We're leaving 3-18 for Italy for 10 days. Will be traveling by train part of the time & car in Tuscany. I'm wondering how wide the aisles are on various trains - IC, Regionale and ES? (We'll be on all three) Not exact measurements but my question is: Would I be better off with 1 larger bag (bigger than carry-on size) or 2 smaller carry-on size bags? (all rolling bags) I already tried making it all fit in a carry-on & a daypack, but it won't work for me. (One of my carry-on options can be converted to a large backpack but I'm 62 and not able to carry a heavy backpack for long - I mostly got it for climbing a lot of steps to our hotel in Cinque Terre.)Thanks for any help and suggestions.
If you really try you can get everything you really need in a carry-on and day pack. I have done it for as long as a month, and others here have done it for even longer. A large bag or two smaller rolling bags will be very difficult to manage with stairs, on & off trains, etc. You will be happier if you take less stuff. Trust me. I know this is not what you are looking for, but just my 2 cents. Have a great trip!!
The aisles are fairly wide. Maybe double the size of an airplane if that helps. However the aisles become quickly crowded when arriving at a station. A large bag would be far more difficult to handle at those times. It is always easier to handle two 25 lb bags than one 50 lb bag. And, of course, it is easier to handle one 25 lb bag than two. We are in our late 60s and still get by with one back pack style carry-on bag. It can be done but some prefer not to do it.
However, you pack, I would suggest not having more that one 22"-24" roller bag and a small bag or backpack with your essentials. For the Regionale and IC trains there are overhead racks down the length of both sides of the train. There are also places at the end of the cars but this can be areas where the luggage is immediately stolen. You need to keep your eyes on your luggage. For the Eurostars, the seats are back-to-back. The back-to-back seats are angled slightly creating a fairly large space for a 22" roller bag on its side. Been there done that. Also, you might want to know that in many of the medium-size train stations with multiple platforms, you change platforms by going down about 25 stairs, through a tunnel and up another 25 stairs. Occasionally, you see the person with two roller bags trying to negotiate all of that. Pack light wherever you can. Finally, note that getting on and off the trains can be fun as well. The first step can be a high one and then you have a total of 3 narrow stairs up. Not so bad if you are the only one getting on or off. Sadly, you won't be. Passengers will climb over you to get on or off. They are not being rude, the train doesn't stop for long at many places.
I had a somewhat large, heavy bag last year and traveled on many trains, but I am also young so lifting it while I was getting on and off of trains was no problem. If you don't think you can carry your luggage for very long, then I would say you should really work to reduce the amount of things you are bringing and the weight.
I'd go with a roll aboard and a day pack if you can. The hard part, for me, woudl be managing a larger bag getting it on and off the train, as well as up and down platform stairs. I saw plenty of couples "our age" where the woman could not handle her luggage and her husband looked about to die carrying two large suitcases (his and hers) up a set of railway station stairs in a small town. Unless you have a lot of special equipment to pack (big camera, lenses, CPAP) or a lot of books, try to pack less. I know this isn't exactly your question, but really, you will be happier with less. 2-3 pair of pants or skirts, 4-5 tops, a sweater and a light jacket are all you need in clothing. Add a hat and an extra pair of shoes. Don't bring a hairdryer (all the rooms have them) and minimize toiletries. (I loved my 3 week vacation from make-up!) I had a 23 pound roll aboard and a 16 pound daypack which I could easily manage by myself except for lifting it over my head (I am quite short).
Once again we have the amazing Ron In Rome to turn to. Check out his page on Italian trains complete with photos and answers to your luggage questions: http://www.roninrome.com/%20transportation/1st-class-versus-2nd-class
Thanks to everyone for your quick responses. I love this helpline! I will consider all you have said and try to make this work for me. Thanks especially for the info I didn't know to ask about. Like getting on & off train and steps getting to the train platform. Janet If anyone else wants to chime in and let me know if they have traveled on Trenitalia with a larger bag and it worked, please do. Thanks again.
And thanks to GAC!
If you must, two smaller is better than one larger. Getting them on and off the trains is the main concern. If you're looking for someone here to 'OK' a large bag, you may be waiting a long time ;-) And just the general getting around is harder with two full-size bags...airports, train stations, sidewalks, hotel staircases, etc.... My last several trips have involved carrying the rolling bag of my mother-in-law; while I'm happy to do it, it's a whole different thing from traveling with my backpack up and down those train steps! In a perfect world - try one last time to pare down your items...one carry-on sized bag plus a smaller daybag would be much easier to handle. And to answer your question (!), the train aisles are as large, or larger than, the airplane aisles.
Janet , I took a 26 inch bag to Hungary several years ago, had to switch trains twice-and one was just getting off and walking to the other train track, no steps. That being said, after that trip I SWORE I would never take that big of a bag in Europe again. And I haven't. The aisles weren't that wide, couldn't roll the bag thru the aisle, had to carry it, and it was just a big pain. Try try try to get everything in a smaller bag and backpack. Realistically, you won't have to have the backpack on very much, and once you get off and get going you can attack it to your other rolling bag-but practice with this, and with how to do it, cuz I can never seem to get it right!
Oh dear... Believe the others when they speak of getting on and off Italian trains. Trust me when I say, less is more. Really. Put everything in your big suitcase and rucksack, go the nearest big city, park your car outside downtown. Carry, push, and pull your luggage across downtown (up and down a couple of flights of stairs along the way if you can) get to the other side of town, put it down for 30 minutes, then retrace yor steps. No issues? Great, that's the luggage for you. I'm sure you can find a way to hump it on and off trains, Not no issues? Take out half, you won't need it, and fit it in the smaller suitcase. Its a shame you only have a week to practice. What you did is what you must do. By the way, when you pull two rolling suitcases, one in each hand, what do you do when lifting one up or stowing it? You don't put the other one down, do you? If so you'd better keep a good eye on it so it doesn't get swiped. Sorry for the reality check; I'd rather do that than read a post from you next month moaning about how horrible you trip was and know that we could have helped. Happy travels...
As others have said, try to get down to one piece of luggage (preferably a carryon-size suitcase, in my case) and a backpack, not just for the aisles in trains but for getting to trains in the first place. I haven't ridden trains in Italy for a long time but I had a series of mad train-changing experiences in Germany this past summer. A couple of times our train arrived at a station and we had 10 minutes (or less) to catch our next one at a different track. We had to hoof it and didn't have time to wait for the elevator, if there even was one at the smaller stations. We had to get off the train, run down the steps in the station, get to our next track (which once was at the other end of the station), and run up the stairs. Not nice with 2 pieces of manageable luggage, let alone more.
IF (and this should only be if you really need towhich for 10 days you shouldn't) IF you need to take a larger bag, get one that has wheels on each corner. That way you can turn it sideways to roll it down the aisles on trains. Still not the easiest, but better than having wheels only on the back. But in general, anything somewhat heavy for you will become unbearable when you need to roll it for a long time on the cobblestone while walking to your hotel, or quickly switching between trains. Cut out whatever you can.
Janet, I don't mean to send you into a panic, but watch the first 30 seconds of the video below - you choose your future: http://www.youtube.com/user/RickSteves#p/c/DA1849C66C2A6D62/1/ird4DF5fgHE The stairs in and out of trains are very narrow, and scary if you can't hold onto the handrail. Two pieces of luggage means two trips up and down those stairs just to carry your stuff.
Notice also in the first 30 secs the wheeled bag being pulled by the women. It was wobbly because of the rough street and how she was having to look back to control it. Someone suggested a bag with wheels on the four corners. Great for getting down a smooth isle on a train but a nightmare if rolling across cobblestones or rough streets because the wheels are very small and catch on every crack. If you are using a rolling bag make the wheels are large. The wheels cannot be too big.
Please consider packing lightly and taking only one 22" type rolling bag and your light day pack. We never take more than this for one month of travel. You will be so much happier getting on and off trains and storing your bag while you travel. For our recent train travel in Europe my husband bought a "spinner" type bag because it rolls up and down the train isles sideways (in its narrow orientation) taking up very little room. Also, if you pull more than one rolling bag through crowded train station platforms and narrow city sidewalks you become a very large obstacle to get around. You will annoy fewer locals if you travel within your own footprint :-) and you will arrive at your destination more stress free.
Everytime I read what to pack I remember my first trip 20 years ago in February. I took a different sweater for every day of the week with matching turtleneck, I looked like a soldier going away for a year tour. Now I travel with a weekend bag and a small overnight bag that hooks on the handle. I pack silk skirts that are multi- colored and then different tops so the skirts can go for several days. Pack as light as possible, who cares if you are wearing the same skirt in Rome, Florence, etc. Repack and enjoy. With a large suitecase you will have problems getting off and on trains.
So, Janet, the person you were hoping to come along and tell you its OK to have a large suitcase on Trenitalia never came along in 4 days. What do you think of the advice you have received? Inquiring minds want to know...
Thanks to all who took the time and trouble to reply. I appreciate it. I am going to do my packing today and will try for one bag and a backpack. We'll see how it goes. If it just doesn't work for me, my husband has offered to carry my second rolling carry-on (when necessary.) And I do feel better prepared for what to expect traveling on trains. Thanks all. Janet
That's one carry-on size bag and a backpack. I will not attempt to take a large suitcase. Janet
Janet, there's no substitute for actually being there and doing it; it'll all fall into place once you get to experience it. And THEN you'll understand us pressuring you (yep, we know that's what we're doing LOL!) to pack as lightly as possible. Have a great time! Let us know how things went with your luggage...!
Nigel - Major points for being a sensitive guy! Nice of you to check in on Janet's thinking after our rants, er, advice. Janet - Good for you for trying "our" way. I was reluctant too, at first, and how I pack for Europe has changed how I pack for everywhere, business or pleasure. (And you seem to have a very nice husband.) Would love to hear your trip report!
And, if you are successful with one carry on and one back pack, then we will get on your case to get everything into one carry on. It never ends !! Although I did cross that line once when I came home and actually said,"I am going to take more next time." And I did.
Oh, darn; I see by the date that I've seen this too late (didn't mean to rhyme just then...). =-) I was going to add that I thre my back out getting my luggage on and off the trains on my first day there. I took a lot of stuff because my friend moved back home to Verona (from Corvallis! He was a prof at OSU) and asked me to take him some of his things if I had the space. Stupid me, I took as much as I possibly could, and that's what did me in. I had to turn my bags sideways to get them down the aisles; there wasn't always enough room to stow our bags properly, or where we could keep our eyes on our bags. We didn't have any theft issues, but the trains weren't really meant for so much luggage per person (in my opinion....). Once, we even had to sit on our bags/stow them under our "table", cramping our legs, because there was NO room, and that was in first class! Others had their bags in the aisles next to them. Next time I go, I will pack light, and I'm not taking stuff to my friend! (at least, not that much...)
Hope you are having a great time over there!
Ah, yes... After a hellish flight (am I right?) sitting in an uncomfortable seat, NO sleep, then having to immediately start dragging/carrying luggage all over an airport, train/metro/bus station(s), then down some cobblestones...it's not uncommon to injure yourself on the first day of vacation. Go slowly those first few days. Easy carrying your stuff - and YOU - up and down those stairs. Janet, let us know how things went; even if you took 3 26" hard-sided suitcases LOL! We won't bite. We only nibble a bit around the edges ;-)
OK, we're back and over the jetlag. The trip was great! I ended up taking two carryon size bags and a small back pack. My hustand took one carryon and a larger backpack. We did fine. It would, of course, have been easier with only one bag each, but it wasn't a big problem with my two. (We did travel first class and there weren't that many people rushing on and off the train. So that helped. Things might be harder in high tourist season.) Thanks to my husband. He is great - and he seriously said he did OK with being in charge of two bags. I did end up taking a few things I could have done without, but nothing big. I had medications and diabetes stuff I had to take and we took some extra clothes for cold or rainy weather. As it turned out, we lucked out on the weather and it only rained one day and it was even shirt sleeve weather the last days in Venice. (While apparently, it rained non-stop here in western Oregon while we were gone.) I appreciate everyone's advice but do want to let others know that, at least during non-peak season, traveling with two bags by train is certainly doable. At least if you (or your loving husband) can carry them up and down the stairs between platforms. Getting on and off the trains worked fine with three bags between the two of us. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip. Our drive through Tuscany was our favorite part even though we got lost a couple times trying to find our B & Bs at night. Ciao!