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Luggage buying guide


Need a suitcase for your next trip? We've got it locked up.

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Suitcase sorted


When you're busy planning your next holiday, it's easy to overlook the smaller details in the excitement – like, what kind of luggage am I going to use? Do I need a big suitcase, or just a carry-on? Or do I need both?

This buying guide will answer your questions about what to look for in a suitcase. When you're ready to buy, see our review of carry-on bags. We don't have a review of check-in suitcases right now, but if you're keen to see one, you can request a test.

Looking for the best carry on luggage?

See our expert product reviews.

Buying right the first time means you'll have luggage that'll be your trusty travel buddy no matter where you go. Get it wrong and you could be stuck with dodgy wheels, poor handles or not enough space to bring your holiday splurges home in. 

You can spend hundreds on a suitcase, but price isn't always an indicator of quality. It's important to do your own inspections of the suitcase before buying, to make sure you end up with the right luggage for you.

Baggage requirements

Don't get too carried away with the size of your suitcase. Remember the larger it is, the more you've got to cart around with you. Not only that, each airline has its own size and weight restrictions for checked-in and carry-on luggage.

Carry-on luggage for Australian domestic services

Each carrier has requirements for carry-on luggage. Bags that are slightly larger than the rules allow might fly under the radar, as cabin baggage isn't always checked by airline staff. But is it something you want to risk? If in doubt, it's always a good idea to check with your airline before you depart. Here are some requirements for some major airlines: 

(Dimensions are measured by adding together the length, height and depth of the bag.)

Qantas (domestic with some exclusions)

You can carry:

  • two 105cm bags, or
  • one 105cm bag plus one 185cm non-rigid garment bag, or 
  • one 115cm bag. 

The weight allowance is 7kg per piece of baggage.

Jetstar (economy)

You can carry:

  • one bag measuring no more than 56 x 36 x 23cm (smaller allowances for regional NZ flights operated by Q300 aircraft)

The weight allowance is 7kg per piece of baggage.

Virgin Australia (domestic)

You can carry:

  • two 48 x 34 x 23cm bags, or
  • one 48 x 34 x 23cm plus one garment/suit bag.

The weight allowance is 7kg per piece. 

Air Asia

You can carry:

  • one 23 x 36 x 56cm bag

The weight allowance is 7kg per piece.

American Airlines

You can carry:

  • one 23 x 36 x 56cm bag

You must be able to carry into overhead locker

Qantas (international economy)

You can carry:

  • one 115cm linear dimensions or
  • one 185cm non-rigid garment bag

The weight allowance is 7kg per piece.

Singapore Airlines (economy)

You can carry:

  • one 115cm linear dimensions

The weight allowance is 7kg per piece

What about international flights?

Baggage requirements vary with each airline. If you have a multiple-sector journey and are flying with multiple carriers, the baggage policy for the most significant carrier in your itinerary will apply. If you're unsure, check on your itinerary or ask your travel agent.

So what do I need to look for in a suitcase?

Lightweight

Whether you have a small suitcase that you're using for carry-on, or a large suitcase that you need to check-in, the weight of the case counts towards your baggage allowance.

Size

The wheels and extendable handle take up some of the internal space, so check first that the case has the right volume for your needs. If you want a small suitcase for carry-on baggage make sure you check the dimensions against the requirements for the airline.

Sturdy construction

Look for handles that are firmly riveted to the body of the case. These are less likely to have weak points and break.

Extendable handle

This should be easy to extend and retract, comfortable to grip and should lock firmly in place when extended. It should extend to a comfortable height, so the case doesn't bump against your legs as you pull it along.

Wheels

The case should roll easily, and not bounce or tip when being pulled along. Four-wheel spinner models can be easier to use as you have the option to either push them alongside you or pull them behind you (as you would with a two-wheeler), but some can be difficult to control when pushed across bumpy terrain.

Expandable compartment

This is very handy if you need to squeeze in a few extra items.

Internal and external pockets

These are handy for keeping your belongings organised. External pockets are great for quick access, but check they can be locked if you want to use them for important items.

Extra carry handles

When it comes to lifting, it helps to have carry handles at the base or sides of the suitcase.

Zips

Zips should open and shut smoothly. The zip tags should be big enough to grip easily and have holes so you can padlock them.

Internal straps

These help to compress and hold your belongings in place. They should be a suitable length and have quick-release buckles.

Water resistance

If you're expecting wet weather, look for a suitcase that's waterproof. Hard cases aren't necessarily more water-resistant than fabric ones, as water can still get through the lid joint.

Cost

Carry-on suitcases can range in price from $29 to $699.

Larger suitcases for check-in can range in price from $39 to $949.

Handy travel tips

Keep these things in mind when you're travelling next:

  • The carry-on baggage allowance for the major Australian airlines for domestic or international travel is generally 7kg. If you exceed this you could end up with an extra fee, or you may need to check in your baggage.
  • Government regulations restrict the amount of liquids, aerosols and gels you can take on board international flights. This means that containers must be no bigger than 100ml and all containers must be sealed in a transparent zip-lock bag (which can't be more than 1L). Only one zip-lock bag is allowed per passenger.
  • Prohibited items include some sporting goods, kitchen utensils, tools and other objects with sharp edges/points capable of injuring someone. Different rules apply for domestic and international flights.
  • Previously prohibited items like umbrellas with metal points, knitting and crochet needles, pointed metal nail files and nail clippers, corkscrews and rackets used in sports like squash and tennis can now be taken on domestic flights.
  • If you have to carry hypodermic needles, you'll need to present documentation and identification at check-in. 
  • Don't leave your baggage unattended and always do your own packing. A lock is one way to deter thieves.
  • The best measure to keep your luggage safe is to pack your valuables into your carry-on luggage. It's also a good idea to take out comprehensive travel insurance in the event that you need to replace any lost or stolen items.
  • Make your luggage stand out in the crowd – instead of black (which you see time after time on the airport luggage turntables) opt for a bright colored case. If it's black you want, tie something on the handle so you can easily identify it in the baggage lineup.

Looking for the best carry on luggage?

See our expert product reviews.

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