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Checkable Bag Luggage Issues

Comments from Travel Insider Readers part 2


There was a time when bags like this were state of the art.

But these days there are massively better types of wheeled bags available; our reader comments below help you better understand what is good and what is not.

Part 3 of a 3 part introduction to buying checked luggage - click for Parts  One  Two  Three



Should you get an expensive bag or a cheap one?  Is a new 'spinner' type bag a good idea?

Read more of the comments and suggestions from Travel Insider readers based on their own luggage experiences.

This is the second page of two pages with reader feedback, the first page about reader experiences with luggage is here.

In addition to Briggs and Riley and Costco, other brands have been mentioned favorably by readers, too.

For example, Lan likes the Rick Steves bags and also points out the fallacy of buying cheaper luggage

I've worn out more briefcases and travel bags than I can remember (back in my 100k+ days).

"Bargains" don't work as wheels fall off and zippers fail at the most painful times (a wheel failed in the middle of one 'run' thru the stupid miles at O'Hare necessitating carrying a bag heavily loaded with expectations of wheeling it.)

Leather is too heavy, much as I like the look and feel.  Strong gauge 'ballistic' denier holds up, weighs less and costs less than leather for both briefcases and bags.

The best carry-on bags I now own are two from Rick Steves.  My wife and I dragged (DRAGGED) these well-wheeled bags through two European trips (we took buses and trains not limo's on the 13 day and 21 day jaunts) and the bags still look new.  We now use both RS bag as combination briefcase/bags with computer, supplies and clothes on business trips and cant' seem to ding them.  I've asked to be buried in it in case the 'hereafter' requires travel with packing.

Thad also likes better quality luggage, and points out that sometimes you can avoid paying full price.  That is certainly the case online at, eg, eBags, and he points out some other 'bricks and mortar' possible sources :

Just a quick note on the carry on baggage issue. I don’t go for the cheap bags anymore as I do over 100k a year of flying. I find that getting a better quality bag at a discount place like TJ Max, Ross, or Marshalls lets you find better quality and name brand bags for a lot less than retail. They have performed better for me.

Carol points out another discount source for some luggage

Ten years ago I bought a Samsonite Aeroliner roll-aboard for about $40 [list was $150+] on

But suggesting that not all expensive bags are automatically better than cheap ones is this note from Maureen

I received a new Hartman small size suitcase as a gift.  I checked it and they (the airline baggage handlers) immediately got it absolutely filthy.  They haven’t broken it yet, but I know they will.

My thesis is buy cheap light bags and throw them away when they die.  It seems the cheapest long term solution.  Now, I wish they would make some really light bags so that 7-10 pounds doesn’t go into the weight of the suitcase.  I know that a duffel does that, but they are not particularly convenient if you keep changing hotels.

Jenny gives a very important tip

To me, weight is going to be the key factor.  A three pound difference could make a big difference.

When I am considering buying a new bag, I bring my luggage scale to the store and weigh the bag in question.  The weight is invariably different that that quoted in the luggage product information!

And, talking about tips, Howard says

Wheeled luggage needs to be able to stand vertically without tipping over.

All luggage should have secure inside and outside ID compartments for a business card or equivalent.  It should be covered.

Aron has a helpful suggestion for securing luggage zippers

I take along a handful of small plastic wire ties (any hardware store, Home Depot, or Lowes has them) and use them as locks on my luggage.

TSA can open the bags easily if they need to, but the bags won't unzip accidentally and the ties may serve as a bit of a deterrent to would-be thieves.  A nail clipper gets me into the bags easily at our destination.

Lorraine says

I prefer to check my luggage on weekly or longer trips because it's easier to pack toiletries without having to worry about the TSA restrictions on liquids.

and agrees about the weight of bags

I'm finding it difficult to get lightweight luggage.  Every bag seems to be so heavy when empty, so to pack and keep it under 50 lbs. becomes more and more of a challenge.

I've had the experience at the airport where I had to buy a carry on so I could take some things out of my checked bag to avoid paying a $50 excess weight fee.

Alan takes a do-it-yourself approach to luggage repairs

I travel with a 4 wheel spinner upright by American Tourister – not the absolute largest, but one size down and I have had it for  4 years and each year hitting 120,000 – 175,000 miles.

The advantage to the four wheel spinner is amazing.  It has definitely made my life easier on the road.  Only one problem after all that time and mileage.  Two wheels started to get loose, but I unzipped the liner, took a wrench and tightened up – ready for another half million miles.

An increasingly prevalent choice is what is referred to as a 'spinner' - a suitcase with four wheels on the base, each of which freely turns in all directions.

This means you can roll the bag by its handle without having to tilt it and perceive some weight on the handle, but it is not a perfect solution - you stress the handle considerably, and the usually small wheels don't work as well for going over bumps or when you're on carpet rather than a hard surface.

But the ability to maneuver the bag through tighter spaces can be an advantage.  For example, Marjorie writes

All four wheels must work independently so that the suitcase can move "turn on a dime" in any direction at any time.  It is immensely handy with large suitcases (especially if the traveler is under 5'6" or so) because one almost never needs to pull it with the handle.  One simply pushes the entire suitcase, maneuvering it around obstacles at will.

Kent points out the upsides and downsides to a spinner type bag

Last year, I went from a Samsonite pullman case, with wheels and a built-in pull strap, to an American Tourister spinning roll aboard.  The pullman case was about 15 years old.

Unlike my wife, who has softsided luggage, I went with hardsided.  Her softsided luggage takes a beating, and the material gets worn and stained.  While hardsided gets scuffed, it doesn't attract dirt the way woven material does.  She bought her small roll aboard in 2004 and replaced it last year.  I'm planning to get 15 years out of mine.

The spinning feature is a godsend.  While pulling the pullman case was easier, it was a pain to weave through crowds.  The spinner is so easy.  In a crowd, I just lower the extension handle and walk with the case at my side, holding on to one of the grab handles.

The problem is that on a slanted surface, the spinner bag rolls away.

If I'm loading the trunk of my car in the driveway, I have to set the case in the grass, or it rolls into the street.

Rebecca is a convert to a minimalist approach to luggage

I previously used high quality, name-brand, expensive wheeled suitcases for checked baggage, but I've converted to a large rolling duffle.

It is lightweight and holds as much as two regular suitcases, so I avoid excess weight and 2nd bag fees.  It's amazing, how much I can stuff in there.

I'm sure the $600 Tumi is lovely, but I've been all over the world with my Tosca which was less than $100.  Seven years of rough handling, with at least 12 trips per year, and not even a snag in the fabric.  The wheels, zippers and velcro are all still in excellent condition.

Mine is black, which is unfortunate...  I much prefer a bag that is colored or patterned so it's easier to spot.  So, I've added a colorful luggage tag and a ribbon firmly tied to one of the handles.  Low-tech, no glamour, but very effective.  As an added bonus, nobody seems interested in stealing it.

Barry has a suggestion for managing luggage while on an extended tour

Last year my wife and I did a month in Europe.  Fourteen days on a river cruse France, Switzerland, Germany, ending in Austria.

So as to travel as light as possible, I shipped by FedEx, one LARGE suitcase to a hotel we'd planned on staying at after our cruse, with instructions on the outside of the bag, "Hold for arriving guest (last-name) and date of arrival."  Upon arrival I promptly emptied the bag and refilled it with our soiled clothing, and requested a FedEx pick-up the following day.  Leaving the bag with the hotel desk, it was picked up and returned to the US, arriving 3 days after we returned.

The cost was somewhat steep, but having to tote this bag would have been much worse.

Talking about cruising, Pat writes

Having just returned from a 10 day cruise for which we used new luggage the one comment I would make is that the new spinner type wheels that will go in any direction are worth their weight in gold.

Due to “weather” we arrived in Miami at 3:12 needing to be on board ship by 4:15 for a 5 o’clock departure.  We made it to the dock and started the check in process only to have the driver run up to us and say you are going to have to take your bags onboard yourself.  If they hadn’t had the new fangled wheels they might have killed us dead especially since everyone else was in the passageways etc going to the life boat drill!

Also go for the absolute lightest weight bags that still have shape to them since the new weight restrictions can cost you dearly if you have to pay for overage ($90 per bag on Delta even with credentials as a million miler).

Hugh has an interesting approach - he has two of both his bags, so that one can always be in the repair shop, leaving him with one still available for use

I have two Weekly Large Suitcases and 2 identical roller bag briefcases.  All four bags are Samsonite and the reason I have mirrored bags is that when either of the bags I live on the road with become damaged I drop the damaged bag at the Samsonite Outlet store (along with $15) and use the other bag until it breaks and then take it to the store to be repaired.

This way I am not stranded if bag breaks or is lost and ongoing maintenance is relatively cheap.  I have been on the road more than 45 weeks a year and these four bags have lasted me over 8 years right now.

Perhaps there's a reason why so many people choose black bags.  There is a potential downside to getting brightly colored bags instead of generic black ones.  Carol writes

While it's great having bags that are a distinctive color, they do pick up marks that black bags do not.  Years ago I had a Hartman carry-on (no wheels) with leather that just looked better as it got more beat up.

Lastly, Doug has an interesting idea which some entrepreneur might like to develop.

Which brings me to a product issue that I think needs to be addressed. I think some one should market a light weight inflatable pad that can be used to pack down a partially full suitcase so that things don't get tossed around while in the lightly loaded suitcase.

We often bring home more than what we leave home with. By packing lightly we can allow ourselves the room to bring home that treasure purchased in far-away lands.

Many times in the past we have bought small duffels and stuffed them with dirty laundry on the trip home so we could have luggage space for our purchases. Not so anymore as we will have to, depending on airline, pay for the extra bag.

So a large, light, expandable bag with some sort of "balloon" to keep things in place when lightly loaded is exactly what I am now looking for. We have a long cruise (30 day) coming up in September and the "one bag" rule applies to us when travelling. I'm currently scouting the High Sierra rolling duffel series but still looking for the good inflatable - swim floats are a current option. Do you have any ideas?

Reader Carolyn has a couple of suggestions for Doug

I tend to save empty water bottles to fill in the corners that are empty (either on the way home, ie when you have brought a lot of papers for a presentation, or in advance, when you are leaving space for new purchases).  They are stiffer than empty plastic bags (my other standby, leftovers from the supermarket, and always handy).

Another thought, esp if you plan to send stuff home by post, is a plastic bag full of (styrofoam) peanuts on the way there, then use them in shipping fragile items, and you have space for souvenirs on the return.

The first part of this two page series of reader comments about their luggage is here.

Read more in Parts 1 & 2

In Part 1 we discuss more issues to consider when choosing checked luggage, including a discussion of cost, size and capacity.

In Part 2 we detail many other factors to consider when choosing carry-on luggage, including weight, wheels, and overall construction.


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Originally published 20 Mar 2009, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

Related Articles
How to Choose a Checked Bag pt 1
How to choose a bag pt 2
Reader comments on their checked luggage experiences part 1
Reader comments part 2

Reviews :  coming soon

See also our series on
Wheeled Carry-On Bags

And still more things

Domestic Airline Carry On Luggage Policies
International Airline Carry On Luggage Policies
Domestic Airline Checked Luggage Policies
Your Rights if your bags are delayed or lost
Distinctive MyTag Luggage Tags
Luggage Transportation Services
Packing Tips


@ Work 20" Upright Business Traveler
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