How Do I Choose the Best Expandable Luggage? (with pictures)

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
When not fully expanded, the luggage can be more compact, saving on packing room in the car, train, or airplane.
When not fully expanded, the luggage can be more compact, saving on packing room in the car, train, or airplane.

Expandable luggage will allow you to overfill your bags with clothing easily and without risking damage to the zippers or fabric. When not fully expanded, the luggage can be more compact, saving on packing room in the car, train, or airplane. Choosing the best expandable luggage starts with determining your needs: many people opt to buy a luggage set rather than just one piece of luggage to accommodate changing packing needs, or to allow for packing for the entire family. Buying the luggage as a set will save money over buying individual pieces in most cases.

Zippers on expandable luggage should be heavy duty.
Zippers on expandable luggage should be heavy duty.

Figure out how much clothing and other items you will need to store and choose the appropriate size accordingly. Think, too, about what types of items you will be transporting: if you intend to transport electronics or fragile items, consider a hard shell expandable luggage set rather than a fabric one. The hard shell will provide protection from impacts, which is extremely common during travel. These hard shell cases may or may not be expandable, however, so choose carefully. When choosing a fabric expandable luggage unit or set, be sure the materials used are heavy duty but lightweight to resist damage and make transporting the bag easy.

Hard shell cases may or may not be expandable, so choose carefully.
Hard shell cases may or may not be expandable, so choose carefully.

Many expandable luggage models now feature wheels or casters on the bottom of the bag, and a telescoping handle at the top. This allows people to pull the unit behind them when walking with the luggage, rather than carrying it by hand or over a shoulder. The wheels are generally hard plastic wheels, but if you want a quieter option, consider gel wheels. These will not make as much noise, but they may wear out more quickly than plastic wheels will. The telescoping handle should be sturdy and, if possible, it should lock into place when in use. It should stow flush with the bag when not in use as well.

Portability is an important factor when choosing luggage.
Portability is an important factor when choosing luggage.

Expandable luggage often features sets of zippers: one zipper opens and closes the main compartment of the luggage, and the other zipper allows for expansion. Make sure the zippers are easy to use, heavy-duty, and located in such a way that the two zippers do not interfere with each other. The material used for expansion should tuck neatly in on itself when it is in the non-expanded configuration, and the zippers themselves should not stick out or flap when the bag is fully expanded.

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    • When not fully expanded, the luggage can be more compact, saving on packing room in the car, train, or airplane.
      When not fully expanded, the luggage can be more compact, saving on packing room in the car, train, or airplane.
    • Zippers on expandable luggage should be heavy duty.
      Zippers on expandable luggage should be heavy duty.
    • Hard shell cases may or may not be expandable, so choose carefully.
      Hard shell cases may or may not be expandable, so choose carefully.
    • Portability is an important factor when choosing luggage.
      Portability is an important factor when choosing luggage.
    • Many types of expandable luggage feature wheels and handles that their owner to walk with them rather than carry them.
      Many types of expandable luggage feature wheels and handles that their owner to walk with them rather than carry them.