The Best Suitcases To Get You Up In the Air In Style
With travel ramping back up—cab lines are longer, airports are busier, and hotel rooms are booking up—there’s no better time to get back to basics with a good suitcase. To help “unzip” all of your in-transit needs, including tips to corral the contents of your carry-on, we tapped Rana Good, travel writer and founder of online magazine Naïra NYC, and The Catch Me If You Can’s Jessica Nabongo to walk us through the top features to keep in mind when shopping for the ultimate travel companion. Whether you’re gearing up to fly cross-country or drive just a few hours upstate, get back into the swing of things with one of the nine best suitcases (spoiler alert: all of our picks have four wheels) below. We’re confident they’ll make your next trip go as smoothly as your new bag rolls.
- Best Overall: Away The Bigger Carry-On Suitcase
- Best Value: Samsonite 24 Inch Winfield 2 Fashion Spinner
- Best Lightweight: Tumi International Expandable Carry-On
- Best Trunk-Style: Streamline Luggage The Entrepreneur Stowaway Packing Case
- Best Storage: Bric’s Bellagio Pocket Spinner Trunk
- Best Design: Arlo Skye X Dusen Dusen Zipper Carry-On
- Best Check-In: Beis The Large Check-In Roller
- Best Sustainable: Tour Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus
- Best Splurge: Rimowa Classic Cabin Suitcase
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Size and Weight: According to Good, an ideal carry-on measures 22 inches long, 14 inches wide, and nine inches tall. Depending on your destination, a few sneaky restrictions can mean the difference between sailing through security and waiting at baggage claim. If you’re not flying first class or have any perks, Nabongo suggests playing it safe by keeping your carry-on to 50 pounds. And even when it comes to a check-in, Good refuses to go bigger than a medium-sized bag. “A really large suitcase can be convenient for packing but has the downside that you can easily go over the [50-pound] weight limit,” she warns.
Material: Most of the suitcases on this list are polycarbonate for good reason: It’s incredibly lightweight, more flexible than polypropylene, and stronger than other materials like ABS (a fancy kind of plastic). Aluminum looks great (and is arguably the highest quality), but it’s heavy—and expensive. And there’s a reason why fiberboard is still used today—vintage luggage has survived decades of travel.
Lock: Not only are built-in locks good for keeping your belongings safe in-transit, they’re ideal for those moments when your luggage is left unattended for longer periods of time, such as when you drop them off at the hotel before check-in, notes Good.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Away The Bigger Carry-On Suitcase
Best Value: Samsonite 24 Inch Winfield 2 Fashion Spinner
Best Lightweight: Tumi International Expandable Carry-OnFor domestic commuter flights with particularly pressed overhead storage—or that last-minute weekend getaway where a bathing suit and caftan is the only acceptable wardrobe option—Tumi’s extending luggage is roomier than your average carry-on: The expandable zipper stretches to accommodate up to two additional inches of storage without setting off gate-check alarm bells. There’s also a built-in USB cord for easy charging on the go. Even on the tiniest of planes in the U.S. or overseas, Nabongo has never had an issue getting this particular bag to fit (save for a few speculative glances from unconvinced flight attendants), which is why it’s her go-to when space is tight.
Best Trunk-Style: Steamline Luggage The Entrepreneur Stowaway Packing Case
Best Storage: Bric’s Bellagio Pocket Spinner Trunk
Best Design: Arlo Skye X Dusen Dusen Zipper Carry-On
Best Check-In: Beis The Large Check-In Roller
Best Sustainable: Tour Paravel Aviator Carry-On PlusTalk about responsible travel. You can offset your worries about how flying impacts your personal carbon footprint with the Aviator, Tour Paravel’s carbon-neutral case that’s made almost entirely from recycled materials (the lining itself repurposes about 21 plastic bottles). Roomy enough to store nearly seven days–worth of clothing and a few pairs of shoes, it’s made for both the eco-conscious traveler and the last-minute packer, who would likely also benefit from Marie Kondo’s most recent collaboration with the brand: the KonMari x Paravel Storage Cubes.
Best Splurge: Rimowa Classic Cabin Suitcasechange the color of its tag, handles, and wheels from 10 different options.
What are your top packing tips for a carry-on suitcase?
The short answer: organizers. But some packing cubes are better than others: Opt for one that compresses contents and clearly divides clean clothes from dirty laundry, like Nabongo’s all-time favorite, the Flight 001 Spacepak.
What is the most durable suitcase material?
Nothing beats aluminum and polycarbonate in Good’s opinion—they’re basically impenetrable. “I was told that once I go hardshell, I would never look back, and it’s true,” she says. “A few years ago I had a softshell fabric suitcase that got caught in a rainstorm while [the handlers were loading it] into the airplane, and all of my clothes were wet.”
How long should a quality suitcase last?
For the average person—someone who is taking roughly 10 flights a year at most—Nabongo recommends investing in a suitcase that will last at least a decade. “I think it’s important to go with a company that is going to give you a guarantee,” she adds, pointing to Tumi and Samsonite as prime examples.
How We Vetted These Products
Every product in a Domino guide meets these criteria:
- They blend form and function. We believe the best-designed products reflect your personal style and are a joy to use.
- They’re expert approved. In addition to our team of editors, we tap a range of designers, makers, renovators, and all-around knowledgeable people to share their intel.
- They’re endorsed by people who actually own them. We pay close attention to real reviews from both our creative community and third-party websites to know that they pass the test IRL.
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