To misappropriate the words of Forrest Gump, when it comes to jet-setting “you never know what you’re gonna get”. With a veritable chocolate box of potential happenings ahead of you, it makes sense to be prepared when you head off on your travels, and the way to do that is to arm yourself with the very best kit — specifically, the best travel bag. After your passport and boarding pass, a wheeled travel bag is the barest of holiday essentials, and a constant companion over the course of your trip, so it’s important to get it right. That’s where we can offer a little bit of advice.
If you’re planning to take your bag on a flight, make sure you check the rules on the airline’s website before you buy, to ensure the dimensions are in-keeping with the maximum size and to avoid pesky charges; for cruises, a hard shell suitcase is just the ticket to avoid crushing in the hold. Think about the length of your trip, too, before you press Go. For long weekends, you can get away with some of the smaller bags on our list, while full-on odysseys will require something with a bit more capacity.
For the nervous, or the world-weary, you can assure that no sticky fingers get anywhere near your luggage by choosing a model with a TSA-approved sentry lock rather than bog-standard zips. This is a feature on lots of suitcases these days, not just the high-end ones, that means airport security can get into your case without breaking it if they need to check something out, but luggage handlers and opportunistic thieves can’t.
Apart from that, it’s pretty straightforward stuff. Want something you can easily spot on the carousel? Go for a colourful pattern that stands out. Not sure what surfaces your little bag will face on the road? Cover all bases with an extra manoeuvrable four-wheeled case or convertible suitcase. Carry on through our list for luggage inspiration, and the question of the best travel bag for you will be — as they say — case closed.
For its combination of toughness, lightness, and manoeuvrability, the Eminent Move Air takes our top spot as the best wheeled travel bag. Its four wheels make it manoeuvrable no matter what corner of the world you find yourself in, equally good at handling slippery airport tiles, higgledy piggledy pavements, and rough terrain, and reinforced corners and a MAKROLON polycarbonate construction mean it can take a beating. A fantastic mid range all-rounder that’s well worth the investment for frequent travel.
If you have a hard time trusting the airlines with your precious cargo, this sturdy suitcase from Samsonite is the one for you. Its polycarbonate shell is both strong and flexible to avoid being crushed in the hold, while the aluminium frame and four zippy wheels keep things light and manoeuvrable. Its zipless entry with TSA combination lock also guarantees no-one can rifle through your bag, for ultimate peace of mind. However, all this security comes at a price, so if you can’t justify the £250 spend, consider the less pricey Eminent Move Air.
With a colourful nod to the retro, this fabulous little bag is great for girly weekends and romantic getaways. With its small size, it’s equally easy to pull along like a traditional wheelie suitcase with the dainty telescopic handle or carry as a handbag. Its interior and exterior zipped pockets keep everything important close to hand, making it perfect as a carry-on for short trips, but for long-haul, consider something with equal personality but a bit more capacity, like one of the 5 Cities Valencia’s quirkier designs.
The most recent iteration of this traveller favourite reduces the weight by 25%, making it a great robust yet lightweight option for moving between hostels or interrailing. It features a sherpa strap to securely carry your day bag, freeing up your arms and lightening your load, and useful top pockets for quickly accessing the essentials. Best of all, it meets European hand luggage dimensions while still packing a decent amount in, making it our pick for best carry-on, with an honourable mention for use on multi-centre holidays.
This Go Explore offering has our vote for best lightweight suitcase with its easily liftable 3.2kg of polycarbonate and high-grade aluminium. Not only can this scratch-proof hard shell travel bag be tirelessly pulled around and lifted up steps and kerbs, the lower integral weight means that you can pack more in — that’s cheating stingy baggage allowances, plus more room for souvenirs. Win-win! A great little case, for a good price, with a decent capacity for short- to mid-length trips.
If you don’t have a lot of dosh to spend on a suitcase, or are begrudgingly shelling out for a compulsory trip, this set of two wheeled travel bags from 5 Cities is a fantastic buy. Don’t be put off by the seemingly too-good-to-be-true price: it’s light but tough, with nice little additions like protective rubber balls to prevent wear on the bottom of the case and an external pocket for essentials. With a mind-boggling array of design combinations, this set is also a perfect buy for couples’ holidays. We know fabric suitcases aren’t to everyone’s taste, so for a great value hard case option, try the Go Explore Ultra Light.
Travelling far? Check out our must-have list of the Best Long Haul Flight Accessories