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What should you know before buying Spinner Luggage?

Updated on August 1, 2013

What is the ‘skinny’ on Spinner Luggage, and what size should you buy? This is a very important question, and I will provide information that should help you make this decision. As you can imagine, this category of luggage is the fastest growing segment in recent years, primarily because of the ease of maneuverability. Spinner Luggage is the classification of upright luggage with telescoping pull handles and four wheels on the bottom of the case, when the case is positioned vertically. However, some of the manufacturer’s have used the dual-wheel, which some refer to as 8-wheel spinners. Either version maneuvers quite easily providing the wheels are good quality and have not been worn-down with travel or missing ball bearings. Spinner luggage is available in Soft-Sided, Hard-Sided, or Hybrid. The Hybrid is generally a hard-sided suitcase with a soft pocket or the suitcase can be a combination of hard and soft composition. Additionally, Spinner Luggage is now available in Garment Bags, Tote Bags, Business Cases, Backpacks, and Tote Bags.

Please keep in mind that the Airlines have all become stricter on enforcing the standards of what is considered carry-on compliant. If you plan on taking a trip, and you are flying a regional jet (smaller plane) the bottom line is that most, if not all, wheeled bags do not fit in the small overhead bins. In fact, some of the larger business cases are actually too large in depth to comfortably fit. Most airlines will allow the passenger to ‘gate-check’ the bag upon boarding, which also will allow you to reclaim your bag as you exit the plane. The process of reclaiming your bag can take approximately 10 minutes, depending on which airport you fly into and how long it takes for the baggage handlers to get your bags to the Jet-way or specified reclaiming area.

If you are flying on a full-size airplane, the standard carry-on regulations allow carry-on luggage up to 45 linear inches. This measurement includes height + width + depth. Furthermore, some of the airlines have sizer boxes outside the boarding area which only allow for a maximum of 22”H x 14”W x 9”D. Today many of the luggage suppliers also offer a wide-body or ‘continental’ carry-on. These are commonly 2-3” shorter 19-21” in height and 2-3” wider (16-17”). The wide-body carry-on are also 45 linear inches or smaller. Most importantly, this measurement considers all extremities, inclusive of wheels and handles. I apologize for the long history lesson, yet the reason this information is so important, is the fact that Spinner Luggage has the wheels mounted on the underside of the bag, consequently some of these wheels can elevate the suitcase by approximately 2”. Considering the carry-on can’t be more that 22” in height that generally means that you sacrifice 2” of packing space in a Spinner Carry-On Suitcase. Essentially, you are purchasing a 20” suitcase for all intents-and-purposes. Is it worth losing the 2” of packing space, the answer has been defined by our customers. Many business travelers prefer to opt for the 22” 2-Wheel Trolley style Carry-On. Most of these have 2 flush-mounted in-line skate wheels that recess modestly into the suitcase. In general, the 2-wheel trolley doesn’t take up much real estate inside your suitcase. Hence two more inches of packing! Are you still wishing you could switch over to a 4 or 8-wheel Spinner Carry-On. The temptation is quite understandable, as you can literally wheel these spinners on the short or long side, making it a breeze to wheel down the aisle of a plane, even if you are seated in the very back row. However, don’t forget you can’t exceed the 22” in height, so if it is airline carry-on compliant…you will be forced to sacrifice some packing space. I happen to be a proponent of Spinner Luggage, and I think it is worth it. However, I did keep my favorite 2-wheel Trolley Carry-On just for those trips that require a bit more. Please keep in mind that the Airline boarding agent or flight crew has the unilateral authority to deny your carry-on. In fact, this can happen even if your suitcase meets airline carry-on compliant standards. The most common reason is that the overhead bin space is already filled to capacity at the time of your boarding. I wouldn’t recommend taking this personal, as it will only raise your blood pressure, and possibly delay your departure. Consequently, it is always a great idea to have a smaller non-wheeled carry-on that fits under any seat. This is an absolute essential for anybody who must travel with medication or is traveling with expensive electronic equipment (cameras, laptop computer, tablets, etc.).

What about Spinner Luggage in larger (checked baggage) sizes. The decision becomes much easier, as you can purchase the size that best suits your packing requirements.

  1. Medium Packing Case (24-26”) – Perfect for 1 week trip, this size is not carry-on compliant and must be checked
  2. Large Packing Case (27-29”) – This size can be used for 1 ½ - 2 weeks depending on packing style and contents
  3. X-Large or Extended Trip (30-32”) – Ideal for family packing or trips of 2weeks or longer

Spinner Luggage, even the checked baggage sizes listed above, should be measured from the bottom of the wheels to the top of the handle. Once the wheels are taken into consideration, you are losing roughly 2” of packing space, which is precisely why you might consider sizing up on your Spinner Case. The general rule of thumb, is buy one size larger in a Spinner Suitcase for comparable packing space to that of your former 2-Wheel Trolley. In fact, the most popular sizes in 4-Wheel Spinner (Checked Baggage Sizes) are 29-32”. Today, the Airlines (Domestic and Foreign) weigh your suitcase, and will charge excess fees for exceeding 50 lbs. per checked suitcase. The weight threshold is generally higher on international trips, yet it is prudent to check with your airline carrier before you travel.

Finally, the question that I frequently get is what type of luggage do you use for travel? Well, in fact I love my new Spinners. If I am not making a business trip that requires a packed suit, I have found a way to pack more economically in my new Spinner Carry-On. The fact that a Spinner can wheel on the long or short side makes it very easy to wheel on the skinny side when you are boarding a plane. There is no need to collapse the telescoping handle or pick-up the bag until you are right in front of the specific overhead bin that you place your luggage. Concerning the checked baggage size, I must admit that even I made a mistake on my purchase. I’ve been in the luggage business for over 30 years, and you would think that I should know which size to buy. However, I couldn’t wait to try the new 4-Wheel Spinner concept so I started with the size I always used in a 2-wheel trolley (26”). No one thought of advising me which size to buy, so I discovered upon packing for my trip that I was losing the extra 2” of packing space because of the wheels. I guess I didn't need that extra pair of shoes anyway. I hope that I can prevent you from making the same error that I did, since I’m guessing you are not in the luggage business. Please feel free to comment or ask any questions you may have, I will always do my best to respond in a timely fashion. I wish you all safe and pleasant travels!


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