Best type of suitcase for train travel?

Jul 18th, 2005, 08:06 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 224
Best type of suitcase for train travel?

I will be using trains and buses for transportation between Italian cities over a three week period. I'm a bit concerned about struggling with a suitcase on my own even though I plan to pack light. Any advice on the best size or brand of suitcase to take?
azure0327 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 08:22 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,403
Hi Azure,

This topic has been discussed endlessly here. You might want to do a "luggage" or "packing light" search and see what comes up.

Most people, including me (female), will say - take something that rolls. Be sure you can lift it above your head when fully packed and that it will fit in overhead train racks. Also not more weight than you are willing to carry up and down 4 flights of stairs. Best to practice at home first! There are lots of stairs involved in Italy's train stations and some very large steps onto the trains.

Personally, I take a rolling, expandable 21" and a small overnight bag that can slip over the extended handle of the roller. I've taken it to Italy on 3 week trips and it's been perfect.

Only drawback - not really any room to bring home treasures. Take a lightweight folding tote bag to bring those home in!

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 08:27 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 439
I spent 6 weeks in europe in the spring and spent a lot of time on trains in Germany, France and Italy. I had a very large suitcase on wheels and I wish I had a little smaller one because I had a hard time finding a place big enought to store it a couple of times on the trains. I feel the most important thing is that is has to have wheels. As to a brand I really can't advise you. The previous post has some excellent suggestions.
Randy is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 09:02 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,286
I don't know about all Italian trains, but on some trains a small carry on suitcase will fit behind your seat. Is easier to lift onto the overhead just as it is easier to lift up onto the overhead in a plane. There is a place for luggage near the stairs in train cars, but sometimes it gets full.

I like the newer Travel Pros because the handle is longer causing me less shoulder pain. Dayle gave you excellent advice.
Ronda is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 09:07 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,194
See my reply on the "recent" thread

Best wishes,

rex is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 03:11 AM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 4,276
it really depends. many people who take buses or trains may not hire a taxi to take them from the station to their hotel. unless you are staying very close to the station at every stop, some walking will be involved.

personally, i don't like pulling a rolling case more than a couple of blocks...nor do i like lugging it onto city buses, trams, tubes, etc. rollers certainly have their place but they do not perform particularly well in crowded, often uneven city streets/pavements. taking them into a shop, going through doors, etc...not fun.

therefore, for the kind of travel you are doing, i think that a rucksack/backpack is most appropriate. i use an adult looking model that quickly converts from backpack use to handheld or over the shoulder. the straps can be hidden away very easily. it is all black and does not look like a university style pack. i only use it when packing light so it stays close to the body and i am not knocking people out with it.
walkinaround is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 04:07 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,118
Hi a,

>Any advice on the best size or brand of suitcase to take?<

The smallest possible rollaboard.

You need no more clothes for 3 weeks than you do for 1 week.

ira is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 07:36 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 90,960
The smallest rolling suitcase you can manage to pack in... somewhere between 19" - 24" is best IMO. Also take one medium tote such as a daypack, messenger bag or pocketbook in addition.

A 22" packed to ~20 lbs. is reasonably easy to manage on trains. I have never found it a difficult rolling along over cobblestones, etc. You'll get the hang of maneuvering after a couple of the first legs of your journey.

I don't care for "expandable" feature because when you use that, which gives you an extra inch or so depth, it makes the suitcase off-center and not roll along as well-balanced.
suze is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 07:38 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 90,960
The brand of suitcase does not matter. If you are buying new, look for the one that is the lightest weight when empty and has good wheels and handle mechanism.
suze is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 08:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,019
As convenient as those roller contraptions are, remember that the rolling mechanism adds weight. My wife has a small one that rolls and it starts at 13 pounds empty. It has a good sturdy handle and tough wheels which are good, but then comes the train steps and the need to hoist it up. She gets on, I grunt and hand it up.

My rule of thumb: if you can't hoist it to an overhead rack, it is too heavy.
Now, having said that, my big blue weighs 40 pounds. I either leave it at the end of the rail car or slide it between the seats.

Often there are facing seats and there is room to slide it in.

I also carry a smaller bag, and that is the one that gets hoisted to overhead bins on airplanes and trains.

I know of no one brand that is susperior. Many are more pretty than others and cost more. I had an expensive one, but the airlines soon popped out the zipper to the extent that one jolt and it sprang open.

I donated that one to the attic and I went to Macy's when it was having a sale and bought my big blue which was the lightest thing they had. I am not even sure what brand it is.

It has survived for 5 years and quite a few trans Atlantic crossings. In other words, it has lasted as long as a fancy case that cost me twice as much.

We usually end up with more than normal items in our luggage because of the length of stay and the varied conditions for which we need to prepared. For example, last month, we had a formal party and alpine hiking. That meant we had to take clothes and shoes for both purposes. (I had no intentions of hiking on the rocks and snow in a shiny pair of cap toe dress shoes.)

Remember if you have a large but light weight suitcase you can always put less in it, but trying to overstuff a little one often is a problem.

I kid you not when I say that before a trip, I do the weight machines at the Wellness Center with a little more intensity about 8 weeks in advance.
bob_brown is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 08:46 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 3,977
We have tried all kinds of suitcases. Let's face it; none are perfect.

But we have settled on using duffle bags on wheels. Fairly light in weight, easy to drag around with their extendable handles, tough fabric. Be sure to put your heavy objects such as shoes at the end where you find the wheels.

Ours measure 34 inches long, a little long for some people, perhaps. But I am sure you could find shorter ones. From our experience, the worst cases have hard sides, like the old Samsonite ones.
USNR is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 12:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 90,960
I agree wheels and frame add weight, but my 22" is about >8 lbs. empty (not 13 lbs as mentioned above). So if you want the wheels, it is helpful to shop around for the lightest weight that will get the job done. I buy on sale at budget departments or closeout stores (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, JC Pennys).
suze is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 12:34 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 12,848
"look for the one that is the lightest weight when empty and has good wheels and handle mechanism." Good advice!

My son has a Travel Pro Walkabout Lite that weighs significantly less than our other 21" suitcases. It is well-designed and has a longer pull-out handle. Its more traditional handle (the one you grab when you are hoisting it in the air) is a type of free-swinging swivel, that makes picking the suitcase up a breeze with any hand or grip. He's used this case on trains in Europe and Japan. Depending upon how you measure, his is about 21" which is a size they don't actually make, so we're not sure if his was a 20" or 22". It is taller than my 20", but it also is slimmer and fits anywhere, including under or behind seats.

That said, I got a catalog from L.L. Bean recently with lots of new luggage--including beautiful leather bags that were said to be lightweight. The website does not have as exteneisve a collection, so if you like that company you may want to request the latest catalog and tell them it featured loads of new luggage styles. Makes me almost sorry I purchased a new set recently.

PS: trend in luggage is away from black. The newest suitcases we saw on our recent travels (airports, planes, luggage carousels) are shades of brown, with not a few lime green cases.
kswl is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 12:36 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 2,332
This past May-June, I traveled in Italy and Spain for one month with a rolling, expandable 20" suitcase and a daypack. I used public transportation (trains, busses, and subways) most of the time.

*Pack for one week, not three.
*If you buy your bag at a discount store, just make sure it is not a piece of junk! Check the zippers, seams, handles, etc. Sometimes luggage stores have high-end bags marked down.
*Expandables have pros and cons: you can stuff your purchases in them, but they definitely get off balance and start falling over at the most inconvenient times.
*Finally, I don't think it matters what you take, as long as you can handle it. I thought I had done a super job of packing light for this last trip, but I still found it hard to get my bag up and down those steps onto the trains that Dayle mentioned: I had bruises on my legs for the first week from using my leg to help swing the bag up into the train. Ouch!

Have fun and pack even lighter than you are planning now -- you won't regret it.
annabelle2 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 12:41 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 224
Thanks for all your great suggestions! I planned on packing light anyways, I was most concerned with which size suitcase fits on the overhead racks of trains and you answered that question for me

I do have a different question for the Italy experts: What is the best way to get to Siena from Rome? Train or bus - or a combination of both? From this forum I have learned that Siena's train station is far from the actual town. Your thoughts? Thanks again for all your help.
azure0327 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 02:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 224
azure0327 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 08:35 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,403
Hi again Azure,

Just thought I'd mention that some of the smaller rollers can be converted into a backpack. Mine does that, it's an Eagle Creek. I haven't used it much as a backpack, but if necessary, it's nice to know I can! Also, the "expanding" part can zip off to make an entirely separate, small day pack.
Dayle is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 09:20 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 1,099
I'm with Ira on this one....

Pack for a week and you've packed for 3 is the gospel truth. Finding a laundromat to do your clothes a couple of times is easy, and dare I say -- even FUN as a great way to mingle with locals and fellow travelers.

I bought a High Sierra rollaway suitcase with a zip-away daypack from a travel store at the mall for about $100. It has withstood a 3+ week trip across Europe from London to Istanbul, and many flights thereafter. It was the standard carry-on size, but BA made me check it anyway. It has a POINTLESS backpack feature, since I tried to carry it as a backpack and nearly put out my back with it, since there is no waist support for it. I'd buy one without that, as it's useless, IMO.

Getting on a train is no harder than getting into your car. Roll your suitcase down the driveway, climb into your car with it, and you've pretty much experienced what it's like to board a European train with your suitcase. It's really no big deal.

If you really want to know how you'll do with all the stuff you want to take, pack your bag and head downtown (on a city bus) in your hometown for a few hours of sightseeing and see how you do with it. That'll cure you of any desire to overpack!

Happy travels,


jules4je7 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 11:26 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 4,276
Getting on a train is no harder than getting into your car.

except the potentially several metre walk down a very narrow aisle..made even more narrow with arms, open newspapers, etc.
walkinaround is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 11:46 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 220
The steps up onto the train are very narrow. Just one thing I would like to add is make sure you don't get a bag that is too "fat". For instance if you need to carry it on your side with you as you board the train, this would be very troublesome. This was what I found last year on Italian trains, my husband had to stay at the bottom of the steps and push the suitcase up to me standing at the top.
kimmos is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:15 AM.