Travel: Backpack or Suitcase?

Woman carrying backpack through airport
Lugging my backpack kangaroo style through the Zurich airport. (Photo by Hannah Hoogenboom)

When traveling cross country, your choice of luggage can make or break your trip. The type of baggage you chose should depend on your style of travel, what you are packing and how far you plan on walking every day.

Take a backpack if:


  • You need your hands free.
  • You will be traveling over rough terrain (cobblestone or back-country).
  • You are going to walk long distances.
  • You plan to pack a lot of lightweight, wrinkle-free clothes. Or heck, maybe you embrace wrinkles!
  • You will be constantly changing your mode of transportation (bus, train, metro system, airplane).

You will probably prefer a suitcase if:

  • You are travelling with a lot of other luggage (carry on, camera bag)
  • You will be mainly in urban areas that have smooth sidewalks.
  • You need to keep your clothes presentable and wrinkle free.
  • You plan on carrying around a lot of heavy or fragile items, such as souvenirs or laptops.
  • You don’t plan on walking much, and can afford to take the taxi route.

For my trip through Europe I chose to pack my belongings in a backpack. I knew this trip would entail walking between different modes of transportation while trekking over miles of cobblestones. Having a pack allowed me to sprint to my flights, jump out of buses, and find my way through steep, twisting and uneven pathways with ease. I spoke with some travelers who brought suitcases and regretted it, saying cobblestones were their biggest hurdles. Almost every street or path I took in Europe was cobblestone, having a suitcase would have been a nightmare!  Check back on Monday to see which pack I chose!