Picking a travel bag is like picking a car. You know you’re going to use it more than once and it’ll be a real pain if it fails you on a trip. However, depending on the person, the trip, the use, and the budget, the choice is very different. For example, you might want a rugged and roomy SUV for a weekend camping trip and a little Fiat for your Roman holiday. Bags are the same. Sometimes a backpack is perfect and sometimes I want an elegant suitcase.
When shopping for a suitcase, my general questions are:
- Do I like the look? I’ll have to travel with this for a while, may as well match my style.
- Does it have four wheels or just two? I like the maneuverability of four wheels.
- How sturdy are the shell and the zippers?
- How light is it? I don’t want half the bag weight to be the shell only.
- Does the handle seem strong?
- Is the inside lining functional and quality?
- Extras: Is there a neat feature that will improve my travel: secret compartment, expandable section, battery pack, or side handle for easy transport?
- Am I willing to spend $[x] amount on it?
- What do the reviews say? Is there a guarantee or warranty?
For this article, I focused on suitcases with wheels. I’ve tried my best to round up bags I think are functional, sturdy, cool, and stylish. I picked only 10 and tried to take into consideration different styles and trends so there is something for everyone!
The Best Value
Consistently, Delsey Paris had high ratings and plenty of reviews on Amazon. Several of their models had an average of 4.5 stars and more than 200 reviews. The brand fits into the budget friendly category of $80-150 and has the basics: sturdy shell and handle, 360-spin, TSA-approved lock, smart compartments inside, and an expandable zipper if you need more room. The bonus feature that several reviewers noted about this model, is the opening in the front. Often, hard shells receive the critique of not being easy to access on the go. If you want to sneak something in or out you basically have to lay it flat, unzip it, and hope nothing falls out. With this little compartment, you can tuck away gloves, a book, even your laptop.
The Fashion Blogger
Calpak also created a suitcase with the same laptop sleeve mentioned above, which is how I discovered the brand. However, their best-selling suitcase is popular because of the whole marble craze. I’ve seen it in so many Instagram posts. If you love the marble print and want something that stands out, this one is for you.
Wherever you travel, there always seems to be one Aussie in the hostel dorms. That’s why I’d trust a suitcase brand from down under any day. Crumpler created a carry-on that’s perfect for the full-time traveler. It’s designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear, both from internal and external pressures. What I like about the Crumpler suitcase is the straps around the body that also offer a nice side handle that a lot of carry-ons lack.
Away is the suitcase everyone is talking about mostly because they’ve done an incredible job of marketing themselves as the suitcase for young creatives. Designed by former Warby Parker execs, another cool-yet-affordable fashion startup, the Away brand offers everything $200+ suitcases usually do: sturdy build, good handles, useful interior, but there’s a twist. They also have a built-in battery so you can charge your electronics while you wait for your flight. I’ve been eyeing this brand for a while and then I spotted someone at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park with one in navy and my heart skipped a beat. Is it anything particularly special? Without the battery, I’m not convinced it is, but the colours they offer are chic and the inside compartments are probably my favourite design so far. You can also get $20 off with this link.
The High Tech
Oprah called this suitcase the smartest luggage ever and that’s pretty accurate. The Raden suitcases are the Apple of luggage. They’re simple, stylish, and harness the most sophisticated app and tech integrations. First, there is a built-in battery so you can charge on the go, much like the Away suitcases. Second, there is a built-in scale that connects to the app, so you know if you’re going to be over the limit. Third, it uses low-frequency Bluetooth to track your suitcase’s location if it’s lost or stolen. The case itself is also of high-quality materials and make, including the handles and wheels. The only reason I would not get the Raden is maybe price and my temptation to get a suitcase with an accessible outside compartment for laptops.
This duffle bag has a built-in handle and two wheels so you can wheel it and throw it over your shoulder. While I don’t usually gravitate towards this kind of model, I love bags that are easy to transport up and down stairs and in public transportation once you leave the airport. This one has many straps and handles. It gets high reviews and is pretty budget friendly. It’s roomy, waterproof, and light. It also has a convenient pocket on the side where you could put your passport if you didn’t have a purse or personal bag. The only issue is size, as it might not be permitted as a carry-on because it doesn’t fit the standard dimensions.
The Vintage Traveler
If you’re the kind of wanderlust-er who loves Downton Abbey, Out of Africa, and other romantic depictions of travel, maybe all these plastic and mesh cases feel a little too cold. For you, there is a whole range of vintage-inspired suitcases that channel old trunks and luggage. This particular set is pretty affordable since you get two suitcases for $200, but it’s not genuine leather, so some reviews said the pleather was noticeably cheap. The navy and hunter green are my favourite, and the print on the inside feels fresh and clean. I’ve never heard of this brand, so it’s possible it’s a cheap Chinese make. It’s pretty cute regardless and way less expensive than the alternative and vogue-approved Globe Trotter brand (check it out though, very beautiful pieces).
The Lipault suitcases were brought to my attention by the travel community because of one feature. It folds up into NOTHING when you’re not using it and expands to hold so much when you are. It’s not the most sophisticated design like other models that have amazing wheels and app-enable features. In fact, it only has two wheels. However, reviews note how light and easy it is to shove way more in there than a rigid case. It also has a front pocket that is easy to access. When you’re not using it, or when you arrive at your destination, you can easily flatten it into a few inches thick, which can be a selling point for someone who lives in a studio flat. It comes in a few colours, and you can get smaller bags to match, if you’re looking to build a set.
The Budget Choice
This suitcase has more than 1000 reviews on Amazon and comes out with a 4.5 star average rating. For only $50, that’s a pretty great deal if you don’t want to invest right now or if you travel infrequently. The bad reviews noted things like cheap wheels, flimsy lining, and the lack of warranty. It comes in a ton of colours – probably more than any other model listed here. If you’re not looking for something expensive this is a good choice for you.
I call the Rimowa Electronic Tag suitcase “the future suitcase” because it’s only available in Europe right now and I’m not convinced the technology is mainstream enough to recommend. However, it’s pretty darn cool. They designed a bag that has built-in luggage tag technology so your suitcase displays your checked baggage tags on a digital screen on the bag instead of relying on glorified stickers. You can check-in your luggage from home using their smartphone app and drop it off at the airport. Because it’s communicating the digital baggage information to the app, you can also get real-time updates as your bag travels with you. You can check it out here, or shop non-electronic, but still pretty fancy Rimowa suitcases here.
If you don’t want to buy a new suitcase yet, consider fixing your current one with the help of my guide to fixing suitcases.