Do you remember when people actually carried small suitcases through airports and onto planes instead of wheeling them aboard? In recent times I’ve resorted to that bygone practice several times with wheeled luggage because the extendable handles were broken.

Broken extendable handle on an old suitcase.

When flying as much as 400,000 miles a year before the pandemic, I’d buy one or two carry-ons every year because of broken handles. Sometimes I continued using the damaged luggage because the bags were in excellent shape (other than the broken handle), sending the damaged suitcase for repairs was not a good option, and I was tired of buying new ones. On all trips, regardless of their duration, a carry-on bag is my only suitcase.

Lugging around something in the neighborhood of 15 – 20 kg (33 – 44 pounds) dangling from one arm supplied needed exercise and some macho pride. I’ll admit that seeing able bodied men pushing or pulling their bags through airports, to me, seems a little…weird. You can’t tell the pilots from the flight attendants. Ha ha!

Before the most recent trip to Thailand, I decided that I’d had enough of that er, stuff. It was time to find a carry-on that I think I could rely on. Previous models usually cost between $90 and $125. They were made by the brand names you find in your local department store. They weren’t the cheapest but they were far from the most expensive ones.

After doing a bit of research, it seemed that the Travelpro® Platinum® Elite 21” Expandable Carry-On Spinner (four-wheeled) suitcase was at or near the top of most lists of the best carry-on luggage. It retails for $330. I bought one through Amazon for $280. You can probably find them for slightly less elsewhere. This is a big investment because the cost is more than twice the price of previous carry-ons although still far from the most expensive models on the market.

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Travelpro® Platinum® Elite 21” Expandable Carry-On Spinner

This exterior is made of stain-resistant nylon cloth.  Most of my other carry-ons were hard sided.  A feature that I miss from the hard-sided bags is that they open into two compartments of roughly equal size.  That means less digging around to find an item you’re looking for. 

According to the reviews, cloth suitcases stand up better to wear and tear.  Cloth bags can also offer additional storage in easy-to-access exterior pockets as this one does.  The top pocket (photo above) on this bag is a great place to securely carry items like boarding passes, passports, vaccine certificates and test results.

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Four sturdy dual wheels for maximum maneuverability and a cup handle on the bottom to facilitate lifting.

The suitcase contains a single large packing space and a large zippered, see-through compartment that I use for dirty clothes.  

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The packing space can divided into two areas using the flaps with zippered pockets that connect with clips and straps that can be tightened to compress the clothes underneath.  

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The large, removeable waterproof pouch for toiletries really comes in handy.

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The Travelpro® Platinum® Elite 21” Expandable Carry-On comes with a drop-in, fold-out suiter to keep clothes as wrinkle-free as possible during travel. This a feature I’ll use infrequently.

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Fold-out suiter

The design is tapered to minimize tipping, and a zipper on the side allows expanding the width by two inches.

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The carrying handles are made of sturdy leather. The handle for towing or pushing the suitcase can be set at four different heights between 36″ and 42.5″ (91-108 cm).

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The suitcase also has an interior pocket for a battery pack and an external usb port that can be used to charge a phone or other device. A battery pack does not come with the suitcase.

The wheels, zippers, extendable and carrying handles are covered by a lifetime limited warranty that includes shipping costs. Warranties are nice but I’d rather have a product that doesn’t fail. Being without a suitcase for a period of weeks would probably interfere with travel plans.

I should add that I receive no compensation from Travelpro, sorry to say.

Overall Impression

Based on one long international trip, the Travelpro® Platinum® Elite 21” Expandable Carry-On Spinner was a great acquisition.  It glided through airports in Charlotte, Chicago, Tokyo, Bangkok and Phuket with ease.  It was even easy to push on the carpeted surface in the Phuket airport.  Spinners usually have  difficulty with soft surfaces like carpet.  I didn’t use the suiter or charging capability, but all of the other features, including the extendable handle worked well.  How this product performs over time will be the real test.

What are the features you value most in your carry-on (wheel-aboard) luggage?