The Best Luggage for Every Style, Need, Budget and Trip

Pack up for any type of travel with these top-rated suitcases, weekenders, carry-on bags and more.

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July 14, 2022

OUR TOP LUGGAGE PICKS:

Whether you're an over-packer, last-minute packer or the excited packer who lays out every single outfit a month in advance of your trip, luggage is an inevitable part of travel. The best luggage both protects and organizes items to make travel less stressful, and it doesn't break after a few uses. I've tested all kinds of luggage, from super cheap to super-pricey. I've had wheels fall off, zippers bust, handles get stuck, not to mention hair spray explode and so many other nightmares. I've found the best luggage for any kind of travel and, more importantly, the best quality luggage that can handle being tossed around by baggage handlers when there are glass bottles inside. Yes, really. Read on to see which luggage is right for you and your next trip!

Luggage 101

When shopping for traditional suitcase luggage, the material is the most important thing to consider, and this shopping guide is a soft-shell-free zone. I cannot in good faith recommend a fabric roller suitcase. Baggage delays happen on the tarmac, and there is nothing worse than starting a trip with a soggy suitcase. Fabric suitcases are also more likely to be damaged and ripped in transit, meaning you'll need to repair or replace them more frequently. Hardshell or hard-side suitcases are the only way to go. Depending on your budget, there are several materials to choose from, including premium aluminum to budget-friendly polycarbonate. For bags, the material is even more important. A cognac brown leather weekender sure is pretty, but you can't wipe it clean like nylon.

Size and weight are also important as it's regulated by airlines, trains and many cruise companies. These days, everyone has a slightly different rule for bag dimensions and weight overages. A general rule for carry-on luggage is no larger than 22" x 14" x 9" and a general rule for checked luggage is no heavier than 50 pounds. However, this is more universal for domestic companies and international travel companies often require smaller and lighter luggage.

Best Overall Luggage

If there's a sweet spot for budget, design and sustainability, it's Away. Yes, these suitcases are worth the price. I've lugged these bags on Mediterranean cruises, Oceanic float planes, European subways and everything in between. They're very stylish and come in tons of fun colors but what sets this suitcase brand apart from any other I've tried — and I've tried so, so, so many — is the buttery handle. A telltale sign of cheap luggage is a janky, rickety extended handle, but Away handles are so smooth and incredibly sturdy. Even better: There's a limited lifetime warranty and a very generous return policy. If after 100 days, you realize you just don't like the color pink, you can return it or exchange it with no problem. Should something actually break like a handle or zipper, Away will replace it free of charge.

Best Budget Luggage

With luggage, you tend to get what you pay for. Cheaper suitcases may save you money upfront, but they may not come with a warranty for replacements and will break sooner than later. I thought I was saving big bucks with an Amazon Basics roller once upon a time, but it didn't even last a year of flights. However, there is one budget brand making a name for itself in the under-$100 category, and it's at Target. Yes, Target. The store's own brand Made by Design features minimal, modern (if not Away dupe-y looking) roller bags, weekender bags, backpacks and more, and the reviews speak for themselves. Target has another in-house luggage brand called Open Story that mimics more upscale, luxury luggage. Several of the rollers have metallic finishes under $175, though the reviews aren't as high as Made by Design. The Open Story nylon Weekender bag, however, is pretty close to what you can get from Away and for a fraction of the cost.

Best Carry-on Suitcase

For the small roller that stays with you no matter the flight, Away's original carry-on is the G.O.A.T. of rollers. It maximizes space inside, its outer shell is fairly lightweight and it's easy to clean scuffs with the included eraser sponge. Though, I will say cleaning the lighter colors is much harder. I traded in my pale pink one for a classic black because I got tired of cleaning the scuff marks.

The 10 Best Carry-Ons for Every Type of Traveler

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Best Carry-on Bag

I now measure my travel career in a timeline of before and after this bag. Sure, the rollers are great and get lots of hype, but this carry-on bag is the key to keeping your cool while navigating the anxiety-ridden hell that is airport screening. It's all about the pockets. There really is a dedicated pocket for everything, from your phone to your passport to your laptop. There's even a pocket within the trolly sleeve that goes around your roller bag's handle and that pocket has mini organizer sleeves and pockets inside. Yep, the pockets have pockets. And it makes everything instantly within reach while you're doing the shuffle through security or getting items out of your bag mid-flight. The nylon is also incredibly thick and so easy to wipe clean.

Best Garment Bag

Bet you thought I was going to recommend Away again. Nope! This under $40 garment bag is built Ford-tough and has an infinite amount of pockets of space. There's even room for dress shoes and ties, and the exterior fabric is super-thick, creating a better barrier for air travel. It's kept my family's suits and gowns protected and wrinkle-free for years, and the bag still looks brand-new.

Best Hat Box

Think you don't need a hat box? Think again. The small hat box from Calpak is the perfect carry-on for keeping straw hats in shape for a beach vacation or protecting Mickey ears from getting crushed for a theme park vacation. There are even pockets for other accessories such as headbands, sunglasses etc.

Best Weekender Bag

Many of our top picks are more minimal or utilitarian, but since a weekender bag isn't checked as much and is used more often for car or train trips, it's a chance to be fancy and stylish. I love a classic, cognac leather weekender bag, but FAWN makes an incredible vegan leather version that honors a more vintage silhouette with easy-to-clean exteriors. And there are so many pockets inside to separate shoes. The duffel comes in so many colors, from chic black to this cream and tan combo that's giving me Gilded Age vacation vibes.

Best Checked Suitcase

There's no contest. If you want a big bag, it has to be The Large Suitcase from Away. I use this bag every Christmas for multiple family visits, and it's my all-in-one Santa bag. It's transported tons of breakables, from ceramic figures to souvenir ornaments to glass bottles of Tennessee Whiskey. Yes, checked. It's never let me down. The external shell is also surprisingly resilient given how lightweight it is. I've seen this bag pitched onto conveyor belts, totally smashed against walls and topple down baggage claim carousels, and yet it hardly has a scratch on it.

Best Trunk-Style Suitcase

But for checked luggage that is completely swoon-worthy, you need a trunk-style checked bag. Trunks are less wide and fit better at the foot of a bed or on a bench. The top-open shape is much better if you're hotel hopping through cities and living out of your suitcase rather than actually unpacking. July has the best trunk on wheels with a glossy modern take on a classic shape in several trendy colors. It's just so pretty. Though, the glossy finish does need to be wiped/buffed with the included eraser sponge. It's not as forgiving in scuffs as more matte suitcases.

Best Aluminum Suitcase

Hello, lover. There is nothing more classy than a sleek, shiny aluminum roller. And it's incredibly tough — far more than other hardshell roller bag materials. If we're talking aluminum rollers, there's one name in the luggage business that outshines the rest: Rimowa. The German bags feature a signature fluting that is as pretty as it is practical, but these babies don't come cheap with small carry-ons starting at over $1K. So, we found a budget-friendly dupe. Spoiler alert: It's from Away.

Best Kid's Suitcase

Sorry. No, Paw Patrol characters here. While those kid suitcases are cute, they're typically made with cheap, flimsy fabric and only have two wheels. I will never understand why suitcase manufacturers think kids only need two wheels. Kids are the most prone to leave a bag unattended, and you know when they let go of that handle, it's bag down. Another problem I see with most kid suitcases is height. This mini carry-on from Calpak is a cube instead of a rectangle, meaning even little ones can see over the top and won't feel like they're pushing something as tall as them. This roller is actually designed for adults, particularly business travelers, so the handle can extend pretty far, making this roller a great bag to age with your kiddo. It comes in several fun colors, but, for kids, I recommend getting the linen color and customizing it with vinyl, removable stickers.

Best Backpack

The world of travel backpacks is vast, from sightseeing purses to camping packs. For the best backpack for specific types of trips, check out our shopping guide. But, in general, for traveling by airplane, train or anywhere with carry-on size restrictions, we recommend the Outbreaker Backpack from Tortuga. It's basically one big packing cube with backpack straps. The clamshell zipper opens all the way around like a suitcase instead of a traditional backpack for easy access and packing.

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Best Duffle Bag With Wheels

For adventures where you need to travel by plane or train before you get to the great outdoors, you need a duffel with wheels. This Osprey bag really is the best of both worlds and has nifty features to help you navigate both TSA and the trail ahead. We love the secret shoe compartments at the bottom and back. This is so clutch for stashing hiking boots, especially when traveling to countries like New Zealand with strict environmental laws where boots (and the dirt on them) must be claimed and inspected by agents.

Best Waterproof Luggage

Whether you're planning a dive charter or navigating water taxis, if your trip includes small boats, you should consider fully waterproof luggage to protect your belongings both at the dock and once aboard. Pelican cases are universal among photographers and videographers for keeping fragile and expensive equipment dry, but the company also makes airplane regulation-sized luggage, too. The Pelican Air is similar to other carry-on rollers with the exception that this suitcase is 100 percent waterproof and incredibly tough.

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