LUGGAGE FOR LESS
Ready to replace those worn, old bags? Although quality luggage does not come cheap, and you can spend hundreds of dollars for high-end pieces from the likes of Briggs & Riley or Tumi, there are certainly some suitcases out there that are easier on the wallet. We consulted a variety of resources, including hands-on testing by experts and consumer reviews on sites like Amazon, eBags, Walmart.com, and Luggage Pros, to find the best carry-on luggage, checked bags, and multi-piece luggage sets for travelers on a budget.
Something to keep in mind when searching for the ideal baggage: Size matters, especially if you want to avoid airline baggage fees. Many domestic airlines now require carry-ons to be no larger than 22 inches tall, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches deep. International carriers tend to be stricter, with many limiting carry-ons to 21.5 or 21.6 inches high.
While many travelers prefer hard-shell suitcases, because they offer more protection and often weigh less, some experts suggest that soft-sided luggage is the better option. It's more forgiving if you overpack; it fits more easily into overhead bins; and it's not as prone to the scuffs, cracks, and zipper issues that can plague hard-sided luggage.
Four-wheeled spinner bags are easier to maneuver inside airports on level, smooth surfaces, but their wheels protrude, making them more vulnerable to damage than two-wheeled rolling luggage, and they can easily get bogged down on rougher terrain.
While some bags carry lifetime warranties (Briggs & Riley, for example, offers lifetime coverage that includes free repairs for damage caused by airlines) that sort of guarantee usually comes with a premium price tag. Manufacturers of cheaper luggage typically provide only a few years of protection, and most warranties don't cover anything beyond manufacturing defects. It's also notoriously difficult to collect on claims, according to many owners' reviews. Our picks have relatively sturdy construction, and most cost under $150, providing at least a little consolation in the event of loss or damage.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
KIRKLAND SIGNATURE SOFTSIDE 22" 2-WHEEL CARRY-ON
Best Carry-On Luggage
Est. Price: $100 | Buy it from Costco
Dimensions: 20.5" x 14" x 9.5" | Weight: 8.8 lbs.
- Reviewers vouch for its durability.
- Quality lining with lots of designated compartments and storage pockets, including an RFID-safe pocket.
- Convenient extras, such as a garment compartment with a hanging loop and multiple straps as well as a removable laundry bag.
- Replaceable inline wheels are large for smoother rolling.
- More favorable warranty than other cheap luggage.
- A little heavier than some comparable bags.
- Skirts size limits and might be a tight fit for a carry-on if fully expanded.
- Several owners say the latest version of this bag doesn't match the quality of its successors.
Takeaway: Reviewers at Wirecutter call this bag "a great value for infrequent travelers." They commend the 3.5-inch wheels and body reinforcement for providing an easy ride that can stand up to more than a few bumps and bangs. We spotted a little grousing among owners who prefer the previous generation of this bag, which was a four-wheel spinner rather than a two-wheel rolling bag. They complain that this version is smaller and feels slightly flimsier, but overall, user reviews confirm that it's among the better carry-ons for the money. The smaller dimensions also make it better suited to current airline carry-on size restrictions. Including handles and wheels, it measures just 22 x 14 x 9.5 inches. The bag can be expanded by an inch, too, but then persnickety gate personnel might flag it for being oversize. Perhaps most important, getting a refund or replacement under the bag's 10-year warranty isn't the ordeal it can be with other luggage (although airline damage and wear and tear aren't covered). And you don't have to be a Costco member to take advantage of this deal: Nonmembers can purchase the Kirkland Signature carry-on for an additional 5 percent surcharge.
AMAZONBASICS HARDSIDE SPINNER LUGGAGE 20" CARRY-ON
Best Cheap Carry-On Luggage
Est. Price: $50 | Buy it on Amazon
Dimensions: 21.6" x 14.4" x 9.2" | Weight: 7.1 lbs.
- Hard shell helps protect contents.
- Slightly smaller frame meets some international carry-on size restrictions.
- Expandable for extra capacity.
- Basic but practical interior includes divider, straps, and handy pockets.
- Notably responsive customer service, according to reviews.
- Telescoping handle and spinner wheels are flimsy, some owners complain.
- 3-year warranty is relatively short.
Takeaway: Don't let the $50 price tag give you pause: A vast majority of owners say they're plenty satisfied with this inexpensive carry-on luggage. Double spinner wheels (the bag has two wheels on each of its four corners) make it easy to glide through a crowded airport, and there's ample room for small items in the three zippered interior pockets. Users say the exterior is fairly durable, despite being made of ABS plastic, as opposed to the sturdier polycarbonate that most experts prefer. When things do go wrong, some reviewers say, it's the wheels and the retracting handle that are most often to blame. But we noted several comments from owners who claim Amazon was quick to replace damaged luggage under warranty. Good Housekeeping testers were impressed enough to name the 20-inch AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner the best "Budget Buy" in a recent carry-on luggage review, and it's also recommended by trusted sources including Travel & Leisure magazine. This bag is available in five color choices, and most owners say they like its sleek appearance.
TRAVELPRO MAXLITE 5 25" EXPANDABLE SPINNER
Best Soft-Shell Check-In Luggage
Est. Price: $133 | Buy it on Amazon
Dimensions: 25" x 18" x 11" | Weight: 7.3 lbs.
- Incredibly lightweight for a bag this size, users say.
- Roomy and versatile with expandability; large exterior pocket can easily accommodate a 16-inch laptop.
- Sturdy zippers.
- Stable and relatively easy to maneuver.
- Well-padded top and side handles for comfortable pulling and lifting.
- Some owners say it feels flimsy, particularly the wheels.
- Exterior fabric shows wear and scuffs easily.
Takeaway: This Travelpro Maxlite luggage is part of a line that has long been a favorite of experts and users. The Travelpro Maxlite 4 25-inch won a "Best Buy" nod from Outdoor Gear Lab. Owners say the refreshed Travelpro Maxlite 5 25-inch bag is just as good as its predecessor, and nearly a half a pound lighter to boot. It's easy to open and close, with rugged zippers, and thanks to a smart design, it doesn't become unstable or tough to tote through an airport when it's loaded up. There's also a lot of space for packing, as the sparse interior — just a small zippered side pocket, straps, and a zippered mesh flap in the lid — allows plenty of room for your belongings. And it can expand an extra 2 inches. Four spinners add welcome 360-degree mobility, although a handful of owners complain that the wheels are prone to breaking, jamming, or getting stuck in pavement cracks. One other potential drawback: While the polyester exterior is waterproof and stain resistant, reviewers say it scuffs fairly easily and can get "fuzzy" with repeated use and abuse. Overall, though, most agree this bag hits the sweet spot of price and performance. Travelers looking for luggage that can stand out from the rest will also appreciate that the Travelpro Maxlite 5 25-inch comes in four color choices in addition to basic black, including "slate green" and "dusty rose." Travelpro's limited lifetime warranty on the Maxlite 5 series now includes one year of coverage for damage caused by airlines.
DELSEY HELIUM AERO 25" EXPANDABLE ROLLING LUGGAGE
Best Check-In Hard-Shell Luggage
Est. Price: $110 | Buy it on Amazon
Dimensions: 25" x 17.5" x 11.5" | Weight: 10.2 lbs.
- Sturdy polycarbonate case.
- Feels light despite its relatively heavy weight, users say.
- Can be expanded.
- 4 double-spinner wheels roll smoothly across most surfaces, according to reviews.
- Integrated TSA lock.
- Available in a whopping 10 color options.
- Some complaints about the zippers failing.
- Shell is prone to scuffing.
Takeaway: If you prefer hard-shell luggage, the 25-inch Delsey Helium Aero spinner is a terrific value, reviewers say. Wirecutter calls it the best checked luggage available on a budget. Experts there laud the durable, 100-percent polycarbonate shell as a particular boon — most hard-sided suitcases in this price range rely on cheaper ABS plastic or a mix of materials. You won't find lots of pockets and compartments inside — just a zippered center divider and garment straps — but most owners don't consider this a drawback. It's expandable up to 2 inches, although some owners complain that the zippers jam or break if the bag is packed to its limits. Also, in a world where black and blue luggage are ubiquitous, the wide choice of colors is nice. The bag carries a 10-year warranty, with the usual caveats regarding limited coverage (airline damage is not included) and difficulty collecting on claims.
ROCKLAND RIO 2-PIECE LUGGAGE SET
Best Cheap Carry-On Luggage Set
Est. Price: $29 and up | Buy it on Amazon
Upright | Dimensions: 19" x 13" x 7.5" | Weight: 6 lbs.
Tote | Dimensions: 11" x 14" x 5.5" | Weight: 1 lb.
- Small enough to meet some international carry-on standards.
- Upright can be expanded, has 2 exterior pockets, and is fully lined, with a zippered pocket and garment straps.
- Available in more than 50 colors and patterns.
- Entire set weighs just 7 pounds.
- Exceptionally inexpensive.
- Mediocre construction.
- Prone to tipping, especially if overloaded.
- Tote is on the small side.
- Relatively short warranty.
Takeaway: The Rockland Rio 2-Piece Luggage Set is perfect for occasional weekend car trips or for a quick flight — as long as you pack conservatively. The carry-on is a compact 19 inches high, so it'll meet just about any airline's size restrictions, and it can be expanded by 2 inches if you buy too many souvenirs. The included "boarding bag" is small enough to fit under a seat and slides over the handle of the larger bag for easier, one-hand portability. It also includes a removable shoulder strap. While users do appreciate the light weight of this luggage set, many gripe that the carry-on tends to topple when stood upright. Several also complain that the two small roller wheels make the bag difficult to maneuver through airports and along sidewalks. But given how low the price is, many consumers seem willing to accept such shortcomings: Thousands have given this set positive reviews. The low cost also makes it a suitable choice for kids' luggage, and many reviewers say it's a hit with their little globetrotters. This Rockland Rio luggage set comes in an almost dizzying array of colors and patterns, but basic black is usually cheaper at most retailers. The set carries only a three-year warranty; however, at this price, if something breaks, it would be easier just to buy a new set.
AMERICAN TOURISTER FIELDBROOK XLT 4-PIECE SET
Best Value Luggage Set
Est. Price: $76 | Buy it on Amazon
Upright Checked Bag | Dimensions: 25" x 16.5" x 8" | Weight: 7 lbs.
Upright Carry-On | Dimensions: 21" x 14" x 7" | Weight: 5.6 lbs.
Wheeled Duffel | Dimensions: 11.5" x 23" x 12" | Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Boarding Bag | Dimensions: 10" x 15" x 6.5" | Weight: 0.8 lb.
- Exceptionally low cost for a 4-piece luggage set.
- Good assortment of bag sizes, with versatile uses.
- Uprights are lined, with garment straps and mesh pockets.
- Entire set is relatively lightweight.
- Reasonable durability for the price.
- Some say packing capacity is limited.
- Duffel is too large to qualify as a carry-on on many airlines.
Takeaway: No one expects a cheap four-piece luggage set to stand up to regular abuse at the airport. But if you need a lot of bags and don't have a large budget, this American Tourister set (the successor to the popular Fieldbrook II line we've recommended in the past) is perfectly adequate for a family road trip or the occasional flight. The 25-inch carry-on bag is expandable, and both uprights have two exterior pockets, zippered mesh interior dividers, and garment straps. All but the smallest bag have roller wheels, although some owners say they would have been happier with spinner wheels. Another drawback for some reviewers: The duffel lacks a retractable pull handle. Despite the usual complaints about the durability of cheap luggage in general, most owners say these bags live up to their modest expectations. Many praise the assortment for suiting all their travel needs and serving an entire family. This Fieldbrook XLT set comes in four basic colors; there's also a blue floral version with spinner wheels that's sure to stick out at the baggage claim. American Tourister backs this luggage with a 10-year warranty, but, as is typical, airline damage is not covered.
SAMSONITE WINFIELD 2 3-PIECE HARDSIDE LUGGAGE SET
Worth a Small Splurge
Est. Price: $261 and up | Buy it on Amazon
Large Bag | Dimensions: 28" x 19.75" x 12.5" | Weight: 11.1 lbs.
Medium Bag | Dimensions: 24" x 16.25" x 11.5" | Weight: 9.3 lbs.
Carry-On | Dimensions: 20" x 13.5" x 9.5" | Weight: 6.7 lbs.
- Polycarbonate shells for added protection and durability.
- Spinner wheels for multidirectional gliding.
- Garment straps and mesh-pocketed interior divider in all 3 bags to keep items neat and organized.
- Large and medium suitcases are expandable.
- Users say carry-on meets international size limits.
- Built-in TSA locks.
- Multiple color choices.
- Some complaints of zippers failing.
- Hard shells are prone to scratching.
Takeaway: Most reviewers say this Samsonite luggage set is a good value, and it appears on a lot of lists of top affordable luggage, including Travel & Leisure's. The bags are clad in rugged but lightweight polycarbonate, rather than cheaper ABS plastic, and relatively few owners report serious damage like cracking or chipping — although a number say the material scuffs easily and the "brushed pattern" purported to hide scratches isn't necessarily effective. All three bags are also equipped with flush-mounted, TSA-approved combination locks, which some owners say gives them an added sense of security for their belongings. Owners praise the interior liners, which keep everything nicely in place and have two built-in pockets to keep smaller items safely stowed. The spinner wheels make the bags easy to maneuver around the airport, most reviewers say, and we saw reports of them handling roads and even cobblestones well. Feedback is more mixed on the durability of the handles and the zippers, the latter taking the brunt of the strain on hard-shell bags. Nevertheless, a majority of owners say their money was well spent on these bags. While they may be a bit more expensive than some other budget sets, they're meant to endure, and Samsonite offers a 10-year limited warranty. Overall, this is an excellent (and quite aesthetically attractive) choice for frequent travelers.