Best Soft-Sided Suitcases for Traveling This Holiday Season

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The holidays are quickly approaching. With the holidays comes an increase in travel plans. Whether you are traveling to the next state or taking a vacation out of the country, you will need a suitcase to protect your items and make traveling easier. From my own extensive travels, since I was a teenager, I have found suitcases to be an important cornerstone item for making or breaking even the best vacations.

Choosing a suitcase involves finding one that is the right size for your travel method, is comfortable to run through an airport or lift over your head on a train, and is secure enough to not pop open the moment the ramp agent throws your suitcase on the conveyor belt for pick up.

Rhonda Alamour wrote about how to choose the best luggage sets, which is a great way to get started with your traveling. Not everyone needs an entire set of suitcases though and you can save money by buying just one suitcase that is flexible enough to accommodate all travel needs. Here are 3 of the best soft-sided suitcases.

Best Soft-Sided Suitcases Winner:

When it comes to the best soft-sided suitcases, one suitcase stands out above all the rest. That is the . This style has suitcases in all the regular suitcase sizes, but we will look specifically at the 25-inch spinner as that is the most versatile size for traveling.

The  is not only very popular among passengers, it also is the preferred suitcase by many flight crews. Travelpro has been known for being reliable and durable. Their company has been making luggage since 1987. The luggage design was originated by a pilot who flew frequently and knew what a suitcase needed. It has remained as one of the top suitcases ever since.

Luggage Size

When it comes to a good suitcase, one of the first items to look at is size. Without the correct dimensions, your suitcase may not be able to hold all your items or even be allowed on an airline or other travel location. Travelpro makes their luggage with travel in mind. This  is designed to work for all types of travel, including airline travel.

This suitcase is 25 inches tall by 16.75 inches wide by 11.25 inches deep. In total, the suitcase has a total capacity of 9.1 liters. With the added height of the wheels, the total height of the suitcase comes out to 27.5 inches tall when standing. This suitcase weighs only 7.8 pounds.

There is an extendable handle on the top of the suitcase that nestles inside during the trip. The handle pulls out to 38 inches. There is an extra tall suitcase option that will extend the handle to 42.5 inches. These features are some of the reasons why this suitcase is on our best soft-sided suitcases list.

Luggage Features

The suitcase is made from a polyester fabric. It is made to be both water and stain resistant with a special coating to protect the fabric from the regular elements and bumps that travel will put suitcases through. The water-resistant coasting is both on the outside and the inside so that it will protect your contents from being ruined, as well as protecting other items from being ruined if something spills inside the suitcase.

This suitcase has four sturdy wheels that spin 360 degrees. This allows the suitcase to be pushed as well as pulled when traveling. It can also sit stable when standing in line. The 360-degree wheels also make it easier to quickly change directions, move around corners, and back up in an instant and in small spaces with minimum motions required. The suitcase also has a bottom tray to help hold the wheels in place for advanced durability.

There are multiple handles on this suitcase. The extendable handle has a patented contour grip that is more comfortable than the regular plastic straight handle of many other suitcases. The contoured design also makes it easier to change direction with a slight push. There is also a cloth handle on the side and the top of the suitcase, making it easy to load on conveyor belts, in trunks of cars, and in overhead compartments of trains. 

Again, these features are all why it’s on our list of the best soft-sided suitcases.

Packing Features

When it comes to packing,  has you covered. There are three zippered areas for packing. The main compartment is where all your large items and clothing can be placed.

The center compartment has an expansion design that allows for the main compartment to be enlarged by up to 2 inches for extra room when needed. You can secure the items in the main compartment using straps so that your clothing will remain properly in place all during your trip to cut down on wrinkles.

Inside the main compartment is the second packing area. It is a mesh zippered pocket on the inside of the lid. This area is ideal to separate smaller items and clothing from the main compartment. It also helps keep certain items flatter.

The last compartment is an outside pocket. It is a large pocket on the lid of the suitcase. This is an area that is ideal for small items that should be separate from the main compartment. You should avoid placing fragile items in this top pocket as the top pocket will receive the most bumps when stacked and moved during travel.

Things to Consider

Travel is very rough on suitcases. There are many parts of the best soft-sided suitcases that can fail during a trip, and it is difficult to ascertain how much is the airline’s fault and how much is the suitcase’s fault. Overall, one feature seems to be the most common area to fail on this suitcase, and that is the zipper. There are many comments about the zipper splitting and the lock falling off. Those that do experience this failure can bring their Travelpro to a local store and, depending on the warranty, they can fix the zipper.

 

Best Soft-Sided Suitcases Runner-Up: 

Samsonite is another name in luggage, along with Travelpro, that is equated with quality and durability. Samsonite used to be the leader in luggage for many years, but more recently their suitcases have started to lack in the quality they used to be known for. Even with the slight decline in quality, their  is still near the top as one of the best soft-sided suitcases.

Luggage Size

The  measures 24.5 inches high by 16.3 inches wide by 9 inches deep. The wheels add two inches to the height, making the total height 26.5 inches when standing. It weighs 9.5 pounds.

The  has an extendable handle that will make it easier to pull the suitcase without having to bend over. There are two different heights for the handle. The regular tall height is 35.3 inches. The extra tall height is 40.5 inches. When the handle is not extended, it folds neatly into the suitcase.

Luggage Features

The  has many similar features as the Travelpro. The main feature of this suitcase is its spinning wheels. It has four spinner wheels on each corner of the suitcase that turn 360 degrees.

In addition to the extendable handle, it also has a top and a side handle. The handles are padded for added comfort. This makes it easy to lift the suitcase while transitioning during travel. It’s also why this qualifies as one of the best soft-sided suitcases. 

Packing Features

While the  is heavier than the Travelpro, it also has a few more organizational features that make packing easier. There are a total of five places for packing items.

The main compartment of the suitcase is large enough to hold most clothing and other items. It does expand to provide extra room when needed. The compartment also has cross straps that hold the items down that are being stored in the suitcase.

In addition to the main compartment, there are two pockets inside the main compartment, attached to the lid of the suitcase to help with organization. One pocket is a mesh pocket, the second is a wet pocket for storing liquids and other items that should be contained.

The outside of the suitcase holds two more pockets. One is a larger pocket for large items that need to be separated. The second is a smaller pocket near the top for little items that you may need easy access to.

Things to Consider

Just like with all suitcases, this  also has a weak feature. Many people say the wheels run rough, others say the wheels tend to fall apart completely after only a few uses. The wheels can become unaligned easily, limiting your maneuverability. This can make it difficult to move around the airport or other locations. This is not how the suitcase should run, so if this is an issue, the suitcase can be returned for one where the wheels are better aligned.

Samsonite is known for their quality materials. As a result, they are one of the most expensive luggage options. The price used to reflect in the quality, but with the slight decline in quality, some people find the price is not worth the selection of available suitcases.

Best Soft-Sided Suitcases Honorable Mention:

American Tourister has also been a staple for travelers for years. It is in the same price range as the Travelpro, but not quite up to the same quality standards. That being said, it is still higher in quality than the average suitcase, which makes the  a runner-up as one of the best soft-sided suitcases. American Tourister does tend to have more bright and fun color options for suitcases.

Luggage Size

The  falls only slightly lighter than the Samsonite, coming in at 9.2 pounds. It is slightly larger as well than the Samsonite, and is close to the size of the Travelpro suitcase. In total, the measures 25 inches high by 18 inches wide by 10 inches deep. There are no specifications about how tall the handle extends on the suitcase, but consumers estimate the total length, with the handle, to come to about 31 inches.

Luggage Features

Like the previous best soft-sided suitcases listed, the also has four spinner wheels. These wheels allow the suitcase to rest upright. It can also be easily maneuvered. The wheels all turn 360 degrees to allow for easy mobility.

The suitcase also has two handles built into the actual case. This will help keep the handles from ripping when being used. These handles are located on the top and the side so that it is easy to lift the suitcase when needed.

The luggage is made from a polyester and nylon combination. This combination is strong and helps to keep the elements out of the suitcase.

Packing Features

In total, there are four compartments and pockets to use for packing. The main compartment is located in the center. The compartment can expand if additional room is needed. The main compartment does have a cross strap to keep all your items securely fastened during the trip.

Inside the main compartment are two smaller organizational pockets. One pocket is a regular mesh pocket, the other is a waterproof pocket. These pockets are both located on the lid of the main compartment. The last compartment is a pocket on the outer shell of the suitcase. It is a smaller pocket, and should not be used for valuables as it can easily be bumped and crushed during the regular traveling motions.

Things to Consider

The is not quite as high in quality as the other two options, but is definitely better than many of the other brands not mentioned. The material is cheaper and tends to stain and rip easier. The wheels are also not quite as smooth as the other two options. It will still last for years and is worth the investment for those who do not prefer the other two options.

A Recap of the Best Soft-Sided Suitcases

The best soft-sided suitcases come with a variety of features that get the job done. Here is a recap to help you compare the options presented above. Choose the best soft-sided suitcases that work for you and your family. This investment is sure to last.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Soft-Sided Suitcases

Should I choose a hard-sided or a soft-sided suitcase?

There are two main types of suitcases: hard-sided and soft-sided suitcases. Each one has their own advantages to consider, and what works for one person, may not work for the other. Here are some general pros and cons of each that will help you decide which one is better for your situation.

Soft-sided suitcases have two main benefits. The biggest benefit of a soft-sided suitcase is that they are generally lighter. Soft-sided suitcases are made from light polyesters or other cloth materials that allow you to spend more weight on the items you are packing.

The second positive of soft-sided suitcases is their flexibility for packing. Soft-sided suitcases can be expanded to fit different shapes of items and clothes. They also usually have multiple pockets for organization. Due to being made of cloth-type materials, a soft-sided suitcase does increase the risk of ripping and may not protect the items inside the suitcase as well.

Hard-sided suitcases have their own positives. The main reason why people are willing to accept the extra weight and less organizational pockets is the fact that hard-sided suitcases are more durable. They are made from materials that will hold their shape. This means that you can pack up fragile items. As long as they are packaged correctly, and the items will not be broken when other suitcases are stacked on yours.

With this inflexible exterior does come the possibility of denting or scratching, which the soft-sided suitcase does not have as they will bend with every bump.

What size suitcase do I need?

The size of the suitcase will not be dependent on you as much as the mode of transportation you are planning on using. The most strict mode of transportation tends to be airlines, so most luggage companies will base their luggage sizes off of airline specifications. If your suitcase matches the airline specifications, it will match all other means of travel.

Airlines, generally speaking, have three different types of luggage. The main type is the checked baggage. Most airlines have a maximum size of 35 inches for their checked baggage as well as a weight limit of close to 55 pounds. Many luggage companies will offer the largest size of 29 inches in luggage, for use as a checked bag.

Many people find, though, that this larger size is too big for checked luggage, as filling up that large of a bag will usually be over the weight limit. If you stay under the weight limit, the bag tends to have an excess amount of extra room. Travelers also find this large of a bag is bulkier to carry through airports, so they prefer the next size down.

What types of suitcases should I look for?

Many suitcase sets will also offer the 25-inch suitcase. This is also meant as a checked baggage. This is the size that was discussed in our reviews today. The reason most people prefer to use this size is that filling a 25-inch suitcase will fall right at the 55 pound limit of the airline.

A 25-inch suitcase is also lighter than a full 29-inch suitcase. This also makes the suitcase easier to travel with when taking other means of transportation. Those who travel by trains know that many trains require you to lift the suitcase above your head to store it in the overhead compartments during your travels. A 25-inch suitcase is much easier to fit in the train compartments than a 29-inch suitcase. A 25-inch suitcase is also easier to fit in a trunk of a car.

The third type of suitcase would be the carry-on. These tend to be about 21 inches in suitcase sets. A carry on is allowed with most airlines. These are the smaller suitcases that you can bring with you on a plane. If the carry-on is smaller, the airlines will allow you to keep it in the overhead compartments. Larger carry-on pieces need to be dropped off and stored elsewhere during the flight in order to provide the maximum amount of space for passengers. These suitcases are large enough to also be used as weekend bags but tend to not be large enough for vacation suitcases.

Hand Luggage

The last type of suitcase would be the hand luggage. In addition to a carry on, most airlines will also allow a handbag. Many luggage sets will include a large handbag in the set for this purpose. A handbag is a small bag that can be placed at your feet under the seat in front of you on the airplane, or in the overhead compartment.

It is only supposed to hold the bare necessities for the flight, such as your wallet, passport, a book to read, or any other important and essential items. They are generally not large enough to hold any regular luggage items like clothes and toiletries.

What features should I look for on a suitcase?

Suitcases have many different features that make them easier to use than, say, a regular duffle bag or backpack. The main features to look for are how easy it is to transport the suitcase. When you travel, you will most likely have a decent amount of walking and lifting to do with the suitcase.

For walking, you will want some sort of wheels. Airports can have miles of walking from check-in to security, then from security to your gate. Trains also have large stations that you will need to walk through, not to mention that you may need to maneuver the suitcase down the aisle of the train itself. Once you arrive at your destination, you will be walking through a hotel or other accommodation that will need maneuverability.

Wheels

There are two main types of wheels. Two wheels and four wheels. Wheels will allow you to pull your suitcase instead of having to carry pounds of luggage on your shoulder or back for hours on end. Two wheels tend to be more inlaid, so they do not break as easy.

Two wheels, on the downside, are not as easy to maneuver. Four wheels are the easiest to maneuver. Spinner wheels can be pulled from any angle. You can either pull the suitcase by the handle or push it on all four wheels. The moving possibilities are endless, making it easy to move it through multiple different scenarios.

Handles

A second item to look at is the handles. A suitcase needs to have at least one main pulling handle. These usually collapse into the suitcase to protect the handle during travel, then can be expanded when it is time to drag your suitcase. This allows you to pull your suitcase without having to bend over. When you are doing miles of walking, bending over will begin to hurt your back.

In addition to the expandable main handle, you will want secondary handles. Secondary handles allow you to easily lift the suitcase when it comes time to store it. You will need to lift the suitcase into cars, onto conveyor belts, and into overhead compartments. You will want multiple handles on the side and the top so that it can be lifted from any angle.

Organizational Areas

The last feature to consider is the organizational areas. You will want to make sure your items are securely inside the suitcase, especially if flying. When you are traveling, expect your suitcase to get bounced and bumped around. Having enough pockets will allow items to be separated and more securely fastened so they will be jostled less than throwing all items into one large compartment or duffle bag.

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