Pack my socks, in what? What luggage to buy?
June 25, 2011 1:02 PM   Subscribe

[luggage filter] it's time to grow up. and when better than right before a trip!

my sweetie and i are taking a trip to italy! we'd like to each take a carry-on for our trip that we can move around on buses. i have never purchased luggage in my life. i always just "borrow" from my parents (and seem to never return) (parents always have so many suitcases!).

what do you recommend that is easy to carry, carry-on size? perhaps wheels? not sure if it should be hard-shelled or soft, i defer to your collective wisdom. in our daily lives, we both travel a lot for work, so something that we could use for work travel, as well, would be great!

ps do people still use money belts?
posted by anya32 to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If you're willing to shell out some money, this roll-aboard from Rick Steves is great. It is hard on all sides except the top. It has cinch-down straps inside, which is great for keeping clothes from moving around and getting wrinkled. It rolls well, and the padded handles are soft and strong.

If most of your travel were exploring Europe by bus and rail, I'd say get a backpack or convertible bag. But it sounds like you do business and city travel. To me, a bag with wheels makes so much more sense for this type of travel. I tried the convertible as my go-to bag for awhile, but long airport corridors with smooth tile floors made me regret the lack of wheels.
posted by maxim0512 at 1:19 PM on June 25, 2011

The TravelPro Crew series is amazing for the price. Sturdy construction, esp. the handle and wheels (usually overlooked). The 22" is carry-on suitable, I think, and can be found for under $200.

anya32: "do people still use money belts?"

Maybe some people do, but in Italy? Forget it. Just don't flash your cash.
posted by mkultra at 1:22 PM on June 25, 2011

Best answer: liketitanic: "The Tom Bihn Aeronaut!"

Totally agree. Best suitcase I've ever had. You can use their Absolute Strap, the handles on the side, or wear it like a backpack! Very light.
posted by theredpen at 1:24 PM on June 25, 2011

Best answer: Oops, here's a link to the Aeronaut.
posted by theredpen at 1:24 PM on June 25, 2011

Be sure to pop by the website - - and especially their Choosing a Bag page.
posted by fairmettle at 1:34 PM on June 25, 2011

I use this for all my trips: Eagle Creek Hovercraft (though I bought mine a couple of years ago and the dimensions might be slightly different). If you use the pack-it cubes and roll your clothes, you can fit everything you need (plus I carry a tote for my toiletry bags, small electronics, and books). On flights, the roller bag goes in the overhead and the tote goes under the seat in front of me. Works out great.
posted by JenMarie at 1:43 PM on June 25, 2011

The zipper on my old suitcase finally came to the end of its long, slow death when I went home for Christmas this past year, and I was gifted a new Travelpro carry on from my parents. (My mom voted for this one over some other brand at the store because it's the kind George Clooney used in Up in the Air.) I've been very happy with it so far. It seems to have pockets in all the right places and maneuvers well.

My boyfriend was also in the market for a new carry on recently. I watched him try out what seemed like every single piece of luggage in the Chicagoland area. He vacillated for a while between a Victorinox and a Tumi, but decided he wasn't quite ready to make the full leap into Fancy Person luggage, and ended up with a Travelpro of his own, influenced not at all by the one I have. He seems to be very happy with it so far.

You should go to department stores where you are and check out all the luggage on site to get a feel for it. (And then, if you want, search online to see if you can find a better deal.) It always helps to be able to fiddle with it a bit first so you know what things will annoy you.
posted by phunniemee at 2:17 PM on June 25, 2011

carry, carry-on size? perhaps wheels? not sure if it should be hard-shelled or soft

Travel? Soft and wheels! -> duffel bag on rolls.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 2:17 PM on June 25, 2011

I've never used it, but I've been eyeing the Patagonia MLC wheelie for work/fun travel. It's a semi-structured duffel on wheels that you can carry like a backpack should the need arise. In black, I think it looks reasonably professional.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:03 PM on June 25, 2011

If you're planning on traveling around Italy via public transit, get a backpack (or maybe some sort of duffel that can be slung over a shoulder) rather than something with wheels. This is extra true if, in the future, you hope to get further off the beaten track rather than more "civilized".

Wheeled bags are great for business travelers and people who favor resort vacations. For everything else they're wasteful garbage.

Re money belts - for Italy, I didn't bother. There are ATM's everywhere and if you're traveling from the US, everyone is richer than you and nobody wants your passport.
posted by Sara C. at 8:06 PM on June 25, 2011

Some generic advice here. All of the manufacturers are working against the same 22x14x9 constraint, but be sure to check whatever you end up buying is actually 22x14x9. Assuming a 22x14x9, the trade-off between a roll-aboard (wheels) and soft luggage is going to be about four pounds and maybe six hundred cubic inches of packing space. The soft luggage bags suggested up thread are going to weigh about three pounds empty and have a capacity of maybe 2800 cu. in.; the roll-aboards are going to weigh six to eight pounds empty and have a capacity of something like 2000 to 2200 cu. in.
posted by kovacs at 6:41 AM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was happy to have a rollie in Italy. It's a blessing when you're tired and haggard and having to walk farther to hotels, buses, etc. than you thought.

As for the money belt, you can probably skip it if you're not carrying all of your cash for the trip around at once and are smart about where you keep your wallet. But be aware that if you're at the major tourist areas in Italy, packs of gypsies will be working the crowd targeting obvious tourists. I sat and watched a small pack working a crowd in Rome once and they had some well-acted cons going on, from actual hold-my-baby-type scams to hard luck stories to in-your-face-distraction pickpocket maneuvers. They were definitely on the job. And they were at all the big spots. If you're conscious of your surroundings and smart with your wallet, you ought to be all right. Just know that they're there.
posted by Askr at 2:08 PM on June 26, 2011

It's a blessing when you're tired and haggard and having to walk farther to hotels, buses, etc. than you thought.

This is really going to depend on what your trip to Italy is like.

My family and I arrived in Positano with our rolling suitcases, after a long grueling day's travel, in the middle of a heat wave, and pretty much wanted to cry.

I just got back from two weeks in off the tourist trail without a car in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and was really happy I brought my backpack.

On the other hand, if we're talking a week in Rome or Florence with a few day trips in Tuscany? Yeah, you'd probably be OK.
posted by Sara C. at 2:53 PM on June 26, 2011

Wheeled bags are great for business travelers and people who favor resort vacations. For everything else they're wasteful garbage.

This hasn't been my experience at all. I did a multi-country train, plane, and ferry trip several years ago and was very (very!) regretful that I was using a backpack. My next trip I ditched the backpack for a carry on sized rollerbag and had a much easier time of it. But I also work around the issue of carry luggage anywhere but directly to my accommodations (or a storage facility if need be), so either way I wouldn't be touring around with my full luggage. The situation would be different, of course, if you're planning a back-country style hiking trip, but for urban European travel I'll never take a backpack again. Given people's differing experiences, OP, just think about the logistics of the places you'll be staying and consider whether you'll need to walk long distances on terrain unsuitable for a rollerbag.
posted by JenMarie at 11:37 PM on June 26, 2011

Response by poster: thank you to all of you for the great advice. i think i am a bit uncertain now - we will be taking buses and trains to places - and in most cases, will be picked up from the buses by our lodging hosts. i know that we will have daypacks to walk around with, but perhaps rolling bags would make sense? i see the value in a backpack, as well - but we're slowly getting more ancient so i worry about our backs. i am looking at all the options you described to figure out what may be best. sara c., i see your positano picture and agree that those stairs look killer! i wonder if we could ge away with rolly bags if we keep them light, or if we get one with a backpack feature too?
posted by anya32 at 6:19 AM on June 27, 2011

Response by poster: Aeronaut it is! I'll let you know how it holds up!
posted by anya32 at 5:55 AM on July 25, 2011

Response by poster: i haven't left yet, but i've already used the aeronaut for a work trip and it rocks! will check back in after the international trip to let you know what 2 weeks do to it/how comfortable it is.
posted by anya32 at 10:53 AM on August 5, 2011

Thanks for the update -- I hope you have a great trip!
posted by theredpen at 11:00 AM on August 5, 2011

Response by poster: Back from my trip and the Tom Bihn Aeronaut was perfect, comfortable, portable, durable - major yes! Thanks all!
posted by anya32 at 10:00 AM on September 7, 2011

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