Backpack or Suitcase for Bus Travel: What to Choose?

Backpack or Suitcase for Bus Travel

Treating yourself to a much-needed getaway is always a good idea, but one of the biggest points of consideration is choosing how to pack your gear. Before you embark on this new adventure, consider whether you are traveling with a backpack or suitcase as each has its strengths and weaknesses to consider.

Although the choice between the two may seem arbitrary, the last thing you want is your decision to impact your vacation. Consider the following pros and cons to help you make your decision.


Backpack Bus Traveling

When deciding between a backpack or a rolling suitcase, consider the following pros and cons.

Backpack Pros

  • Hands-free traveling: One of the biggest benefits of opting for a backpack is the freedom it gives you to move your hands around. This is particularly helpful if you have small kids who will need your assistance throughout the trip. While your backpack is on your back, you’ll be able to carry other gear, eat, drink, use your phone, and so much more.
  • Move over uneven terrain: Depending on your destination, you may be required to travel over some uneven terrain such as hills, gravel, or even mountains. Lugging a suitcase up and down these areas can be exhausting and stressful. This is where a backpack is a great alternative as you won’t have to navigate these terrains with the added stress of a roller bag.
  • Healthier to carry on your back: Did you know that the right backpack will distribute its weight evenly across your shoulders, back, and hips? Well-fitted backpacks, particularly those designed for hiking, allow you to easily walk for miles without the risk of developing an injury. Suitcases are operated with a single handle that doesn’t distribute weight evenly and forces you to pull the weight on one side of your body.
  • Backpacks are incredibly durable: Many people opt for hiking backpacks while traveling as they are designed to withstand the elements. If you accidentally forget your backpack in the rain or need to lug it through difficult terrain, you’ll be impressed with the quality. Backpacks are designed to last years and can give you peace of mind while traveling.
  • More lightweight: Manufacturers design backpacks with lightweight materials which keep them light and easy to carry. Without the addition of rigid frames, collapsing handles, and heavy wheels, backpacks aren’t nearly as rigid and allow for an easy travel experience.

Backpack Cons

  • More difficult to pack and unpack: Backpacks aren’t the most convenient shape, especially when you’re trying to pack or unpack your items. There is only one way in and one way out, and the opening is relatively small. If you accidentally pack an item you need at the bottom, you’ll have to take everything out to access it. If you’re set on traveling with a backpack, look for one that has a zipper at the bottom.
  • Your clothes may wrinkle: It’s difficult to lay clothing flat in a backpack. If you need to pack clothes that cannot become wrinkled such as a suit or a dress, to attend a wedding, it will be nearly impossible to travel without it becoming wrinkled. For the best way to pack clothing in a backpack, consider rolling your items and packing them tightly.
  • Backpacks may cause an injury: In the case that you overpack your bag, it may cause stress on your body while you are traveling. This is also the case if your backpack doesn’t fit properly—you could end up injuring your back, neck, shoulders, or hips. Generally speaking, you won’t want your backpack to weigh more than 20% of your body weight. Those with already bad backs may want to avoid backpacks altogether.
  • Backpacks don’t protect your belongings: The majority of backpacks are soft-sided and will not do a good job of protecting your personal belongings. Anything fragile should stay out of a backpack as they are often tossed around or thrown to the ground while traveling. The hard outer shell that suitcases offer makes them a better option if you need to transport fragile or breakable items.
  • Backpacks don’t roll: The wheels on suitcases allow you to travel without hauling all of the weight. Backpacks, on the other hand, will need to be carried throughout the trip. If you prefer rolling your items around, it may be difficult to find a rolling backpack that can do so.


Suitcase Bus Traveling

Should you use a carry-on backpack or suitcase? Here are some pros and cons of using a traditional suitcase.


  • Easily access gear and clothing: The fact that suitcases fold open and closed, similar to a book, makes it significantly easier to access your belongings inside. Keep your items organized and avoid unpacking your entire bag just to access one item.
  • Better shape for packing: The rectangular shape of suitcases allows them to easily hold books, clothing, toiletry bags, electronics, and so much more. Travelers can evenly and efficiently pack in a suitcase without wasting space. Consider using packing cubes to make the process that much more organized.
  • Clothing stays wrinkle-free: Packing your clothes when they are flat makes them less prone to wrinkling while you travel. If you are traveling for a particular event or occasion that requires formal clothing, consider a suitcase as it lends itself better to wrinkle-free clothes. You may have to do some light ironing at your destination, but it will be worth it!
  • Suitcases do a better job at protecting your belongings: The rigid plastic around the edges of the suitcase combined with its hard exterior makes for a protective shell around your items. In the case that an airline handler throws your suitcase around or is a bit rougher with it, you won’t have to worry about your items becoming damaged.
  • Suitcases likely won’t cause injuries: Rather than carrying the contents of your items on your back, you can roll the weight of the suitcase. This means there won’t be added pressure to your back, hips, and shoulders, making it less likely that you become injured even if your suitcase is packed to the brim.
  • Suitcases are usually cheaper than backpacks: If you are deciding between suitcases vs. backpacks using cost as the main driving factor, know that suitcases are generally cheaper. Plus, nearly everyone has an old suitcase somewhere in their home that they can use in a pinch if needed.


  • Only one free hand while using a suitcase: One of the biggest cons of using a suitcase is the fact that you’ll only have one free hand while traveling. Grabbing something from your purse or participating in a task that requires two hands means you’ll have to stop and let go of your suitcase. On the other hand, backpacks allow you to do these things easily.
  • Difficult to walk over uneven terrain: Depending on how you’ll be spending your time during your trip, you may be walking over uneven terrain such as grass, hills, cobblestone, etc. Rolling a suitcase over these types of landscapes is tiring and has the potential to cause damage to your suitcase’s wheels.
  • More prone to crime: There will be times during your travels that you are stopped with your suitcase next to you. Or, if you are traveling alone, it may be difficult to leave your suitcase unattended for a few minutes while you go to the bathroom. Suitcases are more likely to become stolen since they are not directly attached to your body.
  • Not designed for long-term use: Most suitcases on the market today will do just fine holding up to the occasional trip, but generally speaking, backpacks are more durable, and they are designed to last for years.
  • You can’t walk as far with a suitcase: Large suitcases are often awkward to transport for long distances. If your travels consist of walking miles and miles, you may want to consider using a backpack if you can.
  • Suitcases are heavier than backpacks: Thanks to the rigid structure of suitcases, in addition to their handles and wheels, they are heavier to maneuver compared to a backpack. Modern backpack designs are lightweight, and some even weigh less than 2 pounds.

Should You Buy a Backpack or Suitcase?

 Backpack Suitcase Pros Cons Traveling

Choosing either a backpack or suitcase for your carry-on isn’t a decision you should take lightly. Here are some factors to consider to help you make your final decision.

Weight of Your Items

Depending on where you are going and for what purpose, you may be able to replace some of your heavier items with lighter ones. For example, if you are going on a backpacking trip, you won’t need to bring heavy items such as a hairdryer and multiple pairs of shoes.


Investing in a high-quality suitcase or backpack will make a world of difference. The last thing you want is your bag to break while traveling, as it will add another layer of stress to your trip. Ensure that your choice is durable enough to last. The extra money you spend will be worth it in the long run.


Size matters when you are making your decision between a suitcase or a backpack. If you are only gone for a few days, you can get a smaller bag. If you’re planning to be gone for a few weeks or even months at a time, invest in a bigger bag that can fit most of your items.

Plan Your Outfits

The number of layers you will need depends on your destination and what you’ll be doing along the way. If you’re heading somewhere more tropical, you won’t need to pack as many layers. Colder vacations could require larger bags that fit warm layers such as a coat, jeans, and other warmer items. Planning where you’re going, and the activities at each location will give you insight as to what bag is better.

Find a New Use Case for Regular Things

Reducing your bag’s weight is significantly easier if you choose items that can be used for multiple things. For example, using a beach towel as a blanket or even a wrap-around skirt is a great tip to keep your bag as light as possible.


Weighing the pros and cons of backpacks and suitcases is tricky. Ultimately, use your best judgment to determine which will suit your travel needs the best. Whichever you choose, our team at Chicago Motor Coach will ensure you nothing but the best experience aboard our comfortable, modern buses!

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