For many travelers, a backpack or carry-on suitcase provides enough space to pack everything for a journey. They’re easily manageable, hold a week’s worth of clothing, and can save a trip to the luggage carousel.
However, if your travel plans include long trips, several people sharing a suitcase, or business clothing that needs to stay sharp, you’ll want to consider investing in a full-sized piece of checked luggage.
After weeks of research and testing, we found the Travelpro Platinum Elite 29(available at Amazon) is the best large suitcase for most people. If you prefer hardshell checked luggage to better protect delicate items, we also recommend the Briggs & Riley Sympatico Large Expandable Spinner(available at Amazon).
The best checked luggage we tested ranked, in order:
Travelpro Platinum Elite 29 Inch Expandable Spinner
Briggs & Riley Sympatico Large Expandable Spinner
Tumi Alpha 3 Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case
Away Expandable Large Suitcase
Travelpro Platinum Elite Large Check-In Expandable Hardside Spinner
Samsonite Voltage DLX Large Spinner
Away Large Aluminum Edition Suitcase
Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 130L Rolling Duffle
American Tourister Sonic 28" Spinner
Travelpro Platinum Elite 29” Expandable Spinner
Our top pick, the Travelpro Platinum Elite 29 Inch Expandable Spinner, had a more premium feel than several of the more expensive options we tested. This 143.5-liter suitcase performed well in tests and boasts several well-thought-out features. It’s easily maneuverable, despite its size, and comes with desirable extras like TSA-approved lock-compatible zippers and a garment bag.
One of the Platinum Elite’s best features is that you access its main compartment by unzipping the front face, rather than the middle of the bag. This means that you can use the entirety of the generous main storage space, rather than having it split down the middle.
Most of the other suitcases in this guide unzip in half. This limits the number of large items that can fit into the main compartment, or causes the suitcase’s contents to spill out when you open it.
The cavernous depths of the Platinum Elite’s main compartment can be overwhelming. Luckily, you can reduce that with the built-in organization aids, including a removable toiletry bag, or opt for additional packing cubes. And if you need more space for mementos, you can expand the Platinum Elite’s width by two additional inches at the pull of a zipper.
We were also pleased with the Platinum Elite’s maneuverability. High-quality spinner wheels, paired with a sturdy telescopic handle, made navigating our obstacle course a breeze. Many suitcases we tested had poorly designed, wobbly handles that made navigation more difficult than necessary.
While other bags made us wrestle the handle before we even started moving, the Platinum Elite glided with ease and was more nimble than most. If you need a big suitcase, start here.
We discuss the pros and cons of soft versus hard shell luggage below, but if you prefer the latter, the Briggs & Riley Sympatico Large Expandable Spinner is the way to go. It doesn’t maneuver as well as our main pick but, overall, it’s a great piece of luggage.
The Sympatico Large’s hard plastic shell is resistant to scratches, and it’s strong enough to withstand a few hits from a blunt object. (I hit it with a hammer, is what I’m saying, and it was fine). As with most of the luggage we tested, there’s a built-in zipper lock.
Inside of the 147.5-liter main compartment are several zippered pouches and mesh compression panels to help you fit your belongings. Unfortunately, none of the pouches are waterproof, so you’ll need a toiletry bag.
While its spinner wheels worked fine during testing, the Sympatico’s extendable handle was more wobbly than we would have liked, and it struggled with our obstacle course.
While the quality of its carry handles was only average, the handle placing was brilliant. By mounting the carry handles off-center, Briggs & Riley rewards users of the Sympatico Large with a far more natural carrying position, allowing your arm to hang closer to your body while carrying the bag. It’s honestly shocking that all luggage manufacturers aren’t doing this.
Offset handle a great design
Lots of organizational touches inside
Extendable handle quality makes navigating more difficult
My name is Geoffrey Morrison. I’ve been reviewing all types of gear for nearly 20 years. For most of the last seven years, 2020 notwithstanding, I’ve been a digital nomad. I’ve traveled and worked across 57 countries, taking countless planes, trains, and automobiles to do so. I’ve used a variety of different styles and sizes for luggage, and feel that most people don’t need huge luggage, but if your travels require it, go for it.
Each bag was evaluated based on its build quality, capacity, features, durability, and maneuverability.
To start, each of the full-size suitcases in our test group were stuffed with two weeks' worth of clothes. Aside from underwear, socks, and toiletries, a variety of other garments were also included, like formal wear for a nice dinner out, business attire, a windbreaker, and a sweater for chilly evening excursions. We even threw in several pairs of shoes and sneakers.
By packing each suitcase full of these clothes, we could determine whether each suitcase’s main compartment provides all the space a traveler might need for their belongings. This is an important metric, as some suitcases sacrifice interior space to house their handles or wheels.
Next, we tested each suitcase's maneuverability by wheeling it over a quarter-mile of smooth and not-so-smooth surfaces like concrete and rough asphalt. For every 20 steps taken with each bag, the tester performed a 360-degree turn to ensure that its wheels were still spinning freely.
To simulate navigating an airport check-in line or a busy train station, each suitcase was rolled through an obstacle course made from the other bags in the test. After testing one, we’d swap it out with the next to preserve the overall design of the course. And, since a fully loaded suitcase is much more difficult to pick up than a typical carry-on bag, we tested how easily each one could be carried.
What to Look for When Shopping for Checked Luggage
When considering a piece of checked luggage, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. The design, durability, and overall ease-of-use of the suitcase are all important factors to consider when determining whether or not it’s the right fit for your travel needs.
Toughness and Flexibility
Suitcases with a plastic or aluminum exterior can scuff, dent, or crack when subjected to abuse. Still, they tend to protect their contents from crush damage better than a fabric-sided suitcase can. Fabric-sided suitcases can compress without sustaining any damage, but aren't ideal for protecting delicate items. Before you purchase, think about what you're likely to bring with you when you travel.
If you want your luggage to glide through an airport concourse on wheels, remember that four are better than two. Four-wheeled bags are just as maneuverable whether they're being pushed or pulled. Two-wheeled bags can wobble, topple, and drag, making them far less user-friendly.
The best suitcases have retractable handles that slide out smoothly, lock into place, and are strong enough to help you maneuver the luggage around on its wheels. Good luggage should also come with wide, padded handles to make lifting the bag’s weight easier. The absolute best have handles on multiple sides, making it easy to grab them off of the baggage claim conveyor belt no matter how they're oriented.
Bags that offer an array of interior and exterior pockets along with a single, large interior space are a smart buy. The big main compartment can be used with packing cubes, a garment bag, or packed with loose clothes, while the interior pockets are great for smaller items like toiletries or socks. Outside pockets can be used to stash on-the-go items.
Make sure that any suitcase you buy comes with either a built-in TSA-compliant combination or key lock, or is equipped with zippers that can be used with a TSA-compliant aftermarket lock.
Hardshell vs. Softshell
There are generally two kinds of larger checked luggage bags: hardshell and softshell.
Hardshell luggage, as the name suggests, has hard plastic or metal exteriors. In theory, they’ll take the brunt of any blunt force trauma the suitcase receives as it’s bounced and tossed in transit.
Softshell luggage isn’t “soft” per se, just softer than hardshell. Softshell suitcases have rigid designs, but can compress somewhat to absorb blows and abuse. Their plastic/fabric exteriors are usually quite tough.
Both types have their pros and cons.
Hardshell luggage might be better for protecting fragile items. However, their rigid exteriors take a significant amount of abuse, and will likely look scuffed and beaten up after even just one trip. Softshell luggage won’t protect delicate items as well, but will likely survive multiple trips without signs of wear.
Who Should Invest In Checked Luggage?
While a large suitcase may seem like the obvious choice for your next trip, they’re often a lot larger than most people need.
Traveling with lighter luggage is easier on the body. It also prevents you from paying to check a bag—or worse, paying fees for surpassing weight limits. This makes travel more pleasurable in most circumstances. That said, there’ll be instances where taking a large suitcase with you on a trip makes a lot of sense.
If you’re traveling to a cold climate, or your trip requires bulky gear (masks, fins, ski boots, etc), taking a piece of checked luggage with you may be necessary. A large suitcase is a plus if you’re traveling for work and need multiple outfits, or if you’re packing for a week-long getaway for several members of your family.
Other Checked Luggage We Tested
Tumi Alpha 3 Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case
Luxury brand Tumi’s Alpha 3 Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case is a beautifully made piece of luggage. During testing, the 126-liter Alpha 3’s spinner wheels performed well. The suitcase boasts a decent retractable handle, a rugged exterior, and an attractive design.
Inside the Alpha 3’s main compartment, you’ll find a garment bag, mesh pockets, and compression system flaps. Two exterior pockets offer access, and one is lockable, like the main compartment.
The main compartment opens in a roughly 20/80 split between the lid’s mesh compartment and the suitcase’s main compartment. It’s not as easy to pack large items or root through the bag as the cavernous single compartment of our Best Overall pick, but it’s better than the 50/50 compartment design of most of the competition.
Unfortunately, while the Alpha 3 is well-made, it doesn’t match the ease with which our Best Overall pick can be packed or its maneuverability.
Available in several colors, the Away Expandable Large suitcase is a polycarbonate hardshell checked bag. It features a built-in TSA-approved lock and a leather luggage tag integrated into the suitcase’s exterior.
The Expandable Large’s 91-liter interior storage is split into two halves. The first half features a zippered mesh interior designed to keep its contents from spilling out when the suitcase is opened. The bottom half comes equipped with a pair of compression straps and a laundry bag to help keep your dirty clothes or a pair of shoes away from the garments you’ve yet to wear.
The Expandable Large was easy to maneuver on its four spinner wheels when pulled or pushed along by its extendable handle during testing. That said, we were unimpressed with the average quality and comfort offered by its carry handles.
Travelpro Platinum Elite Large Check-In Expandable Hardside Spinner
You’d think the Travelpro Platinum Elite Large Check-In Expandable Hardside Spinner would just be a hardshell version of our Best Overall pick. This was not the case.
While its polycarbonate exterior held up well to both our hammer strike and scratch test, the Hardsided Spinner’s carry handles were far less comfortable to hold than the ones on the Travelpro Platinum Elite 29. Its extendable handle couldn’t match our Best Overall pick’s, either: it was more wobbly when extended, making it more difficult to maneuver.
Finally, with its 108-liter capacity, the Hardsided Spinner is one of the smaller suitcases we tested. While all our clothes and shoes fit, there wasn’t much room for packing extras.
Rugged, for a polycarbonate case
Good quality spinner wheels
Low storage capacity compared to others in its class
While the Samsonite Voltage DLX Large Spinner comes in subdued white and gray colorways, you can also pick it up in teal and bright pink, so it’ll stand out on a full luggage carousel. We liked its TSA-approved zipper-lock panel and appreciated the mesh panel and compression straps in the main compartment.
Unfortunately, this checked suitcase was something of a disappointment in the build quality department. Its carry handles were so uncomfortable to hold, I wouldn’t want to carry this suitcase farther than from the trunk of a car to the curb. I was also unimpressed with its poorly built extendable handle, which made steering the Voltage spinner difficult. Finally, when scraped with a metal fork, the Voltage DLX scratched with the barest of pressure.
The Away Large Aluminum is arguably the best-looking piece of checked luggage we’ve ever tested. Its shiny metal shell should make it very easy to spot on a luggage carousel. However, lay it down on any coarse surface and it won’t stay shiny for too long.
We found the Large Aluminum Edition to be very easy to scratch. It’s worth noting that it didn’t sustain any dents during our hammer tests. However, it did come away from the test with—you guessed it—more scratches.
We were also unimpressed with this suitcase’s 91-liter capacity. Instead, if you’re traveling with a companion, each of you could each bring a 45-liter carry-on bag, carry roughly the same amount of stuff, and avoid checked baggage fees.
When empty, the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler 130L Rolling Duffle was able to compress down to the smallest of any suitcase in our test—great news for any traveler with minimal storage space in their home. Unfortunately, this large capacity rolling duffle’s storability comes at a cost.
Navigation with our obstacle course with the Cargo Hauler 130L was a chore due to the fixed position of its two wheels. Steering the bag was frustrating, too, as I was forced to tug it along with a ballistic nylon strap instead of a handle. When pulled, the Cargo Hauler 130L wobbled, rolled, and refused to stay upright. That said, the duffel can be converted into a backpack, which makes hauling it along much easier.
When we tested the American Tourister Sonic 28" Spinner, we felt that this bag was capable of surviving a few round-trip flights—but that’s not saying much.
The sample we tested was not well made. The seams had loose stitching. The sides of the suitcase gave with minimal force, offering next to no protection for its contents. Most frustrating of all, the main compartment zippers refused to zip or unzip smoothly.
If you can afford a better suitcase, give the American Tourister Sonic 28" Spinner a pass.
Séamus Bellamy is a senior editor on Reviewed's Electronics Team. When he's not busy ensuring his team's The Best Right Now roundups are up-to-date, he spends his time reviewing, smartwatches, tablets, fringe tech, and writing how-to guides.
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