Broken wheel on suitcase

How Wheeled Luggage Could Ruin Your Trip


As I hopped off of the curb, I heard a sharp CRACK then my suitcase started veering left, into traffic.

Damn it!

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.

Broken Wheels

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.

Rough Terrain

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.

Gate Check

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 Solution

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.

(Photo: ngader)

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie December 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm

You know what else ruins a trip? Sore shoulders and eventual back problems from carrying your luggage on your back. Obviously you’re trying to sell backpacks, but this is a one-sided and very transparent post. There are pros and cons to both.


Fred Perrotta December 2, 2011 at 8:28 am

Thanks for commenting, Carrie. While there are pros to using a suitcase, they are negated by the conditions you’ll encounter during long-term world travel.

This type of travel will also prevent most shoulder and back problems since you won’t have your bag on your back for extended periods like a hiker. The best solution here is to find a backpack that fits well and has adequate padding.

As with most things, do what works for you. Happy travels!


Josh Stokes January 30, 2013 at 6:35 am

You cant get everything you need in hand luggage, buy a better suit case….


Fred Perrotta January 30, 2013 at 7:47 am

You might not be able to fit everything you WANT in a carry-on, but you can fit everything you NEED. Pack light and dress in layers. More advice here:


Naughtywitch June 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I’ve travelled the world buy a Mac rucksack and a set of strap on wheels.Voila perfect


Fred Perrotta June 21, 2012 at 2:25 am

Interesting. I’ve never heard of strap on wheels for a bag. Could be helpful in certain situations but would also be one more thing to carry…


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