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21 versus 25" spinners on Italy's trains

My carry on is about 3/4 of an inch on one direction too big to be a carry on. I suspect there will be a chance of having to check it through, and as such, I'm strongly considering my 25" and just checking it through for an upcoming 17 day trip as the extra gift space will come in handy.

That said, I'll be traveling on some trains, including the regional L1 down to Sorrento. Will the 25" be too large for the regional train and / or overheads on the high speed trains?


Posted by
1196 posts

I did not take a 25" bag, but a 30" one. So, the overhead shelves were big enough for carry-ons, but perhaps not for 25". I placed my 30" on the luggage rack. In anticipation of this, I booked seats that were next to the luggage racks so that I could keep an eye on my bag at all times.

Posted by
3951 posts

Question- can you lift it up/down quickly from the racks and navigate the train steps deftly with the added weight? The bigger the suitcase, the more weight you're slinging.
Safe travels!

Posted by
25536 posts

Regional trains don't have assigned seats. That said, I've never particularly worried about someone stealing my suitcase--I guess partly because I use very inexpensive suitcases. I figure luggage thieves are more likely to target the $300 suitcases.

I took a 26" bag (that's counting the wheels) on my 2015 trip, and it was awkward for me (short, 64 at the time, female) to get onto the trains and up stairs. I now take somewhat smaller bags which are still a struggle. I have been unable to find what I think would be the perfect size for me--23.5 to 24 inches. Of course, weight can be an issue, too. My lightest current bag is over 25", with size still being an issue.

I have no idea whether you'll encounter stairs on your particular train journeys, but I run into them fairly often. I don't know whether my 26" bag would have fit on the overhead racks in rail cars with airline seating; it didn't matter, because I couldn't possibly have lifted it up there. Occasionally a good samaritan will see me with my bag, realize I'm going to have trouble with it, and just grab it and lift it onto a nearby overhead rack in a seating compartment. That's very kind, but once or twice it has left me in a pickle, because my luggage assistant got off the train before I did, leaving me to figure out how to get the bag down off the shelf without killing myself.

Sometimes a 25" bag will fit (perhaps lengthwise) in the space between two back-to-back rows of seats. That's my favorite spot, if it's available. At the worst times (France in August, when all the locals are on the move) there may be no space available on any suitable luggage rack. In those cases I have had to sit on one of the flip-down seats in the vestibule of the train car so I can move my suitcase to the side of the car opposite whichever door opens at each stop. That is a pain.

The world will not end because you take a 25" suitcase, but you may curse it from time to time. It's counter-intuitive, but it's something I'd be more willing to do on a short trip rather than a long one, because I'd be wrangling the suitcase less frequently.

Posted by
469 posts

I'm under 60, fairly fit - tall, and there is no way in hell I'd use a 25" spinner to Italy. It wont' survive the cobblestones anyways - it will be horrible going up and down stairs, and if its full I wouldn't be able to lift it above my head either.

I use a backpack to avoid all of the above - but my partner wanted a non-backpack and bought this - its carry on sized and the 2 big wheels should be OK on rough surfaces (In theory we've not been able to go anywhere yet to test it)

If you want to go shopping do it at the end of your trip and buy a cheap bag to put it in

Posted by
2286 posts

I just returned from Italy where we all had 20-21 inch bags (Travel Pro). Frankly, that was enough to haul on to the train and put into overhead compartments. One train did not have space for them overhead and we put the bags in a baggage rack.

I would not take a 25 inch bag on public transportation. I agree with the suggestion of purchasing another small bag if needed for extra gifts.

Posted by
11294 posts

I agree with several of the above replies - the problem with a 25 inch bag is weight, more than size. If you can heft it up into the luggage rack (either the one above the seat or the one at the end of the car), you'll be fine.

If there is an "upside down V" between rows of seats, that's a great place to put large bags (that's what I had to do in Israel, where the trains don't have luggage storage as they're mostly for commuters). But depending on the style of seats, these don't exist on all trains. There will be overhead racks on the Italian regional trains; I don't remember what's on the Circumvesiana between Naples and Sorrento.

Posted by
9943 posts

I do carry on sized generally, but my last 2 trips to Germany and France I had to take a 24” or 25” (can’t remember how big it is and I’m not at home to measure) and while I wasn’t crazy about the extra size it was doable. I’m 5’3” and old enough for senior discounts. The suitcase is actually a little lighter than my carry on size. When my German relatives see us traveling for extended periods with our carry on bags they think we are crazy. They routinely travel by train with what I consider to be enormous bags, even for a one week trip.

Posted by
4078 posts

Great minds, Lissie. I recently bought that exact same bag.

At 19.5x16x8 inches, it's an odd shape for the typical 22x14x9 inch US airline standard, but its overall total numbers are within the limits. I took it to the Tucson airport and had the Delta folks look at it. They said it was okay. I wasn't as concerned about the sizer as I was about it fitting on edge in the overhead bin.

SOTL, you might do the same with your 3/4" over bag. If it's soft-sided and not stuffed to bulging, it would probably fit the sizer.

The weight is also an issue for me. I try to keep my "big" bag down to 22 pounds fully packed so I can lift it, carry it and maneuver it by myself anywhere. I weigh everything I plan to pack separately with my kitchen scale, then the full bag with my luggage scale. Too heavy? Something's got to go.

My biggest and heaviest bag is an older 22x14x9 inch soft-sided 45 L spinner that weighs about 6 pounds empty, according to my luggage scale. I don’t use it for any travel that involves planes or trains anymore.

My other bags are all 2-wheeled, range from 36 L to 41 L and are below 5 pounds empty. The Osprey like Lissie's weighs 4.5 pounds and is my lightest bag, but with a 38 L capacity, it's not the smallest.

As a solo traveler who has developed a light packing formula over time, I can't imagine managing a 25" bag, even if that does include the wheels and handle. And having sat in the back of a plane watching the checked bags being loaded on the conveyor belt, I avoid checking anything unless I absolutely can't avoid it.

You don't mention what the 25" bag's exact measurements are or what it weighs empty, but I'd guess it's much more than 5 pounds. That's not such a big deal until you fill it and have to lift it up a set of stairs or control it going down them, no matter how few there may be.

P.S. With a husband at home, 5 adult kids, their spouses and 14 grandkids, I stopped buying gifts in Europe a very long time ago. Makes the going home packing a lot easier. 😉

Posted by
7820 posts

For me, the real question is , "Will you be able to carry your luggage up and down flights of stairs by yourself and manage it completely independently?" You can do a little practice at home and see how it goes.

My personal pet peeve on European Train Travel is the couples with the "Sherpa" husband who is expected to manage the luggage for the both of them and creates bottlenecks. I don't think that is OP's situation, but if everyone just makes sure that he/she can handle own luggage it certainly makes it easier on all of the travelers.

Posted by
1315 posts

At 52 I used a 30 inch roller bag, we did 4 location in 8 days. I had no trouble getting it up and down the stairs of the train. There's no way I could use the overhead storage at 5'2"
.... even if I had just a day pack I'd have a hard time throwing it up there. Seems like the racks are placed for folk 5'10" or more

Posted by
1259 posts

SOTL: You may already know that luggage discussions verge on religious zeal around here. Personally, I pack the same stuff for a 3-day trip as for 14 or more so I cannot imagine traveling with anything bigger than a standard 21" carry-on, but that's just me. .

While I have heard the cost is high, paying to ship gifts home is safer than hauling them around and, as I've read in other discussions about souvenirs, except for truly unique items, most are available online. If you can eliminate the perceived need to buy stuff, you can travel easily, lightly, and maybe more enjoyably with a smaller bag.

Wishing you happy travels and hope you will post a trip report when you get home.

Posted by
1164 posts

I am also on the senior side and have used a small wheelie for years. I am 5'2" so, yes, overhead can be a struggle.

After watching Sarah Murdoch's packing video the other day - she is off for 4 weeks to Italy and Iceland - I am seriously contemplating a non-wheelie of very light weight.

Posted by
122 posts

Okay, these are all very wise and seem to conclude what I thought --- go smaller as I share an age and (lack of) height as some of you. And, no husband sherpa for me. ;-).

Will watch the packing, it is a softie so maybe I will get it in the cabin with me. (Fingers Crossed) .

Great heads up that my wheels might be a problem but hopeful if they do fall of, the smaller luggage will at least weigh less. Great advice about buying a bag at the end of the trip for the gifts! Wish I could buy that osprey but I'll remember that for the next trip!

Thanks so much for the advice all!

Posted by
3134 posts

Do not worry about your wheels. My wheels have never been a problem through all my travels, and my body very much appreciates them.

Carol’s comment about Sherpa husbands made me laugh. I, too, hate seeing that.

Posted by
1259 posts

On wheels: Generally, spinner wheels do not come off the better made and more expensive bags, true. But stuff happens and we've had our share of catastrophic transmission reports around here. Many spinner wheel sets are designed to glide on the carpets and sidewalks of air terminals. You want wheels designed for cobblestones and worse.

Posted by
2036 posts

Another thing to consider when using a luggage rack on a train: you could have several other bags on top of yours by the time the train gets to your destination. So you will need to be able to move all those bags to get to yours, or be able to pull yours out from the bottom of the stack without bringing the others with it. And you need to be ok with others doing the same with your bag to get to theirs.

You might look into a packable travel tote with a trolley sleeve for souvenirs. I bring one on every trip and end up checking a suitcase with dirty clothes on the way home and carrying on my souvenirs. Arxus Travel Lightweight Waterproof Foldable Storage Carry Luggage Duffle Tote Bag

I have been to Italy with my family. I have used both 21-22” two wheel rolling bag, 25” rolling bag, and travel back pack. 25” rolling bag is doable. But, getting it on to an over head train rack is a chore. Need to keep it on floor near you if train is not crowded or place in a rack near the door away from you depending on train. Can be lifted on to overhead rack with effort. Been there, done that.

The 21-22” two wheel rolling bag was no problem.
Travel backpack is nice if you keep the bag to 38-45 liters. I am 5’4” - 5’5” with a torso length of 16 - 17 inches. Anyone under 5’6” should stick to a bag that’s 19 - 20” long and a round 38-40 liters even if it means packing less. Anyone over 5’6” can go up to a 22” bag at 45 liters. That’s my 2 cents based on experience. has a nice daylite tote pack that can be used several ways and has a trolley strap. I am mentioning this as an option to add to your main travel bag because of the good suggestion by travel4fun.

Posted by
2862 posts

No, not too large, as long as you can carry your own bag up onto the train, there will be room in the end of carriage racks, or in the "V" between seats.

Last trip to Italy I finally went down to a 21" carryon.
First time doing carry on, I had it down to a fine art, then.....Covid... Grr.
I packed very carefully, and we always rent apartments with washing machines to save packing too many clothes.
It was SO much easier than my previous trips with 25" cases!
I found it way easier to get on and off trains, and there was always room in the "V" space between back to back seats to slide it in there.
In my experience, it seems that only bags that can be squashed could fit into the overhead racks on Italian trains.

One thing: check your airline's policy on carryon bags.
Some go by size, some go by weight.
I was able to take it on board an Air Canada flight going, they didn't weigh it; but Lufthansa on the way home goes by weight, even though it was all booked on one ticket.
They were going to make me pay to check it on the way home, but then finally waved me off saying don't do it again.
Also, measure your bag including the wheels, as that counts in the final measurement for a carry on bag.
I don't know how many bags I measured, in how many stores, till I found a true 21" carryon suitcase.

And yes: stopped buying gifts to bring home years ago.