Travel + Leisure

This Flight Attendant-approved Carry-on Has Been With Me to 53 Countries — and It’s on Sale

I never fly without this Travelpro suitcase. 

By Kristy Alpert

This Pilot-approved TravelPro Suitcase Has Been With Me to 53 Countries TOUT

I like to joke that I’ve spent most of my life on an airplane, but, as a professional travel writer who happens to be the daughter of an airline pilot and the wife of a military pilot, it’s not too far from the truth. My time spent on an airplane is only matched by the time I’ve spent testing out (and wearing out) luggage in the quest for the perfect carry-on-friendly suitcase. 

 Even as a kid I remember evaluating handle grips and maneuverability of my rollaboards, but it wasn’t until my late 20s that I finally found my perfect fit in my Travelpro Maxlite 5 Expandable Softside Suitcase. Of the 86 countries I’ve visited in my professional and personal life, my two-wheeled Travelpro has been with me to 53 … and it’s still going strong.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Upright 2 Wheel Luggage

To buy: and, $145 (originally $170) 

I’m not the only one that swears by Travelpro though, as pilots, flight attendants, and cabin crew from more than 90 different airlines can be seen towing this trusted brand through airports around the world. My military pilot husband always asks if he can borrow “the good suitcase” on his work trips, and my pilot father (recently retired) comments every time he helps me unload my bag from his car on “how they make suitcases so much better these days.” Plus, the 22-inch size makes for the perfect carry-on. 

 I wish I could say I found this bag off a reliable recommendation (I mean, it does have nearly 3,000 five-star ratings at Amazon), but it was through the process of elimination that put it on my radar. I was on a weeks-long trip to Africa when I discovered I could pack much more into a soft-sided suitcase than a hard shelled one — I’ve been rolling clothes since 1990, thank you very much — and I found out I preferred two wheels to four as I busted the fourth wheel off a spinner suitcase on the cobblestone pedestrian streets of Ljubljana. I’m also able to run much faster between gates with two wheels, a lesson I should have remembered from my days of standby travel.

 It was trial and error (so, so much error) that finally put me in the market for a two-wheeled, soft-sided suitcase with sturdy wheels, but it was when I discovered this Travelpro carry-on only weighed 5.4 pounds that I thought this might be the bag for me. And I was right.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Upright 2 Wheel Luggage

To buy:, $145

I am admittedly pretty tough on my suitcases (think: cobblestone streets, small airplanes, and gate sprints) – going through roughly one suitcase a year at the peak of my traveling – so I was hesitant when taking my new slate green carry-on bag for its first test-drive to Australia’s Northern Territory. Dubbed “the Red Center,” the area is famous for its clothes-staining red dust, but thanks to its water-resistant coating (available in six different colors), my suitcase returned home with me un-scathed and un-stained. This color happens to be on sale for just $115 right now, though Amazon has 13 color options to choose from.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Upright 2 Wheel Luggage

To buy:, $115 (originally $128)

The beauty of this suitcase lies in its simplicity. There is nothing extra on this bag that you don’t absolutely need, and it includes necessities like a full-length interior pocket for organizing socks and underwear and a side accessory pocket that I use for stashing shoes or dirty clothes. The hold down straps work incredibly well on this bag—I have zero patience for flimsy hold-down straps—and I’ve been able to carry home rare bottles of wine from Italy without worrying they would jostle or smash while in the cargo hold. 

I always try to carry-on to my destination to make sure what I need arrives with me, and then I like having the option to expand my bag and check it on my way home. The option to expand comes in handy when buying wine or bulky items, like the empty poufs I bought in a Moroccan souk. I simply unzipped the expander zipper, and those extra 2 inches made it possible to port my poufs back home. 

On a separate trip to Morocco I made a rookie move by buying an unsealed bag of cumin at the spice souk, only to have it bust and sprinkle its strong scent all over my clothes and suitcase. My clothes took two wash cycles to finally become cumin-free, but my bag only required a single wipe down, likely because the interior is “made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles that help reduce environmental waste,” or as I like to call it “built-in stench guard.”

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside Expandable Upright 2 Wheel Luggage

To buy:, $145 (originally $170)

Since getting my Travelpro Maxlite 5 Expandable Softside Suitcase, I’ve had two kids, and I’m still able to travel “carry-on only” by using this bag as our main suitcase. My three-year-old has claimed the smaller exterior pocket as his hot-chocolate pouch stash and I use the larger exterior pocket for extra diapers to get us through the airport. The bag has grown with my family over the last five years, and I’m hoping I can save my kids from decades of having to try out countless suitcases by introducing them to the Maxlite 5 early on. 

Trust me, you’ll want to try out my favorite carry-on for yourself while it’s on sale at Amazon for as little as $115 — Travelpro is so confident in it, they’ll cover the cost of repair for damage from airline for one year. 

At the time of publishing, the price started at $115. 

Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we’ll send you our favorite travel products each week.