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Moving luggage on European trains

GetawaysRus

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I'm starting to plan vacations for 2013. I've got several ideas, but some of them would require European train travel from city to city. We've not used trains before other than for simple day trips.

When we travel, one of our big challenges involves moving our luggage. On a 2-3 week vacation, my wife and I each have one large 27 inch suitcase and one carry-on. I can stack the carry-on on top of the suitcase and roll both pieces using the handle and wheels on the suitcase. But still, how to transport the luggage always presents a challenge.

I don't have any experience moving luggage by train in Europe. I'm looking for some comments about how easy or difficult this is to do. Are there ramps to help you get luggage down to or up from the train platform if needed? Is there adequate storage space aboard the train? Do you just bring your luggage on board with you?

Thanks in advance.
 

Passepartout

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I've traveled intercity by train in Italy and Spain and Portugal. On those, there is no ramp to assist in getting your bags up to train-floor level. While it may be a little different if one is going first class in a roomette, we have found it inconvenient to say the least getting large roller bags down the narrow aisles and impossible to stash in an overhead rack- they just have to either block the aisle or take up a seat. It's also very inconvenient for quick disembarking at your stop. Often- unless you are going to a major city's main terminal, the smaller stops are very quick. There is often a fairly large space between the seating areas of carriages where bicycles are placed where you can stand with your bags- but for a several hour journey this is not practical. I've done it and you meet some nice people this way, but it isn't for the frail.

In short, there's a reason that most Europeans who travel by train use backpacks.

BTW, this is the bag I travel with: http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=product&theParentId=8&id=139 It will hold every bit as much as my 24" Delsey and is airline legal carry on. It will expand to carry what your 27"er does- though you'd have to check it. This and a rollaboard and I can go anywhere for an unlimited length trip and not check anything.

Jim
 
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PigsDad

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Just to add to Jim's comments. On the trains we took in Italy, there was an area at the end of each car that you could store larger pieces of luggage. You would probably want to bring some sort of cable lock system so that your bags don't get stolen, since they will be out of your sight. I agree that there will probably not be space available above your seat for a large suitcase.

My other suggestion (and a better solution): reduce your luggage. It can be done. My wife and I went on a 15-day Italy trip, and we did it with us bringing a 21-inch rollerboard and a backpack each. We only stayed in hotels, and planned it such that 1/2 way through the trip we stayed at a hotel (Hilton Garden Inn) that had a guest laundry. Worked out great for us, and made the trip much, MUCH easier not lugging huge luggage around. BTW, you can usually spot Americans a mile away in Europe, as they are the ones with tons of luggage. :D

Kurt
 

elaine

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Train travel is efficient and easy to get from city to city in Europe--but, you really need to be able to carry all your luggage with you to your seat--there will be some, limited places near your seat to put 24" or smaller bags. And for traveling to more than 1 place, you really want less luggage. I would buy 2 cheap lightweight 24" suitcases with wheels. Make your carry-on a backpack or large totebag--not another rolling bag. A 24" and a backpack/totebag is much easier to manage on the train and also aroung town. Plus, you need to be able to carry everything up/down stairs--don't count on an elevator or escalator. We easily travel for 3 weeks to Europe in a 24" and a backpack. Par down your wardrobe---only take dark bottoms that can be worn multiple days without showing dirt. Limit shoes, buy toiletries when you get there, etc. Only take mix/match outfits.
If you must take a huge suitcase, you should buy 1st class tickets on the train, which will get you an attendant to assist with luggage--but you still have to get thru the train station (maybe stairs) and out to the platform by yourself and then off the train and thru the next station and to your hotel.
 
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Rascalsmom

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On packing light.....
Buy a couple of pairs of ExOfficio underwear. Rinse at night and they are dry in the morning. Extremely breezy and cool even in Madrid in late July.

I also found a Packtowl very useful.

TMI? :rofl:
 

vacationhopeful

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Have done several 14 day European train trips. Cable lock is better than NO LOCK - is a must have. Have done the very small roller bag and a satchel bag to swing over the shoulder instead of a backpack. It is a must to have a hand free for rails, tickets and passports. Overshoulder SMALL pocketbooks are a must for women - I usually wear mine INSIDE/under my coat.

If you think this is too much, go and work out at the gym for several months. Afterall, the intercity trains are just a portion of your trip. You still will have subways, buses, and cobblestone streets & sidewalks. We even have stayed on 4th floor walkup hotels with NO BELLHOP.

Rollerbags DO NOT ROLL on cobblestones. :wall:
 

AKE

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European trains don't make long stops unless it is at the end of the route. Generally there are no porters to help you and everyone is rushing to either get on or off the train. As such, anything bigger than a carry-on and backpack will cause you no end to grief and people may literally push you aside if you can't clear the aisle fast enough (or otherwise they will miss their stop). On a number of trains the luggage must be stored at the end of the car - out of sight of the passengers. Unless you plan on sitting on the floor in these end compartments with your luggage, your luggage may disappear during one of the stops that the train may make. Public transit in some countries limit the number and size of luggage that can be brough on board (and do you really want someone with huge suitcases blocking the aisles of a city tram or bus?). As such I would suggest deciding what you do and don't need and pack accordingly. When we go to Hawaii we each take a carry-on and backpack... that does us easily for 2 weeks and we have spare room to bring souvenirs back. When we go to Europe (even when cruises are part of our itinerarty) once again we each take a carry-on and backpack AND if really required (i.e. if we are going for a month or more and plan to be in a number of different climatic zones) then one additional smallish suitcase with wheels (although each time we have done that we have found that we brought too much stuff and could have easily done with way less clothing and items). Generally there are no ramps and you are expected to do all your own lifting so how much you yourself can easily lift and carry should determine what you can bring.
 
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pedro47

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I've traveled intercity by train in Italy and Spain and Portugal. On those, there is no ramp to assist in getting your bags up to train-floor level. While it may be a little different if one is going first class in a roomette, we have found it inconvenient to say the least getting large roller bags down the narrow aisles and impossible to stash in an overhead rack- they just have to either block the aisle or take up a seat. It's also very inconvenient for quick disembarking at your stop. Often- unless you are going to a major city's main terminal, the smaller stops are very quick. There is often a fairly large space between the seating areas of carriages where bicycles are placed where you can stand with your bags- but for a several hour journey this is not practical. I've done it and you meet some nice people this way, but it isn't for the frail.

In short, there's a reason that most Europeans who travel by train use backpacks.

BTW, this is the bag I travel with: http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=product&theParentId=8&id=139 It will hold every bit as much as my 24" Delsey and is airline legal carry on. It will expand to carry what your 27"er does- though you'd have to check it. This and a rollaboard and I can go anywhere for an unlimited length trip and not check anything.

Jim

Would you recommend this product for a 14 day European cruise ?
 

Passepartout

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Would you recommend this product for a 14 day European cruise ?

This is exactly what I take on a cruise. It has backpack straps built into it and a waist strap so the weight is on your hips, not your shoulders and weighs under 4 lbs. If I'm taking a tux or suit, my 22" Delsey rollaboard that has a suit-folding doohicky in it. I do plan on rinsing out undies, only carry one extra pair of shoes, and I do either wash some laundry along the way or on a cruise, have some shirts/slacks done onboard. It's waaay cheaper than paying to check bags.

Jim
 
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vacationhopeful

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Also, this is a very foreign concept to us living in the USA.

Europeans wear leather shoes verses our "living in sneakers" mode. Leather sandals or plastic flipflops for the showers or pools. Tennis or running shoes are for sporting games. Jeans only for the extremely thin (not even American teenagers are thin enough). No tee-shirts that are NOT undershirts.

So the way I pack is: put my stuff I think I need on the bed. Push 1/2 of it to the floor (pick up and put away). Get my bag out. Take 50% of the various colors off the bed and throw those on the floor (pickup and put away). Take the stuff that doesn't match to 2 or more other items away.

Now I have 1/10 of what I started with and it might fit into my bag.

PS On a 14 day trip, I had enough room in my bag to pack 6 European cut-glass crystal wine goblets, a matching decanteur and 2 liter size bottles of liqueor. Just getting that into my bag won me a FREE dinner from my travelling partner (who whining outside the store in the falling snow that I would have to leave my clothes behind if I brought it). Getting home with nothing broken: PRICELESS.
 

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I'd definitely downsize the luggage. When my husband and I travel in Europe, we also use Rick Steve's luggage--expandable 24" roller and backpack. It takes a bit of planning to get the right shoes and the appropriate lightweight, wrinkle-resistant clothes. On Rick Steve's website, you can also find packing suggestions.

When traveling by train, you generally have to walk up and down steps with your luggage to get to the appropriate train tracks. Several times we have had to move quickly up and down steps to make the next train connection.

Have fun on your trip!
 

GetawaysRus

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BTW, this is the bag I travel with: http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=product&theParentId=8&id=139 It will hold every bit as much as my 24" Delsey and is airline legal carry on. It will expand to carry what your 27"er does- though you'd have to check it. This and a rollaboard and I can go anywhere for an unlimited length trip and not check anything.

Jim

Thanks for all the comments. I'm trying to understand the stategy here.

I feel like I'm developing a major luggage collection. We used to travel with 27" Atlantic luggage that we bought many, many years ago. These pieces were solid, and withstood many trips, but weighed in at 17 pounds each when empty. I still have them - the airlines could not destroy them. But the airlines instituted higher fees for bags and those 17 pounders became impractical.

So we switched to lighter weight luggage. I tried Delsey first - that was a total dud. One trip and the Delsey bags were destroyed. It's a challenge, but we finally found 27" pieces that were in the range of 12-13 pounds empty that have withstood a few trips and can carry everything (including the liquid items - can't bring those onto the plane).

But now I'm getting the message to swap luggage again. If I understand, you carry that Rick Steves bag as a backpack. And you bring a rolling bag as well. Would a 24" rolling bag be too big on a European train? From some of the comments in this thread, it sounds like this might be OK. If so, between a lightweight 24 inch roller and that Rick Steves backpack (from the link you provided: measuring 9" x 21" x 14" and weighing just 3 lbs), maybe we could make it.

I have to confess that I'm not sure how much weight my beautiful mid 50s wife could carry on her back. The trip would quickly become not fun if I try to put too much weight on her back.

Yes, I already have the fast drying undies (and like them), quick dry shirts, and quick dry pants. Found them at REI and Bass Pro Shops. Laundry is another big logistic issue on these long trips.
 

Passepartout

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I actually seldom put the Rick Steves bag on my back. I use the straps on it to slide on the upright handle supports of the Delsey and roll it when I can.

We have accumulated luggage over the years too. As materials have gotten lighter and stronger and as airlines restrictions have gotten more stringent, our luggage has become smaller, lighter, yet more spacious. Our humongous rolling duffels specified by the outfitter to go on the roof of a Land Rover in Africa are surplus now.

As to the weight, if your bag only weighs 3 lbs, you don't worry about overweight charges and it's just your own stuff that you are lifting into an overhead, not starting with a 17 lb suitcase.

We never check bags at all now unless it's for a rare Southwest flight. So no more worrys about the luggage gorillas tearing it up. My Delsey has taken dozens of trips with nothing but cosmetic damage. But who needs zipper-pulls and brand-name badges anyway?

We are both in our mid 60's and built more for comfort than speed, and we have no trouble with our carry-ons.

Happy travels!

Jim
 

GetawaysRus

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Another possibility for a luggage backpack?? This comes up at Amazon if I search for the Rick Steves bag. From the pictures, I'm not so sure this would be as expandable. Does anyone use this bag?

http://www.amazon.com/eBags-Weekender-eTech-Convertible/dp/B004C0WMBE/ref=pd_sbs_a_1

Here's the same bag on the eBags site:
http://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/...stterm=weekender etech convertible &x=40&y=21

And another:
http://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/mother-lode-tls-weekender-convertible/143101?productid=10150072
 
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Passepartout

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Here's the whole Rick Steves line on eBags: http://www.ebags.com/brand/rick-steves?lastterm=rick steves They beat Rick's own prices and as you can see, the convertible is available with or without wheels. Here's the wheeled convertible: http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=product&theParentId=8&id=507 Imo this is the best bag for train travel in Europe if you want wheels, a little less room, and a little more weight than the non-wheeled one.

Looked like the weekender is not expandable. But it's half the price of the Rick Steves.

I had a shoulder strap come unstitched on my R.S. backpack that I bought cheap at Sierra Trading Post. Called Rick Steves and they paid freight both ways and fixed it better than new. Free. I'm sold on them.

P.S. If my ship comes in- and I'm not at the airport- This http://www.luggageontheweb.com/lifo2whcalu22.html is the bag I'm lusting after.

Jim
 
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pedro47

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This is exactly what I take on a cruise. It has backpack straps built into it and a waist strap so the weight is on your hips, not your shoulders and weighs under 4 lbs. If I'm taking a tux or suit, my 22" Delsey rollaboard that has a suit-folding doohicky in it. I do plan on rinsing out undies, only carry one extra pair of shoes, and I do either wash some laundry along the way or on a cruise, have some shirts/slacks done onboard. It's waaay cheaper than paying to check bags.

Jim

Thanks you so much for your candid comments !!!!!
 

Talent312

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I can only concur with what everyone else has said
... especially about down-sizing to the bare essentials.

Euro-trains are kinda like city-buses in the U.S. (but more comfortable).
Imagine lugging your suitcases on and off one of those several times.
If you store luggage at the ends, out of sight, locks are imperative.

We tend to use small (21-24") rollables, a shoulder bag, and do laundry.
In Florence, we found a laundry service near the hotel.
Another time it was planned, but happened to be a national holiday.
We washed everything by hand in the sink and hung stuff in the room.

At Avignon, we saw a lady rolling a bag with a small dog poking out the top.
 
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lvhmbh

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Just another perspective. We were taking a 16 day transatlantic from Rome. Cruise line that has formal nights and I dress for dinner anyway. I wanted to go to Venice for about 5 days beforehand. We brought alot of luggage. Took water taxi to Venice train station and arranged for porter at the dock. He put the luggage on the train and we secured it with cable and lock. At the Rome station we waited while alot of people got off, easily obtained a porter to the taxi and then hotel. Had a tour guide the next day and as a transfer to the ship. If I was travelling by train all over the country I would do it differently but....this worked out well for us. I would not have done it this way, however, if I was not prepared to spend the money for porters. Our friends decided they could "do it themselves" coming from Paris via train and he put his back out - said he forgot himself :rolleyes: Linda
 

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This is exactly what I take on a cruise. It has backpack straps built into it and a waist strap so the weight is on your hips, not your shoulders and weighs under 4 lbs. If I'm taking a tux or suit, my 22" Delsey rollaboard that has a suit-folding doohicky in it. I do plan on rinsing out undies, only carry one extra pair of shoes, and I do either wash some laundry along the way or on a cruise, have some shirts/slacks done onboard. It's waaay cheaper than paying to check bags.

Jim
Is the suit-folding doohicky in all Delsey 22" rollaboards? We've done a month in Italy with one carry-on each and a pack-pack each, but cruises present a challenge for my husband with formal night choices. We have two combination cruise/land trips on our own coming up, and finding a way to solve the suit issue would definitely make our lives easier.
 

Passepartout

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