Before COVID-19 — in a world of delayed flights, lost passports, and that one arsey staff member hell-bent on getting £50 off you because your cabin luggage is a gram overweight — a good suitcase could be make or break. And now, it’s even more so, when your trip may involve a quarantine when you get home, or the flight might result in you seeing your family for the first time in months.
Getting the right case for you (and not just the right looking case) is important. So to help with your search, we asked nine frequent travellers — from photographers and authors to rum ambassadors — to tell us their go-to suitcases. Read on for their easy-wheeling recommendations, including the best for business travellers, the best for those with zero storage space, and the best for those who like to put their case through hell and back.
Best overall suitcase
Tripp, a U.K.-based suitcase company, was the most frequently mentioned brand, with three separate recommendations. Niamh O’Brien, digital editor at Lonely Planet, is never without her Tripp case. Calling it a “sturdy little number,” she says the case “tolerates being dragged down stairs, across fields, and can be chucked in the tightest of luggage situations.” The wheels and handle “can really take a punishing,” she adds, easily taking on cobbled, sandy, muddy, or hilly terrain. “Extremely good value for money. This might not be the fanciest carry-on on the market, but its durability and practicality are the best.” Victoria Beardwood, in-flight magazine editor at Ink, also rated Tripp highly. “It’s not flashy, it’s not expensive, but it does the job brilliantly.”
Best (more expensive) suitcase
“There are many things that make my aluminium Away cabin suitcase the ideal travel companion,” says writer Anna Hart. The built-in charging dock for devices saves her from “a desperate hunt for charging points in airports,” while clever suitcase dividers “make it easy to dip inside for house keys/travel documents/soap bag without everything tipping onto the floor of a railway station.” A sturdy outer shell and combination lock “reduc[e] my paranoia when leaving it at luggage depots or hotel reception,” Hart adds. Beardwood also loves Away, saying her backpack is “great as a carry-on for a short trip or as a cabin bag in addition to a big suitcase in the hold.” As well as being stylish, it’s “super-functional,” with three different compartments and a number of secret pockets.
Best lightweight suitcase
“You can fit a surprising amount inside this suitcase,” says Jessica Prupas, associate editor at EasyJet Traveller, which is all the more impressive given its weight. A minuscule 1.88 kilogram, it’s “great for lugging home from Luton,” she says. As well as being ultralightweight, it’s sturdy too. “I’ve had an IT suitcase for Lord knows how long, and it’s never done me dirty.” Though colour options are a little limited — it’s a choice between grey or red — innovative touches, like a mesh laundry section and an extra-deep front pocket, make up for this.
Best non-scratch suitcase
Travel vlogger Shu Lin says Muji is her top recommendation for a long-haul case. “It’s sturdy, durable, and has a scratch-resistant hard shell resilient to bumps, accidental knocks, and uneven surfaces. So long, scuffed-up cases!” The suitcase also has a stopper function so that it won’t roll away from you. Extra-quiet sound-absorbing wheels also mean your suitcase won’t advertise that you’re going away to your entire office if you bring it into work.
Best space-saving suitcase
“I live in a tiny studio apartment, so the fact that this packs away flat is a massive bonus,” says author Erin Niimi Longhurst, who recently relocated to New York. The outer shell is made from sturdy canvas, which “collapses so it’s really flat and easy to store.” As well as packing away neatly, the bag is lightweight: “There’s an irritating trend on transatlantic flights recently where they’re weighing cabin bags, so if I know I’m flying an airline that does that, then this is the bag I take with me.” The Eastpak bag also comes with a 30-year warranty. “When one of the internal zips split recently, I was able to send my suitcase off, and it came back all fixed up,” says Longhurst.
Best duffle suitcase
“I’m never worried about splitting this bag open,” says Longhurst of this stylish duffle. “I’ve always really liked luggage from Kipling. When I was little, it was because I loved the little monkey keychain it comes with, but these days I really appreciate how thick and robust the zips are. I feel like I can always squeeze and cram a few more bits in.” The bag can also be handily converted into a backpack. “If I’m taking this on a trip where I’m visiting a lot of markets, the backpack function becomes absolutely necessary once I’m laden with purchases.”
Best suitcase for photographers
Blogger and keen underwater photographer Michelle Attard originally purchased her Samsonite Cosmolite Spinner to match her large hold luggage. “It now works great for my camera gear as it’s super-light,” she tells me. She loves that it has four wheels “so I don’t have to drag it behind me, hurting my back” and that it’s “extremely sturdy.” It’s especially good for those who like to travel to remote locations. “It’s perfect for connecting flights in smaller planes, as they usually have strict weight restrictions and try to overcharge you if your cabin suitcase is too heavy,” she adds. One thing to note, however, is that Attard does wish it had “more internal pockets.”
Best suitcase for business travel
The world’s first global rum ambassador, Ian A.V. Burrell, needs to look slick while he’s away “travelling to all seven continents, spreading the gospel according to rum.” Although it’s expensive, he loves the S.C Holdall from Bennett Winch, which has “a sharp, understated look that masks a unique two-piece design — both a holdall bag and suit carrier in one.” Burrell refuses to travel with checked luggage: “With this, my suits and shirts are wrinkle free, and I’m straight on and off the plane, no waiting around.” The wraparound suit holder can fit one pair of trousers and a jacket, while the internal bag is surprisingly roomy at 32 litres. Burrell says his bag has seen him through weeklong trips.
Photographer Eyal Yassky had to take 50 flights last year for work, which “makes it almost impossible to adopt an eco-conscious lifestyle.” But even for frequent fliers, there “are still things we can do,” he says. Choosing the products he consumes carefully has been a key part of this. His go-to short-haul Patagonia cabin bag is made from 100 percent postconsumer polyester and is “built to last.” As well as its minimal environmental damage, his favourite feature is “the ability to compress the top part and the external passport pocket” for quick access going through the airport.
Some other travel essentials we like
This padded, memory-foam footrest first came to our attention via contributor Alyse Whitney, who was looking for a way to make a 20-hour flight to Singapore and Hong Kong more bearable. “It was the closest thing to a first-class experience that I could get in economy,” she said.
Similarly, this pillow by Trtl will make travelling feel a bit more luxurious. It’s actually a length of fleece, which you can Velcro in place, but contains a bit of plastic sewn into it that allows it to prop your head up (not unlike a neck brace). We’ve written about it before, and it’s proven to be quite popular among Strategist readers, featuring in our most-bought list three times.
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