Have you been lugging the same suitcase around the globe for too long, keeping it together with safety pins and duct tape? Do you regularly get dinged for overweight baggage? Do you look around with envy at your fellow travelers at the airport, admiring their shiny carry-ons with all the latest bells and whistles? If any of these scenarios ring true, it’s probably time for a new suitcase.
Below are five common signs it’s time to treat yourself to some new luggage, as well as a few recommended bags to add to your collection.
You’re in Pain
Rolling your suitcase through the airport and into your hotel should be an easy, comfortable experience. If you find your back, wrist, or shoulder aching after you’ve been lugging your suitcase around for a while, it’s time to find a bag that works better for your body.
Many travelers with back problems find spinner suitcases easier to maneuver than two-wheeled bags that you drag behind you. Make sure that the telescoping handle is comfortable to grip and comes up high enough so that you can roll the bag along without bending over or straining. You’ll also want the bag to be as lightweight as possible so it’s not too difficult to hoist into the overhead bin.
Consider the Lipault Plume 20″ Spinner Carry-On, a sleek and incredibly light bag that rolls smoothly and weighs just a shade over four pounds.
It’s Falling Apart
The handle has stopped telescoping, the wheels are getting stuck, the seams are starting to fray … has your suitcase seen better days? Invest in well-made luggage from a reputable company, and this won’t start to happen within a year or two of buying your bag. That doesn’t mean you have to go out and drop $1,000+ on a high-end Rimowa suitcase, but keep in mind that a $45 cheapie probably won’t stand up to the rigors of frequent travel. (Alas, this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way.)
Looking for sturdy hardside checked bags that won’t show scuffs and dings from the not-so-gentle attention of airline baggage handlers? Consider The Journey from ROAM or the Samsonite Omni Expandable Hardside Spinner, both made from durable, scratch-resistant polycarbonate.
You Can’t Stay Organized
If you often find yourself digging through your entire bag to find the shoes or clothes you need, you might benefit from a suitcase with a bit more built-in organization. Look for bags with lots of pockets and dividers, such as the Samsonite Silhouette 16 Expandable Wheeled Carry-On, which comes with a garment bag, a toiletry bag, and various compartments.
Or consider the Carry-On Closet from Solgaard, which includes a fold-out set of shelves that you can use to separate your clothes, toiletries, and other items. Need something larger? The Trunk offers similar organizational components in a checked-bag size.
It’s Not the Right Size
If you’re sick of having to gate-check a carry-on that doesn’t quite fit into the airline’s sizer, or paying overweight fees every time you fill your checked bag to the limit, you might want to buy a new suitcase that helps you travel more easily within the airlines’ restrictions.
When choosing a carry-on, keep in mind that most major U.S. airlines allow bags up to 22 x 14 x 9 inches—including the wheels and handles. This is important because a shockingly large number of bags labeled for sale as “carry-ons” exceed those limits. High-quality bags that meet the airlines’ size restrictions include the Briggs & Riley Sympatico CX Int’l Carry-On Expandable Spinner, the Samsonite Silhouette 16 20″ Hardside Spinner, and the eBags TLS Hybrid Spinner Carry-on.
As for checked bags, if you tend to overpack, look for lightweight suitcases that won’t take up too much of your weight allowance. One brand known for ultra-light bags is IT Luggage, which offers a 31.5-inch spinner that weighs a mere five pounds and four ounces, as well as a slightly smaller checked bag that weighs less than five pounds. For a lightweight hardside option, consider the Traveler’s Choice Sedona 25-Inch Hardside Spinner, which weighs in at about nine pounds.
It Doesn’t Have the Latest Features
The best new suitcases are a lot more than just boxes on wheels—they’ve got handy features that can make your travels easier, from built-in TSA-approved locks to charging ports for your phone or e-reader. If your current suitcase feels a little behind the times, you may want to treat yourself to an upgrade.
Tech-savvy travelers will love the Genius Pack Carry-On Supercharged, with its two external USB ports, integrated lock, and compartment set aside for your devices and charging cables. Another good option is the Away Carry-on, which comes with an airline-compliant battery that can charge your phone plus a hidden laundry bag, built-in lock, and interior compression system.
Our Favorite Luggage Options
More from SmarterTravel:
- The Best New Carry-on Luggage
- The Best Affordable Carry-on Bags Under $150
- Ultralight Travel: How to Pack Light Every Time
Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.