Best Cheap Luggage
Published on By Saundra Latham
American Tourister Fieldbrook II 4-Piece Set Review
From $50 Best
The budget pricing and versatile sizing of the four pieces in the American Tourister Fieldbrook II luggage set (starting at $50, Amazon) are cited as reasons for many of the 4- and 5-star reviews it attracts. Travelers gush about the overall value and tell of using various pieces for short road trips, cruises, and long-distance air travel without signs of stress. The smallest bag, a tote with an adjustable shoulder strap, even stands up to the tough demands placed on it as a daily carryall, according to an American Tourister Fieldbrook II review on eBags. Users also report that dirt and simple stains wipe off without fuss.
The compact size of the entire set makes for trouble-free maneuvering through crowded airports, users assert, although one traveler says a longer handle on the wheeled duffel would make pulling a packed load easier. Several posts express frustration with the relatively limited packing capacity of each piece in the American Tourister Fieldbrook II set. The tote measures 15 x 10 x 8 inches and weighs 1.5 pounds; the duffel measures 23 x 11.5 x 12 inches and weighs 3.3 pounds; the 21 x 14 x 7-inch upright weighs 6.5 pounds; and the 24.5 x 16 x 8-inch upright tilts the scale at 8.8 pounds. (Only the tote bag and the smaller upright are acceptable carry-ons under some airlines' current rules.)
These bags are made from lightweight and durable 1200-denier polyester with reinforced corners. The two upright bags and the duffle each sport two inline-skate wheels, and the tote has a narrow sleeve that slides over the uprights' pull-out handles for stacked transport. There are two exterior pockets on the uprights and one each on the duffel and tote. The set comes in black, purple/gray, and red/black. Pieces can occasionally be found in royal blue and wood violet, as well, but availability varies by vendor.
This four-piece set is a relative steal but best suited for shorter trips, given the size of each bag. Users who can accept that limitation value the set's durability and lightweight convenience.
Kirkland Signature Upright 21.5-Inch Carry-On Review
From $100 Best
It's rare that budget bags earn raves for durability, but this Costco carry-on does. The wheels are rugged, the fabric is tough, and the bag resists tipping even when it's stuffed.
Frequent flyers who don't want to spend too much on a carry-on say the Kirkland Signature Upright 21.5-Inch Carry-On from Costco (starting at $100) can certainly stand up to the toils of constant travel. They compare the durability to that of much pricier suitcases, but the store-brand bag is also bigger and bulkier than other carry-ons.
Customer reviews on Costco.com say the suitcase rolls smoothly over pavement and through airports. Testers at The Wirecutter, who voted this Kirkland Signature carry-on "Best Budget Bag," attribute this to the almost 3.5-inch wheels, the largest on any luggage they tested. They also note that the Kirkland is "rock solid" and tip-resistant even when fully packed.
Additional features include top- and side-mounted handles, two plastic feet to help increase stability, and thick plastic bumpers that protect the back and bottom. Owners say the fabric feels substantial and rugged, although some say the retractable handle sometimes locks up. All in all, a majority of users say this is a very durable bag, and several say they've used it for years on dozens of flights without any issues.
At 11.25 pounds, the Kirkland Signature Upright certainly isn't the lightest carry-on out there. Although a few users complain about weight, most say it's an acceptable tradeoff for longevity and value. Reviewers say the interior is spacious and well thought out, with a removable garment carrier, two flap-style pockets, and large garment straps. There is also a large, external zip pocket. Testers say they were able to stuff the bag with five days' worth of clothes -- impressive for a carry-on.
The Kirkland Signature Upright 21.5-Inch Carry-On is made from tear- and puncture-resistant Cordura 1050-denier ballistic nylon and comes in a single color: standard black. It has two replaceable polyurethane wheels, a fully lined interior, and a retractable aluminum handle. According to the manufacturer, this carry-on bag measures 21.5 x 14 x 8.75 inches, and it expands up to 11.25 inches deep. However, testers claim it's actually 23 x 14 x 9 inches, putting it at greater risk for a gate-check.
For the money, few carry-ons are more stable and durable than the Kirkland Signature Upright -- and it's backed by Costco's generous return policy. For those willing to tote a slightly heavier, bulkier bag that might be challenged at the gate, this one is hard to beat. If you're not a Costco member, it may be worth finding a friend or someone in the family who is.
Travelpro Maxlite 4 22-Inch Expandable Rollaboard Review
From $110 Best
The Travelpro Maxlite 4 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard is everything a carry-on needs to be, reviewers say. It's lightweight, easy to maneuver, and small enough to fit restrictive carry-on rules but expandable to offer more packing flexibility. Reviews on Amazon and eBags say the Travelpro Maxlite 4 (starting at $110, Amazon) is easy to roll through the airport on its two recessed inline skate wheels and more stable on uneven ground than a spinner bag with four wheels. Its retractable aluminum handle can lock in two positions, and the bag has well-padded side-, top- and bottom-mounted handles to make lifting it easier, as well as plastic feet that help it stand vertically. It also has reinforced corners to guard against damage.
At just 6 pounds, the Travelpro Maxlite 4 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard lives up to the lightness implied in its name. In testing done by experts at OutdoorGearLab, this model's very similar predecessor, the Maxlite 3, was among the lightest carry-ons compared -- and the Maxlite 4 is even lighter. The bag measures 22 x 14 x 9 inches, and the width can be increased up to 11 inches. Users say the dimensions provided by the manufacturer are correct, and this is a true carry-on as long as it isn't expanded. Reviews affirm that expansion provides ample room for souvenirs and other last-minute packing additions but may require the bag to be gate-checked.
These bags are available in purple, blue, and black, and the exterior is made of water- and stain-resistant polyester. The interior has two mesh pockets and garment straps but no folding garment compartment. An exterior pocket is big enough for a laptop or other items travelers need to access quickly. OutdoorGearLab's tests also suggest that the handle and zippers on the Maxlite line are sturdy, but there's some question as to whether a bit of ruggedness has been sacrificed in favor of minimal weight -- they note that they did find some dents in the Maxlite 3 after it was checked. Some users also complain that the bag tips, especially when it's expanded, although packing heavier items at the bottom of the main compartment can help prevent this.
While the Travelpro Maxlite 4 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard isn't the toughest bag on the market, reviewers are more than satisfied with its durability for the price. Occasional travelers who want a lightweight, versatile bag will be well-served by this one.
Rockland Rio 2-Piece Set Review
From $38 Good
Reviews on Amazon and eBags say it's easy enough to get through the airport with the Rockland Rio 2-Piece Set (starting at $38, Amazon), though there are minor quibbles. Most say the upright's inline wheels are sturdy and roll smoothly, and they like being able to slip the tote over the larger bag's handle and keep one hand free. However, some users complain the upright is quite prone to tipping, even when it's not overstuffed, and others say the tote tends to flip upside down when travelers carry it with the shoulder strap.
At a mere 6 pounds, the upright in this set is quite lightweight, which reviewers especially appreciate when they've purchased it for kids. The interior is fully lined and has a large zippered pocket and garment straps. Users appreciate being able to expand the bag by about 2 inches. There's also a lot of praise in reviews for the two easy-to-access exterior zipper pockets on the upright, one of which is the perfect size for IDs, tickets, headphones, and other small essentials. Unfortunately, some say the zippers aren't the best quality, failing frequently under normal use.
The Rockland Rio 2-Piece Set is made of 600-denier polyester, which is not as heavy-duty as polyester with a higher denier, or fabric weight, but the material does have a PVC backing. The carry-on-compliant upright has a telescoping handle and inline skate wheels. It's 19 x 13 x 8 inches when not expanded. The included tote, which has a removable shoulder strap, is 11.5 x 14.5 x 5 inches -- small enough to qualify as a personal item on most flights -- but some reviewers complain it's not big enough for larger laptops. There are at least three dozen colors and patterns on offer. More subdued choices include black, blue, and gray, but brighter hues and patterns such as polka dots and a zebra print may please the more boldly fashion-minded. The unique prints are also a cinch to spot on a trip down a conveyor belt.
While it won't win any awards for roominess or durability, the Rockland Rio 2-Piece Set will do just fine for anyone who wants a carry-on and tote to use only sparingly. These bags' small size and dizzying array of colors and patterns also make them a good pick for globe-trotting kids and teens.
Traveler's Choice Travel Select Amsterdam 4-Piece Set Reivew
From $81 Good
Reviews from users on Amazon say it's easy to get through the airport with the Traveler's Choice Travel Select Amsterdam 4-Piece Set (starting at $81, Amazon), which is comprised of three uprights (one carry-on size) and a tote bag. Although a few wish for spinner wheels, most agree the traditional inline skate wheels roll smoothly and reliably, even on rough pavement. Few users complain about the bags' stability (although some caution that they may tip if they're stuffed) and many like the side- and top-mounted handles, which make lifting the bags easier. Assessments of durability, however, are mixed. While most reviewers are happy, there are a few reports of broken wheels, and several claim the handles are too flimsy to stand up to rough handling long term.
Nevertheless, users enthuse over the versatility of the Amsterdam four-piece set and the ample room and options it provides. The largest upright should be roomy enough even for chronic over-packers, and the compact tote bag attaches to any of the included uprights with top-mounted carry straps. The fully lined uprights have elasticized garment straps, elasticized shoe pockets, and a large mesh zipper pocket, though some users wish the lining were thicker. Each upright has two exterior zipper pockets, which many reviewers cite for their convenience.
The Traveler's Choice Travel Select Amsterdam 4-Piece Set is made of both 600- and 1200-denier polyester with a PVC backing. The set consists of a large upright that's 29 x 17 x 10.5 inches and weighs 9.5 pounds; a medium upright that's 25 x 15 x 9 inches and weighs 8.5 pounds; a small upright that's 21 x 13.5 x 7.5 inches and weighs 7.75 pounds; and a tote bag that's 11 x 15 x 6 inches and weighs 2 pounds. The latter two bags qualify as carry-ons under airline regulations. The three uprights have retractable handles and two inline wheels each; all expand by 2.5 inches. The bags are available in orange, gray, red, and navy.
The Traveler's Choice Travel Select Amsterdam 4-Piece Set is a good buy for infrequent travelers on a tight budget who prize versatility over durability -- many suggest it's a steal of a deal. We're not sold on this set's long-term performance, but the price is right for anyone who needs a lot of bags with a lot of room.
Olympia Skyhawk 22-Inch Expandable Airline Carry-On Review
From $72 Think Twice
One of the most crucial features of any spinner bag is the ability to roll smoothly through airports. Unfortunately, the Olympia Skyhawk 22-Inch Expandable Carry-On (starting at $72, Amazon) receives mixed reviews on this front on Amazon. Some users claim that the bag wobbles and shakes, others say the wheels simply aren't well-aligned, and several had the wheels break off or split apart after limited use. The handle also garners some complaints, with reviewers saying it is either too stiff or so flimsy that it won't stay retracted.
On the bright side, reviews suggest that the bag resists tipping, and there are both top- and side-mounted handles to make the bag easier to carry and lift into overhead bins. Interestingly, buyers on Overstock are more complimentary, but fewer comment on long-term durability.
At 8.4 pounds, the Olympia Skyhawk 22-Inch Expandable Carry-On claims "super lightweight construction." In reality, this bag is a bit heavier than average for a carry-on, although most users don't seem to mind. Inside, there is a mesh garment pocket, a smaller zippered compartment, and two garment straps. Most reviewers find the bag roomy enough, especially when expanded, and they appreciate the convenience of having three zippered pockets on the exterior. Some say the front pocket, protected with an EVA foam panel, is ideal for a laptop, and the side pocket is sized for water bottles.
The Olympia Skyhawk is made of 840-denier jacquard polyester. It has four wheels that swivel a full 360 degrees, a fully lined interior, and a retractable handle. It measures 22 x 14 x 8 inches but expands to roughly 10 inches deep. Some users say they've been forced to gate-check it, especially when it's stuffed full. The bag comes in black, brown and blue. (Note that some online buyers say they received a version with American Airlines branding despite it not being featured in the product description or pictures.)
The Olympia Skyhawk 22-Inch Expandable Carry-On is roomy and inexpensive. Unfortunately, it's too prone to failure where it counts, with wobbly wheels and a finicky handle. Even allowing that cheaper carry-ons typically aren't as durable as their pricier counterparts, we think there are better options available.
Traveler's Choice Cambridge 3-Piece Set Review
From $150 Think Twice
Most reviewers say it's easy to navigate airports with the 360-degree spinning wheels on the Traveler's Choice Cambridge 3-Piece Set (starting at $150, Amazon), but whether they will last long is an open question. In an expert test of the set's 20-inch carry-on by OutdoorGearLab, the wheels were prone to sticking; testers also said the handle rattled. There are similar complaints about rickety handles and wheels in reviews on Amazon and eBags, with several saying at least one wheel came off during travel. Reviewers are more complimentary of some of the bags' other touches. There are side- and top-mounted handles to make carrying easier; four plastic feet that help the bags resist tipping when placed on their sides; and straps that let travelers clip smaller bags on top.
A center panel with a large mesh pocket divides the Traveler's Choice Cambridge bags into two parts. There is also a smaller zippered pocket and elastic garment straps. For the most part, users say they're pleased with the interior organization and room, although OutdoorGearLab's testers could not fit in a trifold garment bag that they were able to carry in comparable bags. Reviewers also miss having exterior pockets on the suitcases.
Like most inexpensive hard-sided luggage, the Traveler's Choice Cambridge bags are made from ABS, a lightweight but rigid plastic. The set consists of a small upright that is 20 x 14 x 9.5 inches and weighs 6.7 pounds; a mid-size upright that is 24 x 16.5 x 11 inches and weighs 8 pounds; and a larger upright that is 28 x 18.5 x 12.5 inches and weighs 9.8 pounds. All the bags have retractable aluminum handles. They come in silver, navy, and red and nest inside one another for easy storage.
Although the Traveler's Choice Cambridge 3-Piece Set has some thoughtful touches, there are just too many durability concerns -- even with the bar set lower for inexpensive luggage. We remain skeptical of this set and suggest looking elsewhere.
While prices can easily mount to $300 or much more for high-end luggage sets, there are inexpensive options below $150 for frugal travelers who wish to save their money for other travel expenses. Cheap luggage comes in a variety of shapes, styles, and sizes. Tote bags and the smallest rolling carry-ons start around $40, while larger bags are slightly more expensive. We waded through thousands of consumer and expert reviews of both hard-sided and soft fabric luggage to find which budget-priced bags offer the best mix of functionality, resilience, and overall value. We also discovered a couple of cheap luggage sets that should be left at the curb.
Cheap Luggage Buying Guide
There are dozens of luggage manufacturers, from high-end brands such as Briggs & Riley and Tumi to more moderately priced labels such as Samsonite, Delsey, and TravelPro. However, only a handful of well-known brands make less expensive bags that are widely sold at big-box stores and major online outlets. The most prominent include American Tourister, Rockland Luggage, Traveler's Choice, and Olympia.
These manufacturers make bags that look and function quite similarly -- the difference is in the materials, craftsmanship, and durability. Higher-priced luggage tends to better withstand the brutal realities of travel, and it may also offer the bonus of more packing flexibility and a bit more style. Bags under $150 will still get belongings where they need to go, but they're better suited to occasional travelers who won't be depending on them week after week.
Of course, the best type of luggage to choose, budget or otherwise, depends on individual needs, whether it's finding the ideal carry-on for avoiding checked-luggage fees, a small, maneuverable bag suited to business travel, or a multi-piece set for extended family trips. To meet a range of traveler specifications, our picks for the best cheap luggage include both multi-size sets and individual carry-ons.
Our top picks among cheap luggage sets are four-piece collections: the American Tourister Fieldbrook II 4-Piece Set (starting at $50) and the slightly more spacious Traveler's Choice Travel Select Amsterdam 4-Piece Set (starting at $81). The Rockland Rio 2-Piece Set (starting at $38) is a good carry-on-size upright that comes with an accompanying tote that fits under a seat. For an even better carry-on bag, spring for the Travelpro Maxlite 4 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard (starting at $110) or the Kirkland Signature Upright 21.5-Inch Carry-On from Costco (starting at $100). Too many poor reviews on the subject of durability suggest consumers should think twice about purchasing the Traveler's Choice Cambridge 3-Piece Set (starting at $150) or the Olympia Skyhawk 22-Inch Expandable Carry-On (starting at $72).
Although it may initially seem incongruous that our carry-on picks are pricier than the four-piece luggage sets we recommend, keep in mind that carry-ons are the workhorses of the luggage family. Most travelers take them on every trip, while a larger upright may be trotted out sparingly for the occasional long-haul voyage. For that reason, we think it's worth spending a bit more on a durable carry-on that will face greater use and abuse.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
What We Considered
Size.Checking bags at the airport can be a hassle, and rising checked-baggage fees can also make it a major expense. In fact, most airlines now charge travelers to check any bags at all, and low cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier, especially, tend to have particularly high (and widely variable) rates for stowage. To help avoid these added costs, we looked for either regulation-size carry-on bags or luggage sets with at least one carry-on-compliant bag. Although size limits vary by airline, especially internationally, most carry-ons for domestic flights within the United States must be no bigger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches. Our top carry-on, the Travelpro Maxlite 4 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard, has exactly those dimensions.
Some bags billed as carry-ons are actually slightly bigger, so we looked for "real-life" confirmation of manufacturer specs. For instance, consumer-product experts have measured the Kirkland Signature Upright 21.5-Inch Carry-On at 23 x 14 x 9 inches, larger than the stated size. There are other pros to this bag that still make it a top choice, but be aware that it might end up gate-checked, especially on smaller planes with limited overhead space.
Larger uprights that must be checked come in a variety of sizes, but 24- and 28-inch bags are the most common. If buying a set, a small tote bag that can be attached to one of the uprights may be part of the mix -- these can typically be carried on as a personal item if they're small enough to be stowed under the seat ahead. The smaller bags in the luggage sets we recommend can also "nest" inside the larger bags, Russian-doll style, to save on storage space.
Weight.Carry-on bags aren't subject to excess baggage fees on domestic airlines, but most travelers still don't want to drag around a heavier bag than they need to. At the lighter end of the spectrum, the compact 19-inch upright in the Rockland Rio 2-Piece Set weighs just 6 pounds. The larger Kirkland Signature Upright 21.5-Inch Carry-On not only pushes airlines' size limits but skirts users' weight tolerance at 11.25 pounds. There are some benefits associated with the extra bulk -- denser fabric and body reinforcements help account for this bag's lauded durability.
Most of the larger uprights we researched weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 to 10 pounds. In this case, lighter is definitely better: More belongings can be stuffed into bags without paying the steep penalties for going over airline weight allowances. On Delta Air Lines, for instance, any checked bags weighing over 50 pounds are subject to a $100 fee; go over 70 pounds and expect to pay $200.
Soft-Sided vs. Hard-Shell Luggage.All our top picks are soft-sided luggage. Hard-shell suitcases may offer more protection for the contents inside, but they have a few major downsides: They are less forgiving when trying to stuff more inside or fit the bag into a tight space; most of them lack convenient exterior pockets; and they may be less durable in the long run than their soft-sided counterparts. That's because manufacturers of cheap luggage sometimes use a less rugged kind of plastic called ABS for low-price sets, while higher-end sets use a more durable polycarbonate.
While it's tough to find polycarbonate bags at budget prices, one notable exception that may be worth a look is the Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion 20-Inch Spinner (starting at $90). This attractive, hard-wearing carry-on receives high ratings and is more likely to resist cracks and dents than its all-ABS counterparts. Reviewers still lament the lack of outer pockets, however.
The Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20-Inch Upright (starting at $55) is a highly rated hard-sided carry-on at a very low price for those who don't want to shell out for the Samsonite Winfield 2 and are willing to go the ABS route. If a hard-shell set is absolutely what's needed, the Rockland Sonic 3-Piece Set (starting at $120) is lightweight and roomy, although, again, it can't claim pure polycarbonate construction.
Soft-sided luggage is generally made from nylon or polyester, both strong, resilient, lightweight, chemical-based materials. These bags can be stuffed full or compressed down as the need arises -- a particular concern for carry-ons, which need to fit in tight overhead compartments. The main downside is that soft-sided bags can be slashed open by a determined thief (or ripped by a careless baggage handler). They're also more vulnerable to moisture and harder to keep clean.
For soft-sided bags, one specification worth noting (but not always given) is the denier, a fabric-related unit of measurement pertaining to the thickness and weight of the thread. The higher the number, the heavier the fabric. For instance, the American Tourister Fieldbrook II 4-Piece Set is made with 1,200-denier polyester, while the less durable Olympia Skyhawk 22-Inch Expandable Carry-On and Rockland Rio 2-Piece Set are made of 840- and 600-denier polyester, respectively.
Handles and Wheels.Gone are the days when suitcases had to be carried -- even cheaper bags now have wheels and retractable handles that allow them to be easily transported. Some smaller totes have a strap or sleeve that slides over the pull-out handle of a larger upright suitcase. Conversely, some of the uprights come with their own straps to piggyback smaller bags. Extra carrying handles on the sides or bottoms of larger bags are another desirable feature, as they make it easier to heave them onto a security belt or drag them out of an overhead luggage bin.
Bags with four wheels that rotate 360 degrees, also known as "spinners," have become increasingly popular, because they make it possible to easily scoot bags in any direction. But some reviewers warn that spinner wheels on cheap luggage can snap off easily, and they add to a bag's overall dimensions. The Wirecutter notes that less expensive spinners typically have bearings that are unsealed, meaning they may break down more quickly as gunk builds up.
Reviewers warn that the spinner wheels on the Olympia Skyhawk 22-Inch Expandable Carry-On wobble and pop off too easily. The same goes for the Traveler's Choice Cambridge 3-Piece Set. Our top picks are more traditional rolling bags with inline skate wheels. These require travelers to tip the luggage and roll it in one direction, but they are less likely to be damaged when yanked out of a cramped baggage compartment or rolled off a curb. For consumers determined to get a spinner, our research into the hard-sided Samsonite Winfield 2 turned up incredibly few remarks pertaining to broken wheels.
Luggage Performance Reviews
To find the best cheap luggage, we pored over a mix of industry expert and consumer reviews. We also consulted in-depth reports by sources such as The Wirecutter and OutdoorGearLab, which conduct consumer product testing. Most user reviews come from major retail sites such as Amazon, eBags, and Overstock. Unfortunately, many users are quick to review their luggage after a single trip, making it hard to judge how it will stand the test of time, so we paid particular attention to reviews commenting on long-term performance. In general, luggage reviews from both experts and consumers focus on three main issues: ease of transport, functionality, and durability.
Ease of Transport.Ease of transport covers factors such as how the bag rolls. It should move smoothly, without a lot of wobbling, squeaking, or vibrating when travelers are rushing through the airport. A bag should also be stable when standing alone, and the best luggage doesn't tip over even when it's overstuffed. Telescoping handles should not be flimsy or prone to sticking, and additional handles on the side and/or bottom of a bag are appreciated when stowing a carry-on or lifting a full bag off a luggage carousel.
Experts at The Wirecutter praise the Kirkland Signature Upright 21.5-inch Carry-On for its large, sturdy wheels, which they say handle uneven pavement and concrete steps just as easily as smooth airport floors. They add that the bag is hard to tip, even when packed to the gills. Similarly, users say the Travelpro Maxlite 4 22-Inch Expandable Rollaboard has reliable wheels and the added perk of lots of extra handles, which make it easy to carry when necessary. A rare bottom-mounted handle helps users pull it out of an overhead bin, no matter which way it's been stuffed in.
At the other end of the spectrum, some reviewers say the Olympia Skyhawk 22-Inch Expandable Carry-On can quickly become a pain to haul through the airport. One reviewer on Amazon says the wobbly handle twists when using all four wheels, but the bag shakes when rolled on only two wheels.
Functionality.Reviewers often comment on whether there are enough compartments for clothing and other items to stay organized and neat. Bag interiors should be fully lined and ideally have at least one additional compartment for smaller items and toiletries, along with garment straps that effectively keep things in place. Soft-sided luggage should also be expandable if a little more room is needed and malleable enough to be squished into tight spots.
The American Tourister Fieldbrook II 4-Piece Set and Traveler's Choice Travel Select Amsterdam 4-Piece Set get high marks for giving travelers lots of options when it comes to packing. For instance, users can easily carry the tote from the American Tourister set by using a sleeve that attaches it to the larger uprights. Reviewers also like the exterior pockets on those bags for keeping things easily at hand. The Traveler's Choice bags offer more room, and one Amazon customer even reports stuffing the largest bag with a queen-size comforter, duvet cover, sheets, clothes, several pairs of shoes, and more. The Travelpro Maxlite 4 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard also gets high marks for functionality, because reviewers say it expands so well.
Exterior pockets are always appreciated, and many reviewers say they miss them when they're lacking -- especially on carry-on luggage, because they offer quick access to essentials. Most hard-sided suitcases, such as those in the Traveler's Choice Cambridge 3-Piece Set, require users to dive into main compartments if they need to retrieve anything.
Durability.Rough baggage handling and lower-quality materials make long-term durability the biggest downfall of cheap luggage. Still, consumers expect bags to be tough enough to resist punctures and stains, with reinforced corners and bumpers adding extra protection. Zippers should glide without sticking or splitting and stand up to repeated use, and retractable handles should adjust smoothly and feel stable when engaged. Wheels (perhaps the biggest trouble area for cheap luggage) shouldn't stick or fall off after limited use.
Among the carry-ons we researched, the Kirkland Signature Upright 21.5-Inch Carry-On gets the best feedback on durability. Some reviews on the Costco website come from customers who have used the bag for years without problems -- a rare and impressive endorsement for cheap luggage.
Amazon reviewers are impressed with the wheels on the Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion 20-Inch Spinner, given that spinner wheels are typically more vulnerable long-term than more traditional inline skate wheels. Flimsy wheels and handles, according to reviews, are part of what makes the Olympia Skyhawk 22-Inch Expandable Carry-On a questionable buy. Similar complaints dog the Traveler's Choice Cambridge 3-Piece Set, and experts at OutdoorGearLab assert that the handle and zippers simply aren't built to last.
A lot of users reviewing the Rockland Rio 2-Piece Set on Amazon say they weren't expecting much from the uber-cheap little set but admit they're surprised at how well the pieces have held up. They're certainly not made to withstand frequent travelling and may not fare that well if placed in the care of airline baggage handlers, but for just $38, even the five-year limited warranty seems like a boon. The Travelpro Maxlite 4 22-Inch Expandable Rollaboard, by comparison, comes with a limited lifetime warranty, and purchasers of the Kirkland Signature Upright 21.5-Inch Carry-On are covered by Costco's generous return policy.
Additional Products We Considered
Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20-Inch Upright Review
Amazon and eBags user reviews say the Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20-Inch Upright (starting at $55, Amazon) is easy to maneuver through airports, with wheels that roll and spin smoothly. Top- and side-mounted handles make it a cinch to chuck onto luggage belts, and it can also stand on its side using four plastic feet. It gets mostly good reviews for durability, with few reports of cracks and dents, though there are some complaints about wheels popping off and zippers busting.
At 7 pounds, the bag is very lightweight, and measuring in at 20 x 12.6 x 8.5 inches, it's solidly carry-on compliant. It comes in a range of colors, including charcoal gray, cobalt blue, red, purple, and pink. The casing on this bag is made from ABS, a lightweight but rigid plastic. It has four wheels that swivel 360 degrees, reinforced corners, and a retractable handle. Inside, there are two zippered pockets (one large and one small) and garment straps. Most reviewers find the fully lined interior roomy enough, although a few say they wish there were more compartments to help them stay better organized. They especially miss exterior pockets, but those aren't common on hard-shell bags.
All in all, the Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20-Inch Upright is a solid choice for anyone who wants a lightweight and relatively roomy carry-on bag that can be checked for longer trips. There may be more durable hard-shell uprights on the market, but they are scarce at this low price.
The company has recently stopped making this model, although it's still available from major online retailers. As it becomes harder to find, some consumers might be willing to consider the very similar but pricier Renegade 20-inch upright. It's expandable and has eight wheels instead of four. There aren't a lot of reviews out there, but the few we've seen suggest these improvements and this bag will serve travelers quite well.
Rockland Sonic 3-Piece Set Review
For the most part, consumers posting reviews of the Rockland Sonic 3-Piece Set (starting at $120, Amazon) on Amazon and eBags are pleased with how smoothly the spinner wheels let them move through the airport, even when fully loaded. They also have few complaints about stability. There are top- and side-mounted handles to ease lifting and carrying, and with four plastic feet, the pieces don't always have to stand on their wheels. Durability is a mixed bag with this set, however. While many reviewers say they've used the bags for a long time trouble-free, others report cracks and broken handles or zippers. One of the biggest complaints is a chemical smell, but several reviewers say that's easy to fix by airing out the bags before use.
Users say one of the best things about the Rockland Sonic bags is that they're relatively lightweight, making them easy to carry or stuff full without incurring pricey over-the-limit luggage fees. The interior is sectioned into two parts by a nylon divider that has a large mesh pocket and several smaller elasticized compartments. Reviewers like the setup, saying they're able to stay organized and have plenty of room.
The Rockland Sonic 3-Piece Set is made from ABS, a lightweight but rigid plastic. The included bags consist of a smaller upright that is 20 x 13 x 9 inches and weighs 6 pounds; a mid-size upright that is 24 x 15 x 10 inches and weighs 8 pounds; and a larger upright that is 28 x 17 x 12 inches and weighs 10 pounds. The smallest bag should meet most airlines' carry-on restrictions. All three pieces have four wheels that swivel 360 degrees and telescoping chrome handles. They come in more than a dozen colors, and many users say they loved having the option to pick a brighter shade that stands out at the luggage carousel. They also like being able to nest the pieces inside one another for easier storage.
For occasional travelers who want roomy, lightweight, colorful, easy-to-store hard-sided bags, the Rockland Sonic 3-Piece Set represents value that's hard to beat. Frequent travelers, however, may want to upgrade to something a bit tougher.
Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion 20-Inch Spinner Review
The wheels on the Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion 20-Inch Spinner (starting at $90, Amazon) win much praise in reviews. Users posting on Amazon and eBags say they help the bag roll smoothly in all directions, and testers at OutdoorGearLab report that the Winfield 2 is so maneuverable that it can manage small figure eights. There are also very few complaints about the wheels' durability, which is uncommon for low-price spinners. However, some say the retractable handle is flimsy, and there are a handful of reports of the handle bending or breaking after light use. This suitcase also doesn't have a carry handle on the side, a common feature that many reviewers miss, saying it would make the bag easier to heave out of an overhead compartment.
At about 6.7 pounds, though, the Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion 20-Inch Spinner is among the lighter budget carry-ons out there. Reviewers appreciate not having to drag the extra weight through the airport. They say the fully lined interior is spacious, and squared-off corners provide a little more room than slightly rounder bags. Users like being able to divide clothing and belongings between the two sides. There are two smaller mesh pockets and garment straps, as well as an integrated combination zipper lock.
The Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion 20-Inch Spinner is made from polycarbonate, which is stronger than the ABS plastic that is more common in lower-cost hard-shell bags. It was even strong enough for OutdoorGearLab's testers to let a tired child sit on the bag for over a mile, although some reviewers miss having exterior pockets to easily stash belongings. This suitcase measures 20 x 13.5 x 9.5 inches, making it carry-on compliant nearly across the board. It's available in charcoal gray, orange, blue, or purple, and reviewers say the subtle brush-stroke finish contributes to a high-end look.
Travelers who want a durable carry-on at a reasonable price should have the Samsonite Winfield 2 Fashion 20-Inch Spinner on their shortlist. The flimsy handle keeps it from being a home run, but for budget shoppers, it's a hit.