Checking luggage hasn’t exactly been trending recently. Why wait in line at the baggage counter and pay an extra fee when you could breeze through security with just your carry-on roller and satchel in tow?
But consider the converse — why agonize over what you have to remove from your suitcase so that it finally zips, then drag all of your heavy possessions behind you for hours or while you run between terminals on a layover, when you could be doing this with just your stylish mini backpack as your only companion?
Most international flights departing out of the U.S. include a free checked bag, as do many airline status programs and affiliated credit cards when you’re traveling domestic. And sometimes you really do need that extra pair of shoes, full-sized bottle of shampoo, or space for those souvenir bottles of wine.
There isn’t one standardized size limit for checked luggage; it’s up to the individual airlines. The most common restriction is 62 total inches (length + width + height), though your airline may have provisions for oversized baggage (how else would people take their skis on vacation, after all). What you should be more concerned about is weight. Most airlines will cut you off at 50 pounds, which will creep up on you faster than you think, especially when the weight of the bag itself is taken into account.
Another thing to keep an eye out for: Any locking mechanism needs to be TSA-approved. And you can’t check lithium ion batteries, so make sure any of those attached battery packs are popped out of the bag and into your carry-on.
Best Softside Checked Luggage
Travelpro Platinum Elite Expandable Spinner
Travelpro bag Credit: Courtesy of Ebags
Wirecutter’s favorite in their checked luggage testing won its place with its nimble maneuvering, high capacity, and a durability and luxury feel that belies its affordable price tag.
To buy: (25” bag) ebags.com, $268; (29” bag) ebags.com, $289
TravelPro Platinum Magna 2 25” Expandable Spinner
Travelpro bag Credit: Courtesy of Ebags
OutdoorGearLab gave another Travelpro suitcase their Top Pick, choosing the Magna 2 for its durability and transportability.
To buy: amazon.com, $267
Briggs & Riley Baseline Expandable Spinner
Briggs & Riley bag Credit: Courtesy of Ebags
As the extremely satisfied owner of a Briggs & Riley Baseline carry-on that I feel excited to use every time I pack it, I see no reason to doubt that its larger sibling would perform just as well. And if that’s not enough, it also scored the upgrade pick at Wirecutter and nearly grabbed a top spot at OGL, losing out by a hair primarily because of its heavy weight.
To buy: (medium 25” bag) ebags.com, $625; (large 28” bag) ebags.com, $679; (extra large 31” bag) ebags.com, $789
Timbuk2 Copilot 28”
Timbuk2 bag Credit: Courtesy of Ebags
Another OGL Editor’s Choice, coming out ahead in a tight competition for its durability, high capacity, and “sensible features,” though they acknowledge that it may not be the right choice if you’re wheeling your way into a business environment. But who doesn’t love the idea of skateboard wheels on a suitcase?
To buy: ebags.com, $299
Tumi Alpha 3 Expandables
Tumi bag Credit: Courtesy of Tumi
The bestselling line on the Tumi site includes these two expandable four-wheelers that will fit whatever you may be carrying in classic Tumi style.
To buy: (extended trip 31” bag) tumi.com, $1,225; (worldwide trip 34” bag) tumi.com, $1,300
Best Hardside Checked Luggage
Delsey bag Credit: Courtesy of Ebags
This polycarbonate pick won Wirecutter’s best budget pick slot, but don’t let the price tag make you suspicious. Paris-based luggage brand Delsey is known for its solid products and durability.
To buy: (25” bag) ebags.com, $148; (29” bag) ebags.com, $164
Away The Large
Away bag Credit: Courtesy of Away
Cult favorite carry-on maker Away has also garnered praise from reviewers for their checked model. No battery pack here, just the lightweight polycarbonate construction and interior features that made their carry-ons famous.
To buy: awaytravel.com, $295
Arlo Skye The Polycarbonate Check-in
Arlo Skye bag Credit: Courtesy of Arlo Skye
Want to go zipperless? Similar to their sleek carry-ons, Arlo Skye’s Check-in swaps out zippers for two TSA-approved locks holding together its impact-resistant shell.
To buy: arloskye.com, $495
Samsonite Inova Spinner
Samsonite bag Credit: Courtesy of Amazon
Samsonite makes a slew of good check-in options, so feel free to browse based on your personal accessory preferences. Personally, we like the 28” Inova; it’s listed as Samsonite’s lightest polycarbonate model so you can use that weight allotment for precious liquids instead. However, the shiny exterior may show scratches more easily than some of Samsonite’s other models.
To buy: amazon.com, $250
Rimowa Original Check-In
Rimowa bag Credit: Courtesy of Bloomingdales
If you really can’t have your contents damaged, the original anodized aluminum Rimowa models will make sure that even your Murano glass makes it home safely. (Or if they don’t, at least it won’t be your suitcase’s fault.)
To buy: (medium 27” bag) bloomingdales.com, $1,350; (large 32” bag) bloomingdales.com, $1,500
Best Checked-size Duffels
Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Duffel
Patagonia bag Credit: Courtesy of Ebags
Patagonia’s classic Black Hole duffel also comes in a wheeled version for those heavier load trips. It won an OutdoorGearLab Editor’s Choice designation in the overall duffel bag category for its solid construction, ease of packing, good maneuverability, and water resistance.
To buy: (40L duffel) ebags.com, $209; (70L duffel) ebags.com, $230; (120L duffel) ebags.com, $244
eBags TLS Mother Lode 29" Wheeled Duffel
Ebags suitcase Credit: Courtesy of Ebags
This is one of the most popular bags at eBags, winning a five-star average across more than 1,200 reviews. It’s got multiple organizational pockets along with adjustable built-in shelf dividers to customize just how you want to arrange your contents.
To buy: ebags.com, $250
The North Face Base Camp
The North Face bag Credit: Courtesy of Ebags
OutdoorGearLab’s Editor’s Choice duffelis a classic in the duffel bag scene for its durability, ease of packing, and comfortable straps. Take your pick of three sizes depending on how much you think you’ll need to stash.
To buy: (medium 26” duffel) ebags.com, $139; (large 28” duffel), ebags.com, $149; (extra-large 30” duffel) ebags.com, $169
Best Checked-size Backpacks
Osprey bag Credit: Courtesy of Ebags
Maybe someday we’ll stop singing the praises of this Osprey line, but today is not that day. In this case, their durable fabric and tuck-away straps make them one of our favorites for when you’re checking a backpack. Just zip off the detachable daypack for your carry-on if you haven’t already, zip the straps into the back cover flap so they won’t get caught anywhere, and hand off the main bag. The primary difference between these two bags is that the Fairview is designed for travelers with smaller torsos and tops out at 70 liters, but that should be plenty.
To buy: (men’s Fairpoint 70L) ebags.com, $160; (men’s Fairpoint 80L) ebags.com, $200; (women’s Fairview 70L) ebags.com, $160
Osprey Sojourn Convertible 80L
Osprey bag Credit: Courtesy of Ems
Osprey has taken made their backpack tech a little easier on the shoulders with this convertible wheeled option, which OGL gave high marks in their suitcase testing, especially for ease of transport. Even some of the most backpack-focused journeys still likely have somewhere you’ll want to take a break and use the wheels.
To buy: ems.com, $340