Part of the fun in travel comes from preparing for your big trip – narrowing down what you want to see, booking flights, and, of course, packing your suitcase! Just the sight of your case is enough to remind you of your exciting plans, and packing for vacations is something a lot of us take great care in.
Of course, a well-packed bag starts with having a good travel case, to begin with. It needs to have enough space (but not so much that you go crazy packing things you don’t need), as well as be easy to transport and very durable.
These days, however, there are so many different types and brands of suitcases that it can be overwhelming to just think about choosing one. Many of us instead stick with our broken-down suitcases or hand me downs from the family, as the thought of choosing from the thousands of options out there is just too much. Well, never fear! We’re here to help you with the ultimate guide to finding the best suitcase or luggage for domestic and international travel.
1. The Size of the Suitcase
The first thing you need to think about before choosing a suitcase is how big do you want or need it to be. You want your suitcase to be able to fit on planes, boats, trains, and cars, so you need to think about what the maximum size is. You want to make sure you get the best lightweight suitcase for travel when possible.
Most airlines have restrictions on the size for checked baggage – in weight, it’s usually between 44-66 pounds (20 – 30 kilograms), and some airlines also restrict the size. For example, Virgin Atlantic will not allow bags longer than 60 inches (158 centimeters). While most airlines are pretty flexible with the size of checked luggage, it’s better to be safe than sorry and the best suitcases for international or domestic travel must easily fit within these restrictions!
On the other hand, if you can pack light and like to travel hand luggage only, your restrictions are likely to be much smaller. Most carry-on baggage is restricted to about 15 pounds (7 kilograms), and the common dimensions are 22″ x 14″ x 9″(56x35x23 centimeters) If you’re looking for a carry-on bag, be sure it fits within this, as airlines are becoming increasingly strict on it!
The main thing that will determine the size of your luggage is what you are planning to do, and how you like to pack. For example, a ski trip to Canada for three weeks is likely to require a lot more luggage than a quick summer break to Thailand. Think carefully about where you’re planning to travel, and then decide on the size. We recommend going as small as possible, to keep it as easily transportable as you can. Your best suitcase or luggage for a long international travel might not be the right suitcase or luggage for a short business travel.
2. The Weight of Your Suitcase
One of the most important things to look out for when purchasing a new suitcase is the weight. This is especially important if you are traveling a budget airline where every pound counts and going overweight can be very costly – some older style suitcases can weigh upwards of 17 or 19 pounds (8 or 9 kilograms)! That’s a lot of room for clothes or souvenirs instead taken up by your luggage.
Try to keep your suitcase as light as possible, although make sure that it is still sturdy enough to keep your belongings safe inside, no matter how careless the baggage handler is! As a general rule, try to look for bags that are in the region of 4-6 pounds (2 – 3 kilograms). These make the best travel luggage especially carry on suitcases or luggage. And, traveling light helps you save a ton of money while on a trip.
3. Color and design
The most common colors for suitcases are black or dark navy. Now, there’s nothing wrong with those colors, however a suitcase in black or navy is not very recognizable. This can be frustrating when you’re waiting at the baggage gate expecting your suitcase to arrive – every bag can look the same, especially with jet lag! It’s not much fun to accidentally pick up someone else’s bag, or alternatively to realize you’ve already seen yours go around the carousel multiple times!
In addition, it is nice to choose a suitcase that is in line with your style and that will make you happy when you look at it. There are so many different designs and labels nowadays – don’t be afraid to choose something bold and interesting that reflects your personality!
4. Outer Material
Another important feature of suitcases is the outer material. Generally, suitcases are either made from a soft material such as vinyl or cotton, or a harder plastic or polycarbonate.
The good thing about soft suitcases is they are easier to fit into tight places, such as a well-stocked car! On the other hand, they do not offer as much protection for your belongings in the case of rough handling or even someone trying to cut them open. Therefore, if you are planning to bring fragile items such as electronics on your trip, it may be worth investing in a suitcase with a protective hard outer layer.
The downside of a hard-shell suitcase, however, is that it is nowhere nearly as easy to move around. Not only is it a pain to fit it into tight places, but they are also generally pretty bulky, which makes moving them (for example up a narrow stairwell in Europe) more difficult. They also generally have less “give” when it comes to cramming them full – depending on how you look at it, this could be a good thing that prevents you from overpacking, or a downside, as it means less room for your stuff!
Again, what you choose comes down to what you think your likely to be using your suitcase for, and especially what you’re storing inside it and where you’re planning on taking it. Your best suitcase or luggage for European travel might not be the best luggage or suitcase for other types of trips.
5. Handles or wheels or both?
One of the big differences between suitcase styles is how they are transported. More and more suitcases are today made with wheels so that you don’t need to carry them. Generally, suitcases on wheels are quicker and easier to move, and best of all, avoid any damage or strain to your back.
In particular, suitcases with four wheels (one on each corner of the underside of the bag) are particularly stable and can be tipped onto two wheels if you are in a hurry! This design is durable and better for your back!
Of course, there are some situations where wheels are not practical, such as up long staircases in Latin America or along cobbled streets in western Europe. For this reason, we advise that the best suitcases or luggage for international travel are those that can easily be carried by a handle or on your back as well as pulled on wheels. This way, it’s the best of both worlds! And, if you can keep it lightweight, you might end up with the best lightweight suitcase for your international trip and save money on excess baggage fees.
6. Inner Compartments
Every traveler knows the frustration of opening up your suitcase only to find clothes and belongings all over the place, with dirty and clean items mixed in together and no discernable system. While your suitcase may stay organized if you’re only on the road for a week or two, with longer trips it can become a real hassle!
For this reason, we recommend choosing a suitcase that has well-defined compartments, with different zips for them. This will help you to keep your clothes easily separated and make it easy to find what you are looking for, even if you have gone rifling through your suitcase a few times.
One particularly great inner feature of some suitcases is the ability to pull a strap over your belongings and secure it tightly. Not only does this keep your belongings safe by stopping them from banging around during transport, but it also means that you can reduce the amount of room they take up in the suitcase – meaning more space for souvenirs!
Of course, one of the biggest factors for most travelers who are choosing a suitcase is the price. It can make good sense to spend a little more money to invest in a durable suitcase with a good warranty. A decent suitcase should easily last 10 years or more, depending on how much use it gets!
That said, most people want good value for money so it is certainly not necessary to buy the most expensive suitcase out there! Some designer suitcases can cost thousands of dollars – and while they may look good, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are any more practical or durable.
Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you narrow down what you’re looking for in a suitcase. With these in mind, here are our top 10 picks for the best suitcases on the market at the moment!
Our Top 10:
Samsonite is one of the most well-known and respected brands in the suitcase industry, and they make some of the best suitcases for travel. The Winfield is made from their signature, lightweight polycarbonate and has many helpful features. The bag includes a TSA-approved lock (so your bag will be both safe, and compliant with TSA regulations), and can expand 1.5″ if needed. The suitcase has four wheels on each corner of the underside of the bag, making it durable and easy to navigate. It also comes with a 10-year warranty for peace of mind! Currently, the Samsonite Winfield comes in six different colors, including red and green to help you spot your luggage on the baggage carousel!
Another polycarbonate suitcase with great reviews and features is this offering from popular French brand Delsey. This suitcase is hard-shelled, meaning your belongings are safe inside – there’s even a special padded pocket for a laptop up to 15.6″. Once opened, there is room for your clothes and items on both sides of the bag so there is plenty of space. Plus, the suitcase has a great organization system inside, which makes it easy to keep all of your belongings sorted and easily accessible. The suitcase comes in a variety of colors including a gorgeous bright red, so as to avoid any awkward encounters in the baggage area!
A lesser known brand, City Traveler offers affordable luggage that is made from ultra-durable ABS which is scratch and shock resistant for the ultimate protection for your belongings. Although the material is super tough, it is also very light – this bag checks in at just over 6 pounds (3 kilograms), leaving you with plenty of room for your clothes, electronics, and other items. The City Traveler suitcase has four wheels which each can spin 360 degrees, meaning it is a breeze to quickly move it (great if you’re late for a flight!). Inside, the bag has plenty of space and an X strap to firmly secure your belongings inside. It also features a TSA-approved lock.
With an affordable price tag, this bag is a great option for travelers who want to utilize every gram of their checked baggage allowance! At just 6 pounds (2.75 kilograms), this bag is one of the lightest on the market, making it one of the best suitcases for international travel. It features two zipped pockets in the front for easy access to important documents or other items, as well as plenty of space inside for your clothing. The inside compartment can be safely secured with a strap, making sure that all of your belongings are going to stay put in transit! This soft-shell bag also features four wheels capable of 360-degree movement.
Avoid all confusion in the baggage area with this chic suitcase, which is a bit smaller, so perfect for shorter trips. There are currently three different designs available, including a beautiful pastel marble pattern which will make your bag easily stand out from the crowd. This bag also features a very affordable price tag, four 360 degree spinners, and two separate compartments to keep your belongings organized. Despite its affordable price, it is made from high-quality ABS, which is both durable and lightweight, checking in at just over 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms).
One of the best soft-shelled options out there is this 25″ offering from Travelpro, which is particularly great for the organized traveler. With two designs in purple and navy, it is a smart luggage option that is easy to spot on the baggage carousel. Inside, it has many different pockets, meaning you can keep things perfectly organized and never lose anything in your suitcase again! On the outside, it is made of durable polyester that is water resistant. We love how versatile this bag is with different handles for easy carrying, as well as four wheels (however, they are not 360-degree spinners). Its slightly smaller size, meaning you do not have to worry about any luggage restrictions – although it does expand if needed.
Coming in two different patterns – the loud and bright purple paisley or more subdued graphite – this bag is a great option for travelers. Ricardo Beverley Hills is a well-respected name in the luggage industry, making high-quality products that are still good value. This bag features four 360-degree spinners that are designed to be both stable and totally silent. Inside, the bag has various pockets including a mesh storage compartment. Within the main storage compartment, there’s a thick mesh strap to hold your belongings securely in place without any damage to them. This product comes with a 10-year warranty for peace of mind. As it is a bit smaller than other options on this list, it is one of the best suitcases for domestic travel.
Another lightweight hard-shelled option is the stylish Victorinox Spectra, which weighs in at about 8.8 pounds (4kilograms), leaving plenty of room for all of your belongings! It is also one of the bigger suitcases on our list, perfect for longer trips as it gives you that bit of extra space. This bag also features four 360-degree spinners, and a TSA approved lock which allows inspection by TSA officials but protects it from everyone else! It also has a molded aluminum handle, for extra comfort and ease of movement. Inside, you’ll find plenty of space for your belongings, and an adjustable X strap to keep them all in place!
This durable bag gives plenty of storage space, all in a stylish and recognizable interior. Currently, the bag comes in black, red, or blue, and each features an attractive design. Inside, it is divided up into multiple pockets, including a helpful top pocket where you can store important documents and other items that need to be reached easily and quickly. It also features sturdy wheels and a TSA-compliant lock, as well as handles to make picking it up when wheeling is not an option easy and stress-free. A great bag, especially for backpackers or adventure travelers.
Made by travelers, for travelers, Eagle Creek is one of the most trusted names in the luggage industry. The No Matter What bag is part suitcase, part duffel bag, and one of the largest options they offer at approximately 28″. Eagle Creek bags are made from Bi-Tech fabric, which is soft but offers great durability and protection for your belongings. Additional features include multiple pockets for organization and storage, and TSA compliant locks. The No Matter What Bag has two sturdy, in-line wheels but is also very easy to pick up and carry.