I have already gone through this question about empty suitcases. However, it does not address protecting the suitcases from possible damage. My friend (who is a foreign student studying in Germany) would like to take 2 empty large suitcases to India so that he can bring them back filled up when he returns. However, he feels the suitcases might get damaged when he checks them in empty while travelling from Germany. I know airlines usually have no problem taking empty suitcases, but I would like to know methods for protecting the suitcases when they are empty. The suitcases cannot be placed one inside the other. Is it a good idea to wrap them at the airport or something along those lines?

How can I protect empty (close to empty) suitcases from damage?

  • 8
    Has he already bought them? If not, nested suitcases would seem a good option.
    – Berwyn
    Jul 24, 2016 at 14:32
  • 1
    The other question says that there is a possibility that the suitcase could be damaged. We already know that such a possiblity exists. The purpose of this question to find out if there are ways to mitigate the damage.
    – DarthVader
    Jul 24, 2016 at 14:40
  • 2
    Are there packaging pillows available? They are the small, air-filled pouches used in shipments, measuring about 20 x 40 cm. They would add no weight.
    – Giorgio
    Jul 24, 2016 at 15:30
  • 5
    This seems like a rather silly idea considering you could just buy large duffel bags for a few $ a piece in India right before returning. Jul 24, 2016 at 15:46
  • 11
    Surely it is cheaper to just buy new suitcases in India ... Jul 24, 2016 at 16:14

6 Answers 6


I had to do something slightly similar once with some half-empty suitcases that would have large heavy things piled on top of them while moving house. What worked quite well for me was to take large, sturdy, readily available bag-like things such as:

  • Heavy duty bin bags
  • Duvet covers, large pillow cases
  • Sleeping bag liners

...open them out to get a lot of air into them, then firmly tie them shut, trapping air making them act like flexible-shaped cushions.

Because these bags aren't completely full, they can be manoeuvred to fill whatever shaped space is needed quite well, and there's less risk of popping than, say, balloons (the "bang" of popping balloons coming from inside a bag when a heavy bag is put on top of yours might concern a baggage handler...).

Things like bin bags are also very useful for compartmentalising your packing on the way back, so they're not being wasted.

  • +1. Where do we actually fit these stuff? We have a bit of proper luggage objects. And we have a lot of space right now. Shall we just put a part of these objects at the bottom, then the objects in between and then again pack off on top? What would be ideal?
    – DarthVader
    Jul 24, 2016 at 18:12
  • 2
    It depends on what you've got. I placed the airbags strategically with larger items acting like pillars and them protecting more delicate items around the pillars. I think in one box I had normal stuff at the bottom then airbags on top, in another I pushed the normal square items into the corners, acting like posts, then filled the middle with air bags. I don't recommend putting objects on top of them, since they tend to be a bit slippy because the air can move around. Jul 24, 2016 at 18:19
  • 5
    I would have thought that duvet covers, pillow cases, and sleeping bag liners wouldn't hold air for more than a few minutes. Bin bags might, but they might leak too. What did those items look like at the end of the journey? (And how long was the journey?)
    – TonyK
    Jul 24, 2016 at 21:36
  • 1
    I tied them tight and tested them with some firm squeezes first, they lasted pretty well. I can't remember exactly how I tied them, might have been clips or cable ties involved as well as big knots, was a while ago now. Key thing is don't try to make them firmly full of air like a balloon, use plenty of material to tie them up tightly and allow some sag. Thinking about it I think the pillow cases didn't work so well, not enough material to tie them well. Journey wasn't very long (few hours including unpacking boxes from vehicle) Jul 24, 2016 at 21:56

I thought there might be some dedicated packing material for doing this and there is this on Amazon as an example, but it doesn't look very practical. However, there are some super cheap airbeds around which your friend might be able to find from somewhere like Aldi. Just partially inflate enough to fill the suitcase. The added bonus is he could use it at the seaside in India...

There's always bubble wrap from a self-storage company, or waste cardboard boxes, or just buying a load of balloons and blowing them up. Perhaps some cheap plastic footballs that he could perhaps give away on arrival.

  • 2
    I love the footballs sugestion. Maybe to be combined with other (cheap or free) toys.
    – Willeke
    Jul 24, 2016 at 15:15
  • 2
    A little offtopic but please don't buy children gifts. It just spoils them to the point where they start seeing foreigners as walking gift machines. I've seen this first-hand in Ethiopia where the kids know 1 word: pen, because some bright people had the idea to bring pens as gifts for school. Of course the pens are directly sold in the shop and it just serves to promote child begging. Jul 24, 2016 at 17:06
  • 7
    With balloons or anything inflatable, pressure can make strange things happen. I remember when I travelled to Mexico and stayed pretty high up compared to back home (over a kilometer difference), I took some packaged croissants, and the packages looked really blown up, as if it was about to burst. One of them I didn't eat during the trip, and when I got back home, the package went back to normal.
    – tomasz
    Jul 24, 2016 at 17:58
  • 3
    @TonyK I am not and I do not appreciate you saying that when you know nothing about me. Do the research, professional help organizations will tell you the same, don't randomly hand our gifts for small children because it just reinforces begging and keeps them out of school and potentially in the professional begging industry. If you want to give, be smart about it. Jul 25, 2016 at 0:48
  • 3
    Packing peanuts. They are not pressurized and holding the shape of a container is exactly what they are for!
    – JDługosz
    Jul 25, 2016 at 1:43

Correct, the fact that they are empty is not an issue unless someone in the security line find this suspicious.

The most common was to accomplish what you fried is trying is to get soft duffel bags which would go in the main suite case.

But, since he already has the suitcases, one way to prevent damage is to fill them with something cheap and disposable. Cheap towels or pillows will do the job.

  • Why not some crumpled packing / moving paper?
    – stannius
    Jul 28, 2016 at 19:03

I am facing this exact problem right now, and thus arrived to this question. A very good solution I found and suggest is to ask family and friends for clothes and other belongings they are willing to let go of (either for donation, or no longer usable). You can fill your suitcase with them and give them away upon arrival.


I did nothing.

I flew back from New Zealand with four massive but empty suitcases and they arrived in Heathrow without an issue, no damage or problems.


If they are quality cases, they won't be permanently crushed, but plenty of outside scratches/gouges/etc. is possible. (One airline puts in writing that missing straps or handles is "ordinary wear and tear.")

The air-filled trash bag in another answer sounds like a good idea, but if you want to go one step further, put a trash bag in the case, and empty a can of expanding foam into it. Close the bag and case, and the foam will expand to fill it.

When ready to put something else in, pull out the half-kilo brick of hardened foam and discard.

  • 1
    Don't put the foam in without the plastic bag!! The stuff is extremely sticky.
    – WGroleau
    Dec 11, 2017 at 4:42

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