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Often used as a term for a suitcase, a valise is actually a specialized type of luggage that is intended for a specific purpose. Essentially, it is a small bag that is utilized for short trips, particularly overnight stays away from home. A true valise is relatively lightweight, is easy to transport, and has just enough room for a change of clothing and essential hygiene products.
While the original meaning of the valise has been expanded over the years, manufacturers of fine luggage continue to employ the term in the same manner as past generations. It is typically a very simple type of overnight bag. The body is usually slightly rectangular in shape and includes one simple compartment. Items are folded and placed in this main compartment, and the lid is closed and secured with the use of two simple latches.
Since the valise is normally small enough to remain in the possession of the owner, locks may or may not be included in the design. In general, it is the ideal size to fit into an overhead compartment on a plane, as well as fitting in the storage section found under most airline seats. It will also fit comfortably in overhead storage on most buses as well.
Because valises are designed to be just large enough for overnight travel, most people are capable of carrying one with the aid of a simple handle. However, it has become common for manufacturers to include shoulder straps that can be easily attached. The shoulder strap allows the case to be transported while still keeping the hands free for other tasks.
The valise if often included as part of a full set of suitcases, although the soft-sided shoulder bag has slowly begun to replace it as part of more casual sets of luggage. However, for many people, the convenience and ease of use that are characteristics of the valise ensure that this simple small suitcase will remain a valuable travel accessory for many years to come.