The summer of 2022 might be remembered as the Summer of Lost Baggage. Between an increase in airport traffic and a decrease in available staffing, in the first quarter of the year alone, more than 684,000 bags were mishandled, which means a luggage item that was delayed, damaged, lost or stolen. Delayed and lost baggage was so bad at both of London’s major airports, they imposed passenger caps of 100,000 travelers per day, which is still in effect at Heathrow Airport through the end of October.
This has made more than one traveler hesitant to check luggage, but sometimes your destination and the amount of time away means you have to check a bag. The maximum size and weight of checked luggage varies slightly by airline, but generally the bag should be no bigger than 62 total inches (length + width + height) and weigh no more than 50 pounds, with the exception of active duty military traveling on orders. If your luggage is too big or too heavy, you’ll incur additional baggage fees.
While style is definitely a factor in choosing the right piece of checked luggage, size and weight also matter. In addition, one should look at the durability of the outer shell, since this luggage is packed and stored within the cargo section of the plane. If you’re heading out on vacation, you’ll want to consider the expandability of the luggage so it can handle all those souvenirs from your trip.
We’ve taken a look at some of the highest-rated checked luggage available, and compiled a list of our recommendations.
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Best Hard-Sided Luggage
Now, there are some advantages to hard-sided luggage. Hard-sided bags are usually made of a lightweight and durable polycarbonate plastic and are often waterproof, but they do show scratches easily and don’t always expand to hold those extra shoes or gifts for the kids back home.
Away is gaining popularity among travelers for good reason. The lightweight polycarbonate shell is durable, the 360 degree spinner wheels make moving the bag around easy, and the interior compression system helps you pack more in. As a bonus, Away has a 100-day try it and return policy, so you can take the suitcase for a spin and if it’s not the bag for you, you can return it. It also comes in 10 fun colors to help you find your suitcase in baggage claim.
This sleek beauty from Travelpro has the looks and the durability to compete with any checked bag, plus it has a zippered expansion that adds another two inches to the capacity of this suitcase. It also has multiple interior divider panels to keep your clothes organized, or keep your belongings separate from your travel companion’s stuff. Reviewers love that the bag is easy to maneuver and at just 12 pounds won’t put you over the weight limit at the airport.
Not every checked bag has to be the full 62 linear inches, and this medium-sized bag from Samsonite is perfect for those not quite as long trips or just one person. The polycarbonate shell is made to bounce back from damage or dents, and it’s really lightweight for a hard-sided suitcase, at only 9.3 pounds.
This is the checked suitcase for the minimalist who doesn't want to lug around a massive bag. It comes in several shades, including two limited edition ones. But color choices aside, it's both sleek and modern with a polycarbonate outer shell and whisper quiet 360-degree wheels for a smooth ride.
The most expensive piece on our list, The Check-In from ROAM Luggage is also the most customizable. You can select the color of the front and back shell separately, as well as the zippers, the binding, wheels and handles, with the additional option to make the suitcase expandable. Reviewers all rave about the beauty of the luggage, as well as the durability and the light weight - at 9.3 pounds, it’s one of the lightest bags at this capacity. With all the customization, it will be easy to spot on the baggage carousel.
Best Soft Sided Luggage
Soft-sided luggage is popular for its ability to expand, the predominance of outer pockets that are not available on hard-sided luggage, and the usually reasonable price. However, they are almost never waterproof and can show wear and tear over time, much like hard-sided luggage.
This Maxlite 5 is seriously light, and we should know--it just flew to Dublin with more than a week’s worth of clothes, shoes, and sundries, and never clocked in at more than 48 pounds fully packed, even after we purchased half of Dublin to take home. When empty it’s only 8.5 pounds, making it almost a pound and a half lighter than the lightest hard-sided model. It’s very easy to roll through the airport parking lots, with the spinner wheels, and though at 65 linear inches it’s slightly over most airline standards, we checked it through without any issue.
The Silhouette series from Samsonite was first released in 1958 and was at the time one of the most advanced suitcases ever made. It’s still a great, timeless checked bag made modern by innovative spinner wheel technology, tougher zippers, and its own removable compression packing cube. While it holds a ton of belongings as is, it expands another two inches. It starts at 13 pounds empty, so you might incur some overweight baggage fees if you aren’t careful.
SwissGear makes some seriously tough gear, but that’s not the best thing about this suitcase. It’s got lots of internal storage, a wet bag, and flat pockets, plus two on the outside of the bag to keep all of your belongings organized, and there’s nothing better than an organized bag. You can travel with more stuff if it’s tucked away neatly in the SwissGear pockets and compression straps. It’s sturdy and also lightweight at 10 pounds, and for the money it’s hard to beat this checked bag.
Hear us out. We’re not big Disney fans ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the form and function of this American Tourister 28-inch suitcase. It only weighs 9 pounds empty, so that’s more Disney souvenirs you can bring home from the parks. Reviewers love that it’s well-made and stands up to airplane cargo areas, but is also delightfully easy to spot on the baggage carousel. Well, maybe not in Orlando. But it’s cute and fun and comes from a trusted brand of luggage.
Dakine was not a brand on our radar, but we couldn’t pass up this hybrid soft-side/hard-side roller bag. It’s made for adventure, but organized adventure, with multiple large compartments, and a recycled polyester, ripstop, water-repellent outer shell. Designed for rugged terrain and heavier equipment--you can pack ski boots in this thing--it’s got a super outdoorsy vibe, but would work just as well on a less adventurous trip. Dakine describes it as a traveling locker room, and we’d have to agree with them. We’d feel much cooler than we really are pulling this behind us.
Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.