travel writer Nicola Brady. “Until September, if it was an option I would only fly with hand luggage because that’s where all of the stresses are really.”
If you’re travelling with children, you may be considering whether they should carry their own luggage too. Travel journalist and broadcaster Eoghan Corry notes that it can add stress, particularly if your flight ends up delayed or diverted. “It’s really hard to usher three children in a hurry to where they’re supposed to be, if they’re carrying bags. You sometimes end up carrying the child and their bag as well as your own,” he says. Yet he still thinks it’s worth allowing kids to have their own backpack or rolling case, even if only to use up more of the luggage allowance.
“A child can pull her 10kg suitcase as much as an adult, so you can spread the weight magnificently between everybody,” he says. “Buying child-specific bags, the small backpack and all of that, has to be done really under the age of five or six. Above that, there’s no difference between a child’s bag and an adult’s bag anymore, so think strategically of weight.”
On top of that, he notes that having their own bag can ease anxiety for children who may be nervous about flying.
“It gives children a sense of purpose when they’re wheeling their own bag or carrying their little backpack. It actually adds to their sense of participation, and introduces travel to them as something less threatening,” he explains. “The children are excited by it because it makes them feel like an adult, and it makes them feel like a participant in this great adventure which is travel.”
Here, we round up the top 10 suitcases, hold-alls and rucksacks for adults and children.
In the debate over hardshell versus soft-side luggage, our experts were divided. Nicola prefers a hardshell case, and names the ones by Tripp as her favourites. “I have a large one and then also a cabin-sized one,” she says. “They’re super hardy — my larger one has been bashed around so much and it’s still in really good shape. I’ve had that one for at least six years now, and it still looks good as new.”
Tripp’s Chic collection comes in black, pink and blue, and is especially lightweight, with the large four-wheel suitcase (€121, next.ie) weighing 3.5kg.
For children, skip the Disney printed cases and choose a style they won’t outgrow, such as Tripp’s Holiday cabin suitcase (€76, next.ie), which comes in a variety of fun, bright colours, including banana, watermelon and turquoise, as well as black. It fits Ryanair Priority cabin baggage restrictions, and has a durable hardshell, four wheels for easy rolling and a light weight of 2.7kg.
Eoghan, on the other hand, favours a soft-sided bag. “What I use myself is a very cheap, all-purpose bag from Constellation, and it squishes and fits in every aircraft cabin,” he says. “It’s very untrendy, but it’s a utilitarian bag with lots of pockets and it has a good strong handle that folds down.”
His Constellation case is no longer available, but he names the Cabin Max carry-on trolley backpack bag (€52.25, Amazon) as a similar style. It has a capacity of 44L while still being compact enough to fit in a Ryanair Priority cabin, and can be converted from a rolling case into a backpack by unzipping the back section to cover the wheels and reveal the straps.
His other top pick is the Samsonite Respark cabin bag (€195, samsonite.ie). “My wife has a piece in perfect condition that has had several intercontinental adventures,” he says. “It fits in an overhead locker, has a front compartment and doesn’t weigh too heavily. There are three accessible compartments which are essential, as she needs to carry an Epipen adrenaline auto injector.”
On a tighter budget, Eoghan recommends the Enrico Benetti cabin bag (€40 reduced from €60, BagCity.ie), a two-wheel rolling case with a variety of zipped compartments. “You need a small little compartment for essentials like tablets, a passport or mobile phone charger, stuff that you need to access on route; you need a compartment for your socks and things that need to be washed, and you need one on top where you can access things like swimming togs or pyjamas for sleeping quickly,” he says.
Although he takes a utilitarian approach to packing, Eoghan observes that fashion will be a prerequisite for certain travellers. “People use luggage to make a statement about themselves. If you’ve gone to the trouble of putting makeup on, putting on a nice suit or dress, and you go around with a shabby bag, it takes away from the image you’re portraying,” he says.
For a stylish and practical bag, try the sleek hardshell carry-on case from cult favourite brand Béis (€207, BeisTravel.com). It comes in beige, black, grey and navy, has four 360-degree spinner wheels and features a built-in weight indicator to keep you in check, plus it’s expandable to help you squeeze in a few extra clothes.
Fashion lovers will also appreciate the range of holdalls from Italian brand Brics, such as the suede-effect design with leather handles (€395, Brics.ie) recommended by Nicola. “They are pricey, but they’re just the most beautiful holdalls. It’s really soft, and they just look super stylish — if you were doing a weekend break in a beautiful hotel, you’d kind of fit the bill,” she says, noting that you can occasionally find them in TK Maxx stores at reduced rates. “They also have a little sleeve on the back so you can pop it onto the handle of a suitcase really easily.”
Those seeking a more wallet-friendly or sporty option may prefer Patagonia’s best-selling Black Hole duffel bag (from €110, Patagonia), made from tough, water-resistant laminated polyester. It comes in four sizes, though the 40l is sufficient for a weekend bag, and is available in black, navy, red, blue and brown. It can be carried at your side using the two handles, over your shoulders using the strap or as a backpack with its two padded straps.
Travel writer Thomas Breathnach prefers the Osprey Farpoint 40l Rucksack (€117.65, DeporVillage.net) over a rolling case or holdall. “I never go anywhere without it,” he says. “It’s a great carry-on which can carry loads but also squish down to fit in any of those tight Ryanair checkers.”
Available in dark grey or red, it features an array of zippered pockets, a mesh ventilated back panel, cushioned handles on the top and sides, and a weight of just 1.4kg. “A non-hardshell carry-on is far more versatile for me. I can pack in plenty of clothing and toiletries, plus it has a great padded pouch to protect my laptop,” Thomas explains. “The bag still feels like new even after scores of trips four years on, so I find the quality great, and it comes with a lifetime warranty too.”
For very small kids, backpacks can be handier than rolling cases. With a 12l capacity, Frugi’s Weekend backpack (€63, next.ie) is a little bigger than a standard school bag, and it comes in two colourful prints. It’s made from recycled polyester and includes adjustable straps, a padded laptop sleeve and a pack-away rain cover, to keep everything dry in the case of sudden showers.