Carry-on luggage is all well and good if you’re only going on a short trip, but if you are planning on staying away longer, you’ll need a substantial suitcase that can be checked into the cargo hold.
Whether you choose to check an uber-modern hard shell spinner case, a traditional fabric case, or a big ol’ backpack — you should do your research to find the size, shape, and style of luggage that works best for your next adventure.
Table of contents
- Things to Consider With Checked Luggage
- The Best Hardshell Checked Luggage Cases
- The Best Softshell Checked Luggage Cases
- The Best Backpacks & Duffel Bags for Checked Luggage
- Final Thoughts
Table of Contents
- Things to Consider With Checked Luggage
- The Best Hardshell Checked Luggage Cases
- The Best Softshell Checked Luggage Cases
- The Best Backpacks & Duffel Bags for Checked Luggage
- Final Thoughts
Things to Consider With Checked Luggage
Checked luggage is bigger, bulkier and usually more cumbersome than cabin cases. How you transport it to and from the airport, as well as the psychical weight and size restrictions on the aircraft itself, will affect the type of checked luggage you can use on an aircraft.
Carry-on luggage is easy to handle, but it can lack the space your need for bigger adventures. If you’re planning to check your luggage this time, treat yourself to one of those bigger suitcases you’ve had your eyes on.
Most manufacturers make cases, backpacks, and even bags in a variety of sizes, so you could even drop a few dollars on a matching set. Remember that medium cases are easier to transport than super-sized ones (and lighter too).
Great big cases are hard work to roll around the airport, and every carrier has restrictions on the size and weight they’ll accept — so check with the airline before you fly.
Hot Tip: As a general rule, 62 inches linear is usually the maximum allowed bag size for most domestic and international carriers.
Don’t be that person at check-in unpacking their overstuffed suitcase to make it weigh less. Check with your airline before you fly to find out their weight limit guidelines for checked luggage. Most airlines will charge extra for bags that weigh over 50lbs (or may even refuse them at check-in).
You may be able to escape the weight restrictions by checking more than 1 suitcase at a time, but you will usually be charged extra for this privilege (and not every airline on every route will offer this service).
Backpack vs. Suitcase
When it comes to checked luggage, this is really down to what suits you best and how you intend to carry your belongings when you reach your destination.
If you are backpacking around the globe, you should probably invest in a pack of some kind with lots of bells and whistles. But if you’re planning a vacation in a fancy resort, a suitcase will be just fine.
Suitcases with 2 wheels are easy to pull behind you and will be better equipped to move over rougher terrain, while the 4-wheeled versions can glide along next to you and are much easier to manage in tight spaces such as airplane aisles.
Cost, practicality, and personal preference are all major factors in choosing a 2- or 4-wheeled option. You can glide a 4-wheel spinner case with ease in the airport, but it could easily get stuck on bumpy sidewalks or uneven pathways.
A 2-wheeled version can be hauled over anything, but they can also be unsteady and cumbersome. Test “drive” a few suitcases before you buy!
A sturdy handle is an absolute must on a medium or larger suitcase. No one wants to end up having to carry their case around the airport — those wheels are there to be used!
Telescopic handles that fit neatly inside the frame of the case when not in use are a common feature of full-size suitcases. If you are buying a premium brand, they should also come with ergonomic handles to prevent your hands from becoming raw when pulling that case from one country to another.
Hot Tip: Look for a suitcase handle that has a selection of stop heights. That way, even the tallest and smallest members of your family can pull it with ease.
Zips & Locks (TSA)
The TSA requires that every passenger traveling to or from the United States use a TSA-approved lock or zipper to secure their luggage.
TSA screens every passenger’s baggage before it’s placed on the plane, and they can choose to open a passenger’s luggage for closer inspection at their discretion.
When this occurs, if the luggage has any lock other than those approved by the TSA, they will destroy it to gain access. So invest in a TSA-approved lock or bag with a zipper to ensure your bag doesn’t arrive half open and wrapped in notorious TSA tape.
Get the Limitless Travel Playbook: The definitive guide to traveling the world like a rockstar, for peanuts. Discover industry secrets, VIP rewards strategies and how to stack your travel points like a pro!
Hard or Soft Luggage
Choosing whether to get a shiny new hardshell case or a sporty-looking softshell is another tough call you’ll have to make.
Hard cases can be incredibly durable with sleek curves and colorful exteriors, but they offer less flexibility in terms of interior space (and are more prone to wonky wheels and failing handles).
Soft cases are sometimes less to look at, and they don’t offer quite the same level of reinforced protection. However, they often have more usable internal space, useful external pockets, and are far lighter to carry and easier to maneuver.
Quality and the durability of any case will depend on the make and model, so remember the old adage “buy cheap, buy twice” before you commit.
Material & Durability
Hardshell suitcases are made from durable materials that will take the common knocks and bangs associated with air travel in stride. The most popular hard materials are polycarbonate, aluminum, ABS, and polypropylene.
When it comes to softshell cases, don’t let the fabric put you off. They’re not made from fine silk and won’t fall to pieces at the first touch! Usually these are manufactured using super strong synthetic materials such as ballistic and Cordura nylon, or polyester if you opt for a lower-cost option.
The Best Hardshell Checked Luggage Cases
For the Fashion Conscious Traveler
Delsey Luggage Helium Aero 25 Inch Expandable Spinner
This suitcase looks really nice! It also wheels well and has plenty of space for lots of belongings. Unlike some of the other hardshell cases on the market, the Aero from Delsey also has the capacity to expand a little bit, so you can drop in some souvenirs during your return journey.
Made from 100% polycarbonate, the case itself should remain durable throughout its lifetime. Available in a selection of colors, the shiny, molded case is an absolute stunner.
Internally, it is also impressive, with 2 full packing compartments, a separate lined divider, tie-down straps, and a zippered pocket for small accessories. These are allegedly there to minimize the shifting of contents during transit, though for most of us they just secure the extra items we throw in at the last minute.
The double spinner wheels are small, yet somehow really smooth and effective, while the handle feels sturdy enough to take the weight of your case (even when really full). No tipping here — the double-wheel setup will prevent the embarrassment of a falling suitcase as you wait in line to check in.
Finally, the designers at Delsey have been thoughtful enough to include a TSA-acceptable lock in the design, meaning TSA agents can easily open and inspect your bag should they need to.
Beautiful & Functional Hard Shell Case
Samsonite Winfield Hardside Spinner Suitcase
Of all the Samsonite luggage pieces, this is by far the best looking. This beauty has a full-capacity design that offers tons of space for your belongings. Made from 100% polycarbonate, this case is made to absorb impact by flexing under stress and magically popping back into its original shape.
The lightweight locking telescopic handle has plenty of different height settings and is almost as strong as the case itself — perfect if you need something to lean on while you wait in line. The clever unified brushed pattern helps hide any unsightly dents or dings, though this case should be strong enough to handle anything that’s thrown at it.
And it’s not just the exterior that’s impressive either. Inside the case, you can use every inch of space to pack your belongings. There is also a fully-zipped interior divider and cross straps to keep your clothing in place during transit.
Need more space? No problem! The Winfield can expand up to 1.5 inches for all those extra souvenirs you need to bring home. And no more lugging a heavy case through the airport either — it moves effortlessly on 4 multi-directional spinner wheels.
For additional security, the case comes with side-mounted TSA locks that will deter thieves but make it easy for TSA agents who need to search your luggage. Chose from a variety of colors and sizes that range from 19 to 28 inches to suit your travel needs.
For Those Who Demand Performance & Good Looks
Samsonite Omni Pc Hardside Spinner 28
The Samsonite brand is synonymous with great-looking suitcases that are tough as nails. Their Omni is no exception; its injection-molded polycarbonate shell looks super cool and is designed to withstand even the toughest of aircraft journeys.
Sleek and shiny on the outside, the micro-diamond texture is extremely scratch-resistant, meaning your case will look great no matter how many times you use it. It should also remain super easy to maneuver, as the 4 spinner wheels require pretty much zero effort to move around — you can practice 360-degree upright turns in any direction with just a light touch of your finger.
TSA locks come standard across the range, which means agents can access your bags when they need to, and your belongings will remain safe from malicious intrusions.
Weighing in at 10.5 lbs, this case will eat into your weight allowance without even a pair of socks packed inside — but it is also one of the most practical and durable cases out there.
Available in 20”, 24”, and 28” inch sizes and a nice range of sophisticated colors, these Samsonite cases should be a feature on anybody’s list of best luggage options.
An Affordable Hardside Spinner
Amazon Basics Hardside Spinner Suitcase
Keep your cash free for spending when you arrive at your destination with this basic but brilliant budget hard-side suitcase from Amazon.
Along with an attractive price tag, this suitcase also offers plenty of similar features to those you’ll find on suitcases twice the price (or more). You can easily create more space for your belongings — an expandable design provides an impressive extra 15% more packing space, perfect for longer trips or extra sweaters.
The interior is fully lined, and the handy divider will keep everything neat and tidy while you travel. Much like some of its more expensive counterparts, the Amazon Basics Hardside Spinner also offers extra zippered pockets you can use to keep smaller items or travel documents safe while on the move.
On the outside, it also looks every bit as good as any of the bigger brand alternatives, with its durable, scratch-resistant finish that will protect it against common damage from being knocked around on its travels.
The Best Softshell Checked Luggage Cases
A Light Yet Travel-Proof Suitcase
TravelPro Maxlite Expandable Spinner Case
Made from polyester fabric with a stain-resistant coating, this lightweight suitcase is perfect for anyone seeking a soft case that doesn’t cost a fortune. This case looks just as good as many of its more expensive counterparts and is available in a variety of sizes.
Weighing a super light 5.9 lbs, you will have plenty of room within the weight limit to load up your belongings, and the top opening front makes it accessible to pack.
Expandable cases offer fabulous amounts of flexibility and can dramatically increase the interior space you have to play with. Taking the family away for a while? Unzip the concealed section on the front to fit in the extra gear you need.
Spinner wheels allow for easy maneuverability, while the handle is made from stronger stuff that slips away into the honeycomb frame with ease.
While this may not be the most exciting suitcase on the market, it is one of the best. According to their website, this is the preferred case of cabin crew and frequent travelers, which would suggest it’s worth exploring if you want to travel light, but travel right!
The Best Design for Frequent Flyers
TravelPro Platinum Magna Expandable Rollaboard Suitcase
TravelPro strikes again — but this time we’ve scaled up the additional features and headed toward the top of their range.
Roll with ease on the high-performance sealed ball-bearing inline skate wheels that will have you spinning this case on a dime. Or simply pull it along using the patented PowerScope aluminum extension handle that minimizes the dreaded wobble and has 3 different height stops for additional comfort.
Made from high-density ballistic nylon with a Duraguard coating, this case should be well-protected against both damage and dirt — and it looks like a really premium product that you would be proud to roll along with you.
Need more room? You got it! This case is expandable up to 2 inches, which should be plenty of space to throw in an extra sweater or 2 without making it bulky or misshapen.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of this particular case is the innovative Rollaboard technology that comes standard on the TravelPro Platinum range. Designed by a former airline pilot, these cases have superior rolling ability and are made to withstand many, many miles of overseas adventures.
The Premium Checked Luggage
Briggs & Riley Baseline Expandable Upright
As one of the most popular manufacturers of cases in the U.S., it should be no surprise that Briggs & Riley have come up with yet another practical and super-cool suitcase with their Baseline range. It does, however, come at a premium price.
Available in a choice of 19”, 21”, 22”, 25”, and 28” versions, you should easily be able to find the right fit for you. Or buy 2: a matched set to check and carry-on!
Made from 1680D ballistic nylon outer fabric, this case promises to resist moisture and dirt as well as the wear and tear of everyday air travel. The hybrid fiberglass frame is lightweight and provides flexibility, durability, and the ability to cleverly retain its shape.
Perhaps most impressive is the patented CX expansion-compression system that comes as standard across the range, allowing you to increase your packing capacity by a whopping 26%, while compressing back to the original size to keep the contents secure.
It also has an “aircraft-grade” aluminum handle system with 4 stop heights to suit the size of every traveler. Holding between 72.5 and 90.2 liters of personal belongings, this suitcase is a great option for anyone looking to check their luggage.
The Best for Budget-Conscious Travelers
Amazon Basics Softside Spinner Suitcase
Not everyone wants to compete in the big-brand luggage stakes, and this suitcase is a good Amazon alternative to some of the better-known brand names.
The low price tag means this suitcase is easily within range of most travelers. And while it may not last you a lifetime, it is a pretty good solution for those looking to travel occasionally, or on domestic flights.
This 25-inch softside spinner complies with check-in size restrictions and is lightweight enough to allow you to fill it with ease. Intriguingly, this case can shrink a little to fit into tight spaces, or grow a little bit to allow you an extra 25% packaging capacity with its expandable top section.
You’ll get smooth-rolling mobility in any direction with the 360-degree spinner wheels, and the telescopic handle can quickly be pulled out when you are on the move. Inside the suitcase is an effective organizer to keep your clothes safely stowed during transit and 3 zippered pockets for conveniently storing smaller items.
Softshell Luggage for Premium Travelers
Samsonite Aspire XLite 25″ Spinner
This time Samsonite brings you the Aspire Xlite, a cleverly-designed softshell case that has some intriguing features. The case is made from 1680D polyester, a man-made fiber produced by the polymerization of the product formed when an alcohol and organic acid react…now there’s something you probably never knew before!
The case has the trademark Samsonite spinner wheels allowing for zero-effort maneuverability on airport walkways and busy sidewalks alike. The retractable handle is a dream to use, as it glides seamlessly out from the case when you need to be mobile, and then slips back into the frame when not in use.
Inside there is also plenty to write home about. Cross straps encourage your luggage not to move around in transit, and there are some cool extra features: a Wetpak™ bag that keeps damp items away from clean and dry ones, and mesh pockets for extra organization.
If you have utilized all of the pockets and space, you can add a little more by taking advantage of the expanding capability that adds extra capacity for more sweaters, shoes or souvenirs.
At 9.5 lbs, this is surprisingly weighty for a soft shell case, but it’s also a premium brand that is made to last with lots of great quality features.
The Case for Families & Extended Stays
Briggs & Riley Brx Explore Large Expandable Spinner
With sleek curves and a sizable capacity for extra items, the Explore suitcase from Briggs & Riley is another great case for checking when you travel. Being the largest in the range, this is the perfect case for anyone jetting off for an extended stay, or a family who has plenty of gear they need to take along.
This suitcase is made from lightweight, durable 420D nylon, 600D polyester, and water-resistant tarpaulin that can hold its own while remaining light enough to maneuver and carry. The 4-wheel spinning system makes light work of airport terminal walkways, and the aircraft-grade aluminum handle system is comfortable and sturdy.
Once again, the brains behind the Briggs & Riley brand have included their patented CX expansion compression system, that allows you to increase your packing capacity by an impressive 26% before compressing back to its original size.
The self-repairing, durable YKK® Racquet Coil™ zippers are also a unique and well-thought-out feature that allow TSA staff to access your bag if they need to while promising many years of effortless opening and closing.
Inside, you’ll find a huge main compartment with tie-down straps and an additional 2 zippered compartments in the top for all those additional bits and pieces that need to come with you.
Suitcases for Travelers Who Appreciate Unique Design
Victorinox Werks Traveler 5.0 WT 24 Dual-Caster
Victorinox is famous for their Swiss army knives and state-of-the-art watches, but they’re also becoming increasingly well-known for their luggage. Statement style with tons of practicality combine to make the Werks Traveler a great option if you prefer a softshell suitcase.
Flexible and super accessible, the interior space makes it easy for you to compartmentalize your belongings. We think this design would really appeal to business travelers who need to arrive ready to go.
Made from extra-strong nylon, this is one of the only cases on the market that comes with a Swiss-engineered handle system that is as awesome as their knives and watches. It also takes inspiration from Japan with Hinomoto wheels that feature Lisof® silent tires for quiet and quick maneuverability.
Inside the case, you can fit tons of stuff with the innovative Pack More System, complete with x-shaped compression straps, a removable tri-fold suiter, and 2 large mesh side pockets. Stash your laptop in the padded 17’’ laptop compartment, and you’ll be on your way!
The Best Backpacks & Duffel Bags for Checked Luggage
Pack Everything Including the Kitchen Sink
Eagle Creek No Matter What Flatbed Duffel Bag
Need something large enough to carry your entire closet? This could be the one for you. This massive 101L travel bag is the ultimate travel bag for globetrotters that comes complete with Eagle Creek’s innovative No Matter What Warranty.
This huge, rolling bag is built to offer the ultimate in durability, and is a firm favorite with those looking to embark on big adventures anywhere in the world. Made from Bi-Tech™ fabrics, you can guarantee your belongings will be kept safe in transit. And fully 10 zipped compartments ensure that there is a place for anything with everything in its place.
This bag has an impressive strength-to-weight ratio, meaning that no matter how full you fill it, it will be strong enough to withstand the rigors of life on the open road. Large treaded wheels make light work of uneven surfaces, and the hefty wheel housing adds stability and makes this bag easy to maneuver.
On the inside are the standard interior compression straps to keep your contents secure, as well as webbed pockets and daisy chains for attaching your gear on the go. On the outside, the exterior straps will help the bag retain its shape.
For Travelers Looking for a Big Bag on Wheels
Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Duffel Bag
Warrior by name and by nature, this supersized wheeled duffel is built with super cool “exo-Skeleton” technology, making it a great choice for those who want a backpack that’s a little different.
Treaded wheels will make it easy for you to pull this beast through the busiest of airports, while the protective wheel housing and durable kick plate ensure maximum durability in bag that can withstand almost anything.
With a huge 91.5 liter capacity, as well as the brand’s own unique Equipment Keeper that allows you to strap gear to the top of the bag, you can carry all of your clothing, your sleeping bag, and much much more with you wherever you go.
Despite its size, this suitcase/duffel bag hybrid has a lightweight anodized aluminum dual-tube handle that makes light work of lugging this behind you. The reinforced Hypalon material also helps keep abrasions at bay so your bag will look fresh no matter what your adventures throw at it.
On the inside are a variety of compartments to keep your stuff stowed securely, as well as compression straps to help it keep its shape. Practical, lightweight and impressively sizable, this is yet another great travel option from the wizards over at Eagle Creek.
One of the Most Popular Backpacks on the Market
Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack
Osprey is well-known for their high-quality, super roomy backpacks. The Farpoint is no exception, and this particular model is big enough to take you anywhere in the world while still being light enough to be carried easily.
Don’t want to carry a huge rucksack around when you reach your destination? No problem! Osprey’s famous 2-in-1 backpack solution includes a detachable daypack that can be used for excursions and exploration when you reach your destination.
The Farpoint is made from durable ripstop nylon, and the backpack will remain comfortable to carry thanks to the stowaway back panel, harness, and hip belt that can easily be adjusted to fit your size.
There is a large zip panel to the main compartment that makes it a cinch to pack and unpack, and the numerous zippered compartments are perfect for hiding valuables or items you need easy access to.
Hot Tip: The Fairview is similar in design but has been designed with the ladies in mind, offering slightly varied dimensions to suit the female frame. If you don’t feel the need for the detachable backpack, both versions are also available in the carry-on sized 40 liter, as well as 55- and 70-liter versions.
For Those Who Want an Osprey Pack on Wheels
Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Luggage, 28-Inch/80-Liter
This super-sized 80-liter backpack offers you 2 choices: roll it or wear it. Either offers an effective way to transport your belongings while enjoying your trip.
Featuring Osprey’s very own AG AntiGravity™ mesh back system, this backpack is incredibly comfortable to carry, and the torso-adjustable harness and hip belt mean you can customize the fit to your frame.
Almost as advanced as a 4-wheel drive, the injection molded HighRoad™ chassis is made from an ABS polymer plastic that makes it super hard-wearing and durable, while the polyurethane wheels are good to go over most types of terrain.
Internally, there are acres of space to stow your stuff. You’ll find plenty of pockets as well as the patented Osprey Wash Bag Cassette that helps keep clean and dirty clothes separate — and a wipe-clean liquid/accessories pocket makes light work of cleaning up spills.
The internal compression straps allow you to fully maximize the capacity of this bag, and are also really useful for securing your clothes during transit to limit creases and let you squeeze those last minute extra items in.
Hot Tip: If you want to go all out, the Sojourn is also compatible with Osprey’s smaller day backpacks. The Daylight and Daylight Plus can be attached to the front, meaning you have a smaller, lighter option for daily use when you get there.
Checked luggage is nothing new, and travelers have been lugging huge suitcases around since commercial air travel was invented. What is new, though, is the huge variety of suitcases, bags, and backpacks that modern-day travelers can choose from.
Whatever your preference, go for quality, and be sure to check with your airline carrier about their checked luggage restrictions before you fly.
- The 15 Best Carry-on Luggage Bags for Any Traveler
- The 13 Best Laptop Backpacks to Buy for Travel
- The Best Travel Cameras – Compact, DSLR and Mirrorless Camera Guide
- The 11 Best Noise Canceling Headphones To Buy For Travel
- All Our Best Travel Product Reviews – In One Place
Featured image: Courtesy of Shutterstock.com