Searching for the best checked luggage for travelers in 2018? Check out our pros & cons and aspects of importance when buying the best suitcase.
Buying a new luggage used to be such an easy thing when I started my travels (Or so I thought!). Little did I know at the time that my 6-month-old suitcase was about to shed a zipper and put all of my belongings on display for the amusement of the passengers at Kingsford Smith.
The timing said luggage chose was impeccable as I was the next one to go forward at the check-in counter. I was fortunate enough to have a friend help me tape the zipper partially in place. (you’re probably thinking “what are the odds of someone traveling with tape?!” Well, so did I!)
Anyway, whilst I was lucky many are not. Which is why it’s quite important you pick the right checked luggage that doesn’t pull a fast one on you like mine did.
Our 10 Best Checked Luggage picks
We’ve researched, tested and compiled a list of the top checked bags for international & domestic travelers. Some of them have matching carry ons that complete the set too. So without further ado let’s delve into our picks!
1. Travelpro - Maxlite 4, 25 Inch Spinner Suitcase
- The easy access pouch can’t be locked
The travelpro Maxlite 4 is our choice for the best travel luggage today. Some of the traits it has are right up our alley in terms of its utility, weight and much more.
Size: 25” x 18” x 11”
Weight: 7.5 pounds~
Firstly, the size makes it a great option for most trips. One can easily pack for 2-5 days’ worth of items into the Maxlite 4. The volume ensures than even when expanded you don’t exceed the airline limits. What we were really impressed about was its weight, this model would give most 22 inchers a run for their money in terms of how light it is. The build quality is not far away either with this version bringing better zippers and much better durability as reported by other users too.
The sides are pretty standard with a few pockets to store your travel documents and other items. The manoeuvrability is quite good and the wheels are durable unlike other suitcases in the market which are only held together by a small screw. There is an easy access pouch in the front which is handy but one cannot lock this which can be a turn off for some folks. If you are looking for the perfect checked baggage for your next trip then we certainly feel that the travelpro comes the closest to fulfilling your needs.
2. Delsey Luggage - Helium Aero 29"
- Prone to scratches & scrapes
- Possible to go overweight easily
The Delsey Helium Aero expandable spinner is our pick for the best hardside checked luggage and it closely beats out the Samsonite Winfield 2 in our opinion. Let’s delve into why.
100% Polycarbonate make with Nylon lining
Size: 29” x 19.5 x 12.5 inches
Weight: 12 pounds
3 dial combination lock
Available in 6 colours
It’s not often a hardside luggage is expandable and the Delsey is one of the few that have this trait. It also comes with numerous features like locks, a zippered divider etc. It can be expanded by a further 2 inches. The build quality is excellent with the Delsey looking quite stunning aesthetically as well as being a durable option too.
The things we didn’t like are pretty common to most hardside options and their likeliness to accumulate scratches on the surface. The build quality of the wheels are very good and can handle some rough conditions as well. Size wise you should have no issues passing airline requirements despite the suitcase itself not being the lightest option around. This model also comes with a 10 year limited warranty which is a plus.
3. Eagle Creek - Load Warrior 26"
- Not many pockets on the exterior
Love backpacking for a long time? The Eagle Creek Load Warrior is a wheeled duffel option that gives you sufficient packing space and caters to your gear too. Add a lifetime warranty to the mix and you have yourself a great luggage to accompany you on your adventures.
Size: 26.5" x 15.5" x 11"
Weight: 5 lbs 6 oz
Capacity: 63 - 67 Litres
If you like spending 2-3 weeks exploring the outback or Europe like going on a safari in Africa this would be a great choice. First question most users have is does it tip over when its fully packed and it sure doesn't. The 450D Helix polyester exterior makes for a really tough exterior which handles rough environments easily. The large rugged wheels were a huge positive for us as well.
In terms of price its mid ranged and in our eyes outperforms many in the same category. The handles are also extremely well built and don't rip. There is a cover that protects the main handle as well. Packing space wise we found it to be ideal for 2 week trips or longer when expanded. Some users did mention that they would like to see pockets externally and even a bit more space. The 32" option is something we'd recommend taking a look at as well!
4. Travel Pro - Magna 2 25" Spinner Suiter
- Users reported having to endure a tedious process to receive their TSA locks
- Sides marginally lack the same level of reinforcement previous Travelpro's had.
If you are in need of a luggage that withstands the abuse of frequent business & leisure traveler and still last you many many years then we highly recommend the Magna 2. You get a superbly well constructed suitcase for a great price & it comes with a lifetime warranty that cover airline damage too!
Size: 27.5" x 18" x 11.25" (External dimensions)
Weight: 9 pounds
Available in 5 colours (We recommend the Navy!)
An ideal choice for business travelers that love to travel frequently and even have variable trip durations. The dimensions of the bag are well within allowable limits of the airlines and you can still pack A LOT inside this suitcase. A week's worth of clothes can easily fit into the Magna 2 which has many interior and exterior pockets for different items. Quick access pockets were really helpful for us. Its made from ballistic Nylon which is very durable and is water resistant too.
The suiter is quite good and we never had any issues with crumpled clothing during our travel/ testing. This luggage is a cool bargain for those who want something for the long term. The handle can be extended to different lengths which we really liked as it aids different people who vary in height. Its quite light although not as light as the Maxlite 4 which is our top pick. The patented magnetic wheels are a delight as you can twist & turn with supreme ease. They do however don't do too well on bad surfaces.
The wear on this is barely visible as reported by many users but there are some concerns rather than cons for us. In terms of how well reinforced the top & the sides are we found it to be not as quite as sturdy compared to the older travelpros. The zips are well made but can have issues in the long run as its probably the most used part of your luggage over time. Another issue many users reported having is to do with the TSA locks that usually come with this suitcase. Now they have to endure the process of emailing & waiting for several weeks to receive their locks.
5. Samsonite - Winfield2 Fashion 28"
- Aesthetics will not remain the same after a few trips
- Other reviewers noted the handle to be flimsy
Samsonite is almost synonymous with great suitcases and this hardside suitcase is no exception. The Winfield2 in our opinion is a close second only to the Delsey (as far as hard side cases are concerned) and is most certainly one of the better suitcases out there.
Size: 19.8” x 12.5” x 28”
Weight: 11 lbs~
Available in 10 colours
What separates the Winfield2 from most is its superior build quality. The fabulous aesthetics might not stay the same as is the case with most hard sided luggage but the lining, the locks and wheels are of extremely high quality. The quality of the zippers and their design is quite good which means it doesn’t tear off too easily.
A downside of sorts with the Winfield 2 is that the handle can be flimsy which is not great especially considering that hard shells can get very heavy when full. This suitcase isn’t expandable unlike the Delsey we touched on earlier, it is spacious nonetheless. A positive is that it’s a lighter than most other hardsided suitcases as well. Overall, the Samsonite Winfield2 is also one of the most fashionable & functional luggage in the market today.
6. Briggs & Riley - Baseline Upright 28"
- Two-wheel system (whilst it doesn’t tip over, it can be hard to push the suitcase sideways)
The Briggs & Riley Baseline is another suitcase ideal for frequent flyers & business travelers who are looking for a 1 & done kind of purchase or an upgrade. The Baseline whilst on the expensive side has a host of premium features backed by a lifetime warranty that covers airline damage too.
Size: 20 x 10.5 x 28 inches
Weight: 10.9 lbs
Whilst the CX compression-expansion system gets all the attention with the Baseline series, the construction quality is what really makes this luggage one of the best if not the best in the market. The 1600D ballistic nylon exterior with a fiberglass lightweight frame results in an impressively durable product. The Baseline can last you many years as it’s built to resist wear & abrasion and also maintain structural integrity.
The CX compression-expansion system is very unique as it allows you to expand your luggage by 26% pack more stuff in and then compress it back to its original size. The interiors are even more impressive with a lot of packing space and a garment back that can hold 1-2 suits easily. One can easily pack many weeks’ worth of clothing with ease. This is facilitated by the handle being on the outside rather than the inside of the case.
The handle is made from aircraft grade aluminum and you can really feel the difference when you move around with this luggage. It can also be adjusted to 4 different heights making it comfortable for a traveler of virtually any height. Despite it being a 2 wheeled model it doesn’t tip over at all. It does roll well but it can be hard to move sideways around tight corners at times. So why isn’t everyone owning the Baseline? It’s a bit on the pricier side for one but it is built to last you a decade & much more.
7. Werks Traveler 5.0, 27"
- Quite easy to go overweight when expanded & packed fully
Victorinox is a brand known for producing spacious & durable suitcases over the years and the Werks 5.0 sure fits the bill. With plenty of pockets & a well designed removable suiter this luggage will serve you well.
Size: 27 x 20 x 12.5 inches
Weight: 10.1 lbs
Available in 3 colors
Expands 2" inches
Traveling as a family? Like to minimize the amount of luggage you take? The werks 5.0 is one way to do it. One can easily pack a weeks worth of clothing and the luggage comes with a removable suiter too. Its wide body design at first glance is similar to the Briggs & Riley baseline series but is a tad more economical than the B&R. The handle does lock in at different heights similar to the Magna 2 as well.
The suitcase does expand by a whole 2inches, which is way more than most suitcases in the market. This also makes the Victorinox a great choice for international travel. The feature we liked the most was the front strap which you can pull out & attach your backpack or briefcase or even your travel pillow to. This really lightens the load for most travelers. Couple that with the 4 wheels which roll effortlessly and you have got a truly light transit experience.
This is quite a pricey suitcase though when you consider that the warranty only covers airlines damage & the likes for the first 5 years following which it becomes a limited warranty. While its sheer size can be a bonus for some, we found that it's pretty easy to go over the airline weight limit after expansion. (when packed fully)
Despite the complicated warranty, the ballistic Nylon build is extremely good and should be perfect for frequent & extended international travel.
8. Briggs & Riley - BRX Explore 29"
- A bit expensive
- Flimsy feel to certain parts of the luggage
The BRX Explore is the 2nd offering by Briggs & Riley on our list and offers a bit more packing space and a much lower price than the Baseline series.
Size: 19.5” x 11.5” x 29”
Weight: 11 pounds
Nylon & polyester material
The biggest positive about the BRX is that it has a lifetime warranty and it’s not often, warranties cover airline damage but this one sure does. When you factor in the pricing aspects for a frequent flyer this could turn out to be quite a bargain in the long run. It is quite feature packed on the inside with high-quality interiors and compartments for papers, toiletries, and the likes. Not many suitcases out there are as roomy as the Briggs & Riley BRX with a whopping 100L (approximate) capacity which is facilitated by the handle being on the outside of the bag.
The expansion system on this is much more straightforward and does not employ the CX system found on other B&Rs. Another difference with the Baseline is that whilst it is also abrasion resistant, it does not have the same fiberglass structure that helps maintain its shape. Despite the frame differences it certainly is built to last with the quality of the zippers & handles as impressive as those on the Baseline series.
Whilst for a check-in baggage it is feature packed, it does come at a price. Another con is that it has a rather flimsy feel to it. B&R’s need to make the luggage as light as possible probably resulted in some parts like the wheels & the handle being a bit flimsy. Aesthetically, not a lot of suitcases even come close to the BRX shown here. In short, this is a fabulous suitcase for those who like to travel long term and would like a warranty that covers airline damage as well.
9. Samsonite - Aspire Xlite Spinner 25"
- The outer material can get dirty at times
- Not the lightest 25 incher out there
The Samsonite Aspire Xlite 25 is another luggage that has a lot of the right features coupled with great build quality.
Size: 24.5 x 16.3 x 9 inches (body)
Weight: 9.5 pounds
Available in 8 colours
The interiors are quite thoughtfully designed with small pockets for stashing your tickets and papers. The interior is similar to the American tourister we saw earlier in some ways. This 25 incher is not one of the lightest ones out there but its expansion capability makes it a great option for those weekly or biweekly trips that often come about during vacation time.
The wheels do roll upright meaning you don’t experience too much pressure on your shoulder or arms. The wheels are a bit small however so one has to be careful when the luggage is fully packed. Running it roughly over pavements can damage it quickly. The outer material is of course made of Polyester just like almost every other soft sided option out there but the design on the Aspire makes it slightly prone to dust. Nonetheless, not a major issue by any stretch of the imagination.
10. American Tourister - Ilite Max 25"
- The quality of the zippers could be better
We move on from a hardside luggage that is ideal for international travel to the similar soft sided option, the Ilite spinner 25. This luggage by American Tourister's key attribute is its durability.
Size: 25" x 18" x 10"
Weight: 9.2 pounds
This American tourister has many positive traits which we liked very much starting with its sturdy feel. The interiors are also lined with Nylon and have multiple compartments for storage. The different mesh and covered sections allow you to compartmentalize different items easily. The lower section can negate the need for a separate toiletry bag for some folks.
Unlike its 29" predecessor on our list, this suitcase definitely rolls better. It's marginally on the heavier side for its class but this wasn't a major concern. Overall, one of the finest and lightest suitcases out there for its size. There are handles integrated every side to make sure you can lift this luggage with ease.
The Ilite spinner is made from 600D polyester/nylon and its durability is something many users seemed to like. It's also relatively inexpensive when compared to other great ones around. The only downside worth noting for us was related to the zippers. They can be rather flimsy and break from time to time on the exterior pockets.
Hard side vs Soft side luggage
The two main types are hard sided and soft sided luggage. Their key features or differences are as follows:
Soft side luggage is usually made of durable synthetic fabric like Nylon & Polyester. Soft-sided luggage is more durable in the long run. They are not very rigid and the flex room offered is great if you want to open your luggage in tight spaces.
Most of them are expandable and come with numerous pockets along the front where you can store items you need quick access to. These are also lighter than their hard sided counterparts. Although some tend to gather dust they can be cleaned and the wear is much lesser too. They cannot protect your belongings if the luggage is dropped in a violent fashion.
These also tend to come in a range of colors not just patterns and solid colors. All these traits for both types apply to carry on luggage as well.
What suitcase do you recommend for business travelers?
If you travel a lot on business, features like having a suiter can be pretty important. Your luggage might also be seeing a lot of mileage in terms being thrown onto baggage claim belts every week or every couple of days. Which is why having a lifetime warranty that covers airline damage would make your travels so much smoother. With that in mind, we would say opting for the Travelpro Magna 2, the Briggs & Riley Baseline or even the Brx explore, if you travel abroad a lot, is the way to go.
Hard side luggage is made of ABS, polycarbonate or Aluminium. ABS options are lighter and polycarbonate options last longer. This type of luggage or suitcase is ideal in situations where you are transporting fragile or easily breakable items as they have good shock absorption capabilities.
Most of these also come in with a TSA approved lock. These suitcases are also waterproof, which is a very handy feature to have. They come in solid color options which make them very easy to spot and you might not need a luggage tag at all.
Hard sides ensure you can only pack a fixed amount which stops you from going overweight. The downsides are that they are very rarely expandable and tend to accumulate scratches and minor damage.
Aluminum luggage like the ones produced by Rimowa is still the best in terms of durability. Aesthetically, the color options can be quite limited & the dents & scratches are quite clearly visible but they are definitely one to check out if you like a classic. However, these are extremely expensive. The larger Rimowa suitcases come with an electronic tag to help you check in your luggage from your smartphone. Aluminum options at first glance might make you think “that’s gotta be heavy” but in reality, they are quite light.
What suitcase do you recommend if my usage is really versatile? As in, If I were to need my luggage to accompany me on a road trip to the outback or even to a mountainous area in addition to city travel…
In this case, opt for a rolling duffel bag those are often times water resistant and can handle outdoor gear much better than regular suitcases. These are very easy to maneuver so if your trips happen to consist of a car journey, cruise, airplane & train rides these tend to do well. Brands like Timberland or Eagle Creek are pretty good to explore.
Factors to consider when buying the best travel luggage for check-in purposes
Picking a suitable suitcase is not very easy, especially when dealing with checked baggage. There is a range of sizes that suit different travel duration and for most travelers, this tends to vary. When we picked our list, we used a number of criteria to formula a very accurate review. These criteria are ingrained into the list of things one should look for when buying the best travel luggage out there.
Size & Weight: The size to weight ratio is something we considered very closely amongst the luggage brands we picked out. You should do the same too. A 25-inch luggage weighing 13 pounds is not good. Typically, 25inch or 26-inch suitcase will serve you well on shorter trips that last 2-5 days.
If you are looking for a luggage ideally suited for international travel then opt for a 28 or 29-inch luggage. This is a safe bet as it allows you to pack a lot and almost all of these pass airline size requirements. If you are thinking of studying abroad or are planning to migrate for a long time then 29″-32″ which is the extra large checked luggage size would be a good option. It’s important to note that (whilst this is dependent on what you pack) its very easy to go overweight when you pick this size.
If you are looking for something super light then we would recommend you opt for the IT luggage. A good way for you to keep the weight in check is to buy a luggage weight scale.
What is the international size limit on checked baggage?
62 inches linear, is usually the maximum allowed luggage size.
What is the weight limit for checked luggage on international flights?
Typically, airlines allow 50 pounds without you having to pay an extra fee.
Zippers & handles: The Zippers are probably the most important aspect of any travel luggage or item. A lot can go wrong when the zipper fails. This is an area which we looked at very closely, as it can leave you feeling embarrassed and even helpless at the airport. Look for chain zippers that are made of metal these are highly durable and can handle the stress much better.
Luggage that has the handle retract inside it reduces packing room but is a lot more durable than options that have the handle outside. We looked for whether handles were sturdy and were able to retract smoothly. Handle height is also something taller folks should consider especially if you have a 25 incher.
Warranty: A lot of brands offer a limited warranty on most suitcases. However, brands like Briggs & Riley, TravelPro (on higher end models) among many others, offer a lifetime warranty. This covers damage caused by the airline as well and is a very handy trait to have on an item that is prone to rough use. There are many others that offer limited warranties, its important that you check what exactly those warranties cover before you buy.
Wheels: Wheels are another essential item that can cause a lot of distress when not well built. We looked for models that have wheels that are big enough relative to the size of the overall luggage. Another aspect is that they need to be fastened well to the base of the luggage and not just be connected by one screw. They also need to roll & turn 360 degrees for your comfort and be able to handle rough terrain found on most pavements around the world.
Why should I opt for a spinner or 4 wheeled luggage?
4 wheeled luggage won’t tip over for starters. 4 wheeled options are quite stable and follow you effortlessly on smooth surfaces. Another benefit is that they can be navigated sideways easily & rotate 360 degrees this will help you navigate narrow spaces. Additionally, they don’t put a lot of strain on your joints when you lug it around, even when packed completely. This makes it a lucrative option for people across age groups.
So what am I giving up?
A very small amount of packing space. Also not all 2 wheeled options tip over as well so they do have their own upsides too.
TSA locks: Most hard sided options as stated earlier come with these and it can make life very simple at the airport. When agents need to inspect your baggage they can simply unlock it using a universal key rather causing any tears or breakage.
Smart Features & Compartments: We prefer suitcases that have multiple compartments internally. This way you can separate your items and can even make do without packing cubes. Some luggage models have waterproof sections too which we regard very highly.
Nowadays, there are many suitcases entering the market that come with built-in USB, charging smart locks which can be operated from your phone etc. Whilst these are great to have the features we listed above are always more important as they represent the core functionality of what’s on offer. Like for instance, if you have a typical portable charger you can use it anywhere not just for when you are by your luggage.
Why are there so few smart luggage options on the top lists?
Durability. Traditional options still have the edge in terms of usage life and when you throw the price of a smart luggage into the mix their attractiveness rather diminishes.
Additionally, airline rules are still changing to accommodate or rule out certain types of smart luggage. Just a few months earlier(than the time of writing), US airlines decided to ban smart luggage that didn’t have removable batteries.