Heading out on a much-needed (and probably long overdue) vacation? If you're traveling by plane or train, you know how important it is to choose luggage that packs a lot into a small space. Given all the options out there these days, I can feel impossible to know which ones will last for more than one trip. So we turned to the people who travel professionally — flight attendants and pilots — for recommendations. Their brand of choice is Travelpro, and there's good reason for it: The bags are durable, relatively affordable, and designed for air travel.
The 21-inch Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Luggage is one of the best bets since it's small enough to meet the size restrictions for carry-on luggage, and its four spinner wheels make it easy to move through the airport, either upright or at an angle. Plus, it costs just $144 at Amazon.
For most airlines, carry-on bags are limited to one bag that measures 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high (including handles and wheels) and one personal item (18 inches long, 14 inches wide and 8 inches high). The 21-inch Travelpro Maxlite 5 easily fits in the overhead bin. It features an outer zip pocket for anything you want to be easily accessible during transit and a large interior space with a lid pocket and straps to ensure your belongings don't shift.
It also has an additional 2 inches of expansion space, which comes in handy for the souvenirs you can't resist. More than 8,000 Amazon shoppers like it so much that they gave the Maxlite 5 a perfect five-star review.
One traveler went so far as to call it the "perfect carry-on": "Overall, a fantastic bag with an incredible warranty. You'll tire of it before you wear it out."
The personal bag that flight attendants swear by is the Travelpro Maxlite 5 Lightweight Underseat Carry-on Travel Tote Bag.
"It's important to me to have a bag made of heavy fabric that can be thrown over a suitcase, loaded into the crew van or put into the overhead bins," says Lori Bennett, an American Airlines flight attendant and creator behind the AA Stews Instagram account. "I want a bag that's collapsible but strong — this one fits the bill."
The bag has a top flap to access the main compartment as well as a front zip pocket and one zippered side pocket. It also has a strap at the back that slides over the extended handle of your suitcase so you can stack and roll the two bags together.
"I like the long strap to throw the bag over my shoulder when needed and the two hand straps when moving down an airplane aisle to keep the bag in front of me," Bennett says. "Inside there are many compartments for required flight equipment, paperwork, books, a computer, medicines and food. It's amazing what I am able to fit in here!"
Customers agree with the roominess observation. "If you pack it right, you can actually pack for up to a 3-week trip between the two bags," said one Amazon reviewer. "I really appreciate the 360-degree rollers since I have the option of pushing the luggage alongside me instead of always having to pull it. The telescopic handle gave several options (e.g., when putting the shoulder bag on top of the suitcase or not). The design maximized space."
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The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.
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