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Having the right luggage can make or break a trip. It’s not just about what size you need to carry your clothes, shoes and growing collection of novelty hats, but also about your convenience. With the many varied options on the market today, there’s no reason to settle when it comes to luggage. Let’s look at how you can create your perfect set.

Do You Need More Than One Bag?

…Well, probably. You’re hardly going to use a 30-inch hardshell suitcase for an overnight stay at a bed and breakfast. And unless you’re one of those people who wears the same two outfits in rotation with one reversible jacket (er, well done, if you are) you won’t be using a daypack for a three-week cruise.

The real question is whether you need to buy more than one bag. You might have one perfect piece, and need one or two more to make a set. Or you might be buying an entire set from scratch. Knowing what you should be looking for will help you search effectively and make the best purchase. Never underestimate the power of a shopping list!

What Purpose Will Each Piece Serve?

Try to designate what each might be used for. You might need all of your luggage pieces at once for a long trip, and only one or two for a short one. A large wheeled case, for example, might be used for a trip over two weeks long. A smaller one might only be suitable for a week to ten days. Even if you are buying your luggage set in preparation for a particular trip, think about what future journeys you might take, and what kind of bags you can see yourself using long-term. That giant steamer trunk might look lovely, but if you only ever travel for a couple of weeks of a time, it will probably end up being used as a coffee table.

Types of Carry Ons

Before we look at suitcases, let’s look at their smaller siblings. Carry-ons are becoming more and more of an art form, as some travelers are even opting to use them as their only luggage. (Reversible jacket, anyone?) These need to be suitable for taking on board an airplane. Size and weight are obviously important, but you also need to think about yourself. Would you be comfortable using this bag for a day-long layover? Will it be doubling up as a short-stay bag once you arrive at your destination?

Roll bags are always popular, and their types tend to line up with suitcase types. You might also choose a duffle bag, preferably one with wheels. Some luggage sets include backpacks or daypacks, which can be an excellent option. You will probably need one once you get to your destination, if only as a beach bag. However, these can simply be packed along with your clothing if you do not want to use them for travel.

Check out the Timberland Hampton Falls 3 Piece Luggage Set

Suitcase Decisions

The two main options for suitcases are hard cover and soft cover. Like books. (With wheels! Books with wheels. And zips. And handles. All right, scratch that metaphor.) Hardshell suitcases have risen in popularity in recent years. They can be very lightweight, which is a bonus. You can also use their shape to compress unwieldy luggage into something that seems more neat. Overstuffing is not recommended, however, as the shell or zip might break. Admittedly, breakage is less of a risk with more expensive makes.

Look at the Rockland Santorini 20×28 Inch Expandable Polycarbonate Set

Soft, fabric suitcases provide more flexibility. They have a more give to them, for squeezing in a few extra items. They also generally have the benefit of external pockets, which you might like to use while traveling. Additionally, if they are not completely full, then they can be squashed down to fit into smaller spaces.

For example, the Samsonite 5 Piece Nested Luggage Set

Wheels are also worth thinking about. Two wheels or four? It is difficult to make a recommendation without looking at personal choice. Two wheeled luggage is dragged behind you as you walk, while four wheeled can be pushed alongside. I have met people who prefer one or the other, and each has had their own reasons for their preference. However, as four wheeled luggage is relatively new, if you have never tried it before, don’t let the novelty put you off.

(Wait…luggage can take you to new places. Like books. I changed my mind, I’m bringing back the metaphor.)

choosing your perfect luggage for travel

Try it Out in Person

More than anything else, remember that your luggage is not something to simply stand next to, looking amazing in your travel outfit. Although that is certainly a bonus, and if you have the option to buy a luggage set that will complement your shoes, don’t let me stop you.

Check out the American Flyer Luggage Signature 4 Piece Set

But you will be taking these bags to and from the airport. You will then be arriving at your destination, taking them to your taxi or train, to your hotel or cruise ship. You need to know that you will be able to carry, wheel and maneuver your chosen luggage yourself. Even if you are making your purchases online, go to a store and try out different types and sizes to get a feel for them. Make sure that you know what the bag will weigh when full!

This is for convenience, but also for your peace of mind. Muddling around with a suitcase in a place you have never been before can be stressful and distracting; it can even leave you unnecessarily vulnerable.



Traveling with Mom used to mean having our bags packed for us, and a juice box provided. Now, a vacation with your mother might mean spa days and museum excursions. It might also mean that some careful navigation of certain areas is required…

The Discussion Rule

First things first: this is the big one. You might have the most amazing, open and symbiotic relationship with your mother, the kind that would have Oprah fans everywhere weeping with envy. But for the rest of us mortals, we have to be reminded of the necessity to keep lines of communication open. Traveling involves a good deal of logistics, and everyone needs to be on the same page. This may be simple enough when it comes to “meet me at the airport at five for check in”, but it might fall apart as soon as you get to the “how did you not know about the liquids-on-the-plane-rule?” a few minutes later. Before you know it, you’re making passive-aggressive snipes while a TSA agent stares blankly at you from the sidelines.

The thing to remember, especially if this is the first trip you and your mother are taking solo, is that your mother used to be the one in charge of you. And now you are in charge of you. You might even ostensibly be in charge of the whole trip. This might need some getting used to, for both parties.

Perhaps you might consider setting a plan-making time. You might want to plan everything in advance, but it can be more fun to plan one or two days at a time once you get there. Perhaps over dessert at dinner every night you can talk through your timings for the next day, or start your planning every morning at breakfast. Unless you have decided that one person is going to be in charge of a part of the decision making, such as which buses or taxis to take, remember to include your mother in every decision making process. And make sure that she knows she needs to include you as well.

traveling with your mother

The Rest Rule

Once you have managed to get your open communication going, it is important that each of you keeps the other one up to date with what you are capable of physically. This is especially important for your mother, who might not be as fit as you are. Of course, she might be more fit, but let’s go with the odds.

You might have an idea of stopping whenever your mother feels tired, but this will benefit from a little planning. Look at travel blogs and reviews of where you will be. Does the park/gallery/riverside you will be walking along have benches? If not, keep the visit short. Have a list of rest places ready before you get going. Coffee shops are good, as are outdoor benches if the weather is pleasant. You might even find somewhere like a library that has a nice seating area.

The Splitting-Up Rule

This is a good rule no matter whom you are traveling with. You and your mother will no doubt have a list of things you want to see together. If you do not have any interests in common, you would probably not be traveling together in the first place.

However, it is almost always good to have some planned time apart. This can help you get over the living-in-each-others-pockets feeling that can happen when you are traveling with someone, no matter how close you are to them. Perhaps your mother would like to go to a spa for the day, while you attend a festival or go for a hike. She might be the one going for the hike while you stay at the spa. Either way. Make sure that each of you knows where the other one is. You should also know how you are to get in touch for safety purposes.

This goes hand in hand with the discussion rule. It is important that neither of you feels that the other one is “getting sick of you” and so on. But a little time apart might be something you both appreciate. Of course, if you do not feel the need to split up, at least you will be sure that this is the right decision after talking it through.

The Swap and Share Rule

This is an optional rule, but it can be a lovely way to bond with someone on holiday. Adult friendships between parents and their children can be difficult to cultivate, as each will have experienced new things since living in the same house together… we don’t always manage to stay as close as we would like. The swap and share rule means that each of you will pick one activity that you really, really want to do, something that the other person would not have chosen. Then you share it together.

Maybe one of you wants to visit the catacombs under the city you are staying in. The other one, according to the rule, would go along and listen to exactly why it’s the most amazing thing ever, and would not be allowed to complain that she finds it morbid. And if the other person really, really wants to go to the marble-making factory, their companion should pay attention to every detail and make insightful comments like “oh, so that’s how they get the colored bit in the middle”.

Stick To Your Rules

The point of these rules is that you develop your own version of each one. Every mother and daughter will have their own relationship, with its own quirks. Being aware of these idiosyncrasies will allow both of you to have the best possible time on your travels.

Practically, the rules are important as well. Not just for making sure you both get to the airport on time, but during the trip itself. Knowing where your traveling companion is can be a big step toward staying safe in a new place.

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I have been waiting for something like this for years. What a brilliant idea! I can't wait for our first trip together.

Jenn Reid, Toronto Canada

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I have wanted to travel since I was young, but somehow life just gets in the way of following your dreams. But this year I vowed I would see the world. After I found BWT, what a feeling to know there are other women out there with the same mindset and interests. Thank you for being there for me!

Shelby Austin, Sydney Australia

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Just a quick email Susan to tell you how lovely it was to meet you and the rest of the girls last week - it's amazing how quickly you can feel like you really know someone. I believe in what you are doing and you have a BWT member for life here. See you again this summer for our next trip.

Rachel Hammersmith, Portland USA

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