When it comes to air travel, the first question you need to ask yourself is a high-quality carry-on or the best checked luggage: which is the best for your trip?
When it comes to packing, there are several types of people:
- Minimalists, who pack sparingly and try to cram everything into a carry-on suitcase (no matter how long the trip).
- Over-indulgers, who don’t mind paying excess baggage fees if it means they’ll have everything they need (and more) for their weekend getaway.
- In-betweeners, or those who use a carry-on when possible but realize that a small bag doesn’t always cut it.
Unless you’re a hardcore “no checked luggage bag” kind of traveler, chances are you’ll need to buy a large, checkable suitcase at least once in your life.
Here are the 5 best checked luggage options to consider.
Best Affordable Luggage: DELSEY Paris Aero
If you’re in the market for affordable, hard-sided checked luggage option, check out the DELSEY Paris Aero.
This bag is an affordable option. It comes with double spinner wheels and has an extra two inches for added storage once expanded.
Read our full DELSEY Paris review for more information.
DELSEY Paris Aero Pros
- Color options: This bag comes in multiple colors — it’s not just your basic black! Get the suitcase in dark blue, light blue, brick red, brushed charcoal, peony, plum, teal, or silver.
- Comfortable handles: This bag has convenient, comfortable retractable handles to help you move it around.
- Double-spinning wheels: This suitcase has four double-spinning wheels making it easy to roll with practically no weight on your hands or arms.
- Good size: Bag is large and measures 19.5 x 12.5 x 29 inches. Plus, it can expand an additional two inches!
- Multiple compartments: This checked luggage option has two lined compartments with numerous pockets, web straps, and a zippered divider.
- Strong material: This bag is 100% polycarbonate, a hard and durable material that can withstand even the roughest of baggage handlers. It’s practically crack resistant!
DELSEY Paris Aero Cons
- Weight: This bag weighs 12.5 lbs. If you’re on an airplane with low weight restrictions, this suitcase might take up too much of your allotment.
Best Luggage Set: Samsonite Winfield
If you’re looking to invest in a set of luggage, we cannot recommend the Samsonite Winfield three-piece spinner set.
This set of three features a 20″, 24″, and 28″ spinner, all made of 100% polycarbonate. The bags come with a TSA-approved lock for added security.
Samsonite Winfield Pros
- Color options: This luggage set comes in five color options. Options are charcoal, deep blue, orange, purple, and brushed anthracite.
- Organizational pockets: These bags feature an interior divider with mesh pockets.
- Strong material: The bags are 100% polycarbonate, which is scratch and dent-resistant.
- Three-piece set: The set includes a 20″, 24″ and 28″ bag.
Samsonite Winfield Cons
- Price: Samsonite is more expensive than competing luggage sets. However, they do go on sale from time to time, so keep an eye on the website if you’re looking for a better deal.
Best Hardside Luggage: Tumi
If you’re looking to invest in a piece of hardside checked luggage, Tumi’s Extended Trip Packing Case is a great option.
This bag measures 30 x 20.5 x 11.75 inches and features four spinning wheels, a TSA-lock, and two main packing compartments.
- Color options: This suitcase comes in four color options. Choose from black, blush, silver, and navy.
- Durable material: These bags are made of Tumi’s most durable and lightweight material. The bag weighs just nine pounds.
- Organization pockets: This suitcase features two packing compartments, as well as a hanger bracket.
- Security features: This bag has a TSA-approved lock to protect your belongings.
- Price: Tumi luggage is more expensive than some competitors.
Best Lightweight Luggage: Travelpro
If you’re looking for the lightest checkable luggage you can find, check out the Travelpro Maxlite 5 Lightweight Expandable Suitcase.
Weighing just shy of 10lbs, this four-wheeled spinner bag measures 9 x 20.2 x 12 inches. Need more space? It can expand an additional two inches.
Read our full Travelpro Maxlite review for more information.
Travelpro Maxlite Pros
- Affordable price: This suitcase is competitively priced.
- Color options: These bags come in three color options. Get it in black, blue, or purple.
- Lifetime warranty: Travelpro offers a limited lifetime warranty.
- Organization features: This checked luggage option features a main compartment and a mesh compartment in the lid.
- Strong material: This bag is made of polyester fabric and has a stain-resistant coating.
Travelpro Maxlite Cons
- Wheel wear: Customers have complained that the wheels wear down quickly.
Best Spinner Luggage: AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Pros
Are you looking for a four-wheeled, spinner luggage option? If so, check out this AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Luggage.
It’s not only affordable but hard-sided and comes in a variety of sizes. We recommend the 28″ bag.
- Expandable option: An expandable zipper allows for an extra 15% packing space.
- Four spinner wheels: These wheels make rolling (or running) through airports a cinch.
- Multiple compartments: The inside has three zippered pockets for organization.
- Protective material: This bag contains a protective hard shell, made of extra-thick ABS. Plus, it’s scratch resistant!
- Weak handles: Customers have given feedback that the retractable handle can come loose or break.
Types of Checked Luggage Bags
If you’re in the market for new checked luggage, you have a lot to consider.
Take the following into consideration to help you find the best luggage option for you.
Price is a huge influence, so first, establish your budget. Luggage isn’t cheap, so be prepared.
Don’t forget to look for sales. Retailers such as Macys and Bloomingdales have luggage sales, particularly around major holidays like Christmas and holiday weekends such as Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Memorial Day.
The best luggage doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, so do your research before purchasing. Consider the features you care most about and see how much you’d be willing to buy for those features.
Do you need more than one piece of luggage?
If you need a carry-on bag and a checked bag, consider looking at luggage set. Sets are often cheaper than buying individual pieces of luggage, and you or a member of your family are likely to use all of the pieces at some point.
Plus, if you like to coordinate your belongings, you’ll enjoy having a matching set as opposed to separate pieces. If you are interested in a luggage set, check to see if they have a matching toiletry bag, too.
Hardside vs. Softside
There has long been a debate over suitcase material: which is better, hard-side or soft-side luggage?
The truth is, it’s subjective.
- Hard-side Luggage. This luggage can be more aesthetically pleasing, better at protecting valuables, and water-resistant. However, it shows wear and tear more easily than soft luggage and isn’t as flexible.
- Soft-side Luggage. This type is preferred by many because of its flexibility. It’s easier to expand and squeeze a few extra items into a softside piece of luggage than it is into a hardside. Some people think it’s prettier. Others think it makes for the best luggage option because it has outside pockets that they can throw last minute items into.
Again — it’s subjective. Think through the pros and cons and figure out what the best type is for you.
Inline vs. Spinner Wheels
Once you have a budget in mind and have decided whether you prefer hard-side luggage or soft-sided luggage, it’s time to think about wheels.
There was a time when not all luggage came with wheels, but thankfully those days are over!
When thinking about wheel options, figure out if you prefer a bag with four wheels or if two back wheels will suffice.
- Inline Wheels: Luggage with two back wheels is also called inline wheel luggage. These wheels roll in one direction and utilize the same technology as inline skates (or roller blades). The weight of the bag sits entirely toward the back of the suitcase.
- Spinner Wheels: Luggage that has four wheels is often called spinner wheel luggage. With spinner wheels, the weight of the luggage rests on the bottom of the bag as opposed to the back, and you need less effort to move it. Spinner wheels are generally easier to control; you push the bag alongside you as you walk.
We prefer spinner wheels, as we think they’re easier to maneuver (unless you’re going downhill), but others believe two wheels will suffice. Once again, this is subjective, and there is no right or wrong answer.
If you haven’t tried both wheel options, go into your nearest retailer and check them out. Take them for a quick spin around the store and see what type of wheels are most comfortable for you.
Checked Luggage Buying Guide
Now that you know a bit more about the different types of checked luggage you can buy, get more granular.
See more things that differentiate one kind of luggage from another.
Type of Travel
Are you an adventure traveler who loves to ski?
If so we hope you invest in travel insurance (did you know travel insurance will cover your gear rentals if the airline loses your skis, bag, or more?). But we also hope you invest in luggage that can withstand whatever weather you may encounter.
If you tend to visit cities with snowy, slushy, wintery conditions, hard luggage might be the best option for you.
If, however, you’re the type that likes to visit desert cities and stay as far away as possible from Seattle and other cities with inclement weather, a soft shell might be sufficient.
Size and Capacity
When it comes to luggage, size matters, but bigger isn’t always better.
The most common size for checked luggage is 27″ x 21″ x 14,”, but bags can get larger.
According to USA Today, the size allowed for checked bags in coach are the same for all airlines. Each suitcase can measure up to 62 linear inches and weigh up to 50 pounds. To calculate linear inches, add up the width, height, and length of your suitcase.
The bigger the suitcase, the more you can pack. However, a bigger suitcase will weigh more. When people stuff extra-large suitcases to the brim, the bags can easily weigh more than 50lbs.
So, what size checked luggage do you need?
It depends on your travel needs. If you tend to take one to two-week trips, the standard 27″ x 21″ x 14 should suffice. However, if you need a lot of gear or attire or stay longer, you may want to invest in a larger bag.
Just make sure not to overpack, or you may face excess baggage fees!
Speaking of weight, different types of luggage weigh different amounts based on their material.
We recently looked at an aluminum suitcase that weighed eight pounds and a similar polycarbonate suitcase that weighed nine pounds. While these suitcases were high-quality, nice looking, and from reputable brands, we prefer lightweight bags because it means you can pack more!
Durability and Materials
Suitcases need to be tough.
Baggage handlers aren’t always careful with how they treat the luggage, and the luggage turnstile often damages suitcases too. It’s normal for luggage to become scuffed and marked after a trip or two, but what’s not normal is for it to tear or break.
Read reviews on the durability before you buy a suitcase. For example, if you’re looking at softside bags, see if people comment on the material tearing or ripping. Stains are okay and often unavoidable, but rips and tears are not.
Hardside luggage needs to withstand a few bumps and bruises without cracking. Again, marks are typical and will happen after a few flights. However, you don’t want the luggage to crack or chip in the corners.
If you like to stay organized when you travel, we highly recommend packing cubes. These let you put your undergarments in one cube, your tops in a second, and your pants and skirts in a third.
Packing cubes keep you organized, much like suitcase pockets. Some suitcases come with one main interior pocket for your socks and underwear, while others come with more.
Softside luggage tends to have exterior pockets while hardside luggage doesn’t.
Zippers are an integral part of a piece of luggage. If the zipper breaks, the luggage is out of commission until the zipper works again.
The most important aspect of a luggage zipper is that it be high quality —especially if you’re the type that likes to stuff your luggage to the brim.
There are two common types of luggage zipper: coil zippers and chain zipper.
- Coil zippers are the most common type of luggage zipper. They have two coils stitched atop zipper tape, which is often polyester or nylon. They are flexible and easy to correct if they get off track.
- Chain zippers are the second type of luggage zippers. They are more expensive than coil zippers but are also more durable. They usually metal or molded plastic. Chain zippers have interlocking teeth that are fused directly into zipper tape. In addition to being more durable, they are also more secure.
You can’t always wheel your luggage. If you’re traveling across grass or need to get your bag up (or down) a few flights of stairs, you’ll need to rely on luggage handles.
Most suitcases these days have handles, but not all of them can withstand the duress of travel. Look at the hardware on the handles to make sure it’s up to the task of supporting the full weight of your luggage for the times you need to carry it.
Is security a priority when you travel?
If you tend to travel with expensive clothing and accessories (or if you check your electronics, which we highly recommend against), you’ll want to ensure your goods are secure. This is where luggage locks come in.
Some luggage comes with built-in locks, while others have removable locks you can place on your suitcase’s zipper when need be.
Make sure the lock you choose is TSA-approved because the TSA checks every bag coming in or out of the U.S. TSA has the right to inspect the suitcase if they so desire. If TSA is unable to open the lock, they will (and have permission to) break the lock.
We highly recommend you use a business backpack as a carry-on to keep your laptop and electronics as secure as possible. If that’s not an option, make sure you can padlock your checked luggage.
We love warranties. Warranties mean a company stands behind its products, which means the company believes in the quality of materials and craftsmanship of the products.
Some companies, like REI, used to offer a 100% lifetime satisfaction guaranteed warranty on their products (REI amended its lifetime satisfaction policy to 1-year in 2017 due to an increase in fraud).
This warranty means that if you any point become dissatisfied with your purchase, you can return it or exchange it, no questions asked. If a product breaks, you can exchange it. If you purchased a red bag and decide you’d prefer blue, you can exchange it.
While most luggage companies don’t provide lifetime warranties, they do offer partial warranties against manufacturer defects. Most do not protect against normal wear and tear, or damage inflicted by the airlines. In these cases, you are advised to file a complaint with the airline.
Warranties from major luggage companies include:
- Limited 10-Year Global Warranty: This warranty covers manufacturing defects, not damage caused by misuse, neglect, accidents, and the link. You must get warranty-covered repairs at an official Samsonite service center.
- Limited 3-Year Global Warranty: Again, this warranty only covers manufacturing defects, and you must perform warranty repairs at their service center.
- First Year of Ownership: With a few exceptions, Tumi will cover all repair expenses and shipping costs. This includes wear and tear and transit damage.
- Years Two through Five: Travel bags, business cases, backpacks, handbags, crossbody bags are covered for manufacturing defects and wear and tear. Wallets, accessories and outwear get coverage through the second year. Transit damage is not included.
We hope this article taught you more what to look for when researching the best checked luggage. Luggage, like most purchases, is subjective, so what one person prefers may not be the best option for you. We recommend looking at a few different pieces and rolling them through the stores before making your final decision.
If you’re also in the market for a new carry-on suitcase, check out our reviews on best carry-on luggage.