The 6 Best Luggage for College Students and Study Abroad (2024)

The 6 Best Luggage for College Students and Study Abroad (1)

Whether you’re off to your first year of college or traveling overseas for a semester abroad, you’ll need a suitcase that can haul your essentials — preferably in style. The best luggage for college students is lightweight and roomy, but also has a streamlined design that doesn’t take up too much space in a dorm room or an off-campus apartment. That’s why we’ve put together a list of our top picks from top-rated brands like Béis, Calpak, and Away.

To find the best luggage for college students, I combined my personal experience (I’ve tested a dozen suitcases and own two of these picks myself) with extensive research and Grown and Flown’s parenting expertise. When narrowing things down, I considered size, weight, material, and capacity. After going through dozens of options, these are our top six picks.

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Our Top Picks:

  1. Best Overall: Béis 21-Inch Carry On – $238 at Nordstrom
  2. Best Budget Luggage: Amazon Basics 30-Inch Ripstop Wheeled Duffel – $79.99 at Amazon
  3. Best Carry-On Luggage: Calpak Ambeur 22-Inch Rolling Spinner Carry-On – $195 at Calpak
  4. Best Checked Luggage: Samsonite 28-Inch Freeform Large Spinner – $195.99 at Amazon
  5. Best Splurge Luggage: Away 26-Inch The Medium – $345 at Away
  6. Best Luggage Set: Level8 Luminous Textured 2-Piece Set – $389.99 at Amazon

Reviews of The Best Luggage for College Students

1. Best Overall: Béis 21-Inch Carry On

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I own the Béis 21-Inch Carry On, and it’s one of the best pieces of luggage I’ve ever had — plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s absolutely beautiful! This expandable carry-on is super roomy, and it comes with compression straps and a removable compression flap so you can fit in as much as possible. TSA-approved locks make it easy to secure your valuables, while a built-in weight indicator can save you unexpected fees from a bag that’s too heavy. It easily glides through the airport or on the sidewalk thanks to the lightweight shell and 360-degree wheels, and it has a silicone trolley handle — a nice touch for some extra comfort.

While it is a little pricey for college students, it’s built to last and worth the investment, in my opinion. Plus, it’s covered by a limited lifetime warranty, so if the shell, handle, or zippers break, the company will fix or replace it (as long as you aren’t mishandling it).

$238 at Nordstrom

The Specs:

  • Dimensions: 22.8” H x 15.7” W x 9.8” D
  • Weight: 8.36 pounds
  • Capacity: 49 to 61 liters
  • Material: Polycarbonate
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime

The Pros:

  • Roomy
  • Lightweight and easy to move
  • Extra organizational pockets
  • Stylish

The Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Might be too big to carry on some planes
  • Can scuff easily, depending on the color

What Others Are Saying:

Travel and Leisure dubbed Beis as one of the best luggage brands. This suitcase also has over 9,500 reviews on the brand’s site, with an average rating of 4.9 stars.

Buy the Beis 21-Inch Carry On:

$238 at Nordstrom

$238 at Béis

2. Best Budget Luggage: Amazon Basics 30-Inch Ripstop Wheeled Duffel

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Duffels are great for college students because they can hold a lot and they fold flat for easystorage. The Amazon Basics Ripstop Wheeled Duffel is just that, plus it’s a steal at under $100 while still being especially spacious. The 30-inch size has an 87-liter capacity —for reference, that means it can fit at least three weeks’ worth of clothes and shoes! If you need even more space, it’s available in a 35-inch size, too.

And while bigger bags can get heavy fast, this one has large, durable wheels that make it easy to haul. For easier organization, there are several separate compartments, plus a front pocket where you can keep essentials within reach. When you’re not using it, you can fold the fabric down and slide the empty duffel under your bed so it doesn’t take up too much space in your dorm.

The Specs:

  • Dimensions: 33” L x 16” W x 14.5’’ H (with handle down)
  • Weight: 10.6 pounds
  • Capacity: 87 liters
  • Material: 100% polyester
  • Warranty: 1-year

The Pros:

  • Budget-friendly price
  • Large capacity
  • Lies flat for storage

The Cons:

  • Soft fabric isn’tas durable as hard shells
  • Shorter warranty than others

What Others Are Saying:

The Amazon Basics Ripstop Wheeled Duffel has more than 3,900reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars.

Buy the Amazon Basics Ripstop Wheeled Duffel (30-Inch):

3. Best Carry-On Luggage: Calpak Ambeur 22-Inch Rolling Spinner Carry-On

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I also own Calpak’s Ambeur collection, and I think the 22-inch Rolling Spinner Carry-On is the best carry-on luggage for college students. It weighs just over 7 pounds and is still one of the lightest pieces of luggage I’ve ever used. It’s also surprisingly roomy with a 39-liter capacity, and you can expand it up to two inches to fit even more. There are two separate compartments, plus two zippered pockets and a hanging pocket to help organize your belongings.

The carbon steel wheels are rugged and make the luggage easy to maneuver while the built-in TSA lock is easy to operate. Plus, I love the metallic finish of this luggage. It’s elevated, but understated — and easy to spot on a luggage carousel if you do decide to check it!

$195 at Calpak

The Specs:

  • Dimensions: 14″ L x 9″ W x 21.5” H
  • Weight: 7.4 pounds
  • Capacity: 39.2 liters
  • Material: Polycarbonate
  • Warranty: 5-year limited

The Pros:

  • Lots of organizational pockets
  • Expandable
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Recognizable look

The Cons:

  • Can scuff easily
  • Expensive

What Others Are Saying:

Travel and Leisure named Calpak one of the best luggage brands for smaller luggage and Good Housekeeping called this bagthe “smoothest” carry-on after testing.

Buy the Calpak Ambeur 22-Inch Rolling Spinner Carry-On:

$195 at Calpak

$195 at Nordstorm

4. Best Checked Luggage: Samsonite 28-Inch Freeform Large Spinner

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Checked bags can take a beating, so you want to invest in one that can resist scuffs and scratches. While some minor damage is inevitable, the Samsonite Freeform Large Spinner has an ultra-durable shell that reviewers say holds up well over time. In addition to its durability, the size also makes this one a winner. This checked bag is spacious as is, but it also expands an additional 1.5 inches, so you really fit a lot inside. And despite its extra-large size, this bag still weighs under 10 pounds, so it’s lightweight and easy to maneuver.

Other callouts are a 3-dial TSA-approved combination lock, a built-in ID tag, and double wheels that glide effortlessly. It’s also reasonably priced for a hardshell bag of this size and comes in 15 fun colors, from classic black to lilac purple.

The Specs:

  • Dimensions: 20.9” L x 13.8” W x 31.1” H
  • Weight: 9.6 pounds
  • Capacity: Not stated
  • Material: Polypropylene
  • Warranty: 10-year limited

The Pros:

  • Reasonably priced
  • Scuff-resistant
  • Comes in 15 colors
  • Lightweight

The Cons:

  • Some reviewers say the lock can be finicky
  • Handle can be flimsy

What Others Are Saying:

Travel and Leisure named Samsonite one of the best luggage brands and called out the Freeform series specifically. This luggage also has a 4.5-star rating from more than 12,700reviews on Amazon.

Buy the Samsonite Freeform Large Spinner:

5. Best Splurge: Away 26-Inch The Medium

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If you have a little more wiggle room in your budget, you can’t go wrong with luggage from Away. It’s quickly becoming one of the most popular travel brands because the suitcases are modern and design-forward — a great fit for college students. The Medium, which comes in 10 colors, can hold up to two weeks’ worth of clothes and has three mesh pockets and an extra hanging pocket for ultimate organization. Each bag also includes a polyester laundry bag, a nice bonusthat can come in handy when you’re washing clothes at school.

These bags are a bit heavier than similar-size options, but they have smooth-gliding wheels and an underside grab handle for easier lifting. And while this is an investment, you’re backed by a limited lifetime warranty so if the luggage breaks down prematurely, Away will fix or replace it for you.

$345 at Away

The Specs:

  • Dimensions: 18.5″ L x 11″ W x 26″ H
  • Weight: 10.6 pounds
  • Capacity: 68.8 liters
  • Material: Polycarbonate
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime

The Pros:

  • Large capacity
  • Covered by a lifetime warranty
  • Comes in 10 colors

The Cons:

  • Expensive
  • On the heavier side

What Others Are Saying:

Wirecutter picked the Away The Medium as the best hardside luggage for checking and CNN Underscored chose it as the best checked luggage overall. This piece has also racked up more than 2,900 reviewson the brand’s site and has an average rating of 4.7 stars.

Buy the Away The Medium:

$345 at Away

6. Best Luggage Set: Level8 Luminous Textured 2-Piece

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The Level8 Luminous Textured 2-Piece Set has a sleek, modern design that rivals higher-priced luggage. But it’s not just the aesthetic that makes this set stand out —for starters, each piece breaks down to less than $200, which is a great price for polycarbonate hard shell luggage. There are two separate compartments on the inside for easier organization, plus compression X straps so you can fit a lot inside, even though it’s not expandable. The telescoping handles also extend to four different heights and 360-degree spinner wheels make it easier to travel comfortably.

I like this2-piece set specifically because youget a carry-on and the largest checked baggage, which has a huge 99-liter capacity. And while it’s definitely big, the carry-on nests instead of the larger bag for easier storage in your dorm. If you need more pieces, you can opt for a 3-piece set that includes a medium-sized checked bag, too.

The Specs:

  • Dimensions: 14.5” L x 9.2” W x 21.5” H (20-inch carry-on); 16.6” L x 13.3” W x 29.1” H (28-inch checked)
  • Weight: 7.7 pounds (20-inch carry-on); 11.4 pounds (28-inch checked)
  • Capacity: 40 liters (20-inch carry-on); 99 liters (28-inch checked)
  • Material: Polycarbonate
  • Warranty: 2 years

The Pros:

  • Handles extend to four different heights
  • Lightweight
  • Can nest for storage
  • Compression straps

The Cons:

  • Not expandable
  • Not scratch-resistant
  • Warranty is shorter than others

What Others Are Saying:

This set has more than 2,300 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.5 stars.

Buy the Level8 Luminous Textured 2 Piece Set:

Other Luggage for College Students to Consider

Monos Carry-On Plus

Monos make extremely high-quality luggage that’s often recommended by professional product reviewers. But this one is a bit pricey for a carry on, especially for students, and doesn’t have any features that really make it stand out from the rest. The Monos Carry-On Plus is available at Nordstrom for $275.

Amazon Basics 28-Inch Hardside Spinner

This is an excellent option with a lot of reviews and a high rating. However, for the price, I would recommend paying a little more for the Samsonite or Calpak instead, which are higher quality. The Amazon Basics 28-Inch Hardside Spinner is available at Amazon for $115.96.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Checked Luggage

This expandable spinner is a good option for those who prefer soft-sided luggage, but it’s not as rugged as the hardshell options. It does come in beautiful colors that let you showcase your personality, though. The Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Checked Luggage is available at Amazon for $175.99.

Tumi Extended Trip Expandable 4-Wheeled Packing Case

While absolutely beautiful, Tumi luggage is a major investment that many college students may not be able to afford. However, if this is within your budget, there’s a lotto love about it: It’s spacious, lightweight, and impact-resistant. The Tumi Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case is available at $950 at Nordstrom.

SwissGear Sion Softside Expandable Roller Luggage

The SwissGear Softside is a great option for those who like more tried-and-true softside luggage, but in my opinion, it’s a bit dated for college students — there are more modern options out there! The SwissGear Sion Softside Expandable Roller Luggage is available at Amazon for $129.99.

Why You Can Trust Us

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Hi! I’m Lindsay Boyers, a shopping writer and editor with over a decade of experience researching and testing products across a variety of categories, including travel. My work has been featured in Forbes Vetted, CNN Underscored, CNET, Better Homes and Gardens, Men’s Journal, The Spruce, and more.

I’ve personally tested a dozen suitcases and own two of the pieces on this list. When narrowing down the best luggage for college students, I combined Grown and Flown’s expertise with my own firsthand experience and extensive research into product specs and customer reviews. I considered size, weight, capacity, and warranties. I also factored in storage — while it can be helpful to have a large suitcase for packing, storage space in dorms and college apartments can be limited. Because of that, I tried to balance capacity and convenience with overall size.

Everything to Know Before Buying Luggage for College Students

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What to Consider Before Buying Luggage for College Students

When buying luggage for college students, the most important considerations are size, weight, and durability. You’ll also want to think about how and where you’re going to store your luggage when you’re not using it.

Size: The first thing you should consider is the overall size of the luggage. How much space do you need, and how are you planning to travel? This can determine whether you should get a large, checked bag, or stick with a carry-on. You can also find mid-size bags that fit somewhere in between these two.

Weight: Weight is also important. When you’re stuffing a suitcase full with your belongings, it’s going to get heavy, so you want to make sure the luggage itself doesn’t weigh too much. Weight is largely determined by the size of the suitcase, but the material (and the thickness of that material) plays a role, too. Try to stick to around 7 to 8 pounds for smaller bags and around 10 pounds for larger sizes.

Durability: If you’re going to spend a lot of time traveling or you anticipate your bag is going to take a beating, you want to make sure it’s made of a durable material. Polycarbonate hard shell suitcases are one of the most durable, but these can scuff or scratch pretty easily. If that bothers you, you may want soft-sided luggage instead.

Storage: You also want to think about how you’re going to store your bag when you’re not traveling.If you have extra space in a closet or under your bed, this may not be that big of a deal. But if you’re limited on space, you’ll want to get a suitcase that can fold, like a duffel. If you’re buying a set, you might also want to check if suitcases can nest inside of each other for storage.

How Should You Pack Things in Luggage for College?

Packing for college is all about maximizing space. Since you likely won’t have a lot of storage space in your dorm or apartment, you want to fit as much as you can into one or two suitcases instead of bringing a bunch of bags. One of the best things you can do is use packing cubes.

Packing cubes help compress your clothing so it takes up less space, and you can fit more. As an added bonus, they also help keep things organized. You can also roll your clothing instead of folding it, which can give you more room. And make sure to take advantage of extra pockets and compartments — fill all the space you can.

What Size Is Carry On Luggage?

The accepted size of carry-on luggage can vary between airlines. But generally, they should measure no more than 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that carry-on bags fit either in the overhead compartment or completely under your seat, and this is typically the maximum size that fits that bill.

What Items Are Not Allowed in Checked Luggage?

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You can bring a lot on a plane, but there are some items that are off-limits. These include the following:

  • any hazardous materials, like butane, bug repellant
  • any flammable liquids or gels
  • alcoholic beverages that are more than 140 proof
  • any weapons of any kind or anything that could potentially be used as a weapon, like a baseball bat or box cutters

The TSA has a full list of restricted items you can double check. You may be able to bring some items in your checked baggage that you can’t put in a carry-on.

How Do You Store Luggage in a Dorm?

This depends on the layout of your dorm room and how much space you have, but your best bets are usually under the bed or in a closet. You can get bed risers to make more room under the bed, and if you have more than one piece of luggage, you may be able to nest them inside each other to save some space.

You can also use luggage to your advantage when storing them —put items inside that you don’t have to use often, and then store the luggage under your bed. For example, if you’re going to school in an area with a changing climate, you can store jackets, scarves, and hats in the luggage for the summer and slide the whole thing under your bed.

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Prices were accurate at time of publication.

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