The Weekend Bag is Not the Right Bag for Airline Travel

The Weekend Bag is Not the Right Bag for Airline Travel
Travel smarter.

When it comes to car trips, there's something special about a weekender bag. It's the perfect size for a couple of days away, not too big to take up too much space in the car, but not too small to limit your options for what to pack. Make an impromptu plan to get out of town, stuff a shawl collar sweater, henley, and chinos in there with some underwear, socks, deodorant and toothbrush and hit the road. And when you add in the element of style of a handsome weekender, it's like the cherry on top of the sundae.

Whether it's made of rugged waxed canvas or supple leather, each material has its own unique charm. A leather weekender bag, in particular, can earn a patina that's like that of a decades-old leather jacket. Its shine and cracks and creases and wear and stains are all stamps on your passport, telling the story of your travels and adventures.

But –

As much as I love a good weekend bag, I have to admit, they're just not cut out for the rigors of modern air travel.

First off, let's talk about space. A weekend bag might be fine for a quick jaunt to the mountains, but for anything longer than a few days, forget it. Several days worth of clothes, at least one pair of shoes in there…don't forget your toiletries bag. You're going to need more room than a leather duffel can provide, unless you plan on wearing the same pair of pants for the entire trip. And even if you do manage to cram everything in, good luck finding anything once you get to your destination. Without compartments or pockets, your clothes are going to be one giant jumbled mess, like a tangled pile of spaghetti.

Then there's the weekender bag's issue of structure, or rather, the lack thereof. Weekend bags are soft and floppy, which might be great for stashing in the back of a cramped 45 year old two door, but not so great for packing your gear for a cross country flight. Without any sort of support, your laptop is going to get jostled around like a pinball, and your souvenirs are going to end up looking like they went through a blender.

Perhaps the most important reason why a weekend bag is a terrible choice for air travel: you have to carry it. That's right, you're going to be lugging that sucker from the car, through security, on the tram, past 20 terminals, onto the plane, and then back through the terminal when you arrive. Unless you're looking to get a workout in while on vacation, I suggest you opt for a more practical piece of luggage.

Beyond all that, let's not forget about security concerns and durability. Without the same level of protection as other types of luggage, weekend bags are more susceptible to theft or damage and just aren't designed to survive the hospitality of the overhead bin. Weekenders deserve their patina – not giant scratches in the leather.

So, while I might love weekend bags for car trips, I'm sorry to say they just don't cut it when it comes to air travel. Save yourself the headache (and backache) and invest in a suitcase or other type of luggage that offers more space, structure, organization, and security features for your travel needs. Your chiropractor will thank you.

You may be surprised how much you can get in a hardshell carry-on. My buddy Eric, who constantly travels for his business and spends more time in an airplane than his apartment, tells me he just did a 12 day business trip in Europe that included a conference presentation with just a carry-on. And that obviously means work attire and options so it doesn't look like you only brought one shirt.

It may seem like a leather duffel should be less work and less effort than wheeling a carry-on around, but that just hasn't been my experience.

Below are some hardshell luggage options with different features and price points. Be sure to check size requirements for your airline and travel needs, they're not consistent.

Samsonite Freeform

of hardside expandable luggage with spinner wheels

Amazon, $159.99 $179.99

The perfect companion for Eric's business trips, this 21-inch hardshell carry-on boasts a light and strong shell, capable of withstanding modern travel's demands. The recessed TSA combination lock ensures security, while the four multi-directional double spinner wheels provide 360-degree upright rolling for easy maneuverability through the busiest of terminals. With cross ribbons, dividers, and multiple pockets for organized packing, this luggage is an excellent choice for the efficient traveler. It comes with a 10 year warranty for peace of mind.

Samsonite Winfield 2

samsonite hardside winfield 2 spinner luggage

Amazon, $111.70 $199.99

The Samsonite carry-on I have isn't made anymore but this is the carry-on size of my trusty full size Samsonite Winfield 2 that I've had for several years, and it's been a cost-effective choice for my travels. The glossy exterior gets scuffed, but the texture does a decent job of hiding it. That’s the benefit of a well-constructed but budget-friendly option: I anticipate a lot of intrusive thoughts if I spent $400 on a piece of luggage and it ends up looking beat to hell. Overall, it's been great for securely holding my stuff and zipping around airports with the 4 spinner wheels. No issues to report.

Delsey Paris

DELSEY Paris Clavel Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels

Amazon, $187.75 $209.76

If you're looking for something with a bit more je ne sais quoi, the Delsey CLAVEL might be more your speed. A premium French luggage brand, Delsey brings European sophistication and style to the table, along with an ultra-lightweight, durable polypropylene construction. This Red Dot Design Award winner not only boasts a TSA-accepted combination lock and patented zip Securitech for 3x the security of a zipper but also has separate compartments and pockets to keep your belongings organized and your suitcase looking as chic as a Parisian café.

Away Carry-On Flex

a hardside luggage with spinner wheels

Away Travel, $325

You might find yourself needing just a bit more room sometimes. In that case, the Away Carry-on Flex is a dream come true. It literally “flexes” to accommodate your shopping spree souvenirs, transforming from a carry-on to checked luggage with a simple unzip. Plus, it's got that durable polycarbonate hard shell and a hidden laundry bag to separate your dirty socks from your fresh finds.

Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner

amazon basics hardside luggage with spinner wheels

Amazon, $83.99 $88

Ah, the Amazon Basics 21-Inch Hardside Spinner – a reliable workhorse for those on a budget. With its scratch-resistant finish, this spinner provides extra-thick ABS protection for your precious cargo. Its expandable design and fully lined interior mean you'll be able to pack more and worry less.

Monos Carry On

a hardside luggage with spinner whees

Monos, $255 $284

Now, if you're searching for something truly exceptional, look no further than the Monos Carry-On. This unbreakable aerospace-grade German polycarbonate suitcase boasts whisper-quiet 360 degree spinner wheels, making it the stealthy ninja of the luggage world. With its luxurious interior fabric, vegan leather details, anti-microbial laundry bag, two shoe bags and and nestable design, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more elegant travel companion. Plus they offer a 100 day trial and a limited lifetime warranty.

Andrew Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.