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Originally published: 2018; Updated, February, 2020.
Background: The failings of most luggage for Europe trips
Thanks for stopping by to discuss how to find the best luggage for Europe!
So you're looking for luggage. Or, perhaps you're wondering if you need special luggage for Europe, or if you'll be fine with what you already own.
We'll discuss a few things: first, the issues that many travelers (myself included) run into when using luggage during long trip in Europe; second, the criteria to look for in luggage; and three, my suggested luggage for a trip to Europe. Ready? Let's go!
Packing for Europe: The luggage struggle
After spending hours drooling over a full Louis Vuitton set (pure Emily Gilmore), before our first trip to London, I got back to reality and went to the nearest discount store and bought the most attractive, matching, hard-sided roller set I could find (a carry-on and a large roller to be checked).
Not only was repeatedly wheeling two bulky rollers through various start-and-stop customs lines a horrendous experience, but with fairly heavy use (several international trips per year, in addition to work travel)...they quickly fell apart. In fact, one of the suitcases actually *cracked* and met its demise on its second voyage. Clearly a solid investment.
Taking luggage to Europe
Flying to Europe with luggage
Fitting luggage into your European hotel room
So, assuming you'll be traveling to Europe for 10 days, that means you'll have a purse and two bags at your disposal, and that you'll be separated from one of those bags for countless hours as, even if you have a connection, you generally are not reunited with your checked bags until you arrive in Europe.
For tips on packing a carry-on for your flight, check out Packing for 10 Days in Europe; and the same for What You Need to Know Before a Long Haul Flight.
Below, you'll see one of our larger hotel rooms in Europe.
Where are the bags, you ask? In the closet? HA obviously not - that closet is only about as deep as a laptop is long. In another closet we can't see? Nope - there is no closet. Yup, they're on the floor behind me, open and messy.
European hotel rooms are *tiny* - it's just a fact of life. And you need to find luggage to that meets your needs. If you've never been to Europe, check out my full post on What You Need to Know Before Your First Trip to Europe.
A How-To-Guide: Finding the Best Luggage for Europe
After copious research (including staring at people in the airport and weirdly asking them if they liked their luggage), I decided on a few characteristics that I required for my next luggage set purchase.
Qualities of the best luggage for Europe:
You want to use this luggage for many trips to Europe, which means your first instinct is to buy an expensive (potentially even flashy) set.
But, let's be honest - unless you're flying private (in which case - get the aforementioned Louis Vuitton and let me know how great it is), it’s going to get ruined and eventually you’re going to have to throw it away - thanks, Fiumicino baggage handlers! And if it’s expensive and something happens to it, you’ll be (understandably) devastated when it gets ruined.
That said, if the luggage is too cheap, it’ll almost undoubtedly die on its first trip, which isn't exactly helpful either. For more, the "sweet spot" is approximately $75-$200 per piece.
Because the hard-sided, moderately priced luggage cracks on repeated impact. Simple as that.
Lift, zip-top enclosure
As we've discussed, hotel rooms in Europe are small. Hard-sided bags only open one way - you unzip the entire thing and both sides need somewhere to sit. If you prop one hard side against the wall, all of the contents that were stored on that side must be removed. Additionally, there often isn’t even enough room to fill drawers and store all of your suitcases (4 if both people in a couple have 2 rollers) in one of the tiny closets.
So, you’re stuck with the suitcase open on the floor, even in a nice hotel. It's far better to be able to cut the amount of suitcase in half, and push it against the wall.
How to find the best luggage for Europe:
Ok, so I have my criteria. Actually finding luggage that met these criteria was hard.
First - hard-sided luggage is all the rage at the moment (one assumption being that your possessions are protected if the bag gets wet, which is true, unless it's cracked - see Rome airport diatribe, above). Second - I absolutely refuse to sit in an airport lounge or roll into a nice hotel with hideous luggage. Third - even with ribbons on black luggage, people still get the bags mixed up and take the wrong ones at baggage claim. If possible, I wanted to avoid a black bag.
And the winner of "best luggage for Europe" is...
For me, the perfect combination was from London Fog. It’s cute, it’s tweedy, it zips, it’s reasonably priced, and it can lie on the floor with the flap open against the wall. Additionally, there’s a gorgeous cabin bag that solves that “double roller” problem - it has a pouch on the back that fits perfectly onto the matching rolling bag.
And where do I find this suitcase?
So, I ended up with three new pieces of luggage: the largest bag (to be checked), the middle sized bag that can be carried on (which I will use for domestic trips where I'm not checking a bag), and the cabin bag, which I can use as my carry-on, along with my purse, for international trips.
London Fog is easily available on Amazon (below). Additionally, if you're looking for a bargain or hoping to see the luggage in person, TJ Maxx sometimes has London Fog luggage of various sizes, both in store and online.
Packing that luggage for Europe
Luggage woes solved! Now it's time to pack that luggage. First, you're going to want to invest in some handy packing cubes. If you've been following the blog for a while, you know I can't stop talking about packing cubes. Cheap, efficient, and a total game-changer - they'll keep you organized before, during, and after your time in Europe.
For more on packing for a trip to Europe, check out Packing for a 10-day European Vacation and my constantly updated list of Travel Essentials for Europe.
Thanks for stopping by!
I hope you find luggage that meets your Europe travel needs! Don't forget to subscribe, below, for our helpful newsletter!
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