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The 12 Best TSA-Approved Luggage Locks for Travelers [2024]

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The 12 Best TSA-Approved Luggage Locks for Travelers [2024]

Table of Contents

Do i need a luggage lock, what is a tsa-approved luggage lock, the different types of luggage locks, the 12 best travel luggage locks, final thoughts.

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Using a luggage lock can help keep your belongings safe while you travel. From traditional padlocks and keys to state-of-the-art card locks, there are a ton of options out there for you to choose from.

To help you narrow in on your search, here’s all the information you need to know about using luggage locks, TSA-approved luggage locks, and which luggage locks might be best for you.

A good luggage lock will help to protect your luggage against unnecessary attention from would-be thieves and keep it safe while in transit. A great luggage lock will also be easily accessible for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents that may need to check inside your bag without having to break in or damage your luggage or luggage lock.

Bottom Line: While nothing can completely guarantee the safety of your belongings while you travel, a well-designed locking device can give you an extra layer of protection that you won’t want to be without.

Luggage lock

To ensure the continued safety of passengers traveling to and through the U.S., the TSA screens all checked and carry-on luggage before allowing the luggage onto any commercial airline flight. In the majority of cases, pun intended, baggage can be electronically screened, which doesn’t require the bag to be opened. However, on occasion, your luggage may need to be opened by a TSA agent.

To ensure that your luggage is easily accessible to TSA agents while remaining secure and protected while you travel, there are TSA-approved luggage locks. These are designed to be used with a universal “master” key. This master key is only available to the TSA, so agents can access your luggage if needed, but the lock remains locked and luggage inaccessible to anyone else.

TSA-approved locks can be purchased at the airport, your general luggage store, or even online outlets. When purchasing, the locks will clearly say “TSA-approved” on the packaging.

Some TSA-approved locks also come with an indicator to let you know if TSA had to open your bag. The indicator will be red after an inspection or remain green if your bag wasn’t opened. You can easily reset the indicator in seconds using a pointed object, such as a pen or paperclip, so you can reuse the indicator for each trip.

Bottom Line: If you don’t use TSA-approved locks, you run the risk of having your luggage damaged if the TSA isn’t able to access your bag for inspection. TSA agents will break non-approved locks, cut zippers and even snip their way through soft-shell cases to ensure that you don’t have any prohibited goods packed in your luggage. Stay safe and keep your luggage in 1 piece with TSA-approved locks.

All locks are useful, but not all locks are equal. When it comes to keeping your gear safe from harm in transit, there are a variety of different types of TSA-approved locks for you to choose from.

The most traditional of all locking devices, a good old-fashioned padlock needs a proper key to open the device. On the flip side of that, be careful with that key! If you lose the key, you may need to saw the lock apart to get access to whatever is locked inside.

Combination Locks

Combination luggage lock

Using a combination of 3 or 4 digits, you can lock your belongings away from would-be thieves, without having to worry about keeping track of a key. A popular choice with travelers, combination locks are a good choice, assuming you never forget the combination.

If you are forgetful, you can always save the combination on your phone contacts as the last four digits of a phone number. For fans of the TV series “Lost,” “John Locke” is an excellent alias to use for the contact name.

Bottom Line: Given that combination locks are compact and you don’t have to worry about a physical key or card getting lost, they come highly recommended for their ease of use.

Cable Locks

These locks also open with a combination but are more versatile. Cable locks can be used in a variety of situations as they have a semi-flexible cable rather than a stiff metal clip to lock. Not just for suitcases and backpacks, you can even use these for lockers or strongboxes while you are on the go.

Bottom Line: Cable locks are a great alternative to regular combination locks as the flexible cable provides extra versatility. 

Retractable Cable Locks

These are similar to cable locks in the sense that you have the option to lock your luggage to a fixed object or other luggage, but these are seemingly more convenient as the cable retracts inside the lock itself. While this sounds great in principle, unfortunately with testing, the locking mechanism seems to fail quite frequently, and to make the cable retractable, the cable itself seems less robust than the cables used in the traditional cable locks.

Bottom Line: Given their tendency to fail and how easy they are to break, retractable cable locks are not recommended.

Key Card Locks

Similar to the cards you use to open hotel doors, key card locks work very similarly. A little bit on the bulky side, these are handy if you want to keep everything in your wallet as the key card will fit nicely in one of your wallet’s credit card folds.

Bottom Line: It’s certainly a personal preference to use these types of locks. Unfortunately, similarly to key locks, if you lose the card, you lose the key, and you will need to cut the lock.

1. 2-Pack of Cable Locks

BEST OVERALL: Sure Lock TSA Luggage Lock

Sure Lock TSA Lock With SearchAlert – 2 Pack

Giving you not 1, but 2 flexible cable locks, these offer great value for money and have a money back guarantee . The SearchAlert indicator will let you know when your bag has been electronically searched, while the locks keep your belongings safe from thieves.

The easy-to-read, 3-dial combination can be set to any combination of your choosing, and the flexible cable can easily weave its way through zippers and other materials. Made from high-strength zinc alloy, these locks will provide a lifetime of security and peace of mind.

What We Like

  • Has a TSA search indicator light

What We Don’t Like

  • Less secure with only a 3-digit combination

2. Perfect for Families Traveling Together

UPGRADE PICK: TSA Approved Luggage Lock

AnvilTSA-Approved Luggage Locks

This set of 4 luggage locks is perfect for families traveling together. You and yours can quickly and easily set your 4-digit combination to help keep thieves away from your belongings while in transit.

The ultra-durable zinc alloy bodies and hardened steel shackles ensure that your luggage lock will make it through all kinds of rough airport handling, while the TSA-approved design will ensure that agents can gain easy access to your luggage without causing any damage.

With easy-to-read dials and quick-set combinations, these little locks have a unique window design that makes your combination easy to read, while continually protecting the lock dials from damage while you travel.

  • Digits are easy to see
  • The steel loop might be too thick for some zipper pulls

3. Steel Cables and Combination Locks 

International Travel Luggage 4 Digit Resettable Combination Lock

Lumintrail TSA-Approved All Metal Combination Lock

These TSA-approved locks can easily be locked and unlocked by TSA agents. Made of coated steel with an unbreakable steel shackle, these locks will protect your luggage from being broken into.

Perfect for use on backpacks, bags, and suitcases, these beauties have convenient 4-digit personalized combinations, meaning you can choose a memorable combination for your convenience.

This excellent value travel pack comes with 2 security travel locks and 2 x 4-inch flexible steel cables for added safety and security, both in transit and when you reach your destination.

  • Comes with 2 4-foot steel cables for extra security
  • The bright orange color could attract unwanted attention to your luggage

4. No Keys With These Card-Operated Travel Locks

Keyless TSA Approved Luggage Locks

Talonport Keyless TSA Approved Luggage Locks

Offering a fuss-free, easy alternative to traditional padlocks and combinations , these key card luggage locks are safe, secure, and easy to use. Just slide the card into the lock, wait for it to click open, and “voila” — easy access for you and TSA agents as and when it is needed.

The key card is about the same size as a regular credit card, meaning it can be stored in your wallet for safekeeping. The lock itself is made of durable cast metal, with a thick solid shackle, meaning your belongings will remain safe and sound while you travel.

5. Strap Them Up With This Case Strap and Lock Combo

Samsonite TSA Luggage Strap Approved 3-Dial Combination Lock

Samsonite TSA Travel Luggage Strap With Approved Lock

Keep your luggage secure with this rather impressive strap and lock combination. TSA-approved, this will keep your belongings safe and secure while in transit.

Adjustable from up to 72 inches, these luggage straps can fit most suitcases . The heavy-duty, adjustable strap is made from durable material and the plastic buckle has a secure combination lock. Just set your passcode, adjust the strap to fit your case, and you are ready to go.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, this strap and lock combination will set your luggage apart from other cases at baggage claim, and keep your luggage safe while you travel.

6. Super-Tough Luggage Locks for Long-Haul Adventures

Black 4 Pack TSA Approved Travel Luggage Locks

  • Forge TSA Approved Luggage Locks

Designed to be super tough, these locks come with alloy bodies, hardened steel shackles, and an internal mechanism that is strong enough to take a proper pounding in transit. Touted as being one of the most secure TSA-approved padlocks on the market, this set of 4 locks uses an advanced dimple key and steel tumbler system , as opposed to the old-style biting key system.

Perfect for families or those traveling with a lot of luggage, each of the locks will work with a single key.

7. Simple Single Cable Lock

Master Lock TSA

  • Master Lock 4688D Luggage Lock

Cheap and incredibly easy to use, these TSA-approved luggage locks will keep your luggage protected while you travel. Made with a metal lock body and a vinyl-covered cable, this lock will put up with plenty of the wear and tear associated with air travel.

This lock uses a 3-digit combination rather than the usual 4 you find on luggage locks. Small but perfectly formed, this padlock is perfect for both suitcases and backpacks.

8. Add Extra Security to Your Lock With a Steel Cable 

Lumintrail TSA-Accepted Luggage Locks

Lumintrail 3-Dial Combination Lock + 48in Coated Steel Cable

With a huge 4 feet of coated steel cable , this ingenious contraption allows you to secure multiple bags together, or tie your luggage to a fixed object. Great for layovers or long journeys where you would like to leave your belongings in 1 place, this is the perfect lock option for worldwide adventurers.

Smart Lock technology will keep your luggage secure, while the flexible, steel cable is impossible for would-be thieves to cut. The 3-dial combination is the perfect keyless locking solution, while the dial makes it easy to up your security wherever you are in the world.

9. For Those Who Like Traditional Key Locks

TSA Approved Travel Luggage Key Locks

Sure Lock Padlock, Keyed TSA-Accepted Luggage Lock

This set of 2 nifty little padlocks is perfect for backpacks, bags, and suitcases, wherever you are headed. TSA-approved and easy to open for inspection; these front access key locks offer practical protection for your belongings .

Made from durable allow steel, these locks won’t rust or freeze up after years of use. They can also both be opened with the same key, meaning you don’t need to weigh yourself down with heavy key rings while you travel. Just under 2 inches high, these are compact locks that will do the job.

10. WordLock Technology Means No Need To Memorize Codes

Wordlock LL-206-RD TSA Approved Combination Luggage Lock

Wordlock LL-206-RD TSA Approved Combination Luggage Lock

TSA-approved, these luggage locks are super easy to use and do exactly what you would expect. Built to last, you will be able to travel the world with these keeping your belongings safely tucked up in your suitcase, duffel bag, or backpack.

The 4-dial combination is easy to set and reset time and time again, and the WordLock gives you the unique opportunity to use a word you can remember instead of numbers . No need to worry about forgetting a number code; words are way easier! With over 10,000 different combinations, this is one of the easiest travel locks out there.

11. Retractable Cable Lock To Keep All Your Belongings Tied Together

Eagle Creek 3-Dial TSA Lock and Cable

Lewis N. Clark Cable Luggage Lock

Keep all of your bags and cases together with this rather smart lock and cable combination from the travel gurus at Lewis N. Clark. Made from tough steel, you can use this to keep your gear safe, while all being secured with 1 lock. The cable provided with this lock extends to 30 inches long.

Would-be intruders won’t be able to get access to your items, and you can choose a 3-digit combination code that only you need to know. The security lock is also designed to be easily accessible for TSA agents.

12. Practical Protection With the Heavy-Duty Lock

Calslock Portable Door Lock

Calslock Portable Door & Travel Lock

It’s not just keeping your luggage safe while you travel that is important to you, it’s also knowing that you will be safe when you reach your destination. This portable door lock can be used on almost all internal doors that open towards the area you want to secure.

The unique “squeeze and slide” design can be installed in seconds to offer additional protection from any unwanted visitors entering your room. This intelligent device is perfect for doors that do not lock or to add an extra layer of security to those that do. Stay safe anywhere in the world with your very own portable door lock.

2. The Ultimate Luggage Protection Solution

Pacsafe 55L Backpack and Bag Protector

Pacsafe 55L Backpack and Bag Protector

Featuring a unique patented stainless steel eXomesh locking system, the Pacsafe bag protector will keep your contents incredibly safe. With a 55-liter capacity, this stainless steel bag protector wraps and locks 360 degrees around your backpack, duffel bag, or suitcase.

Prevent any unwanted opening with this unique steel mesh system that offers a protective and lockable netting for your luggage. Lightweight and easy to use, the bag protector can be attached to any fixture, allowing you to leave your luggage safe while you explore. Slash-proof and super tough, this is a great addition to your travel security solutions for your next adventure.

No matter what your budget is, where you are heading, or how much you are taking with you, there will be a luggage lock to suit your requirements. Just remember, always buy a TSA-approved luggage lock, and don’t forget that combination code!

Interested in other products to keep you traveling smart? Check out some of our other reviews:

  • All Our Best Travel Product Reviews – In One Place
  • The Best Travel Backpacks for Men & Women
  • The Best Checked Luggage Bags for Any Traveler
  • The Best Carry-on Luggage Bags for Any Traveler
  • The Best Travel Duffle Bags on the Market

Frequently Asked Questions

Do i have to use a tsa lock.

It is not mandatory or a legal requirement to use a TSA-approved lock, but it is recommended. If you do not use a TSA lock and your luggage is searched, the TSA will either have to break your lock or cut your luggage to gain access. TSA locks can be accessed by the TSA using a special key and then re-locked, saving you any trouble.

What are the best TSA-approved luggage locks?

Some of our favorite TSA-approved luggage locks include:

  • AnvilTSA Approved Luggage Locks
  • Lumintrail TSA Approved All Metal Combination Lock
  • Sure Lock TSA Lock with SearchAlert – 2 Pack

Are TSA luggage locks worth it?

If you don’t use TSA-approved locks, you run the risk of having your luggage damaged if TSA isn’t able to access your bag for inspection. TSA agents will break non-approved locks, cut zippers, and even snip their way through softshell cases to ensure that you don’t have any prohibited goods packed in your luggage. Stay safe and keep your luggage in 1 piece with TSA-approved locks.

How do you reset a TSA-approved luggage lock?

If you have forgotten your combination with the lock closed, then there is no way to manually reset the lock, however, you may be able to contact the manufacturer for assistance. If the lock is open, you can reset the code by setting the numbers to 000, turning the shackle to a 90-degree angle, and pressing down. Set your new combination and set the shackle back into the locked position.

What is a TSA-approved luggage lock?

To ensure that your luggage is easily accessible to TSA agents while remaining secure and protected while you travel, the TSA has TSA-approved luggage locks. These are designed to be used with a universal “master” key. This master key is only available to the TSA so that agents can access your luggage if needed, but the lock remains locked and luggage inaccessible to anyone else.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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Best TSA-approved locking luggage in 2024

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Edited By Leslie Gornstein , Fox Van Allen , Nina Bradley

Updated on: June 20, 2024 / 7:25 PM EDT / Essentials

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best tsa-approved locking luggage

If you've been using the same bag for years, investing in a great piece (or set) of luggage can upgrade your travel experience. Like the selection of bags we'll show you below, many of the best luggage in 2024 comes equipped with TSA-approved locks. 

Why select a piece of luggage with a TSA-approved lock? As the Transportation Security Administration  explains , if its officers need to inspect your locked, carry-on or  checked luggage , a TSA-approved lock may save you from having your lock cut off. A TSA-approved lock can be opened by TSA officers with a universal master key.

While TSA-approved locks can be placed on luggage you already own, many newer luggage pieces incorporate them right into their design. We've rounded up some of the best luggage pieces with TSA-approved locks. Some of these easy-to-transport bags also offer useful tech features, such as USB outlets and charging ports. 

What is the best TSA-approved locking luggage?

Take a look at our picks for the best TSA-approved locking luggage in 2024. 

Best soft-sided luggage with a TSA-approved lock: Travelpro Platinum Elite spinner 

Best customizable luggage with tsa-approved locks: roam luggage.

  • Best TSA-approved luggage with locking pockets : Victorinox Spectra 3.0 luggage  

Best eco-friendly luggage with TSA-approved locks: Paravel Aviator 

  • Best budget luggage with TSA-approved locks : Samsonite Omni luggage
  • Best TSA-approved locking luggage for international travel: Delsey Paris Chatelet

Best aluminum luggage with TSA-approved locks: Rimowa Original wheeled luggage

  • Best large carry-on with TSA-approved locks: Away The Bigger Carry-On luggage

Learn more about each of our selections below.

travelpro.jpg

Available in three carry-on and two checked sizes, and a variety of colors, the Travelpro Platinum Elite spinner offers a great value at a moderate price point. 

The stain-resistant-fabric bag (with leather accents) features a TSA-approved lock, an internal tie-down system, integrated accessory products and a removable, TSA-compliant wet pocket for toiletries. It's rated 4.7 stars (out of 5) on Amazon. 

Why we like the Travelpro Platinum Elite:

  • Travelpro offers a lifetime warranty.
  • The TSA-approved lock keeps your belongings secure.
  • Reviewers praise the bag's durability.

roam.jpg

Roam allows you to customize your own suitcase. Start by choosing from one of eight sizes, ranging from a 37-liter capacity carry-on ($450) to a 121-liter large expandable check-in ($675). Then select your colors.

Not feeling creative? You can choose from pre-designed bags, too.

Each Roam luggage piece comes with a TSA-approved lock, so you can keep your belongings secure while traveling with your customized bag.

Why we like Roam luggage: 

  • You can heavily customize the suitcase and choose your favorite colors.
  • Roam suitcases come with a lifetime warranty.
  • Roam luggage comes with a 100-day trial period and a lifetime guarantee.

Best TSA-approved luggage with locking pockets: Victorinox Spectra 3.0 luggage carry-on

spectra-3-0-trunk-large-case-courtesy-of-victorinox2.jpg

The sleek Victorinox Spectra 3.0 is constructed out of Sorplas, a recycled polycarbonate sourced from plastic bottles. The carry-on is a great option for frequent fliers. You can also get the Spectra 3.0 in a medium checked bag or large checked bag.

It offers a lockable section (to secure belongings in case your bag gets left behind), and also an expansion system. The bag boasts ample space for your belongings and TSA-approved locks. 

Why we like the Victorinox Spectra 3.0:

  • It expands by up to 20% for extra storage space,
  • It offers a lockable quick-access front pocket.
  • The carry-on has a dual-tube telescopic handle for easy maneuvering.

paravel aviator carry-on

It's all in the details with this chic, carbon-neutral carry-on. Paravel makes its Aviator bag in three sizes: two carry-on options, and a larger check-in. Frictionless, carbon-steel-bearing wheels offer 360-degree movement, while a telescopic handle makes walking (or running) through the airport a breeze.

To customize your travel look, don't forget to order a monogrammed cabana tote or cabana bundle. The latter features a monogrammed luggage tag, card case and passport case. 

Why we like the Paravel Aviator carry-on:

  • The carry-on is carbon neutral and made with recycled materials.
  • Reviewers state that it is easy to maneuver.
  • It features a scuff-hiding textured finish.

Best budget luggage with TSA-approved locks: Samsonite Omni luggage

samsonite-omni.jpg

The Samsonite Omni, another polycarbonate suitcase option, offers high quality at a reasonable price point. Features include TSA-approved, side-mounted locks, multidirectional spinner wheels, an interior mesh divider and cross straps. 

You also have the option of purchasing the bag as part of a two- or three-piece set. 

Why we like the Samsonite Omni:

  • This is one of the best-selling and well-reviewed suitcases on Amazon.
  • It's a premium luggage option available for a more affordable price.
  • Comes in a wide range of color options to fit your tastes.

Best TSA-approved locking luggage for international travel: Delsey Paris Chatelet 

delsey-paris.jpg

With faux-leather accents and rounded edges, the Delsey Paris Chatelet makes for an aesthetic international travel companion. The lightweight polycarbonate model is durable, and features multidirectional double-spinner wheels, a USB charging port and an ergonomic handle. 

The suitcase also comes equipped with laundry and shoe bags, as well as mesh-zippered pockets. Its TSA-approved lock is recessed.

Why we like the Delsey Paris Chatelet:

  • The carry-on's polycarbonate shell is lightweight and resistant to cracking.
  • An odor-resistant lining helps keep the suitcase from absorbing smells when traveling home with dirty clothes.
  • Reviewers praise the carry-on's smooth wheels and easy maneuverability. 

rimowa-black.jpg

Rimowa's aluminum suitcases have been in the hands of international jet-setters for nearly 100 years. The Rimowa Original Cabin features 360-degree spinner wheels, TSA-approved locks and a telescopic handle that easily glides up and down. Available in black, silver and titanium colors.

You can find Rimowa Original luggage in a carry-on (price shown below), a medium checked bag ($1,650),  a large checked bag ($1,800), a trunk ($1,975) and more.

Why we like the Rimowa Original Cabin carry-on:

  • Its aluminum construction protects your belongings much better than soft-sided or polycarbonate luggage.
  • This suitcase comes with a lifetime warranty,
  • Its sleek metallic material gives this carry-on a trendy, high-end look.
  • Available in four colors.

Best large carry-on with TSA-approved locks: Away Bigger Carry-On luggage

away.jpg

The Away Bigger Carry-On polycarbonate bag features a removable, rechargeable battery (for on-the-go phone charging), an easy-to-set, TSA-approved lock and smooth-rolling spinner wheels. 

 If you don't like your Away bag, return it within 100 days for a full refund. It also comes with a lifetime guarantee for defects.

Why we like the Away Bigger carry-on:

  • The included, removable charger ensures you'll be able to recharge your phone on the go, even when you can't find an outlet.
  • The compression panel can help you fit more clothing into this suitcase when packing.
  • It comes with a lifetime warranty.

Away also offers upgraded aluminum editions that are stylistically on par with the James Bond-worthy suitcases sold by Rimowa. The aluminum edition luggage also includes TSA-approved locks.

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The 8 Best TSA-Approved Locks of 2024

Keep your belongings secure

travel suitcase with lock

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .

TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong

TSA locks can seem a bit mysterious, but they're the easiest way to add some security to the travel process. There are all kinds of styles, from combination and cable locks to classic key and keyless locks with card access. The best part is that TSA-approved locks are no more expensive than non-approved ones, and they're easy to find.

Like many travel accessories, there are an overwhelming number of TSA-approved locks to choose from. That's where our research comes into play: We dug into the best locks that will keep your personal items where they belong, broken down by type (and you've got plenty of options). Consider how much you are willing to spend, the style that best suits your needs, and any durability claims and reviews.

Final Verdict

  • What to Look For

Why Trust TripSavvy

Best overall, master lock luggage lock.

Highly compatible

Sleek design

A few color options

A bit of a learning curve

This steel option from Master Lock has a slighter design than other options, making it a good pick for smaller luggage and backpacks. The cable is covered in tough and flexible vinyl so that the lock can withstand the rough life of a carry-on.

Materials: Vinyl, steel | Type: Combination

Best Budget

Anvil luggage cable locks.

Lifetime guarantee

Lightweight zinc body

Easy to organize

Demands fine motor manipulation

These TSA-approved luggage locks come in sets of two or four, so you can outfit all of your bags for under $25. The combination locks are designed with a thin and durable steel shackle, which is excellent for looping into the toughest zippers. If you’re an organization enthusiast, you might enjoy that each lock is a different hue—reviewers have applauded the color-coding opportunities.

Materials: Chrome, steel, zinc | Type: Combination

Best Splurge

Talonport keyless tsa-approved luggage lock.

Cards come in two different sizes

Easy to operate

Innovative design

Some reviewers question durability

If keys and combinations are not your style and you don’t mind investing a bit more for convenience, consider this option from Talonport. The device is unlocked using a card that can easily be stored in a wallet. This lock comes with a lifetime guarantee and is near-impossible to pick, thanks to a seamless design and lack of combination. Plus, if you lose the card, Talonlock will send you a replacement free of charge.

Materials: Metal | Type: Card

Best Tamper-Proof

Forge combination lock set.

Several color options

Unconditional lifetime guarantee

Some reviews claim locks can be forced

Forge's combination locks come with special keys that feature a dimpled design, making the locks much harder to pick. If you've ever retrieved your luggage and noticed the lock hanging open or stuffed back into your suitcase, rest assured you won't have to worry about that happening with this lock. It's designed so the TSA agent has to re-lock the suitcase to remove their key.

Materials: Steel, zinc | Type: Key

Best Key Lock

Master lock padlock, keyed tsa-accepted luggage lock.

Straightforward design

High-visibility colors

Must use key to lock

Master Lock’s padlock is designed with front access, which makes locking and unlocking easier on the wrists. The steel shackle gives you all the protection you need against those looking to cut the lock off, and both locks in the set can be opened with the same key (you get two keys in the pack). Another bonus: These locks are available in two colors (purple and blue), making them easier to spot in the mess of packing and unpacking .

Materials: Steel | Type: Key

Best Retractable Cable Lock

Lewis n. clark retractable cable lock.

Bright color for quick recognition

Versatile design

If you don’t want to mess with any additional accessories like keys or extra cables, this retractable design from Lewis N. Clark may be just what you’re looking for. A 30-inch steel cable provides plenty of flexibility for securing multiple pieces of luggage or looping your zipper pulls together. An easy-to-use, three-number combination allows the user to open and close the lock. Reviewers say this option is better for carry-on luggage , as steel shackle styles provide more security when your bag is completely out of sight.

Materials: Steel, thermoplastic rubber, ABS | Type: Combination

Most Durable

Tumi alpha tsa lock.

Tough build

Classic colors

Well reviewed

Limited bag compatibility

While locks are more of a deterrent than a guarantee against theft, it still makes sense to get one that does the job well for years to come, and those familiar with Tumi products won't be surprised to find this lock under the category of "durable." The luxury suitcase brand constructed the three-digit combination locks with an entirely metal body and clasp closure. The pack comes with three locks in black, silver, and red or you can opt for a single in black.

Materials: Not listed | Type: Combination

Most Innovative

Airbolt lock.

Normal and high security settings

Allows you to monitor luggage

Long-lasting charge

App may be finicky

Forget about cards, keys, and combinations with this futuristic lock you can control via your smartphone. The steel cable threads easily through the smallest of zippers and luggage loops and locks into the durable zinc body. To unlock, simply use the app on your phone or another phone you've shared access with or enter the bypass code you chose when setting up. You'll have to be mindful of the charge on the lock, though AirBolt says it can last up to a year.

Materials: Die-cast zinc, ABS plastic | Type: App-controlled

If you like to travel light and appreciate products from well-established brands, go for the Master Lock Set Your Own Combination Lock . It's light yet durable and works perfectly for carry-ons, backpacks, or small luggage items . We also like the Anvil 3-Digit Cable Lock for its value and lifetime guarantee.

What to Look For When Buying a TSA-Approved Lock

Luggage locks vary quite a bit in price, but you won’t find many over $20. It depends on the level of security you’re looking for: Steel shackle locks can run a bit more expensive, as do keyless options that require a card to unlock. Beware of super-inexpensive options—paying a few dollars more on your luggage lock can make all the difference.

Most TSA-approved locks are made of steel, an ultra-durable material. Steer clear of locks made entirely of rubber or plastic and locks with cables that are anything but steel.

There are a few common styles of TSA-approved locks: combination locks, cable locks, and keyless locks. Consider your personal preferences when choosing: Do you constantly lose your keys? Stay away from locks that require one to open. Need a bit of flexibility to lock up a bag with small zipper holds? Look for a super-strong cable lock with a thinner cable. Anxious about someone cracking your combination code? Opt for a card-access lock. 

Every TSA-approved lock will have a red diamond logo, also known as a Travel Sentry logo. This means it’s compatible with the universal keys that TSA agents have to unlock these approved locks.

Not necessarily. Most cable locks are made with durable steel cables—you’d need a heavy-duty wire cutter to break through. If that still worries you, choose a steel shackled lock instead; just know that they are less flexible in terms of what you can affix them to (larger shackles don’t often work well with smaller zipper pulls).

It’s not illegal to lock your luggage with a non-approved lock, but you are running the risk of a TSA agent cutting your lock off should they need to search your bag. There isn’t often a price difference between TSA-approved and non-approved locks, so you’re always better off going with one that the TSA can access.

Erika Owen is a frequent traveler who doesn’t leave home for a trip without her favorite TSA-approved lock. She also put four hours of research and review analysis into this story and has personally tested several of the brands mentioned in this article including Lewis N. Clark and Master Lock.

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UponArriving

UponArriving

travel suitcase with lock

TSA Approved Locks Guide (Worth It?) [2024]

Nobody wants potential criminals or strangers having access to personal items in their travel luggage. One way that people add an extra layer of security to their baggage is to place a TSA approved lock on their bag.

But how exactly do these TSA approved locks work? And can they really be trusted?

In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about TSA approved locks including the pros and cons of using them.

You’ll see exactly when it’s worth it to use them and also get some recommendations for finding the best locks. But most of all, you will see why they might be a security risk in some cases.

Table of Contents

What are TSA approved locks?

TSA approved locks are special locks designed by Travel Sentry and Safe Skies that TSA agents can easily unlock with a master key. They provide travelers with an additional layer of security while also allowing TSA agents to inspect bags when necessary.

However, there are some major security concerns with these locks. I’ll talk in-depth about why you should and should NOT use TSA locks, but if you just want to jump straight to viewing different types of TSA locks then click here .

Keep reading below to see when you should and should NOT use TSA approved locks.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

How to know if a lock is TSA approved

It’s very easy to quickly identify a TSA approved lock because they will have a red diamond (Travel Sentry logo) on the lock that is pretty hard to miss.

Check out the four locks below. Notice how they each have a red diamond icon in the top right for easy recognition.

TSA locks

In addition to the red icon, you can also often find etched lettering indicating the type of TSA lock such as “TSA-007” (but more on that below).

TSA approved locks can come in a lot of different forms including:

  • Three number combination
  • Four number combination
  • Cable Locks
  • Built-in luggage locks

These locks, which can come in all sorts of different colors, shapes, and sizes, can also come from quite a few different brands including:

  • Master Lock

In total, the Sentry Lock system is licensed to over 500 companies worldwide!

So don’t be surprised if you encounter a lot of locks from brands you have never heard of — they may very well be legitimate companies.

It’s worth noting that there are also TSA approved locks designed by Safe Skies . Their website is a bit more old school so I think they are a smaller player in the space but as far as I can tell, you can still order their locks.

Why should you use TSA approved locks?

You should use TSA approved locks so that you can keep your belongings a little bit more secure while not wasting money on travel locks.

Keep your belongings a little bit more secure

One use for TSA approved locks is that these locks provide one extra hurdle for thieves.

Even if the locks could be easily picked or removed, the fact that a thief would have to take one extra step to get into your bag could deter them and cause them to choose a different bag.

It’s similar to using a hotel safe — they are not fool-proof but could force a thief to look elsewhere.

This probably works best against pick pockets that you could encounter around the airport, on shuttle buses, trains, and in hotels.

But consider that some thieves may be attracted to a suitcase that has a lock on it because they could view it as a sign that there is something extra valuable on the inside!

Keep your luggage zippers from coming open

Personally, I think TSA approved locks are most useful for making sure that their luggage zippers do not come undone while traveling.

Cheaper bags and bags that have been used a lot could be more prone to this because they lack sufficient tension in the zipper slider to keep the teeth connected.

The result could be a disaster where your wardrobe and luggage contents are spilled all over the place! So placing a lock on your luggage can help you avoid worrying about this scenario.

Avoid wasting money on travel locks

To understand how you might be wasting money, it helps to first understand how the screening process works for checked bags and what TSA’s liability policy is for damaged locks.

TSA screening process

TSA screens about approximately 1.4 million checked bags per day.

Contrary to what many believe, during the screening process, TSA is not actively looking for drugs. So if you have marijuana in your checked baggage it’s not like TSA agents are trying to catch you with some bud.

Instead, TSA is much more concerned with things like explosives and other dangerous items.

The exact screening process that your bag undergoes can vary based on the airport since TSA and airports are constantly testing out new technologies.

But typically, your checked bag will go through an x-ray machine after it is checked in with the airline.

There could be someone watching the x-rays in real time or more likely the x-ray machine could be utilizing some kind of algorithm that detects prohibited items.

If the algorithm is tripped then your bag may go to a TSA inspection room where an agent will perform a physical inspection of your luggage (only about 5% to 10% of checked bags are physically inspected).

In this room, all of the contents of your bag could be removed and swabbed for traces of explosives .

The good news is they do keep cameras in these inspection rooms so if something goes missing, there should be a proper investigation to check the footage.

Your bag could also be inspected if an airport sniffing dog alerts a TSA agent to your bag or perhaps agents see something suspicious on CCTV.

Finally, there are also random inspections.

The bottom line is you never know if your checked bag will be inspected by a TSA officer and will need to be opened. So you should always prepare for the possibility.

No liability if damaged

If your bag needs to be inspected and you have a non-TSA approved lock on it, then agents will cut away that lock in order to inspect your baggage.

They will not be responsible for the damage to the lock, so you’ll be out of luck on having a lock for your luggage.

This is one of the major reasons why you would want to use a TSA approved lock — you can avoid the risk of wasting money on a lock.

Something else to be aware of is that many times locks get stuck in the conveyor belts and break.

So just because your bag comes back missing its lock, that does not mean that your bag was physically inspected. It could have just been bad luck.

Some TSA approved locks have lifetime warranties so you could always file a claim and potentially get a free lock replacement.

Notice of baggage inspection

If your checked baggage is opened and physically inspected, TSA will place a notice of baggage inspection inside your bag (which you can view below).

If this happens to you, you should check your bag to see if you are missing anything.

It’s possible that you could be missing prohibited items that were removed from your baggage. For example, if you had excessive cans of hairspray or vape batteries , a TSA agent could find those and remove them.

If that’s the case, then you should just be grateful that you were not tracked down for a violation of bringing prohibited items in your luggage. Many prohibited items could land you with a big fine !

In some cases, you might find that you’re missing a valuable item.

It’s recommended to put your electronics and other valuable items in your carry-on bag so that they don’t leave your side but that is not always possible.

If you find that some of your items are missing or maybe even just damaged, you can file a complaint with the TSA .

Note that you need to file your complaint within 180 days of the events in order to get the matter properly looked at.

TSA Notice of baggage inspection

Why should you NOT use TSA approved locks?

There are a couple of reasons why you do not want to use TSA approved locks in certain instances and they both come down to a lack of security.

Universal master keys are widely available

Something that a lot of people don’t know is that it’s very easy for people to get access to a TSA master key.

TSA approved locks come in different versions.

You can usually see which version the lock is by looking for a number etched on the lock ranging from: TSA001 to TSA008 .

These numbers tell the TSA agent inspecting your bag which TSA master key to use in order to unlock the lock.

The problem is that master keys have been available to the public for quite some time.

One can easily go online and purchase a TSA master key for under $20.

There’s no guarantee that the key will work but I’ve seen instances online of people successfully using these master keys for their own TSA locks.

Then there is the 3-D printer issue . In 2014, the Washington Post published an article with photos of the TSA master keys.

It did not take very long for people to create templates for the TSA master keys and start 3-D printing their own TSA master keys that also successfully unlock the locks.

This has been going on for over almost a decade. And even before that, it’s speculated that people were able to reverse engineer the keys starting back in 2011.

What does this mean?

This means that TSA approved locks offer a minimal level of security and should never be seriously relied upon outside of the context of an airport.

Remember, TSA approved locks also come with bright red diamond indicators on them that basically scream, “Hey I’m easy to open!”

If you were a thief with a master key, you could easily spot them and target them for your next criminal act.

TSA Master Keys

TSA approved locks can be picked

TSA approved locks can easily be picked .

One quick YouTube search will yield several videos showing how easily these locks can be picked.

But even if someone does not have a master key or the ability to pick a lock, they could easily just use a writing pen to pop open the teeth of the zipper.

The zipper could still be used and the bag won’t even be ruined if done properly. See this video for how it could be done. This means that baggage handlers could still easily get into your bag and potentially even use your bag to transport illegal substances like drugs.

At lots of airports, the baggage handlers don’t have to go through normal security.

So they could easily bring drugs into the baggage loading area and slip them into luggage. If they have connections where the airport is landing, those people could then pick up the drugs. Or, there could be passengers who are in on it and simply pick up their checked baggage at the destination.

What does TSA think about all of this?

TSA doesn’t really seem to care about the ability of others to open these locks judging by the statements they made to  The Intercept  that:

“The reported ability to create keys for TSA-approved suitcase locks from a digital image does not create a threat to aviation security. These consumer products are ‘peace of mind’ devices, not part of TSA’s aviation security regime.”

And that makes sense.

The primary concern of TSA is to ensure dangerous items are not getting through security screening.

The fact that members of the public could open up these locks does not really change anything about what TSA is doing — the screening process remains the same.

Not really needed for carry-ons

If you never check your bag, there’s a good chance you will never need a TSA approved lock.

The reason is that your bag is always within reach and you should be able to keep a close eye on it at all times.

If you are worried about your zippers busting open then a cable lock might make sense but even in that case you can often get away with using something else.

Some people like to put locks on their smaller bags to prevent pick pockets.

This might work but as mentioned placing locks on backpacks and other small bags can also make your item more of a target for some thieves. And we’ve already shown how easy it is to bust through a zipper.

Are TSA approved locks just not that useful?

Considering that just about any member of the public could get their hands on a master key and that these locks can be picked with relative ease, what use do these TSA approved locks really have?

You can narrow down the benefits of these locks to a few things:

  • Helps you avoid wasting money on locks for your travel luggage
  • Helps you keep your zippers closed so contents don’t spill out your bag
  • Helps create an extra barrier for thieves

International travel

TSA rules apply when traveling in the US so TSA approved locks naturally are well-suited for travel within the US.

But what happens whenever you are traveling internationally? Can you still use TSA approved locks and expect the security screening agents to not cut off your lock?

It’s a good question and the answer is: it depends.

Currently, there are over 500 million Travel Sentry locks and luggage in circulation.

As a result, a lot of airports around the world will recognize TSA approved locks and have the ability to use a master key to open them.

If you are traveling internationally, a good idea is to check ahead of time to see if the countries you are traveling through will recognize these locks. You can search for the country of your airport here .

If you have a Safe Skies lock, those also I recognized in different countries but the network seems to be smaller.

travel suitcase with lock

TSA approved locks

TSA approved locks are not very expensive and are not hard to find. Whether you were shopping at Amazon, Walmart or Target, you can often buy them in packages so that you can purchase a handful of them at once.

Here are some of the recommended TSA approved locks:

SURE LOCK TSA Compatible Travel Luggage Locks

These type of locks are nice because they have a special indicator that will let you know if your luggage has been opened. If you see your bag has been opened and you don’t have a notice of inspection, something is not quite right. You can get a two pack of them for only $13 which is a great price.

travel suitcase with lock

Forge TSA Approved Cable Luggage Locks

With the Forge TSA luggage lock, the TSA agent has to re-lock your suitcase to remove their key so it’s a great way to reduce the chances of your lock being left unlocked. These locks also have the indicator to show if your lock has been opened. Forge is also reportedly one of the more durable brands.

travel suitcase with lock

Master Lock 4697D

The Master Lock offers you the ability to input a four digit combination code, which offers a better level of security than the three wheel combination codes.

The three combination code means a bored thief need only make 1,000 guesses to unlock your bag but with four digits, that number jumps up to 10,000. It only requires you to memorize one more digit so you may as well make it harder on the thief.

travel suitcase with lock

Anvil TSA Approved Luggage Lock

The Anvil TSA Approved Luggage Lock is another four digit combination code but this type of lock comes with a hardened steel shackle. These should be more durable than a cable lock. They also offer you a comprehensive lifetime warranty.

travel suitcase with lock

Lewis N. Clark Mini Brass Square TSA Lock

If you are someone that likes to use a key to unlock your locks rather than being forced to remember a combination, then you also have some options.

Personally, keeping up with a luggage key lock is just one more thing to keep up with when traveling and I’d rather stick with a combination. Still, these are very durable locks with brass and steel construction. 

travel suitcase with lock

A word about luggage with built-in locks….

I’m not a huge fan of using the locks built in to luggage bags.

The reason is that if they malfunction and cannot be opened, agents at the airport may cause damage to the lock or your bag in order to open it.

This would likely be more common when traveling internationally if the airport you were at does not have the appropriate master key.

However, if you stick to using external locks, those can always be cut away without the risk of damaging your bag. Therefore, at least when flying internationally, I would try to avoid the built-in locks.

TSA approved locks FAQ

TSA approved locks are not expensive and can be purchased for under $10.

Yes, many countries around the world accept TSA approved locks. You can search for the country of your airport here .

Yes, TSA approved locks can be picked with relative ease according to many lock pickers.

TSA approved locks are not very safe when used outside of the airport because they can be picked and virtually anyone in the public can obtain a TSA master key capable of unlocking the lock.

No, you are not required to use a TSA approved lock. However, there is roughly a 5% chance your bag will be physically inspected and in that case your non-TSA lock will likely be destroyed.

TSA approved locks can be found online at Amazon.com and at stores like Wal-Mart.

TSA approved locks can help add a layer of security to your luggage without causing you to waste money on locks that could be destroyed by TSA. They can also help keep your zippers from coming undone and allowing the contents of your luggage to spill out.

But beyond that, they have limited utility due to the fact that the master keys can easily be reproduced and because it’s so easy to access a zippered bag.

So feel free to use these locks when going through the airport and flying but my advice would be to stray away from using them when in the real world.

travel suitcase with lock

Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo . He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio .

This article fails to mention the fact that TSA locks should NOT be used on gun cases legally going through checked baggage. The required hard sided case must be locked, but the UNLOADED gun inside should not be accessible to anyone other than the owner/passenger. The gun and it’s unloaded status must be declared at the ticket counter.

Some airlines and airport TSA personnel feel it is necessary (or policy) to personally inspect that cased firearms are unloaded. Although TSA X-ray machines will confirm the unloaded status of the gun, this “pre-check” can occur at the check-in counter (terrible for security because of its visibility) by an airline agent, or in another nearby location, usually a little more private, by actual TSA personnel.

These folks may require the passenger to unlock his gun case for an inspection. It is important to note that no one else is to have access to that gun in the case. This means it should not have TSA locks and no one else is to be given the key or combination to the personal gun case lock. The unlocked case and gun should not leave the custody of the passenger until the case is locked and the (unloaded) gun is inaccessible and going on to the TSA X-ray check and subsequent airline baggage handling. At check in the passenger may be given a card to place with the case confirming the gun is unloaded.

If transporting a handgun in a locked hard sided case inside other checked baggage, then the outside case could have TSA accessible locks, but even this seems less preferable than personal locks. It is a minor expense to replace a lock. It is an expensive hassle to lose a gun. Don’t carry prohibited items.

Always check the websites of the airline(s) and TSA for complete gun transportation regulations, as well as governing laws in the states where traveling.

Once the unloaded status of the gun is confirmed, the passenger (not the TSA or airline employee) must lock the case and it should continue through security X-ray screening, causing no alarm or danger to anyone. That is the airlines’ and TSA’s primary concern.

A secondary concern is theft of the item from checked luggage. Since TSA locks are only a small deterrent as mentioned in the article, they may actually encourage theft and will certainly make it easier than having personal locks of high quality on gun cases.

Hi, totally agree a TSA lock is a bad idea for transporting a firearm. Good advice. Feel free to look over our guide for bringing firearms and provide any additional input you think would be helpful!

Comments are closed.

Privacy Overview

Black suitcase with built-in TSA lock

The Ultimate Guide to Luggage Locks

Hands Off My Suitcase

  • October 22, 2023
  • Luggage Accessories

Luggage locks are an important accessory when traveling, as they can provide security and peace of mind when you’re checking your bags or leaving them in a hotel room. But with so many different types of luggage locks on the market, it can be tough to figure out which one is right for you.

In this post, we’ll explore the different types of luggage locks, highlighting each type’s benefits and drawbacks. Then we’ll give you some tips on how to choose the best lock for you.

Finally, we’ll conclude the post with a discussion on if you should use a luggage lock to lock your baggage when checking in .

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Cons of Using a Combination Luggage Lock

Cons of using a keyed lock.

  • What is Travel Sentry?

Cons of Using a TSA Approved Lock

Cons of using a smart lock, cons of using a biometric lock, cons of using an integrated tsa lock, what is a luggage lock.

A luggage lock is a small lock that you use to secure a suitcase or other type of luggage. It typically consists of a small metal body with a locking mechanism and a shackle or cable that can be passed through your bag’s zippers and then locked in place. Luggage locks are typically small and lightweight, making them easy to carry and use while traveling. They’re used to prevent unauthorized access to the contents of your bag and to deter theft.

The way that the locking mechanism works can vary. Some luggage locks use a combination system, while others require a traditional key. There are also more advanced mechanisms, including electronic or biometric systems that can provide a higher level of security.

Some luggage locks are TSA-approved . This means that TSA agents can unlock your bag with a universal key to examine its contents, without damaging the lock.

Types of Luggage Locks

There are several types of luggage locks available on the market, each with its own set of features and benefits. Here’s a guide of the most common types of luggage locks, to help you choose the right lock for your needs:

Combination Locks

Combination locks are the most popular type of luggage lock, as they don’t require a key and can be easily opened with a combination of numbers.

Luggage combination locks typically consist of a small metal body with a combination dial on the front and a shackle on the back.

To use the lock, you pass the shackle through a pair of your bag’s zipper pulls and then secure the shackle to the lock body. Once locked, you randomly change the combination wheel numbers to prevent the lock from being opened.

How to Set Up a Combination Luggage Lock

To set the code on a luggage combination lock, you typically follow the following steps:

  • Open the lock by pressing a button or pulling on a lever. This will release the shackle and allow it to be removed from the lock body. Usually, you set the combination to all zeros to open a new lock.
  • Turn the wheels to set the desired combination. Each wheel has a series of numbers, and you can set the code by aligning the desired numbers with a marker or window on the lock body.
  • Close the lock by pushing the shackle back into the lock body and releasing the button or lever.

Please note that the method of setting a combination lock may vary, depending on the specific model. You can refer to the instructions that came with your lock for more information.

To unlock the lock, you simply need to align the combination dials with the correct code and then press the button or pull the lever to release the shackle. Some luggage combination locks also have a key override, which allows you to open the lock with a key in case you forget the combination.

Pros of Using a Combination Luggage Lock

  • You don’t have to worry about losing a key: With a combination lock, you don’t have to worry about misplacing a key or having it copied by someone else. This can be especially convenient if you’re traveling and don’t want to have to keep track of a small key.
  • They’re generally easier to open: Combination locks can be easier to open than traditional keyed locks, especially if you’re in a hurry or under stress (e.g., running to catch a flight).
  • They are customizable: Combination locks allow you to set your own combination, which means you can choose a combination that is easy for you to remember.
  • Can be opened by anyone who knows the combination: If you’re traveling with someone else, they will be able to open the lock as well without having to carry a separate key.
  • You need to remember the combination: If you forget your combination, you won’t be able to open your luggage.
  • They may be less secure: The combination can potentially be discovered by someone seeing you entering it, or by someone trying different combinations until they find the right one.
  • They may be less durable: Combination locks may be more prone to wear and tear over time, as they rely on mechanical components that can break or become damaged. This can be a problem if you’re using the lock often or if you’re traveling to rough or challenging environments.
  • Complexity: Combination locks can be more difficult to use than key locks, especially for people who aren’t comfortable with manipulating the combination wheel or who have difficulty remembering numbers.

Keyed Locks

Keyed locks are another common type of luggage lock. These locks require a key to open, which means that only the person with the key can access the luggage.

Keyed luggage locks are the simplest type of lock to use. All you need to do is insert the key into the keyhole and turn it. You can then open the lock by pulling on the small metal latch or shackle.

To close the lock, you simply push the latch or shackle back into the lock and turn the key to lock it. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Pros of Using a Keyed Lock

  • Security: Keyed luggage locks can offer a higher level of security compared to combination locks, which can be opened by anyone who knows the combination. With a keyed lock, only the person who has access to the key can open the lock, which can help prevent theft.
  • Durability: Keyed luggage locks are often more durable than combination locks because they have fewer moving parts, which means they are less likely to break or malfunction.
  • Easy to use: Keyed luggage locks are easy to use – simply insert the key and turn to lock or unlock the suitcase.
  • You need to look after the key: One of the main disadvantages of keyed luggage locks is that they require you to keep track of a key. If the key is lost, the lock can’t be opened, which can be very inconvenient, to say the least. However, many keyed locks do come with two keys: if you are traveling with others, you can give the other key to a companion to carry. If you happen to misplace your key, you can use the spare to unlock your bag.
  • Cost: Keyed luggage locks can be more expensive than combination locks, depending on its quality.
  • Limited access: If someone else needs to access your luggage – for example, if you are traveling with a group and one person needs to access everyone’s luggage – it can be inconvenient to have to use a key. Although a spare key can minimize this issue, it can become problematic if several members of a traveling party require access to the bag. This is where a combination lock comes into its own. The combination can be shared across the group.
  • Can be difficult to use: Keyed locks may be more difficult to open if you have limited mobility or dexterity.

TSA Approved Locks

TSA-approved locks are locks that are approved by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for use on luggage when traveling by air in the United States.

These locks have a special feature that allows TSA agents to open them and inspect the contents of the luggage using a universal key without damaging the lock.

Pros of Using a TSA Approved Lock

There are several advantages to using TSA-approved locks:

  • Security: TSA-approved locks offer an extra layer of security for your luggage, as they are designed to deter theft and tampering.
  • Convenience: TSA agents can open and inspect your luggage without damaging the lock, which means you won’t have to worry about replacing a damaged lock or carrying extra locks with you.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing that your luggage is secure and can be easily inspected by TSA agents can provide peace of mind when traveling.
  • Although designed with the TSA in mind, many other countries use the Travel Sentry system, meaning that you can use your TSA-approved lock internationally.
What is Travel Sentry? Travel Sentry is the name of a company that developed a standard for luggage locks. This standard allows security agencies, such as TSA, to open the lock using a master key, without damaging the lock. It is denoted on luggage with the red diamond logo.

There are also a few potential disadvantages to consider:

  • Cost: TSA-approved locks may be more expensive than traditional locks.
  • False sense of security: Some people may mistakenly believe that a TSA-approved lock provides additional security beyond what is necessary for the TSA to inspect their luggage. It is important to remember that the primary purpose of a TSA-approved lock is to allow the TSA to access your luggage if necessary, and not to provide additional security beyond that.
  • Not as useful when traveling internationally: Not all countries use the Travel Sentry system, meaning that they don’t have access to master keys to unlock your TSA-approved lock. Overseas security services may have to break your lock to access the contents of your bag.

Smart Locks

Smart luggage locks are a type of lock that can be controlled and opened using a smartphone app, rather than a physical key or combination code. These locks offer a number of advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional luggage locks.

Pros of Using a Smart Lock

  • Convenience: Smart luggage locks can be opened and locked using a smartphone app, so you don’t have to worry about remembering a combination or carrying a physical key.
  • Security: Many smart locks use advanced encryption techniques to protect against hacking and other security threats. Some smart locks also have built-in security features such as tamper alarms and automatic lock-out after a certain number of incorrect passcode attempts. Additionally, some smart locks have GPS tracking that allows you to locate your luggage if it is lost or stolen.
  • Cost: Smart locks tend to be far more expensive than traditional locks.
  • Dependence on technology: If your phone dies or you lose it, you may not be able to unlock your luggage. Alternatively, if the lock’s battery dies or the lock experiences technical issues, you may not be able to access your luggage.
  • Security concerns: While smart locks can provide enhanced security, there is always the risk of them being hacked or compromised.
  • Limited compatibility: Some smart luggage locks may only be compatible with certain types of luggage or smartphones.

Biometric Locks

Biometric locks, also known as fingerprint locks, are a newer type of luggage lock that uses advanced technology to unlock.

These locks use biometric features such as fingerprints or facial recognition to unlock, providing a secure and convenient way to access your luggage.

Pros of Using a Biometric Lock

  • Very secure: Since every person’s fingerprint is unique, it is nearly impossible for someone to unlock your luggage without your permission. This makes biometric locks more secure than traditional locks, which can be picked or opened with a copied key.
  • Convenience: With a biometric lock, you don’t have to worry about remembering a combination or carrying around a key. All you need is your finger to unlock the luggage.
  • Quick to use: You can unlock your luggage with just a single touch or scan of your finger. There’s no fumbling around with a key or spending time fiddling with the wheels on a combination lock.
  • Cost: Biometric locks are generally more expensive than traditional locks.
  • Limited usability: They may not work well for people with disabilities or those who have trouble using their hands or fingers.
  • Dependence on technology: Like any electronic device, biometric locks can malfunction or stop working. This could be due to a dead battery or other technical issue, which would prevent you from accessing your luggage.
  • Privacy concerns: Some people may be uncomfortable with the idea of a device that stores their personal biometric data (such as their fingerprint) on a device that could potentially be lost or stolen.

Luggage with Integrated TSA Locks

Some pieces of luggage come with locks that are built into the baggage itself.

Pros of Using an Integrated TSA Lock

  • Convenience: Built-in locks are already attached to your luggage, so you don’t have to worry about carrying an extra lock or remembering to bring one with you.
  • Security: Built-in locks are often more difficult to tamper with or pick than traditional locks, because they are less visible and integrated into the luggage itself. This makes the lock more difficult to break or remove.
  • Limited use: A built-in lock can only be used on the luggage it is installed on, so it cannot be used to lock other items.
  • Limited options: You are limited to the lock that came with your luggage. The lock may not meet your specific requirements, causing you to use another lock.
  • Replacement cost: If a built-in lock is damaged or fails, the entire luggage piece may need to be replaced, which can be more costly than using a separate lock.

Which is the Right Lock for You?

As you can see, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a luggage lock to protect your baggage.

So, which one do you choose? If you have no preference after reading about the distinct types of locks available, we recommend the following: Unless you have a compelling reason otherwise, we suggest that you either use a TSA-approved combination or keyed lock. Combination locks are more convenient to use, as they don’t require a key, but can be fiddly for those of us who aren’t as nimble with our fingers.

In my opinion, the other lock options are far too expensive to justify the moderate gain in security that they can provide. To be blunt, I think devices such as smart and biometric locks are solutions looking for a problem.

The main function of a luggage lock is to act as a deterrent rather than secure your luggage. For opportunistic thieves, they are more likely to target a bag without a lock before one that doesn’t. If someone is determined to break into your luggage though, a luggage lock will only slow them down. Sometimes all that’s required to open a locked bag is a ballpoint pen !

Also, luggage which has a lock attached can act as a flag (Pick me! Pick me!), suggesting that the luggage has something worth stealing inside.

Should You Use a Luggage Lock?

In my opinion, luggage locks do serve a purpose: to act as a deterrent against opportunistic thievery. If you are traveling by public transport to the airport, walking through the airport, or leaving your bag unaccompanied in your hotel then, by all means, I recommend locking your bag.

When you are checking your bag with your airline, we recommend that you keep your bag unlocked. Firstly, you shouldn’t pack anything in your checked bag that is of significant value – all your valuables and important items should be packed in your carry-on .

An unlocked bag makes it easier for TSA to search your bag quickly physically. Yes, they can use a universal key, but even this takes some time. As we have seen post-pandemic, airports have had challenges with processing checked baggage promptly.

I personally never lock my bag when checking it in. In my decades of air travel, I haven’t had anything stolen from my luggage while it’s been in the custody of an airline (knock on wood – *taps head*).

Final Thoughts

As can be seen, there are many options when it comes to luggage locks. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Towards the end of the post, we somewhat controversially suggested that it may not be worthwhile to lock your luggage when it’s being checked in. I think that locked luggage can give us a (false) sense of security. Locks aren’t impervious to being tampered with. If someone is determined to break into your bag, they will do it. Outside of check-in , luggage locks do serve a more valuable function.

What do you think? Do you use luggage locks to secure your luggage? If so, what type do you prefer to use?

  • Transport Security Administration (TSA)

Hands Off My Suitcase

Hands Off My Suitcase

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In all of my domestic as well as international travel, I always put lock on my checked-in luggages. I know it won’t provide 100% security but for peace of mind, I do so especially that my luggage contents are important to me 😊. I have been using both keyed and combination locks but there were instances when combination locks are bit stressful to me when I forgot the number combinations. In my personal experience, traditional locks (keyed locks) are more convenient for me and works 100% most of the time (unless I lost its keys which so far didn’t happen to me during my travels. I have not yet tried the biometrics and TSA-approved lock but looking forward to try them in future.

Use of luggage locks is a personal choice for each traveller.

Use of luggage locks when traveling is a personal choice, depending on whether it may or may not provide security. In my personal experiences, I always travel with locked check in luggage, be it domestic or international. It offers me peace of mind knowing that my personal belongings are safe. I use either keyed or number-combinations lock and glad that I haven’t encountered any troubles throughout the duration of my travels.

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travel suitcase with lock

Luggage Locks: Should You Lock Your Luggage When You Fly?

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See recent posts by Ricky Radka

Watching your checked luggage disappear into the ether behind the bag drop counter can cause anxiety. Will it make that tight connection? Get lost along the way? Or worse, will everything you packed inside stay there? While there's little that can help with the separation anxiety, there might be a solution to calm your nerves on the last worry — luggage locks.

For travelers who often align themselves with the “better safe than sorry” mantra, here’s a rundown on the pros and cons of luggage locks and which are best at keeping your suitcase secure.

Benefits of Locking Up Your Luggage  

Simply, they are a cheap and effective way to discourage any bad apples in the baggage department from treating your suitcase like a sample stand at Costco. And as a bonus, luggage locks also double as devices to restrict your suitcase’s zippers from inching apart during travels and preventing items from tumbling out along the tarmac.

But beyond the airport is where they may prove most valuable. Many travelers feel more at ease stowing their luggage in designated sections of crowded trains, buses, or at hotels when they’re sturdily secured.

Limitations of Locking Up Your Luggage  

Just by buckling up your baggage with a lock doesn’t ensure it’s in the clear. While luggage locks will certainly deter most opportunistic thieves, it’s not an ironclad defense. In the off chance your bag needs a secondary search, a lock will not prohibit TSA from opening it up for an in-depth dive. Fort Knox it’s not.

The extra security can also backfire if you happen to misplace the key or after a long-haul flight blanks your brain of the combo code at arrivals.

Related: The BEST Carry-On Bags for Your Next Flight (Plus Airline Size Restrictions)

Best luggage locks for travel.

When purchasing a luggage lock, the first feature you should look for is that it’s TSA compliant. That old rotary combination used to lock up your gym gear back in high school most likely won’t pass, no matter how you spin it.

Most TSA approved locks are labeled with a symbol that looks like a red diamond to denote that it’s up to code . Non-approved locks that the TSA’s universal master key is unable to open will be broken off, potentially leading to busted zippers and other damage if your bag warrants further inspection. So to keep your luggage in one piece, here are five styles of approved luggage locks to suit your case.

Lewis N. Clark TSA Approved Luggage Locks

Lewis N. Clark Key TSA approved mini padlock set

These traditional locks are a top-seller for a reason. They’re easy to use with no numbers to memorize. Just be careful with your key and keep it at hand.

Price: Starting at $7.35 for a 2-Pack on Amazon

Combination Lock

Forge tsa approved combination luggage locks.

Forge TSA approved combination lock

Set it but don't forget it, this 3-digit combination lock is a popular choice among passengers who want the security of a sturdy lock without having to tote around an extra key.

Price: Starting at $10.95 for a 2-Pack on Amazon

Sure Lock TSA Approved Cable Luggage Locks

Nearly identical to a combination style lock, but built with a flexible cable construction to fit any zipper system or suitcase straps.  

Price: $12.95 for a 2-Pack on Amazon

Keycard Lock

Talonport tsa approved keyless luggage locks.

Talonport keyless TSA approved luggage locks

Forget your combo more often than you’d like to admit? With a quick swipe, Talonport’s keyless card system will have your suitcase open without worries.

Price: $29.99 for a 2-Pack on Amazon

ELASTRAAP TSA Approved Luggage Strap Lock

Elastraap TSA Approved baggage strap

Keep your contents contained and your suitcase secure with an easy to use strap system from ELASTRAAP.  

Price: Starting at $18.99 on Amazon

Related: The 7 Best Anti-Theft Bags for Travel

Alternative options to luggage locks.

Inside many airports, you'll see baggage-wrapping stations, and while the wraps do provide another perimeter of protection from both crooks and cracks your suitcase might encounter. The amount of plastic waste is excessive. For a budget/eco-friendly alternative, opt for twist ties like you'd find sealing a loaf of bread or some biodegradable zips . Just remember to keep some nail clippers in your carry-on to help cut them off afterward if needed. Better yet, pose for a personalized luggage cover from SuitFaces and keep would-be muggers away with a humorous picture of yours.

If you’re in the market for some new luggage, Coolife and Samsonite both offer a wide variety of hard-sided options with TSA approved lock systems already built-in. For short trips that call for smaller bags to schlep. Have a look at our best anti-theft options that incorporate hidden zippers and compartments to keep your items safe from sticky fingers.  

Bottom Line

Luggage locks are a helpful way to provide a sense of security and add another impediment to keep bandits at bay. However, they aren’t a surefire way to guarantee your items will be safe. And can do more harm than good if you misplace a key or forget your combo. If you do decide that bolting up your baggage is best for some peace of mind, just make sure your lock is TSA approved .

Ultimately, whether you choose to lock your bag is up to you, but as a rule, always take essential items with you on-board in your carry-on. That includes medicine, travel documents, currency, or any other belongings you deem irreplaceable. In the rare instance, your checked bag weighs lighter off the carousel than it did at check-in

Related: How to Protect Yourself Against In-Flight Theft

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Luggage Locks: Should I Lock My Suitcase When I Fly?

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Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of IndependentTraveler.com. Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor .

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at [email protected] .

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Each time you abandon your suitcase to the not-so-tender mercies of airline baggage handlers and TSA agents, you might wonder, “Should I have locked my luggage?” A study by Stratos , which charters jets, found that airline passengers filed almost 8,000 yearly claims against the TSA for losing items such as clothing, jewelry, and electronics: “In fact, JFK International Airport was once described as a ‘flea market for airport employees,’ with reports claiming that more than 200 items are stolen from passengers’ checked luggage every day.”

So, it’s clear you can’t count on the TSA to reimburse you for such losses; the agency denied more than half of the claims. Are luggage locks the answer?

Close up of a person unlocking a suitcase with a luggage lock

The Benefits of Luggage Locks

Locking your suitcase doesn’t just make it more difficult for opportunistic baggage handlers or security officers to root through your stuff at the airport. A lock can also help hold your bag’s zippers together so they don’t work their way open while in transit, leaking socks and underwear all over the baggage carousel.

You might also want to lock your bag if you’re staying in a hostel with strangers, or while traveling on a crowded bus or train. Some travelers even lock their suitcases during the day at hotels to deter theft by housekeepers.

The 10 Best Expandable Suitcases

The Limitations of Luggage Locks

Putting a lock on your suitcase isn’t a guarantee that your stuff will be safe. Do a quick search on YouTube, and you’ll find a trove of videos explaining how to open a combination lock without the code or how to break into a locked suitcase with nothing but a ballpoint pen. Nor is it difficult to slice through a soft-sided bag. Locks discourage casual thieves, who will move on to easier targets, but they’re flimsy protection against those who are truly determined to get into your bag.

That’s why you should always keep any valuables in your carry-on , not your checked luggage. As noted above, the TSA is unlikely to pay you back if something is stolen from your checked bag, and airlines typically don’t accept liability for the loss of expensive items such as jewelry, electronic equipment, or fragile souvenirs.

TSA-Approved Locks

If you do decide to secure your suitcase, choose one of the many TSA-approved locks available, such as these combination locks from Master Lock or TravelMore . You can also buy keyed luggage locks such as these from Lewis N. Clark , though it’s worth considering how likely you might be to lose track of a tiny key while traveling. You can even purchase suitcases with built-in TSA-approved locks .

The TSA has master keys that allow agents to open all TSA-approved locks, if they determine that your bag needs extra screening. If you use a non-TSA lock, they’ll simply cut it off your bag. Note that not all security officers outside the U.S. have the same master keys, so even a TSA-approved lock could be cut off if you’re traveling internationally.

The Ultimate Packing List SmarterTravel

Alternatives to Luggage Locks

Another way to lock your suitcase is to use zip ties , which are cheap enough that you won’t mind if the TSA has to slice them off. Just remember to pack a small pair of scissors in an outside pocket of your suitcase.

Some travelers prefer to wrap their suitcases in plastic, which makes bags harder to break into, protects their exteriors from dings, and keeps them from bursting open if a zipper fails. This bagging service is offered at select airports by companies such as Seal & Go and Secure Wrap . Though security agents will cut off the plastic if they need to inspect your luggage more closely, some wrapping services offer a complimentary rewrap post-security. One disadvantage to this method: By generating so much plastic, it’s the least environmentally friendly way to protect your bag.

Looking for Luggage With a Lock?

The Away Carry-On in green

“Sold separately” isn’t statement when it comes to the carry-on from Away . While including a TSA-approved lock in its design, this bag also comes with 360° spinning wheels, and a super hard exterior shell—this bag is built to be your last.

Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

All of the products featured in this story were hand-selected by our travel editors. Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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Suitcase Locks Are Basically Useless, but There Is One Way to Keep Your Stuff Safe

travel suitcase with lock

So you've packed your bags for your upcoming travels and even brought along some valuables like your electronics and a few jewels. Not to worry: You have your trusty luggage lock, which should keep your stuff safe, right?

According to experts, you may want to think twice about your travel safety precautions.

In 2014, several blogs, including Techlicious , noticed the Washington Post made the fatal error of publishing a photo of the TSA's master keys (the photos were since removed). The photo gave would-be thieves around the world all the information they'd need to 3D print their own copies, thus giving them the power to unlock any and all TSA-approved travel luggage locks ever made.

Ars Technica even tested out the 3D-printed version of the keys and were able to print, use, and break into a locked bag with ease.

However, even without all this fancy tech, the locks do little to actually protect your luggage. In fact, any motivated thief can rip open your bag without breaking the lock and without leaving a single trace behind. All they need is a simple ballpoint pen.

As WonderHowTo explained, all a thief has to do is simply move your luggage locks to the side of a bag, insert a pen tip along the seam of the zipper, break the seam apart and open your bag. Once they are done rummaging through your things, they can then reseal the bag by bringing the zipper back around, at which point the zipper will self-heal, and you'll be none the wiser (until you realize all your stuff is missing).

So how can you really protect your stuff while traveling? As the video shows, if you seriously need to carry expensive gear, you may want to invest in a hard case and use your own high-security locks. But be warned: When using your own locks, TSA requires you to wait for your bags to go through the scanner at check-in before you can leave them, so make sure to give yourself ample time at the airport. (Or you could always carry your valuables on the plane with you, which is all-around a safer bet.)

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Shop by material, shop by category, shop by feature, city guides, the softside bigger carry-on.

Front product view of The Softside Bigger Carry-On suitcase in Coast Blue with raised handle

Unzip to expand an additional 1.75" (4.5 cm) of space for extra packing room.

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Model is 6'0"

The Softside Bigger Carry-On suitcase in Coast Blue shown open on its side and packed with Away's packing organizers to show capacity and the interior compression system, designed to help you pack more in

Our patented interior compression system allows you to stay more organized. Paired with The Insider Packing Cubes .

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Two no-show exterior pockets give you a sleek space to store your essentials, including a laptop for easy access.

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An additional wraparound zipper allows you to expand the Softside suitcase easily when you need extra room.

The Softside Bigger Carry-On suitcase in Coast Blue shown laying on a surface to highlight the underside grab handle

Underside grab handle that makes it easier to lift and carry your suitcase.

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Our TSA-accepted color-matching padlock keeps everything safe and secure.

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All Softside suitcases come with a black leather luggage tag. Add up to three letters to personalize yours and stand out at the baggage claim.

Front product view of The Softside Bigger Carry-On suitcase in Coast Blue with raised handle

Limited lifetime warranty・Free shipping

Experience a whole new way to travel in style with Softside—our best-selling suitcases now with a soft, high-strength nylon exterior.

We tested in multiple settings (rain AND shine) to ensure no matter where your Softside is headed, it will look good while you travel well. As the standard size option, our Bigger Carry-On can easily be stowed away in the overhead bin of most US airlines, while still utilizing more space. We've even incorporated our iconic expansion feature for effortless packing flexibility and included our proprietary stabilizer to keep your full bag upright and ready to roll.

360° wheels

  • Durable, water-resistant nylon with a water-repellency coating
  • Zipper expansion provides an additional 1.75" (4.5 cm) of packing space
  • Premium 360° smooth-gliding spinner wheels
  • One main compartment for packing featuring our patented interior compression system and front lid storage
  • Two hidden, easy-access front pockets padded to protect smaller items and laptops
  • Quick-release trolley handle with two adjustable height settings
  • TSA-accepted color-matching combination padlock
  • New proprietary stabilizer helps you steer clear of wobbles and bag tips
  • Top, side, and underside grab handles make it easier to lift and carry your suitcase
  • Water-resistant polyester laundry bag with a drawstring closure
  • Includes a black leather luggage tag
  • Meets carry-on requirements for most major airlines

Our Softside suitcases are shipped in exterior packaging that is 100% recyclable.

Exterior measurements  23" x 15.7" x 9.1" Interior measurements  18.3" x 14.6" Weight  9.8 lbs Capacity  38.3 L Capacity when expanded  44.3 L Note: Depending on the size of the plane, you may need to check this bag on your flight when fully expanded. Measurements include wheels and handles.

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TSA-approved combination lock

We want you to love everything about getting Away—which is why we offer free returns and exchanges on unused items for the first 100 days. We can only accept returns on unused items, so please gently test them out at home before traveling with them. Learn more about our return policy .

Our suitcases are guaranteed by a limited lifetime warranty that covers any damage to the shell, wheels, handles, zippers, and many other functional elements of our luggage. Learn more about our warranty .

Keep in mind that while personalized items cannot be returned or exchanged, they are still covered by our warranties. For shipping info, see our FAQ .

A new take on Softside

travel suitcase with lock

Built to last

Soft, not sensitive. Our durable exterior is soft and flexible, but tested to protect against the elements so your bag won't tear or snag no matter what you encounter on your travels. We know accidents happen so we tested our Softside to ensure any accidental spills are easy to wipe off, so your luggage can continue to be your stylish travel companion.

PDP Softside Clay BCO BTF 1x1

Our TSA-accepted padlock keeps everything safe, giving you one less thing to worry about during the airport rush. Oh, and it matches the suitcase’s color perfectly. Security, meet style.

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12 best affordable luggage options for your next trip

Look for budget-friendly luggage with materials built to last.

Buying airline tickets. Shelling out for a hotel. Booking experiences like a guided tour or museum tickets. Vacation can get pricey. If you also need new luggage? Well, that can add yet another expense. The good news is there are plenty of affordable luggage on the market that are convenient to use and durable enough to keep your essentials safe while traveling. 

As the daughter of a pilot, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel worldwide. I’ve been to over 30 countries and have used every type of luggage imaginable. For example, a compact weekender bag is my go-to for a quick trip with pals. A good wheeled carry-on works in almost any situation—and a larger, checked wheelie is perfect for longer vacations. When I traveled through Asia, I found that slinging a duffle bag over my shoulder made the most sense because much of the terrain wasn’t appropriate for wheels. Regardless of my traveling type, I’ve always preferred spending my money on experiences rather than pouring it into my luggage. And some of my favorite pieces that have stood the test of time have cost well under $150. 

SKIP AHEAD The best affordable luggage of 2024 | Best affordable hardside suitcase | Best affordable softside suitcases | Best affordable duffle bags | Best affordable weekender bags | How to shop for the best affordable luggage

To help you find high-quality but affordable options, we consulted experts about what to look for when shopping and compiled recommendations in various luggage categories based on their advice. 

The best affordable luggage of 2024

Below, we rounded up affordable hardside and softside suitcases, as well as duffel bags and weekender totes we think you should know about. We used expert guidance to make our picks and added highly rated options from NBC Select reader favorite brands.

Best affordable hardside suitcases

Amazon basics 30-inch hardside spinner.

Amazon Basics 30-Inch Hardside Spinner

Looking for a larger bag you can check? This 30-inch option from Amazon Basics has a 4.5-average star rating out of 47,557 reviews on Amazon. It has a scratch-resistant protective hard shell, according to the brand. A zipper expansion allows you to increase the size of the bag by 15 percent if you need more room. This suitcase has 4 multi-directional spinner wheels, which can be rolled easily in any direction. Inside, you’ll find a divider and three zippered pockets for smaller items. This suitcase comes in orange , black , navy and blue .

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Expandable 24-Inch Suitcase

Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Expandable 24-Inch Suitcase

Annie Daly, a travel writer and author of Destination Wellness , says that Samsonite is one of her favorite affordable luggage brands. She used a similar style from the brand on a long trip to report the book that took her from New York to Hawaii to Japan to India to Norway to Brazil and finally to Jamaica and says it held up exceptionally well. This 24-inch rolling suitcase is considered to be a medium-sized checked bag. It has 4 multi-directional wheels, a telescopic handle and a 1.5” expansion that allows you to pack more items. Samsonite says that the hard shell is made to absorb any impact by flexing under stress and then popping back to its original shape to eliminate dents and protect your belongings. It has a 4.5-average star rating out of 21,995 reviews on Amazon.

Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20-Inch Carry-On

Kenneth Cole Reaction Out of Bounds 20-Inch Carry-On

This 20-inch carry-on suitcase meets the requirements for most airlines’ overhead storage compartments, according to the brand and has a 4.3-average star rating out of 14,528 reviews on Amazon. It has multi-directional spinning wheels and reinforced corners to protect against extra wear and tear, according to the brand. It contains a zippered organization pocket and garment restraint straps to hold clothes in place. It weighs 5.65 pounds, making it relatively lightweight and comes in colors like midnight black , rose gold and scarlet red .

Quince 21” Carry-on Hard Shell Suitcase

Quince 21" Carry-on Hard Shell Suitcase

Quince 21" Carry-on Hard Shell Suitcase

This bag won a 2024 NBC Select travel award . During our testing, we found that the Quince 21” Carry-On balances durability and maneuverability well. NBC Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin tested the bag and loved how well it handled different terrain. “I dragged this bag through the streets of New York, on multiple flights, checked and not checked, and dragged it up flights of stairs and it looks great,” she says. While the bag is prone to some scrapes (the case with many hardshell bags), it does with a small sponge to help wipe scuffs away.

Bagsmart Carry-On

Bagsmart Carry-On

 Another winner from our travel awards , the Bagsmart Carry-On can hold a surprisingly large amount given its size, according to NBC Select managing editor Leah Ginsberg, who tested the bag. “I was really impressed by this carry-on. Its dimensions are smaller than the average carry-on,” she says. “But it held a lot of things and the quality is good for the price.” The suitcase, which has 360-degree wheels, is slightly smaller than the standard carry-on size for most major airlines but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice space for storing clothing or other travel items. It also has an adjustable handle with four heights, TSA-approved locks on the zippers, multiple compartments for organizing clothes and an expandable zipper on the side.

Best Affordable Softside Suitcases

Swissgear sion softside expandable carry-on.

SwissGear Sion Softside Expandable Carry-On

While our experts agreed that hardside bags are more durable, they noted that softside options can be easier to squeeze into tight spaces. This polyester option has multiple front panel pockets that can store things like reading materials, laptops and more. At 20 inches, this bag fits most airline carry-on requirements and comes with multi-directional spinner wheels and reinforced side handles that make it easy to lift into an overhead compartment. You’ll find a removable zippered wet bag and a large mesh pocket inside. It weighs 7.96 pounds and has a 4.4-average star rating out of 19,225 reviews on Amazon.

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside 22-Inch Carry-On

Travelpro Maxlite 5 Softside 22-Inch Carry-On

This brand is known for being the favorite suitcase brand of pilots and flight attendants—something I can attest to; my father, a commercial airline pilot, has used this brand for nearly 40 years. At 22 inches, this is a larger carry-on option and rollerboard model, meaning it has only two wheels. While our experts said they mostly prefer luggage with 4 multi-directional wheels, Daly noted that rollerboard models can be good if you travel to a place with lots of cobblestone streets or other tricky terrains. This bag weighs 9 pounds and has a 4.4-average star rating from 4,776 reviews on Amazon.

American Tourister Belle Voyage Softside 25-Inch Luggage

American Tourister Belle Voyage Softside 25-Inch Luggage

American Tourister is another favorite brand of Daly’s for high-quality, affordable luggage. This 25-inch checked bag has multidirectional spinner wheels and a zippered front pocket. It can expand by 1.5 inches for extra room, and the inside has a zippered mesh pocket and garment restraint straps. It weighs just under 9 pounds and has a 4.6-average star rating out of 2,085 reviews on Amazon.

Best Affordable Duffel Bags

Adidas defender 4 medium duffel bag.

Adidas Defender 4 Medium Duffel Bag

If you prefer to throw a bag over one shoulder when traveling, this lightweight duffel bag from Adidas is a good option. Its dimensions are 12 inches by  24.75 inches by 13 inches, making it small enough to be used as a carry-on but big enough to fit three to four outfits. The bag is made from durable polyester, which is easy to wipe down and clean, according to our experts. The shoulder strap is adjustable, and the bag has a roomy middle compartment and two zippered side pockets on either end (great for storing shoes or other accessories). It has a 4.8-average star rating out of 7,958 reviews.

G4Free 40L 3-Way Duffel Bag

G4Free 40L 3-Way Duffel Bag

Made from a nylon fabric, this bag is water and tear-resistant, according to the brand. It measures 12 inches by 23 inches by 10 inches, so it can be used as a carry-on on most airlines. This bag has one large compartment, a side compartment intended to store shoes and a small zippered pocket at the front. This duffel has smaller top straps to carry it by hand, an adjustable shoulder strap to sling over one shoulder, and detachable, padded shoulder straps to wear as a backpack. It has a 4.5-average star rating from 2,205 reviews on Amazon.

Olympia U.S.A. 8 Pocket Rolling Duffel

Olympia U.S.A. 8 Pocket Rolling Duffel

Do you prefer a duffel shape but still want the option of rolling your bag? This Olympia U.S.A. bag has top handles or a telescopic handle that can be pulled out to roll it. It comes in 22-, 26-, 29- and 33-inch versions. It weighs 5 pounds and has 8 different pockets, including side compartments and top zippered pockets. This bag has a 4.4-average star rating from 15,157 reviews on Amazon. 

Calpak Stevyn Duffel

Calpak Stevyn Duffel

This duffel bag from Calpak is from one of our favorite AAPI-owned businesses and made our list of best weekender bags . It comes with a large bottom compartment for shoes or any items you want to keep separated and interior pockets to keep smaller items organized. It has a trolley sleeve on the back side to securely attach it to your luggage and you can either carry it by the top handles or by using the detachable shoulder strap.

Best Affordable Weekend Bags

Béis the weekender.

Béis The Weekender

I purchased this bag last year and it has quickly become my go-to for 2-3 days long trips. It is made of heavy-duty canvas and has two top handles with a 25-centimeter drop that can be carried in hand or fit snugly on one shoulder—it also comes with a detachable, longer shoulder strap if you prefer to carry it that way. This tote has a zippered bottom compartment that keeps shoes or toiletries separate from the rest of your stuff. A zippered pocket on the back becomes a trolley sleeve when unzipped, so you can slide it over the handle of a rolling bag if you want to take it on a longer trip. It comes in various colors—like black , Atlas Pink and Creamsicle .

Everlane The ReNew Transit Weekender

Everlane The ReNew Transit Weekender

This bag was a top pick in our guide to the best weekender bags . Everlane ’s ReNew Transit Weekender is made with a water-resistant finish and made with 100 percent recycled polyester, according to the brand. It has a 9-inch top handle, an adjustable shoulder strap and a padded laptop sleeve on the interior, and it comes in Black , Warm Quartz , Warm Charcoal , Nutria and Ocean Cavern .

Vera Bradley Weekender Travel Bag

Vera Bradley Weekender Travel Bag

Another pick from our best weekender bag story, this option Vera Bradley has five mesh internal pockets and two additional zipper pockets to keep smaller items organized. It also has a trolley sleeve to slip on top of a rolling suitcase and is small enough to be considered a carry-on. It comes in a variety of prints and patterns, like Hope Blooms , Paisley Jamboree and Island Garden . 

Halfday The Garment Duffel

Halfday The Garment Duffel

Another pick from our story on the best weekender bags, this one comes highly recommended by Malin due to its durability and the fact that it’s a perfect size for a weekend trip. It weighs just over 2 pounds and has a water-resistant exterior. The duffel comes with two interior shoe pockets and it converts into a hanging garment compartment that holds a suit, tux or multiple dress shirts, according to the brand. It’s available in ten colors, including marine, shadow and hunter.

How we picked the best affordable luggage

We spoke to travel experts for guidance on what to look for in affordable luggage. Based on their guidance, we kept the following in mind when sourcing top-rated options: 

  • Materials: We recommend both hardside and soft luggage, making sure each is crafted from materials like plastic or nylon that are made to withstand being thrown in trunks or on airplanes.
  • Zippers: According to our experts, metal zippers are more sturdy than plastic. So, we prioritized picks with those.
  • Wheels: If a piece of luggage has wheels, we prioritized 360-degree spinner wheels for easy maneuverability.
  • Weight: All bags on our list weigh under 15 pounds for easy carrying. 
  • Airline requirements: The TSA does not have requirements regarding luggage size — they defer to airlines for those guidelines. The FAA notes that most airlines have a maximum carry-on requirement of 45 linear inches (the total sum if you add height, width and depth). It is always best to check with the airline you are flying before arriving at the airport. For checked luggage, the requirement across airlines is usually 62 linear inches. Whether a carry-on or checked bag, we ensured our picks met these requirements.

How to shop for the best affordable luggage

If you’re in the market for affordable luggage, here’s what our experts recommended keep in mind while shopping:

  • Bag Type: Knowing the type of luggage that suits your needs is important. Bags with wheels are helpful for people who are packing a lot or traversing large airports or multiple destinations, says Daly. Some people prefer to sling a bag over their shoulder, especially if their destination isn’t wheel-friendly (think cobblestone or dirt roads). Wheeled bags and duffel bags can be found in carry-on or checked bag sizes, depending on your needs. Finally, weekend bags are great for 1-3 days trips or as a carry-on when checking a larger bag. 
  • Materials: Rolling suitcases come in hard-side or soft-side options.  “I prefer hard-side bags because they’ve always been more durable for me,” says Daly. “They’re also water-resistant, which is helpful—when traveling, you have to be prepared for anything Mother Nature throws your way.” That said, some people feel they can stuff more into a softside bag because they have a bit more give. “They are also more flexible and easier to stuff into tight spaces,” says David Leiter, creator of the popular travel blog, The World Travel Guy . If you are opting for a soft-side suitcase or a duffel bag, Daly recommends something made from polyester or nylon, which tend to be the most durable and are also water-resistant. Weekender bags are often made from cotton or canvas, but are often used for shorter amounts of time and aren’t checked at the airport, reducing wear and tear.
  • Zippers: The last thing you want is for the zipper on your bag to break mid-trip. “Metal zippers tend to be more durable than plastic,” says Daly. She also recommends looking for bags that have two zippers. “This usually means you can unzip a bag from either side, which is handy if you are trying to access your stuff quickly on the go.”
  • Wheels: If you travel a lot, both Daly and Leiter recommend choosing a bag with four multidirectional spinner wheels that can stay upright as you move it rather than having to tip it for it to roll. However, Daly notes that if you tend to travel places with cobblestone or uneven streets, two-wheel options may come in handy. 
  • Weight: For ease of portability, every bag we selected weighs under 15 pounds. Just know that weight limitations on both carry-on and checked bags vary depending on the airline you travel on. It is always wise to check what your airline’s requirements are before you head to the airport.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts with specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Annie Daly is a NYC-based travel writer and author of Destination Wellness , about healthy living philosophies around the world.
  • David Leiter is a founder of The World Travel Guy, a popular travel blog. He has traveled to dozens of countries, almost always doing so on a budget.

Why trust NBC Select?

I'm a contributor at NBC Select and journalist who regularly covers topics like travel, home and lifestyle. I'm also a frequent traveler and have been to more than 30 countries. For this story, I interviewed two experts to gather their guidance and sought out highly-rated luggage based on their shopping recommendations.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of  personal finance ,  tech and tools ,  wellness  and more, and follow us on  Facebook ,  Instagram ,  Twitter  and  TikTok  to stay up to date.

Bethany Heitman is a contributing editor at NBC Select.

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TSA intercepts firearm at Pittsburgh International Airport during busy Independence Day travel week

travel suitcase with lock

PITTSBURGH – Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at Pittsburgh International Airport stopped a West Virginia couple from bringing their .22 caliber handgun through a checkpoint July 1. The gun was loaded with five bullets.

The firearm was in a woman’s carry-on bag and she told officials that she did not know it was among her carry-on items and stated that the firearm belonged to her husband with whom she was traveling. He confirmed that was indeed the case.

“This is an excellent example of why it is so important the individuals pack their own bags; so they can ensure that there is nothing prohibited or illegal inside,” said Karen Keys-Turner, TSA’s Federal Security Director for the airport. “It’s the busy Independence Day travel period and this is no time to be caught with an illegal or prohibited item among your carry-on items. It slows down the line and this is a very busy place. Nobody wants to wait in a checkpoint line because someone with a gun was careless and brought his gun with him.”

The individual “now faces a stiff federal financial penalty for his actions in having a gun at the checkpoint,” Keys-Turner said. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website .

The Allegheny County Police confiscated the weapon. Police confiscate firearms, not TSA.

Bringing a gun to an airport checkpoint carries a federal civil penalty because TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a weapon into a checkpoint can reach up to $15,000, depending on the specific weapon and the circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. This also applies to travelers who are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck® program, who will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges if they bring a gun to a checkpoint.  

The complete list of civil penalties is posted online . 

When a gun is detected in the checkpoint X-ray unit, the conveyor belt is stopped and the police are notified. Police remove the carry-on bag from the X-ray unit because TSA does not want its officers handling firearms. Police determine whether a traveler is arrested or issued a criminal citation. Meanwhile the remaining passengers in the checkpoint lane either wait for the issue to be resolved or they are shifted to another checkpoint lane, thus delaying dozens of passengers from getting to their gates.

TSA firearms catches at airport checkpoints at Pittsburgh International Airport, 2017 to 2024

Last year, a record 6,737 firearms were caught at checkpoints nationwide and Pittsburgh was part of that disturbing trend.

Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and passengers should do their homework to make sure that they are not violating any local firearm laws. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

Unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither? Download the free myTSA app , which has a handy “What can I bring?” feature that allows you to type in the item to find out if it can fly. Or ask on Twitter or Facebook Messenger at @AskTSA . Travelers may send a question by texting “Travel” to AskTSA (275-872).

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BAGSMART Carry On Luggage 22x14x9 Airline Approved with TSA Lock,20 Inch Lightweight Luggage with Spinner Wheels,100% PC Hard Shell Carry On Suitcases for Men Women,Lake Blue

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BAGSMART Carry On Luggage 22x14x9 Airline Approved with TSA Lock,20 Inch Lightweight Luggage with Spinner Wheels,100% PC Hard Shell Carry On Suitcases for Men Women,Lake Blue

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  • Airline-Approved Boarding Size: 20 inch carry on luggage meets most airline requirements for overhead compartments. Suitcases with wheels are suitable for 3-5 day trips, air, train and bus travel. Travel luggage is upgraded with double-ended zippers and side-mounted TSA-approved locks to ensure smooth and hassle-free airline baggage screening for carry on suitcase measuring 22x14x9 inches with spinner wheels and handle. It has a volume of 35 liters and weighs only 6.83 lbs.
  • 20% Upgraded Bigger Expandable Design: The checked luggage is ingeniously designed with two main compartments and features the buckle compression system, keeping your clothes neatly arranged. The travel suitcase comes with a zippered mesh pocket for quick access to essentials, and a built-in small pocket for small items. Pulling open the zipper can expand by 1.6 inches, adding an extra 7L of space, with a large capacity of 42L, helping you pack more items and keep your travel items organized.
  • Excellent Craftsmanship: This hard shell carry on luggage is made of 100%PC for exceptional strength, flexibility, and lightness. The underseat carry on luggage with wheels has passed the shock drop test. The hard shell luggage texture is extremely scratch-resistant and not easily scratched, keeping the hard case luggage looking great on trip after trip.
  • Superior Maneuverability: The rolling suitcase buttery smooth 360° swivel wheels are extremely quiet and durable, making it easy to navigate through airports, train platforms, sidewalks, and even cobblestone streets. The travel luggage has been upgraded with a sturdy and smooth four-level adjustable aluminum handle with multiple height options for your comfort. Soft silicone handles on the top and sides of the hard shell suitcases have been added to make the lightweight suitcase easier to lift.
  • Premium Service And Warranty: BAGSMART will back each piece of tsa approved carry on luggage with a 2-year manufacturer's warranty. Before shipment, hard sided luggage with spinner wheels undergoes thousands of rigorous tests to ensure that our luggage meets strict standards and can withstand any journey. If there is any quality problem, please feel free to contact us. Professional and patient customer service will reply to your satisfaction in time.

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Product description, meet our highly respected spinner luggage-crafted for the modern traveler.

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The Bagsmart Carry On luggage is constructed with a rigorously tested, lightweight, and durable hard shell that will stand up to even the toughest travel conditions.

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Bagsmart Underseat Carry On Luggage is the perfect travel companion, allowing you to carry all your essentials with ease and style on every adventure.

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Customer Reviews, including Product Star Ratings help customers to learn more about the product and decide whether it is the right product for them.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzed reviews to verify trustworthiness.

Customers say

Customers like the quality and rolling of the suitcase. They mention that the wheels are smooth and that it moves easily. They also appreciate the sturdy construction and that the lock works well. Opinions are mixed on size.

AI-generated from the text of customer reviews

Customers are satisfied with the quality of the suitcase. For example, they mention it's well-made, sturdy, and has a great roll. Some say that the handle is a good height.

"Spacious and durable " Read more

"Description matches. Wheels are smooth and roll perfect. Strong and sturdy ." Read more

" Theses are great ,they fit the measurements needed for over head american airlines." Read more

"Will be using for the first time in a month. Quality is exactly what I expected " Read more

Customers like the rolling of the suitcase. They say the wheels are smooth and perfect. They also mention that the suitcase is sturdy and moves easily.

"Description matches. Wheels are smooth and roll perfect. Strong and sturdy." Read more

"Pros: suitcase seems durable, lock works well, wheels roll nice , handle is a good height, well made..." Read more

"This suitcase is sturdy and moves easily .It is wide open and does not have compartments. They must be purchased separately...." Read more

Customers are mixed about the size of the suitcase. Some mention it's quite roomy, and the right size for the passenger cabin, while others say it'll be a bit smaller than expected.

" Spacious and durable" Read more

"...The small moisture bag already in place is extremely small and will not allow for an adult bathing suit and definitely not a towel...." Read more

"...It seems quite roomy , although I haven’t used it yet, but I’m perfectly satisfied with the product." Read more

"...It is wide open and does not have compartments . They must be purchased separately. The brand does offer lovely zippered containers...." Read more

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Elektrostal, visit elektrostal, check elektrostal hotel availability, popular places to visit.

  • Electrostal History and Art Museum

You can spend time exploring the galleries in Electrostal History and Art Museum in Elektrostal. Take in the museums while you're in the area.

  • Cities near Elektrostal

Photo by Ksander

  • Places of interest
  • Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
  • Central Museum of the Air Forces at Monino
  • Peter the Great Military Academy
  • Bykovo Manor
  • Balashikha Arena
  • Malenky Puppet Theater
  • Balashikha Museum of History and Local Lore
  • Pekhorka Park
  • Orekhovo Zuevsky City Exhibition Hall
  • Ramenskii History and Art Museum
  • Noginsk Museum and Exhibition Center
  • Saturn Stadium

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