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What is the difference between soft-side and hard-sided luggage?

Hard-sided luggage in general offers greater protection for your belongings, while soft-sided luggage is often as more flexible. Hard luggage tends to weigh more, and is less likely to be something that can be "wedged" into bins and storage compartments. On the other hand, soft-sided luggage can be very durable and its flexible nature allows it to conform to tight quarters more easily but may not afford as much protection, nor be as durable.

Also, your destination may guide you regarding which luggage to select. In tropical locales, deplaning directly onto the tarmac is not uncommon, and soft-sided luggage can get soaked in tropical downpours and may allow moisture to seep through to your belongings. Destinations that have high humidity can lead to clothes becoming damp in some soft sided luggage.  Some experienced travelers own luggage for each set of circumstances and choose accordingly.