12 best suitcases 2018: quality luggage from Samsonite, Tumi and more

Pack everything, including the kitchen sink, in these stylish and practical pieces of luggage

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Holidays, business trips, round-the-world adventures… whatever kind of journey you're about to embark on, it pays to have the right kit… and the right kitbag to stow your stuff in. 

To help you we’ve rounded up 10 of our favourite items of luggage — from duffel cases so big you could almost sleep in them, to carry-on cases for those times when you really must get on and off the plane as fast as possible.

Our favourite suitcase is the Globe-Trotter Trolley Case - but what suitcase is right for you and your needs? 

There are all kinds of considerations here: budget, size, how long you’re going away for, security, longevity (how long you expect the case to last). 

In essence though you have three main choices: 1) A hard or soft case; 2) Two wheels or four; 3) A cabin-size case or larger.

Let’s take a look at all of these choices in turn...

How to buy the best suitcase for you

1. Hard or soft case

Hard or rigid cases — like the kind that Samsonite is famous for — are usually made from polycarbonate or ABS plastic. In theory, they offer better protection for fragile items and can withstand a reasonable level of abuse without damage, although some glossy-finished cases can get scratched all too easily. Hard cases are also said to be more waterproof and secure than soft cases, although that obviously depends on the quality of the seals / locks / zips located around the case. Some of the better soft cases are waterproof too. 

The downside is that hard cases don't offer much in the way of flexibility — bringing back holiday souvenirs along with all the stuff you took on holiday in the first place? The rigid nature of hard cases means you may not be able to fit your purchases inside. Having said that, some cases now — including the Samsonite Flux — do include some level of expandability, but even then they don’t have the flexibility that a soft case does.

Soft cases, on the other hand, are flexible by their very nature — the sides of the case will bulge out to accommodate the extra items you’re trying to stow inside. They are also more likely to have external pockets for stowing additional items in and the best examples — such as the Eastpak Tranverz L — are also made from waterproof materials with waterproof zips, helping to keep the stuff inside dry. The flip-side is soft cases are more vulnerable to having their contents stolen, since they often rely on zip fastenings. However suitcases of either type often include 3-digit combination locks so you don't have to worry about losing an extra set of keys, and most are TSA-compliant — that is they are able to be opened easily by security at US airports should the need arise.

2. 2-wheels or 4-wheels

Most suitcases come with either two sets of wheels on the base, or four. Which one you choose is largely down to personal preference. Two-wheel ‘dragger’ cases are easier to manoeuvre in the real world of pavements and staircases where you can just tilt the bag and pull; Four-wheel ‘spinner’ cases are ideally suited to places with smooth floors, like hotel lobbies and airports where they get to glide around on all four sets of wheels — come across trickier terrain though, and you’ll have to drag them along on two wheels just like the others. 

Of more concern, potentially, is how robust and smooth-running the wheels are: ideally, they needed to be screwed (rather than riveted) to the case so they can easily be replaced if one does break, it also helps if they're recessed into the case corners a little — this makes them less vulnerable when they’re being tossed around by baggage handlers and have the advantage of making the footprint of the case slightly smaller.

3. Cabin-size or larger

When you’re buying a case, you obviously need to think about why you're buying it, and what you’re going to use it for — you’re clearly not going to want to take a massive case with you if you’re going on an overnight business trip or a weekend away; but likewise you won’t want a tiny case when you’re off for a month in Kathmandu. For many travellers though, the most important thing is that they buy a case that can be stowed either in an overhead locker or under the seat in an aeroplane cabin — that means they don't have to hang around for ages in baggage reclaim, they can just grab their bag and go.

Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules on what constitutes a carry-on case; different airlines have different size and weight limits and what might be acceptable on one airline won’t be on another. It pays to do some research — and make sure any case you buy complies with size limits for your favourite carrier, otherwise you may find your suitcase ends up in the hold after all.

Now get packing! The plane is waiting...

The best suitcases to buy today

Best suitcase: Samsonite Flux 75cm

(Image: © Samsonite)

1. Samsonite Flux 75cm

Expandable hard case in variety of sizes and colours

Specifications
Model: Spinner (4 wheels)
Material: 100% polypropylene
Lock: TSA Compatible
Expandable: Yes
Dimensions: 75 x 52 x 32cm (expanded)
Volume: 102/121L
Weight: 3.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Expandable hard case+TSA-ready locks
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively hefty-Not cabin sized

Ideal for longer trips away, the Samsonite Flux 75cm is a medium-sized suitcase with a hard polypropylene shell and TSA-ready combi locks. The big draw here is that, rather unusually for a hard case, it is expandable on all sides, allowing for that extra bit of wriggle room when returning home with those holiday souvenirs.

As this is a spinner case, it comes with four double wheels on the bottom as well as a double-tube handle for easy manoeuvrability. Internally, it comes with a bottom compartment with elastic cross ribbons for storing clothes, etc., plus a top compartment with divider pad for other items.

Samsonite Flux cases are available in five different colours (Black, White, Navy Blue, Ocean Blue and Tangerine Red) as well as three different sizes: 55cm, 75cm and 81cm, so there’s bound to be one that meets your needs.

Best suitcase: Globe-Trotter Trolley Case

2. Globe-Trotter Trolley Case

Iconic luggage which comes at a price

Specifications
Model: 30" 2-Wheels
Material: Black vulcanised fibreboard
Lock: Dual lock with keys
Expandable: No
Dimensions: 77 x 43 x 24cm
Volume: 79.5L
Weight: 10kg
Reasons to buy
+Iconic and stylish design+Hand-made in England
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Heavy

If you're planning on travelling in style, you need one of Globe-Trotter's iconic suitcases. The british brand's luggage has been carried by some of the world's most influential historical figures, including Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Winston Churchill and HM Queen Elizabeth II. 

This Trolley Case from the 'Centenary' collection is made from sturdy yet surprisingly lightweight vulcanised fibreboard, featuring smooth leather straps, polished silver hardware and a spacious canvas-lined interior.

Yes, the Globe-Trotter Trolley Case is on the most expensive end, but when you consider it's been handmade in England, and will become a family hairloom, it's a lot easier to justify.

Best suitcase: Tumi V3 International Slim

(Image: © Tumi)

3. Tumi V3 International Slim

High quality carry-on case for luxury travel

Specifications
Model: Spinner (4 wheels)
Material: polycarbonate
Lock: TSA Compatible
Expandable: No
Dimensions: 55 x 40 x 20cm
Volume: 37L
Weight: 2.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Tough and lightweight+Telescopic aluminium handle+Free personalisation
Reasons to avoid
-Glossy finish prone to scratching

Available in either Black or Pacific Blue, the Tumi V3 International Slim is the perfect carry-on case for a short trip away. It comes with four double wheels for stability, a telescopic aluminium handle and is lightweight at just 2.9kg. It’s also made from tough polycarbonate so should be able to clock up as many air miles as you do.

The Tumi V3 International Slim contains three zipped compartments for safely stowing all your belongings, as well as straps for keeping clothes in place. The case is secured with a zip fastening too, with TSA-compatible combination locks for security.

Unfortunately, the Tumi V3 International Slim isn’t perfect — there’s no side handle to help make it easier to stow in an overhead locker. That glossy polycarbonate shell also looks prone to scratching. And then there’s the price: £395 feels like a lot of money for a case like this. Rivals offer similar features for less.

Best suitcase: Antler Atom 55cm

4. Antler Atom 55cm

Lightweight cabin case with distinctive design

Specifications
Model: Spinner (4 wheels)
Material: 100% polypropylene
Lock: TSA Compatible
Expandable: No
Dimensions: 55 x 40 x 20cm
Volume: 36/44L
Weight: 1.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Cabin-sized case+4-wheeled spinner+Distinctive design+Light weight
Reasons to avoid
-Fairly expensive-Not suited to all airlines

This compact hard shell case from British company, Antler, has been designed to be both lightweight and cabin-friendly, weighing in at 1.9kg (empty) and measuring 55x40x20cm. This means you can board on 27 different airlines and stow the bag in an overhead locker or under your seat — making it ideal for quick getaways at the airport or short stays away.

Although it’s compact and lightweight, the Antler Atom 55cm comes with four bottom-mounted wheels and a telescopic handle for easy manoeuvrability. It also comes with 3-digit combi lock which is TSA ready for when you travel to the States.

The Antler Atom 55cm should stand out on the baggage carousel thanks to its unique pyramid design. It’s also available in the different colours: blue, charcoal and silver.

Best suitcase: Eastpak Tranzshell Camouflage-Print Multiwheel

5. Eastpak Tranzshell Camouflage-Print Multiwheel

Stylish hard case which should fit in most overheads

Specifications
Model: Spinner (4 wheels)
Material: Canvas foam
Lock: TSA compatible
Expandable: No
Dimensions: 54 x 39 x 20cm
Volume: 32L
Weight: 2.8kg
Reasons to buy
+30-year warranty+Stands out+Two zipped compartments
Reasons to avoid
-Could be too small for longer trips

Eastpak is one of the most recognisable luggage brands, and this distinctive spinner case from America’s most famous luggage label is the result of years of innovation. For one thing, the Eastpak Tranzshell is available in nine different colours to suit your style. Our favourite is this distinctive Camo print. It also comes in three different sizes Small, Medium and Large, although we’ve chosen the smallest model here.

The Eastpak Tranzshell also promises to be tough and long-lasting with a hybrid foam and fabric hard body, impressive 30-year warranty, and smooth running wheels on its base. It also comes with a comfortable padded handle so it's easy to move around. 

Inside it's just as smart, with two zipped pockets to keep your belongings in place during your travels.

This case is reasonably light at 2.9kg, so for a short holiday or business trip away it’s ideal, especially given the large 32-litre capacity.

It also includes a locking zip system with is TSA compatible.

Best suitcase: Smythson Greenwich Carry-on

6. Smythson Greenwich Carry-on

Premium carry-on for stylish savants

Specifications
Model: 4-wheels
Material: Lacquered Cotton
Lock: No
Expandable: No
Dimensions: 36 x 53.5 x 21cm
Volume: 40.5L
Weight: 4.6kg
Reasons to buy
+Durable cotton weave+Front pocket+Interior compartments
Reasons to avoid
-Interior pattern

This premium carry-on suitcase by Smythson's, named for 'Greenwich Meantime', is designed to streamline travel without compromising durability. It's features specially designed wheels with a 360-degree rotation to create an almost weightless rolling experience.

That's not all, there are leather handles on the top and sides to make the case easy to lift into an overhead locker, and the unique, bespoke, lacquered cotton shell ensures the bag is lightweight, hard wearing and water resistant.

An exterior pocket makes it easy to access travel accessories on the go, a feature which we're sure you'll really appreciate.

Inside you'll find ample space for short stays, with a detachable zipped compartment ideal for protecting electronics from toiletry spillages or keeping your laundry separate. 

Pair it with the matching briefcase for business trips or backpack on holiday.

Best suitcase: Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Upright Duffel

(Image: © Briggs & Riley)

7. Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Upright Duffel

Huge suitcase for extended trips away

Specifications
Model: Duffel Bag (2 wheels)
Material: Ballistic nylon
Lock: TSA Compatible
Expandable: Yes
Dimensions: 71 x 45.5 x 39.5cm
Volume: 126L
Weight: 5kg
Reasons to buy
+Enormous 125.9-litre capacity+Lightweight when empty+Lifetime guarantee
Reasons to avoid
-Large size unsuitable for some

Sometimes only a huge suitcase will do — and this rolling duffel case from premium luggage maker, Briggs & Riley, fits the bill perfectly. 

Ideal for extended trips away, its huge 125.9-litre capacity is roomy enough for all your clothes, toiletries and other travel items. It comes with a removable metal frame to make the bag rigid when in use and comes with two main compartments — a duffel section, which comes with garment panels to minimise wrinkling, and a flat-packing section for other items. It also includes internal and external zipped pockets so you can keep the most important items close to hand. 

Despite its size, the Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Upright Duffel only weighs 5kg when empty and comes with two sturdy, smooth-running, recessed wheels and an external telescopic handle so you can pull it along. Further handles at the top and sides also make it easy to manoeuvre, while self-healing ballistic nylon and reinforced corners will keep it looking good for years — no wonder it comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Having said that the Briggs & Riley Baseline Large Upright Duffel is fairly expensive. The zipped main storage compartment, is the only part that is lockable, although a TSA-compatible padlock is supplied.

Best suitcase: Ted Baker Albany

8. Ted Baker Albany

Effortlessly elegant, yet practical

Specifications
Model: 2-wheels
Material: Polyester
Lock: TSA compatible lock included
Expandable: No
Dimensions: 41 x 35 x 26cm
Volume: 33L
Weight: 2.8kg
Reasons to buy
+Elegant design+Handbag-like handle+Interior pattern
Reasons to avoid
-Rose gold will divide opinion

Available in black with a bright `Blue Butterfly`pattern interior, Ted Baker's stylish carry-on suitcase is a real designer piece with a distinctive, elegant look. Made from lustrous 900 denier twill material with rose gold highlights, the Albany also includes two smooth-rolling wheels in its base, plus large handbag-like handles. 

Inside the classy looks continue with a bright pattern, and plenty of room for your essentials.

Other goodies include a 3-digit combination lock with TSA, and contrasting saffiano envelope style front pocket. The Albany case is also available in range of other sizes – so whether you want a carry-on bag, or something larger for an extended trip away, Ted Baker has you covered. 

Best suitcase: Reiss Wayfarer

9. Reiss Wayfarer

A great affordable alternative to the Globe-Trotter

Specifications
Model: 2-wheels
Material: Vulcanised fibre board
Lock: Yes
Expandable: No
Dimensions: 48 x 33 x 19 cm
Volume: 30L
Weight: 4.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Stylish+Durable+Premium
Reasons to avoid
-You'll wish you had a Globe-Trotter

Designed in collaboration with heritage travel accessories company Steamline, this Wayfarer suitcase is a classic yet contemporary piece of luggage from Reiss. It's crafted from vulcanised fibreboard for durability, and is adorned with accents of leather and metallic stud detail for a luxurious finish.

Fitted with a clip and buckle lock fastening for security, it opens up to reveal a spacious interior compartment lined with striped fabric that features mesh zip-up pockets to keep all of your essentials organised and in place.

Perfectly proportioned for carry-on, its two carry handles, wheels and an additional retractable handle ensure trouble-free transportation.

Best suitcase: Eastpak Tranverz L

(Image: © Eastpak)

10. Eastpak Tranverz L

Large, soft case with plenty of on-board storage

Specifications
Model: Long haul (2 wheels)
Material: polyester
Lock: Fixed 3 digit combo lock with TSA
Expandable: No
Dimensions: 79x40x33cm
Volume: 121L
Weight: 3.62kg
Reasons to buy
+Available in 24 different colours+Easy to manoeuvre+Lots of carry handles
Reasons to avoid
-Not as sturdy as hard cases-Zip fastenings, so needs separate locks

Eastpak started life making canvas bags for the US military in the 1950s, and in the intervening years since it’s clearly learned a lot about making tough, lightweight, roomy bags for just about any need. The Eastpak Tranverz L is ahem, a case in point.

First up the Tranverz L is a made from flexible, but tough polyester, which enables you to cram in a good deal more stuff than it’s 121-litre volume suggests. It also folds relatively flat when empty, yet can still stand upright when it is thanks to its carcass, which includes a double-tube extensible handle, with two recessed wheels in the base. 

One thing we love about this bag is that there are handles everywhere — making it easy to pick up from any side, while also making its bulk easier to handle as you can grab more than one handle at once. It also rolls easily on its big, smooth-running wheels. 

The Eastpak Tranverz L is available in 36 different colours — so doing its bit to stand out on airport carousels. It also has an incredibly smartly arranged interior, with zipped compartments top and bottom. It’s also relatively light for a big bag, weighing in at just 3.65kg. The bag's only downside is that it’s not particularly secure — you can make it so by attaching TSA-ready padlocks (not supplied) to its patchwork of zips.

Best suitcase: American Tourister Soundbox 67cm

(Image: © American Tourister)

11. American Tourister Soundbox 67cm

Funky, fashionable and affordable

Specifications
Model: Spinner (4-wheels)
Material: polypropylene
Lock: TSA Compatible
Expandable: Yes
Dimensions: 67 x 46.5 x 29cm
Volume: 71.5-81L
Weight: 3.4kg
Reasons to buy
+Stylish design in choice of colours and sizes+Expandable hard case
Reasons to avoid
-Protruding wheels look vulnerable-Only has a 3-year warranty

American Tourister is long-established luggage brand whose products come across like a younger, funkier Samsonite, offering a range of stylish suitcases at very affordable prices. You want a Star Wars or Minnie Mouse case? Then American Tourister will heed the call. 

This 67cm case, though, is fairly typical. Winner of a Red Dot design award, it’s a hard shell spinner case that nevertheless manages to be expandable too, stretching from 71.5 litres to 81 litres when fully loaded — and it comes in five bright and breezy colours that are guaranteed to make it stand out on an airport carousel, so too will its circular, vinyl record-like design.

Inside the case the top compartment is zipped, with ribbons to keep your possessions in place, while the bottom half features ribbons only. 

The American Tourister Soundbox also includes a 3-digital combination lock that's suitable for travel to the USA (it’s TSA-compatible), although our main worry would be its wheels, which protrude markedly from the case bottom, making them vulnerable to damage.

Best suitcase: Trunki Ride-On Suitcase

(Image: © Trunki)

12. Trunki Ride-On Suitcase

Fun travel suitcase for children aged 3 years+

Specifications
Model: Ride-on (4-wheels)
Material: Plastic
Lock: No
Expandable: No
Dimensions: 46 x 31 x 21cm
Volume: 18L
Weight: 1.7kg
Reasons to buy
+Fun and child-friendly+Lots of designs to choose from+Tough and affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Could be annoying to carry around

And finally, we couldn’t possibly do a suitcase round-up without including the incredible kid-friendly cases from Trunki. Available in 22 different designs — including this limited edition Gruffalo one — the hard shell cases are designed to be ridden on and come with lots of neat touches, from 'seat-belts' (read: ribbons) for teddy bears and secret compartments, to ‘horns’ for children to hold on to while they’re pushing or being pulled along when riding  the case.

We also love the fact that these cases are affordable and hard-wearing, being made from the same material as adult cases. They're also sized to be able to used as carry-on bags – perfect for when your kids decides they must have their favourite toy at 30,000 feet.

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