Hello, I know the "suitcase vs backpack" dilemma has been discussed before, but I still have some questions.
I'm travelling to Western Europe this summer for around one month and haven't yet decided whether I should take a suitcase with me. I'm really short and not so strong, so I don't know if my body will be able to support a backpack's weight. That is why I think a wheeled suitcase would be the best option for me.
But my questions are:
Do you happen to see many travellers lugging their suitcases on stations or on the street? Or will I be seen as an alien?
May I arrive in stations with no elevators or escalators at all?
Any advice will be highly appreciated.
I've traveled lots of places with my little rolling suitcase and I have only had a few problems. The things you want to make sure of are first of all that your roller suitcase is carry-on size-- any bigger and you are going to regret it. -snip- The other thing is, whatever you do, make sure that you can handle that thing well. I mean, can you carry it by the handle for a while if you need to? Can you lift it over your head? If the answer is no, you need to pack less. However you carry it, I NEVER take more than I can pick up.
[ Edit: sorry, no promos in the forum please. ]
You will be fine, it is actually more common in Europe to travel with a weeled suitcase than with a backpack. The only reason I've got a backpack is because my old travelling gear (an ultra-rare find of a delightful 40l-size cross between wheeled suitcase and backpack) broke so bad that I had to replace it and because I travel a lot in the Middle East where roads are so bad that a simple wheeled suitcase would be stupid.
Suzanne's advice is very good, stick to it.
Only thing to keep in mind is that the carry-on bags allowed on European airlines are smaller. Don't know how much, but the maximum weight was 9 kilogramms. So "carry-on size" is something different in Europe...
Look for a bag that is no larger than 50 x 50 x 16 cm - that is 40l and will more than enough for you. 50 x 30 x 20 cm (30 l) will also work if you take a another smaller bag.
BTW, if for some reason you decide to look for backpacks in this size, you'll find that they are just made for people like you!
You'll be fine carrying a suitcase; European infrastructure will not pose any problems, although I would get a sore back myself when dragging a suitcase behind me all the time.
You will, however, belong to a different crowd of tourists. Most backpackers I ever talked to feel a sharp distinction between suitcase tourists (usually not quite as cool as 'us') and backpackers ('us'). I agree that this is ridiculous, but some things just are :-)
Suitcases can be difficult to wheel around on cobblestone streets in Europe. I took a suitcase to Europe once and ended up totally destroying it, and it was a real pain the butt to carry it up and down the stairs, since a lot of buildings in Europe don't have elevators. I'm rather short and definitely not strong, but I carry a backpack with no diffifulty whatsoever. If you get a good backpack, it shouldn't feel very heavy on your back. I'd definitely consider investing in a good backpack if I were you. There are backpacks that come with wheels, but those are usually not made to be carried on your back for a prolonged period of time. Go to a good outdoor equipment store and let them fit a backpack on you. Ask them to load the pack with weights and walk around the store to see how comfortable it is. I'm a small girl (5'2", 110lbs); if I can handle a backpack, I don't think you should worry about it.
Take what you like, remember you'll be the one carrying it!!!!!
A backpack will be lighter for the same volume as a suitcase so don't worry about the weight - and a decent backpack should actually be easier to carry because it will distribute the weight evenly across your frame.
I find that a backpack is a good idea if I'm going to be moving about alot - a suitcase is OK if I'm just staying in one hotel or something (and it seems to be better at stopping clothes from getting creasy).
suitcases can be a pain in the ass to carry around. go with the backpack even a smaller sized one. you wont regret it
To hijack this thread ever so slightly, for the love of Pete can someone recommend a decent rolling suitcase? I've gone through 3 in the last 3 trips, and each has been either too big, too awkward, or too flimsy. This last one - which I bought just before I left - decided to lose one of its legs in the middle of the trip, leaving me with a wobbly mess that tipped over at random. One should not have to scream "come back!" at one's luggage!
I'd like something compact (not carry-on luggage small, though), sturdy, rip-proof, flexible, and able to withstand the substantial abuse I will throw its way. It has to be easy enough to lug through a train aisle and fit into the trunk of a small car. It also has to make me not look like an overloaded porter when trying to drag it up 3 flights of stairs (although that may have more to do with what I've packed into it). It also must not be pink.
If it has inline skate wheels on steel "axles" and YKK zippers along with a medium soft shell (stiffened cloth that makes the suitcase act like a hardtop), it will be ok.