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Best expandable 20"x14"x9" wheeled carry-on?

Hello!

As my wife and I are getting a bit older now, we've decided to finally ditch our backpacks in favor of some good wheeled carry-ons. We'd like them though to be both expandable as well as comply with the sometimes tighter size restrictions of smaller international airlines, thus 20"x14"x9". We're willing to pay more for a better bag, assuming it isn't hugely expensive! We'd certainly like to get the best bang for the buck, with as much interior volume/capacity as possible.

Thanks to all that can help!

Paul -
Aurora, Colorado

Posted by
4697 posts

Take a look at the Travelpro Maxlite 2 20" Expandable Rollaboard.

I've had an earlier model in the 22" size for almost 4 years and it has held up nicely. I've used it on at least 30 trips. Good quality zippers and great interior room. It is about 6 lbs. I believe the 20 inch is basically the same design, just slightly smaller. Mine was about $100 on Amazon, so it was also an excellent value.

By the way, here is a review of the 22" version and they also mention some other bags they like:
http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Carry-On-Luggage-Reviews/Travelpro-Luggage-Maxlite-2-22-Expandable-Rollaboard

Posted by
16883 posts

I still haven't made the break from my beloved Eagle Creek backpack, although it will need a repair or replace this year. Obviously, Rick thinks that his latest design has all the necessary features for an expandable wheeled carry-on.

Posted by
1179 posts

Are you sure you want it to be expandable? Once you've expanded it the bag no long fits carry-on requirements for any airline. Were you planning to check it at that point? I can see the bag expanded while touring, but not during the actual plane travel. How about packing a spare light weight 2nd bag instead?
The RS rolling backpack still fits the size requirements and converts to pack if needed. It is 20x14x7 and fits into a lot of the smaller spaces.

Posted by
4697 posts

I really love the expandable feature. My bag is often unexpanded on the way over, but expanded (and checked) when I return home.

Posted by
4 posts

I'm going to Italy in a couple of weeks on Alitalia and have that Travelpro 22" rollerboard. Can anyone please advise any problems they may have (or NOT had) using a 22"X 14" X9" bag on Alitalia. It is very small amounts larger than the Alitalia standards, which are in centimeters. Like a third of an inch in a couple of dimensions. I find it hard to believe that Alitalia would require use to check the bag for that small amount but would appreciate hearing any actual experiences to the contrary. We leave from Boston and fly into Rome. Thanks!

Posted by
21724 posts

It is good practice to post your own question and not hijack another question especially on this site where the original posters gets an email each time some responds to their question and you don't if anyone answered your question. If you post your own question, you get an email notice when answers are posted.

My guess is that your bag will not meet the carryon standards because of the wheels and handle are not part of the base measurement. So if challenged by the "sizing box" you probably will not make it. However, we were recently on AItalia to Rome out of JFK and they were not concerned about size or weight. But that is no guarantee that they might check the next time. Over the years I have stood in a couple of Lufthansa lines where they put every carryon in the box. And one time with United. Almost all wheeled carryons failed. The wheels and the handles have to be inside the box. The airlines are getting stricter so you should be prepared to check since you are on the margin. And if you don't then overhead bin could be the next challenge.

Posted by
2788 posts

I am about to go to Europe for the 12th year out of 13 and I have always use a RS roller carry-on sized suitcase. I had the expandable handle quit working a couple of years ago and the RS Headquarters folks replaced it at no cost. I have taken 11 RS tours, about to be 12, so have been all over Europe and have never had a problem with pulling it along behind me. I do pick it up when climbing stairs tho. The are available elsewhere on this web site.

Posted by
16 posts

We traveled on an Alitalia flight recently. No problems with my 20" bag, but my husband almost did not make the flight because the plane was crowded and they did not want to let him on with a 21" bag with wheels. By the way, he had no problem getting on an earlier Alitalia flight. Play it safe ... Smaller is better. Or check your bag.

Posted by
260 posts

I have the original R. Steves bag (22 inches). The new 20 inch bag (also expandable) sounds really good - and weighs about a lb. less (I think) than the original. I plan to buy one after my R. Steves tour to the AdriatIc (leaving soon!!)

Posted by
752 posts

Be careful with the new RS 2-Wheeled Expandable Rolling Carry-On. The size is great for both domestic and international flights.
But other issues made it a nightmare on my trip to Italia last year.

I could Not use the expandable feature at all even though total weight was within recommended max weight on the RS webpage and Swiss Air rules. When the bag was expanded, it would pitch forward hard and fast if I had to remove my hand from its handle. It hit kids, dogs, toppled displays, and turned me into a Nuisance to those around me.

I need my two hands free when I travel. I emailed RS CS from Italy and they blamed my packing and said to zip the expansion closed. I already had a few heavy items (2 small paperbacks) packed flat to the back of the bag. So I took out items in the expansion. But the bag continued to pitch forward fast and hard.

I had to remove even more items even though the expansion was closed. The total weight had to be half the recommended max weight before the bag would stand upright when I had to let go of the handle for a moment.

I had to buy a second bag in Italia for the items discarded from the RS bag. Other travelers in Italia recommended a 4-wheel carry-on with a structured front instead of the 2 wheels and floppy front of the RS bag. So I am on the hunt for a better carry-on bag.

Posted by
3685 posts

A couple of years ago I splurged on a Lipault 22" carry on with 4 wheels. Being a French product, the actual size is 21.6" x 14.2" x 7.9" and that includes the handles and wheels. The handles are fabric so they mash down.

The bag therefore is actually about 20" tall. At 6 pounds, It's a bit heavier than some other, often more expensive, bags. I pack it so that it weighs no more than 20 pounds. Capacity is 2929 cubic inches. It doesn't expand unless you stuff it too much.

I got 4 wheels for the lack of stability reasons others have mentioned about 2-wheeled bags. No matter how carefully I packed those with the weight at the bottom and toward the wheels, the suckers still toppled over the non-wheel support.

Contrary to what some say, I have had no problems with rolling my bag over cobbles. I'm tilting it and rolling it on 2 wheels then anyway.

My bag is the Lipault Plume. You can find this brand online from lots of vendors, but I think Luggage Pros provides the best info on it.

Posted by
5786 posts

Our experience with my wife's new RS rolling expandable carry-on differs from Sandra's stability experience. However, we did not need to "expand" the bag on either our Austrian or Hawaii trips. With the bag's 2-inch expansion, its geometry should be stable when the thickness is expanded to 11-inches from 9-inches. As the RS customer service folks suggest, the key may be in packing to keep the bag's center of mass (center of gravity) between the wheel axle and the outboard support. If the bag is toppling backwards (away from the wheel line), its contents needs to be packed to position heavier items closer to the wheel line and towards the bottom much in the same way one would pack a bag for skiing: "Loading a pack for skiing: If you will ski with a pack, place heavier items close in to the back, low down in the pack, to keep its weight centre low." http://english.turistforeningen.no/article.php?ar_id=10246&fo_id=3622

My rolling gear bag is a duffle bag and is not expected to stand upright. When I park it in a "standing position", I position it against a wall or other immovable object to keep it from toppling.

The other takeaway from Sandra's experience is to take care when bringing luggage into a store, especially with a store featuring breakable with a "you break you pay" policy. I don't do wheelies but a big backpack can do even more damage if you rotate forgetting that you are carrying your house on your back.

Posted by
90 posts

We looked at lots of bags today. My wife wants one that rolls and has spinner wheels, as she has back problems. I measured many bags that said 20 or 21 inches and they all, with the spinner wheels, seemed too big. Do you all think this one I found on Overstock would be small enough for carry on with the spinner wheels? We saw this brand at TJ Maxx and it seemed to be a sturdy bag. http://www.overstock.com/Luggage-Bags/Wenger-Swiss-Gear-Black-Red-20-inch-Expandable-Lightweight-Spinner-Upright-Suitcase/8095923/product.html?searchidx=1. We aren't so bag choosy, the one stipulation is we want one that will work as carry on through most airlines in Europe, including Delta, which we are traveling to and from the States. The specs say "Exterior dimensions: 21.5 inches high x 14 inches wide x 8.5 inches deep"

Posted by
3685 posts

Iggy,

You might want to check your European airlines about their baggage requirements. Typically, they allow only one carry-on and it often may not exceed 8 kg (about 17.5 pounds). The bags you listed weigh 7.8 pounds empty. That doesn't leave much for packing.

My past experiences and planning for our trip in October is consistent -- we will have to check our carry-ons for those internal European flights just like we have done before.

Posted by
90 posts

Thanks Lo. I was so caught up in the dimensions I never gave a thought to weight! Appreciate the info.