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Experts share their tips for traveling with checked luggage, plus award-winning picks to shop

Good checked luggage is worth the investment.
Beautiful young female tourist picking up her luggage from conveyor belt at the airport.
urbazon / Getty Images

Travel Gear Award winners | More checked luggage | How we chose | Meet the experts | Has your product been featured?

When you’re planning an extended trip that requires luggage bigger than those that fit into the overhead bin, you’re going to need a suitcase that can not just accommodate your gear but is also easy to maneuver (and spot on the baggage carousel).

We're frequent fliers and over the years we have developed packing and travel techniques that make going the distance easier and more pleasurable. And choosing the right luggage to check is a key part of that technique.

But we also know there are so many options available when it comes to buying checked luggage that it can quickly become overwhelming — but it doesn’t need to be. Start with thinking about how you travel and what your travel needs are.

What to consider when buying checked luggage

  • Don't go too big or heavy; a checked luggage bag should also be maneuverable.
  • Weigh the empty suitcase itself. Too heavy, and it may become easier to exceed the weight limit (typically 50 pounds).
  • A lightweight, medium-sized suitcase one with wheels is ideal.
  • Pricier luggage with a lifetime guarantee is a good investment, but if you don't need that, there are solid inexpensive options that do the job.

The most important factor? Size: You don’t want to go too big or start too heavy, according to Henley Vazquez, founder of modern-day travel agency Fora.

“It’s easy to fill all the space, but that’s problematic if you exceed the weight limit," she says. "You don’t want it to weigh a ton before you even fill it, so even the weight of the empty bag is important."

While there’s no one suitcase that will work for everyone, we’ve talked to experts for more of their tips on what to look for — things like the type of material, extra interior and exterior features, and more — to help demystify the process of finding the perfect checked luggage. Plus, we put a bunch of top-rated luggage through rigorous trials as part of the 2024 Shop TODAY Travel Gear Awards, crowning a couple picks that truly impressed us as winners.

Shop TODAY Snapshot

2024 Shop TODAY Travel Gear Awards checked luggage winners

Traveler’s Choice Pagosa Indestructible Hardshell Check-In Spinner

Value: 5/5 | Quality: 4/5 | Satisfaction: 5/5 | Overall score: 4.7/5

This suitcase is proof that high-quality checked luggage doesn’t have to break the bank. We preferred this option, which will run you about $100, over other suitcases that were quadruple the price!

In addition to being relatively stylish, our editors were impressed by its functionality with easy-to-maneuver 360-degree wheels, sturdy handles, a light-yet-durable hard shell frame, multiple organizer inserts and two-inch expansion capability. Plus, it passed what we’ve coined the “roll away test” — when we let go of the suitcase on a ramp, it didn’t roll away or budge even an inch!

Samsonite Atrium Medium Spinner

Value: 4.3/5 | Quality: 4.8/5 | Satisfaction: 4.4/5 | Overall score: 4.5/5

Samsonite is a winner for the second year in a row, with this softside spinner as our pick for best suitcase. While the brand technically classifies this as a “medium” suitcase, it’s a lot roomier than you’d expect. It features smooth wheels, an interior panel divider and an expandable zipper feature, but reviewers recommend exercising caution when using it, since it’s easy to overpack such a spacious bag. Plus, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that Samsonite offers a 10-year warranty on all of its products.

“While I personally have Samsonite’s Proxis Spinner, I’m so satisfied with it I won’t hesitate to invest in this expandable luggage set when I want to go to the soft side," says travel expert Jonathan Alder. "It has all the essential bells and whistles — multi-directional wheels, double zippers, built-in organization, etc. But it’s still ultralight, and at just $250 for both the medium and carry-on, affordable. Plus, unlike all my other carry-ons (I review luggage for a living, so I have a garage-full), this one includes a removable WetPack for your toiletries.”

More checked luggage

Amazon Basics 30-Inch Hardside Spinner

Size: 19.49 x 12 x 27.76 in. | Weight: 11.77 lbs | Capacity: 39 L | Expandable? Yes

The carry-on size of Amazon Basics' luggage won during last year's Travel Gear Awards for the best budget suitcase — and its 28-inch hardside spinner is an equally good value for the cost if you need to check it in for travel. Vasquez agrees: "I just purchased an Amazon Basics suitcase that has been great."

For a third of the cost of other popular checked luggage brands, Amazon's spinner offers plenty of value for those who are going on shorter trips and aren't heavy travelers. It has a 39-liter capacity with helpful cross straps, an interior divider and it's thick and designed to be scratch-resistant. Most importantly, it's maneuverable: It has four double-spinner wheels and a handle that telescopes.

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag

Size: 8 x 17.5 x 13 in. | Weight: 3 lbs | Capacity: 70 L | Expandable? Yes

Patagonia’s Black Hole Duffel is legendary in the travel world thanks to its durability and versatility. Made with thermoplastic polyurethane laminated polyester ripstop, it holds up against moisture and abrasions.

The aptly-named Black Hole converts from an expandable duffle to fold into its own storage sack (which can be used as a pocket when being used as luggage), which is great for those who don’t have a lot of space to store luggage.

Delsey Paris Helium DLX Checked 29-Inch Suitcase

Size: 20 x 13.5 x 32.75 in. | Weight: 10.2 lbs | Capacity: 123 L | Expandable? Yes

With one large central compartment, this suitcase has everything you need to make packing easy, including compression straps, one large mesh zippered pocket and a removable toiletry bag.

The exterior of the suitcase has two pockets, and the suitcase can be unzipped for an additional 2 inches of space. It also features a TSA-approved lock, a patented Securitech zipper, an ergonomic telescoping handle, top and bottom carrying handles, and dual-density double spinner wheels.

Baboon to the Moon Go Bag

Size: 12.5 x 21.5 x 14 in. | Weight: 4 lbs | Capacity: 60 L | Expandable? Yes

This bag weighs only 4 pounds — yet can accommodate a week’s worth of clothing. It features lockable zippers, a daisy chain around the outside so you can clip items on, a hidden external passport pocket, and other external storage compartments.

Best of all, it's sturdy and easy to clean, which is why Annie Shigo, Shop TODAY's social media editorial assistant, swears by her mini version of this Go Bag: "When you live in a big city, you need a bag that's easy to clean after a travel day. The go bag has such an easy-to-clean material that I just wipe it down with one Clorox wipe. It doesn't get scuff marks and is pretty water-resistant. While the material doesn't have a ton of stretch, it feels sturdy, so your items won't get tossed around in it."

Dakine Wheeled Split Roller Bag

Size: 32 x 17 x 13 in. | Weight: 10 lbs | Capacity: 110 L | Expandable? Yes

This duffel has the best of both worlds: a flexible duffel bag structure and the organizational components of a traditional suitcase, plus wheels. A regular duffel this size would be hard to heft around, but the hard side, adjustable handle and wheels add to its functionality.

The top of this bag unzips and has two mesh compartments in it, while the main inside of the bag is one large compartment with a mesh zip cover. There are also two external pockets for those regularly used items you need to access easily. An internal collapsible brace either folds out to give you extra space or folds back to let the top of the bag lie flat.

Solgaaard Check-In Closet

Size: 27 x 15.5 x 13.75 in. | Weight: 11 lbs | Capacity: 91 L | Expandable? Yes 

Available in a medium version, the large can accommodate up to 10 days' worth of outfits (or even more, if you're extremely organized). The five-level shelf is also removable so you can keep things organized. When you're ready to stow the shelf away, it comes with compression straps to secure everything in while giving you optimal packing space for your other things.

July Checked Expandable

Size: 26 x 18.75 x 11 in. | Weight: 9.9 lbs | Capacity: 80 - 91 L | Expandable? Yes 

The Checked Expandable weighs under 10 pounds but gives travelers a whopping 90 liters of packing space. While it only comes in three colors, its smaller sister suitcase, the Checked suitcase, comes in several more options with only a minimal amount of size difference (likewise, if you need a super-sized option, there’s a Checked Expandable Plus).

Travelpro Platinum Elite 25-In Check-In Expandable Spinner

Size: 28 x 18.5 x 11.75 in. | Weight: 9.8 lbs | Capacity: 97 L | Expandable? Yes

With a durable outer covering made from high-density nylon fabric (which has DuraGuard coating to resist stains and abrasions), the spinner also has leather trim, chrome zippers and a TSA-approved lock. It has a four-wheel system that’s easy to roll and turn, and an adjustable handle with a contoured grip. An added bonus is the suitcase’s USB port with a power bank storage pocket (you have to get the power bank separately), making charged up travel easy.

How we chose

For award winners, we sorted through hundreds of new launches, editor recommendations, trending products flooding our social media pages and tried and true products to curate a list of travel items worth reviewing. We then tried the products in our studios, putting them through practical experiments to see if they meet requirements when it comes to durability, function and quality for travel gear. Finally, our panel of experts reviewed some of our winners and gave feedback based on their expertise.

For more options, we also scoured the internet and gathered picks that either have high ratings, were from brands our editors have tried before or both.

Take a peek at our process here:

Meet our experts

Has your product been featured?

Shop TODAY is editorially independent and our team of editors and writers work hard to pick the best products to share with our readers and viewers. We may license our logo to brands or products that have been featured on Shop TODAY. Click here if you’re interested in licensing your inclusion in Shop TODAY content or to learn more from our licensing partner, Wrights Media.