9 great suitcases worth the checked-bag fee

May 17, 2020

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Choosing which suitcase you’re going to purchase for an upcoming trip is no easy task.

Whether you’re a road warrior or your old luggage could simply use an upgrade, you’ll want to make sure you do some research first. And since most of us aren’t travelling right now, there’s plenty of time to read reviews and comparison shop.

We know a new suitcase may not be a priority for everyone right now, but for those of you who are still in a position to take your travel gear to the next level, now’s your chance.

Since this a bag that will be stored under the plane and tossed on luggage carts, sturdiness is key. Your bag is going to be thrown around quite a bit, so you’ll want to make sure it’s up to the task.

You’ll also want a suitcase with plenty of compartments and organizational components. You’re likely packing for more than just a few days, so it’s important that all your items can fit neatly inside.

But be sure to have some fun with this purchase, too! Your suitcase is an expression of your personality, so you’ll want to get one that you feel matches your travel style and goals.

Before you finalize your order though, do yourself a favour and check out our guides to airline shopping portals. That way, the gear you’re buying for your next trip is helping you actually get there, too.

Our favorite suitcases right now:

  • Arlo Skye The Frame Check-In
  • TravelPro Maxlite Expandable Hardside Spinner
  • Briggs and Riley Expandable Upright
  • Samsonite Winfield Fashion 28″ Spinner
  • Eddie Bauer Expedition Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel – Extra Large
  • High Sierra Pathway 36″ Wheeled Drop Bottom Duffel
  • Rimowa Original Check-In
  • Nomatic Check-In
  • Away The Large

Arlo Skye The Frame Check-In

(Photo courtesy of Arlo Skye)
(Photo courtesy of Arlo Skye)

Why we love it: Arlo Skye was founded by Tumi and Louis Vuitton alums, so you know it’s going to be good. It’s sleek and stylish, complete with an aluminium frame and an impact-resistant polycarbonate shell. Our favourite feature, though, might be the two TSA-approved clasp locks that keep your belongings safe and secure, all without a zipper. Just be sure to remember your combination.

The details: 26.6 inches by 17.7 inches by 11.0 inches and weighs 10.5 pounds

Pricing: Arlo Skye bags are only available on its website — The Frame Check-in sells for $495.

Eddie Bauer Expedition Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel – Extra Large

(Photo courtesy of Eddie Bauer)
(Photo courtesy of Eddie Bauer)

Why we love it: This bag is for the adventurous traveller who wants a little bit of everything. It’s a two-wheeled rolling duffel bag with a ripstop nylon exterior built to last. Space is divided into the two main compartments with plenty of room for everything, from adventure gear to sightseeing clothes. The exterior straps help keep the bag secure, while the strong handles are ideal for wheeling it around the airport. It even has technology that helps it stand completely upright, no matter how much you’ve overpacked. The Eddie Bauer Expedition Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel comes in black, green and sapphire.

The details: When they said “extra large,” they weren’t kidding. This bag measures 34 inches by 19 inches by 15 inches.

Pricing: You can buy it on Eddie Bauer’s website for $279, although it’s currently on sale.

TravelPro Maxlite Expandable Hardside Spinner

(Photo courtesy of TravelPro)
(Photo courtesy of TravelPro)

Why we love it: TravelPro bags are beloved by road warriors near and far — seriously, just ask the next flight attendant you see. TravelPro makes a number of different designs, but we have a soft spot for the Maxlite. The four-wheeled spinner has a polycarbonate shell, as well as a TSA-approved lock and a lightweight PowerScope Lite handle. You can get it in black, slate green, azure blue, midnight blue, dusty rose or brushed Champagne.

The details: The TravelPro Maxlite measures 31 inches by 19.75 inches by 12.5 inches, and weighs 9.6 pounds — one of the most lightweight bags on this list.

Pricing: It’s on sale for $149.99 on TravelPro’s website, although it usually retails for $199.99. You can also get 10% off by signing up for emails.

Samsonite Winfield Fashion 28″ Spinner

(Photo courtesy of Samsonite)
(Photo courtesy of Samsonite)

Why we love it: We have a feeling you’re going to love this bag so much, you might feel a twinge of guilt after you leave it with the check-in agent. This four-wheeled spinner has a polycarbonate shell that makes it extremely durable, and it also expands as needed, if you just have to stuff that extra sweater in. If that’s the case, the full-zip interior divider and organization pockets will really come in handy. The bag comes with a limited 10-year warranty, and is available in charcoal, deep blue, orange, purple and a brushed carbon colour.

The details: 31.4 inches by 20.4 inches by 13 inches, and weighs just over 11 pounds.

Pricing: You can find the Winfield Spinner on Samsonite’s website for $229.99.

High Sierra Pathway 36″ Wheeled Drop Bottom Duffel

(Photo courtesy of High Sierra)
(Photo courtesy of High Sierra)

Why we love it: You’re going to be the envy of frequent flyers with this rolling, two-wheeled duffel featuring oversized skate wheels. The bag boasts front U-Zip main compartment access and a handle wrap to join the two carry handles together. It’s also made from 600 Denier Polyester to make it extra sturdy, and has a retractable handle that locks in place when both fully extended and stored. You can get it in either a black-and-gold colour story or a maritime blue with black and ash accents.

The details: 36 inches by 16.5 inches by 14.5 inches and weighs just over 10 pounds

Pricing: You can buy it for only $119.99 on High Sierra’s website.

Rimowa Original Check-In

(Photo courtesy of Rimowa)
(Photo courtesy of Rimowa)

Why we love it: This list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Rimowa. It’s a cult-favourite for a reason — well, a few reasons. Its design is iconic, yes, but this four-wheeled suitcase is also designed to withstand trip after trip. There’s no zipper on this bag, either; just two TSA-approved locks to keep your belongings in check, as well as a height-adjustable flex-divider inside. If you do encounter bumps in the road, though, you’re entitled to a five-year guarantee as well as hotel repairs at participating properties around the world (yes, really).

The details: 9.5 inches by 17.8 inches by 26.4 inches and just shy of 12 pounds

Pricing: Such accolades don’t come cheap. Expect to drop $1,230 to put one of these in your travel closet.

Briggs and Riley Expandable Upright

(Photo courtesy of Briggs and Riley)

Why we love it: If you need more flexibility and want a bag that easily expands to fit all your essentials (and then some), well, this is it. You’ll no doubt be impressed by how much this bag can fit, all while maintaining a tailored and sleek exterior. The same bag comes in both a four-wheel and two-wheel model, so you can opt for whichever bag suits your preferences. All Briggs and Riley bags come with a lifetime guarantee.

The details: The four-wheel suitcase measures 25 inches by 18 inches by 11 inches, while the slightly smaller two-wheel model is slightly smaller, coming in at 25 inches by 18 inches by 10.5 inches. The four-wheel suitcase is also almost one pound heavier.

Pricing: You’ll find both suitcases on Briggs and Riley’s website. The four-wheel version is slightly more expensive, selling for $659, while the two-wheel version is $625.

Nomatic Check-In

(Photo courtesy of Nomatic)
(Photo courtesy of Nomatic)

Why we love it: This isn’t your standard check-in bag. This four-wheeled suitcase uses a magnetic compression system and full-perimeter expansion to keep your items secured and extremely organised. It has silent Hinomoto wheels, TSA-locking YKK zippers and a sleek, yet unusual design. It’s virtually indestructible, too — just see what happens when you throw something at it. Go on, try it out.

The details: The Nomatic Check-in bag measures 29 inches by 18.5 inches by 9 inches, and weighs 12.3 pounds, making it one of the heavier suitcases on the list.

Pricing: You can buy this one-of-a-kind bag on Nomatic’s website for $599.99.

Away The Large

(Photo courtesy of Away)
(Photo courtesy of Away)

Why we love it: You just can’t go wrong with an Away bag. It’s designed with frequent travellers in mind and can withstand even your most rigorous trips. It will accommodate all of your belongings for your next long trip. As an added bonus, if you also have one of Away’s carry-on suitcases, you can easily stow it inside the suitcase when you’re not travelling. Away bags also come in every possible colour you could dream up — everything from classic black and white to light pink, brick red and a deep hunter green. There are also a handful of limited edition colours and schemes, like the retro ski “Chalet” collection and an asphalt-coloured suitcase with a mint-green zipper.

The details: Away’s largest suitcase measures 29 inches by 20.5 inches by 12.5 inches and weighs 11.6 pounds.

Pricing: You can only buy Away’s bags online, and The Large sells for $295.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to select the best checked luggage

Since your checked luggage will likely get thrown around and banged up quite a bit, durability is key here. You’ll want to make sure it’s large enough to hold all of your belongings, but not too large that you can’t comfortably wheel it around the airport with you.

You’ll also want to choose a suitcase that fits your travel style. If you’re planning on more adventurous, rugged trips, you might be better off with a duffel. If you’re staying in a luxury hotel with white-glove service, you won’t mind leaving your luxury suitcase with a bellhop.

As you’ve seen here, suitcases can vary greatly in price. Keep in mind your budget as well as your personal style to find your perfect match.

Benefits of travelling with a checked bag

While many people love travelling with carry-ons due to their efficiency and ease, there’s something to be said for checked bags, too.

They really come in handy for longer trips, especially ones where you’re travelling for an extended period of time or require clothes and accessories for more than one type of trip. Checked bags allow you more flexibility, and not just in terms of the clothing you pack.

But many airlines will charge you for checking a bag, so be sure to keep that in mind.

Featured photo by Rattanakun Thongbun/EyeEm/Getty Images.

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