Hi! Last year, we (3) traveled between Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver for 13 days without a car using Amtrak and public transportation in the cities. We each had a rolling, carry-on sized bag and a backpack, including my daughter who had her own set. This year when we are making our first trip to Europe, we are trying to pack even lighter (that felt really light at the time compared to the car load of stuff we took on a cross-country car trip the year before)! So my daughter's bag is being eliminated, but she will still get a backpack for her "personals". My question: beings we were able to use trains and buses with the same luggage last year, I am not anticipating any problems having 3 backpacks and 2 small rolling bags on the trains in Europe. Are there any major concerns or differences that would make this amount of luggage for 3 people not work on a European train? For example, we did check bags on our Amtrak trips, do you do that when traveling by train from Brussels to Luxembourg, etc? Are there other concerns like that I might not have thought? We will be in Europe for 20 days (22 with travel days)and staying with a friend for the majority of our trip so we won't be moving around quite as much as some people.
How big are the backpacks? For some of us, that still sounds a little heavy as we generally do only one carryon size bag and maybe a small day bag. The only issue, it would be small, is having enough room on the overhead racks to store five bags. Could be a big problem on cross country buses and even a problem using local transit. You don't check bags on European trains. The luggage goes in the luggage bins near the entrance or on the overhead racks near your seats.
On European trains, larger bags are stored in bins near each exit and smaller bags go in overhead racks. Sometimes if seats face opposite directions, you can stick a decent sized bag in the niche between seat backs. Some people lock there bags in the common bins to the rack with flexible bike locks but generally those bins are safe, especially on longer distance, high speed trains. And I also agree with the above mantra to pack really light. Expect to do laundry every 5 days and pack accordingly. I assume your friend has access to at least a washer or nearby laundromat. Bring clothes that will dry fast or air dry.
Thanks for your responses! The backpacks are the kind that kids take to school, they aren't like hiking or camping packs. I use mine instead of purse mostly. Then when we go out my husband just takes cards and things. We will both have money belts for this trip however to split things up. This brings up a new question. I was going to put all mine and my daughter's clothes with me as well as all toiletries. Then have room in hubby's to bring things home. Is this common or do people ship things instead? I will not be buying rugs.
I usually travel with a backpack and a 24" wheelie. I've always found room for my suitcase on European trains. Tip - be early for the train. Whoever gets on first gets the best luggage space. As for what goes in who's suitcase, if you are all in one room, doesn't matter - except for flights. Then mix it up so that if one bag goes astray, you have enough for everyone in the other one.
Thanks Chani! That is a good point about mixing up the clothes for flights. I have never really thought of that before. We are very mine and yours in our packing. How selfish we are! But this is something we should definitely do differently.
One thing about your comment on using a backpack as a purse: A number of museums will make you check a backpack, but will allow in an even larger purse. I travel with an Ameribag Healthy Back Bag, and I've never been required to check it... even when I've watched guards require that even tiny backpack-purses be checked. One strap seems to be the key differentiator for the guards. The medium size bag easily holds a wallet, camera, water bottle, rolled up hat, mini-umbrella, small guidebook, sunscreen, phone, notebook, snack, and keys, with room to spare for stashing small purchases. And the built in organizers keep it orderly. The microfiber version of the bag is really light (although it also comes in leather and heavier fabrics). I got it because chronic repetative use injuries make it difficult for me to carry most purses, but its use as a travel companion has been a wonderful surprise.
Shipping tends to be very expensive. We carry a collapsible bag that is about the size of a carryon bag but very small when folded and packs easily in one of the carryon bags. When returning we pack that bag with all of our dirty clothes which is just about everything we took. That bag is checked leaving lots of room in the carryon bags for our purchases.
I have totally gotten away from using a backpack as a purse, unless for actual hiking. I'd much rather use a cross-body bag because I have control of it and it's readily accessible. With a backpack it seems to be such a hassle whenever I want to get something out of it -- like my camera, my water bottle, my guidebook, anything.
My favorite cross-body bag right now is a LeSportsac which is expandable.
Emily I would be tempted to say ditch the backpack( for you ) and bring a cross body messenger style bag, at least at museums you can put your cameras and valuables in the bag and check your husbands backpack.( as noted many museums make you check backpacks) . I prefer a bag anyways as I can swing it forward and wear in it in front of my hip , better in crowds and on metro then a backpack ,, with a backpack in crowds you should take it off and wear/carry it in front of you ( pickpockets love backpacks worn on your back in crowds, and people hate being smacked with your backpack if you wear it on your back in crowds) .
When I am leery about pickpockets, I use a small suitcase lock on my backpack. It seems to be enough of a deterrent. But usually I don't have anything valuable in it anyway, certainly not money or passport or credit cards. If you are used to a backpack and considering using an over-the-shoulder bag instead, try it out for a couple of walks at home first. I tried to go to shoulder bag on a recent trip. When there was little in it, it was fine, but when I had more weight in it, it really hurt my shoulder. I guess it is just what you are used to.