terminal with hard-sided and soft-sided luggage

When deciding between hard-sided and soft-sided luggage, there’s more to consider than just looks.  With pros and cons to both, here are a few things to keep in mind when learning about luggage.

Carry-on or checked through?

If your goal is to travel with only a carry-on bag, soft-sided is a good choice as it’s able to conform and fit into tight spaces – think overhead compartments.  Soft-sided bags are also more likely to have exterior pockets, making quick access to items like chargers, a sweater, etc. much easier while at the airport and in transit.

If you’re planning on checking-through your bag, hard-sided luggage generally offers the best protection for fragile items (like souvenirs) and often has integrated TSA approved locks – both beneficial points when you are separated from your bag.

What’s your packing style?

Soft-sided luggage usually offers an open deep space – making it easy to pack bulky clothing and oddly shaped items.  On the flip side, this large space can be a challenge when trying to find things (especially small items like socks).  Organizing with packing cubes makes it easier.

Hard-sided bags usually open like a clam shell with two separate sides.  If you’re “packing challenged”,  this might be the perfect solution.  Keep things simple by organizing items by category, for example designate one side for clothing and the other side for accessories.

What type of accommodations will you have?

If you’re staying at small European hotels (or some cruise ship cabins) chances are you’ll have only a small luggage rack to put your bag on. In this case, a soft-sided top-opening bag might be best. Since most hard-sided bags open from the middle, they usually need to lie flat on the floor to have access inside, taking up twice as much room as a luggage rack.

What bag makes you smile?

And… after considering the above, go with the bag that makes you smile.

Life’s a journey – love your luggage!

Find it in our Travel Store

We have a lot of hard-sided and soft-sided luggage choices at your local AAA travel store. See the two options listed below. Come visit us and check it out.


soft-sided luggage exterior interior

New! Travelpro Crew Versapack Expandable
Member Price $215.99


hard-sided luggage exterior interior

Kenneth Cole Renegade 20″ Spinner Carry On
Member Price $109.99

Upcoming Travel Events

Do you know the secret to packing light? World traveler Anne McAlpin can pack everything she needs for two weeks – in a carry-on bag! Join Anne at your local AAA Travel Store to learn the secrets of organized packing and discover the tips, tricks, and tools you need to pack light for any trip.

Find a Travel Smart, Pack Right event