I'll never forget standing at the Seattle Airport baggage claim and seeing a random shoe come up the conveyor belt. Normally this would've been a bit humorous, but the shoe was mine. I snatched it up and peered down the line hoping my bag was in sight. Instead, another one of my shoes pulled into view. My heart stopped and I stood their horrified that my underwear was going to come up next.
The zipper on the front pouch of my suitcase had been busted. Luckily, all of my belongings found their way up the belt, but the incident cost me a lot of extra time and stress. Coupled with having just come from a 4th floor Italian apartment with no elevators, that journey marked the end of my suitcase days.
Now I travel everywhere with a 50 liter Osprey pack I picked up on Amazon - best investment of my life!
While a little pricey, I have no regrets. My backpack fits perfectly in the overhead luggage compartment on planes, and keeps me from packing too much crap. Being able to navigate a new city without having to worry about leaving my suitcase behind was a game changer, allowing me to travel longer and easier.
When traveling to a new city, the last thing you want to worry about is keeping your bag in tow. Instead, you'll want your hands free to sample delicious street foods, check in with your buddies on Facebook, or search a street map for the nearest beach to dig your toes into.
Knowing your bag is with you will save a lot of headaches when getting off the plane and heading to your hostel. It's never any fun to be the last person waiting at a baggage claim, praying that your bag made the same journey you did. I travel with a 55 liter pack that stows comfortably in any major airline carrier's carryon space.
Forces You to Pack Less
Since you're carrying it on your back, you'll want to pack as little as possible. Instead of packing 4 pairs of shoes, pack two (a pair of comfortable walking/hiking shoes, and a pair of sandals). What helps me, is unpacking and repacking after I think I have what I "need." This way instead of making decisions based on a closet-full of clothes, I'm debating an already picked through pile of favorites.
On top of cutting out a checked-bag fee, your backpack will make you think twice about buying too many souvenirs (or too large of souvenirs. If you're like the "old" me, a trip to Mexico means you're bringing back the largest sombrero your suitcase can fit - a seemingly great idea at the time, but now it just takes up space on the wall in my room.
Living out of a backpack will show you the greatest souvenirs from your travels are not little trinkets or wide-brimmed, Mexican hats. Save money, keep your pack light, and make more memories instead!