For big trip, take small baggage Luggage: A couple traveling from city to city in Europe should take two, 21-inch, soft-sided, wheeled cases with pull-up handles.

Travel Q&A

January 18, 1998|By Jean Allen | Jean Allen,SUN-SENTINEL, SOUTH FLORIDA

My wife and I, senior citizens, would like to use our frequent flier mileage to visit Eastern Europe. We would fly to Vienna, hydrofoil to Budapest, take a train to Prague and fly home from there. Our major problem is baggage handling. Europe does not have baggage handlers as in America, and we have two 29-inch wheeled suitcases.

The first thing you should do is get rid of those big suitcases. Trade them in for small -- no more than 21-inch -- wheeled cases with pull-up handles. Soft-sided ones are best. Add one small tote bag each, a size that will sit on top of your small suitcase. Some bags and totes are sold as pairs with straps that secure each to each.

The first rule of independent travel is: Never take more than you can carry yourself.

Two small bags are much easier to handle than one big one, and 29-inchers are enormous, much too big for anyone but Paul Bunyan to lug around. This means you travel light. The advice to "take half the clothes and twice the money you think you need" is good, although now that ATMs are found all over the world, it's not necessary to take along much cash.

Although there are few porters available in Europe's airports or train stations, there are usually plenty of carts -- called trolleys -- available. Most of these require a coin insert, but the coin is retrieved when you return the cart.

Few trains have baggage cars, but luggage racks are found at the end of each car. Sometimes a train conductor or another passenger will help heave cases. There are also overhead racks, but usually only small bags will fit. I haven't ridden the hydrofoil down the Danube, but such boats normally have luggage areas.

For transfers from the airport, hydrofoil or train to your hotel, just look for the taxi queue. Drivers know enough English to get you to the hotel, and to be safe, show them your reservation or anything with the name of the hotel printed on it.

Once in Vienna, Budapest and Prague, you'll find English-speaking personnel at your hotel.

Incidentally, you have chosen a wonderful itinerary for your trip, and you should enjoy all three cities. Prague, though, is becoming notorious for rip-offs such as inflated taxi fees, so be careful.

Pub Date: 1/18/98

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