Best Smart Suitcases

Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best smart suitcases

Have you ever lost your luggage on a trip or left your bag in a cab? Do you frequently find your suitcase is overweight at check-in? Have you tried to call someone in a travel emergency only to find that your phone’s battery, much like your patience, has just run out? If so, it might be time to get a smart suitcase.

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, a smart suitcase can solve a host of issues you might encounter along the way. Handling everything from phone charging to luggage tracking, a smart suitcase is a valuable traveling companion, taking care of some of the more mundane tasks so you can better concentrate on upcoming meetings or poolside relaxing.

From size to weight sensors to digital locks to price, our buying guide examines everything you need to know to find a smart suitcase that meets your traveling requirements. We also highlight a few of what we feel are some of the best smart suitcases currently on the market.

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Major airlines banned smart suitcases with non-removable batteries in 2018. This caused several companies that made noncompliant luggage to go out of business.

Key considerations

What makes it smart?

The elements of a smart suitcase that make it smart fall into four categories: luggage tracking, device charging, bag weighing, and smart locking. While not all smart suitcases incorporate all four of these features, they all offer one or more (in addition to a battery to power them). We cover all of these in more detail below.

Battery

The battery is the heart of the smart suitcase, powering all of the capabilities mentioned above.  Batteries typically range from 10,000 to 20,100 milliampere-hours (mAh). The battery should be easily accessible so you can remove it quickly and carry it in a carry-on bag during your flight.

Capabilities

Tracking: One common smart suitcase feature is location tracking. With this, wherever your smart suitcase is in the world, you’ll be able to locate it using an app and your smartphone. How this is accomplished varies considerably from suitcase to another, with suitcases using a range of technologies that include GPS, GPRS, WiFi, and Bluetooth.

Charging: Another common smart element in these suitcases is device charging. This is usually in the form of one to three USB ports that range from USB-A to USB-C depending on the suitcase. With these ports, you can use the battery in the smart suitcase to charge smartphones, tablets, laptops, or other devices while on the road.

Weighing: Some smart suitcases incorporate weight sensors. The sensors are usually built into the handle, and some can send alerts to your phone when you’re nearing your bag’s weight limit.

Locking: The locking mechanisms available in smart suitcases vary greatly from biometric and digital locking to apps. Smart suitcase locks are powered by the battery and can include such features as remote automatic locking and notification if your suitcase is opened out of your immediate area. Whatever locking method your smart suitcase uses, it should be TSA-approved if you plan to fly with your bag.

While uncommon, some smart suitcases include an LED light, so you can easily find items in your luggage in low-light conditions.

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Features

Weight

If you fly, the weight of your luggage is a consideration. This is particularly true for smart suitcases because their battery makes them heavier to begin with. These suitcases average 6 to 14 pounds, and some weigh as much as 20 pounds, and this is before you even add so much as a pair of socks. Also, due to their larger size, checked smart suitcases are heavier than carry-ons. For those who struggle to keep their luggage below airline weight limits, the extra few pounds could be a factor in your decision to buy.

Shell

The outer shell of smart suitcases can be either soft or hard.

Soft-sided smart suitcases are usually made of a material like water-repellent ballistic nylon. The corners are reinforced because they often suffer the bulk of the wear and tear.

Hard-sided smart suitcases are typically made of a strong polycarbonate or aluminum. A hard outer shell provides better protection against the rigors of travel, from scuffs and scratches to dents and breakage. Due to the relatively delicate nature of the electronics inside the suitcase, a hard shell might be the better option here.

Size and appearance

Are you going away for a weekend or a week? Smart suitcases come in a variety of sizes, typically ranging from a 20-inch carry-on to a 30-inch checked bag. Some sellers offer a variety of sizes to choose from. Consider your travel needs before selecting a smart suitcase based on size.

While dark colors like black, brown, and gray seem to be the go-to for smart suitcases, some sellers offer a range of colors, including red, burgundy, turquoise, silver, purple, and rose gold.

Advanced electronics

If you have extra cash to invest in your luggage, some of the most expensive smart suitcases have an auto-follow feature. With these bags, you don’t even need to pull your suitcase behind you: it follows you while avoiding obstacles and other people. Note that this feature usually only works indoors.

Organization

Straps: If you struggle to fit everything you need in your suitcase, check for some form of compression feature in your smart suitcase, usually in the form of straps or some other way to compress clothing to fit into a smaller space.

Compartments: Much like traditional luggage, smart suitcases have a wide range of compartments to help you to organize your stuff. Some of these include the following:

  • Zippered outer pockets for easy access to keys, passport, and phone
  • Laptop compartment that offers a crushproof and water-resistant space for computer, tablet, or other electronics
  • Laundry compartment for dirty clothes
  • Suiter compartment for suits and dresses
  • Individual compartments for socks/underwear, shoes, and other items

Mobility

Two more features shared by traditional luggage and smart suitcases are wheels and handles.

Wheels: Smart suitcases have two to eight wheels. The more wheels, the more surfaces you can easily navigate. Features common here include 360° spinning wheels and self-aligning wheels, both of which contribute to smooth, straight rolling.

Handle: Your smart suitcase handle should telescope so that it’s accessible when needed and out of the way when not in use. The handle should lock securely in both positions and not slip open or closed. A cushioned handle is more comfortable to use, which is a real plus if you have to pull your bag over long distances.

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DID YOU KNOW?
In addition to better handling on rough terrain, more wheels on a smart suitcase puts less pressure on your shoulders.
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Smart suitcase prices

Inexpensive: Smart suitcases start at around $50 to $100. More clever than smart, these suitcases typically incorporate only one or two powered features and tend to be compact (up to 20 inches) carry-on bags. Battery power tends to be minimal, usually in the 10,000 mAh range, Less durable soft-sided bags are common in this price range.

Mid-range: You’ll find most smart suitcases cost $100 to $200. Outer cases here can be either soft or hard, and sizes are typically 20 to 24 inches. There are more powered options here than in smart suitcases that cost less, with more powerful batteries and extras such as more USB ports.

Expensive: Frequent travelers should concentrate on this price range, which is $200 to $300 or more. These bags are larger, usually 24 to 30 inches, and often intended to be checked. Batteries are commonly 20,100 mAh and power a full range of features. At the highest price points, you can find smart suitcases that follow you automatically or you can ride.

Some smart suitcases go the extra mile and incorporate a motor so they can be ridden like a scooter through airports.

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Tips

  • Use your suitcase as a desk. Choose one with a flat top or built-in mobile device stand.
  • Banish wrinkled clothing. Choose a smart suitcase that includes a hook or suiter to transport and hang up items like dresses, suits, and blazers.
  • Protect your credit cards. Some smart suitcases include RFID-blocking technology, which you can use to protect your credit card numbers while traveling.
  • Choose a bag with a proximity tracker. Have you ever forgotten your suitcase in a cab or at the airport? Some smart suitcases include a proximity tracker that informs you if you accidentally wander away from your bag.
  • Check for a warranty. Warranties for smart suitcases vary considerably, from a few years to a lifetime guarantee. To better protect your investment, choose a suitcase that offers you the longest warranty.
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For people who only travel occasionally, a smart suitcase may not be worth the higher price, more hassle at security checkpoints, and periodically charging the battery.

FAQ

Q. Are smart suitcases legal?

A. Smart suitcases were in a bit of a legal gray area until 2018, when a group of major US airlines got together to regulate them. The problem with these suitcases is the lithium batteries, which have been known to catch fire.

Smart suitcases are legal for trips by air, but you must remove the battery before boarding and carry it separately in a carry-on bag. Newer smart suitcases comply with this regulation, but older smart suitcases with a non-removable battery do not. Note that this is the situation at the time of writing. Regulations change, and they vary from country to country, so check on the rules in any country you plan to visit by air before you travel.

Q. Are these checked bags or carry-ons?

A. Like traditional luggage, smart suitcases come in a variety of sizes to be used as either carry-on or checked luggage. Regardless of where the bag is stored on the plane, it needs to adhere to the airline’s rules regarding smart suitcases.

Q. Can smart suitcases be hacked?

A. Think of a smart suitcase like a smart home device. Due to the use of a smart control system, it can be accessed by resourceful hackers. Like any smart system, there are a number of steps you can take to better protect your smart suitcase, including the following:

  • Choose a complex password. Mix numbers, upper- and lowercase letters, and special characters.
  • Lock the apps. Lock all suitcase apps when they aren’t in use.
  • Monitor updates. Keep all the apps updated to take advantage of the latest security patches.

 

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