Petite rolling luggage seeker
February 10, 2010 8:32 PM   Subscribe

I need a small suitcase with wheels, but I can't afford to pay more than about $70.

I'm looking for a piece of luggage that doesn't cost too much. While all of the suggestions in previous threads about this topic were great, they were all also way out of my price range. I could go up to $100 if it was absolutely necessary, but that seems steep to me (although I sort of have sticker shock after looking at all those bags recommended in older threads, so maybe that's why $100 doesn't sound too bad right now).

I don't need a laptop bag; I just need a suitcase with wheels that I can store one to two suit jackets in (I'm a woman, if that matters), two pairs of pants, a few tops, a portable hairdryer, and the requisite socks/underwear. Ideally, I could fit about 5 days of clothing in the bag (with some mixing/matching going on, obviously). I will be using this primarily for business travel and don't need anything super fancy. While I'd prefer something that is high quality, I can't afford to pay too much -- I know that what I want exists, but I don't know if it exists at my price range.

The wheels are non-negotiable. Ideally, the bag would be small enough to fit in an overhead bin on an airplane-- I'd like to shoot for around 20 inches. I am small, cannot lift very heavy things, and need to be very mobile in the airport. I also need to be able to take the bag around in cities easily, including on subways, buses, and trains.

Does this bag exist? Where should I look? Are there particular brands that are good? Are there places that have great deals on this type of thing? I need the bag for a function at the beginning of March, so I'd like to either buy it in person or find it online in the next week.
posted by k8lin to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Try Target, Marshalls or Ross, if you have one near you. Or, depending on where you're located, check to see if there's a luggage outlet store. I got a great set of suitcases at an outlet. Their "flaw" was that they were last year's model, but they were otherwise perfect. I've had great luck finding Samsonites at low prices, and they've held up well.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:36 PM on February 10, 2010

Ebags is decent for this sort of thing. Here is an example rolling bag at your price point. I have one sort of like it but a little bigger. It's not what I'd call super-durable but does the job and fits in the overhead. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you'll see a few more options. Your price range should be fine. I've also had good luck getting more brand name stuff at places like TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
posted by jessamyn at 8:37 PM on February 10, 2010

Target has a lot of options in your price range. Browse this page.
posted by amyms at 8:39 PM on February 10, 2010

You need a Ross. Mr. F and I picked up two solid pieces of luggage-- a SwissGear and a smaller Samsonite carryon-- for very reasonable prices there earlier this year.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:50 PM on February 10, 2010

Thirding Marshalls, Ross and TJ Maxx. I got a Swiss Army brand carry on sized bag for less than $70 at Ross a couple of years ago. It has worked great. The one I have looks like this. I have also seen Samsonite and other name brands that look sturdy at Ross for comparable prices.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:52 PM on February 10, 2010

I just bought one of these and am happy with it. It fits in the overhead bin, rolls better than the one it replaced, and was less than $50 with three-day shipping. I pack for a week in it. I don't bring a hair dryer, but I do bring a pair of size 10 mens sneakers, three pairs of pants, three dress shirts, some t-shirts and workout shorts, socks & underwear, toiletries.
posted by chazlarson at 8:54 PM on February 10, 2010

Definitely the TJ Maxx/Marshalls route, but also try eBay. I got a great rolling garment bag for quite a deal.
posted by Madamina at 9:07 PM on February 10, 2010

2nding the recommendation for the SwissGear rolling bag. My set has survived quite a few trips.
posted by mmmbacon at 9:11 PM on February 10, 2010

I have a Heys shiny rolling 20" carryon, and it is capacious, light, pretty, $79.00, and maneuverable. The zipper is strong and has an all-round rubbery mudflap thing to keep rain out of your stuff, and the handle is a single-pole rubbery-grip top-button thing that has its own channel in the shell of the suitcase, keeping it from being affected if you stuff a lot of junk in there and also adding a spine to an otherwise invertebrate-style piece of luggage. The plastic shell is strong enough to protect what you put in there, but not quite up to the Samsonite gorilla-toss. However, it weighs about five pounds including the transparent inline skate style wheels. (available with LED lights in their 18" size!)

The absolute only complaint I have about this bag is that the shininess is a little bit dinged on the corners after three years, but it is an awesome piece of kit. It doesn't fit in the overhead of a CRJ commuter jet, but a 737 has no problem.

The link is to their international online shop, but I know you can buy these in department stores.
posted by Sallyfur at 9:11 PM on February 10, 2010

I find great stuff for around that price at TJ Maxx, so I'll nth that. My wife and I found Samsomite stuff for right around that amount at the TJ Maxx near us.
posted by SNWidget at 9:17 PM on February 10, 2010

Get this one, if you can really go up to $100. This bag would normally go for 2-3x that but I suspect the "women's line" of Trek bags didn't work out for some marketing reason and they're on fire sale because they've been discontinued. My whole family has converted to these Victorinox rolling bags. We actually just bought this very one for my sister-in-law last month, which is why I know about this deal.

I'm a small woman and I've fit 6 or 7 days's worth of clothing in an older and perhaps slightly smaller version of this bag many, many times. I've had it since late 2004 (so, 5 years and change) and it still looks and feels pretty new. And for a lot of those 5 years, I was travelling on arplanes once a month or so due to a long-distance relationship, so this bag has seen a lot of use. I cannot sing the praises of these Victorinox bags highly enough.

I'm also, let's face it, pretty weak, and getting the bag up in an overhead bin is sometimes a struggle. But I would wager that any bag full of a week's worth of clothes would have the same problem. The bag itself isn't heavy when there's nothing in it. One issue is that on planes with smaller overhead bins, you may have to fit it in lengthwise rather than not - ie, it will not be able to go in wheels-first, you'll have to put it in sideways. It has a side handle for just that purpose, so the maneuvering itself oughtn't to be hard, but flight attendants may give you a bit of guff about this. Make sure it's under carryon requirements on your favorite airline. I mainly fly Southwest and American, and have never been given a hard time. On those little puddle-hopper American Eagle flights they gate-checked it for me.

It may also be worth noting that this bag also converts to a backpack - it has some backpack straps that live in a pocket along the back of the bag and clip to the bottom. I thought I would use that feature when I got the bag, but I haven't at all, because it converts to a very uncomfortable, bulky backpack. However, it might be nice in some situations to be able to strap your bag to your body rather than rolling it along. If that's a selling point for you, though, keep in mind that you may end up thinking that aspect of the bag was a crock.

Sorry, I know I probably sound like a shill. I just really love Victorinox bags and this one is a steal. I expect mine to last 10-15 years and I KNOW it cost 3x as much as this one does.
posted by crinklebat at 9:19 PM on February 10, 2010

I bought a Heys last year that has served me very, very well, slightly larger than the one that Sallyfur describes, but in the same price range. Got it at the big Sears at Mall of America.

There can be a nice selection at Marshall's-type places, at low prices, but from my experience many of them appeared to be items that didn't sell at their original retailer because of bizarre colors and/or patterns. This was a negative to me, could be a plus if you're looking for something that won't be mistaken for someone else's bag (like burnt orange with lime green daisies on it).
posted by gimonca at 9:23 PM on February 10, 2010

For what it's worth I'm sort of stuck on the Heys now and I noticed you can get them on Ebay [some of the "uglier" colors and prints] for less than $70 with free shipping in the US. Might be worth a looksee.
posted by jessamyn at 9:51 PM on February 10, 2010

I don't have a specific recommendation, but if you want to be really maneuverable, get a spinner--four wheels, not two. It allows you to push, pull, turn, and otherwise move the suitcase around in ways you just can't with a two-wheeler. I've had both, and now that I have the spinner, I'm never going back.
posted by decathecting at 9:54 PM on February 10, 2010

Eagle Creek, Eagle Creek, Eagle Creek!!! I absolutely love my Eagle Creek bags and they have a lifetime no matter what guarantee. The regular price is a little out of your range, but you can often find them on sale. In fact, even if you don't, it is absolutely worth the investment since you'll never need to buy another bag, just send this one back to get repaired if anything ever happens. I cringe at the hundreds of dollars I spent on crappy $50 suitcases in the last 15 years before I finally invested in my Eagle Creek bags.

I bought my bags through, and just last week was able to use their price match guarantee to get a $250 Eagle Creek suitcase for $139. Definitely take advantage of coupon codes and sales, which they have very often.

If I was in your position, I would buy the Eagle Creek Hovercraft 20" which is on sale at for $149, but then submit for them to match the price I found at - $81.77! The Hovercraft is sturdy, well made, just over 6 lbs, and as I mentioned before, guaranteed for life. (You could also buy straight from, but I don't know much about them and this way you earn the rewards points and price match $10 coupon towards your next purchase. May I recommend these useful and efficient packing cubes? You'd be amazed at how much more you can fit in your suitcase with them!)

*I am not affiliated in any way with Eagle Creek or, just a very, very satisfied customer!*
posted by platinum at 9:58 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I see a good variety of decent bags in Ross, too, so hit all those types of stores.

I have similar requirements that I've tacked in a different way, with this bag. It's utterly not what you're asking for: it's not wheeled, it's $200. But it fits in the overhead bin of small aircraft and it's easy to heave up there because of the end handle-things, and I lovelovelove it. And they make a version with the backpack straps set to be more comfortable for people with smaller frames. (I wear it on my back until I get to the conference hotel, at which point I switch to either the handle or a shoulder strap to look more professional.)
posted by desuetude at 10:09 PM on February 10, 2010

Here to nth Ross - they get good stuff and charge very little for it.

I have one of the nicest full-size Skyways on the market in '98 still in my possession with no damage at all despite many rough trips, over-zealous helpers, and lots of overpacking. It cost me $40 at Ross. I could have had something even nicer than that, but that was my budget at the time. I'm sure you'll find similar deals, because I occasionally try to create a reason I need a new piece of luggage when I'm there and see super high-quality pieces at jaw-dropping prices.
posted by batmonkey at 11:03 PM on February 10, 2010

The bigger malls usually have one or two shops in them that sell nothing but bag-type-objects, from purses to knapsacks to luggage. I found a perfectly serviceable business-appropriate carryon with wheels and a handle for $40 in one of them; there's usually something on sale.
posted by Billegible at 6:25 AM on February 11, 2010

Try the REI outlet, I got a really great deal on my Victorinox bags there a few years ago. This is just above your price range, but it was the first thing I found. Mountainsmith makes good stuff- I have a pack made by them.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:41 AM on February 11, 2010

Or maybe this bag from the same site? Check the specs though; if you fly a finicky airline they may not let you carry it on, even though it is below the overall carryon dimensions.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:47 AM on February 11, 2010

Response by poster: I tried Ross, based on several suggestions here, and saw nothing I liked. They had no Swiss Gear or Samsonites in the size I was looking for. I'll try back again in a week or two and will also check TJMaxx and possibly Marshall's (not sure how much time I have to devote to this bag hunt to be honest).

platinum, really good advice, and I almost went ahead and got that Eagle Creek bag -- but they don't price match on closeouts! Yikes.

I'm definitely looking for a spinner now; thanks, decathecting.

To people who use packing cubes: do you like them? Do they add a lot of bulk (they seem like they would to me)? Are packing folders any good?
posted by k8lin at 8:20 PM on February 11, 2010

There are several good options at

Florentine Rolling Duffel Bag $59
Travelon Underseater Carryon Bag $109 - I have this and it's fine. The included tote bag was very roomy but overall so-so... but I have plenty of other tote bags so it's not an issue.
Travelsmith Ultra-Organized Rolling Carryon Bag $99 Travelsmith's knockoff of the Travelon for $10 less
Rick Steves Avanti Rolling Tote $99.95

I'd recommend the Travelon more highly but I'm tired of wheeled luggage and have been lusting over the Tom Bihn Aeronaut (mentioned above)(drool). :)

On preview: I have a medium compression bag and I think it works well.
posted by halonine at 10:14 AM on February 12, 2010

I wanted to follow up on your question about the packing cubes and envelopes. I just finished packing for a 2 week business trip to the cold northeast and was able to get it all into one 25" suitcase because of my new set of packing cubes. I just got the cubes a few days ago, so this is my first time using them, and they're even better than I hoped! To answer your first question, they aren't bulky at all. They're very lightweight and squishable, so if you don't fill it 100%, it will flatten down. I find the envelopes are very good at keeping clothes pretty wrinkle-free but I don't expect the same of the cubes, so that may be something to consider.

The big space-saving surprise for me was the ability to maximize the my suitcase's front external pockets to hold clothes I normally wouldn't consider putting there. I was able to fit the medium cube with 10-12 blouses/shells and a slim cube with all my socks and hosiery in the larger front pocket, and another slim cube with 5 scarves in the top pocket. Normally, that space goes wasted for me because it's harder to keep things organized and compact. I might stick a few things in the front pockets as an after-thought but I've never really considered it as primary packing space.

This opened up tons of room inside, where I used an 18" envelope for 2 slacks and 3 skirts, the large cube for 3 blazers/ jackets, 2 light sweaters and pajamas, the small cube for my underwear and bras, and my last slim cube for my hairbrush and other odds and ends. Add in my toiletries bag and a pair of pumps tucked along the side and a pair knee boots plus a trench coat layered on top, and voila! Two weeks of travel in one bag. I'm thrilled at how easily everything fit and how organized it all feels. I know exactly where everything is and if I need to reach in to get something, I don't have to repack the entire suitcase, just grab the one cube, unzip, rezip and toss it back in.

Oh, I also have an empty compression bag like the one halonine linked to tucked away for the trip home. They're fantastic for transporting dirty laundry without making your whole suitcase smell!
posted by platinum at 12:21 AM on February 21, 2010

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