Booking flights, navigating COVID restrictions, and figuring out the perfect itinerary can be a complicated and frustrating affair, but packing doesn’t have to be difficult. Wherever you’re going, you’re going to need luggage, from hardy check-in cases to carry-on bags perfect for a long weekend.
Getting the right case for you (and not just the right-looking case) is important. So to help with your search, we asked 11 frequent travellers — including photographers, directors, and former cabin crew — to tell us their go-to suitcases. We also sifted through hundreds of reviews across Amazon, John Lewis, and Argos to find the best options, from a cabin case accepted by more than 15 airlines to a dupe for the eye-wateringly expensive Rimowa suitcase.
What we’re looking for
Hard or soft shell: The two main kinds of suitcase either have a hard or soft case, and what you require will depend on what kind of travel you are undertaking. Harder shells are, unsurprisingly, more durable — and come recommended by photographers, actors, and other frequent fliers who often bring fragile items with them on trips. Most hard-shell cases are made from a durable plastic compensate named ABS, but more expensive models are made from aluminium, such as the easily recognisable Rimowa case. While we love the Rimowa case’s sleek design, paying over £1,000 for a case is unnecessary if you’re simply hauling a long weekend’s worth of clothes to Bruges. Soft shell cases are more expandable because of their design but might not protect items like your hair dryer (or a bottle of Allemand from a trip to France). In the case of soft shells, we’ll also be judging the case on its warranty and how easy it is to get it repaired or replaced if it does suffer after a particularly rough trip.
Dimensions: If you are away for a short break, you’ll likely want a smaller case you can take on the plane as hand luggage. If you’re taking longer trips, consider a bigger case you can store in the hold. Size and weight allowances for cases will vary by airline, and some companies measure their cases in terms of dimensions (often in centimetres) or total volume (usually in litres). We’ll list every size a case comes in.
Best overall suitcase
Available in five sizes | Hard shell
We chose Samsonite’s hard case as our best overall as it features many of the factors we’re looking for in a good suitcase but, crucially, doesn’t cost as much as other brands on the market. It comes recommended by blogger and underwater photographer Michelle Attard, who bought the Cosmolite Spinner to match her hold luggage. “It’s superlight,” she notes, adding that it’s durable enough to protect her camera gear. She says the four wheels mean she doesn’t “have to drag it behind me, hurting my back,” and notes that it’s “extremely sturdy.” She also told us it’s been easy to take on connecting flights, even those on smaller planes, and has met all the strict weight restrictions she has come across during her numerous trips — something we thought was an incredibly appealing quality. The Cosmolite comes in five sizes: The smallest is listed as 55 centimetres (Samsonite only measure in height, not width or depth), and the largest goes up to 86 centimetres. Samsonite also offers an impressive ten-year warranty. If you’re looking for a slightly less expensive option from Samsonite, the Magnum range, made from recycled yoghurt pots, costs around half as much, comes in four sizes, and has a five-ear warranty.
Best (less expensive) suitcase
Available in three sizes | Hard shell | Compatible on 10-plus airlines
When we asked frequent travellers to tell us about the best suitcases, Tripp, a UK based company, was the most frequently mentioned. Niamh O’Brien, a digital editor at Lonely Planet, called it a “sturdy little number” and said 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, the in-flight magazine editor at Ink, also rated Tripp highly. “It’s not flashy, it’s not expensive, but it does the job brilliantly.”
Tripp’s suitcase comes in three sizes. The small measures 55 by 39 by 20 centimetres and has a capacity of 37 litres, the medium measures 66 by 39 by 26 centimetres and has a capacity of 66 litres, and the large measures 76 by 50 by 32 centimetres and has a capacity of 102 litres. According to Tripp, the cabin case fits in the cabin of ten airlines including Aer Lingus, British Airways, Jet2, and Lufthansa. All cases come with a five-year warranty.
Best lightweight suitcase
One size | Hard shell | Compatible on 15-plus airlines
Some of the best lightweight suitcases that came recommended to us were from Matalan, of all places. Jessica Prupas, associate editor at EasyJet Traveller, says hers is easy to lug back from Luton, and has never let her down. But Matalan’s availability is patchy at best with Prupas’s preferred model having been sold out now for several months, which kept it from being considered our best lightweight option. However, this option by Aerolite comes recommended by Strategist UK editor Ailbhe Malone and measures 48.5 by 35 by 20 centimetres. “I’ve owned this superlight suitcase for over seven years and have taken it around the world with me from Tokyo to Tasmania to Toulouse,” she says. “I’ve never failed to get this through as cabin luggage, and I can easily fit a week’s worth of clothing in it.” Aerolight is a notably popular brand on Amazon — this case has 8,775 reviews, 78 percent of which are five stars, and several customers noted how easy it was to take through the airport even when it was packed to the brim, as one customer found when travelling for a week in Magaluf. Another reviewer noted how easy it was to clean, with the occasional scuff mark coming off with a wet cloth. Aerolite says this case is compatible on over 15 airlines including British airways, Norwegian, and Aer Lingus, and the case comes with a five-year warranty.
Best suitcase for frequent fliers
Soft shell | One size | 30-year warranty
We heard about this collapsible Eastpak case from author Erin Niimi Longhurst, who told us it was ideal for stashing away in her tiny flat as it completely collapses down when not in use. We previously considered it the best lightweight option, but it is in fact a smidge heavier than both the Tripp and Aerolite options. Instead, we think it’s an excellent option for frequent fliers because of the excellent 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. The outer shell is made from canvas and has two wheels rather than the four more commonly seen on hard-shell cases. It measures 51 by 32.5 by 25 centimetres — a little smaller than the Tripp.
Best for long-haul fliers
Hard shell | Waterproof | Available in three sizes | Ten-year warranty
Tom Marchant, a co-founder of the luxury travel and lifestyle brand Black Tomato, and director Amma Asante told us that durability was key when looking for a suitcase suited for long-haul trips. Both recommended aluminium suitcases — Marchant likes Rimowa, while Asante has a Tumi case that she took on a 2019 from “Los Angeles to Taiwan, then the Maldives, and then Bangkok,” she said. “It coped brilliantly with getting battered through many an airport.” But both their recommendations cost over a thousand pounds, which feels far too expensive.
Though Rimowa’s plastic hard-shell cases are more affordable than their aluminiu ones, priced at around £700, this feels steep compared with the other highly rated plastic cases featured here. Instead, I sought to find an alternative aluminium case that wouldn’t cost the earth. I settled on this option by Samsonite. It’s a reputable brand — we named it our best overall for a reason — and it has a lot of the features of the Rimowa and Tumi models. Aesthetically, it even looks like a Rimowa case, but it’s a lot cheaper at £675. It has a capacity of 71 litres and measures 69 by 27 by 47 centimetres, though it comes in a smaller size (around the same dimensions as the Tripp case) and a larger option too. All their cases come with a ten-year warranty.
Amma Asante, director
Michelle Attard, blogger and photographer
Victoria Beardwood, in-flight magazine editor at Ink
Erin Niimi Longhurst, author
Ailbhe Malone, Strategist UK editor
Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato
Niamh O’Brien, digital editor at Lonely Planet
Jessica Prupas, associate editor at EasyJet Traveller
The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.