April 22, 2024

Olympia Travel Tips

Maniac Travel Update

Travel Writers Reveal Their Go-to Checked Luggage

Travel Writers Reveal Their Go-to Checked Luggage

My walk-in closet isn’t full of clothes. It’s full of luggage — something I’ve been collecting since elementary school. While other kids were getting Barbies or bicycles for their birthdays, I was getting suitcases that I’d circled in my grandma’s J.C. Penney catalogs. More than 20 years later, I’m working as a travel writer, and one of my favorite product-related topics to cover is the somewhat controversial checked bag. 

I know plenty of travelers, including other travel writers I chat with regularly, who have sworn off checking a bag. Some would rather get a root canal than risk getting separated from their stuff, and frankly, I don’t blame them. (I’m still waiting to hear back from KLM about a bag that went MIA last July.) Lost luggage aside, I’m still a fan of the checked bag. It allows me to pack more, and it also means I’m not schlepping anything big around on layovers. Plus, I don’t have to fight for real estate in the overhead bin or worry about leaving my bag on the plane (been there, done that). 

Much like there are tons of great carry-on bags out there, there’s also no shortage of quality checked bags. Obviously, as a luggage connoisseur, I have my favorites. But recently I reached out to some of my travel writer friends to see what they traveled with when they chose to check a bag. A few told me they never check bags, but the rest were game — and their picks start at an affordable $99 and include some top brands like Samsonite, TravelPro, Away, and Monos. From your traditional hard-sided rollers to a trunk with TSA-approved locks and even a duffel that converts into a backpack, here are 16 travel writer-approved bags big enough you’ll have to check them in. 

Samsonite Andante Two-Wheeled Rolling Duffel Bag


I had the pleasure of traveling all the way to the Galapagos last winter with travel writer Brittany Chrusciel, who just wrote all about her genius cruise packing list for Travel + Leisure. When I asked what her favorite check-in bag was, she told me she dares to be different. “I know the trend is toward hard cases, but I’ve never been betrayed by my large Samsonite roller bag,” said Chrusciel. She appreciates that her 107-liter Samsonite Andante Two-Wheeled Rolling Duffel Bag weighs just eight pounds (most hard-sided bags this size weigh at least 12 pounds), and she also likes the comfortable push-button handle. Over at Amazon, this bag has more than 2,700 five-star ratings. One happy shopper wrote that theirs “survived” a three-week trip in Europe that included trains, planes, streets, and teens.  

To buy: amazon.com, $99 

TravelPro Maxlite Air Hardside Expandable Luggage


My friend and fellow travel writer, Brent Rose, swears by his TravelPro. He told me, “It’s made with frequent fliers in mind, so it has excellent capacity and organization, but none of the bells and whistles you don’t really need.” He also says it hits “the sweet spot” on price. While he has the TravelPro Crew Versapack Softside Expandable Luggage, I’m a sucker for at least four wheels, so I like the TravelPro Maxlite Air Hardside Expandable Medium Luggage (also available in large). It holds 89 liters and has more than 700 five-star ratings on Amazon. One shopper who tested theirs on a trip to France wrote: “I loved this suitcase so much I bought a set for my sister and then one for my husband.”

To buy: amazon.com, $180 

Monos Check-In Large


While I own tons of luggage, if I could only have one brand for the rest of my life, it would be Monos. Aesthetically, I find their luggage to be the most pleasing, and I love that they’re always coming out with new limited edition colors. Features-wise, the Monos Check-In Large has an adjustable telescopic handle with four height settings (most suitcases just have two), four “high performance” 360-degree spinner wheels, and a “luxuriously soft” interior fabric with antimicrobial properties. This 99.2-liter suitcase, which is currently $40 off, also comes with an antimicrobial laundry bag, two shoe bags, and a luggage tag made out of vegan leather.

To buy: monos.com, $355 

Eddie Bauer Expedition 34 Duffel 2.0 

Eddie Bauer

Forget a tie or golf clubs: I got my dad the Eddie Bauer Expedition 34 Duffel 2.0 for Father’s Day. What I love the most about this 129-liter bag is the fact that it won’t tip over, even when empty or packed to the gills. My dad even told me what he loves most about it is the separate compartment for dirty laundry. It’s treated with Polygiene to prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria, so he doesn’t need to worry about a musty wet swimming suit stinking up his whole bag. 

To buy: eddiebauer.com, $379

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag 100L


I got my first Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag for Christmas in 2017. My parents wouldn’t buy me the plane ticket to Thailand that I asked for. Instead, they said they’d buy my bag for the trip. After doing some research, I chose the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag 100L.While most of the hard-sided luggage on this list weighs at least 10 pounds, this 100-liter bag comes in at just three pounds. Granted, it doesn’t have wheels (order this one if you need them). But it comes with removable padded shoulder straps and is designed to be worn as a backpack, too.

To buy: rei.com and patagonia.com, $219 

Calpak Hue Large Luggage


I’ve been a fan of Calpak since 2018 when I was testing suitcases for TODAY. And while I haven’t traveled with the Calpak Hue Large Luggage (yet), I have traveled extensively with the carry-on and loved it. Because this 110-liter suitcase expands by two inches, it’s perfect for the traveler who likes to shop along the way. If you are that shopper, I recommend buying Calpak’s best-selling packing cubes to keep your belongings organized. The two-year warranty provides peace of mind, and I think the only downside of this piece is that it comes in too many stylish matte colors to choose from.

To buy: calpak.com, $275

The North Face Base Camp Duffel – Large


Meanwhile, Felicia Wong, a family travel blogger and influencer I follow on Instagram is a big fan of The North Face Base Camp Duffel. She has both the Large, which weighs four pounds and holds 90 liters, and the Extra Large, which still weighs less than five pounds and holds 155 liters. “Because these bags are much lighter than suitcases, I can pack our hiking shoes, winter jackets, and other outdoor equipment without worrying about going overweight.” She also loves how these bags pack down and are easy to store when not in use. At REI, the Large comes in five colors and has an impressive 4.9-star average rating from 300 reviews.

To buy: rei.com, $159 

Monos Hybrid Trunk


Fellow Travel + Leisure contributor Karthika Gupta has family 8,000 miles away in India, and when she visits them, she stays for weeks at a time. For this specific trip, she told me she loves her 89-liter Monos Hybrid Trunk because it’s big enough for all of her stuff, and the central compartments make it easy to stay organized. Since it’s such a long journey, she also appreciates how the frame is lightweight yet durable. And she never needs to worry about breaking a zipper, at least externally. This suitcase doesn’t have one; it has trunk-style latches. It does, however, have two TSA-approved locks. Is there any benefit to traveling with a trunk versus a traditional large suitcase?  According to Gupta, “It’s easy to identify in a sea of similar-looking luggage.”

To buy: monos.com, $455 

Kelty Coyote 60-105 Liter Backpack


Of course, the only trunk Gupta wants to see when she’s camping is a tree’s, so when she’s backpacking or visiting our country’s great national parks, she brings her Kelty Coyote 60-105 Liter Backpack. “I love traveling with a trekking pack, especially when I’m alone or with my young kids because of that hands-free feeling while traversing multiple modes of transportation,” said Gupta. “The frame is also super comfortable and the multitude of pockets and zippers means everything is neatly stored away.” While Gupta has this bag in the 65-liter size, she recommends the 85-liter Kelty Glendale if you need more space. 

To buy: amazon.com, $130 

American Tourister Moonlight Hardside Expandable Luggage


My friend Monique Ceccato writes for travel magazines in Australia, and she calls her American Tourister suitcase one of her best travel-related purchases of all time. “It’s been lugged on the longest-haul flights like Perth, Australia to the USA and Europe, multiple times, and so far, all it has to show for it are a few scuff marks.” While Ceccato has the Curio, American Tourister’s best-selling model on Amazon is the Moonlight Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels. It has more than 5,000 perfect five-star ratings and holds 69 liters. 

To buy: amazon.com, $120 ​​

Delsey Paris Chatelet Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels


My travel writer friend Sarah Sekula writes about travel gear for USA TODAY, so she always has the best stuff including the Delsey Paris Chatelet Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels. Very Emily in Paris, this 69-liter suitcase probably the most stylish piece on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s not tough, too. In fact, its polycarbonate shell is described as “extremely resilient to cracking or breaking.” I like that it comes with a laundry bag and shoe bag, and of course the 4.6-star average rating on Amazon, from nearly 2,700 reviews, speaks volumes. One parent who left a five-star rating wrote, “So many compliments. My daughters are fighting over who gets to use it next!”

To buy: amazon.com, $350 

Away The Large


Sekula is also loyal to her Away The Large suitcase which has a very impressive, but not surprising, 4.9-star average rating from nearly 1,000 reviews. Basically, you can’t go wrong with Away luggage. One verified shopper who used their Away Large on a 2022 trip to Europe wrote, “It was the perfect size for seven days’ worth of clothes, and I had plenty of space for more.” To be precise, it holds up to 99.2 liters (the Large Flex holds 107.8 liters). It also has a built-in compression system that makes it easier to fit more in and comes with a TSA-approved combination lock, a water-resistant laundry bag, and a sleek leather luggage tag. 

To buy: away.com, $375

Carl Friedrik The Check-In

Carl Friedrik

While I don’t personally own this bag, I have seen it make cameos on White Lotus and Succession — two of the hottest shows on TV right now. Naturally, I’ve been researching the Carl Friedrik The Check-In online, and so far I’m impressed with everything I’ve read. It’s made of lightweight polycarbonate but has a sturdy aluminum frame and features premium Italian leather in the interior. This 65.8-liter suitcase also has two TSA-approved combination locks, and the silent 360-degree spinner wheels are made by Hinomoto, a Japanese company used by most premium luggage brands.

To buy: carlfriedrik.com, $575

Victorinox Spectra 3.0 Expandable Large


My travel writer friend Brandon Schultz isn’t in denial. He owns being an overpacker. “The Victorinox Spectra 3.0 Expandable Large is one of the only suitcases that can handle everything I’m bringing,” he recently told me. “It expands up to 40 percent, which is awesome for bulky items like extra coats or adventure gear.” He loves how the eight spinner wheels make it glide as if it’s on ice, and he also likes that this suitcase has reinforced corners. “I fly every week, so my bags have to stand up to constant abuse,” he said, unabashedly. If you don’t need all 103 liters of space, consider the medium ($650) which holds 81 liters.

To buy: amazon.com, $700

Cotopaxi Allpa 70L Duffel Bag 


I’m convinced Cotopaxi makes the best travel backpack ever, and I am also the proud owner of the 70-liter Cotopaxi Allpa 70L Duffel Bag which also gets me tons of compliments. It’s available in five eye-catching color combinations and comes with a lifetime warranty which goes to show how serious Cotopaxi takes their craftsmanship. Like the Patagonia duffel, it’s versatile. To turn it into a backpack, simply attach the removable backpack harness and stow away the duffel straps. There are plenty of interior and exterior pockets for organization, and there’s even a separate compartment at the bottom of the bag for dirty laundry. 

To buy: amazon.com, $160 

Sterling Pacific 80L Check In Travel Case


When I first learned about the Sterling Pacific 80L Check In Travel Case, I thought, “Wow, that’s too expensive.” But, upon further reading, especially checking out reviews by pilots who swear by Sterling Pacific, I’ve changed my mind. At $1,995, it’s still pricey, however, it’s a legacy piece you can hand down to your children. One pilot calls it a “functional piece of art.” And it comes with a lifetime warranty and unlimited free repairs. That said, it’s made of aviation-grade (think what planes are made of) aluminum, and the stainless steel rivets holding it together can withstand more than 27,000 pounds of weight per square inch. 

To buy: amazon.com, $1,995

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