Travel Essentials Series #1: Suitcases

This will be the first post of a 10 post series on Travel Essentials.  These are curated from things we have found useful over the past 10 months of traveling around the world with our two kids.  

First off, we were not focused on living zero waste when we set off, so some of these things are holdovers that we plan on using until the end of their lifespan and then replacing.  We will talk about what we wish we had done differently.  Better to learn from our mistakes, right?

So, first things first. 


We started off with 2 suitcases that Kevin and I had purchased many years ago from Ross for super cheap.  They were carry-on sized and had worked well for us on many prior trips and we had no attachment to them, which meant that if we needed to offload (aka donate) them at any point we were fine with that.  

But that left two more suitcases that we needed, given that there were four of us, and we assumed we each would need our own. 

Here's the criteria we used in suitcase selection:

  • Light(ish)

    • often the suitcases themselves are crazy heavy, which means that you can reach your weight limit for carry-on or check-in that much faster. 
    • Weight limit becomes a huge issues as you travel internationally as many flights will be super cheap, around $50, but then they charge you almost as much for a 20kg check-in while limiting you to 7kg carry-on.  That doesn't leave you with a whole lot of options!
  • Durable

    • Travel for 15 months can mean a whole heck of a lot of wear and tear.  Ideally we would make an initial investment on these suitcases that would hold up over time.  We didn't want to purchase cheap, flimsy luggage that would fall apart.  We already had two suitcases fitting that description!  
  • Carry-on size

    • When wanted the option to be able to carry on whenever possible.  Not to mention that having smaller carry-on size luggage makes moving around so much easier, especially for two kids in the single digits.
  • Pockets for smaller items    

    • I hate having small things floating around and am all about staying organized.
  • Backpack style or rolling

    • My husband was fine with the idea of heaving a backpack over his shoulders, but I have a glichy neck that can give me trouble and heavy backpacks are my nemesis.  I also didn't think that our girls could handle carrying anything too heavy, but we went back and forth on this for a while.  

So what did we buy?

Initially we purchased the Osprey Porter from an REI Garage Sale for super cheap:

We were able to find two large bags (46L) and one small (30L). 

We did some awesome test runs in the living room for our girls.  We filled the bags with books and clothes then had them run around the house like we were late to catch a flight and had to sprint through the airport (my worst nightmare BTW).  They were hilariously burdened by them.  Ok, those weren't gonna work. 

But thankfully my sister was super happy to trade us for her suitcase, which she traveled back and forth to Mexico with.  

So what did we ACTUALLY end up bringing with us? 

Discontinued now.  REI Co-op Beast Rolling Duffel 22"

Discontinued now.  REI Co-op Beast Rolling Duffel 22"

1.  REI Co-Op Beast Rolling Duffel










Eagle Creek No Matter What Rolling Flatbed Duffel

Eagle Creek No Matter What Rolling Flatbed Duffel


2.  Eagle Creek No Matter What Rolling Flatbed Duffel









3.  Random old rolling suitcase, carry-on size

4.  Random old rolling suitcase, carry-on size

5.  Surfboard bag-purchased in New Zealand where we bought our boards


How did these work out?

Well, we ended up sending the two random rolling suitcases back with family who came to visit us about 6 and 7 months in.  We really pared down our belongings and added a surfboard bag that allowed us to stuff more things into.  So, as of now, we have two rolling suitcases (the REI and Eagle Creek bags) plus a surfboard bag with two boards.  Even though we are running pretty lean, we feel pretty stuffed to the gills each time we move.  

Ideally, we would like to replace the two backpacks our daughter carry with small carry-on rolling suitcases to give them a break and to ease for of that "stuffed to the gills" feeling.  This would leave us with 4 rolling suitcases (2 of which we would check in), surfboard bag, and two backpacks.  We are just starting out in Indonesia and plan to do some "faster" traveling (aka, not staying in one place for more that 5 or 7 days), which means more lugging around.  We're going to keep our eyes open for the best suitcases that fit the above and consider donating the two backpacks our daughters use.  For now, we'll see how our current set-up goes!

Read more about what we slog around on our shoulders in Travel Essentials #2:  Backpacks.  


Luggage tags are THE worst!




*This post contains no affiliate links, just our opinions!