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Radley Stories

Style Notes

Our Luggage Guide: How to Find Affordable Luggage and the Best Fashionable Suitcases

25 May 2023

Discover everything there is to know about stylish luggage and trendy suitcases with our Radley London guide. We look into the history of travel bags, the different styles of suitcase and talk about how to shop for the best carry-on luggage.

What is a Suitcase?

Quite simply, a suitcase is a piece of luggage that you take on your travels. It could be a designer weekend bag for an overnight stay, a stylish suitcase for a two-week holiday, or a large backpack for travelling over several months. 


The History of Luggage 

From flat-top trunks in the 1870s to the sleek four-wheeled suitcases that we have today, luggage has evolved over the years. It’s not surprising, as all aspects of transport have too. Accessories had to change in order to keep up with industrialisation, which offered new methods of travel and encouraged more use. But let’s start at the beginning. 

The word ‘luggage’ is derived from the word ‘lug’, as during the 1500s it was used to describe very heavy bag styles that were inconvenient for travel. We all know the inconvenience of dragging around bulky, heavy bags, but our modern Radley London travel bags are designed to take the ‘lug’ out of luggage.

One of the earliest forms of luggage was the trunk. (Like those you’ll see in every Harry Potter film. Minus the magic.) Early on, trunks were crafted in wood and wrapped in leather in order to match the style of furniture that was popular at the time. When steamships became the most common method of travel, it was necessary for trunks to have a few extra features. The stylish suitcases of the time, these trunks were made with the addition of heavy iron and waterproof materials. This way, trunks were protected from leaks and didn’t slide around when in the hold of the ship.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that trendy suitcases began to catch on. They earned their name from the item they were originally designed to carry - suits. We already know that industrialisation led to more travelling and as transport adapted, so did suitcases. Over time, designers and craftsmen began making cases with new materials, including the more lightweight plastics that we still use today. 

The 1950s. The decade that started commercial air travel. And inspired the latest luggage innovation. Travel bags now needed to be smaller and lighter. They needed to fit in overhead cabins. And they needed to be manoeuvrable. So by the ‘70s, when air travel was still growing in popularity, the first stylish suitcases with wheels began to launch. The invention of the telescopic handle followed soon after as a solution to journeying through stations and airports.

It may sound like luggage had been perfected. It wasn’t even 2000 yet and we already had easy-glide wheels, adjustable handles and lightweight exteriors. But with more advancements in technology, there are still more innovations emerging - some mind-blowing. Enter: Smart luggage. The latest style of suitcase. These come with features such as GPS tracking, bluetooth locks, built-in scales and even power supplies (that means charging your phone on the go. Yes please).


Different Styles of Luggage

Luggage comes in many different shapes and sizes. As well as the most common fashionable suitcase, there are cases and travel bags designed for all types of journey. Discover which one is best for your next adventure with our luggage guide. 


The typical choice for holidays. These come with a multi-height handle, a hinged lid and rolling wheels. Stylish suitcases can come in a variety of different sizes, with some smaller styles made for taking on-board and storing in overhead cabins. 

Vanity Case

This is a smaller, boxy-shaped case that can be carried in hand and filled with cosmetics. It’s often fitted with a mirror and multiple compartments for organising make-up and jewellery. You’ll find our Radley London vanity cases come with an elastic strap on the back, which is designed to slip over the handle of your suitcase.


We don’t need to tell you what a backpack is, but let us explain how they can be used instead of luggage. The traveller’s backpack is the main style, often used by those who want to explore a number of new countries across a longer period of time. They are very large with a spacious interior capacity measured in litres. They will have padded shoulder straps and extra features that make them more comfortable for carrying between each destination. Smaller backpacks are often chosen for travel too, as they are one of the best carry-on luggage styles and handy when out exploring new places.

Duffle Bag

Also known as a holdall, and commonly used as a gym bag. This is a spacious bag made of fabric. The earliest styles were cylindrical and had drawstring closures, but more modern styles have adapted to feature zips, grab handles and longer cross body straps. These are often used for overnight stays and shorter holidays as they can hold a few days’ worth of clothes and personal items.

Tote Bags

This type of bag is usually large in size with a fastening at the top and two straps that can be slipped onto the shoulder. Tote bags are often chosen as a type of carry-on baggage as they keep travel essentials close to hand. (Think passport, your latest novel, even a few snacks.)

Cross Body Bag

This can be a large or small bag with one long strap that’s worn across the body. As this bag rests against the wearer’s waist, it keeps items safe and close by, making it a very popular choice for travelling. For this reason, cross body bags are often chosen as carry-on luggage.

How to Choose the Best Stylish Affordable Luggage for You

Whether you’re planning a holiday or a weekend away, you’ll need a fashionable suitcase for your clothes and personal items (plus a few extra outfits too. Overpackers? Us? Of course not.) 

When it’s time to pick your travel bag, you’ll need to decide between a trendy suitcase or stylish luggage bag like a holdall. Before making your choice, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. Keep reading our luggage guide to find out more.

How much will you be carrying?

For shorter trips, you won’t need to take quite as much away with you. In this case, you could choose a smaller suitcase that also makes the best carry-on luggage. That means not having to wait for it to appear on the luggage carousel once you reach your destination. A duffle bag will also make a good choice for long weekends away.

If you’re heading away for a little longer, we’re jealous. And you’ll need larger luggage for all of your outfits and essentials. Like a spacious wheeled suitcase with a retractable handle that you can pull alongside you as you head to your terminal. 

How heavy will your luggage be?

The longer you’ll be away, the more you’ll need to take with you and the heavier your bag will be. Suitcases with wheels are best for carrying heavier weights as they are much easier to move through airports and stations. However, if you’re planning to visit multiple countries and destinations, a large traveller’s backpack could also make a good choice. They are designed to hold all essentials, while being hands-free. Having one of these backpacks means never having to drag a case alongside you - over uneven surfaces or up or down stairs. Plus, you’ll have both hands for checking that map or snapping a few pictures.  

How long will you be carrying your luggage?

You need to make sure you can carry your bag to your destination. For this you will either need a handle and wheels, or comfortable straps. Consider all aspects of your journey and how far you will need to carry your bag. Be sure to test out your potential bag with a practice run, seeing if you can comfortably carry it for any length of time.

How durable should your bag be?

If you’ll be making trips outside in the open where there may be wet weather, you may want to consider a bag that is weather-proofed. Not only so the bag stays in good condition, but also to ensure your items inside (including any electronics or technology) are protected for water damage. 

If you’re concerned about protecting the items inside your bag from bad weather, consider hard-sided luggage. These stylish suitcases are often made from waterproof, lightweight, impact-resistant plastics.

If you’ll need to fit your bag into tight spaces, we’d recommend going with soft-sided luggage. High-denier fabrics can be quite durable, and soft-sided stylish luggage has the benefit of being more pliable than hard-sided luggage. (Think about stuffing it in overhead cabins or the trunk of a car.)

Luggage Features

We’ve almost covered everything there is to know about travel bags. Almost. Last but not least in our luggage guide, it’s time to talk about features. Because there are a few extra details you should know about and consider before buying your next travel bag. 


Most suitcases now have wheels on the bottom and extendable handles for pulling the suitcases along, but there are still differences between variations. If wheeled suitcases make the best stylish affordable luggage styles for you, will you choose two or four wheels?

  • Two wheels

    With a two-wheel suitcase, you can pull it along behind you. The one disadvantage to a two-wheeled suitcase is that you can’t move it from side to side. If you are going to be walking along cobbled streets or along rough curbs, then a four-wheeled suitcase may be best.

  • Four wheels

    The big advantage of having a suitcase with four wheels is that you have much more mobility. You can wheel it by your side, pull it along behind you and move it in any direction. 

Carry-On Sizing

On aeroplanes, there are guidelines about the size of bag you are allowed to take on-board. There are specific measurements as your carry-on bag needs to fit into the overhead cabin or under the seat in front of you. Every airline has a different set of dimensions, so it’s best to check with them before you fly. 

Compartments and pockets

Suitcases often come with one or two interior compartments. These will be separated by a zipped fabric divider and will help to keep your essentials organised. Many people use this to keep soft and harder items, or clean and worn items, separated. You may also find styles by stylish luggage brands with internal elasticated clothing straps (to keep your outfits folded while you are moving the suitcase) and extra pockets.

T.S.A. Locks

The best stylish affordable luggage will come with a lock system. This enables you to secure your belongings inside your suitcase, and reassure you that they’re all locked away safely. The best suitcases will have a T.S.A. (Transport Security Administration) lock - this is a lock that can be opened by travel security authorities in the event they need to inspect anything inside your case. (We don’t want to think how long our case could be held up for if we didn’t have a T.S.A. lock.)


Well, of course we had to mention travel accessories. No trip is complete without them. There are so many to choose from, including purses for carrying currency, passport covers and even luggage tags. You can find out more about these travel accessories in our Style Notes guides, and of course, you can shop them all at Radley London.

Ready to jet off? Don’t forget your sunglasses.


From hard-shell suitcases to soft-sided holdalls and travel bags. Find it all at Radley London. Or, head over to Radley Stories to explore our latest collections and read all about our incredible craftsmanship.