Rolling luggage is extremely convenient. It enables anyone to easily transport a heavy bag through a parking lot and the airport and to the gate or baggage check area without strain. It's becoming almost impossible to find luggage without wheels, even on the smallest bags. There are two basic kinds of wheeled luggage, spinner, which has four wheels, and fixed, or inline roller bags. The latter have two wheels on the bottom of the handle side of the case and rests on the other side so the bag can stand upright. Both have pros and cons. Spinner wheels spin 360 degrees and allow the bag to be pulled or scooted along beside you. They're extremely easy to push -- even with one finger. Inline wheels can only be pulled behind you, but they're thought to be more durable and they're easier to wrangle over curbs or other obstacles. They also add less weight and bulk to a bag. Having said that, manufacturers are working on improving spinner wheels to make them lighter, smaller and tougher.
In this section, we discuss 21- and 22-inch bags with spinner and roller wheels. They can be used as carry-ons in many situations, but may not fit in the overhead bins of regional jets. With regional airway travel becoming more common, you may prefer a smaller bag that is pretty much guaranteed to fit on any size plane. If that's the case, see our discussion of the best carry-on luggage, which includes duffels without wheels. Some people like having a matched set of luggage, or the cost savings of buying a luggage set, so we discuss those as well elsewhere in this report, including a cute choice for children.
The clear standout in this category is the Samsonite Silhouette Sphere Collection, particularly the Expandable 21 Inch Spinner (Est. $165). This is a relatively new luggage line and is ergonomically designed to reduce strain on arms and shoulders, with redesigned wheels and a padded handle. Experts and owners say it works as advertised, and is the easiest rolling, most comfortable bag to transport they've ever owned.
The Samsonite Luggage Silhouette Sphere Expandable 21 Inch Spinner is deceptively roomy with a good assortment of organizational options, including a removable, tri-fold suiter and a large main compartment with a top compression strap to hold everything in place. There are extra pockets in the compression strap and in the main compartment. The inside top has modesty and mesh pockets as well as a sealable pocket for wet or damp items. Most say they can pack for five to seven days -- a few ultra-efficient packers managed to get 10-days' worth of clothes in it. It expands an additional two inches, but may not fit in the overhead bin of the plane if that's done, or if you overstuff its two front pockets. That front storage is large enough to hold a small laptop, but is not specifically designed to do so, in other words, it's not padded.
This Silhouette Sphere is a classy-looking bag, reviewers say. It has a sleek design and comes in three colors, black, espresso and blue. It weighs 8.5 pounds, and has top and side helper handles to make it easier to lift.
Victorinox is another popular luggage brand that's well-reviewed by professionals and travelers, and the Victorinox Luggage Avolve 22 Expandable Wheeled Carry On (Est. $200) gets raves for its sturdy, balanced design and ease of wheeling it through airports, even over long distances. It's light, only 6.8 pounds, and it has helper handles on the top, side and bottom. It also has a good number of storage features, including two front pockets -- a small one and a large, padded one that will fit up to a 17-inch laptop. The inside features a large compartment with compression straps and a smaller zip pocket. The lid container is a large, zippered, mesh compartment. The main complaints we saw about the Victorinox Avolve 22-inch bag is that it would not fit in some overhead bins. However, as we have noted, a 22-inch bag is only appropriate for full-size planes, not for the smaller, regional jets that are becoming increasingly common. The Victorinox, like the Samsonite, will expand, but again don't expect it to fit in an overhead compartment when it's puffed out to its full capacity.
There are reasons that travelers prefer fixed wheels, also known as inline wheels (think skates!), or roller wheels over spinner wheels. They are thought to be sturdier and to add less weight to the bag. Frequent fliers say they are easier to pull, because they don't shift as much as spinner wheels. They're definitely faster, so if you often deal with tight connections, they may be a better choice.
Travelpro is a very well-respected name in luggage, and the Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 3 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard (Est. $100) is the standout in roller wheel bags. Owners say it's super easy to pull, even around the city, on cobbled streets, and up and down curbs and subway stairs. It's also light, at 6.3 pounds, and includes side, bottom and top handles. It has a nice organizational arrangement, including a large front pocket. The interior features a large compartment with compression straps, and a small mesh compartment. The lid is a mesh, zip compartment for storing personal items. It's expandable by two inches.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Reviewed Luggage: The six best luggage choices, as identified by professional tests, expert reviews, user reviews, and our own analysis.
Best Carry-On Luggage: Overhead bins are getting smaller by the minute, and airlines are tightening up their bag restrictions. These 19- and 20 inch bags and duffels will fit even the tightest spaces.
Best Luggage Sets: Stylish and with a lot of packing options, luggage sets give you a lot of bang for the buck. We found a few good choices for grown-ups, and even some cute picks for children.
Lightweight Luggage: Manufacturers will call just about anything "lightweight," but what does that really mean? We discuss the tradeoffs and tricks of lightweight luggage.
Buying Guide: Want to avoid buyer's remorse tomorrow morning? Our Buying Guide will help you decide which suitcase you need, and tell you what to look for in the best luggage.
Our Sources: Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the best luggage, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.