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The best spinner luggage

While SwissGear (a maker of budget suitcases) and Victorinox (a high-end brand) are distinct and quite different, they are actually owned by the same parent company.
While SwissGear (a maker of budget suitcases) and Victorinox (a high-end brand) are distinct and quite different, they are actually owned by the same parent company. (BestReviews)

Easy to maneuver through crowded airports and sturdy enough to handle lots of stops and starts, spinner wheels are now the preferred configuration of seasoned travelers when it comes to both checked and carry-on luggage. Once a feature of only the fanciest high-end brands, there are now spinner choices for all budgets and travel styles.

The top budget choice is the SwissGear Sion Softside because it's a well-built, sturdy suitcase that manages to provide a wealth of internal and external pockets, while still costing less than $100. Depending on which features are most important to you and the length or frequency of your planned trips your particular taste may vary, so consider this a full breakdown of how to navigate the many options available in budget spinner luggage.

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What to know before you buy budget spinner luggage

Size: checked vs. carry-on

The first big choice you'll need to make is whether you want a suitcase to take with you on the plane or one to check. Checked luggage allows you to bring more, but forces you to wait at the baggage claim. While carry-on suitcases decrease the likelihood of lost luggage, they require you to roll all your things with you through the airport, which can be a chore, especially when you're traveling with the whole family. Spinner luggage is available in both styles, so you can pick whichever one suits your needs. To learn more, read the full spinner luggage guide from BestReviews.

Hardside and softside exteriors

The two main types of rolling suitcases are hardside (or hard shell) and softside. Hardside bags are more durable and offer greater protection against the elements and careless baggage handlers. However, they usually don’t have external pockets and have to be opened completely to access anything inside. While at the airport, you’ll likely see travelers kneeling on the floor next to opened-up hardside bags while those with softside options are comfortably seated. Softside bags have external pockets and are easier to open but provide less protection in inclement weather. Everyone has a preference, and there’s really no wrong answer.

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Luggage sets

Choosing between a checked or carry-on bag can be difficult, and if you want both, it’s possible to save money by getting a two or three-piece luggage set that contains both carry-on and checked bags. Many budget brands offer sets that are less expensive than buying all the suitcases individually, meaning you can give yourself options for different trip lengths or outfit the whole family at a bargain price. The big things to pay attention to are the sizes of the bags and whether you need all three suitcases. Most of the time, a three-piece set will have one carry-on and two checked bags, and the nicest ones will have bags that can be nested within one another so they take up less space when not in use.

Budget spinner luggage features

Internal and external pockets

While hard shell suitcases usually don’t have external pockets, soft shell options usually do, and your choice may depend on the number and size of these pockets. If you’re going on vacation and will be on the plane for a long time, two smaller pockets may be ideal for storing tablets, headphones, snacks and other distractions. Business travelers might prefer a larger single external pocket so they can store a laptop and easily remove it at airport security. As for internal pockets, the more zippered pockets you have, the easier it will be to stay organized. The thing to look for is whether the pockets are zippered and whether they’re mesh, fabric or plastic, as plastic is ideal for toiletries.

USB ports

For those who need to charge their devices on the go, some bags offer integrated USB ports that connect to a power bank so you can keep your phone at 100% while walking through the airport. While this is usually a feature of high-end bags, there are now some budget options that offer it, meaning you don’t have to get an expensive name-brand suitcase in order to ensure your phone has enough juice to summon an Uber upon arrival.

Handles

Most (if not all) rollaboard suitcases have telescoping handles that can be used to push or pull your bag when on the move and can be pushed in when not in use so you can put the bag in the overhead bin. Pay attention to how many stops the handle has and how far it can extend, as users of different heights will have different needs in order to comfortably move about with their bags. A quality choice will also have additional handles on the top, side or bottom (or all three) to help you pick it up when hoisting it into the overhead compartment.

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Budget spinner luggage cost 

Because these are budget choices, they’re all available for under $200. There are quality carry-on rolling suitcases that can be obtained for less than $100, and sets that are under $150. It all depends on what features you want and whether you’re willing to spend more for them, but any of these choices will cost a lot less than high-end brands.

Budget spinner luggage FAQ

Are hardside or softside bags best for carry-on luggage? What about spinner wheels vs. inline skate wheels?

A. While spinner wheels make it easier to wheel your bag through the airport, they can protrude two inches or more from the bottom of the bag, making it harder to fit in the overhead compartment. Inline skate wheels might protrude less depending on the suitcase, and some spinner bags have wide-set wheels that don't stick out as far, but if you're flying internationally and worry about crowded overhead bins, a duffel bag without wheels will have the easiest time fitting. As far as hardside vs. softside, the decision is more about weight. Some airlines, particularly international budget carriers, place limits on how heavy your carry-on can be, and hardside bags are naturally heavier, putting you in danger of going over if you really stuff them.

How will I know if my bag is small enough to fit in the overhead compartment?

A. The main number you need to focus on is the height: For most domestic carriers, 22 inches in height is the maximum. It's important to pay attention to whether the wheels are included in this measurement, as some brands don't include them, meaning a 21-inch suitcase is really 23 inches. International carriers have requirements that are more restrictive and keep in mind that it's not just about whether the bag will fit in the overhead bin. You may be required to place your bag in the sizing box to prove that it's within the limit, and if it's over, you'll have to check it. Look up your preferred airline's size limits, and pay attention to width and depth as well as length because you'll have to fit within all three numbers. Also note that while an expandable suitcase is nice to have, using this feature might put you over the limit, eliminating the benefit of having those extra inches.

Which budget spinner luggage should I get?

Best of the best budget spinner luggage

SwissGear Sion Softside: available at Amazon

Our take: Available in six colors, this durable softside carry-on is built to stand the test of time and features two external pockets and two zippered internal pockets to keep you organized.

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What we like: The bag comes with a zippered wet bag for toiletries. There are also 25 and 29-inch checked versions available. The top, side and bottom handles give you several hand positions by which you can hoist it into the overhead compartment.

What we dislike: Because there isn't a dedicated laptop compartment, this one isn't ideal for business travelers.

Best bang for your buck budget spinner luggage

Rockland Melbourne 3-Piece Set: available at Amazon and Home Depot

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Our take: With three hardside suitcases of 20, 24 and 28 inches, this set gives you options for a variety of trip lengths while still costing less than many single suitcases from pricier brands.

What we like: There are more than a dozen bright color choices that make it easy to spot your bag on the luggage carousel. The largest bag has a storage capacity of more than 93 liters. The interior features tie-down straps and a lining that separates the two halves to keep clothes organized.

What we dislike: There are no external pockets, so the carry-on doesn't provide easy access to items mid-flight.

Honorable mention budget spinner luggage

Wrangler Smart Luggage: available at Amazon

Our take: Featuring an integrated USB port and a cup holder for drinks, this inexpensive case proves you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get innovative features.

What we like: At 20 inches and under 7 pounds, it's a good carry-on choice for international travel. The bag is expandable for extra packing capacity. There are also larger sizes and a three-piece set available.

What we dislike: The power bank isn't included, so if you want to get use out of the USB port, you'll have to buy one separately.


Gregg Parker is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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