The Best Suitcases to Get You Up in the Air in Style
Plus packing tips from travel pros always on the go.
Updated Apr 20, 2022 1:00 PM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
Travel has officially ramped back up—cab lines are longer, airports are busier, and hotel rooms are booked—and there’s no better time to get back into the swing of things than with a brand-new suitcase. To help “unzip” all of your in-transit needs, including tips to corral the contents of your carry-on, we tapped Rana Good, travel writer and founder of online magazine Naïra NYC, and Catch Me If You Can’s Jessica Nabongo, to walk us through the top features they always keep in mind when shopping for the ultimate travel companion. Whether you’re gearing up to fly cross-country or drive a few hours to your weekend escape, the best suitcases will make your next trip go as smoothly as your new bag rolls. (Spoiler alert: All our top picks have four wheels.)
- Best overall: Away The Bigger Carry-On Suitcase
- Best value: Samsonite 20-Inch Winfield Spinner
- Best soft case: Tumi International Expandable Carry-On
- Best trunk style: Steamline Luggage Rolling Carry-On
- Best storage: Bric’s Bellagio Pocket Spinner Trunk
- Best design: Arlo Skye x Dusen Dusen Zipper Carry-On
- Best capacity: Béis The Large Check-In Roller
- Best sustainable: Tour Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus
- Best customizable: Roam Jaunt XL Carry-On
- Best splurge: Rimowa Classic Cabin Suitcase
Best Overall: Away The Bigger Carry-On Suitcase
Shell material: Polycarbonate | Weight: 7.4 pounds | USB charger: Yes
What we like:
- Fun, trendy colors
- 100-day free trial and lifetime warranty
- Supersmooth, 360-degree spinner wheels
- Portable charger that will outlive your phone by days
- Telescoping handle can get finicky with age
Why we chose it: Lightweight, durable, and affordable—Domino editors have relied on theirs for years.
Whether boarding a plane or catching a train, you’re bound to bump into an Away suitcase or two: They fit in most overhead bins (even the bigger version) and hold a ton (seriously, the compression system shrinks even the bulkiest sweaters, and we would know). The polycarbonate cases are also light enough to pick up single-handedly if there isn’t an escalator in sight, and a breeze to steer through busy terminals, plus the brand’s trendy color range ensures you will stand out in a crowd. Domino editors have put them to the test on our own travels, and they’ve passed with flying colors, showing only small signs of wear and tear—it has us questioning whether the limited lifetime warranty is even necessary. But the best thing about an Away suitcase has to be the portable battery; no more charging your cell phone crouched next to a trash can.
Best Value: Samsonite 20-Inch Winfield Spinner
Shell material: Polycarbonate | Weight: 6.7 pounds | USB charger: No
What we like:
- 10-year limited warranty
- Sturdy, sticky-free zippers
- Affordable, entry-level price point without compromise in quality
- Metallic finish shows scratches
Why we chose it: Snag a tried-and-trusted brand, at either 20- or 24 inches, for less than $200.
The century-old luggage company Samsonite has a reputation for reliability, and this polycarbonate case more than lives up to the hype. With 12,000-plus positive reviews on Amazon—one owner even revisited a 2016 comment to confirm that their bag is holding up well 1,000 flights later—the Winfield Spinner is a departures-gate darling because it’s built to last without costing a fortune. For less than $200, you get a little bit of everything: multidirectional spinner wheels, a side-mounted lock, and an ultralight frame in a variety of lightly brushed, jewel-tone finishes designed to hide nicks and scratches for prolonged use.
Best Soft Case: Tumi International Expandable Carry-On
Shell material: Ballistic nylon | Weight: 10.9 pounds | USB charger: Yes
What we like:
- Expands up to 2 extra inches
- Side and top handles are retractable
- Garment sleeve (perfect for business trips)
- Built-in USB cord for easy charging on the go
- It may get lost in a sea of black suitcases
Why we chose it: If you plan to stuff your suitcase with more than a bag of dirty laundry—we’re talking French linens and Splatterware.
For domestic commuter flights with particularly pressed overhead storage—or that last-minute weekend getaway where a swimsuit and caftan is the only acceptable wardrobe option—Tumi’s extending luggage is roomier than your average carry-on. The expandable zipper stretches to accommodate up to 2 additional inches of storage without setting off gate-check alarm bells, but alone still weighs just a hair over 10 pounds. Even on the tiniest of planes in the U.S. or overseas, Nabongo has never had an issue getting this particular bag to fit (save for a few speculative glances from unconvinced flight attendants), which is why it’s her go-to when space is tight.
Best Trunk Style: Steamline Luggage Rolling Carry-On
Shell material: Fiberboard | Weight: 7.9 pounds | USB charger: No
What we like:
- Vintage-inspired style
- Paisley-like print lining
- Leather and gold details
- Modern color options also available
- More than $500
Why we chose it: Gear up for your own Roman holiday with vintage-style luggage.
Burnished gold details, tailored leather straps, and a peekaboo-pattern lining make Steamline’s vintage-style suitcase a thing of beauty, but there’s more to the Entrepreneur than good looks. Incredibly sturdy and outfitted with a classic flip-lock closure that replaces the standard zipper, this fiberboard trunk (although, hello, rattan) ensures contents are always kept secure and in one place thanks to a matching hanging organizer tucked into the interior. It also comes with a coordinating ripstop nylon cover for extra protection in the baggage claim.
Best Storage: Bric’s Bellagio Pocket Spinner Trunk
Shell material: Polycarbonate | Weight: 8.5 pounds | USB charger: Yes, the smart bag does
What we like:
- Herringbone-pattern lining
- Front pocket with multiple compartments (fit your laptop, tablet, summer read, and more)
- Shipping is spotty
Why we chose it: Packed with pockets inside and out to optimize storage.
The perfect marriage of style and function, this smart polycarbonate bag by Italian brand Bric’s features a convenient front pocket and double-deck interior. Multiple organizational compartments keep all your electronic devices and cords sorted and at the ready; there’s even a built-in charger with a USB connection. The light-hued interiors make it easy to spot what you’re looking for, and water-tight zippers ensure your belongings never get caught in the rain.
Best Design: Arlo Skye x Dusen Dusen Zipper Carry-On
Shell material: Polycarbonate | Weight: 7.1 pounds | USB charger: Yes (C and A)
What we like:
- Plenty of pockets (and a laptop pouch)
- A fast-charging portable battery
- Punchy palette on the outside, fun printed pattern on the inside
- Limited-edition design
Why we chose it: Bring the Dusen Dusen look with you and you’ll never lose sight of your belongings at baggage claim.
Weighing in at only seven pounds, Arlo Skye’s collaboration with Brooklyn-based designer Ellen Van Dusen is a solo traveler’s dream. Aside from the bright exterior of this limited-edition, lemon yellow series of two carry-ons and a matching check-in, what sets it apart from other brands is a hard-shell front pocket that offers easy-to-reach compartmentalized storage for all of your in-flight essentials. In fact, the playful, multicolored lining that covers the pouch and rest of the interior is a sight for sore eyes after a long trip, and it’s antimicrobial, to boot.
Best Check-In: Béis The Large Check-In Roller
Shell material: Polycarbonate | Weight: 11.8 pounds | USB charger: No
What we like:
- Chic neutrals
- Plenty of pockets and built-in organizers
- Weight limit
- Buy a set and save 15 percent
- The cover is a must if you go with beige and are worried about scuff marks
Why we chose it: You’ll never be repacking at check-in again.
For all of those times when a full-size suitcase is an inevitability—because some of us haven’t quite perfected the skill of packing a capsule wardrobe in a flash—the Béis 29-inch roller is a worthy upgrade. A weight-limit indicator ensures even overpackers won’t be surprised at the check-in counter, and the retractable bag strap makes it easy to attach additional suitcases or hang a backpack without tipping over the whole thing. But we really love the interior, where separate compartments for dirty clothes, undergarments, shoes, and more help you reach maximum efficiency.
Best Sustainable: Tour Paravel Aviator Carry-On Plus
Shell material: Polycarbonate | Weight: 8.5 pounds | USB charger: No
What we like:
- Carbon neutral
- Interior compression board
- Made from recycled materials (even the zippers)
- 5-year limited warranty
Why we chose it: Purchasing this product offsets the carbon emissions of your first flight.
Talk about responsible travel. You can offset your worries about how flying impacts your personal carbon footprint with the Aviator, Tour Paravel’s carbon-neutral case that’s made almost entirely from recycled materials (the lining itself repurposes plastic from about 21 bottles). Roomy enough to store nearly seven days’ worth of clothing and a couple pairs of shoes, it’s made for both the eco-conscious traveler and the overpacker, who would likely also benefit from Marie Kondo’s most recent collaboration with the brand: the KonMari x Paravel storage cubes.
Best Customizable: Roam The Jaunt
Shell material: Polycarbonate | Weight: 7.3 pounds | USB charger: No
What we like:
- Made in the U.S.
- Once created, ships in 1 to 5 days
- 100-day risk-free trial (even if you customize it!)
- Water-resistant zipper and lining (that’s also washable)
- Interior is not customizable—all lining is the same light gray color
Why we chose it: If you can’t find the perfect suitcase, why not design one?
If you haven’t spotted a color or style that matches your personality, you can always fully customize a suitcase with Roam—from the front and back shells and the stitching wheels to even the handles and zippers. While you are limited to the company’s color offerings, there’s still about a dozen shades to choose from (and an abundance of possible combinations). Feel free to pull inspiration from preselected creations, and then make your own. But personalization isn’t the only reason this suitcase will be handy to have around. It’s incredibly lightweight; has quiet, smooth wheels; and offers compression from both sides.
Best Splurge: Rimowa Classic Cabin Suitcase
Shell material: Polycarbonate | Weight: 8.6 pounds | USB charger: No
What we like:
- Made from durable German aluminum
- Trunklike locking system
- Wheels and handles customizable, for an extra fee
- Most expensive option on our list (a dream luggage investment, to be honest)
Why we chose it: The cream of the crop, and you’ll likely never have to replace this one (or at least not for decades).
Lighter than plastic yet stronger than acrylic, Rimowa’s anodized aluminum alloy cases are everything you’d expect from the German icon. They’re highly functional and practically impervious to scratches and dents—so of course they’re one of the best suitcases we could find. “Rimowa is the gold standard for luggage,” says Good, who argues that the brand’s proven track record in the durability department makes it heirloom-quality and worth the staggering price tag. “Plus you have the benefit of in-store repairs and a five-year warranty,” she adds. If silver feels too sterile, you can change the color of its tag, handles, and wheels from 10 different options. (Though both photo director Linda Denahan and design director Brit Ashcraft have green gloss on their wish lists.)
On Our Radar
- If Away is feeling too mainstream at the moment, commerce editor Collier Sutter is smitten with the shades of July’s current offerings. But the detachable laptop pocket option? Perfect for an overnight business trip.
- Monos is for the minimalist; it’s sleek, affordable, and sustainable (it’s actually one of the first Climate Neutral–certified travel brands). We’d snatch up the terrazzo shell before it’s gone!
- This seriously stylish set from the Tuplus line offers the best of both worlds and contrasting moments of color—delight in the design details of a neon-coated handle and the fun interior prints (and save by going in on a set).
- Japan may still be off-limits to most tourists, but deputy commerce editor Samantha Weiss-Hills can’t help but recommend saving your suitcase splurge for a Proteca at Haneda Airport (the checkered frame alone might be worth the wait).
How We Chose These Products
Domino editors are no novices when it comes to packing up smartly and avoiding long airport lines (Clear, TSA-Pre-Check, Global Entry? Must-haves). Our list of the best suitcases include the hard-shell carriers that are light enough to lift into an overhead bin or roll through a busy terminal without slowing you down. Then we tapped industry experts—notably Rana Good, travel writer and founder of online magazine Naïra NYC, and Catch Me If You Can’s Jessica Nabongo, who have more air miles and passport stamps than most—to get their input on ideal size, weight, shape, material, and extra accessories to round up the best suitcases.
Size and Weight
According to Good, an ideal carry-on measures 22 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches tall. Depending on your destination, a few sneaky restrictions can mean the difference between sailing through security and waiting at baggage claim. If you are not flying first class or don’t have any perks, Nabongo suggests playing it safe by keeping your carry-on to 50 pounds. And even when it comes to check-in, Good refuses to go bigger than a medium-size bag. “A really large suitcase can be convenient for packing, but it has the downside that you can easily go over the [50-pound] weight limit,” she warns.
Most of the suitcases on this list are polycarbonate for good reason: It’s incredibly lightweight, more flexible than polypropylene, and stronger than other materials like ABS (a fancy kind of plastic). Aluminum looks great (and is arguably the highest quality), but it’s heavy and expensive. And there’s a reason why fiberboard is still used today—vintage luggage has survived decades of travel.
Not only are built-in locks good for keeping your belongings safe in transit, they’re ideal for those moments when your luggage is left unattended for longer periods of time, such as when you drop it off at the hotel before check-in, notes Good.
Q: What are your top packing tips for a carry-on suitcase?
The short answer: organizers. But some packing cubes are better than others. Opt for one that compresses contents and clearly divides clean clothes from dirty laundry. While Nabongo’s all-time favorite, the Flight 001 Spacepak, is no longer available, we’ve got our eye on both these limited-edition designs from Calpak and affordable set from Amazon.
Q: My past suitcase has been through a lot—under-bus storage, tossed on the tarmac, you get the picture. Is there a material you recommend to keep my belongings safe?
Nothing beats aluminum and polycarbonate in Good’s opinion—they’re basically impenetrable. “I was told that once I go hard-shell, I would never look back, and it’s true,” she says. “A few years ago I had a soft-shell fabric suitcase that got caught in a rainstorm while [the handlers were loading it] into the airplane, and all of my clothes were wet.”
Q: How long can I expect a quality suitcase to last?
For the average person—someone who is taking roughly 10 flights a year at most—Nabongo recommends investing in a suitcase that will last at least a decade. “I think it’s important to go with a company that is going to give you a guarantee,” she adds, pointing to Tumi and Samsonite as prime examples.
The Last Word
A built-in, portable battery is no longer the sole indicator of the best suitcase. For us, tip-top means indestructible exterior shells (scuffs may be inevitable, so think of them as a badge of honor instead); zippers that refuse to snag; TSA-approved locking systems; pockets aplenty to keep all your cords and in-flight accessories handy; and more. Our favorite suitcases make maneuvering a crowded train station or airport less of a struggle, and you’ll turn more than a couple heads if you happen to go with a trendy pop of color.