WITH A DIZZYING number of luggage brands on the market, zeroing in on a new, well-constructed suitcase to fit your particular travel needs—not to mention your ski gear or that ambitious stack of beach reads—can seem like a herculean task. When shoppers visit Paradise Baggage’s retail outpost in Englewood, Colo. (where nearby Denver International Airport is currently the world’s third busiest hub), co-owner Jenni Paradise often advises them to come back later with clothing, shoes and other packables in tow. “[You need to] bring your things in. Pack them up. See how it feels when you pull a suitcase around the store,” said Ms. Paradise, whose family has been in the luggage business since 1977. Globe-trotting travel television host Samantha Brown concurs, and wisely suggests another strategy: Vigorously jiggling the case’s handle. “If it makes a lot of noise,” she said, “it’s probably too loose and isn’t going to hold on.”
To further narrow the field, Ms. Paradise, who sells over 60 different brands of luggage and accessories at her namesake shop, also suggested looking for bags with a mix of ample storage space and organizational aids, and infallibly sturdy handles and wheels (since those are the items that most commonly require repair ). With those must-haves in mind, and input from some inveterate jet-setters, we settled on five categorical winners likely to please travelers with an eye for both fashion and function.