Review: Tumi Alpha International 20″ Carry On

Link: Tumi Alpha International 20″ Carry On

Back in November I started considering a new carry-on, after my previous Tumi T-Tech (which I quite liked and lasted me well over a million miles of flying) broke. I was trying to decide between theĀ Tumi Alpha International 20″ Carry On and the Tumi Alpha Frequent Traveler 22″ Carry On, which are generally Tumi’s well regarded, durable carry-ons.

While the Tumi 22″ Frequent Traveler was tempting for the larger size, I ended up going with the Tumi 20″ International. That’s because the Tumi 22″ Frequent Traveler is actually almost 24″, so many international airlines won’t allow it in the cabin. I figured I’d rather have a bag that’s a bit smaller that I can always carry-on than one I’d risk having to check, since I more or less live out of a carry on.

So I recently ordered the Tumi Alpha International 20″ through Amazon while it was on sale. The bag ordinarily retails for $595, though by stacking a couple of promotions I was able to get it for under $400. That was possible thanks to the additional 20% discount I got for signing up for Amazon Clothing Store emails, though that’s not offered anymore unfortunately. For what it’s worth Tumi has a year end sale right now as well, so the bag is selling for $445.90, which is 25% off — definitely one of the better discounts I’ve seen on the bag.

I figured I’d share my thoughts on the bag now that I’ve taken a few trips with it. On the whole I’m really pleased with the bag.

I think when you order a bag that retails ~$600 you kind of wonder what will be so special about it. And the truth is there’s nothing special about it, per se. It’s just a really solid and sleek bag. Typically I judge carry ons not by what their features are but rather by what their flaws are (whether it’s bad wheels, a janky handle, bad zipper, etc.).

The truth is the Tumi Alpha International is flawless — which isn’t to say it’s perfect, it just has no flaws like I’ve noticed in just about every other bag, if that makes sense. The zippers, wheels, and handles are all high quality. The material is durable. And it’s practically designed in just about every way. It even has a hook from which you can hang a laptop bag, which is really practical if you’re like me and don’t like putting it on the handlebar.

Anyway, on the whole I’m really pleased with the bag. For the recreational traveler there’s no point in buying a really expensive carry on, in my opinion, though I do think if you’re a frequent traveler a nice carry on is a worthwhile accessory to invest in.

So if you’re a frequent traveler I’d certainly consider the Tumi Alpha International 20″, especially for less than $450, which is what it’s on sale for now.

Thanks to everyone that recommended the bag to me when I was in the market for one.

Here are a few pictures of the bag:

Tumi T-Tech vs. Tumi Alpha International

Tumi Alpha International exterior

Tumi Alpha International interior

Filed Under: Advice
  1. I’ve had this bag for almost four years now and it’s served me well for about 600k of travel. Handle is a little sticky now but other than that I’ve been extremely happy with it.

  2. $400 for a fabric carry on still seems quite steep to me. I’ve always found TUMI bags to be a bit flimsy, and lacking that solid feel that you’d get with a RIMOWA. Considering that you fly to Germany on a regular basis, you could have picked one up for roughly the same price as the TUMI (and enjoy the 19% tax refund courtesy of a US passport). Seems like a better deal to me šŸ˜‰

  3. About two years ago I bought the 22″ Tumi at an incredible on-line sale from Bloomingdales ($150!). It has held up remarkably well, and never been denied carry-on. Highly recommended if you can get it at a discount.

  4. Lucky, nice and safe choice! I agree with you that it’s mostly about why you’d want to avoid other bags, not necessarily which is perfect.

    @Jonas: Rimowa is mostly about fashion. I have a Limbo suitcase and a Topas carry-on (aluminum one) and the Topas is really loud and vibrates significantly. Also it’s not very spacious inside even in the 2 wheel version. Even in Salsa or Limbo it’s not as durable as the Tumi ones. Besides the Topas or Topas Stealth they’re not perceived as more upscale this Tumi on an international scale. In the US Rimowa is still more “exotic” than tumi.

  5. I used to have the Tumi, but wanted a lighter weight carry on, so I replaced it with a bag from carry on from Eagle Creek, which has better served my purposes. It’s certainly not as solidly built as the Tumi, but I appreciate the trade off for its lighter weight.

  6. I also just picked up a new carry-on. I also had a tumi t-tech. I picked it up at Costco years ago and it served me well but it was heavy. Lately ive I’ve been getting weight checks on my carry-on (LH often even when flying J) so I got myself a Samsonite 2 wheeled short lite. Weighs 1.6kg (which is 40% of the weight my t-tech is) and fits in every sizer (including the new ua ones).

    I love tumi and have been a fan for years (I have their luggage, laptop bags, carry-on, passport cover, and other stuff) but I just couldn’t find a lightweight carry-on they make.

  7. I was in Orlando last week visiting family and stopped in the Tumi outlet. They had these for about $360, but I still couldn’t bring myself to pop for it.

  8. I have a 19″ hotels collection by samsonite and I got more people asking about it than my colleagues Tumi bag, I paid $60 at TJMaxx he paid $450, I find those bags last 2-4 years, so would take me 12-24 years to find that the Tumi was worth it, even if Tumi replaces every bag.

    I found my colleagues bag to be flimsy in the material in the front and actually looked poorly put together.

    Just my two cents, but seems there is absolutely nothing about those bags that would get me to spend even $100 on them. They look, at least on the outside, like the cheap bags you’d find for $20 at Walmart; but you’re paying for a brand name, nothing more.

  9. For those who don’t like Rimowa, fine, that’s your opinion.

    I went through various brands, including Tumi, and now swear by Rimowa. Sure, sometimes the bags vibrate (if you have an aluminum frame). But I simply love the IATA sized ones. For me, if it’s carry-on, it goes with me anywhere, and that includes RJs. I simply avoid planes smaller than Dash 8-400 and otherwise I’m set!

  10. I just get a Travelprb Flightcrew 4 20″ bag for $100 or so. I find anything starts looking shoddy after 3-4 years or half a million miles and the Flightcrew construction is as good as more expensive bags aimed at consumers.

  11. Your Tumi bag seems quite nice. Myself personally love my Heys spinner carry on bag. The clamshell form factor means I can fill both sides up of the bag and because everything is held in one side, when I’m packing it at home its super easy to tell when its at capacity. Also because its a hard shell I don’t need to worry about any crushing any food I might purchase from duty free. I picked one up when Air Canada was having a sale.

  12. Very interesting post and comments. Anyone have thoughts on Briggs and Riley? I’ve been trying to decide on which of these to pursue.

  13. I have had a Victorinox Werks 20 inch carryon for 6 years now and love it. The left wheel broke last week and I was able to get it repaired at a local shop for free since it has a lifetime warranty. Paid about $400 for the bag but its definitely worth it.

  14. @Adrian I had both the tumi and Briggs and Riley and decided to stick with the Briggs and Riley. The warranty is great and I like that the handle socket is outside the bag to leave more space inside the bag.

  15. I personally enjoy a bag not only for its usage but as fashion itself. I find Rimowa totally ugly. Tumi has great lines but also some ugly lines (Vapor floral yuck!)
    Alphas are regarded as the best for travelers though not the most attractive to be honest. And outlets have a different Alpha. The original is sold by Tumi, please buy directly for the best quality ( or Macys, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales etc, not the outlets or RueLaLa)

    But I guess we all have our budgets and can find something nice within it. I even saw a Hello Kitty bag that for a millisecond thought of buying…. As Lucky says, depends on usage and Form vs Function

  16. Correction: Tumi outlets do sell lots of Tumi original goods. Not the Alpha. That one they got is made specially for the outlet. Ask them and they may have some originals at higher price.

  17. I cannot see $450 worth of quality in any of those photos. My longest lived carry on was an Olympia Elegance II that lasted ten years and cost me $50. I received an Eagle Creek bag as a gift to replace it and already one of the zippers has stopped working. Tumi looks just like any other random bag but at a 2x-3x premium. Which kind of defeats the point right?

  18. I have a tumi as well – after ~5 years the handle got stuck and the wheels were getting wonky. Took it in to the store, checked out a loaner bag so I could keep travelling ,and 4 weeks later got mine back completely refurbished for no cost.

    The upfront price might be high, but with the servicing and the years of use, I suspect I’d have gone through 3 bags from any other company, it has been worthwhile.

  19. I have an older version of this bag and am also a big fan. It is over 12 years old and has done 5-6 LH and anywhere from 8 to 30 SH trips every one of those years, and it is still going strong. I’ve had the handle replaced twice and the wheels repaired once, all of which Tumi did at no charge (although I know their warranty policy has become much less generous). A major thumbs up.

    On the other hand, I have a briefcase/carry on bag that I got from them at the same time and that is finally beginning to fall apart.

  20. Late comment on this one. I’ve had ’em all mostly because I like buying luggage.

    Currently using either a backpack (Kris van Assche for Eastpak) for weekend trips, Rimowa Limbo IATA carry on for 5-7 days (polycarbonate w/ aluminum corners-4 wheel), or a Rimowa Topas 27″ for long trips (full aluminum body-4 wheel). I paid around $1k for the little Rimowa, and somewhere around the same for the big aluminum one thanks to buying it in Berlin where everything’s cheap. That plus the partial VAT refund brought it down significantly.

    The one comment I would make about Rimowa is you have to be okay with them getting banged up and dented…siggggnificantly. I personally like how the aluminum one looks nowadays…dents, scratches, stickers, etc… from lugging it all over hell and creation. If that’s not your thing you really need to look elsewhere.

  21. Have you tried Tripp? They are UK based I think but there bags are incredibly durable from my usage. Samsonite is good, but I really love the design of Tripp over the Samsonite cases.

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