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Getting away for a few days can be a great way to clear your head and recharge your batteries. Whether it’s a weekend trip to a cabin or a full-fledged resort vacation, taking a great travel bag along with you is critical to keeping your belongings clean, protected, and organized.
You may be able to leave your worries behind when you take a trip, but the same cannot be said of your essentials and toiletries. The best travel bags are those that can hold all your gear safely, securely, and efficiently. They improve your organization and ensure you’ll have everything you need when you need it. Keep reading to learn more.
- BEST OVERALL: Samsonite Centric Hardside Expandable Luggage
- RUNNER UP: Amazon Basics Hardside Carry-On Spinner Suitcase
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Aerolite Maximum Allowance Airline Approved Suitcase
- BEST SOFT-SIDED: SwissGear Sion Softside Luggage with Spinner Wheels
- BEST BACKPACK: Amazon Basics Slim Carry On Travel Backpack
- BEST WEEKENDER: Herschel Novel Duffel Bag
- UPGRADE PICK: Victorinox WT 6.0 Softside Spinner Luggage
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Travel Bags
When shopping for the best travel bag, there are a few key points to consider. This section will outline the most important factors to think about when shopping for the best travel bag. Prioritize the features that matter most—such as the bag’s size or material, whether it has wheels, and its weight capacity—to come to a smart decision.
There are a few different types of bags that will work for a getaway. They each have their benefits and drawbacks, so it’s a good idea to become familiar with each type.
- Carry-on travel bags, as their name suggests, fit in the overhead compartments on airplanes. Essentially, they are small suitcases. They come in hard-sided, soft-sided, and wheeled versions. They might not fit a ton of gear, but they’re easy to roll around an airport.
- Checked luggage is larger travel bags that can’t go in the cabin of an airplane. These full-size suitcases are heavy, but they can stow a lot of clothing. They also have wheels, which makes it easier to transport belongings.
- Duffel bags are smaller, sports-type bags. They usually come with a set of carrying handles, a shoulder strap, and sometimes a set of wheels. They’re lightweight and are just big enough to hold essentials for a weekend’s travels.
- Backpacks are excellent for quick getaways because they’re lightweight, easy to carry, and won’t take up a lot of space in a car’s trunk or backseat.
Travel bags can be made of one of several different materials, most of which can withstand the rigors of travel. The most popular materials for soft-sided travel bags, duffels, and backpacks are nylon, polyester, and leather. These materials are all sturdy; nylon and polyester are lighter weight, while leather is usually more aesthetically pleasing.
For hard-sided travel bags, manufacturers typically use ABS or polycarbonate plastic. These materials are rugged, impact-resistant, and often lightweight. Hard-shell bags are much more effective at protecting the gear inside than soft-sided luggage.
For some shoppers, choosing the best travel bag is often a matter of finding the right size bag. If the bag is for a weekend trip, something compact and lightweight—like a duffel, weekender, or backpack—might be the best option. These bags can typically hold between 30 and 40 liters of gear.
For extended getaways, a larger carry-on might be the way to go. These bags’ capacities start around 35 to 40 liters and increase in size until they no longer meet carry-on requirements. Most major airlines will not allow carry-on bags that are larger than 22 inches tall by 9 inches deep by 14 inches wide.
Travelers who need a bag that can transport even more belongings than this will probably need a full-size travel bag. Many of these bags are more than 60 liters in size. They’ll hold plenty of clothing, shoes, and essentials for long-term vacations and getaways.
Carrying extra pairs of shoes, clothing, or other odds and ends can add up to quite a heavy load. There’s no sense in adding to that weight with a travel bag that’s heavier than it needs to be.
For those who prefer a light bag that can still carry plenty of gear, a soft-sided travel bag might be the best option. These bags often weigh less than 10 pounds and are large enough to carry all necessary items. There are larger but lightweight travel bags, too, including some full-size hard-sided bags that come in at less than 15 pounds—they just require a bit of shopping around to find.
Some travel bags feature lots of different pockets, compartments, and gadgets for organizing gear. A popular feature in travel bags and carry-on bags is a set of elastic straps inside the bag that keep clothes in place when the lid opens There is typically a mesh compartment or two inside for storing personal items as well.
Many soft-sided bags feature exterior pockets for organizing smaller items like passports, snacks, cash, and electronics. These pockets can come in handy in an airport waiting area, bus stop, or simply while reaching in the backseat for an item.
Another terrific feature found in some hard- and soft-sided bags is a shoe compartment, which is handy for stowing an extra pair of shoes without getting dirt or shoe polish on the rest of the items in the bag.
One significant difference shoppers will notice as they research travel bags is the number of wheels each bag has. Some bags have two wheels, while others use four. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options, and the wheel design that works best is mostly a matter of preference.
Two-wheeled travel bags roll by tipping them over at an angle and pulling them from the handle. This method often works fine, but it can be awkward to maneuver these bags in tight spaces. A four-wheeled travel bag, also known as a spinner, can be pushed effortlessly as it stands upright. Because all four of the wheels swivel, however, they can be difficult to keep moving straight when running short on time.
Many of the best travel bags on the market come with convenient features beyond additional mesh and exterior pockets, collapsible handles, and shoe compartments. Some bags have built-in USB chargers, which allow travelers to charge phones, tablets, or other devices without an electrical outlet.
A built-in cupholder is a good feature to look for, as it gives vacationers a place to put their drink while waiting at an airport gate or bus stop. Finally, certain travel bags come outfitted with ingenious elastic straps that wrap around the outside; these straps keep the bag from opening accidentally during rough handling.
Not long ago, a person’s luggage was a statement of style and tastes. While luggage is certainly more utilitarian today than it was in the past, it never hurts to have a great-looking bag. When choosing among the best travel bags, it’s a good idea to take aesthetics into account.
Travel bags are available in so many colors and patterns that it shouldn’t be hard to find a piece that complements each person’s individual style. Though some people prefer a bag in a plain, goes-with-everything color, here’s a tip: Consider a bag in a pattern or color that stands out a bit in a crowd. It’ll be easier to spot at the baggage claim than a standard black wheelie.
Our Top Picks
There are many great travel bags on the market, which is why sifting through them all might be a little overwhelming. This list is meant to help shoppers narrow down their choices.
The following selections represent the top picks across various categories—such as style, size, and price—to suit myriad preferences. There’s an excellent chance that there’s a bag on this list that’s just right for you.
Samsonite’s Centric hard-side suitcase will appeal to travelers who want a four-wheel spinner that’s compact but still holds a lot of gear. While this travel bag has a small profile—it’s 19.5 inches tall by 14.75 inches wide and 9.5 inches deep—it expands to accommodate more items than it looks like it can hold.
Though it can be packed to the gills, the bag’s interior has handy features that will help travelers keep their belongings organized, including a full-size mesh divider, elastic straps, and a small storage pocket. Its TSA combination lock ensures that only the bag’s owner and airport agents can access the contents.
The Centric’s exterior is a polycarbonate plastic exterior with a twill finish. Though it’s strong and scratch resistant, it weighs just 7.5 pounds. It has a push-button collapsible handle and two side- and top-mounted handles that allow for easy transport and carrying.
Those looking for a do-it-all travel bag should give Amazon Basics’ carry-on spinner suitcase a good look. This hard-sided travel bag has a fully lined polyester divider inside for separating clothing from shoes, a set of elastic straps for keeping clothes and gear secure, and several mesh pockets for interior storage.
One of this bag’s best features is its four-wheel spinner design that wheels easily across most surfaces. It has both top- and side-mounted handles for carrying as well as a collapsible handle to pull while rolling the suitcase. An extra-thick ABS plastic exterior with a scratch-resistant finish ensures this Amazon Basics carry-on will look good for a long time to come.
This spinner’s dimensions are 14.9 inches by 10 inches by 21.6 inches, but this model also comes in 26-inch and 30-inch sizes. The bag weighs just over 7 pounds but offers 39 liters of storage capacity. Available in black, blue, navy blue, and orange.
It’s rare that a travel bag checks all the right boxes—looks, weight, storage, and low cost. Aerolite’s affordably priced, hard-sided travel bag weighs just over 6 pounds, has 40 liters of storage space, and is approved for carry-on use by most major airlines.
Other features in this bag’s favor are its four 360-degree spinning wheels, a collapsible meter-long handle, and a top-mounted handle to make managing this lightweight travel bag very easy. On the Aerolite’s interior, there’s an elastic strap for securing clothes, a large mesh pocket, shoe pockets, and an elastic pouch to hold smaller items. The travel bag’s exterior is ABS plastic, which is sturdy, scratch-resistant, lightweight, and secured by a three-digit combination lock.
Equally suitable for an extended weekend or a weeklong vacation, SwissGear’s Sion is a go-to travel bag. Its durable polyester exterior fabric is resistant to tearing and scuffs, and it has exterior pockets for ample last-minute storage. The telescoping handle and four 360-degree spinner wheels make for easy maneuverability through a busy airport, and its top-, side-, and bottom-mounted handles make lifting and stowing a snap.
The suitcase comes with a zippered wet bag for swim trunks or dirty clothes. Its interior pockets and ties help travelers keep clothing and belongings neat. There’s a zippered internal pocket and a flat mesh pocket for storing clothes, books, or other items, and the main compartment features two separate elastic straps for securing clothing. Even with all these features, the SwissGear Sion weighs just 8 pounds.
Amazon Basics’ travel backpack is a strong choice for road trips and weekend getaways. Its slim, modern design is comfortable to carry with two adjustable padded shoulder straps and a convenient strap that converts the backpack into an over-the-shoulder bag.
Though this is an attractive travel backpack, the bag’s real value is that it holds a lot of stuff—and keeps it organized. Electronic gear is well protected in both the backpack’s dedicated laptop sleeve and its fleece-lined tablet pouch.
There are several interior storage compartments in which to store belongings, including zippered mesh pockets, an umbrella pocket, and even a zip-away water bottle pocket that disappears when not in use. This slim, stylish backpack also comes in a variety of colors.
For weekend warriors and road trippers, it’s hard to beat the usefulness of the Herschel Novel Duffel Bag. This travel bag has a 33-liter storage capacity with wide-open access from the full-length zipper. There’s plenty of room here for a weekend wardrobe, and the zippered compartment at the bottom of the bag keeps shoes from dirtying the other essentials.
Though Herschel’s Novel bag has a tough nylon exterior and comes with a detachable nylon shoulder strap, it’s probably better suited to the stylish set than it is to super-organized travelers. The bag doesn’t have any interior storage pockets, but it does come with two fashionable faux-leather carrying straps—and Herschel’s signature white-and-red nylon lining.
Victorinox’s WT 6.0 spinner travel bag has a 34-liter capacity, which might not seem very roomy at first, but that’s not the whole story. This travel bag packs in lots of features—and lots of gear—into its nooks and crannies.
It has a built-in USB charger to keep device batteries topped off as well as a built-in ballpoint pen for waiting-area crossword puzzles. A removable smart packing cube has a laptop sleeve and plenty of space to corral and compress clothing.
Though its techy bells and whistles are useful, it’s the bag’s quality and utility that really sets it apart. Its zippers are all heavy-duty YKKs, and its four dual-caster 360-degree wheels glide over just about any type of flooring. The bag’s ballistic-grade 600D nylon exterior is conveniently water repellent.
The Victorinox bag contains several exterior storage pockets, a collapsible handle, and top- and side-mounted handles. Inside, the Victorinox WT 6.0 has several mesh pockets, elastic straps, and a removable garment bag.
FAQs About Travel Bags
Below, find answers to some common questions about buying and caring for travel bags.
Q. What size luggage is best for international travel?
Carry-on bags that are meant for international travel are usually sized a bit smaller than standard carry-ons. While the standard 14 inches wide and 9 inches deep still applies, these bags tend to be just 20 inches tall.
Q. How do I store travel bags?
Store travel bags in dry, cool areas to keep them in the best condition. Dry garages or closets make excellent storage areas, as they’ll be protected from sunlight and moisture.
Q. How do I wash a travel bag?
First, be sure to read the manufacturer’s care instructions to learn how to treat a particular bag. Many bags can be cleaned by using disinfectant wipes or by using a cleaning spray with a clean cloth.
If the bag needs more attention than that, the best way to wash a travel bag is with warm water, gentle laundry detergent, and a cloth. The best place to wash the bag might be in a shower, where it’s easy to scrub and rinse off the soap.