The Best Small Suitcase With Wheels

If you like to travel light and the thought of lugging heavy luggage horrifies you, consider taking just enough to fit into one of those small travel bags on wheels: there are plenty of options, ranging from a small rolling luggage carry on to underseat cases.

small travel luggage wheels in Venice
Here I am in Venice, with a roller suitcase. Still, the wheels were too small for this kind of paving and a better choice would have been something with two large wheels (not four though, because of the unevenness)

Let’s face it, a wheeled case can make your travels much easier: no carrying, no dragging, no lifting, just a smooth ride across the airport.

Click here to see the best small spinner suitcase overall: the Samsonite Omni 20”

Samsonite’s Omni range is usually unbeatable, and this is no exception. For a hard side, it’s surprisingly light and even comes with a 10-year warranty.

Click here to see the number one small rolling suitcase: Travelpro Bold 22”

This small travel case with wheels is a rugged choice that’s built to last. It is lightweight yet has a generous capacity, and the outer is stain and water repellent. 

If you want to know what to look for in a small luggage bag on wheels, read on. This article also explains the differences between a suitcase roller and a spinner - as well as the pros and cons of each. 

Whether you’re searching for a cheap small suitcase on wheels or are willing to spend a little more, this guide lists all the best small luggage bags on wheels. I’ve included cases by leading brands, but also Amazon rolling luggage for budget-conscious travelers. 

Best small suitcase with wheels: comparison chart

This comparison table is a quick reference guide to the key features and benefits of each of the small suitcases on wheels listed in this article.

Hand luggage with wheels or without? Two wheels or four?

Like it or not, when choosing travel luggage and cabin bags, one of your first considerations will be whether to go with rolling luggage. The answer may seem obvious, but there are reasons for and against.

Arguments in favour of getting wheels

  • If you have a bad back, a carry-on luggage backpack is only going to exacerbate the problem even if you pick one with an amazing suspension system – so wheels it is.
  • So much more manoeuvrable! Airports are vast, and if you’re running to catch a connecting flight you may like sprinting unencumbered by a pack or a suitcase with no wheels.
  • You’ll be able to get a larger and heavier bag, since you can wheel it around rather than carry it.
  • If you’re a business or luxury traveller, you’ll want something sleek and stylish, perhaps a designer ladies cabin bag or luxury luggage that is as sturdy and practical as it is beautiful. Since these may not be the lightest, wheels would be helpful.

Arguments against wheels

Even the flimsiest wheeled cabin luggage will be heavier than a backpack, adding extra weight when you lift it into the overhead bin or tipping the scales and forcing you to pay overweight charges.

  • Additionally, wheels cut into your external hand baggage allowance size. You may lose an inch or two to the wheels - and if you’re only packing in a carry-on (something I highly recommend), every inch counts. 
  • Cobblestone streets. Stairs. Crowds. All enemies of wheelie bags, everywhere!
  • Few small wheeled cabin bags  are designed for rough terrain, forcing you to pick the bag up by the side handle (and if you purchased it to alleviate back problems, you’d probably be better off with a well-made backpack). Plus, the wheels make noise on uneven ground – just try sneaking out of a Tuscan village at dawn without making any noise. And then there’s that  quaint B&B in Scotland with three flights of narrow stairs and no elevators. In a crowd, pulling a suitcase behind you may result in tripping fellow travellers and locals.
  • Wheels break, usually as you’re running to catch a tight connecting flight. Ask me about the time I squeaked through Zurich airport and had to spend over $200 buying a roller I didn’t want and shifting the entire contents of my bag on the floor of the shop….
  • Many airlines take away your carry-on at boarding, if the plane is full. There’s a consensus out there that wheelies are the first to be chosen…

Whatever the reasons, in the end, the Great Wheel Debate comes down to personal preference. You like them, or you hate ’em. 

Two wheels or four? Which makes the best wheeled luggage?

If you do like wheels, your next hurdle is deciding how many wheels you’d like: the standard 2-wheel cabin luggage you’re probably accustomed to, or the more modern 4-wheel carry on suitcases, also known as “spinners.”

Spinners have become incredibly popular because they’re comfortable to move, stand upright without any help, and you can easily pile baggage on top of a larger spinner (such as your handbag or personal item) without fear of it tipping. Plus, 4-wheel hand luggage suitcases can negotiate narrow corners with ease (keeping you out everyone’s way in crowds). Most are hard-sided, which helps protect against rain and rough handling. They’re also “in” right now, so if you care about looking up-to-date, then a spinner is a good pick.

So why would you ever want standard two-wheel carry-on luggage?

Well, more wheels mean more chances of one breaking. Plus, if you’re on a slight incline and let go of your bag, your spinner carry on luggage may start…spinning…away from you. Because two-wheeled baggage has been the norm for decades, even the most popular luggage brands still offer great two-wheelers. I just spent a month in Eastern Europe with a two-wheeled bag, and although the telescopic handle just broke (unrelated to the number of wheels), it served me well on the journey and could have continued doing so for years.

Choosing the best small roller bags with wheels

If you’re convinced wheeled luggage is the way to go (I certainly am!) here are some of the key factors you should consider when choosing among the many large or small wheeled suitcases.

Carry-on or hold luggage?

Do you want the smallest carry on luggage with wheels, or are you considering checking in some luggage?

This is probably the first thing to consider before choosing between small suitcases. The cases listed here are 20- or 21-inch carry-ons, but most come in other sizes too. Click the link for each to see the available options.

Hard or soft sides?

I’ve included a range of small wheel suitcase options with both hard and soft sides. A hardside case is usually tougher and heavier, while soft sides can make luggage lighter and more flexible. Many small roller cases have soft sides, but either way it’s a personal choice.

Dimensions

If you’re planning to use the bag as a small carry on with wheels, then measurements are key. Check your airline requirements before buying, as each sets their own exact limits. Don’t forget that buying the smallest suitcase on wheels means you’ll also have less place to pack! An alternative would be to take along a personal item: find out more about these by clicking here.

Weight

How much does the small case on wheels weigh? Apart from airline restrictions, remember you’ll have to lug it around. Just how often will you have to lift it? In and out of the trunk, onto the scales at the airport, up into the luggage compartment, off the carrousel at the baggage claim and, worst offender of all, at your destination, through public transport all the way into your room.

Wheels

See the section below for information on the differences between rolling and spinning wheeled luggage.

What’s the difference between small roller luggage and spinner luggage?

The basic difference between small rolling suitcases and spinners is the number of wheels. A small rolling bag will have two wheels for pulling it around the airport, while a spinner has four. One of these options will probably suit you better than the other.

The pros and cons of a rolling case

Let’s look at the benefits of a small roller suitcase with two wheels:

  • It may have more inside space, as the wheels are tucked into the design. 
  • It may also be easier to control than a spinner. 
  • The wheels on a small roller bag are usually more sturdy as there’s less movement. 
  • They also tend to be fitted more closely, reducing stress on them.

Having only two wheels also means there’s less of a chance of losing or breaking a wheel – fewer wheels mean fewer chances of breakage.

The pros and cons of a spinner case

By contrast, a spinner gives you a smoother ride.

  • It allows you to move around the airport terminal smoothly, as four multi-directional wheels improve manoeuvrability. This means you need to pull it less, reducing muscle and joint strain. 
  • It stands up easily on its own.
  • Going around corners with a spinner is easier – fewer chances to trip anyone up.
  • That said, spinner luggage may be less sturdy and more likely to suffer damage, since the wheels move in different directions. 
  • A spinner will be more wobbly on an uneven surface.
  • On a hill, it will also tend to “spin” away downhill…
  • Also, a spinner’s wheels will count as part of its dimensions.

Well, then, which type of small travel suitcase with wheels is best? Roller or spinner?

In a nutshell, small rolling bags are not quite as easy to manoeuvre as spinner cases, but they are easier to control. You can rely on them to roll over all sorts of surfaces, but there is more risk of resulting stress to your joints and muscles when using this type. I can vouch for this on uneven pavement or cobblestones. A spinner on these surfaces is almost impossible to move along.

Think about the  type of trips you take. If you mostly travel for business or city breaks, you’ll spend time in airports and a spinner will be great on those smooth shiny floors.

If you’re taking longer trips to different destinations, then a roller will be sturdier and last longer.

Best small suitcases with wheels review

Below I’ll look more closely at some of the more popular luggage roller bags.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to the best spinner and roller travel bags and that you’ll find your ideal wheeled suitcase here.

wheeled luggage pin