If packing for a trip wasn’t hard enough, choosing the best overnight bag, carry-on, or suitcase to bring with you—or buy, if you've decided it's time to retire your decades-old luggage—is a dilemma in itself. If you're going on a long vacation (or are a chronic over-packer), you should invest in a hard-working luggage set, says Away's Chief Design Officer Cuan Hanly. "At its core, the best luggage sets make travel more seamless and address the specific needs of the traveler,” he explains over email.
What to Look For
“Selecting luggage is a critical and very enjoyable part of the travel process and really depends on the kind of trip you’re planning,” says Hanly. “It’s also a very personal decision, especially when shopping for a set, as everyone has their own unique travel style. Whether you’re an over-packer, a minimalist, or somewhere in between, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind when shopping. Namely, the duration of the trip or trips you’ll be taking, methods of transportation you envision utilizing throughout, and any specific utility needs.”
“Combining all of those key considerations should help narrow down the type of luggage set that would best serve you, whether it’s a set of checked suitcases for a lengthy stay or a carry-on and personal item to keep you organized and traveling light,” he shares.
Hard Shell vs. Softside Luggage
"Hardshell suitcases feature a durable hard outer shell and are known for their protective qualities," explains Hanly. For travelers fond of a more unconventional look, Hanly even suggests a luggage set made from sturdy aluminum, as "the durable shell not only keeps your items protected but gains a beautiful patina over time, reflecting the many journeys and memories of your travel experiences."
"Softside suitcases, on the other hand, feature a shell constructed of a woven fabric," he continues. "Softside luggage offers many of the same organizational qualities, especially with exterior pockets and the nature of the woven fabric allowing for great flexibility." In short, it comes down to personal preference, in addition to the needs you have for each specific journey you embark on.
The Best Softside Luggage Sets
According to both the brand's promises and customer testimonies, this luggage set's quality is impressive for the price. Plus, both the 20-inch and 24-inch suitcases effortlessly fit into the 28-inch suitcase, like Russian nesting dolls, for ease of storage. One Amazon reviewer shares that the set is "easy to move/navigate [through] airports, hotels, and life" and the large and medium options are "big enough to fit a week's worth of clothes." Another customer writes that the set is "super light, durable, and priced correctly."
This durable polyester set works just as well in tandem as it does as standalone pieces. This set includes a 24" check-in size spinner suitcase, a 21" rolling duffel, a carry-on tote, and a spacious cosmetic bag (which means you can bring your entire seven-step skincare routine with you!). One happy customer writes, "This luggage set is perfect for travel: It has everything I need for both a checked bag and carry-on bag. The luggage is well designed and their wheels run smoothly."
An obvious bonus to patterned luggage is that it always stands out among the sea of bags at the luggage carousel. For instance, this luxe fleur-de-lis printed set is undeniably visually striking. But this set is more than just distinctive: With an almost perfect online rating, it boasts large interior compartments, each with zippered mesh pockets, to keep all your goods organized on your travels. One reviewer writes, "the pieces are sturdy and very roomy," with another raving about how the set "comes with lock and keys" for top-notch security and protection.
Consisting of a large check-in suitcase, a 20" carry-on, and a 16" under-seater tote luggage, this is another well-rounded set to consider if you're a frequent jet-setter. Customers marvel over the durability of this luggage set, which retains its beautiful appearance and effectiveness even after multiple uses and, er, less-than-gentle handling by airport employees. Take it from this firsthand account: "The carry-on rolled with such ease throughout the airport, and the checked luggage held up well as I literally witnessed the luggage handlers roughly tossing it onto the transport vehicle as I looked out the window while seated on the plane."
Reviewers marvel at the value that this set provides (only $220!) and at the impressive amount of items each of the bags can fit. Plus, all the suitcases offer strategic pouches for optimal packing. For instance, one reviewer raves about the shoe compartment found at the bottom of each luggage piece: "It's almost like the shoes aren't there because the space in the suitcase wasn't compromised at all by them"—a.k.a. you can pack an assortment of sandals, sneakers, and heels for your upcoming holiday.
"As an alternative to wheeled luggage and if your trip takes you a little more off the beaten track, I’d recommend a combination of bags from our new outdoor-focused collection, F.A.R—For All Routes, which features a variety of versatile water resistant and durable bags and accessories designed for any and all types of travel," offers Hanly. "The F.A.R Convertible Backpack 45L is an amazingly adaptable item, offering multiple ways of carry and the same capacity as our hard-sided Bigger Carry-On. For those looking for a smaller item for day adventures like a picnic or hike, you can’t go wrong with the F.A.R Backpack 26L."
The translucent water and stain-repelling fabric of this set gives it a unique look so that you'll never mix your bags up with a stranger's again. Plus, this luggage is made to be compatible with standard overhead bins so that you can skip the baggage fees on your next weekend trip. "Regardless of how much one packs into this fantastic contraption, the zipper works with ease," details one overjoyed customer, adding that this cube set is perfect for a month-long international trip. "I am now gifting these to everyone I know [because I absolutely love this product," they enthuse.
This CALPAK luggage set consists of one water-resistant pouch (always a must when it comes to baggage) and four packing cubes. According to reviews, this set is perfect for packing a large amount of clothing in a compact space and for keeping items organized. One customer even said, "It changed my world when packing for travel," while another describes the set as the "perfect way to pack more efficiently" as it "helps with keeping everything in place and not getting smashed while traveling."
This five-star-reviewed, super-durable luggage set is designed to travel together so that your next business trip goes off without a hitch. It also boasts a slew of high-tech features, including MagnaTrac self-aligning spinner wheels, a height-adjustable PowerScope handle, and a built-in USP port with a dedicated power bank pocket. It also has a specialized padded corduroy laptop and tablet sleeve to protect your electronics and a moisture-resistant coating in case you get caught in the rain throughout your travels.
The Best Hardshell Luggage Sets
If you love old Hollywood movies, this set is for you. It's made from a waterproof and scratch- and oxidation-resistant artificial leather so you don't have to worry about the material becoming damaged on your travels. From the stripe-floral print to the strap details, add this luggage set to your collection for a touch of vintage glamour on your next vacation. Buyer beware, though: You'll receive heaps of attention due to its darling design. "Fight attendants, plots, airport workers, lookers-on, travelers, and folks picking up and dropping off—I got so much attention and compliments with these bags," writes one reviewer.
"For those looking to maximize every possible inch of space plus some added flexibility, I’d recommend a combination of our Flex suitcases, specifically The Large Flex and The Medium Flex," suggests Hanly. "Travelers can unzip the exterior seam to expand the body an additional 1.75" (4.45 cm) for checked sizes, unlocking more space for souvenirs, gifts, or whatever else travelers might spontaneously find themselves in need of while away." You can also take your organizational game to the next level by relying on Away's "accessory system of packing cubes and shoe cubes, [which] ensure you can maximize the amount you can fit inside your luggage while keeping your belongings organized."
Rose gold is a year-round millennial favorite, but this iFLY set is anything but basic. It's made of a sturdy polycarbonate shell and is equipped with secret packing compartments, so you can finally stop overpacking your carry-on bag. Oh, and it also offers expansion zippers that add 2 extra inches of packing space —which means you can bring all your hair appliances with you on your getaway.
“If you’re a fan of checking one bag and carrying on another, I’d recommend Away’s The Bigger Carry-On and The Large ,” offers Hanly, as those two styles teamed together are Away’s “best-selling set to date!” He touts this luggage set as being ideal for experienced travelers who need hard-working suitcases to make their frequent travels as seamless as possible. “Every feature of Away's suitcases—including a removable laundry bag, a compression pad to maximize how much you can fit inside, and our durable interior and exterior materials—is thoughtfully designed to increase functionality and ease,” says Hanly.
These suitcases are designed to make traveling more comfortable, thanks to features like ergonomic aluminum handles. Its expandable frame also means that you can pack more without having to carry more suitcases. And with a solid four-and-a-half out of five stars rating averaged over a whopping 1,729 user reviewers, you can add it to your cart as it's quite a cult-favorite pick. One customer writes, "I have owned this luggage set for over five years, and it's still my go-to luggage set!"
With these monogrammed babies, you'll feel like you're embarking on a chic vacation to France, even if you're just visiting your parents. Also, this fan-favorite luggage brand offers a lifetime warranty, so you never have to worry about having to replace it. You have the choice between five different colorways, including a deep olive green, an off-white bone shade, and a nautical navy, so you're sure to find a version of this durable polycarbonate luggage set that suits your fancy.
When it comes to luggage, Samsonite is a tried-and-tested classic. This new ice-blue set has everything you could need (TSA-approved locks, USB port, padded pocket—the list goes on and on) and comes in at an unbeatable price. “Nothing beats the quality Samsonite provides,” details one customer. “I love my luggage set. It’s such a strong quality for such an awesome price, and I will be using these for years to come!” As that happy reviewer writes, this luggage set is an investment purchase future you will be very happy about.
Life's too short to carry boring luggage! This vibrant orange suitcase set from Coolife delivers a mood-boosting effect that matches the exciting energy that naturally comes with jet-setting and pressing pause on your normal day-to-day reality. Furthermore, the internet loves these bags. With over 50 five-star reviews, you know you're getting a good deal. ("I absolutely love this set! It is sturdy and lightweight, and the wheels maneuver great," pens one contented shopper.") Plus, it comes in almost every color imaginable, so you honestly can't go wrong.
Meet the Expert
Cuan Hanly is the Chief Design Officer at Away, a global lifestyle brand that’s working to transform travel through products and content that inspire people to get away more. In his role, Cuan leads both the design vision and strategic expansion of all product categories.
A respected leader in innovative and inspired design, Cuan Hanly launched his eponymous menswear label in 1998 and later opened The Cuan Hanly Store, a forward-thinking retail space that highlighted the work of innovative Irish designers. In addition, Cuan held roles at respected design houses including Paul Smith, John Rocha, Original Penguin, Jack Spade, and Mulholland. Most recently, Cuan served as VP of Design at Target Corp, overseeing Men’s and Women’s apparel and accessories. A Dublin, Ireland native, Cuan currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife.
Emma Childs is the Style Editor at Marie Claire, where she researches up-and-coming trends, curates shopping guides, and gushes about the must-buy items she can't stop thinking about. She previously wrote for TZR, Editorialist, Elite Daily, and Mission Magazine and studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University. When she's not writing up fashion deep-dives or finding the season's best pieces, you'll find her fiddling around in Photoshop and perusing HBO Max for the next show to base her personality on (currently, it's "Succession").
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