What Are the Pros and Cons of Plastic Luggage?

B. Miller

Purchasing a quality set of luggage is important, regardless of how much traveling is done. Plastic luggage is a somewhat less common alternative to the more traditional fabric luggage, but it does feature some pros and cons to take into account. First, molded plastic luggage is typically quite rugged and can withstand a lot of heavy use; it's also usually pretty water resistant unless it's completely submerged, making it a good choice for checked bags. On the downside, it tends to be very heavy and somewhat unwieldy if it is being used as a carry-on.

Hard plastic luggage is more durable, but is also heavier, than nylon luggage.
Hard plastic luggage is more durable, but is also heavier, than nylon luggage.

Hard plastic luggage provides a lot of advantages to travelers. The price is generally comparable to other types of luggage, and it often features a long warranty as well, which can also indicate that the luggage is of better quality. Of course, the sturdiness of plastic luggage is one of the main pros to using it; it can withstand drops as well as heavy items being stacked on top of it, which is common as the bag progresses through airports. Some people also appreciate its ruggedness if they will be traveling for a while, and want to ensure that the latches and closures will last.

The price of hard plastic luggage is generally comparable to other types of luggage, and often features a long warranty.
The price of hard plastic luggage is generally comparable to other types of luggage, and often features a long warranty.

The fact that it is very sturdy means it is commonly used by people who need to pack more fragile items such as electronics equipment. Photographers, for example, who travel with a great deal of expensive equipment, will frequently rely on plastic luggage to ensure their items are protected from damage. Of course, the durability of plastic luggage can be one of its cons as well, because it tends to make the luggage a bit unwieldy at times. In addition, a set of this type of luggage will generally not include a duffel bag, which is a big omission for some people.

It is common for plastic luggage to be much heavier than nylon luggage, and it can also be more difficult to store in the overhead bins in airplanes. It is also important to consider how the luggage will be carried; if the plastic luggage has wheels and an extendable handle, the extra weight might not matter so much. If it is just a basic case without wheels, though, it might be very heavy and unpleasant to carry. Of course, this is true of nylon luggage as well. Some people find that combining their luggage options, and purchasing one durable plastic case to go along with the rest of their nylon set, is the best choice.

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Discussion Comments


Do you think it is a good idea to get heavy plastic luggage for camera equipment or should I go with the stainless steel luggage?

I have been looking for some stylish luggage that will keep my video camera secure and so far it looks like plastic is the way to go. It is quite cheap when compared to the more professional luggage designed for cameras and lens.

I am a bit concerned though that the plastic luggage will crack more easily. I have seen how baggage handlers toss luggage around and I really want to make sure my stuff is secure.


@wander - If you are looking for big luggage and don't want to lose a lot of your baggage allowance weight to the actual baggage I am not sure if plastic luggage is the best way to go. I have this huge orange luggage piece made out of a heavy plastic and while it is durable and holds a lot, I always end up paying extra baggage fees because the thing weighs a ton.

I think if you want the lightest luggage possible you should go with a big duffle bag. Most tough plastic luggage weighs quite a bit and while it is great for long trips, I wouldn't suggest it otherwise.


I have been looking for some cool luggage that holds a lot and it seems like plastic luggage might be it. I am a bit worried about the weight of the luggage though, as airlines are so touchy these days about weight limits and fees. Do you think that the size of plastic luggage makes it a worthwhile investment, or does it take up too much of your baggage weight allowance?

I usually fly discount airlines so 20KG is pretty much my limit at any given time. I feel like travel luggage should be a very small portion of that amount so you can cram as much stuff as possible in your suitcase.


I have one hard plastic case that is my "airplane luggage." It is the only bag I ever check, and I try to avoid doing that. But when I travel with my babies, it's hard to avoid!

I pack that one case with everything heavy and bulky - but replaceable. If the airline loses your luggage, they'll usually give you an allowance to buy what you need. So you might not want to pack your very favorite shoes in it, but bathing suits, beach toys, toiletries, etc. can be easily replaced at your destination.

Luggage for checking needs to be more durable than luggage for carrying on, and obviously weight doesn't matter as much. Waterproof is also a good idea for a checked bag because if it's raining out, your checked bag *will* get wet!

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