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The Ultimate Suitcase Size Guide

March 05, 2020 5 min read

We've done it! We've finally written out an easy guide that tells you many shirts will fit in your suitcase. Our Ultimate Suitcase Size Guide has all the answers to your questions.

The-ultimate-suitcase-size-guide

If you walk into our luggage store looking for a new suitcase we’ll ask you a few questions straight off the bat;

  • Hard or soft?
  • What size?
  • What budget?

These are generally the 3 key pieces of info we need to guide you to the perfect suitcase. The question of hard or soft we’ve addressed in a blog already, check it out here. Same goes for budget (read here). But size? Well, it’s the goldilocks question. It’s unique to you, so we can’t tell you what size to buy. Maybe you’re a chronic overpacker and happy with that. Fair enough. You’ll find the extra large cases under ‘extra large’ on our webshop. What we can do though is help you decode suitcase sizing, to help you match up your needs with the standard sizes on offer.

For the purpose of this blog post we’ll stick with standard suitcases, not backpacks or duffels, which pack differently. It’s also worth noting it’s a guide only. If you’re super tall and your clothes and shoes are larger than average then that needs to be considered, and vice versa.

A note on how suitcase sizes are measured

Suitcase sizes will be indicated by the supplier in both cm (outer dimensions) and litres. There is a lot of variation in how the suppliers do their measuring. For example, one supplier may include the wheels, one may not. It’s not always indicated how they do it, so allow for some variation. Similar with litre capacity, some base it off calculation, some use volume of water displaced and so on, which leaves a lot of room for variation. If dimensions or volume is of great importance to you (for example for a tour with restricted luggage) we recommend calling us so we can advise based on brands and measure for you if possible.

Standard Suitcase Sizes

There are 4 standard suitcase sizes, cabin (small), medium, large and extra-large.  We’ll outline the range for each standard size, the average size and what you can expect to pack into the average suitcase size.

Size in Consideration to Weight

In terms of check in bags, the typical weight restriction imposed by airlines is 23kg. A full, large suitcase of average weight for the average traveller will be hovering around 23kg. So, a heavier than average large suitcase or any extra-large suitcase packed to capacity has the opportunity to go over the 23kg. We recommend buying and travelling with portable luggage scales to avoid over limit fees.

The Average Cabin Suitcase

The vast majority of cabin suitcases adhere to the ‘international’ size restriction of 115cm, which means the dimensions of the 3 sides add up to 115cm or less. This is the cabin size bag which is suitable for international flights, Qantas, Jetstar and Tiger domestic flights. There are some exceptions to this of course so always check the details on your tickets.

Virgin domestic flights and smaller plane flights (e.g. Rex) technically only allow the smaller ‘domestic’ size which is 105cm. This size restriction might also apply to domestic flights overseas, for example an EasyJet flight within France. For this reason, you need to be diligent in checking the restrictions for all flights on your travels to avoid fees.

Given 90% of cabin suitcases are the 115cm size, we’ll discuss that!

Typical Capacity: 35-45L

Typical Weight: 2kg – 3kg

What fits (based on a 40L capacity):

  • 4 Shirts
  • 1 toiletry bag
  • 2 pairs pants
  • 2 pairs shoes
  • 1 (non bulky) coat

Things to consider:

  • If you have technology in your cabin bag (laptop, ipad, cords, charging docks etc) then you will fit less clothing
  • A full toiletry bag and 2 pairs of shoes may place you very near the 7kg weight allowance for cabin suitcases, always weigh your bag prior to travel to avoid fees.

This size is mostly suitable for:

  • Weekends to long weekends
  • A cabin bag for spare clothes and in-flight essentials for longer trips
  • Up to a week for smaller children
  • Overnight business trip

The Average Medium Suitcase

As there is no airline-imposed size restriction for medium cases like for cabin, then there is a much bigger variation in size. They range from nice and compact ‘long weekend’ size to quite spacious. Use the below summary to compare based on volume.

Typical Capacity: 65-85L

Typical Weight: 3-4kg

What fits (based on 75L):

  • 14 shirts
  • 2 toiletry bags
  • 4 pairs of shoes
  • 4 trousers
  • 1 (non bulky) coat

This size is mostly suitable for:

  • We recommend everyone take a medium sized suitcase if they can get away with it. It’s a comfortable size to lift solo when full and is more forgiving in car boots and so on. Typically though, those travelling for 1-2 weeks opt for medium.
  • Consider packing for 2 people into 1 medium suitcase for a weekend or long weekend

The Average Large Suitcase

In recent years with lighter suitcases becoming available, the large category has been split into large and extra-large. Large typically relates to the historical large size of 78cm tall. Extra-large relates to the 81-83cm tall suitcases. So, for our large suitcase, we are looking at up to 78cm.

Typical Capacity: 90-110L

Typical Weight: 3.5-4.5kg

What fits (based on 105L):

  • 24 shirts
  • 2 toiletry bags
  • 6 pairs shoes
  • 8 trousers
  • 2 (non bulky) coats

Things to consider:

  • If your suitcase starting weight is closer to 5kg, you have 6 pairs of shoes and 2 full toiletry bags you will be sitting on, around or over the 23kg weight limit applied to most flights. Always weigh your bag and take portable scales with you to avoid over limit fees.

This size is mostly suitable for:

  • Large is suited to 2 or more weeks of travel
  • 1 large suitcase could also be used to pack for 2 people’s items for 1 week, consider this if travelling with small children who can’t handle their own luggage.

The Average Extra-Large Suitcase

Extra-Large suitcases are big! Reconsider your need for the biggest size unless absolutely necessary. Whilst you might still need to adhere to the 23kg weight limit (meaning you just have extra space not weight) they are an awkward size to lift. This becomes a factor when you need to go upstairs, use public transport, tour buses or even just lifting into a taxi. They are also hard to fit into smaller car boots, whether it be a hire car or taxi. And if you have a travel companion, 2 large suitcases can be hard to configure in car boots.

Typical Capacity: 110-140L

Typical Weight: 4-5kg *typically only lighter weight designs are available in this larger size

What fits (based on 120L):

  • 28 shirts
  • 2 toiletry bags
  • 6 pairs shoes
  • 10 trousers
  • 2 coats

Things to consider:

  • In addition to our notes on lifting this size, also consider that a hard suitcase has 50/50 packing, meaning you need to open it out and lie it flat to access. An extra-large suitcase has an open dimension of almost 1m square. This is a lot of room, typically there won’t be the floor space to open it out in a hotel room or small apartment, meaning you may need to lay it out on the bed.
  • These are also bulky to store at home, needing garage space as opposed to cupboard or under bed.
  • Packing the family into one or two extra-large suitcases can streamline things and make life easy, meaning you only need 2 suitcases instead of 4+.

This size is mostly suitable for:

  • Longer trips
  • Hotel/Resort stays – the extra-large size is hard to manage for tucked away air bnb’s, hostels, cruises, multi-stop trips and car trips. It’s best suited to home-hotel-home holidays, extended stays or moving.
  • Multi-person packing

We hope that helps you!

Main image with thanks to @delseyofficial



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