Welcome to AFAR Approved: a deep dive into the travel items we’re totally obsessed with, never leave behind, and can’t stop telling our friends about.
→ Buy now: 19 Degree International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On, $750, tumi.com, amazon.com, bloomingdales.com; 19 Degree Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case, $950, tumi.com, amazon.com, bloomingdales.com
Tumi is a leading name in the world of high-end luggage, with a product portfolio underscored by stylish carry-ons, checked bags, backpacks, and briefcases. After a multi-year hiatus from Tumi—during which I caved to somewhat trendier brands—I invested in a 19 Degree International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On this January. By June, I doubled down on the collection and got the larger checked version of the bag: the 19 Degree Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case. The luggage set has proven to be the perfect balance of function and style for my personal and professional travel needs. Here’s why my other bags are collecting dust as I travel weekly with either one—or both—of my Tumi 19 Degree Expandable suitcases.
Finding the right fit(s)
When initially choosing a new carry-on for 2023, I first went through all the features I did and didn’t want. I knew I wanted a hard-shell bag vs. a soft-sided one, because my travels take me to places where my luggage is exposed to the elements of nature, and waterproof guarantees have typically failed in my experience with soft-shell bags. I didn’t want aluminum as my hard-sided material because I’ve found it dents and scuffs easily in the event the carry-on needs to be checked. I did want something made from recycled polycarbonate as the main material (anything to lessen my carbon footprint from flying) and a carry-on that I could stuff to the gills with all the souvenirs I like to pick up during my travels. I also didn’t want to have to sweat it in the check-in line at an international airport or at the boarding gate of a smaller aircraft, secretly knowing my bag would never truly fit in the measuring bin. (Generally, the domestic limit for carry-on luggage is 22 x 14 x 9 inches, and most international carriers require even smaller dimensions.)
My checklist led me to Tumi’s 19 Degree International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On, which, at $750, retails as the most economical of Tumi’s hard-sided international carry-ons. Despite nearly a dozen color options, I kept things simple with traditional black. After one short getaway with my new Tumi, I was smitten with my little clamshell case. Despite its small, sleek appearance, so much could fit inside, and both the shell and the zipper lining could withstand my weight and force as I crammed in as much as possible (and then somehow could still close the expandable zipper to keep it within carry-on restrictions). The thick, curved zippers looked and felt built to last and the four recessed dual spinner wheels glided like no others across an airport floor. (They almost felt like roller skates, truly.) Overall, I felt so confident about finding the right match that I soon acquired its bigger sibling, the 19 Degree Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case, which is a near carbon copy of the carry-on on steroids.
Sizing and exterior quality
While most elements remain identical, the biggest differences between my carry-on and checked Tumis are size and weight. Here’s how those stats break down:
|Tumi 19 Degree Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case||Tumi 19 Degree International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On|
|Dimensions||30.5 x 20 x 11 inches (up to 13 inches when expanded)||21.8 x 14 x 9 inches (and up to 11 inches when expanded)|
|Weight||12.1 pounds||7.9 pounds|
|Capacity||99 liters (when zipped)||38 liters (when zipped)|
Both of these clamshell-opening cases feature a wavy, ridged design on the exterior, a zip entry to the main compartment, a zipper expansion, an integrated TSA lock (into which zippers snap into place), a three-stage telescoping handle at the top, retractable top and side carry handles, a luggage tag, and those buttery smooth spinner wheels (that I can’t get over!). All shells, zippers, and grab handles are antimicrobial treated. At press time, both are available in six glossy colors: black, navy, red, hunter green, deep plum, and blush. Three matte textured varieties in black, gray, and slate blue are also available for both the carry-on and packing case. The luggage can be embossed with your initials at no extra cost.
Other differences are the built-in USB port on the carry-on that isn’t included with the checked bag and the four small feet on the checked bag’s side to prevent scratching the exterior when it’s not standing on wheels.
After 30 trips combined, both of my bags maintain the luster of their original appearance for the most part, with a few minor scratches here and there. No dents, no bruises. They’re super easy to clean with a cloth or sponge and have withstood outdoor elements with ease. They are beautiful and practical; however, in full disclosure, my understated set doesn’t get the compliments some of my other glossier bags have received. I don’t get the vibe of luggage envy from friends or colleagues traveling with me (which is fine by me). If you want people to ooh and aah over your luggage, these may not be the bags for you.
Like their external congruence, my two Tumis are similar on the inside. Both open to two compartments of equal size: One can be covered completely by a zippered lining; the other remains open but secured with compression straps. Throughout, find zip pockets aplenty, including one within the zippered lining plus a dedicated space for dirty laundry.
Each is also embedded with a unique Tumi Tracer, which can help in retrieving lost bags. (This tracer functions somewhat like an Apple AirTag, but the information is accessible to Tumi only. To track your bag in real time from your phone, you’ll still need an AirTag.) The checked bag features a hanger bracket for organizing suits that the carry-on lacks.
In terms of capacity, my 19 Degree International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On serves as my stand-alone case on weekend trips when it’s zipped up to its original 38 liter size. Though Tumi doesn’t have the stats for how many liters the bag holds when you use the expandable feature, the two extra inches it adds allow me to pack efficiently for a four-day jaunt. Keep in mind, when expanded, the carry-on has to be checked in. (I also often fly one-way with it as a carry-on and then check the expanded version on the way back with all my newfound goodies and wine bottles.)
My 19 Degree Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case serves me well on trips from five days up to a month. Even at its unexpanded 99-liter size, I can pack multiple outfit options on weeklong trips or for all-weather situations on multi-destination journeys. The downside to so much space, however, is that overpacking has often led to overweight bags. Multiple times, my packing case weighed in between 55 and 60 pounds at the airport. In some cases, I got away with this by booking business-class tickets with points, allowing for bags up to 70 pounds. In other cases, I brought my carry-on alongside the packed case and transferred stuff to the carry-on. Even though I could likely squeeze all my stuff into the packing case, I tend to take both of my Tumis on trips longer than one week to help redistribute my stuff and avoid overweight baggage fees.
Price point and warranty
At $750 and $950, respectively, these Tumi polycarbonate bags are on the lower side of the brand’s typical price point. Personally, I prefer this hard-sided material to the more expensive aluminum or titanium. Plus, the others don’t have expandable construction. I have owned and tried luggage far more expensive (and far cheaper), but this line seems to be the perfect fit for my travel lifestyle (and a price point I am willing to entertain).
It’s refreshing that no shipping or return costs are incurred when ordering either bag. Both come with Tumi’s standard Five-Year Warranty. In year one, all damages are covered, including damage caused by airlines and transit travel. In years two to five, repairs or replacement of a bag is restricted to normal wear and tear or defect in materials or workmanship, including any structural defects (like defective zippers, handles, or locks).
Bottom line: Tumi luggage is worth it
Whether alone or together, Tumi’s 19 Degree International Expandable 4 Wheeled Carry-On and 19 Degree Extended Trip Expandable 4 Wheeled Packing Case are currently my go-to suitcases. They’re stylish and lightweight, but more importantly, they’re highly functional and bring an element of familiarity and excitement (versus anxiety) to packing for my next trip.