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Luggage - Wheels or no wheels

I'll be traveling to Paris, non-stop in April. I've always checked a bag, but am determined to just carry one on. Since my trip is only 5 days, I know I can do it. Now, I just need to make a decision on whether or not I actually need a bag with wheels going through Charles De Gualle airport and into the city. To give you an idea of my ability to carry things - I'm in my 30's and have 2 small children, so I'm pretty fit. I'm just wondering if anyone can tell me how much walking it is to get out of the airport, on to public transportation and then to the apartment (in the 4th) we booked. Any advice will help! Thanks!

Posted by
1357 posts

Are your children coming with you? You'll get a different answer if you're traveling by yourself vs. traveling with the kids.

Posted by
18377 posts

I guess the nice thing about wheeled bags is that sometimes you don't have to carry them. The bad thing is that when you do have to carry them, the wheels make them heavier. Also, if you are near the weight limit (18-22# on European airlines) there's just that much less weight of your own stuff that you can take with you.

Because wheels and the handle make the bag shorter for the same overall length it means less volume to put things in or risk it not fitting into the sizing box and having to be checked.

I'm 65 and in the last 10 years I have spent over 100 days, ~14 at a time carrying my convertible as a backpack. If I can do it with 14 days worth of stuff, you can certainly do it for 5 days.

My advice, if you are physically able to carry a small packpack, and you can get everything in it, you're better off. Wheeled bags should be a last resort.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks Lee! That's what I was leaning towards, plus I feel a little more secure with the bag right next to me vs. wheeling it behind.

Thanks for the advice!

Posted by
21852 posts

I agree with Lee. I like having my hands free when moving through a crowd or having to buy tickets at a machines. Whether is is on my back (both straps) or one strap over a shoulder I know where the bag is. Second, I find the rough streets and sidewalk must less friendly to a rolling bag. In the US we almost always take rolling bags because you can depend on sidewalks and street. In Europe it is the oppose, always take a back-pack style of bag. Third, a non-wheel back MAKES you keep it lighter because you know you have to carry it. Our rolling bags just tend to get heavier because we know that we are not carrying the bags.

Posted by
8172 posts

I hate carrying bags and think wheeled suitcases are one of the better inventions of the 20th century. Love em and can't imagine not having them. Makes life easier for me.

Posted by
368 posts

I would either go with a full fledged, internal frame backpack... or a wheeled suitcase.

The concept of walking a few klicks with a duffel back over my shoulder sounds like a recipe for a strained back.

Posted by
1288 posts

I'm with Jo. I love my wheeled bag and can't imagine carrying my bag everywhere. It's not wonderful on stairs but it's wonderful all other times.

Posted by
39 posts

I like having my hands free with a backpack.

If you have a upcoming domestic trip, I suggest you pack in the backpack and try it out. If no trips upcoming pack the backpack and go for a walk in your neighborhood.

Posted by
8401 posts

I'm with Jo and Grier, love my wheeled bag. Used Rick's carry-on size wheeled bag for our most recent 7 wk trip and loved it.

Posted by
11441 posts

If you don't mind wearing the bag backpack style for longer distances like from the gate to the aiport exit, then get a bag without wheels. (You don't need a frame for those distances and it will just add weight. Plus, most framed backpacks are too big for carry-on.)

One of the secrets of a frameless, wheeless bag, is learning now to pack. I used cubes to help organize the bag and to give it some rigidity.

Since you're only going to one place and not moving around, look at the lighter bags such as Outdoor Products Essential Carry-on or the Rick Steves Convertible Carry On

(BTW, you can find the RS bag cheaper on the internet than the current price at the RS store.)

If you go over to the Transportation section, there's a current thread on carry-on bags and I posted a list of convertible carry ons in order from lightest to heaviest.

Posted by
1078 posts

From where most US airlines park to the RER terminal is a pretty good trek--I personally use a backpack for my business stuff and a 22" roll-a-board for clothes, ect whether I'm flying in the US or the EU.

Carry-on from the US is normally not a problem, however,coming back you will probably be forced to check the bag. Also, except in the summer, I will wear my top coat onto the plane because I can stuff all kinds of socks, underwear, t-shirts into all the pockets without any hassle on either end of the trip.

Posted by
11441 posts

The new carry-on rules FROM Europe to the U.S. will limit wheeled bags. However, most of the non-wheeled bags mentioned here and on the other posting will pass the sizer test.

And for those who say they've traveled back with wheeled bags as carry-on...remember..the rules changed this month.

But be aware, you may only be entitled to take ONE carry-on bag on board...not a carry-on AND a personal item.

Posted by
66 posts

I've been using a wheeled "computer case" type of suitcase. It's great to wheel around, is small enough that it fits either under the seat or in the overhead compartment, is low profile so it doesn't topple over easily, has a carry handle for when you do need to pick it up and over a Metro turnstile, and holds a surprising amount of clothing. I was able to pack winter clothes for a week Back East at Thanksgiving and even had a little room to spare.

Posted by
1170 posts

We have the Rick Steves backpack style bags and have used them for a few trips, but this last trip we went with wheeled bags. My husband and kids all said they preferred the wheeled bags, and I don't care if we have to check them to be honest.

Maybe I will have to pay more attention to how FrankII packs his backpack style bag, because ours ended up with everything to one side and it was most uncomfortable.

Posted by
48 posts

Lisa,
One more vote for more wheels. I just think if you have the stamina, you will love the flexibility. My view is that an active 30 something mom should should have no problem.

Jim

Posted by
48 posts

Lisa,
Excuse me. Typing too fast. That is no wheels for me.
Jim

Posted by
852 posts

I also vote for no wheels. I use a duffel bag that has very comfortable straps to go over my shoulder. It easily fits the needed carry-on requirements and is comfortable to carry. It also packs a lot and is very light. Like others have stated, I like having both hands free when trekking through subway, airports, and streets. Stairs are also much more easily maneuvered. I am in my mid-30’s and in decent shape and have no problems with it. If you opt for no wheels, I also really like the suggestion of packing the bag and taking a walk around the block with it to see where adjustments need to be made and to gauge your comfort level.

And to answer your other question, there is a decent amount of walking in the airport, and if you are taking public transport, just add about .25-.35 miles to it. Very doable, however, and it goes by fast. Have fun!

Posted by
31521 posts

Lisa,

Here's another vote for a Backpack / no wheels. I find it much easier to move around with a Backpack. I'm often tripping over those goofy wheelie bags as they don't seem to be able to move as quickly. I can appreciate that some people prefer them, but I'm definitely NOT one of them!

If you're going to buy an internal frame Backpack (ie: Eagle Creek, Osprey or others), be sure you're properly fitted for torso length. Most of the weight should rest on your hips, not your shoulders! Any competent sales person should be able to measure.

The internal frame Packs tend to "hold" their shape better than frameless models. With frameless Packs, using Cubes or whatever as Frank II mentioned is a good idea.

As someone else mentioned, it's a bit of a hike to get from the Customs area to the RER terminal. You can view the route at This Website. I've found the website to be fairly accurate, but the distance seems farther when one is actually walking through the airport.

Which method were you planning to use to get into Paris from CDG?

Cheers!

Posted by
4739 posts

Since you are going to just one place, I really don't think it matters that much. The main obstacle that you will deal with is the stairs in the metro. The turnstiles can also be a bit of a challenge, regardless of whether you have a roller bag or backpack. I stayed in Paris in the 4th in October, used public transportation, and had no problem with my roller bag. I also had to carry this bag up to my 3rd floor flat.

I have traveled with both a backpack and a roller bag. They both have their pros and cons. I think which you choose is very much personal preference.

When I was younger, I used an MEI backpack. If you can carry the weight and are in good shape, the backpack allows you to move more quickly. You also have your hands free to hold a map. I found a backpack to work very well when I was travelling on a budget and staying in youth hostels that were often outside of the city center. You do have to be careful that you don't smack people with the pack on crowded public transportation. If you choose a pack, I suggest looking for one with a padded hip belt that fits well. Check where the straps hit your shoulders once the hip belt is fastened. If you have an outdoor store like REI near you, you might go check out bags and try them on. I think a good-fitting bag is really important. My first bag was similar to the old Rick Steves backpacks (no real hip belt) and it was very uncomfortable for me (I'm short). When I switched to a different type of pack, it made all the difference.

Due to an injury, I switched to a roller bag about 5 years ago. They are now pretty sturdy and I have carted mine across cobblestones many times. The pro is that you have no weight on your back. The con is that you don't have both hands free and they can make a lot of noise. But they are really quite easy to travel with. I will probably never go back to a backpack style bag. I like not having to carry the bag all the time.

Posted by
11441 posts

Eli...I use packing cubes and folders. Some complain about the weight. It adds about 1.5 pounds. Not much really (Lee be quiet :) )

But it makes all the difference on comfort when carrying it backpack style as it adds some structure. Some people prefer ziplocs. They're good but don't add structure.

I also like packing cubes because it keeps me organized, I don't have to unpack to find something, and gets me through security fast if they want to open my bag.

All the above was and is when I'm using a one comparment bag like the RS Convertible. I now use a Tom Bihn Tri-Star which has three compartments and holds its shape.

Posted by
21852 posts

And the score is -----

Wheels 5
No Wheels 7
Both 3

And again, no clear winner.

Posted by
15 posts

I never thought people were so passionate about luggage! Thanks for everyone's advice; I'm going to keep looking on what's available, but I'm thinking of purchasing one of Rick's duffles (no wheels). It will be easier for me to hoist it in the overhead, too.

I wasn't aware of the new rules for coming back into the U.S.; by the time April comes, they might change again!

Wonderful information! Can't wait to pack!

Posted by
2349 posts

Remember that your outerwear will affect things. You'll probably have at least a raincoat, so make sure the backpack is comfy with that.

I never liked backpacks and never will. Nah nah, leave me alone with my wheeled bag! They do make noise. On an early morning walk to catch the London tube, with 4 of us and our wheeled bags, we were accosted by a minicab driver offering a ride to the airport. (Yes, I know they're not allowed to do that.) I think he was just dozing in his cab until the wheelies woke him up.

Posted by
850 posts

I have a low profile, light, no wheel duffel that I like. My wife has to have a wheeled bag. There are times when it would be nice if my bag had wheels especially if there is a long walk ahead. I have traveled with a wheel bag and there are advantages but I will stay with my duffel for now. Do not like back packs. Did that one time but no more. I guess this adds one vote to wheels and one vote to non wheeled bags.

Posted by
934 posts

I prefer a back pack type bag.However Im wondering if anyone has used Steves new Autobahn wheeled packpack.It has wider wheels so it rolls easier and is smaller in size so it fit the sizing box however it does weigh more.If anyone has used this bag im wondering what they think?

Posted by
11441 posts

For those who want wheels--occasionally. It works but not very well. Fits easily into a carry-on sized convertible bag.

Samsonite Micro Mover

Posted by
8866 posts

Frank II - that weighs 3 pounds. You might as well have a wheeled bag if weight is a concern.

Posted by
11441 posts

The cart actually weighs 2.25 lbs. The 3 lbs is the "shipping weight" including packaging.

So, if using something like the OPEC bag with it, the total weight would be 4 lbs--at least 2-3 lbs less than most rolling bags.

But I did forget about the Sub-0-G Luggage which weighs just under 5 lbs. (But the true dimensions of that bag, with wheels and handle, is 23? x 14-7/8? x 9-1/8?)

Posted by
811 posts

Here in Chicago our election motto is "Vote early; vote often."

Looks like I'm a little late to this party but my vote is for wheels.

Posted by
1014 posts

If it is going to be heavy, 25 pounds or more, wheeled. If less, backpack it.

Posted by
8866 posts

Sorry Frank II, I stand corrected. I just saw the 3 lb. weight and assumed that was the weight of the cart. My issue with the cart is figuring out what would you do with it when you aren't using it? I usually don't have extra space in my bag for something like that.

Posted by
11450 posts

With just a quick view it appears all MEN vote for back packs. Most women will vote wheels. There is a difference in upper body strength between the average male and female.

I am older then you and love my wheeled bag,, and have never thought a back pack would be better. Yes , I have had to carry it up stairs,, but thats only a short portion on any trip.

Posted by
11441 posts

Andrea...as I said....I don't endorse the cart. (Tried it once, never again. Kept falling over.) It's just an additional idea.

I was able to pack it in my bag because I pack light.

As for women vs. men and wheels/no wheels. Rick Steves uses a non-wheeled bag. His wife and daughter use wheels. He admits most of his office staff also use wheels.

Except for one person on this board who would like to see wheels outlawed all together, and who shall remain nameless, it really is a personal choice. However, that said, with more people carrying on, and the overheads full, some airline gate agents are making people check their wheeled bags--some gate checked others regular checked. And with the further restrictions due to security, the dimensions are getting tighter.( Remember, most wheeled bags given dimensions do not include wheels and handles.) Flying to Europe you should be fine. But returning, it may get difficult as the newer restrictions are rolled out. Even if you were able to take your rolling bag on board in the past does not mean you will in the future.

Posted by
8866 posts

Frank II...it is because of those new restrictions that I am considering a non-wheeled bag. I try to pack light and I do carry on - at least on the way there. I use a wheeled bag and a tote bag. If I can condense everything to one bag and a purse I was thinking about trying a non-wheeled bag on my upcoming trip to Italy. I just don't know if I can handle the weight on my back though. Maybe I'll stuff a backpack full things to roughly weigh the same as my suitcase and "practice" with it.

It seems like it would make it easier to go up and down stairs and on and off trains with a bag on you back.

For those of you that use the backpack style non-wheeled bags...how hard is it to put it on your back and take it off?

Posted by
21852 posts

It is no more difficult putting on a backpack than putting on a bulk winter coat. However, most times when I am boarding trains, or in crowd situations such as bus or subway car, I only have one shoulder strap on so that I can easily control the bag. I can easily carry on one shoulder for short distances which allows me to quickly store the bag or drop it to my feet, etc. When walking for longer distances I will use both straps.

Posted by
2297 posts

Unless you're a participant in "The Amazing Race" choosing between backpack and wheelies is simply a personal choice. For me it has to be with wheels. Make sure you get one with two large wheels rather than one of those 4-wheelers. The latter one is much harder to handle on uneven surfaces.

One issue hasn't been mentioned,yet. If you take a backpack what do you do if your daypack is a small backpack as well? I usually have my mini-backpack for dayuse and wheel my suitcase. Works quite well.

Posted by
8866 posts

I have a very nice Travel Pro wheeled bag, which I love. It is still like new after many trips. My only concerns now are that I want to continue to be able to carry on, and at times it is a pain to try to carry the bag up/down stairs, especially if there are a lot of them. The trip we are going on in the fall will deal with a lot more changing location by train and bus than I am used to. I'm am wondering if going without wheels will make us more mobile.

Attaching a shoulder strap seems like a good way to deal with the bag short term, with carrying on your back better for the long haul.

Posted by
11441 posts

Like the other Frank, I use a shoulder strap for short distances especially getting on and off trains. Once I have room, and won't hit people putting it on, the the backpack straps go on.

Lately, I've been using the Tom Bihn Absolute Strap which magically makes my bag seem pounds lighter. I sometimes just use that and don't even bother with the backpack straps.

I also have a daybag and on travel days, it goes inside my carry-on. I only want to have to manage one bag on travel days, not two.

I've learned, after years of travel, how to travel light. And I'm now doing it with a single 19 x 13 x 8 bag. Just as Rick suggests, I ask myself: "Will I use it enough to warrant carrying it around Europe." For toiletries, I start with just the basic amount and buy as I go along. I've gotten rid of all my chargers and replaced them with one universal one. I now only carry my Ipod Touch and Blackberry phone rather than a computer.

Loading up a backpack and trying it out for awhile will give you an idea whether or not you can handle it.

Before switching back to non-wheeled, one of my bags was a Travelpro. I loved it. But it's been in storage since 2002.

Posted by
2349 posts

If the unscientific polling seems to be running that men prefer no wheels, and women prefer no backpack, there may be a reason. Boobs-most women have them, and most men don't. That would be one (or two) of the reasons I don't like backpacks.

Posted by
990 posts

I'll break the pattern--I'm a female pushing 60 and I nearly always use my non-wheeled luggage. I do have two nice wheelies which I used to use, but they are larger and heavier than I like to hoist over my head to get into the overhead bin these days. I find that I prefer the nimbleness of having a wheelless bag. That said, I seldom bother wearing it in backpack mode--instead I use a cross-the body shoulder strap. Like Frank II I swear by the Tom Bihn Absolute Shoulder Strap--it really makes a difference in the perceived weight of the bag.

I do use my wheelies hauling books from the parking lot a block from my office though...

Posted by
307 posts

I vote no wheels if your reasonably fit and can travel light....I spent 39 days in Europe last Fall( 7 countries) with just Rick's covertible carry on, weighing in at 21 lbs...I had no problems at all and am 44 years old, reasonably fit but certainly not a jock or anything....

Posted by
11973 posts

I do a backpack style carry-on, my wife does a roll-on. We have gone a month or more with only a carry-on each (true, she doesn't want to see her clothes again for awhile after we get back).

I like the backpack because it's lighter. I typically carry it with only one strap over one shoulder unless I'm planning a long haul (pretty rare).

My wife seems to be happy with her roll-on. She doesn't complain about the times she has to carry it and is much happier walking through airports than I am. Her clothes are smaller so she doesn't care about the room the wheels take up. Since she rarely carries her bag, the extra weight doesn't seem to bother her.

One upside with the backpack style. It's soft sided, so you can often squeeze it into an overhead space that a more rigid roll-on might not fit into.

Posted by
21852 posts

I sorry, Karen, but I don't understand that comment but not sure I want you to expand on it either. My wife is 65 and prefers an old style Rick Steves's bag. Since the straps are over the shoulder and under the arm pit it does not bother her two's in anyway that she can remember. I just asked her. Now, I have seen people who wear a backpack in front and that could cause a problem for females if that is the two points you were making.

Posted by
118 posts

This thread is dead, but I must vote. Wheels AND check the bag.

I am amazed that for 5 days in Paris you can pack your goodies in a backpack. I take my wheeled bag for a weekend in Vegas. However, don't think that I don't carry my own weight. My mother's mantra was (and is): you packed it; you carry it.

I remember the days of suitcases with no wheels. What were they thinking!?