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luggage with train travel

Have Rick's book on Switzerland and have decided to do circular clockwise route around country by trains.
Big issue I have though is luggage. What to do with big luggage getting from end of train ride to perhaps airbnb accommodation. I know all will say travel light but we are following 9 days in Switzerland with 7-8 days in Ireland and so will have large suitcases 4-5 of us traveling. Was going to do car trip for this reason but reading about car costs, parking limitations, high winding roads that are dangerous etc.are rethinking that option

Posted by
17979 posts

I know all will say travel light but we are following 9 days in Switzerland with 7-8 days in Ireland

In Europe, there are no laws that prohibit you from washing clothes as you go and being able to pack fewer clothes.

I would take no more clothes for four months than I would for four days.

Posted by
1355 posts

Have you also considered how fast you can get off a train, travel up/down steps, get across the station, go up/down more steps to the tracks of your next connection, and board, all with big luggage?
Sounds like you have planned a great trip. Safe travels!

Posted by
1145 posts

I have never packed for more than a week, no matter how long I will be gone. If you search this forum you will find all kinds of good advice on packing light. With train travel, in particular, it is the only way to go. Big, heavy bags will become a great liability in a very short time.

Posted by
897 posts

Have you also considered how fast you can get off a train, travel up/down steps, get across the station, go up/down more steps to the tracks of your next connection, and board, all with big luggage?

That is definitely a consideration. Our family of four, including two children, carried on last year. The kids did roll their own suitcases but we did help them heave the bags on the luggage racks above the seats. There were a couple of train stations that had stairs only (as far as we could see) and we did have a couple of quick train changes (like 5 minutes) so we didn't have time to go looking for an elevator. There were occasionally steps inside of the train, too, going from one car to another.

That being said, the Swiss trains are awesome and a great way to get around the country. I second the previous posters in saying pack half of what you think you need, and do laundry. We did 12 days in Europe for 4 people with 4 carry-ons (the strict easyJet size) and it worked out just fine.

Posted by
5974 posts

You could ask your Air BnB hosts if taxis are available at their train stations. Most larger towns should have them. Getting on and off a train with luggage is like getting on and off a city bus with luggage or an airport shuttle bus with luggage. You have to handle it yourself and the train is not going to wait for you to get settled or get off. You have to be ready to get off before the train arrives at your destination (or transfer point) by getting your bags ready and standing net the door. The worst thing you can do is block the doorway when people are trying to get on and off, so you can't hesitate. Nevertheless train travel is much less troublesome than it sounds. With 4-5 people and big luggage you'd need a very large vehicle or more likely two.

Posted by
1942 posts

Having traveled around Switzerland on their marvelously efficient trains, I think you're making a great decision to use them! And with the luggage of 4-5 people, you may have found it difficult to get everyone and even their small suitcases into a single car.

Regardless of train or car; traveling light is certainly one option and will be strongly encouraged by anyone who packs light and does laundry periodically. Many hotels will do laundry for you or have facilities for you to do it. Still, it took me numerous trips - and a few mishaps with big luggage - to learn my lesson and get the hang of packing lighter.

With more or bigger bags, I would caution that you not be in a rush! At least for me, that's when I got tripped up and took a fall that, fortunately, was nothing more than a mishap and didn't put a damper on the rest of my trip! (My Mom thought for sure I'd busted my knee and ruined my entire vacation.) It's one thing to test drive carrying your luggage across your living room. It's another altogether to carry it when you're rushing up and down stairs and across uneven surfaces to catch a train.

Next, I would suggest that you have a system for getting on and off the train with your bags. You'll want to be able to embark/disembark efficiently - depending on how long the train is at your stop. Work your way towards the train doors (with luggage) well in advance of your stop. Perhaps one person (or 2) gets on/off the train and someone else hands the luggage up/down. Before the last person embarks/disembarks the train, count your bags on the platform/train to make sure you have them all.

If you'll be walking to your accommodation, make sure you have a paper or electronic map from the station to each hotel/Airbnb.

If you'll be taking taxis, you may wish to research those ahead so that you know the recommended taxi companies and where to find them. You may also be able to arrange pickups with your hosts, in which case you'll want to alert them to the # of bags.

If you have any tight train connections, you'll really want to make sure that you're able to move smoothly with your bags.....up and down whatever stairs and uneven surfaces there may be between platforms or at the stations.

If you're able to do any sort of "trial pack" - even if you just load up your suitcase to simulate a full load - I'd suggest that you take that out somewhere and drag it around a bit to make sure that you really can carry it under the conditions of train travel! That may help you decide whether to take that "one extra outfit" or leave it behind!!

Posted by
92 posts

While I travel only with 22 inch bag and a small crossbody bag, even in winter on a 2 week trip with train travel, I do see plenty of travelers with big bags on the train. There are usually 2 or 3 steep steps to get up to the train and each train car does have room at the end of the train for limited amounts of bigger bags. However, you may not get a seat close to your bag so you would want to keep an eye on it when people are getting on and off to make sure your bag isn’t taken accidentally. A smaller bag will usually fit either under your seat or over it if your train has an overhead rack (all the trains we were on had the overhead rack space). My parents were gone for almost 4 weeks this winter and each took one 25-26 inch bag along with each of them having a small backpack. They managed very well. They said they were glad for the bigger bags as they did a lot of shopping but were glad they didn’t get anything larger! Have a great trip!

Posted by
1296 posts

With a party of your size packing heavy, you really should rent a small van instead of the train.

Posted by
31289 posts

Good decision to travel by public transit in Switzerland. Not only are the Swiss trains are incredibly efficient and fast, they're also integrated with buses and mountain lifts so most places are seamlessly accessible. Ireland is a bit more challenging for transportation but can be done with careful planning.

"What to do with big luggage getting from end of train ride to perhaps airbnb accommodation."

I normally choose accommodations that are reasonably close to stations. If your Air BnB is a bit farther, take a Taxi or be prepared to do some walking.

You might consider "downsizing" your "big luggage". It's not necessary to haul around several Steamer Trunks for a relatively short ~17 day holiday. As Rick often says, "pack the same for two weeks as for two months". You may enjoy having a look at this short video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58HdRSTAFec . Plan to do laundry a few times during the trip.

Posted by
3525 posts

Sometimes it's hard to visualize, but each person in your group should be able to manage their own bag(s), regardless of age. On the Packing forum there are lots of opinions for and against packing light. There's also lots of information on how to do it. This is my favorite thread about that from the Packing forum.

If you were going to be staying in one place, I'd say that it doesn't matter how much you take. But with the train-centric itinerary, the more you take, the more you will struggle.

Also keep in mind that the group moves at the rate of the slowest person in it. The faster you get on and off the trains the better.

If you are flying from Switzerland to Dublin and you are taking an intra-European airline, you may have issues with too much luggage on it.

And getting a taxi may be a problem with 4 or 5 people, all of whom have big luggage.

So getting from the train station to your lodgings may be the smallest of your challenges.

This is a bit off-topic and forgive me if you already know this, but keep in mind that unlike in the US, rooms for 4-5 people are rare. And you can't just get a room or an apartment for 2 and expect to put all of you along with big luggage in it. Booking.com is a good resource for finding accomodations, including apartments, for large groups.

Posted by
25743 posts

I'll just mention that many of the trains in Switzerland are double-decker. If you can't get the luggage up the stairs to the upper floor you can stay down.

But to build two floors into the train without making the train too tall for tunnels the designers have made the lower floor even lower, down a couple of steps. That's great but the view is way better from upstairs. If you can get upstairs you will be able to see what you spent so much money to get to.

If you share where you are going on your clockwise route several of us can give hints about the places you are going and transportation between them.

Posted by
7205 posts

But whatever size bag(s) you bring just make sure that you can handle them on your own and don’t expect others to give you a helping hand. Maybe they will or maybe (like me) they’ve hurt their backs previously trying to help others with heavy bags and have now learned their lesson.

Posted by
8231 posts

If you haven't booked your Airbnb accommodations, I would suggest finding places with a washer. You can apply a filter that will only show you places with laundry machines. Having a washer allows me to pack light, using a 21" carry on for any length of trip. Last year I broke my carry on sized bag rule, and I took a 24" bag so I could take some things to my relatives in Germany. I almost instantly regretted it. It was so much more cumbersome, and carrying that big bag up and down stairs and on and off the train was a pain.

Posted by
18891 posts

Aside from the pain of having to move a large, heavy bag from place to place, you'll often have trouble once you reach your lodgings. Closets are often very small, with far fewer hangers than you need. Sometimes there's nowhere to let pants or a dress hang full-length. So, even if you don't want to, you may need to half-way live out of the suitcase, and finding what you want in an overstuffed bag is time-consuming.

Even if you are blessed with that rare commodity, a European closet with plenty of hangers, it takes time to hang up a lot of clothes and then to re-pack them when you're ready to move on. I'd rather spend my time sightseeing (or sleeping).

Posted by
5666 posts

aconveyirish, if it seems like people are piling on you about "big luggage" it's only because so many of us have experienced the hassle of traveling with excessive luggage, especially on trains, and want to save you from that. Nobody outside your travel group will know (or care) if you have worn the same clothes before as long as they don't smell bad.

Posted by
1217 posts

I love train travel; I love big bags. I feel like it's more than worth it to not have to hunt down a laundromat or do some unsanitary sink washing along the way. I'm healthy enough that carrying a bigger bag up a flight of stairs or three is no big deal. I generally never use hotel closets- too much of a risk of forgetting something on the way out and since I've got a psychosomatic allergic reaction to ironing in general, my non-work wardrobe is built around things that don't really wrinkle if properly packed and that don't need to be hung up.

And yeah, when traveling by train, I book hotels close to the train station or, in bigger cities close to a mass transit stop.

Posted by
2 posts

I'm a bit tech challenged so I hope this sends a reply to everyone who has responded to my question.
We have decided with the help of all your excellent input to cut back significantly on luggage and do the whole trip around Switzerland by train. We are going to pack lots of deodorant !!

Posted by
25743 posts

Don't bother packing a lot of deodorant. All the supermarkets in Switzerland sell it, so if you happen to run out a new supply is easy to get and a great souvenir.

Posted by
245 posts

Nice to read! Once you start to and learn how to pack light you will never check a bag again and a burden so big will be lifted from your travels.

Posted by
3401 posts

I travel light and still check bags. One doesn't necessary cause the other, but it makes it a choice.

Posted by
2788 posts

Pack your clothes with dryer fabric softener sheets and/or buy the travel size of Febreze. Another option: buy small packets of Tide Sport from Amazon and sink wash when you will be in the same hotel for 2 nights. If you travel to Europe on a regular basis, buy clothes that dry quickly.

Traveling with less luggage makes you feel really free(and as you can tell from this forum, superior to travelers who are loaded down like pack mules!)

Posted by
57 posts

May I jump onto this post? When folks say "big" bags, what size are you referring to?

We have 26x18x11 that we'd like to use for 3 weeks on trains. But do you consider that "too big."?

Thanks!

Posted by
1942 posts

For me, "too big" is a bag (or combination of bags) that is too large or too heavy for me to haul up and down long flights of stairs at train stations or narrow/steep flights of hotel stairs; across uneven pavement for a few blocks to my hotel; manage inside a crowded train or transit car.

I like a bag that doesn't make me frown and wonder what I have in it every time I have to pick it up or lug it.

Posted by
18891 posts

I think you will find a 26 x 18 x 11 bag awkward at best, though if you are tall and strong it may not be impossible. My bag is under 24" and it's a challenge for me to get it up steps. I have to bend my elbow to keep the bag from dragging. I'm 5'4".

There's also the issue of where you will store the bag on the train. I think it's going to be too big for the overhead rack, so you'll have to hope for space on the mid-car or end-of-car rack. Sometimes you're not that lucky. I have twice sat on a jump seat in the entryway, moving my bag fom side to side at each station, depending on which door was staying closed.

What's the reason for the huge bag? Is it one large bag in lieu of two smaller bags, or will there be more than one large bag? If you're planning to take lots of clothing, you should consider that European hotel rooms and their closets/wardrobes are much smaller than non-Manhattanite Americans are used to. It may be very difficult to find space for the suitcases where you won't trip over them.

And hangers are a rare commodity. My budget hotel rooms often have just 3 of them. In the extremely unlikely event you have enough hangers, do you really want to spend so much time unpacking and re-packing a large wardrobe?

The trick is to think mix-and-match separates rather than "outfits".

Posted by
217 posts

Three of us just finished an 18 day Switzerland/Germany trip. We each had a carry-on size bag and a day bag. We traveled exclusively by train. We were usually able to find a spot for our bags between the seats. A larger bag would not have fit. Sometimes it was difficult for me (70 years old) to get off the train, down the ramp (or stairs), through the tunnel, up the next ramp (or stairs), and onto the next train in a timely manner. But, we always made it! We stayed at an apartment mid-way with a washer and dryer.

Posted by
5974 posts

@meemskirk there is no law against bags that size, but a lot of people that hang out here (including Rick Steves) are proponents of traveling with carryon-only sized bags. No checked bags. The reasons are to make it faster to get out of the airport (no waiting for luggage), easier to manage on trains and buses (no porters like the old movies) and lessens the wear and tear on your person for getting around. So generally airlines have carryon limits around 21-22". But you have to check. But there's no crime in checking a bag or using a larger one.

There are thousands of threads on this site about packing light. Take a look under the Travel Tips link on the menu on this page and you'll see a good discussion. It takes a change in mindset to pack light, that some folks just can't get into.