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If you’re traveling carryon only to Europe, you might be wondering which type of travel bag you should bring along. Read on to see whether a backpack, wheeled suitcase, or even a hybrid is best for your travel adventure!
Backpack or Suitcase: What’s the Best Luggage for Traveling to Europe?
Table Of Contents
When it comes to Europe, everything tends to be a little bit smaller. Overhead bins on flights to Europe are notoriously quite small, so you’ll want to keep those size restrictions in mind when choosing your luggage.
You’re also likely to be trekking with your luggage through train and subway stations, across cobblestone streets, and up and down stairs.
Where where you’re going and what you’ll be doing are crucial in determining which luggage is best for you. If you’re planning to hike from one town in the Alps to the next, you probably won’t want to be pulling a rolling bag on top of steep hills.
Or, if you have some layovers on your next trip to Paris, you may want to consider how you’ll feel waiting in long security lines and ticket counters with a very heavy pack on your back and having to take it on and off multiple times.
If you need more ideas on what luggage to choose for Europe, these articles might be helpful:
- Best Carry-on Suitcases for Traveling Europe
- Best Under Seat Luggage
- Best International Carry On Luggage
- Hardside vs. Softside Luggage: Pros and Cons
- Best Checked Luggage
Overall, the best carry-on luggage for Europe is versatile, comfortable, and able to carry all your essentials. Take a look at some pros and cons of different types of luggage below, and see which option might best suit your exciting European trip!
Backpack for Europe
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Backpack for Europe?
- Frees your hands– Keeps your hands free so you can open and read a map, take pictures, eat or drink, etc.
- Stability– Evenly distributes weight on your back and gives you steadiness.
- With you at all times– With it being strapped to your back, you have less of a chance of leaving it at the train station while you’re waiting for your ride.
- Outdoors– If you are planning on doing a lot of walking or hiking with your luggage, this is by far the best option.
- Weight– It can be very heavy, and if you’re standing for long periods of time, you can get tired more quickly. Although this is great for hiking, it may not be great for hours of travel at the airport while waiting in long security and ticket counter lines.
- Less accessibility– Harder to get in and out of when you’re on the go. You will have to find a place to stop and unzip your bag to get something out.
- Theft– With the size of these bags, at times it might be easier for a pick-pocket to unzip your bag without you being able to feel it.
- Shoulders– Although it frees your hands up, it takes up valuable shoulder space which you may use if you also have a purse or small camera bag. Adding a cross body bag while you’re already carrying a backpack can add weight that doesn’t distribute itself evenly.
Readers voted on the best travel backpack for Europe. Here are their top picks:
Osprey Porter 46 Travel Backpack
Osprey Porter 46 Backpack Europe Carry On
The Osprey Porter 46 is great for travelers who want to travel carry-on only and stay super organized. This backpack features a ton of easy-to-access compartments that make packing a breeze, including a lockable laptop back panel, a top compartment for easy access to your toiletries, and even a pocket to store your travel documents!
The Porter 46 is built specifically to be carry-on compatible, and travelers report having no issues storing this in the cabin of their plane, even on flights to Europe! Many readers say it’s the best backpack for traveling Europe.
One reader shares, “I can access all of my creature comforts without opening up the main part of my bag. My Porter also has compression straps that keep the bag streamlined for storing under the seat in front of me. It’s much more than just a backpack!”
Gregory 45L Maven Backpack for Traveling Europe
This Gregory Maven 45L Backpack for travel in Europe is a highly recommended pick! It’s seriously durable and spacious, yet only weighs 3.2 lbs. The fit of this backpack is outstanding, and users absolutely rave about how comfortable it is due to the suspension, lower back cradle, and breathable foam upper panel!
It’s loaded with handy pockets and organizational features, plus it features a waterproof cover to keep your belongings safe, rain or shine! Available on Amazon and REI.
A traveler says, “Really like the light weight and comfortable fit of Gregory Maven packs. It’s streamlined but still holds a lot and fits well with minimal adjustment.”
Tortuga Setout 45L Travel Backpack
Tortuga Setout 45L Carry On Backpack for Europe Travel
The Setout 45L by Tortuga is a simple and super functional backpack for traveling through Europe. It looks and carries like a backpack, but packs like a suitcase, which travelers love! It’s spacious and can fit a good amount of clothing (especially with packing cubes), while still meeting carry-on restrictions.
This bag has fantastic organizational features, comfy padded straps, and a hip belt, and weighs a mere 3.8 lbs! It also has a padded laptop sleeve.
One user raves, “Have taken this bag on 2 international trips that were 10-days each and this bag has been the best purchase I have ever made! I stuffed it full including all of my electronics and laptop. Everything fit perfectly and was easy to carry with all of the adjustable straps! I highly recommend to anyone who wants to only travel with one bag only!”
Gregory Tribute 40 Travel Pack
Gregory Women’s Tribute 40 Europe Backpack
Gregory’s Tribute 40 makes the perfect travel backpack for Europe. It’s lightweight, at just over 3 lbs, and has so many practical features! It’s spacious, with plenty of pockets, gear loops, and a laptop sleeve. The pack also has foam padding and lockable zippers to keep all of your things safe and secure.
Users love how comfortable this bag is. The women-specific suspension, and the adjustable shoulder straps are padded and breathable to make things more comfortable! Available at REI, Moosejaw and Amazon.
One user says, “Bought this backpack for Europe trip and it’s been great so far. It sits nicely on my back and hips and is very comfortable. It’s amazing the amount of stuff you can get it there when you pack right!”
Arc’teryx Aerios 45L Backpack for Traveling in Europe
The Arc’teryx Aerios 45L is a sleek and cool-looking Europe travel backpack that’s also super practical and makes a great carry on. It’s spacious, and can fit so much inside! This pack is amazing for any type of European travel, whether it’s exploring an urban city or hiking through the countryside!
The material is durable and protective, and users report that it feels super snug and comfortable to wear, even after long periods of time. It’s also lightweight!
One traveler says, “Very comfortable to wear, even with a heavy load. The back opens very easy and I like the pockets at the hip and the sides!” No wonder adventurers feel Arc’teryx make the best backpack to travel Europe!
Discover the best ultralight backpacks and add one to your shopping list!
Spinner Luggage for Europe
TravelPro Maxlite 5 Softside Suitcase
What Are the Pros and Cons of Spinner Luggage for Europe?
- Lightweight– You can pull your bag with ease when it’s on rollers without much effort.
- Accessibility– You can get things in and out of it very quickly. For example, when you’re going through security, you can pop it up on the belt, unzip the top, and pull out your toiletries within seconds.
- Organization– With a well-structured rectangle shape, you can keep your packing cubes nice and orderly and they’ll keep their shape well.
- Multiple bags– You can carry a shoulder bag on your shoulder, or even put it on top of your suitcase, thus freeing your back and shoulders from any weight.
- Public transportation– Steps are hard with a suitcase. If you’re going on the subway or bus, you’ll have to be able to pick up your bag and carry it with you. So, although it’s light when you’re rolling it, it can get heavy when you have to carry it up flights of stairs.
- Less hands– With only one hand, it can be problematic to carry a cup of coffee and then open a door.
- Snagging– Let’s face it; we’ve all had someone roll their bag over our feet while they’re trying to get it through the airplane aisles. It can be hard to navigate the rolling bag through the tight spaces of Europe and over uneven terrain like cobblestone streets.
- Less control– If you stop rolling it to do something, you could easily forget it. There’s also the possibility of it rolling away from you (unlike a purse or backpack which is strapped to you).
Here is the most popular spinner luggage for traveling to Europe that our readers swear by:
Delsey Paris Helium Aero Hardside
Delsey Paris Helium Aero 19” 4-Wheel Spinner for Europe
The Delsey Helium Aero 19” will have you gliding down any terrain with ease! The spinner wheels make for a smooth ride, and it’s very lightweight yet spacious. It can also expand up to 2” for extra packing space, and the zippers have an easy, one-button locking system.
The durable, scratch-resistant cover will ensure it looks just as good off the plane as it did getting on! And it weighs a fairly light 8.4 lbs!
One reader who has this suitcase says, “We have the Delsey Helium Aero and love it. It seems to be indestructible, carries a ridiculous amount, and the compression zipper setup is fantastic. I like that each side is packed independently.”
Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Spinner Luggage
Samsonsite Omni 20” Spinner Suitcase for European Travel
Many readers report that the Samsonite’s Omni 20” suitcase has been perfect for their travels to Europe. It has 360-degree spinner wheels and only weights 6.8 lbs. The scratch-resistant polycarbonate shell will hold up to all the rigors of travel, and users rave about the security of the TSA zipper locks!
One traveler reports, “Suitcase held up perfectly over four 4-hour flights over the holidays, on two of which it actually had to be checked because the flight was very full. Not a single scratch or dent, no signs of wear, and it was easy to travel with—rolled smoothly and easily and has a sturdy handle.”
Travelpro Platinum Elite 19” Spinner Luggage
Travelpro Platinum Elite 19” Expandable Spinner Europe Suitcase
The Platinum Elite 19” Suitcase has some incredible features, and it definitely doesn’t sacrifice on style, either! This sleek and sophisticated beauty rolls effortlessly, and the leather top and side handles allow for easy carrying. The external USB port is very handy, and readers say the interior organization is a dream!
One reader shares, “I was planning 12 days in Italy and wanted to do it with one carryon. I did some research and this bag looked like it might be the answer. What a great decision on my part! You can pack a lot in it and it has outside pockets for the stuff you need to access quickly. It’s the perfect size to fit in and out of various overhead compartments. Spinners are great. The handles are amazing. I highly recommend it.”
Read this Travelpro Maxlite 5 review to find out if this popular brand makes the cut!
Samsonite Winfield 2 20” Hardside Luggage
Samsonsite Winfield 2 20” Hardside Luggage for Europe Travel
TFG readers love Samsonite suitcases, and the Winfield 2 20’ is a top pick, especially for international travel! This gem is light, weighing just over 6.5 lbs, and readers applaud its durability and stability, even over years of wear and tear!
The interior divider zips fully so nothing will fall out when you open it, and the outer zippers feature TSA locks for safety.
A traveler says, “Made it from US to Italy, over many cobblestones, on trains, planes, taxis, walking through cities, bumpy sidewalks/roads. Held up nice. It fit perfectly in the carryon above head storage on both domestic and international flights. And it fit in the overhead storage compartments of the Italian trains too.”
Rockland Pasadena Spinner Luggage
Rockland Pasadena 20” Softside Carryon for Europe
This Rockland Pasadena 20” is a solid economical option and has everything you could want in a carryon! The sturdy handle and wheels make it easy to maneuver, and at 7 lbs. it’s really easy to lift and carry.
It’s quite packable for its size, and the handy exterior pockets are a bonus! This cutie will fit in almost any overhead compartment. A traveler agrees, “Survived three weeks across all the cobblestones in Spain, Italy, France, and Greece. Perfect size for the small European airlines to take as carryon.” It comes in a variety of colors, so pick your favorite!
Discover the best luggage brands for travel and why they love them!
Rolling Luggage for Europe
High Sierra Freewheel Wheeled Backpack
What Are the Pros and Cons of Hybrid Luggage for Europe?
- Versatility– You’ll have the option of carrying your bag on your back when there’s uneven terrain or when you need your hands free, and then have the option to give your back a rest and roll it along whenever you need to.
- Faster travel– With two carrying options, you can choose which is best at any given time to zip through an airport or trek through crowded streets and get to where you’re going faster!
- Durability– While there are only two wheels, they’re actually much more durable because they don’t allow for as much movement as spinner wheels so they can handle steps and bumpy roads with no issues. Plus, there’s no danger of it rolling away like spinner suitcases can!
- Packability– You can pack and access your belongings much easier with a rolling bag, because the zippers often open more like a suitcase. They’re often much easier to live out of than a backpack.
- Not as comfortable– Rolling bags tend to be a lot less comfortable than your standard backpack. The hard base and wheels, can hurt your back after a while, whereas travel backpacks have an ergonomic fit.
- Maneuverability– Rolling bags have two wheels and need to be pulled at a 45 degree angle, so there’s less maneuverability, and it can put a strain on your wrist at times.
- Heavier– Rolling bags tend to be a few pounds heavier than travel backpacks with the added wheels, hard frame, and other features.
- Less capacity– The wheels and straps take away some of the packing capacity, so they’re often less roomy than standard backpacks or suitcases.
Here are some of the best wheeled backpack for europe travel options:
Osprey Meridian Wheeled Luggage
Osprey Meridian 60 L 22″ Wheeled Backpack Luggage for Europe
The Osprey Meridian 22” Luggage is a top choice for a hybrid suitcase if you’re looking for a little luxury and some wheels in your pack! It’ll fit in European airline overhead bins, has plenty of space for packing, and weighs 8.37 lbs.
The Meridian offers great organizational features, including internal and back panel compartments and a laptop sleeve. It also has an adjustable, removable back panel suspension system, so it’s quite comfortable to wear for a wheeled backpack! It also comes with a zippered detachable daypack!
A intrepid user says, “Amazing bag, traveled eight flights in the USA and Europe and never had to check my bags. Super easy to get around on cobblestone streets, curbs, boat ramps, and huge crowded airports, all thanks to the wheels.”
Looking for an alternative luggage option that still has wheels? Here are our readers picks for lightweight rolling duffel bags!
Osprey Fairview 65 Women’s Wheeled Luggage
Osprey Fairview 65 Wheeled Luggage for Multi-Days in Europe
The Osprey Fairview 65 is a slightly larger option that will have you covered for both short and long European getaways! The front panel opening makes it super easy to pack, just like a suitcase, and the sturdy wheels are smooth and can handle rough terrain.
Users appreciate the lightweight suspension, harness, and hip belt that make carrying this bag feel stable and comfortable. It features interior, zippered pockets for organization, and is lightweight at 6.2 lbs!
An owner of this bag shares, “I’ve owned a lot of Osprey bags and have always been a big fan. This bag is perfect for traveling. Not too big, but not too small. It’s also very lightweight without compromising the quality.”
Osprey Transporter 4 Wheel Hybrid Carry On
Osprey Transporter 22” Hybrid Carry On Luggage for Europe
The Osprey Transporter 22” is a globally accepted carry on size, so it’s a perfect pick for European travels, and TFG readers love it! This bag is a hybrid between a softside and hardside suitcase, so it has the protection and durability of a hardshell, with the wiggle room and single opening of a softside!
It weighs just 6.5 lbs, and readers report that it’s super packable, easy to maneuver, and durable. One user shares, “Perfect carryon bag. The case is very light, yet stable, and easy to load in overhead bins, even in smaller regional jets. It’s very easy to maneuver in airplane aisles, and crowded airports, especially when dashing for a connecting flight, and sturdy enough to serve as a footstool during long lay-overs.”
Here are the most popular Europe travel bag styles according to our readers along with their tried and tested reviews!
Best Luggage for Traveling to Europe Comparison Chart
|BRAND | MODEL||FEATURES | REVIEWS||RATING | PRICE|
|Backpack for Europe|
|Editor's Pick: Osprey Fairpoint 55||“Finally got the chance to use this luggage set. Just spent nearly a month touring Europe with this set. We flew to Paris from Chicago. Then we traveled from Madrid to Rome, took trains all over Italy, and did a cruise throughout Greece, with some other stops in Monaco and France. The bags were sturdy and well-balanced. We were easily able to put our backpacks and carryon bags on top of these and not need to keep a hold of them to keep them from tipping.”||Check Price|
|Osprey Porter 46 Backpack||“I can access all of my creature comforts without opening up the main part of my bag. My Porter also has compression straps that keep the bag streamlined for storing under the seat in front of me. It’s much more than just a backpack!”||Check Price|
|Gregory 45L Maven Backpack||“Really like the light weight and comfortable fit of Gregory Maven packs. It’s streamlined but still holds a lot and fits well with minimal adjustment.”||Check Price|
|Tortuga Setout 45L Carry On Backpack||“Have taken this bag on 2 international trips that were 10-days each and this bag has been the best purchase I have ever made! I stuffed it full including all of my electronics and laptop. Everything fit perfectly and was easy to carry with all of the adjustable straps! I highly recommend to anyone who wants to only travel with one bag only!”||Check Price|
|Gregory Tribute 40 Europe Backpack||“Bought this backpack for Europe trip and it's been great so far. It sits nicely on my back and hips and is very comfortable. It's amazing the amount of stuff you can get it there when you pack right!”||Check Price|
|Arc'teryx Aerios 45L Backpack||“Very comfortable to wear, even with a heavy load. The back opens very easy and I like the pockets at the hip and the sides!||Check Price|
|Spinner Luggage for Europe|
|Editor's Pick: TravelPro Maxlite 5 Softside Suitcase||“Great suitcases! We brought ours to Italy and trekked across cobblestone streets and they have held up very well through some rough treatment! They are also very lightweight for those who are flying and want to conserve poundage.”||Check Price|
|Delsey Paris Helium Aero 19” 4-Wheel Spinner||“We have the Delsey Helium Aero and love it. It seems to be indestructible, carries a ridiculous amount, and the compression zipper setup is fantastic. I like that each side is packed independently.”||Check Price|
|Samsonsite Omni 20” Spinner Suitcase||“Suitcase held up perfectly over four 4-hour flights over the holidays, on two of which it actually had to be checked because the flight was very full. Not a single scratch or dent, no signs of wear, and it was easy to travel with—rolled smoothly and easily and has a sturdy handle.”||Check Price|
|Travelpro Platinum Elite 19” Expandable Spinner Suitcase||“I was planning 12 days in Italy and wanted to do it with one carryon. I did some research and this bag looked like it might be the answer. What a great decision on my part! You can pack a lot in it and it has outside pockets for the stuff you need to access quickly. It’s the perfect size to fit in and out of various overhead compartments. Spinners are great. The handles are amazing. I highly recommend it.”||Check Price|
|Samsonsite Winfield 2 20” Hardside Luggage||“Made it from US to Italy, over many cobblestones, on trains, planes, taxis, walking through cities, bumpy sidewalks/roads. Held up nice. It fit perfectly in the carryon above head storage on both domestic and international flights. And it fit in the overhead storage compartments of the Italian trains too.”||Check Price|
|Rockland Pasadena 20” Softside Carryon||“Survived three weeks across all the cobblestones in Spain, Italy, France, and Greece. Perfect size for the small European airlines to take as carryon.”||Check Price|
|Rolling Luggage for Europe|
|Editor's Pick: High Sierra Freewheel Backpack||“It's nice and lightweight. Wheels spin nicely. Samsonite is a great brand.”||Check Price|
|Osprey Meridian 60 L 22" Wheeled Backpack Luggage||“Amazing bag, traveled eight flights in the USA and Europe and never had to check my bags. Super easy to get around on cobblestone streets, curbs, boat ramps, and huge crowded airports, all thanks to the wheels.”||Check Price|
|Osprey Fairview 65 Wheeled Luggage||“I’ve owned a lot of Osprey bags and have always been a big fan. This bag is perfect for traveling. Not too big, but not too small. It’s also very lightweight without compromising the quality.”||Check Price|
|Osprey Transporter 22” Hybrid Carry On Luggage||“Perfect carryon bag. The case is very light, yet stable, and easy to load in overhead bins, even in smaller regional jets. It’s very easy to maneuver in airplane aisles, and crowded airports, especially when dashing for a connecting flight, and sturdy enough to serve as a footstool during long lay-overs.”||Check Price|
A super practical addition to your new suitcase is a luggage tag! TFG readers have been raving about luggage tags, and highly recommend them for every trip.
Luggage tags are handy little trackers that you attach to your belongings and then track through an app on your phone. The most popular option in the TFG community is Apple Airtags, which hook up to the Find My iPhone app so you can see where your item is in real time. Readers say they’ve been lifesavers for finding lost luggage in an airport!
For non-iPhone users, readers recommend the Samsung Galaxy SmartTag and the TilePro, which are compatible with Android devices, and the TilePro also works for iOS.
Luggage tags are not only handy for your luggage, but for your purse, keys, wallet, or even your parked car. You can enjoy your vacation with the utmost peace of mind!
What kind of bag is your favorite? Are you a die-hard suitcase or rolling bag fan? Or do you only bring a backpack for Europe?
For more ideas on suitcases and backpacks, please read:
- Suitcase 101: How to Choose the Right Travel Luggage
- Suitcase Recommendations: Travel Experts Reveal Top Luggage Brands
- Experts Reveal the Best Carry-on Suitcases for Traveling Europe
- Best Lightweight Luggage Under 5lb: Avoid Overweight Baggage Fees
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We have decided to pack in backpacks since we will be traveling to a lot of different places. We are planning on checking them as luggage. I don’t know what to carry on to the plane though. It needs to be big enough for my laptop, but it can’t be a backpack since that’s what I’ll be carrying on my back!? Any suggestions for what to use?
Hi Karin, here are some factors to consider when choosing the right personal item for your travels:
Here are some popular options for totes that our readers recommended as being great for travel: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/travel-bags-with-trolley-sleeve/
Or since you’ll be checking your backpacks, would you consider a personal item with wheels, here are our readers go-to options: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/best-under-seat-luggage/
I would also highly recommend that you join our TFG facebook group and post your question there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ It’s a fabulous community of helpful female travelers that love to share their travel advice and recommendations.
Hope this helps. Have the most amazing time on your travels!
Thank you for this article! It summerized things so well and helped my husband (yes ladies, men read these blogs too and thank goodness they do!) pick a new carryon (he went with the TravelPro). Thanks as always, TFG!
This was very informative. I’m going to give a backpack a try!
I am going to Italy in May 2023 and have been pouring over all articles related to travel.
I think I’m leaning towards a backpack so I can have my hands available to help my mother.
I enjoy Osprey backpacks as carry on bags. They are spacious and smartly designed.
I have to have luggage. Mad skills to carry just a backpack!
I just returned from 3 weeks in the UK and, thanks to TFG, I used a backpack for the first time for my entire trip. It worked so well getting off and on trains efficiently! I used Ebags Motherload and was super happy with it! All these other backpacks look great too. 🙂
I love the dual version like the Osprey Meridian Wheeled Luggage, I like options a don’t like to commit to one style.
It’s nice to have options 🙂
I love the Eagle Creek Lync rolling backpacks. They have removable frames and backpack straps, so you can use them as rolling luggage or as a backpack.
Good choice Heather!
I prefer backpacks but I use the Von Baer Libert Women’s Leather Backpack. I love the feel of the genuine leather as well as the space it provides.