Whether you have travel lined up or your friend’s recent travel posts are inspiring your next out-of-office getaway, it’s high time to shop for the best travel bags. The type of travel bag you decide to get will depend on your travel destination, your budget, and your personal style. But with so many choices, it’s hard to know what to pick. We spoke with frequent fliers and travel experts on the best tips to pick the right travel bag for comfortable, secure, and easy travel. Below are the expert-recommended picks and tips to help you choose. And if you’re flying, remember to try to keep up with safety travel precautions as best as you can.
How to choose a travel bag
When it comes to shopping for luggage, experts agree that you should never sacrifice quality. “If you plan to travel often or take longer trips, it’s worth investing in higher-quality luggage,” Ciara Johnson, full-time travel blogger at Hey Ciara, tells SELF. Big-ticket items like suitcases should be long-lasting and durable. Otherwise, you’d be shelling out way more to keep replacing damaged bags.
We know that wear and tear can’t be avoided, especially with luggage taking a beating on planes and buses. Megan Homme, a travel blogger who also works in the airline industry, has a tip for that. She says to opt for a dark-colored suitcase to hide scuffs better. “Lighter colors will show wear and age much more quickly,” she says. Pro tip: Add a unique luggage tag to make your bag stand out from the others at the conveyor belt seat.
If possible, try to opt for carry-ons to save time at check-in lines and speed through baggage claim—just make sure it passes the size requirement. “These days, it’s more important than ever to use carry-on because of the chaotic systems at understaffed airports,” says Caroline Eubanks, writer and author of This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States. “You should ideally be able to manage your own bags and not rely on flight attendants.” Her pro tip: Always look up what type of plane you’ll be on. She notes, “for small, regional routes, the standard carry-on bag won’t fit in the overhead bin.”
When it comes to the actual shopping part, Johnson recommends shopping by need and tendencies. Will you be staying in hotels or hostels? Will you be taking shorter or longer trips? Will you be traveling in places with an established or developed infrastructure? Spinner wheels are easier to haul through airports, but if you’re backpacking in Europe, ditch the spinners for a backpack to avoid the cobblestone streets that will surely wreck the wheels.
Johnson also adds, “If possible, you should examine the product in-store. However, the most innovative luggage brands typically only exist online.” She recommends doing research and comparing various luggage brands before you make a purchase. She adds that some brands even offer a “try-before-you-buy policy, along with a lifetime warranty.” Generally speaking, travel bags are not the place to save some money on your travels, but there are ways to find deals, especially during shopping holidays like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And if you enjoy the thrill of secondhand shopping, Eubanks says she’s gotten a deal or two shopping thrift. “Secondhand can be a good way to save money.”
You also don’t need to be a pro packer or inherently organized to pack well. All you need are pockets. Johnson says a good rule of thumb when shopping for any travel bag is “the more pockets [and] organizers, the better.” Use them for separating clean clothes from sullied ones. You can even separate gifts for loved ones to take home after your vacation. According to Johnson, you can’t go wrong with the following features for luggage options: 360 spinner wheels, expandability, compression straps, endless pockets, a side handle, built-in TSA locks, and polycarbonate material.
Best travel bags
Here are 21 expert-recommended travel bags for every kind of traveler to help you narrow down your options and focus all that logistical planning on your itinerary. We broke it down by luggage and suitcases, carry-on bags, backpacks, fanny packs, crossbody bags, tote bags, and makeup and toiletry bags.