For so, so, so many reasons, flying is a pain. Lately, it feels like there’s a 50-50 chance that your flight will either be delayed or canceled, and that’s on top of all the other indignities that come with modern air travel — long security lines, price gouging at the airport restaurant, baggage fees, and middle seats. Flying is hard enough, but the best budget luggage lets you cross at least one item off your travel to-do list without too much hassle.
Of course, when shopping for cheap luggage, it’s important to choose wisely. Although all luggage is designed to store your clothing and other belongings while you travel, not all budget luggage is created equally. Some cheap suitcases will do the job effectively for a year or two, whereas others can last for a decade. The best budget luggage will also look more aesthetically pleasing, which means your new luggage doesn’t have to look cheap.
To help you find the best cheap luggage sets, carry-on suitcases, and check-in luggage for your upcoming journey, Mashable has been testing the top options from Samsonite and other trusted brands. All of the affordable travel bags below are Mashable tested and approved.
Is cheap luggage worth it?
The best cheap luggage from brands like American Tourister and Samsonite are definitely worth it, according to our own tests. When shopping for luggage, spending more money doesn’t always result in a better suitcase. While you can certainly spend more if you have your heart set on personalized suitcases from luggage brands like Roam or even smart luggage, there are plenty of great travel bags under the $100 and $200 price point. Remember: just because luggage is cheap that does not necessarily mean it’s lower quality.
No matter your budget, you should always look for luggage that’s made from high-quality materials, is durable, and can hold many items without breaking. The best budget carry-on luggage will also have convenient features such as multiple storage areas, spinner wheels, and TSA locks for added security.
Do you need hardside or softside?
When buying cheap suitcases, you should consider whether you prefer hardside or softside pieces. Both have their pros and cons.
Hardside suitcases typically have a more polished look but are generally pricier. However, with the increase in price, they typically are made out of higher-quality materials and are often able to repel water. These suitcases can also be sturdier.
Softside luggage is typically lighter and easier to squeeze into tight spaces. However, softside luggage may not always be completely waterproof. If you want to keep certain items accessible during your journey, most softside suitcases come with external pockets, which can be convenient.
Which wheels are best for budget carry-on luggage?
Unless you’re buying a duffle bag or travel backpack, the best budget luggage will usually have wheels. The most common types of wheels are spinner and in-line wheels.
Spinner wheels provide a full range of motion and are easily able to move with you on the go — there’s not as much of a need for constantly readjusting your luggage. These bags are often called “spinner bags” because you can spin them 360 degrees. In-line wheels tend to be sturdier, especially when traveling over more textured surfaces, but they do have a simpler look. They also lack the spinning ability. In short, if you favor maneuverability, choose a spinner suitcase. If you prefer durability, go with luggage with in-line wheels.
After testing some of the best budget luggage sets, we’ve selected the top travel bags for every type of adventure. Keep reading to find the best cheap luggage under $200, all tested and approved by Mashable’s shopping experts. And if you’re really on a budget, we also threw in some of our favorite under-$100 luggage picks as well.
If you’re looking for hardside luggage that you can get rid of once you arrive at the airport and not think about again until you touch down at your destination, consider the Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Expandable Spinner Suitcase.
We liked that this check-in luggage contains a TSA-friendly combination lock (along with an instruction manual found in one of the zippered pockets). We were also able to pack a considerable amount inside the body. Specifically, we were able to pack 11 dresses, two nightshirts, four pairs of pants, a makeup pouch, and some additional accessories. The dividers and multiple zipper pouches simplified the packing process.
When it came time to close the luggage, we had no issues zipping it up and thought the curved zipper pieces were unique, making them easier to grip and therefore close the bag. Likewise, we had no issues with the retractable top handle, and wheeling this luggage around was a breeze thanks to its four spinner wheels.
So what are the dowsides? While testing this suitcase, we found that it was on the heavy side at 9.4 pounds. In addition, it was easily scuffed. It fell over one time, and the fall left a scuff on the side. Although the mark is not very visible, we were surprised by how quickly the piece was impacted.
Spinner suitcases are extremely popular among travelers, and after testing out this popular travel bag for ourselves, we’re convinced it’s the best spinner suitcase under $100. Out of all the cheap carry-on luggage we tested, the DELSEY Paris Helium Aero Hardside Spinner Carry-On held the most clothing, carrying up to 14 items. Despite the roomy interior, we had no issues closing and zipping the bag even at full capacity. On top of that, it’s also the only suitcase we tested with double wheels.
It was hard to find any downsides while we were testing this spinner suitcase. The retractable handle seemed a bit loose, but even so, it didn’t feel as though it was going to come off or break. We also liked that the retractable handle stopped at two points. Although this was a tiny detail, it was very convenient. Finally, we appreciated the polished exterior.
Overall, this luggage was durable, spacious, and had a TSA-friendly lock, which is a plus. For travelers searching for the best budget luggage under $200, this is a very attractive carry-on suitcase that will give you a lot of value for your dollar.
The Samsonite Bartlett 20-Inch Carry-On Spinner retails for $99.99, and while this luggage may be cheap, it’s still a high-quality piece that we will definitely be taking on future trips. Like with most of the other luggage we tested, its retractable handle was easy to use and didn’t get stuck.
Since this is a softside luggage, we wanted to see how water-resistant it was. We poured some water on top to see what would happen. The exterior of the luggage was damp, as expected, but none of the inner contents were wet or damaged. Although we wouldn’t advise leaving this suitcase in the rain, we think it is safe to say that this piece can withstand some light rain.
The Bartlett carry-on also has a plastic pouch to keep valuables extra secure and water-free. Once again, we tested this by putting it under the sink for a couple of seconds, and the items inside remained dry. We especially like that this luggage has handles on three of the four sides, which makes it easy to carry from nearly every direction.
Even though this was a carry-on bag, we were able to pack 10 dresses and two skirts in the body of the bag. We put three makeup palettes in the inside pouch and two pairs of socks, deodorant, and hair ties in the smaller inside pouches. On the outside of the bag, there were several smaller compartments where we could store additional items. We were able to fit two medium-sized claw clips in the smaller outside pocket, a hat, headband, plastic pouch, and pair of flip-flops in the middle exterior pocket. Even with all of this stored inside, we didn’t struggle to zip it up and the closing process was a breeze.
Its wheels made a slight roaring sound, which we found a bit annoying, but overall this wasn’t a big deal compared to how great this luggage was. Samsonite has a reputation for making the best budget luggage in the world, and in our tests, the company lived up to our high expectations.
What’s better than one piece of luggage? Two. Especially when the set costs less than $200. The American Tourister Color Blast 2-Piece Set provides a great value as it comes with both a check-in and carry-on suitcase. Both bags were able to hold a lot of clothes and were easy to close thanks to their 1-inch expandability. Out of all of the bags we tested for this review, these American Toursiter bags had the smoothest feel when wheeled.
We wished there would have been a side handle on the carry-on bag as it would have made it easier to lift horizontally. We were also a little disappointed that the bags were not equipped with TSA-friendly locks.
However, we still think this is the best cheap luggage set for the money. We liked how shiny and beautiful these bags were and how they featured cross straps to keep everything in place. Here’s to staying organized while traveling and doing so in style.
This is an excellent piece of cheap luggage for anyone looking for an alternative to your standard suitcase. And for just under $60, the Samsonite Andante 2 Wheeled Rolling Duffel Bag is one of the best budget luggage products we’ve tested to date.
During Mashable’s travel tests, this softside duffel bag was easy to open, pack, and close. All we had to do was unzip its U-shaped opening and place our items inside. We were able to pack 10 dresses, two skirts, a glasses case, and a headband in less than 10 minutes.
As advertised, we found that this rolling bag was properly water-resistant. When we poured water on top, no moisture seeped through the bag and all of the contents remained dry. Additionally, this bag is equipped with a water-resistant side pocket if you happen to have any wet items that need a designated spot. We wouldn’t recommend plunging this bag in a bathtub, but you should rest assured that if you spill some water or head out into a rainstorm for a short period that your belongings will be okay.
The one problem we encountered during testing was that once packed, this duffel bag was unable to stand upright for a long period of time without being held up. Considering this bag was one of the least expensive pieces we tested, there are many more pros than cons on the whole.
We love the fact that the DELSEY Paris Sky Max 2.0 Softside Under-Seat Luggage can fit under the seat, but there’s also so much more to appreciate.
We only found one minor issue while testing: The retractable handle would sometimes get briefly jammed by the fabric, and so we had to apply some extra pressure when closing it. So far as cons go, this really is a minor issue that was easily fixable with some elbow grease.
For a small softside bag designed to fit under the seat, we were able to comfortably fit six dresses, a water bottle (in the bottle pouch), and a laptop inside. And, this luggage made it easy to store a laptop with its special laptop/tablet compartment. It’s rare to find a proper suitcase that can finder under your seat, and the Sky May 2.0 fits the bill. Of course, it’s better suited for short business trips or weekend getaways. Overall, we were impressed by how much we were able to fit and by how lightweight it was.
To find the best budget luggage for 2023, we tested all of the products featured in this review. We hands-on tested both carry-on and checked luggage priced at under $200 by packing and moving each of them.
While testing, here are some of the things we looked out for:
Best bang for the buck: We compared luggage in several categories (“under $200” and “under $100″) to see if we thought they delivered on the value for the price. We also considered whether the bags were designed to be checked-in or carry-on pieces.
Cool factor/features: When testing and comparing these pieces of luggage, we considered whether or not they had any unique features that set them apart. For instance, the DELSEY Paris Sky Max 2.0 travel bag is one of the only suitcases that can fit underneath an airline seat.
Ease of closing/zippers: Suitcases sometimes have difficulty when it comes to closing them, as the zippers sometimes get stuck or the suitcase is filled with more than it’s capable of carrying. We noted how easily each of the suitcases were able to close after being packed, as well as whether the luggage had features that helped with the process. Both the Samsonite Winfield 2 and the American Tourister Luggage Set scored high marks in this category.
How much can be packed: You should definitely check the overall capacity before buying a bag, but that won’t always tell you what you need to know. For each of the suitcases we tested, we checked to see how many items could be packed inside and how comfortably they rested in the piece. The Samsonite Andante 2 Duffel Bag and the DELSEY Paris Helium Aero Spinner proved to be especially roomy, for example.
Water resistance: For bags that promised protection from the elements, we checked to see if the exterior shell would really keep the contents inside dry. While it’s not completely water resistant, the Samsonite Bartlett 20-Inch Carry-On Spinner adequately kept our items dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Wondering where to look for the best cheap luggage sets? Although many luggage brands sell cheap suitcases, we recommend sticking to brands such as DELSEY Paris, American Tourister, and Samsonite. All three of these brands’ products have been tested by Mashable shopping editors and have a decades-long reputation for quality.
In addition to these brands, you can look for budget luggage for sale at popular online retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target.
When it comes to buying affordable travel bags, there are a few features you should look for to ensure you make the best purchase for your travel needs.
Wheels: The next time you need to hustle between gates at the airport, you’ll be glad you have wheels. Some travelers prefer spinner-style suitcases that can spin 360-degrees, but you can also find wheeled duffle bags and other styles of suitcases with only two wheels.
Size: Be sure to pick a suitcase or backpack that’s big enough for your travel needs without leaving you with too much extra space. If you want your new travel bag to fit under your seat, then you’ll probably need to pick a travel backpack.
Carry-on limits: Different airlines have different guidelines for carry-on luggage, so if there’s a particular airline you like to fly, check their carry-on limits before buying a new suitcase. The TSA doesn’t have guidelines on carry-on luggage sizes, but most airlines require carry-on bags to be no larger than 22″ x 14″ x 9″.
Locks: Expensive luggage sets often come with sophisticated locks; however, some of the best budget luggage sets also feature locks. Make sure the locks are described as TSA locks, as the TSA requires that all luggage locks must be accessible to TSA employees.
Jenna Clark is a freelance writer who covers commerce, travel, beauty, and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Insider, The Daily Beast, Well+Good, and Taste of Home. When not reviewing the latest products or traveling, you’ll likely find her at a theme park or watching the latest Broadway show.