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Backpack or Suitcase for travel around Europe for 3 months

Backpack or Suitcase for travel around Europe for 3 months

Old Oct 9th, 2012, 01:01 PM
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Backpack or Suitcase for travel around Europe for 3 months

Hi just a question about whether I am best to take my suitcase 65cm/25" that is on 4 wheel rollers or buy a backpack.

I will mainly be staying in hostels and the itnerary so far is

-Prague/Olomouc
-Krakow
-Budapest
-Zagreb or -Vienna/Salzburg
-Munich
-Berlin
-Hamburg
-Dusseldorf
-Amsterdam
-Bruges/Brussels

Is it better when in hostels to lock away a backpack or suitcase? I plan to stay in each place around 5 days or more. so would it be easier to take suitcase and live out rucksack during the day??

Info or past experiences welcome!
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Old Oct 9th, 2012, 01:06 PM
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Gronky, it depends on how strong you are and how heavy the case is. I've done both as has Mrs Bilbo but at the end she now uses a suitcase with wheels and she is a strong woman.
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Old Oct 9th, 2012, 01:11 PM
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I would suggest a backpack, definitely. A suitcase with rollers will be a pain in the butt to drag around on cobbled streets and uneven roads if you're rolling it and an even bigger pain in the butt if you have to carry it, and constantly switch arms, have it jostled, and so on. The wheels just add extra weight to your load that you don't really need.

A backpack is just less awkward, and if you get a good one with plenty of space, it'll be more than enough. Plus, having it on you back will more evenly distribute the weight. I did two months in Europe with a fairly large pack, but next year when I go, I'll be bringing and even smaller backpack, so that I can just carry it on the airplane and not have to worry about checking it. I'll probably be gone for almost two months again.

If I were you, I'd bring the backpack plus a small day bag/purse/whatever for day-to-day walking around. Lots of hostels have lockers where you can lock your bag safely away, so mack sure you bring a combination lock or padlock! I would definitely not advise bringing your whole pack with you when you're looking around a city all day long!
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Old Oct 9th, 2012, 01:17 PM
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What modes of transport you're using and your own physical abilities are probably the most relevant questions.

Personally, I don't like backpacks - I don't like wearing them, or fussing around with them, or wondering whether to take them off on the metro, or trying to find the stuff I need in the bottom of them etc. etc. and I've travelled around all manner of places with a suitcase.

*However* suitcases are a big giant pain if you're having to haul them up and down stairs to trains, metro stations, hostel rooms etc. (there is not always an elevator or escalator), and they can also be problematic to stow on trains. I've also had suitcases break on me quite a few times. I'm guessing that if you're staying in hostels you may not be shelling out for taxis to whisk you from door to door, so I imagine backpack would probably be the best choice for you.

As for security in hostels, generally I would look after things that are truly valuable and not stress too much about the rest. I've stayed in many a hostel without ever having a problem, and chances are people aren't going to want your dirty clothes. You can padlock the bag itself (although that can be tricky with the million zips backpacks often have), and if you're that concerned, you could try having a bike lock to lock it to your bed. Sometimes there are lockers which a smaller bag might fit into, but I've found very often there's not really anything available anyway.
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Old Oct 9th, 2012, 01:28 PM
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If you have a backpack make sure that it will fit in the lockers at the hostel so you can lock it away. You will want only a small daypack for touring each day - a large backpack is just too big, too heavy and too easy to have things stolen out of. Have never seen anyone at a hostel with a suitcase.
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Old Oct 9th, 2012, 01:36 PM
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Ok so pro's and con's for both.

Guess it's gonna have to be a backpack!

Think my biggest concern is locking it in the hostel.

For a first time traveller I am scared of going over the top with the size of it.
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Old Oct 9th, 2012, 01:37 PM
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Modes of transport I will be using are buses or trains.
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Old Oct 9th, 2012, 02:04 PM
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I am not in too bad a physical condition, I am only 31 yo and last year out of nowhere, I had to have a very serious surgery on my spine, while a disk broke into pieces and a piece stacked on root of a nerve, causing me not to feel my left leg. I had no accident and I was really puzzled by this. After talking with my doctor, we found out that weight lifting in the past could be the major cause for this. Weight lifting consisted of helping the bell boys when very busy or cover for them in their days off especially in two summer seasons a few years ago (I am a hotel receptionist). I would try to pack as light as possible and try to avoid weight lifting. This of course applies on lifting a suitcase every now and then, but mostly on carrying around a backpack for 3 whole months. I think that suitcase with wheels is better option for your spine!
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Old Oct 9th, 2012, 06:19 PM
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Mariha, as long as shes careful, uses proper form to lift and so on, she should be fine. Many people lift weights for fitness and other reasons daily for many years without back injuries because they take the proper precautions. Your point

Theres also something to be said for the risk of awkwardly twisting your back in order to drag a wheeled bag along bumpy streets and through crowds for extended periods of time...

However, MissGronky: Thats not to say you shouldn't be careful! pick a good quality bag with wide padded straps and which feel comfortable. Do some research and choose carefully! Spending a little extra money for a really good bag can make a big difference in your comfort and enjoyment during your trip. Also, pack light (rule of thumb, pack what you think you'll need, then remove half; wish I had done this...I found I didn't end up needing a lot of what I brought along) and do some research on posture and back care, and also the proper way to lift heavy loads
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Old Oct 9th, 2012, 06:21 PM
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that should say *your point that being careful about lifting heavy weight is a really good one, though!

Not sure why I didn't finish that sentence...
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 03:08 AM
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Thanks for the advice guys
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 05:52 AM
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My husband is a backpack guy and I like a suitcase with wheels because I like the ease of wheeling my goods around instead of carrying them on my back. I found the perfect combination from REI and I bought two this summer- a suitcase like bag that has a pull up handle and a zipper that you open to reveal hidden backpack straps. It also comes with a snap on day pack. Like many REI products it is traveler tried and tested.

Backpacks have their definite advantages- easier to get in and up on trains or in hostels with no elevators.

Happy travels,
Cheapboxof wine
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 10:19 AM
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I'll second the suggestion from Cheapbox, I used a combo setup on my 2 month Europe trip and loved the option of switching between the two. I would throw it over my shoulder going through train stations with stairs or when walking over cobblestone, but had the option to easily roll it on smooth surfaces. Why choose? Best of both worlds IMHO.
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 10:45 AM
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I'd go with your wheeled suitcase, which is not very big. The thing about a backpack is you have to carry all the weight, all the time. There's no difference in how easy they are to lift on & off transport.
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 12:06 PM
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Different people have different opinions on this.

A backpack is a constant weight on your back and shoulders. If you have any back problems at all it's probably best not to use a backpack.

A wheeled suitcase is really nice. Until a wheel breaks off and disappears.

A wheeled suitcase is always heavier than a backpack. There will be times when you are forced to lift the bag. Well, unless you can get someone else to lift it for you.

Before you decide, try both alternatives.

Pack the backpack full, carry it around on your back for an entire day, try walking up stairs or running short bits (like when trying to catch a bus). Then take the backpack off and lift it over your head as if putting it up on a luggage rack on a train.

Then put the same items in a wheeled suitcase. Try wheeling it around outside, including on cobblestones. Try running with it, the same distance you tried running with the backpack. Try lifting it up a set of stairs. Try lifting it over your head.

After all of that, you can decide what felt easiest for you.

The one thing I can tell you for certain is that a big suitcase WITHOUT wheels is the absolute worst sort of luggage I could possibly think of.
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 01:03 PM
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Look at Rick Steves luggage. His 21" wheeled luggage also comes in a backpack style w/o wheels. YOu'll have lots of stairs in train stations so backpack is a good idea.
A 25" wheeled bag would be too large in dealing with getting on and off of trains.
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Old Oct 11th, 2012, 01:28 AM
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I have quite easily dealt with *much* larger suitcases getting on & off trains, even if Italy where there is a very high step up - and I am twice the OP's age. But each to their own.
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Old Oct 11th, 2012, 01:33 AM
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Btw I doubt Rick Steves' luggage is easily/economically obtainable in Scotland.

A good point though is that not all wheeled cases of the same size weigh the same. Is your existing 25" one reasonably light for its size? When we needed several new bags for our move to Italy we bought them from the British company FlyLite whose bags are, as the name implies, quite light - although at that time I think their only wheeled bag was carry-on size (56cm) which I wouldn't take for 3 months in the winter. I've seen *extremely* light although more expensive ones in BHS.
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Old Oct 11th, 2012, 02:05 AM
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I'd consider myself a well-traveled backpacker... take the wheelie suitcase! I hate getting slightly lost in a city after just arriving and having to lug a backpack around... and when you get tired whilst slightly lost or waiting for a metro train that's taking a billion years to come, trying to get some rest can be a bit of a pain, as usually my whole backpack takes up the seating space ha, and I have to settle for leaning on a wall for a break. It's also clumsy (e.g. climbing onto a small tram on the way to the airport and crashing into people every time you try to turn--been there, done that), and you get all sweaty as well... I haven't actually traveled without a backpack yet, but my plan is to do exactly that on my next trip. I'm even younger than you are--there's no shame!

Another advantage of the wheelie suitcase is that you don't have to rummage blindly looking for something that's buried very deep. It's also a lot more fun (and less precarious) to carry going uphill (or downhill). Oh, the number of times I wished I had a wheelie instead.

However wheelies don't always fit into lockers. They're probably also less practical in snow/uneven ground. That said, I usually just leave my backpack lying around anyway--save for my camera, which I always carry with me. I never really bring anything worth stealing when staying in hostels (or if I did, I always keep them on my person).

If you prefer using a backpack, it's not actually a bad idea, so long as you keep the weight down. If you get a tingling sensation in your fingers after a while with the backpack on (not rare amongst backpackers), you're carrying way too much.
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Old Oct 11th, 2012, 02:25 AM
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There are so many convertibles (backpack to wheels) out there that the question could actually be which one to buy.

I think your concern about size is astute. You need flexibility for those times you cannot store the luggage OR when your plans suddenly change. Carrying less allows that. In addition, the less you carry, the more you are able to FIND what you need WHEN you need it. Plus you don't need a lot of room real estate when you don't have an elephantine suitcase.

You can travel for months with a carry-on size rolling (or not) backpack if you carry two blow-up hangers and a stretchy travel clothesline (if the travel clothesline does not have "clip" ends, then just bring small carabiners, which are handy anyway, to increase your attachment options). In fact, we've always found that when we limit the size of our packing, we pack exactly the things we need. As to the luggage purchase, as others have mentioned, Rick Steve's makes a convertible carry-on and others do too. Check ebags, luggagepros, rei, overstock,etc.

I totally agree that you'll also need a daypack. FYI, we use an old High Sierra type that zips up into the size of a small paperback that we stuff into a front pocket of our luggage until needed. It's not made anymore, which is too bad because it's really tough as nails, but there's something similar here: http://www.reuseit.com/store/reisent...ack-p-721.html. Eagle Creek makes a variation; you can find many other types, too.

For a purse, I use an Ameribag "baglett" ( http://www.ameribag.com/bagletts/), a teeny thing that fits right into my arm pit (I'm not kidding)so that my sunglasses, money and passport are accessible to me at all times and NOT accessible to thieves. Flight attendants have not considered it to be the "personal item", probably because it seems more like a wallet.

By the way, speaking of airlines, before you settle into a rail plan, do check out cheapie European airline fares. My daughters traveled a lot during their studies abroad and often found much cheaper airfares than rail fares, and the time savings for their itineraries made it worthwhile, too. And of course, since luggage restrictions are tighter on these cheapies, that's another reason to think small and efficient. Kayak.com doesn't tend to list these airlines, but search engines such as http://www.skyscanner.com/ do.

Good luck!
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