I love almost everything about traveling — that includes hanging out in the airport. Yep, you read that correctly. Long lines, hectic check-ins, overstuffed airplanes — they don't really bother me because I'm usually giddy about getting away. But I do dislike packing.
Mostly that's because I can't decide what to bring. But sometimes it's because of my suitcase. I admit that I've been embarrassed once or twice at the baggage carousel by stepping up and pulling off that suitcase. I've also cursed out a suitcase several times — once when I was zig-zagging through crowds at Heathrow desperately trying to catch my flight home and one wheel snapped right off.
There are, of course, many other things that can go awry with your luggage. Sometimes the airline misplaces it, or the zipper breaks as you are headed out the door, or you arrive home to find that your carefully-wrapped souvenirs have been smashed to smithereens. And who among us hasn't, at some point, wondered if your non-locking suitcase was rifled through — did I leave that new scarf in the hotel room or did someone take it?
Buying the right piece of luggage can help eliminate or at least lessen the chance that you will encounter many of these problems. There are thousands of different brands and styles of luggage to choose from. No one suitcase is right for everybody. It depends on many factors including how frequently you travel, what you are packing, and your budget.
We've done all the research to find the best pieces of checked luggage you can buy for long-haul trips where even the best carry-on bag just doesn't cut it.
Updated on 05/07/2019 by Les Shu: Updated links, formatting, and prices. Added Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 110L/34" as an updated pick for the best duffel with wheels.
Travelpro invented rolling luggage when founder and pilot Bob Plath got tired of carrying his bags through busy airports. The company has been well-known for innovation ever since. The Travelpro Maxlite 4 Expandable Rollaboard 26-inch Luggage may not be the snazziest piece of luggage on the baggage carousel, but this durable, easy-to-use polyester piece is lightweight at 5.6 pounds and very affordable with its sale price of around $100.
The Maxlite 4 comes in black or blue, and if you buy the 29-inch option, you get a few more colors, including red and purple (a smaller 22-inch version is also available). The two high performance, ball-bearing in-line wheels, with protective crash guards last a long time and help you navigate many surfaces. The expandable handle has two stops: 38-inches and an extra-tall 42.5-inches, so you can roll it along at any height. Unzipping hidden compartments expands the storage space to suit your needs.
The Maxlite 4 has a limited lifetime warranty, so you should be covered if anything happens to your bag. User reviews on Amazon are mostly positive, with many verified purchasers touting the lightweight and simple, yet sturdy suitcase.
"This is a great suitcase," wrote one reviewer in May 2016. "I am pretty sure this suitcase is at least 5-7lbs lighter than our broken one and when traveling with two kids, those 5-7lbs can make a huge difference." Adds another consumer in March 2017: "What a great suitcase —travel pro quality for a low cost. I travel internationally at least 6 times per year. This suitcase stands up to the abuse, with excellent zippers, wheels, and hardware. Rolls real smoothly too!"
Around the web, professional reviewers, including those from Outdoor Gear Lab, Apartment Therapy, and Luggage on Tour give the Travelpro Maxlite 4 high marks.
The Delsey Helium Aero 25-inch Luggage is a highly rated suitcase, made by the respected French company Delsey. It is constructed out of 100 percent lightweight polycarbonate with a glossy finish. To be clear: most luggage in this price range is made of a flimsier ABS-polycarbonate blend.
Available in four colors, including black, brushed charcoal, emerald green, purple, and titanium; this luggage relies on four twin spinner wheels that roll in all directions and put no weight on your hands. The sturdy, ergonomic comfort grip handle is composed of industrial-grade aluminum and snaps up and down with the push of a button.
The simple interior has two basic compartments: one with straps to secure your clothes, and another with a mesh bag ideal for laundry. A zipper-based expansion system can provide an extra two inches of packing space. Finally, the three-dial combination lock, approved by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), keeps your belongings safe.
User Reviews on Amazon are highly positive, with verified users singing the praises of this durable, lightweight luggage. "We love them. Sturdy. Well made - exterior and interior. Plenty of room. No complaints. Recommend," wrote one reviewer in June 2017.
Around the web, professional reviewers, including those from Wirecutter, Best Reviews, and Luggage On Tour recommend this durable piece as an exceptionally good buy.
The Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Expandable Spinner Luggage is one of the best checked bags you can have with you on your many trips around the globe. The shell on this sturdy bag has a unique composition of 95 percent nylon, three percent aluminum, and two percent rubber. But it is the ballistic nylon that keeps it moisture and dirt-free.
Four durable double swivel wheels make it easy to navigate the bag anywhere, no matter how much you have packed into it, and you can pack a lot. The huge interior is perfect for long trips. The company's patented CX expansion-compression technology increases the space inside the luggage up to 26 percent by simply pulling on a lever. One push will compress the suitcase back down to its original size.
Briggs & Riley, a Long Island, New York-based company founded in 1993, is well-known for its "Simple as That" Lifetime Guarantee. Not only will the company repair your bag free of charge if it is ever broken or damaged, but it will do so even if the problem was caused by an airline. You don't have to show proof of purchase or even that you are the bag's original owner.
User reviews on Amazon are mostly positive with verified purchasers raving about the lifetime guarantee and the ease of use. "These spinner bags roll around so easily you'd think NASA made the wheels. It honestly saves a tremendous amount of physical stress on one's legs, back and arms compared to the older 2-wheel roller bags," wrote one reviewer in August 2016. "It combines innovative design with sturdiness and the guarantee of lifetime repair," wrote another reviewer in June 2016.
Around the web professional reviewers, including those from Wirecutter and Outdoor Gear Lab, give the bag high marks. In fact, Wirecutter calls the Baseline Large Expandable Spinner, "The most satisfying packing experience money can buy."
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 32 was our previous pick, but it's being phased out. Fortunately, we didn't have to look far for a replacement, since Eagle Creek has the 34-inch version of the Gear Warrior, which offers the same features but with a slightly larger capacity.
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 110L/34" is an oversized, wheeled duffel bag that uses high-strength, ripstop nylon material that is both water and abrasion resistant, as well as 1000D Cordura and 210D nylon for added robustness. It easily withstands rough weather and rough handling.
The treaded wheels mean you can roll the bag over any type of surface. Multiple handles give you plenty of options for carrying this lightweight bag, while lockable zippers make sure your gear stays safe. The telescoping handle is designed for strength and to resist wobbling.
There are multiple compartments for packing, both inside and out. A tethered zip-away strap on the outside to hold gear like helmets.
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 110L/34" is covered by Eagle Creek's legendary "No Matter What Warranty," which promises lifetime repair or replacement due to product failure, regardless of the cause.
Buyer reviews on Eagle Creek are overwhelmingly positive. Across the web, professional reviewers, including The Gear Institute, consider the Gear Warrior series one of the best check-in duffel bags on the market. In fact, The Gear Institute calls the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior "the best bag we tested," adding that "it excels in every way a roller bag should."
Another bag we considered is the TLS Mother Lode 29" Wheeled Duffel from eBags. Having tried other Mother Lode bags, we like the quality and the customer service eBags offers. The two-compartment design lets you sort your gear accordingly, and separate openings allow you to access only what you need. We also like the movable dividers for sorting clothes. The compression-molded bottom keeps the bag rugged, and it can stand upright on its own, but we ultimately stuck with the Eagle Creek for its more durable nylon construction that's weather-resistant. But at $199.99, it's a solid option to consider.
For a budget option, there's the 35-inch AmazonBasics Ripstop Wheeled Duffel from Amazon. We're impressed that it's made with sturdy 1680D ballistic nylon on the sides and bottom, but the top is less-durable polyester. We like the quality of AmazonBasics luggage in relation to the price, but we question the longevity and whether they can stand up to wear and tear (a wheel easily came off on one of our bags during normal use). But if you are looking for something utilitarian and don't plan to put it through heavy-duty use, the $89.99 duffel is worth considering (the guys at Gear Hungry named it one of its favorites). For something tougher, we still recommend the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 110L/34".
If you're the kind of traveler who looks for versatility in a checked bag, look no further than the Timbuk2 Quest Rolling Duffel. It looks like a normal roller bag at first glance, but with its many handles, you can carry it as a duffel bag or wear it as a backpack, too.
The bag's versatility is perfect for those moments when you have to carry your bag upstairs instead of wheeling it around or you feel like it's a pain to navigate through a crowded airport with it rolling along behind you.
Conversely, if the Quest starts getting too heavy to carry as a backpack or duffel, it's super easy to unzip the special pocket that hides the telescoping handle. At first, it may be a bit hard to get the handle to extend all the way. I had some trouble with it initially, but it loosened up after a while. The two wheels are great — they spin like rollerblade wheels and they won't break easily.
Since it has a duffle bag shape, the Quest is very spacious inside. You can fit enough clothes and gear for a long trip and still have space for an extra pair of shoes. The bag is very well made and the material on the outside is super strong. You won't rip this bag easily.
Timbuk2 also has a lifetime warranty on its products, so if something should go awry, you're covered. However, given how sturdy this bag is, I doubt it will.
According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, most people think these two factors are, by far, the most important when buying a suitcase: wheel-ability and durability. With that in mind, here are some of the most important things to consider before purchasing a new piece of luggage:
Sometimes you just don't want to check your luggage, so you need a reliable carry-on bag that you can bring onboard the plane. Of all the carry-on bags we've researched and tested, the Briggs & Riley Baseline Commuter Expandable Upright is the best with its sturdy wheels, smart compression technology, and lifetime warranty. Here are our top picks for the best carry-on luggage bags:
Packing cubes are a great solution for messy packers. Not only do they help you store your things in an orderly manner, but they also help you fit more things, which is always of interest. Most packing cubes are also made of durable materials meant to withstand wear and tear from rough travel and some even compress down to save space.
We've rounded up the top expert-approved packing cubes that will make your life so much easier on your next out of town journey.
Backpacks are perfect for when you don't need a full suitcase, but you want more than a regular daypack or messenger bag. Based on our research and real-world testing, the best overall travel backpack is the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible. Here are our top picks:
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If you usually rely on the flimsy cardboard luggage tag the airline provides, it's time to get a tougher tag that also makes it easier to spot your bag in the endless sea of bags at the airport. The Tile x Away luggage tag is our top pick because it not only looks smart, but it can also tell you where your bag is, thanks to Bluetooth connectivity. Here are our picks:
Trying to fall asleep on a plane is incredibly difficult, but having the right travel pillow can help you get some shut-eye during your epic flight across oceans and continents. Here are our top picks for travel pillows:
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