We've always been natural born backpackers.
But, this summer, our trip to Italy was about doing things slightly differently. Still independent, still seeking out our own experiences, but it wasn't about doing it all on a budget.
We were renting a car, we were staying in gorgeous Airbnb sourced apartments, we were bringing nice clothes; this was a couple's holiday rather than an adventure.
And our fantastic but battered backpacks wouldn't really cut it. So, for the first time on any of our trips together, we took a suitcase - the American Tourister Soundbox Spinner.
What We Liked
/ With the four wheels, we glided through Stansted and Puglia airports. This made such a refreshing change from lugging or dragging an awkwardly shaped 20kgs (often more) on one of our backs. The case is a dream on smooth surfaces and the extendable handle also worked everytime, with no 'sticking' points.
/ To avoid paying Ryanair's exorbitant hold luggage charges twice, we had to make a single checked-in suitcase work for us. So that's all our clothes and toiletries for two weeks, plus some photography equipment, in one suitcase. Thankfully, the Soundbox interior easily stored everything we needed. Its zipped internal divider pad, which doubles up as a small storage space on its own, helped us to create two distinct sections (essential once you've built up a laundry pile after a few days of travel). This was helped organising everything in our own packing cubes.
/ The case easily expands by a couple of centimetres via an exterior zip - this was a really great feature when we were between Airbnbs and not too worried about packing everything neatly away.
/ The polypropylene hardshell casing took a few bumps along the way, but remained fully intact. Its deceptively strong, but flexible, and the hypnotic moulded pattern is a nice style feature.
/ The American Tourister brand tries to make its suitcases fun and stylish - and the Soundbox Spinner range definitely ticks the box. We both felt pretty fancy pants when strolling through the airport with it and our flat whites.
What We Would Change
/ The Soundbox suitcases come in a range of vivid colours, but we picked the white one. An advantage is that it looks great and stands out on any airport carousel so you can quickly spot and grab it. However, the downside is that it became marked and 'off white' in spots quite quickly once we arrived in Italy. Even after a clean back in the UK, it's still not back to its original shiny self (and another use later that month in Spain completely removed any hope), so we would recommend picking a darker colour.
/ Weighing in at 3.4 kgs when empty, our 67cm Soundbox lost us a good deal of our total baggage allowance before a single item had been placed inside. However, this is a pretty standard weight for any hardshell suitcase and is something one has to accept when using a case instead of a lightweight backpack.
/ The in-built digit combi-lock is a great idea for an added layer of security but, to be honest, we still haven't managed to get it to work for us. We've used the instructions several time to try and work it out, but to no avail, so we've ended up just using our our own combination padlock instead.
/ The main reservation we have against using a suitcase on our travels is because, when on an independent adventure, you are always going to have to navigate some odd terrains and spaces. Cobbled streets, narrow apartment staircases, packed buses, dusty roads and some bloody steep hills. A backpack is quite practical and flexible to take on these obstacles, but a clattering and large suitcase is usually cumbersome and awkward; this was the case in Italy. The Soundbox does have sturdy top and side handles for lifting and carrying but, like with any suitcase, it isn't always the easiest for navigating the urban settings posed by 16th century Italian architecture.
This suitcase was a great option for our Italy roadtrip, and we would recommend it for a couple travelling together who want to share a sturdy and stylish suitcase. If you are more used to travelling with a backpack, there will be some 'transition' issues - but a suitcase also trumps the back pain, awkwardness and physical endurance sometimes associated with a backpack.
The Soundbox won't join us on every adventure in future - but will be our go-to option for travelling on city breaks and holidays of 1-3 weeks where our travel style and itinerary is suitable for a suitcase.
We travelled with the 67cm American Tourister Soundbox Spinner Suitcase, which retails at £125.00. It is available in two other sizes - the 55cm (for cabin baggage) and a 77cm option.
*The suitcase was provided to Along Dusty Roads to test out in Italy and provide our views*