Traveling internationally demands a lot from luggage. Since you’ll be living out of your suitcase, you want something that packs in convenient features and durable construction that will stand up to abuse.
I’ve traveled across four continents and have had to toss my luggage on top of packed buses and drag it miles over cobblestone streets. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about what makes a suitcase work well for traveling internationally.
So what makes a piece of luggage ready for international travel? The most important distinction is that international airlines have tighter restrictions for carry-on size than domestic flights. If you’re flying internationally, you’ll want to make sure your carry-on is smaller than 21” so you don’t have to worry about fitting within limits.
This guide will highlight the best carry-on bags that fit within international restrictions as well as some of the best checked luggage for international flights.
Briggs & Riley is one of the most respected luggage brands out there. Flight crews and frequent travelers around the world trust them to build the highest-quality and longest-lasting luggage available.
Unlike most manufacturers who offer at best a limited lifetime warranty for manufacturing defects, Briggs & Riley has a true lifetime guarantee. If your suitcase is ever damaged, they will repair or replace it no questions.
Good international luggage needs to meet carry-on size restrictions while still offering lots of packing room. You also want to look for features that will help you stay organized while you’re traveling.
The Briggs & Riley Baseline Global 21” is a fantastic choice for overseas trips. It combines impressive durability, thoughtful features, and unmatched versatility, making this suitcase an easy choice for anyone traveling abroad.
Two-wheeled rolling luggage is more durable than spinner wheels. You can drag this suitcase over cobblestones or other rough surfaces without worry.
You get a large external pocket that can fit a laptop, hanging garment storage for suits and dresses, compression straps, and an expandable main compartment if you need more space. The array of interior and exterior pockets is extensive and well-thought-out. All these features make this carry-on incredibly versatile and organized.
While the price is high, if you’re looking for the best quality out there and the peace of mind that comes with a lifetime guarantee, you can’t go wrong with the Briggs & Riley Baseline.
Briggs & Riley Baseline Global 21″ Specs:
|Dimensions||20″ x 15″ x 7.8″|
2. July Carry-On Light: Best Lightweight Luggage for International Travel
Launched in 2018, July is a startup travel brand based in Australia that is dedicated to simplifying and improving the travel experience with innovative designs and quality products. Though they’re new to the market, they have quickly become a leader in the industry, thanks to their commitment to solving problems in the luggage industry.
If you’re traveling a lot, it’s definitely worth looking for lightweight luggage that won’t weigh you down. A suitcase that’s under five pounds will be easier to maneuver through the airport and lift into overhead bins. You don’t want to compromise on durability and features though.
The July Carry-On Light is the perfect solution for anyone looking to drop a few pounds from their travel gear. At 3.9 lbs, this is the lightest carry-on case on the market!
This ultralight suitcase manages to cut weight without cutting corners on build quality. It has a sturdy polycarbonate shell, a well-engineered aluminum handle, and July’s bomber double spinner wheels. You can count on this case to stand up to some abuse.
The closure uses YKK zippers and has an integrated TSA-approved lock. This ensures your suitcase is secure during travel.
Organization is simple but effective, with a zippered divider and interior pockets. If you want the easy access of exterior pockets or more advanced organization, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
If you’re looking for the lightest luggage on the market to lighten your load while traveling, I highly recommend you take a look at the July Carry-On Light.
July Carry-On Light Specs:
|Dimensions||23″ x 14.5″ x 9″|
3. Samsonite Novaire Set: Best Luggage Set for International Travel
Samsonite luggage is probably the most well-known brand. They’ve been selling luggage for over a century and have built a reputation on providing high-value suitcases for every budget.
If you are traveling with a family or are just looking to buy both checked and carry-on luggage, it’s definitely worth trying to buy a luggage set. You’ll get matching suitcases that work together, and you’ll save money over buying pieces individually.
The best luggage sets will keep you ready for everything. With a carry-on and checked bags you’ll be prepped for anything from weekend beach trips to long-haul international adventures.
The Samsonite Novaire Set is one of the best luggage sets out there and is a perfect choice for international travel. It includes a carry-on that is sized for international restrictions and a large 29” checked case that is ready for trips where you have to haul a lot of gear.
Both suitcases are made with durable Makrolon polycarbonate hardshells with scratch-resistant texture and reinforced corners. These cases will take a beating and keep looking good over the long term.
The expandable luggage design gives you the option to add a few inches of packing space. This increases the versatility of the set so you’re ready for trips with different packing requirements.
The Samsonite Novaire Set is a fantastic combination that is well-built, affordable, and ready for anything.
Samsonite Novaire Set Specs:
|Dimensions||21.5″ x 15″ x 9″||29.3″ x 19.8″ x 12″|
|Weight||7.2 lbs||10.5 lbs|
4. LEVEL8 Pro Carry-On 20”: Best Carry-On Luggage for International Travel
LEVEL8 is a modern luggage brand that emphasizes functional, minimalist designs that are intended to streamline the travel experience. They specifically make some of the best carry-on luggage that is stylish, simple, and well-built.
A good carry-on suitcase for an international trip needs to be spacious enough to carry all your belongings for longer trips while fitting within international size restrictions for carry-ons.
The LEVEL8 Pro Carry-On is a sleek and stylish hardshell case that’s designed to fit carry-on size restrictions for airlines all over the world. It stands out with innovative features, streamlined design, and high-quality construction.
This carry-on case is built with Makrolon polycarbonate and has a TSA-approved lock. You can be sure your belongings are protected and secure while traveling.
Unlike most hard-sided luggage, this case has a large external pocket that can fit a 15.6” laptop. This quick-opening zipperless pocket is fantastic for keeping electronics or other items easily accessible
If you’re looking for a sturdy, streamlined hardshell carry-on suitcase for international use, the LEVEL8 Pro Carry-On is a fantastic choice.
LEVEL8 Pro Carry-On 20″ Specs:
|Dimensions||21.5″ x 14.4″ x 9.2″|
5. Travelpro Roundtrip: Best Checked Luggage for International Travel
Travelpro was started to make luggage specifically for flight crews. With pilots, flight attendants, and other pros trusting their luggage, you can be sure they are doing something right.
Travelpro has been at the forefront of luggage innovation for decades. Their founder invented the first upright rolling suitcase, and they continually seek new improvements in designs and materials.
The best checked luggage for traveling internationally needs to be strong enough to stand up to frequent flight transfers across the globe. An expandable design is also a plus so it can adapt to your needs over different trips.
The Travelpro Roundtrip combines all of Travelpro’s luggage expertise into a highly-functional and well-built check-in suitcase that’s ready for long international trips.
The Roundtrip has a durable polycarbonate shell with built-in corner guards. Corners are usually the first thing to break on hardshell suitcases, so this is a fantastic design that helps this suitcase endure hard hits and make it to the baggage claim undamaged.
This case uses Travelpro’s double spinner wheels and a lightweight extendable handle. It is exceptionally smooth rolling and easy to maneuver through the airport.
If you’re going on an extended trip and need more room than just a carry-on, the Travelpro Roundtrip is a fantastic choice for a checked bag.
Travelpro Roundtrip Specs:
|Dimensions||27.3″ x 17.8″ x 11″|
6. Eagle Creek Expanse: Best Large Luggage for International Travel
Eagle Creek builds luggage for adventurous folks who are heading far from the beaten path and need equipment that’s rugged and well-designed. Their No Matter What Warranty shows that they stand behind their products.
For some trips, you just need a lot of space. Whether you’re hauling climbing gear to Morocco or packing for a family, a single massive piece of luggage often makes more sense than multiple smaller bags.
The Eagle Creek Expanse is a massive rolling bag with rugged durability, heavy-duty wheels, and cavernous space. It’s strong enough to haul heavy loads and stand up to abuse.
While it’s easy to assume hard-sided luggage is more durable because it has a rigid shell, that isn’t always the case. This soft-sided luggage is made of ultra high strength fabric that’s virtually impossible to tear. Unlike a hard case, it will never crack under impact.
The design is simple, with one massive main compartment, a small external pocket, and a mesh internal pocket on the lid. This gives you a lot of freedom to pack gear the way you want.
If you need a big checked bag that’s ready for anything, this is it.
Eagle Creek Expanse Specs:
|Dimensions||30″ x 16.5″ x 14.2″ (30″ x 16.5″ x 16.25″ expanded)|
|Capacity||105L (119L expanded)|
7. Osprey Ozone: Best Durable Luggage for International Travel
Osprey is a Colorado-based outdoor gear brand that is best known for their innovative backpacking and hiking packs. You may not know that they also build capable and durable travel luggage.
Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee is legendary within the outdoor community. You can send in any product for any reason to be repaired or replaced for free.
I really respect companies that stand behind their products, and Osprey is one of the best. They also are committed to reducing their environmental impact by using recycled materials and sustainable processes.
The Osprey Ozone is a compact, lightweight carry-on that is built tough so you can take it around the globe without any worries of wear and tear. I love that this bag is really built for adventurous travelers, with no-nonsense features, organization, and construction.
This bag is built with a highly-engineered aluminum frame, durable recycled nylon fabrics, burly YKK zippers, and oversized wheels. You can count on it to stand up to the abuse of global travel.
If you’re looking for an international carry-on that will last forever, the Osprey Ozone is built to handle a beating. If you ever do manage to break it, Osprey will repair it for you.
Osprey Ozone Specs:
|Dimensions||21.5″ x 14″ x 10″|
8. Monos Check-In Medium: Best Medium Luggage for International Travel
Monos is a luggage brand that emphasizes minimalist designs that give you everything you need without any unnecessary bells and whistles. They are also committed to quality and have some of the best durability and life testing I’ve ever seen for luggage.
I am really impressed by the testing methods Monos has developed for their products. It really gives a lot of confidence that their suitcases will survive hard use.
The perfect medium check-in bag gives you ample room to pack for longer trips without becoming cumbersome when maneuvering through the airport.
The Monos Check-In Medium is an incredibly well-built 26” suitcase with durable construction, ultra-smooth spinner wheels, and extremely well-thought-out details.
Interior organization is phenomenal in this suitcase. It has a large zippered divider, a plethora of zippered interior pockets, compression straps, and includes two shoe bags. Every detail is well-configured to make it easy to stay organized and neat while traveling.
If you need more space while traveling but don’t want to be weighed down by an overly-bulky case, the Monos Check-In Medium is a fantastic choice.
Monos Check-In Medium Specs:
|Dimensions||26.5″ x 18.5″ x 10.5″|
This is the second Travelpro luggage product on this list, and it’s because they make seriously capable and well-designed products. Their soft-sided luggage is especially good, with sturdy construction and fantastic organization features.
Soft-sided luggage excels in organization, accessibility, and lighter weight. Convenient external pockets can make it very easy to access items while traveling. Having a single large compartment can make packing much easier than the two-sided clamshell design of hard luggage.
The Travelpro Maxlite 5 International is a lightweight soft-sided carry-on that combines thoughtful design, rugged construction, and an affordable price into a fantastic carry-on for international trips. It fits size restrictions for almost any airline in the world, but still has a surprising amount of space inside.
The body of the bag is built with a high-denier polyester fabric with a water resistant coating. This material is highly durable and protects your belongings from rain or splashes.
This rollaboard suitcase uses sturdy wheels with rigorously-tested steel ball bearings. You can expect this bag to be smooth-rolling for a lifetime of travel, even if you’re pulling it over cobblestones or other rough surfaces.
Travelpro Maxlite 5 International Specs:
|Dimensions||21.8″ x 15.8″ x 7.8″|
We’ll wrap up this list with another suitcase from Briggs & Riley. This brand builds some of the best quality luggage on the market, and their unbeatable warranty ensures that when you buy one of their suitcases, it’s going to last you a lifetime.
It is common nowadays for manufacturers to skimp on materials, construction, and quality testing. It’s refreshing that Briggs and Riley changes that by building suitcases that can be an investment. Their products aren’t cheap, but I think it’s worth it for frequent flyers.
Hardside luggage has the advantage of being more secure and protective for expensive or fragile items. Hard luggage for traveling internationally needs to maximize those advantages with a highly durable shell that will survive the abuse of longer trips.
The Briggs & Riley Sympatico International is a stylish, spacious, and durable hardside carry-on that is compact enough for international airline restrictions.
This case has a durable polycarbonate shell, YKK zippers, and an aircraft-grade aluminum telescopic handle. This well-built suitcase will last a long time, and if you ever manage to break it, Briggs & Riley will repair or replace it for free.
If you are frequently traveling internationally and are willing to invest in a hardside suitcase that will last a lifetime, I highly recommend the Briggs & Riley Sympatico.
Briggs & Riley Sympatico International Specs:
|Dimensions||19″ x 14″ x 9″|
How to Choose the Best Luggage for International Travel
What Size Luggage Should You Buy?
The biggest difference between luggage for international and domestic trips is the carry-on luggage size restrictions. Most international airlines limit the length of any carry-on to 21.5”. Many manufacturers make luggage slightly larger than that for domestic flights, so double-check suitcase dimensions before purchasing.
For checked luggage, size restrictions are less of an issue on international airlines. Still, wherever possible I’d recommend going a bit smaller. Packing light will simplify your trip and let you focus more on the experience of traveling rather than hauling around massive overstuffed suitcases.
Hard vs Soft-Sided Luggage
Another major decision when shopping for luggage is whether to buy a hard or soft suitcase. Soft luggage used to be much more common, but hardshell cases are gaining in popularity, and with advances like durable yet lightweight polycarbonate shells, they are better than ever.
Picking between hard and soft-sided luggage is mainly up to personal preference, but if you’re on the fence, there are some key factors that can help you decide.
Soft-Sided Luggage Advantages
- Soft luggage is usually more lightweight.
- You will get more options for external zipper pockets.
- Soft luggage is more flexible for packing and cramming into the overhead bin.
- If you want 2-wheeled luggage, a soft suitcase is your only option.
Hard-Sided Luggage Advantages
- Hard luggage is more protective.
- When combined with a TSA-approved lock, a hard suitcase is more secure.
- Some people prefer the streamlined style of hardshell cases.
International Travel Luggage Accessories
Monos Travel Folio
When traveling internationally, keeping passports, travel documents, and electronics together in one place can relieve a lot of anxiety. I know one of my biggest fears is losing my passport while abroad.
This zippered folio can act as your travel wallet/passport folio. With room for electronics, cards, and important travel documents, it’s a great way to keep all your most important items in one place.
REI Co-Op Flash 18 Pack
When you arrive at your destination, you’ll want a good travel daypack for heading out on shorter excursions. This compact, lightweight pack is perfect for everything from hiking to heading out around town.
This little backpack is easily packable, so it won’t take up space in your suitcase while traveling. You can easily use it as your personal item on the airplane or as a stuff sack for added organization inside your suitcase.
July Leather Luggage Tags
For a stylish addition to help identify your luggage in the airport or at the baggage claim, check out these luggage tags that you can personalize to your liking.
This luggage tag is made of full-grain leather and attaches easily to a handle on your suitcase.
Monos Compressible Packing Cubes
It’s easy for the main compartment of your suitcase to become a disorganized, jumbled mess. These zippered packing cubes are a great solution for taming the chaos.
Built of a lightweight fabric, these packing cubes have a mesh front panel that lets you easily see what’s inside.
They come in an array of sizes to fit everything from socks to shirts. You can purchase either a four-pack or a six-pack.
Why Trust TravelFreak?
Here at TravelFreak, we want to give you the best information and recommendations to help you get out and explore the world. Our brand reputation is based on giving high-quality recommendations you can trust, so we take our product selection very seriously.
We don’t pick products just because they are popular or highly rated. All the members of our team are avid travelers and adventurers, and we base all of our recommendations on our personal experiences, observations, and struggles traveling the globe.
We’ve had a lot of chances to test luggage and to learn what works and what doesn’t. Every suitcase in this list is something we would personally use in our own travels.
I’ve hauled luggage up endless stone staircases in the lower Himalayas and have destroyed suitcase spinner wheels on the unforgiving cobblestone streets of Germany. The recommendations in this list are made based on my own real-world experience and the combined travel experience of the TravelFreak team.
Luggage for International Travel FAQs
What luggage bag is best for international travel?
Is hard or soft luggage better for international travel?
Soft luggage is typically lighter and has more external pockets. Hard luggage is more protective.
What size luggage do I need for international travel?
International airlines limit carry-ons to 21.5” in height; luggage needs to be shorter than that.
Is hard shell luggage better than soft?
For carry-ons, soft luggage is better; it offers more exterior pockets to keep important items at hand.