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Luggage advice

Hello, were going to Wengen Switzerland and Milan Italy in June for 12 days. What is the advice and experience youve had on which type of luggage to check and what type to carry on, example...would a tote bag, hard case or a backpack be best to carry on? We will be washing while were there and plan to pack as light as possible. Thank you!

Posted by
131 posts

We tend to pack a rolling pilot case to go overhead, and a backpack for under the seat in front of us. I usually don't want to carry a backpack around when I sightsee, so I bring along a small shoulder bag, tucked into the backpack, to take out and use during the day.

Posted by
612 posts

It all depends on you. I usually travel with a small personal backpack that fits under the front seat and soft side carryon that also turns into a backpack. With that I can do any length of time. Maybe in the future I might have to go to a rolling carryon since I'm racing fast towards 68. If you are only staying in 2 places in those 12 days then I "think" that a regular rolling suitcase might be good since mobility is not a great consideration (assuming you land in one city and fly out of the 2nd city). My wife likes to take a hard case to protect breakable souveniers on the way home.

Posted by
7473 posts

I pack very light, but for your trip it doesn’t matter as much since it’s just two locations. We took a 2-wheel carry on and a day pack both times we stayed in Wengen. I usually bring four outfits and rotate them, washing in the sink. Our hotel in Wengen was uphill from the train station, so that could be an incentive to keep it lighter.

The area is gorgeous! Hope you have a great time!

Also, the weather can be a bit unpredictable. I packed a pair of tights to wear as an extra layer under my pants and a micro-thin thermal top to go under my shirt one year.

If you’re traveling between the two sites by train and coming down along Lake Maggiore, Stresa is one of my favorites! The close little islands - Isola Bella, especially, are lovely to enjoy! The town was on the historic train route for wealthy vacation travelers, so it has some gorgeous hotels.

Posted by
8248 posts

We never check any luggage on any flight. My wife and I both follow Rick Steves' Packing List with a few adjustments. We can travel indefinitely in a 21" ultra lightweight swivel wheeled carry on bag that weighs less than 22 lbs. (10 Kg.)

If my wife can travel light, so can anyone. I remember my mother traveling the world with huge suitcases, and I felt so sorry for my father having to lug them around.

We returned a week ago from Israel, and I was the only one of our party of seven that arrived home with a suitcase at our home airport.

Posted by
996 posts

The backpack would be your best choice out of those three choices.

A soft bag without wheels will force you pack ultra lightly and will stuff into tight spaces if you don't pack it too full.

I have been traveling with a jansport school backpack that has a leather bottom and padded straps and back, which I used for most of my stuff, and a bag with one strap, made of woven ballistic nylon which perhaps could be a hevay-duty gym bag, to carry one to 2 changes of clothes. Maybe in the future I will switch to a bag that I can use for both my clothes and other stuff, which has two shoulder straps like the school-backpack, which I can fit in the overhead storage bin, and then some smaller bag for under the seat in front of me, for my toothbrush and maybe book and a minimal amount of whatever else.

Posted by
7031 posts

I agree with the others that backpacks do force you to pack light. If you have one at home, you might want to do a trial pack. Just pack up everything you believe you will need, and then walk around with it, outside, up hills, up and down staircases, and see how it feels after 10-15 minutes. If it feels okay, you're good - but if you can't handle the weight, then you might want to consider either packing lighter or going with a wheeled bag.

FWIW, most people here advocate carry on bags, and that's the kind of bag I have. However, there is no shame in checking a bag. I will be checking one for an upcoming flight for several reasons: 1) I want to bring my trekking poles, which may or may not be allowed by the TSA, 2) I will have a 3+ hour layover and don't want to deal with my larger bag, and 3) mostly important, my connecting flight is on KLM, which has more stringent carry-on requirements than Delta does.

So think about all those factors and then pick which one works best for you. And remember that if you have a connecting flight and it's a European airline, there is the possibility that the carry on that works for a US airline will not work for your second flight.

Posted by
10403 posts

I use a soft sided roller bag (2 or 4 wheels) that I carry on and a backpack as my personal bag that fits under the seat on the flight. I prefer soft sided because some hotel rooms are so small there wouldn’t be room to fully open a hard sided bag if it’s on the floor. I put a small crossbody purse in my personal bag and a small day bag in my carryon bag to use as needed. I have traveled with this method for up to 10 weeks.

Posted by
1268 posts

With a backpack, you can actually pack more with than a wheeled bag of the same size. A backpack is lighter and no space is lost to wheels or the pull handle. Therfore you have more weight and volume capacity for your stuff. I suggest getting a back back with a stowable waist belt and shoulder straps e.g. Osprey Fairpoint. I use a SOC Bugout Bag.

I sink wash socks, underwear and shirts every night and hang dry. If my cotton socks are still damp in the morning, I dry them with the hair dryer in 30 seconds. Everything is clean, dry and ready to wear or pack at anytime.

Posted by
1344 posts

I sink wash ... and hang dry.

Not sure if this is implied in your description, but it is a good idea to roll things in a towel and wring it or - as I prefer - to just stamp on it, to get more water out of the fabric; THEN hang dry.

See Doug Dymonts description in

Posted by
1268 posts

My shirts are made of a dry-fit type material which dries very fast. And the underwear is a type of spandex athletic wear which also dries fast. Usually, I don't need to roll in towel, preferring to keep a nice dry towel for shower etc. However, I will roll in towel if I wash very late at night and plan to pack and move very early in the morning. I try to avoid packing any dirty or damp stuff in my pack.

Posted by
2765 posts

I followed the backpack advice... ONCE

I then realized that I hated it, gave away the bag and have gone with the rolling suitcase ever since. My big mistake was not "practicing" carrying it around. Had I done that I would have realized BEFORE I left and not been on a trip with a bag I hated! :)

Posted by
15729 posts

I don't need to roll in towel, preferring to keep a nice dry towel for shower etc.

Why don't you just ask the hotel for an additional towel?

Posted by
18871 posts

It’s a common question and there are a lot of threads on the subject; but I think it’s a good discussion because I learn a little each time; and the most important thing I have learned is the correct answer is pretty subjective and needs specific and since no one is right and no one is wrong, all I can do is discuss my process.

Do keep in mind that your luggage is the least consequential aspect of your trip, so don’t over think it. Traveling on separate tickets with a 2 hour lay over can destroy your trip; traveling with the “wrong” bag wont.

Carryon or check is the first hurdle and that depends on what I am going to do on your trip and every trip is different (winter or summer, city break or hiking and fishing, State Opera House or Third World back streets, beach or mountains, so there is no “packing list” that is one size fits all; but 75% of the time I pull it off with carryon only and that’s always the preference but not at the sake of my enjoyment on the trip.

Backpack, soft side, hard side, trolly or spinner is the next issue. I carried a RS Backdoor bag (backpack) for almost a decade and it provided the greatest volume of clothes and junk; I only consider volume because almost all of my flights have a 8kg weight limit so any bag is not going to weigh more than 8kg when packed (or to put it more accurately, every bag WILL weigh 8kg, but not more, when packed).

Posted by
18871 posts

For the carryon I gave up on the backpack when I realized how infrequently I actually had it on my back, most of the time I had to carry it out of consideration of those around me (I got older too and didn’t enjoy the weight any longer); so I went to a two wheel trolly that served me well but kept falling over when I hung the personal item on the handle and kept getting hung up on everyone else’s luggage in the plane overhead; and on even short one night stay I had to unpack the whole thing to reach the skivvies at the bottom.

So I went to a hard sided spinner which has also served me well but means, because of weight, I have to travel with 2 fewer pairs of jeans; but it doesn’t fall over, I don’t have to carry it, it slides in and out of the plane over head like a dream and on those one night stays, because hard sided bags are almost always clam shells I don’t have to unpack the whole thing to find the skivvies.

Do I check a bag? well at times, like Moscow in January, I have to check a bag (for the parka), beach trips or outdoor trips in warmer weather I never need to check a bag and for trips that include the opera it’s a toss up (I have worn the sports coat on the plane).

The secret weapon in my packing is the “Personal Item” which is where everything that is not fabric gets put; may airlines have no weight limit, and a few combine it with the carry on weight limit but raise the limit to 12kg and that generally enough.

So there are some considerations to weigh in your mind; make a choice, don’t look back, and go have fun.