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Travel to Venice with Wheeled Suitcase or Wheel-less Backpack

We are going to Venice for four days. The plan is to just bring in the clothes that we need and leave the rest in the car. I typically would use a small rolling suitcase that is very easy to use, but may not have enough room. I am considering investing in a TUMI backpack that does not have any wheels. My other option is a medium sized duffel that does not have wheels. My big question is if it would be better to go with the wheelless backpack so that I do not have to roll it over the bridges and streets. I am wondering how important it is to be hands free on the walk and or vaporetto ride to our rental. I will be traveling with a husband and two older children who are seasoned travelers who may need my help. I have some minor mobility issues; I can, but rarely, slip. Of course, I would used the backpack as my onboard bag. I know a convertible backpack would be the best of both worlds, but I am really not interested in something like that. Any advice?

Posted by
27743 posts

2 items to consider.

It is forbidden to wear your backpack while on a vaporetto. You have to take it off.

The big question - and what will make all the difference in the world - where, exactly, will you be staying? In many cases a vaporetto plus a well planned route will be able to reach many places with no or very few bridges. If you can give the answer to this question I can help you make a decision much better.

You won't leave anything visible in the car, will you? Are you parking in Mestre or Tronchetto, or P Roma or somewhere else?

Posted by
5476 posts

I have an old Rick Steves backpack/suitcase convertible (no wheels, all soft) that I sometimes use. Do you have any experience with carrying a heavy backpack? It might make the Venice bridge stairs harder for you, or impair your balance. Will you have trouble putting it on and off? There are indeed lots of bridges in Rome. I recall that there was one between our Vaporetto stop and our cruise check-in, which were only about 200' apart! So I wouldn't count on being able to research the details of the trek you'll be making on arrival and departure.

There are plenty of cobblestones in Venice that make it harder to roll a bag. So I would certainly choose the highest quality wheels I could get. (We just returned from Rome, where we and others rolled over cobblestones for quite a distance, and I didn't happen to see any wheels break off ... )

I don't mean to pry, but I'm puzzled by the sentence "I will be traveling with a husband and two older children who are seasoned travelers who may need my help." Shouldn't they be helping you, with your "minor mobility issues"? 4 days is not a big load of stuff for a reasonably-abled person. BTW, my wife keeps urging that we share toiletries to save weight and space, but I'm resisting. I also agree that your car storage idea (for 4 days!!) is really risky. You won't know what the car looks like until you pick it up. They might press you to take a car with a soft windowshade-roller over the luggage area, which will bulge with your "big" bags.

Peripheral point on bag purchase - I recently revived the soft Rick Steves backpack, for an Africa safari, because they told us to bring "unframed" bags for the limited hold space on 14-passenger Cessnas.

Posted by
16883 posts

I would not buy a new bag for this short stay. Odds are that your small wheeled bag is big enough to bring in the clothes that you need. Or whichever is your main bag for the rest of the trip, you can still use it, but lighten it up and leave the extra stuff in the trunk of the car in any old plastic bag (which you pack and cover before arriving to the parking garage). As mentioned earlier, you only have to go in and out from the hotel once each way, and will take the shortest possible path from the closest vaporetto stop.

Posted by
1994 posts

Lots of people talk about the difficulty of wheeled bags over cobblestones or the bridges in Venice. However, I wonder if they've ever really needed/used a wheeled bag.

I use a wheeled bag on every trip, and have never had problems with it. And I have repetitive-use injuries in my hands, shoulders, and arms from too many years as a writer--so if wheeled bags were really difficult to pull, I'd be very aware of it. For number of years I used the RS wheeled 22" bag. Recently I've gone with an Osprey Ozone, which is several pounds lighter.

So I recommend whatever's easiest for you with your mobility issues. If that's a wheeled bag, I think you'll be fine in Venice.

Posted by
124 posts

I travel with a very small (about 17") bag. It has wheels. This little bag has gone over a multitude of steps in Venice and in other cities. Up/down, it works for me.

Posted by
1994 posts

One additional point, in case it's of any comfort. I have been really favorably impressed by how good the vaporetto staff is at helping people with mobility problems. So if you need help, there is no harm in making that obvious.

You might also try to plant yourself near the rail at the entrance. That way you'll have something to hold onto. When the water is rough, or the boat hits the dock hard, it can be difficult to maintain balance on a crowded boat if you don't have something to hold onto.

Posted by
484 posts

My family and I stayed near Frari in San Toma/San Polo Venice. The paved walks are flat enough. We had no problems at all with wheeled luggage and treking from hotel over a couple of bridges to train station. We also had no problems wheeling luggage on to vaporetto. My husband over packs his stuff and managed a 24-25" case around. I had a 22" wheeled case. There are no "cobblestones" in Venice. Only flat square, paving stones. It takes about 10-15 minutes to transport luggage and walk from Frari Church to train Station. The bridges are staircases and not paved ramps. You have to lift your luggage up the steps. Otherwise, you can roll it everywhere.

Posted by
31471 posts

I always use a "normal" Backpack when travelling so can't offer any comments on how well that works vs. wheeled luggage. There was a Vaporetto strike last time I was in Venice, so I had to walk further than normal and even with the bridges, etc. it was very easy. As Nigel mentioned, you WILL have to remove Backpacks when riding on Vaporetti.