The Best Luggage of 2019By Seamus Bellamy, March 26, 2019
Owning a well-made, thoughtfully designed suitcase or bag can help make traveling feel breezy and manageable. The trick to avoiding lousy luggage is by traveling with as many different carry-ons, spinners, suitcases, backpacks and convertible bags as you can lay your hands on. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the time or money to invest in this sort of research. Fortunately, your curious friends at Reviewed do.
No matter whether you prefer to travel light or insist upon bringing every scrap of clothing you own on your next adventure, we’ve got the perfect travel bag for you.
Best Checked Luggage
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 29" Expandable Spinner Suiter
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 29" Expandable Spinner Suiter
Travelpro's Platinum Magna 2 is the best full-sized suitcase to invest in right now. It’s tough enough that it’ll survive years of vacations, trips back and forth from university, or extended business travel. It won't fit into an airplane's overhead bin or slide under a seat. But its rugged Cordura exterior ensures it'll come out of your plane's cargo hold in one piece, no worse for wear.
This suitcase’s 29 x 20.5 x 12.75-inch dimensions offer 7580 cubic inches of packing space in a package that weighs in at just over 11 pounds. The four spinner wheels are aligned by magnets. This guarantees that all of the wheels move in the same direction at the same time, no matter which way you push or pull the suitcase. Whether you’re wheeling through customs or pushing it through an airport parking lot, this suitcase is easy and pleasurable to steer.
On the front of the Travelpro, you’ll find an expandable zippered pocket that’s ideal for last-minute items, shoes, or wet towels. Inside, its cavernous main compartment is flanked by two zippered pockets that run the full length of the suitcase. One is lined with transparent plastic, making it a great choice for toiletries and other liquids. The other is made of breathable mesh, perfect for undergarments, socks, and other small items. Zippered storage panels are also sewn into the main compartment’s compression straps. There's a large mesh pocket built into the inside of the lid. Additionally, to help you stuff as much clothing into the main compartment as possible, a compression panel. Still need more space? the Travelpro is expandable—just be sure to weigh your overstuffed suitcase with a luggage scale before leaving for the airport.
Best Carry-On Luggage
Samsonite Flexis 21" Spinner
Samsonite Flexis 21" Spinner
The Samsonite Flexis 21" Spinner is the best carry-on bag of the moment. The Flexis’s total dimensions, at 22.5 x 15.0 x 9.0 inches, allowed it to fit into our airport carry-on sizing device, wheels and all, with no difficulties. That said, not all airlines have the same sizing requirements. Make sure to check in with your preferred carrier, before heading to the airport.
The Flexis 21 features tough, nimble wheels that should last for years of hard use. I found that they made crossing over the sun-cracked pavement, concrete sidewalks, wood floors and tile comfortable and easy. As it’s a four-wheeled spinner, you’ll have no trouble maneuvering the Flexis around obstacles. The handle on the side the bag is oriented to make grabbing it out of an overhead compartment a breeze, while the one on the top is cushy enough to carry the bag comfortably for a long time. It's locking, retractable handle offers multiple height adjustments, making this bag easy to wheel along, no matter how tall you are. That the expandable handle can be unlocked by either of the two buttons built into it makes it easy to use and provides a bit of redundancy.
The 21-inch version of the Flexis offers 2520 cubic inches of packing space. There are three pockets on the outside of the bag: the large exterior pocket is ideal for stuffing a light jacket, iPad, or magazines into. Two smaller zippered pockets—which are well-sized for an e-reader, passport, and charging cables—are built into the bag’s zippered lid. Speaking of charging cables, you should know that one of the pockets comes with a smaller, zippered compartment designed for storing a rechargeable battery pack in. Plug your power pack into the Flexis’ integrated USB port and you’ll be able to use it to charge your phone or other small electronics, without a mess of cables getting in your way. As your battery pack isn’t integrated into the bag, as it is with some smart luggage, you can easily remove your battery to keep in another carry-on or personal item should the Flexis need to be stowed in your flight’s cargo hold.
The inside of the suitcase boasts a large open area with elastic retention straps for securing your clothes or packing cubes into place, as well as mesh stash pockets for organizing smaller items. On the inside of the bag’s lid, you’ll find a zippered, mesh compartment that’s perfect for jamming socks or underwear in.
The Flexis comes equipped with self-healing YKK Strong Grip Zip zippers, which are significantly more reliable than traditional coil zippers; if one of the bag’s zippers gets messed up (but doesn’t break), zipping and unzipping it should make it as good as new. The main compartment can be sealed up using a TSA-approved luggage lock—an important feature, should you ever need to check the bag. Without anything in it, the 21-inch version of the Flexis weighs seven pounds. It strikes the perfect balance of affordability, features, and build quality. I highly recommend taking it for a spin (sorry).
I’ve only got a couple of complaints about this bag: the Flexis 21 doesn’t come with a built-in waterproof bag for sealing up your toiletries in—but if you own a good toiletry bag, it’s no big deal. In addition to this, when not in use, the Flexis can’t be compressed down for storage. If that’s a deal breaker, you might prefer a soft-sided carry-on bag, instead.
Best Under Seat Carry-On Luggage
Tom Bihn Western Flyer
Where To Buy$240.00 Tom Bihn Buy
Tom Bihn Western Flyer
Constructed from your choice of either 1050 Ballistic Nylon or lightweight 400 Halcyon fabric and available in an assortment of colors, the Tom Bihn Western Flyer will fit under an airline seat with room to spare—a fact you’ll appreciate when you stretch out on your next cross-country flight. Its exterior front panel contains a stowaway water bottle holder and two large, zippered pockets: the first provides ample space for your car keys, passport, and other small essentials. The second pocket is large enough to store an eReader, 8-inch tablet, smartphone or paperback novel to read on your flight.
With 1600 cubic inches of interior space, the Western Flyer is large enough to use as a small suitcase for a weekend getaway with room to spare for a laptop, snacks, and magazines. The bag’s interior space is broken down into two large compartments: The first contains a fabric partition to help you stay organized, when needed, or zipped out of the way to allow for one large chunk of space that’s ideal for a laptop. The second pocket proved large enough during testing to contain a complete change of clothing, or if you prefer, multiple pairs of underwear, socks and a couple of dress shirts.
In addition to all of this, the Western Flyer is incredibly versatile. It can be carried by its built-in handle like a briefcase, be paired with a shoulder strap (sold separately) or worn like a rucksack, thanks to a pair of backpack straps that stow away when not in use. What’s more, thanks Tom Bihn’s selection of packing cubes, padded electronics cases and their organization Freudian Slip insert, this bag can be customized to please most any traveler.
How We Tested
When it comes to getting carry-on luggage on a flight, size matters. To ensure that the carry-on suitcases and underseat carry-on bags that we called in for testing would be welcomed on the greatest number of airlines across North America, we researched the allowable bag sizes for each major airline, averaged the numbers and then, in the name of caution, looked for bags that were slightly smaller than the measurements we came up with: 22 x 14 x 9 inches for carry-on bags and 8 x 18 x 14 inches for underseat-sized carry-on luggage. Full-sized suitcases, designed to hold week’s worth of clothing and too large to be stowed anywhere but in an aircraft’s cargo hold aren’t held back by the same sort of sizing restrictions, in most cases. While researching which of these larger pieces of luggage to call in, we paid attention to a brand’s reputation for quality, price and complaints/kudos that we saw online about a given model of suitcase time and time again.
To ensure that a set of wheels or a handle wouldn’t keep the carry-on luggage that we called in for testing from being allowed on a flight, we built our own versions of airport baggage sizing devices. Any bag that refused to fit was quickly disqualified from the competition.
For carry-on bags designed to fit into an airliner’s overhead bin and full-sized suitcases equipped with wheels we looked to mobility: each bag was tested by wheeling it over a quarter-mile of varying surfaces: tile, hardwood, concrete and cracked sidewalks. For every 20 steps taken with the bag, a 360-degree turn was performed to ensure that the suitcase’s wheels were still spinning freely and to make onlookers wonder exactly what we were up to. To simulate having to navigate an airport check-in line, each piece of wheeled luggage was rolled through an obstacle course of tables and chairs. We also tested how easily each suitcase was to use while ascending and descending a flight of stairs.
For baggage that doesn’t come equipped with wheels—backpacks and duffle bags, for example—we looked to how comfortable their handles, backpack and shoulder straps proved to be while carrying each bag, fully loaded, with as many pieces of clothing and toiletries as possible.
In addition to these tests, we also considered the durability of each piece of luggage, whether its built-in storage options were more of a help than a hindrance, small but important touches such as whether or not the bag can be used with a TSA-approved luggage lock and whether it comes with any thoughtful extras such as a laundry bag and, finally, how stylish and adaptable each bag proved to be.
What You Should Know About Luggage
Price: When it comes to luggage, we advise you to spend more if you travel more. High-end luggage tends to be more durable, so you’ll have to replace it less often. The same can’t always be said for personal carry-on sized bags. Sometimes, as these smaller bags, purses, and backpacks can be used as fashion accessories as part of your daily commute, the price of a bag is commensurate with its brand’s recognition, rather than its durability or utility.
Wheels: if you prefer your luggage to glide through an airport concourse on wheels, four wheels are better than two. No matter whether you’re pushing or pulling your bag along, you’ll find it just as maneuverable. That said, two-wheeled bags are still a good get—they’re more portable and can often cost less. For shopping for bags designed to fit under an airline seat, avoid wheels if you can: they eat into the already limited amount of space bags sized to slip under an airplane seat offer.
Handles: Retractable handles should slide in and out of position, smoothly, and offer at least a couple of height settings to accommodate different sized users. These style of handle, however, isn’t desirable in under seat carry-on luggage: the handle mechanism takes up a lot of space in such a small bag. Built-in fabric or leather handles should be wide and padded to make the weight of what’s inside of your bag feel like less of a strain on your hand. Handles located on multiple sides of a bag are a win, as they make it easy to grab it out of an overhead bin, no matter how you had to place it in there.
Organization: Bags that offer a number of easily accessible exterior pockets for small items like a passport, smartphone or plane tickets are a smart buy. Look for bags with a large main compartment that can be used with packing cubes, or stuffed full of a number of loose items such as a water bottle, snacks or a hoodie. If you plan on using your bag for work trips or having it double as a tote for your daily commute, be sure that any laptop compartment, tablet sleeve, or admin panels built into it will suit your needs.