As I hopped off of the curb, I heard a sharp CRACK then my suitcase started veering left, into traffic.
I’d cracked a wheel and now the suitcase was moving of its own volition. With no better option, I picked up the heavy bag and carried it. My clothes felt like they’d been replaced with bricks.
Luckily, I was only a few blocks from my apartment, where I could alleviate myself of this dead weight. What would I have done if this happened on the other side of the world where I didn’t have a way to replace it?
Luckily, I’ll never have to find out. Due to wheeled suitcases’ propensity to ruin a trip, I’ve abandoned them altogether in favor of backpacks.
Do what I did and JUST SAY NO TO WHEELED LUGGAGE. Otherwise, you run the risk of having one (or more) of the following problems ruin your trip.
Suitcase wheels are meant for the smooth linoleum floors of an airport, not the cobblestone streets of Old Town Prague.
As a traveler, you’re constantly on the move, jumping on and off of trains and trudging up long, winding hostel stairwells. The real world can take quite a toll on your suitcase’s cheap, plastic wheels.
In the likely event that those wheels break, you’re screwed. Once the wheels stop rolling perfectly, you’ll need to carry the suitcase by the small, uncomfortable top handle.
Not only will it be unwieldy, it will also be significantly heavier than a comparably-sized backpack because of the metal and plastic in the handle and wheel structures. A suitcase with a bum wheel quickly becomes an encumbering ball and chain.
Wheeled luggage does not function well in adverse conditions. You will have to drag your bag through any rough terrain you encounter, potentially ruining the fabric and/or wheels.
You wouldn’t want to roll your suitcase through any of the following conditions: beaches (sand), dirt roads, cobblestone streets, mud, bodies of water, staircases, between train cars, steep hills, mountains … Am I belaboring the point?
Will you encounter any of these situations in your travels? If so, your suitcase may not survive the trip.
Ding! “We have a full flight today and may ask some passengers to check their luggage when boarding. Thank you for your cooperation.”
Just when you thought you could board your flight without the risks and fees of a checked bag, you hear that all-too-familiar announcement. If you’re forced to hand your bag over to the airlines, you never know what condition or city it will end up in.
When the gate attendant starts head hunting for bags to check, what is his first target? Wheeled luggage.
If you have a backpack on your back or duffel bag on your shoulder, you won’t be singled out for a last minute, involuntary bag check. Use a backpack and stay off the airlines’ radar.
The bottom line is that wheeled luggage is a perfectly fine choice under ideal conditions. However, you will rarely encounter ideal conditions on your journeys.
When the going gets tough, a wheeled suitcase quickly becomes a twenty-pound albatross. Make the smart choice (a backpack) and JUST SAY NO TO WHEELED LUGGAGE.
Share your worst experience with wheeled luggage in the comments.