A few weeks ago, a lively debate went down amongst the TPG team over Slack: Is expensive luggage worth it?
While there are many things we all agree on (how much we loathe resort fees) and some we can’t (like which seat is best on a plane) when it comes to the saving-vs-splurging on your carry-on debate we were split down the middle.
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So, we had to turn to the pros to settle things once and for all: The TPG Lounge (where the conversation got equally as hot).
Let’s get a few things out of the way before we go any further: Whether or not something is “expensive” is subjective. Everyone has their own budget to consider. Given that luxury suitcases like the Louis Vuitton Horizon 55 can run you a cool $3,400 (a girl can dream) while budget options on Amazon can go for as low as $50, having such a wide range of options means there’s no one right or wrong answer.
Related: Why I’m sticking with my $50 Amazon Basics bag until the end
Also, the concept of whether or not something is “worth it” is also highly personal. For my husband and I, we like to spend the majority of our travel budget eating at fine dining restaurants. It’s also largely the motivation behind where we decide to visit in the first place. For some, spending more than the cash fare for your flight or hotel on a single meal may seem silly, but to us, it’s a special experience that we’re willing to go all-in on. Plus, by using points and miles to cover airfare and accommodations, splurging on something like dinner is, ahem, easier to swallow.
Navigating the market for bags that are expensive because they are more durable and functional versus bags that are expensive because they are trendy or a certain brand can get murky. It can be easy to talk yourself into something you want because you think you need it. A good place to start in making your own decision is by first and foremost setting your price limit, then making a list of must-haves: size requirements, hardshell vs softshell, and amenities such as charging capabilities.
Related: 9 great suitcases worth the checked-bag fee
Once you’ve set your parameters, first-person reviews can help narrow down the decision. Here’s what the TPG Lounge has to say about this divisive issue.
Team Cheap and Durable
Given the audience, it’s no surprise there was a strong showing for economical bags that hold up:
“Cheap and durable all day.” — Mike Zaccheo
“I like middle of the road on quality. I don’t want to pay for brand names and there are plenty of bags that are well priced but high quality. I usually only carry on but my checked luggage is old, pretty banged up, and literally held together with tape. Because I don’t check luggage often, I’d rather spend my money on something fun to do while traveling than luggage.” — Michaela Wallerstedt
“I care about functionality and ease of use. Brand doesn’t matter. Regardless, I won’t buy high-end given the ‘banging up’ luggage gets when traveling. Keep it around the $100 (or less) mark for a carry-on.” — Ann Randall
Related: Keep calm and carry on: Our 13 favorite travel carry-ons
“My husband used to travel a lot for business. The airlines decimated the luggage regardless if it was expensive or cheap. Unless you are looking to impress your fellow travelers, I would never pay for the expensive stuff these days.” — Sherryl Buchler
“We always check our bags so they’re constantly getting beat up. We just buy mid-range and assume we’ll have to replace it every few years.” — Sharon Smith Watling
“My only concern is quality. I don’t care what it looks like. I really don’t want my luggage failing at the worst possible moment.” — Will Raber
Still, others are willing to shell out to get what they want:
“Cheap and durable do not go together, cheap fall apart, durable is costly!” — Terence McMahon
“I suppose it depends on how much you travel. Many years ago, I bought some cheap luggage at a swap meet. Lasted maybe 8 months before the strap broke and the wheels fell off. Then I bought a Tumi set and I still have to this day. That was over 20 years ago. In the long run, good luggage is more economical, even if you pay more upfront.” — Mark Edmead
“I’m so sick of buying luggage that is trash. We moved from Germany to the US and had 17 bags. I think four of them broke on the way back. I have not found a moderate price point of luggage that lasts more than two years.” — Shawn Alexander
“The more you spend the longer it lasts. And Rimowa, Tumi, etc have wonderful warranty programs. Nobody wants the overstuffed bargain bin bag ripping open in transit.” — John M. Beeler
Related: 9 tips for traveling with valuable luggage and handbags
“High-end bags, try to carry on at all times.” — Michelle Fedder
“I guess you’d have to define expensive. I definitely don’t think it’s worth it to buy LVMH bags (which will probably get stolen at some point) and cost an exorbitant amount. However, I’m an Away convert, and though $250 for a carry-on is certainly a lot of money, it’s by far the best carry-on I’ve found, and the most durable. I was cycling through carry-ons every 1-2 yrs before, and whenever they were full they would be hard to wheel around. My Away carry-on has been incredible and doesn’t have so much as a dent after 3 yrs of use. TL;DR: I think an expensive carry on is worth it (by expensive I mean Away or similar) because I try to only use my carry-on when I travel for a few days and every last bit of space and functionality that I can get definitely beats most of the cheap ones you can find.” — Aristotle Vossos
“I bought a new Tumi for a trip to Egypt. First flight two wheels were ripped off. I was able to return to where I bought it, and I bought a lightweight one without all the bells and whistles. It is worth it to me, for customer service. And cheap ones, the zippers always break.” — Melanie Carlson Peterson
“I don’t think there is such a thing as “cheap AND durable.” It’s cheap OR durable. I have a Briggs and Riley set. They aren’t cheap, but they have a lifetime guarantee (even if the airline damages it). Mine was badly damaged by an airline and Briggs and Riley repaired it (at no cost). They did such a great job that I could not even see the repair. They are well made and well designed.” — Dianne Duncan
“I’m not so worried about how it looks – the big plus for me is if it’s lightweight. That said, I do pay a little more to get Away.” — Kelly Tetkoskie Hight
“The functionality of high-end luggage can’t be beaten! It gets knocked around but they last!” — Kristin Pilkington
“This is one of those items I’m also torn on if cheap or durable is really the best approach. I purchased Away luggage and found it the best of both worlds. I LOVE it.” — Holly Liber
“I don’t go cheap. I need the zippers and wheels and telescoping handles to always work. Always. I have a Tumi Tegra Lite carry-on, the Away larger carry-on, and an Arc’teryx V110 Rolling Duffel.” — Sereita Nicole Cobbs
“We went with Away and never looked back. Carried on or checked in, always holds up.” — Mauricio G. Narbona
“Away luggage has been 100% worth it for me. Had an issue with a wheel on one of them after a year and they exchanged immediately.” — Caroline Nathan Bush
“Love my Away bags. I have the carry-on, medium, and large. I love the color variety, how light they are, and the fact they replaced a dented one. I do not recommend their backpack for anything significant, though.” — Pam BeeI
Related: Review: Away’s carry-on
“So I have the Away hard-shell luggage and United cracked mine open a few years ago. I had the receipt on my phone and I made them pay the full price of the bag before I left the airport AND Away stood by their guarantee and sent me a brand new one exactly like my old one. Win-win!” — Hull Kelli
“I was Team TJMaxx/Marshalls for years. But I needed to step up my game, so I just ordered the Away soft-sided larger carry-on and packing cubes because I refuse to check a bag. I’ll let you know how it goes.” — TPG’s Benét Wilson
“I upgraded to Away when I started traveling for work and I love it. The warranty is great.” — Sara Beth Marchert
“I don’t want wheels falling off in the middle of a trip so I got an Away carryon for me for work (and a large suitcase for family trips) and haven’t looked back. Hundreds of thousands of miles later — no broken zippers or wheels and I can clean the outside easily if it gets scuffs. 100% worth it.” — Lara Howe Stenberg
Briggs & Riley
“I threw out my banged-up Samsonites, Delsey and random suitcases brands I had and bought a full set from Briggs & Riley. The best investment I have spent on travel pieces. So far I have not had any issues.” — April Chu
“I bought Briggs & Riley and love it. Still has the lifetime warranty that Tumi does not have anymore and is so much lighter than tumi. Those two combinations are what sold it for me.” — Judith Hellerstein
“Lifetime warranty. I buy local so I can return local but I’ve never had a problem in all the years with [Briggs & Riley] bags. They’ve been around the world and haven’t had any issues. If I cleaned them more often you might not even realize they were used.” — Margaret Colford
“I’ve slowly switched all of my luggage to Briggs & Riley and never looked back. The warranty is fantastic. In the past 12-14 years, I’ve needed two small repairs, and both were covered and easy!” — Nathan Sheffield
Related: What your luggage brand says about you
“We invested in Briggs & Riley’s international wide-bodied carry-on luggage. Perfect size. On our very first trip with them, we had to gate check the bags and upon arrival, the bag rolled down the conveyer belt with the wheel sitting next to it. We emailed Briggs & Riley and they asked for a copy of our itinerary. They couriered wheels to our next location in Munich (multi-city vacation) which arrived at our hotel before we did. Totally impressive customer service and we’ve never had an issue in the last eight years since.” — Bryan Del Rizzo
“Briggs & Riley has been great to me! I’ve also got an older Eagle Creek bag which needs to go in for repair for the first time in the 16 years I’ve owned it, but I don’t feel the newer bags are of the same quality.” — Amanda Hollida
“Can’t go wrong with Eagle Creek. Soft side luggage. After 15 yrs of traveling the world, I had some issues with one of the wheels and they replaced both with upgrades for free.” — Craig Corbin
“I bought some Eagle Creek 10+ years ago and made sure they had the lifetime warranty. I had to send one of the big ones back once for a zipper problem, and other than paying to ship the bag there, it came back to me for no charge completely fixed. These are our go-to for checked luggage. I just invested in a nice Away carry-on that I hope to use for years to come.” — Robyn Hakanson
“I have 40L and 30L Eagle Creek backpacks. Both my kids have 30Ls as well. Great luggage.” — John EatonCraig Corbin
“Durable with big wheels, better for bag drags on uneven surfaces. I shop at REI for luggage. Currently have an Eagle Creek roller.” — Mandy Hutchison
“Rimowa in aluminum. Looks better banged up and they have a warranty to fix or replace if anything major happens.” — Richard Wainwright
“Over 1k individual flights and all over the world. Only had to send it in once to get banged out. Rimowa is def worth it.” — Jonathan Finney
Related: Over 400,000 miles and counting: Review of the Rimowa carry-on bag
“Love traveling with my Rimowas. I was hesitant to get it at first because luggage just gets tossed around. But they say each scruff/dent is like patina on leather: It makes it more beautiful. I fell for that. No regrets. Love how the luggage glides. Very helpful when pushing multiple pieces when traveling alone. My carry-on handle broke once and Rimowa was able to fix it fast.” — K.C. Visitacion
“We bought Rimowa polycarbonate carry-ons and love them and think they are worth the price. One case had rolling wheels damaged during travel but we contacted Rimowa and they sent new wheels we popped on. The polycarbonate makes it so light I never have a problem lifting the case to the overhead bin.” — Mary Anne Whitcomb
“I have stayed with Travelpro for the last ten years, if for no other reason than they are made so that I can order and replace parts if needed. So far the only things that wore out were the wheels on my 25” rollaboard.” — Michael Krietemeier
“Most of my bags are Travelpro since that’s what I was given as crew, and they hold up very well. Before that, I had a Briggs & Riley bag that lasted 25+ years (actually my brother uses it now). My next bag will probably be LuggageWorks and hopefully, that will be my last bag.” — Joshua Adam Zweighaft
“A flight attendant friend turned me onto Travelpro 20 odd years ago and I haven’t looked back. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me.” — Kevin Chin
“Travelpro is my go-to.” — Jesse Showalter
“Buy a high-quality piece that is guaranteed for the life of the luggage once. I love my Travelpro platinum.” — Cindy Marie
“Tumi for carry-on wheel bag. Had for five years and they hold up great for the whole family, fit more than enough, and are high quality and made well.” — Janet Kelly O’Neill
“Tumi… yes it’s expensive. Yes, it gets banged around. It gets fixed quickly and efficiently, and usually at no charge. I was buying luggage every six months, now I haven’t bought any in seven years. Worth every darn dime…” — Rod Boyer
Related: How and Why I Travel the World With Only a Tumi Backpack
“Tumi! My husband and I have small rollers and weekend bags. They are stylish, but well made and look great years later.” — Aubrey Ditmire
“When I hit two million on Delta they gave me a choice between a great Tumi rolling bag or a Tiffany necklace. I took the bag. After traveling another 500k miles it still looks new. Delta lost it once and I panicked because I knew I would have to spend the $800 on a new one!” — Jeff Dalton
Where to find deals
Many Loungers suggested hitting retailers such as TJMaxx, Macy’s, Marshalls or Costco to do your shopping…
“Marshalls, TJMaxx or Ross. All have very good prices consistently on name-brand luggage. Key is to buy a “spare” before you need one and check their stock regularly. Never been disappointed ( i travel frequently domestic and abroad).” — Jaime Briseño
“Usually buy at a place like TJMaxx, Ross or Marshalls. Great products, even if they are a season or two old. Never had any issues doing this and found the best luggage for my needs.” — Joy Kraus Hargett
“My wife and I got two 18” Samsonite rollers at TJM for a great price. Have lasted many trips.” — Gregory Geist
…As long as they have suitcases in stock. Many chimed in saying that they’re seeing a run on luggage at the moment.
“These or Burlington are usually my go-to but this year every single one is sold out. I’ve been checking in two major cities and suburbs, literally not a single bag.” — Casey Clark
“No luggage available anywhere to be had in Anchorage either.” — Scott Anaya
“I thought it was just us… there were literally two small hard cases yesterday — that was IT!” — Michael Walter
When you’re ready to make your purchase, make sure to check for any offers on your credit card, go through a shopping portal when possible, and use a card that offers purchase protection. And if you need help avoiding checked bag fees, we’ve got you covered.
Image courtesy of Rimowa
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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