Travel In Style: Luggage

lightweight spinner luggage

Fifteen sleeps to go…and I’m at that frustrating point in travel wardrobe planning where we’re still too far out to get any realistic weather forecasts, yet close enough in that I need to review pieces I might want to include to be sure they’re clean and still in good repair. I’ll rely on lightweight layers as always, but want to get the right mix between cooler and warmer items. By next week I should have a better sense of it, and will share some of my core pieces.

In the meantime, let’s talk luggage. For the last five years, I’ve traveled with only carry-on luggage, and have been quite happy with my choice. This year is going to be an anomaly; due to a project of sorts I’ve signed up for while we’re in Paris, I’ll need to bring extra clothing and shoes I normally would not travel with. I’ll still put together a 12-piece travel wardrobe that will serve for the rest of the trip apart from this project, but with the additional outfits, there’s just no way around bringing a larger, checked bag.

For carry-on travel, I’ve been very pleased with my Briggs & Riley Wide Body Spinner. It’s lightweight, easy to maneuver, fits in overhead bins*, and the interior has amazing capacity for a bag its size. I’m a convert to spinner bags, which save strain on my shoulders and back, though the wheels do add some weight.

Le monsieur (who does not travel carry-on, and questions my sanity for willingly doing so) has used a Briggs & Riley “Torq” medium spinner for the last few trips, and has also been pleased with his choice. I considered one of those, then saw the newer “Sympatico” line (shown above) which is almost 2 pounds lighter for the same size bag. I was also considering the medium-sized version of the Transcend, which is expandable. I wish it were available in colors besides black and red, though. For checked luggage I’m trying to avoid a black bag which blends in with a sea of others on the baggage carousel, and the red color is just too jarring.

Yes, there are less pricey bags on the market, but we’d read glowing recommendations for Briggs & Riley from frequent travelers, and were impressed with the company’s lifetime guarantee on their products. I’ve had less well-made luggage fall apart on me en route, so quality and durability are prime considerations. I’ve done a lot of side-by-side comparing of weights, features, and capacities of many different brands of luggage, and keep coming back to this one for the quality and features.

Other recommendations:

  • For a very lightweight carry-on, I’ve used and liked the Lipault Paris 22″ spinner. I’m not sure whether this model has been discontinued, but notice that the colors available are more limited (pink, purple, brown) than they were a few years ago. You can stuff a LOT in this little bag and still lift it up and fit into the overhead bin. I moved away from this style only because it sometimes tended to tip over when packed full, and the soft structure made it harder to rest another bag on top. Still, it’s a great little carry-on.
  • I’ve read many good reviews for the Delsey Helium line, though I haven’t seen an option in the 27″ size I’m looking for.
  • I’m a big fan of using packing cubes, especially for multi-destination travel. They both organize and compress clothing, and make unpacking and re-packing a breeze. I use the packing envelopes for items that need to be folded, like men’s buttoned shirts. (Le monsieur’s shirts and trousers arrive wrinkle-free, even after 15-hour flights.)

More thoughts on traveling carry-on vs. checking luggage here. And you can see all of my recent travel wardrobes and recaps, suggestions and tips here.

Do you check bags or carry on? Do you prefer hard- or soft-sided luggage?

*please double-check your airline’s carry-on size requirements; some are more stringent than others.

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  1. I’ve been very pleased with my 24″ Expandable Spinner Ricardo Beverly Hills Wilshire bag — it’s a combination soft and hard shell bag, has worn very well, expands if needed, and seems to be a great size…not huge, but not too small, and easy to manage. I suspect that it was made just for the Hudsons Bay — bought in Canada.–24

    1. I use the Ricardo Flyweight – I have the 20″ and the 17″ and love them – not spinners but on wheels and super light weight – a cross between hard and soft. I also have the matching tote but I’m not as fond of it as I find the interior a bit awkward and there is no shoulder strap for crossbody carrying.
      I also bought these at the BAY in Canada (on sale) but I have seen them on their website so should also be available in the US.

      1. My local Carson’s carries this brand, so they are both Bon Ton stores, I believe. There are others such as Bergner’s, Elder Beerman, etc, under the Bon Ton name.

  2. I like a hard suitcase, but beware–for checked luggage you should put a belt around it. The security inspectors don’t always put things back the way you had them and just shove them shut without correctly fastening or zipping. I have taken to putting my things into a plastic zip bag that a quilt came in, and putting that into the suitcase, so if the bag comes open part way, small items don’t fall out. And I put plenty of business cards in there with name and email and phone number. One of our bags has arrived on the carousel partly open every single time we’ve traveled in the past couple of years. The clips all worked and the bags weren’t stuffed. The inspectors just didn’t close them right. And a zipper bag can be worse if the zipper breaks.
    For a carry-on, a soft-side with pockets is good so that if you want your shawl or another sweater or a different book, you can get to it easily. Also for easy access to the liquids pouch when going through security.

  3. Bonaparte is like your husband. He thinks I’m loco for putting my clothing in a Longchamp weekender. Hey. All my clothes are rolled, folded and packed tightly into that bag for tomorrow! He was so upset about this that he “strongly” suggested we go shopping for a larger piece of luggage for me. I’m not into luggage, although I’m now regretting giving my favorite suitcase to my daughter, Oona.
    Anyway, I ended up going with a clearance item from Marshall’s. Samsonite. A peachy/pink/nude color. It’ll get filthy but that’s my MO. Nobody will want to venture into a filthy suitcase–it’s my security.
    PS. There’s nothing in that suitcase except for books, cosmetics and hair rollers. But it will suffice for the shopping I’ll be doing!
    Great post! Honestly, you do travel so well! Bon Voyage!

  4. I love the Lipault duffel bag. It holds the packing cubes perfectly—two or three large one for clothes and a few smaller ones for miscellaneous things. Mine is purple, which goes well with my largely neutral wardrobe, and is easy to spot on carousels if I do check it. My husband is the opposite of Le Monsieur. If I let him, he would travel with only a backpack and spend a fortune on laundry while travelling.

    1. Hi Mary, that’s an interesting suggestion. I think it depends on the destination and length of stay. For traveling overseas with multiple destinations, the shipping costs might be prohibitive.

  5. Hubs and I both have Briggs and Riley luggage and have been very pleased with it. The hubs had trouble with the retractable handle and it was fixed – quickly and with absolutely no fuss so the company does mean what it says! I rarely if ever check a bag – I’ve found that if traveling by train throughout Europe, anything larger than a carry on is not practical.

  6. I love my B&R bag but it’s just 2 wheels- I hate spinners! If you’re only ever in the airport, they’re great – but trying to roll over cobblestones? No thanks! I also have quite a few Eagle Creek that hold up so well (also a lifetime warranty) For most trips these days, I check a 22″ bag (the B&R or Eagle Creek) and carry a backpack or tote on the plane. Check a nylon lesportsac duffel to bring dirty laundry back and souvenirs go in the bag with better structure. If needed, I can go carry-on in the same bags – I just prefer not to have to deal with overhead space if needed (if I have tight connections, I’ll do carry-on)

    1. Hi Kelly, for cobblestones and curbs, I just tilt my spinner up on the back two wheels. Works like a charm! 🙂

      1. I also find spinner wheels tiny and annoying. I like the wheels that are rugged & large. Different strokes for different folks 😉

  7. Just FYI, the Lipault Paris 22″ spinner is in the travel sale at the Container Store right now. Available in turquoise and purple (not my colors but SALE).

  8. I brought a Rimowa air salsa checked bag and a Lipault 22″ carry on to Paris with me. I ended up buying the Rimowa carry on while in Paris because the Lipault kept tipping over and also, it was hard on my wrist to push it through the airport even though it was on spinners. I think it has a tendency to want to turn instead of rolling in a straight line. The difference in my experience was astounding. The Rimowa was such a breeze to wheel through. I ended up checking the Lipault along with my other checked back on the trip home. Both of them held up just fine in baggage handling. So, I’m a fan of spinner wheels, but I prefer the hard sided luggage over soft. I’ve always loved your luggage reviews!

  9. I just returned from a one week trip to Canada. I only do carry-on luggage and this was the first time using my newest bag ( I LOVE this bag! Super light at only 4.7 lbs and even when I stuffed it full I could still lift it overhead. I had no trouble putting it in the overhead bins on a CRJ. The bag is very well thought out and I loved the top compartment which is the perfect size for the 1 qt bag of liquids. The wheels performed great and the bright blue color is unique. I also carried a Baggalini tote as my personal item. If anyone is looking for a carry-on bag with backpack straps, I completely recommend the Sky Train ( which I’ve used the past 7 years. It’s an awesome bag with a lifetime warranty and made in the USA. I just wanted something with wheels for this most recent trip.

  10. I am planning trip to England in September followed by a cruise. I will have a cabin bag shoulder strap and loop to go over handle of my small wheeled carry on. Wheeled carry on has loop to go over my checked bag. Once bag checked I have compact luggage to board plane. I can travel with DH or solo. Enjoy your discussions.

  11. All our trips to Europe seem to involve activities requiring special clothes, equipment, etc., so carry-on-only is not feasible. Echoing Kelly’s comment above, I used a spinner bag for a few years but gave up from frustration when trying to move it over any surface that was not perfectly smooth. The very good local travel store told me NOT to roll it on two wheels, because you risk uneven wear which could result in it not rolling correctly on four wheels. For a multiple-destination trip, an expanded carry-on bag works well: you may not be able to carry it on a plane, but you can still maneuver it down the aisle of a train.

  12. I have an older 2 wheel Briggs and Riley BRX 22. It is soft- sided yet still has structure. It is actually slightly too big for carry on when measured with the wheels and handle. We always have checked them. Well balanced( does not tip over) , handle on the outside makes for flat packing on inside.
    Recently bought rimowa salsa air 33L carry on. Expensive but super light. Wish it had a handle on side as well as the top. Went carry on only for first time for 5 nights to NYC. It was great! For longer trips, would still need the extra capacity of the BRX.
    Tip: we actually had some extra space in the suitcase on the way to NYC, so I stuffed multiple pieces of bubble wrap in to fill the spaces so contents wouldn’t shift. Worked great, and on way home left the bubble wrap behind and had room for purchases!

  13. I usually check a suitcase, not being a fan of carry-on only. For one thing, it is not possible for every passenger on a full flight to bring a wheeled carry-on aboard; they won’t all fit in the overhead bins. Also, I believe my shoulder trouble was caused by a passenger who dropped his suitcase on my while he was trying to hoist it into the overhead bin. Regarding your choices, I’d go with the lighter weight suitcase as the 2 lbs means you can buy more at your destination, LOL, or take an extra pair of shoes, and not worry about going over the 50 lb. limit!

  14. I always check in the luggage as I don’t want to injure myself if a bag falls on me, which has happened before, or sprain my wrist. I use Delsey’s soft luggage, medium size, and it’s lasted a decade so far.

  15. I usually check my bags I like to be hands free, and I always seem to over pack. I have Samantha Brown luggage it comes in different colors and lots of room and compartments, and easy to move with the spinners.

  16. I usually go away for over a month at a time so often I need more than carry-on. I am working of a small, efficient wardrobe for bus and rail travel at my destination but I can’t reach the overhead on planes easily.

  17. I travel frequently for work and as much as possible for fun. I have used a two wheeled soft sided Briggs and Riley for 9 years and am a huge fan. I am an excellent packer but still always check my bag since I usually also have to haul a computer bag, which is a matching B&R piece (and I hate the whole carry on bag craziness on the plane). The luggage gets pretty beat up so I use the life time repairs guarantee which is the best, no cost and no hassle. The computer bag fell off once and went end over end down a very long escalator with no damage to the bag or computer. i was pleased ( but not so much the man it hit at the bottom ). I am a firm believer that if traveling solo you must be able to handle your own bags so smaller is better.

  18. For almost all trips, I use a standard size (American) carry on, although I often check it. It is not so much the the desire to have it with me on board as that I really just don’t need any more room than that; I am definitely a minimalist packer! When I really feel the need to carry on a suitcase, I have a slightly smaller hard-shell which is lighter weight and easier for me to lift. The problem for me with the clamshell style, which opens the suitcase into two equal halves, is that I find it harder to pack so that everything is secure and unmovable, and I find it harder to “live out of” for the same reason.

    Occasionally there is a trip for which a larger bag is necessary, and last years trip to Vietnam and Cambodia was one of them, not because I needed to pack more clothes, but because you must pack all the extra sunscreen, mosquito repellant, extra medications, etc, as these could not be readily purchased, or purchased at all, there. I needed a new bag for this (my last large bag had been slashed by the baggage handlers and was patched with duct tape), and after a lot of searching, in person, I bought a “rolling duffel” which has a hard bottom and soft sides and top. The interior is 25X14X14, so it is smaller than the standard midsized bag, but bigger than my carryon. The best part about it is that once packed, the sides can be cinched down to size the bag to the load packed so my packing cubes don’t rattle around in a too big suitcase. It was inexpensive: Lucas brand, purchased at TJMaxx, but it has held up well for two trips now (the other time I need a big bag is going to my daughters home at holiday time, with gifts for the grandkids in the suitcase, along with my 12 pieces of clothing). If it gets slashed, I will not cry.

  19. The problem with the carry-ons is that I can visualize an emergency landing where the impact would cause the flimsy bin covers to pop open, and those HEAVY carry-ons would be flying around causing major injuries to passengers. So you would easily survive the landing, but then be done in by a piece of luggage!

  20. Thanks to Mary about the sale alert on the 22″ Lippault! Went down to the Container Store and snapped up a purple one. It is a gorgeous little number. It is larger inside by 500 cubic centimeters than the nearest 22″er! Can’t wait to use it.

  21. Carry on for short-haul, hold for long-haul. My. Husband is a huge fan of packing cubes, he swears by them, I am not! Half the children have followed his style and love them and the other half don’t, so at least we are evenly divided! Many years ago, probably about 20 to be precise we bought a big Tumi suitcase, hideously expensive, but two decades later it has proved to be a fabulous investment, still as good as new!

  22. Briggs and Riley, not so much love for them these days. Loved the idea of a lifetime guarantee, but have felt terribly let down when the rolling duffel split open on a trip after only a couple of uses – and yes they repaired it but it certainly didn’t look like the original after the work was done. More recently, the handle fell off a different piece of B&R. Ironically, my old cheap luggage never failed me in those ways. Add to that, there’s no repair shop in the San Diego area that can handle anything beyond the smallest repairs, so that means shipping costs.