Whether you're an overpacker or sometimes-backpacker—don't worry, we've got you.
Maxwell Barna, and Thrillist Editorial
Published on 8/18/2022 at 5:39 PM
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If there's one rule you should always follow when planning a trip, it's to choose your travel companions wisely. This applies to any humans you might want to explore the world with, but the sentiment is also keenly applicable to the most important travel buddy of all: your luggage.
Now, there's a time and place for backpacks, duffels, and tote bags, but a good piece of rolling luggage is something everyone should own. It keeps the weight of your belongings comfortably off your back and shoulders, makes it easy to glide around the airport or sidewalk, and is usually neatly stackable inside a car trunk, overhead compartment, or baggage hold.
But not all rolling luggage is built the same. You want the kind that's durable enough to last and feels like good bang for your buck (especially if it's expensive), but you also should be looking for a spinner bag that meets your specific needs. That's where we come in. We've pulled together a list of rolling suitcases for every type of traveler, including hard- and soft-shell luggage, expandable and static designs, and both budget options and splurges. Whether you're an outdoor adventurer or someone who frequently flies overseas, there's no need to worry about hunting down your perfect luggage—because we've already found it for you.
If packing lightly just isn't for you, it's still possible to use a carry-on bag. The trick here is to look for a suitcase that expands, so you can shove in that extra sweater you've decided to add at the last minute, or make room for souvenirs. Enter Travelpro's Platinum Elite carry-on, which unzips to offer 2 inches of additional space. The bag's Duraguard-coated fabric and nylon outer shell have a little more give than a hardsided bag, so it's easier to make extra items fit, and an internal tie-down system helps you compress it all down. The suitcase also has a number of useful extras to help you pack smarter, including a fold-out "suiter" to keep hanging clothes from wrinkling, a removeable TSA-compliant bag for your liquids or toiletries, and a dedicated pocket for a powerbank with a USB cord (you'll have to supply your own battery, though).
If you're not trying to pay more than $100 on a piece of luggage (let alone a few hundred bucks), there's no reason to spend outside fo your comfort level. Amazon Basics is known for its affordability, and the brand's 21-inch spinner bag is no exception on this front. This thing is yours for less than $75, and it's honestly a total steal for the price. It doesn’t use polycarbonate—an industry standard at this point—but it does feature an ABS hard shell, which is similarly super tough and scratch-resistant. It also boasts four spinner wheels, a telescoping handle, and a fully lined interior with a divider and three zipped pockets. The bag comes in a few different sizes, and can also be purchased with a combination lock.
Whether you tend to check your bag by choice or are often forced to check it at the gate, frequent flyers know that there are two types of checked luggage in this world: the kind that's sturdy enough to handle the journey, and the kind that emerges from the baggage claim looking like it's been to hell and back. For luggage that won't bite the dust after a few flights, a durable hardshell roller is the answer—and this Delsey Paris spinner bag is an excellent choice. The bag features a tough polycarbonate outer shell, double spinner wheels, a two-position handle, and two fully-lined packing compartments with multiple pockets. It’s also equipped with a hard-covered front compartment big enough to fit a 15.6-inch laptop and accessories for easy access.
You packed your bags, you remembered to bring everything, you made it to the airport on time. You crushed it. But just when you start to relax, you realize your phone’s running on empty. After all, you've been navigating with Google Maps, searching for restaurant reviews, and posting vacation pics to social—your phone has been working as hard as you have, and baby, it's tired. Away's classic Carry-On is popular for a number of reasons, including the fact that you can buy it with a built-in TSA-approved battery for your phone. The battery can be ejected from the suitcase so you can also use it when you're not near your luggage, has enough juice to charge your phone four times before it needs to be plugged in, and even has two USB ports for multiple devices. Battery aside, the Carry-On is also just a great piece of luggage. It has a durable polycarbonate shell with a compression system inside, plus some extras that don't usually come with a suitcase (like a TSA-approved combination lock, hidden laundry bag, and leather luggage tag).The 360-degree spinner wheels are vital when you're racing through the airport, and a limited lifetime warranty ensures you'll never have to go without this miracle bag.
Travelers who live for off-the-beaten-path moments need luggage that meets the same criteria as any other gear in their adventure arsenal—which is to say it should be very, very rugged. Backpacks are a common choice, but there's no reason to steer clear of a rolling carry-on just because you like the road less traveled. The Filson carry-on has four spinner wheels, so you don't have to carry all your belongings on your back, but it's also incredibly tough, with a shell made from abrasion- and water-resistant twill, plus high-quality bridle leather straps and handles. And while its sticker price is unedeniably high, the bag is built to last, and has earned rave reviews from folks who’ve purchased it, including at least one reviewer who lamented that they didn't buy it sooner.
If you’re traveling internationally on the regular, you probably already know quite well that many overseas airlines require smaller-sized carry-ons than those in the US. Yes, it’s annoying, but it also happens to be true. Samsonite's Omni hardside carry-on is basically the perfect carry-on option for both domestic and international travel. It’s specifically designed to give you the maximum amount of possible packing space in its modest 20- by 14.5- by 9.5-inch interior, but it's still small enough to meet requirements for the majority of domestic and international airlines. And beyond that, it’s packed with qualities that have come to define Samsonite quality, from the scratch-resistant polycarbonate outer shell to its oversized spinner wheels, side-mounted TSA-approved locks, and push-button locking handle. Plus, it comes with the brand’s 10-year limited warranty, which is all in all a pretty solid deal for less than two hundred bucks.
No suitcase will last forever, and often the zipper will wear out before the rest of the bag. One way to sidestep this issue is to steer clear of zippers altogether. Arlo Skye's Frame carry-on bag is a rare option that uses a multi-clasp system (secured with TSA-approved locks) rather than a zip closure, so you can stop worrying about a broken zipper. Beyond this key feature, the suitcase also has a polycarbonate shell with an aluminum frame and bumper corners, making it one of the most durable pieces of luggage on the market. And if you're still wondering why the price tag is so steep, know that you also get ultra-quiet Silent Run Lisof spinner wheels and a rechargeable battery.