About a decade ago, I purchased my first “real” luggage for weekend trips and school breaks. I did approximately zero research before impulsively picking out a cheap, hardside checked bag and matching carry-on suitcase.
I couldn’t wait to use them. Finally, I could shed my ratty backpack and walk confidently through the airport, roller wheels gliding behind me.
Then, tragedy struck.
The very next trip I went on after picking out my luggage, one of the wheels broke off the checked bag when I tried to yank it over the curb outside of the terminal. I was devastated.
Since that day, I’ve used, tested, broken and otherwise beat the heck out of a veritable collection of trendy, timeless, and terrible luggage.
Some have been winners, and some have been disasters, but all of them contributed to teaching me exactly what to look out for when parsing out the best baggage from the worst. I ran the gamut so that you didn’t have to.
Now, I’m passing on what I’ve learned to help you avoid dragging a lopsided piece of luggage through the airport as I did ten years ago.
From simple to sophisticated, here are my top picks for the best checked luggage.
I could wax poetic all day about July luggage. From the aesthetics to the construction, every product they offer makes my traveler’s heart pitter-patter.
It should come as no surprise, then, how obsessed I am with the 28” July Checked Trunk. Their “Aussie approach” shines through in every rough-and-ready inch of this trunk-style hardside luggage, ensuring that my frequent treks through bustling airports are as effortless as they are head-turning.
The first thing I fell in love with was the stunning Glazed Poly gloss finish on the nigh-on-unbreakable German polycarbonate shell. While the shape of the trunk is very classic, the modern touch of metallic detailing combined with sleek shine makes for a truly timeless piece.
That extra tough shell does pack on a couple of pounds, with the 28.25″ Checked Trunk coming in at a hefty 13.2 lbs for 95L of space. That said, the four spinner wheels are gloriously smooth and perfectly silent, regardless of how much you’ve overpacked.
Another thing I admire about July’s Checked Trunk is the optimized packing space, as demonstrated by their 80/20 split. By giving one side of the trunk some extra room, I can pack my favorite booties or hats without worrying they’ll get crumpled by the lid.
They also include many little “extras,” like odor-proof, compressible laundry bags and a ratcheting Y-strap that lets me squeeze in an extra “just in case” outfit or two.
What clinches July’s status as the best checked luggage for me is that they traded in zippers for dual latches with TSA-approved locks. It’s like the cherry on top of a delicious hardside luggage sundae.
- Lifetime warranty
- 80/20 interior space
- No grab handle at the bottom
For world wanderers on the hunt for a budget-friendly checked suitcase, AmazonBasics 26” Hardside Spinner is a solid option. While it lacks the bells and whistles of luxury brands, its price point means you have more cash saved for souvenirs and enough space in your bag to tote them home.
I appreciated that AmazonBasics included multiple combinations of checked bags and carry-on luggage for a reasonable price.
For example, the three-piece set includes the 21-, 26-, and 30-inch spinner luggage for less than $200, ensuring frequent travelers always have precisely the packing capacity they need.
Plus, they nest inside each other for breezy, low-profile storage between your jetsetting adventures.
If I had to narrow down my favorite feature, though, it’s that this spacious suitcase can expand up to 15%. It’s a rare thing amongst hardside luggage and one that I revel in anytime I can find it.
Amazon’s hardside luggage bag has a scratch-resistant ABS shell that will stand up to even the roughest baggage handlers, a telescopic handle for comfortable movement, and four double spinner wheels that, admittedly, feel a bit underwhelming when stacked up against other brands.
- Expands up to 15%
- Three interior pockets
- Questionably sturdy wheels
- Limited color palette
At a petite 7.1 lbs for 100L of capacity, the Travelpro Maxlite 5 26” Medium Check-In is the prototype for what excellent lightweight luggage should be.
If you’re a fan of sleek, modern design, you’re out of luck. This softside luggage is old school, with DuraGuard-coated, stain-resistant fabric on the outside and gray nylon for the interior lining.
That’s not to say that Travelpro hasn’t considered the silhouette. The low-profile top, side, and bottom carry handles prevent annoying snags when I’m rushing through a crowd.
Due to the nature of materials used in softside suitcases, the best lightweight checked luggage will almost always be softside and not hardside.
I also have to give props to the designers for their wise decision to provide the bag with a tapered bottom that isn’t noticeable until you’ve taken advantage of the 2″ of expandable space. It makes maneuvering around on two wheels more stable and balanced, even when I fill it to bursting.
What it lacks in a slick profile, it makes up for in external pockets, an amenity sorely lacking on hardside luggage. The large front and side accessory pockets offer plenty of space for last-minute additions to your packing list without requiring you to unlock the main compartment.
- Expands up to 2 inches
- Extremely lightweight
- Low-profile handles
- Lack of inner organization
- Customer reviews note that the “peg legs” fall off easily
Duffel bags have always been my least favorite form of luggage because the lack of internal structure makes organizing my belongings a Sysiphisian task.
With that in mind, I can’t help but admire the 27” Briggs & Riley ZDX. It’s the most innovative design I’ve ever seen for an upright rolling duffel bag, from the lid-style opening to the foldable honeycomb frame for convenient storage.
The sheer number of pockets on this bag is mind-boggling. The exterior alone has a SpeedThrough side pocket–a feature otherwise exclusive to the Briggs & Riley Baseline collection–and a PVC-lined pocket for storing shoes or dirty laundry. Add the internal lid and privacy pockets, and you have plenty of nooks to tuck your belongings into.
As with all Briggs & Riley softside luggage, the exterior is ballistic nylon for high-grade durability. It also has reinforced corner guards to keep vulnerable areas intact, so your bag can easily handle even the most rough-and-tumble journeys.
Checked luggage this impressive deserves your attention, even if you count yourself among the duffel bag naysayers.
- Optional monogramming
- Accommodates oddly-shaped items
- Integrated garment panels
- Undersized wheels
- It does not include a lock
On looks alone, the 30” Check-In Large will catch your eye. The tones are subdued, the decor minimal, and the lines clean, yet its overall aesthetic is far more than the sum of its parts.
I was constantly finding little details, like color-coordinated gaskets and vegan leather accents, that add up to a masterpiece of modern convenience.
The final result is a piece of hardside luggage artfully crafted from German Makrolon, a material that bends under pressure without breaking. The wheels are silent across even the most demanding terrain, taking on stairs like champs without so much as a squeak.
As if that weren’t enough to convince you of Monos’ quality, they left out the nylon liner and opted for waterproof, antibacterial polyester that feels like pure luxury. From there, the designers added a full zip panel to one side– complete with an extra-large mesh pocket– a quick-snap compression panel, and ballistic nylon straps.
It’s 99.2 L of packing joy in one glamorous, 10.58 lb package.
- Reverse coil zipper
- Part of a nesting luggage set
- Scuffs easily
- No protective cover
If you need more capacity per pound, the Maxlite 5 29” Large Check-In is amongst the best lightweight checked luggage available. Taking into account its 2 inches of expansion, it can tote a massive 142 L despite weighing a mere 8 lbs.
To help make all that extra room more manageable on the go, the Maxlite 5 Large has a rigid bottom tray to keep the four spinner wheels stable even when packed to the max.
Like its smaller sibling, this checked bag has effortless handling in mind, with its three low-profile straps that make loading and unloading this behemoth a breeze.
The DuraGuard-coated polyester outer and high-tensile zipper add to the overall durability. You won’t have to stress about whether your suitcase will survive the weight of a couple of weeks’ worth of travel necessities.
- Expanded color options
- Very lightweight for its size
- Plenty of space for over packers
- Larger than the standard limit for checked luggage
- Handle tends to stick
If you’re considering transitioning to a hard-sided bag for the first time, I can’t recommend the Travelpro Maxlite 27” Air and its coordinating carry-on enough.
Its poly shell is more flexible than most and has a shiny patent finish that doesn’t show damage as drastically as matte hues.
The double spinner wheels easily support the 10.1 lb weight, while the PowerScope handle lets you comfortably and confidently control these luggage pieces, even when filled to their 140 L maximum capacity.
One of the most significant differences between soft vs hard luggage is the lack of exterior pockets.
While true that the Maxlite Air doesn’t have storage on the outside of the bag, I was pleasantly surprised by the interior layout. Both compartments have a full-panel, zippered divider that hosts three large pockets between them.
Like Travelpro’s Maxlite softside luggage, the Air hardside spinner can expand up to 2″, giving you the extra packing space of a fabric bag and the durability of hardside luggage in one.
- Eco-friendly lining made of 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles
- Complies with checked luggage dimension limits
- Dents easily
- No compression system
8. Samsonite Omni PC: Best Samsonite Checked Luggage
As one of the most highly-regarded luggage brands in the world, Samsonite knows a thing or two about what makes an excellent checked bag.
While it won’t be the most colorful checked bag on the luggage carousel, the 30” Omni can take a licking and keep ticking. The rugged polycarbonate shell stands firm in the face of staircases, curbs, and any other obstacle you might bump into on your travels.
Samsonite also solved one of the most common complaints I have with hardshell luggage by adding micro-diamond texturing that hides scuffing surprisingly well.
When I saw the bag’s boxy build and 11.7 lb weight, I was worried that it would be challenging to pull once my belongings weighed it down. However, that wasn’t even close to reality. The spinner wheels are nimble, clipping along at my pace with ease.
As far as extra features go, the Omni has few. There is a TSA-approved lock for securing your zipper pulls, one full-panel pocket on the inner compartment, and cross straps to keep clothes from jostling around.
- Scratch-resistant exterior
- Multiple handles for easy lifting
- Oversized for most airlines
Are you looking for a checked bag built more like a tank than a piece of luggage?
You can’t go wrong with the Briggs & Riley TORQ 30” Large Spinner.
This 3-layer Makrolon hardshell is built to last, with molded grips that guarantee you’ll never have to deal with a busted strap in the middle of O’Hare International.
Despite the rather militaristic appearance– right down to the fractal camouflage lining– the TORQ is all business. It’s designed with anti-wrinkling in mind, including a fold-out suiter to keep your professional attire as fresh as it would be in a dedicated garment bag.
The first time I cracked open the Torq, I couldn’t help but go starry-eyed. It holds a massive 112.7 L, with one side protected by a zippered panel with a lid-sized pocket and the other occupied by cinching garment panels.
Of course, when your checked bag has as much capacity as the Torq Large Spinner, you’ll need wheels strong enough to keep you moving.
Briggs & Riley thought of everything: their ball-bearing wheels have durable steel components and an extra broad, tilt-resistant base to keep your check luggage upright even in a hurry.
- 3-level telescopic handle
- Optional monogramming
- Molded grab locations
- Only available in 2 colors
- Easy to overpack
The American Tourister Cascade 28” Spinner offers the best of both worlds for globetrotters who can’t decide whether they’re on the hunt for a hardshell or softshell suitcase.
Cascade has an abrasion-resistant polyester main body with a 1” expansion zipper, a feature I am endlessly grateful for because I always seem to come home hauling more stuff than I arrived with.
The front of the case has a pressure-molded EVA panel that adds another layer of protection when you’re toting around digital devices.
At 10.14 lbs, the Cascade is on the heavier side, but the brand does an ace job of balancing the extra weight with a handful of features that make this a fantastically maneuverable piece of checked luggage.
The quad set of spinner wheels makes hauling the extra weight a non-issue, and the handle has six height adjustments so you can walk comfortably with the Cascade at your side.
The interior organization system is more multifaceted than most, with a large interior pocket, two elasticized shoe pockets, and a waterproof pocket perfect for packing wet swimsuits.
- Perfect size for short trips
- 10-year Global Warranty
- Large zipper pulls
- The top strap is flimsy
- No integrated lock
11. Away Large: Best Rolling Checked Luggage
Away is a simple piece of luggage with a simple mission: make packing a pleasure.
It achieves that goal and then some, offering travelers two generous compartments that can hold a total of 99.2 L.
The Away collection emphasizes minimalism. The flexible poly shell is adorned only by horizontal lines and subtle branding. Even their TSA locks at the top of the case have a low profile that fits well with the rest of the aesthetic.
The interior is meticulously designed, with a mesh zip panel to keep shoes sequestered from your clean laundry and an adjustable compression system.
What puts the Away 29” Large ahead of the game as the best rolling checked baggage are the 360-degree spinner wheels that provide a legitimately dreamy glide across just about any surface. It offers uncompromising maneuverability even when I fill it right up to the weight limit.
One word of warning: Weigh your bag before you head out. The silky smooth wheel movements will make your Away Large feel deceptively light, and there’s more than enough room to rack up 50 lbs worth of wardrobe changes without even realizing it.
- Modern silhouette
- Cinching compression straps
- Includes a scuff eraser
- Handle sticks when overpacked
- Easy to go over the weight limit
12. RIMOWA Check-In: Best Luxury Checked Luggage
Do you want to feel like a celebrity whenever you walk through the airport doors?
Are you interested in a piece of luggage so timeless and durable that it could become a family heirloom?
Let me introduce you to the RIMOWA 31” Check-In.
Crafted from anodized aluminum, the outer case is ridiculously sturdy, with all the amenities you’d expect from luxury luggage. It has two TSA locks, eight ball-bearing mounted spinner wheels with cushioned axles for efficient gliding, and a stage-free handle that lets you adjust to your most exacting specifications.
The black-lined exterior doesn’t have pockets, but hear me out:
The height-adjustable flex divider will change your life. They allow you to create four compartments that are precisely the size you need, which means you can compress to your heart’s content, then stack bulkier items right on top with nary a wrinkle.
Every inch of this statuesque spinner has been engineered to the utmost, making it a mesmerizingly metallic beauty and one of the best-performing checked bags I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting my clothes into.
- Timeless grooved design
- Cushioned wheel axles
- Includes dust cover and luggage tag
- Very expensive
- Exterior scratches easily
Paravel’s 28” Aviator Grand sets a high standard for checked luggage bags regarding sustainable construction and aesthetics.
Every piece of this gorgeously detailed bag is eco-conscious, from the recycled zippers that securely snap into the integrated TSA lock to the vegan leather wrapped around the recycled aluminum handle.
The polycarbonate construction comes in a range of rich neutrals with a matte finish, the perfect canvas for the molded vertical striping that serves as the visual centerpiece.
One little touch I found particularly charming is the leather trim and embossed handles that coordinate perfectly with the interior zipper pulls. It exemplifies Paravel’s flair for the refined.
The Aviator Grand is just as much of a looker inside with its full-panel, leather-trimmed divider. It also includes a branded compression board and laundry bag to help you keep everything in its place while you’re on the road.
At 77 L of capacity and 11.8 lbs, you’ll need to decide whether the extra weight is worth having such an attractive travel companion at your side. My verdict is a resounding yes.
- The textured finish hides scuffs
- Curated set add-ons available
- Heavy compared to total capacity
If you’ve ever dreamed of matching your luggage with your jewelry, the Calpak Ambeur Collection can make it a reality. The ultra-femme finish comes in gold, rose gold, silver, and black for maximum travel outfit coordination.
Of course, this roomy hardside luggage is more than just a pretty face. It also boasts an impressive range of features for a reasonable price.
The 26″ Medium Luggage and 30″ Large luggage bags have a rugged ABS and polycarbonate construction that can expand up to two additional inches, thanks to the extra stretch on the zipper.
Other notable features are the telescopic handle, side handle, and four double spinner wheels that maintain their smooth ride even when the Ambeur is overstuffed.
This Calpak collection is lovely inside, with an X-shaped interior compression system, four zippered pockets, and an interior divider.
I’m especially a fan of the detachable accessory pocket because it eliminates the need for an additional toiletry bag.
Bonus recommendation: They also have a matching vanity case and carry-on bag that are just as delightfully durable.
- Excellent interior organization features
- Easily-scratched metallic finish
- It doesn’t include cover
The 25.6” Check-In from Carl Friedrik is the Mercedes-Benz of checked luggage bags with a sophisticated, masculine design that commands attention in even the busiest terminals. It’s charismatic without being cocky and assertive without being ostentatious.
At 9.9 lbs with 65.8 L of space, it’s one of the heavier options compared to the amount of packing space, but quality sometimes requires compromise.
In exchange for fewer square inches of the interior, you’ll get exceptional Vachetta Italian leather detailing, a hard-wearing aluminum lock frame with built-in combination locks, and Japanese Hinamoto wheels with silent 360-degree maneuverability.
Opening The Check-In reveals a dark gray, recycled PET lining with open compartments. It lacks organization pockets but is perfect for traveling businessmen who don’t mind investing a little extra for Packing Cubes.
Even without them, the compression pad keeps your clothes tidy from pre-boarding to baggage claim.
Carl Friedrik makes some of the best luggage for men and this bag is a high-performance must-have if you’ve been hunting for a masculine checked bag that will stand out at the baggage claim.
- Incredibly smooth wheels
- 100-day trial
- Latch closure
- Low capacity for its weight
- Open compartment interior
16. Rollink Flex 360: Best Collapsible Checked Luggage
I’m all about functional luggage, and the Rollink Flex 360 Medium Checked 4-Wheel Suitcase is just that.
Not only is it one of the most delightfully colorful, charmingly shaped checked suitcase options I’ve ever laid eyes on, but it boasts many of the same features that go into sensible suitcase brands.
After the rounded corners and optional candy-coated color scheme, the first thing that stands out is its collapsibility. The Flex 360 26.5” Medium is seriously slim, which is not typically the case with hardside luggage.
Rollink achieved this remarkable 6-inch profile by integrating four rigid flaps that fold down and lock into place, giving the case a sidewall structure. When I’m ready to store it away, it’s as easy as unclipping the flaps from the plastic latches.
In addition to its ability to slide into tight spaces, the Rollink Checked bag perfectly balances weight with capacity, offering 85 L of space while clocking in at only 8.5 pounds.
When it comes to the interior, I initially turned my nose up at the space division. All the open space on the Flex 360 is in the bottom, while the lid houses two zippered pockets and two elasticized shoe pockets.
While this layout does make it impossible to separate clean and dirty clothes without an extra bag, I liked being able to hold all of my clothes in place with the compression straps.
- Easy storage in tight spaces
- 5-year warranty
- Lightweight with high capacity
- All open compartment space is in the bottom
- It only has two zipper pockets
Briggs & Riley Sympatico 30” Hardside Suitcase ticks all the boxes for business travelers.
It has the standard exterior amenities we expect from a luxury luggage brand, including the rugged Makroloon polycarbonate shell, soft-touch carry handles, and aircraft-grade aluminum telescopic handle.
The bag’s interior is equally impressive. The two mesh zippered pockets are perfect for tucking away delicates or toiletries, while the large zippered pocket offers a secure spot for documents and files.
At the bottom of the lower interior section are adjustable garment compression panels, Briggs & Riley’s upgrade on traditional compression straps, which does an excellent job of keeping even the most wrinkle-prone fabrics crisp.
I was fascinated by Briggs & Riley’s proprietary CX Compression-Expansion Technology®, as it was the only instance I’ve encountered where a hard-sided bag could offer even more extra room than soft-side luggage.
What makes this suitcase expandable are the CX® plate hinges on the interior walls. When I pulled the hinge forward, it released the metal frame and allowed the sides to expand.
Once I’d reached packing capacity, I zipped the Sympatico closed, pushed down on the center, and watched as this highly-engineered checked luggage compressed back to its standard width.
- Minimal color options
As one of Europe’s most prestigious leather goods brands, Delsey has a 75-year heritage built on sustainable, stylish luggage for the discerning traveler. They bring a touch of je ne sais quoi that embodies French elegance in their lightweight checked luggage.
Looking at the Chalet Air Series Checked 24” Spinner, I would have never guessed the polycarbonate shell is made from recycled water bottles. The little details, like vegan leather trim and vintage brass fittings, give the bag a richness and warmth that is more sophisticated than most eco-friendly luggage options on the market.
Further proving Delsey’s flair for craftsmanship are the bag’s user-friendly features.
At only 9.30 pounds for the 24″ model, the Chalet Air Checked luggage ensures you can pack more in its 72L capacity without infringing on most airline weight limits. It’s also thoughtful in including the leather-effect side handle for a sturdy, comfortable grip.
I was delighted when I opened the case to reveal a peachy-pink interior that perfectly matched the soft texture. While the color of a bag’s lining isn’t at the top of my priority list, it’s another example of Delsey’s penchant for creating bespoke luggage bags that don’t compromise aesthetics for practicality.
Even if the interior space were inky black, I’d still sing its praises thanks to the veritable cornucopia of zippered pockets and organizational features. Not only does each side of the trunk have compression straps to keep everything in place, but they also have full zippered dividers for even more security.
Delsey checked luggage comes standard with laundry and shoe bags to ensure my favorite jeans don’t smell like Eau de dirty clothes.
- Excellent interior pockets
- Includes luggage tracking plate
- Only available in 3 colors
- Relatively small for the price
Checked Luggage FAQ
Choosing the best checked luggage for your globetrotting lifestyle can be overwhelming, especially when the market is saturated with high-quality brands offering similar features.
Let’s address some lingering questions to help you find baggage bliss.
Which brand of luggage is the most durable?
With their ballistic-grade nylon and triple-layer poly construction, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more durable luggage brand than Briggs & Riley. The brand believes in the ruggedness of its product to the extent that they guarantee free repairs with no questions asked.
What is the best checked luggage size?
The best checked luggage size will differ based on your packing habits and how long you plan to be away, but most range between 25” and 31”. However, two 25” bags don’t necessarily have the same internal capacity.
How big is too big for a checked bag?
Checked luggage regulations vary by airline and can even have additional limits based on which specific model of plane you’re on. Most airlines enforce a checked bag size limit of 62 linear inches, though a few exceptions exist. Allegiant Air, for example, has a limit of 80 linear inches, as do Japan Airlines and Aeroflot. Norwegian Air has the most generous dimensions, allowing checked luggage up to 118 linear inches.
Do hardshell suitcases break easily?
Most hardshell suitcases have an ABS or polycarbonate construction, both of which are flexible but incredibly strong. Like all investments, though, you get what you pay for. A high-quality, reputable brand is far more likely to endure the perils of frequent travel without damage.
Which suitcase is better: hard or soft?
Whether hardside luggage or softside luggage is better comes down to your personal preferences. I prefer hardside luggage because they offer more structured organization space, and I trust the hardshell to protect my digital devices better than softshell bags.
If you want to avoid bothering with a built-in garment folder or compression panels, a duffel bag or softside luggage might be the better choice. They often have convenient exterior pockets, hold bulkier items, and fold up for low-profile storage.
Final Thoughts on the Best Checked Luggage
As frequent fliers, we depend on our luggage for more than just transporting our stuff to our next destination. Otherwise, we’d pack in cardboard boxes and call it a day.
Baggage provides a sense of security and familiarity when wandering far from home. It’s everything we need in a tidy little package, reliably enduring the entire traveling process without leaving its contents vulnerable.
That’s why the best checked luggage is the one that suits your budget, travel needs, and style.
You should spend time researching various options, keeping an eye out for the features that matter most, and being willing to compromise on the extras if you find a piece that boasts all of your must-haves.