packing light

Our family of 6 will be traveling to Europe this summer. We are on board with packing light and using only one carry-on bag as Rick suggests. However, I know our children will want to bring home many souveniers which will take up bag space for our return trip. I've heard of the method of donating/tossing no-longer-needed clothing from home as you go. Has anyone ever tried this? If so, I'd like to hear your experiences. Thank you.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
14079 posts

There is a line of thought that you bring old, worn out clothing, underwear, socks, and just pitch it when dirty. Personally think it is kind of stupid - who wants to wear old clothes in Europe. I like to look nice. Pitching some underwear and socks is not going to create that much room unless, of course, if you are 300 lb or more. We just pack an extra bag. On the return trip the good stuff goes in the carryon and the dirty clothes along with the wine is stuffed into the extra bag and checked.

Posted by Linda
Seattle, WA, USA
517 posts

I do the same as Frank. Also, if you plan to bring wine/oil/vinegar back, or even some ceramics, pack some bubble wrap to use. If you don't use it, toss that instead of socks and undies. Linda

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
1062 posts

" donating/tossing no-longer-needed clothing from home as you go". It depends what you want to get rid of. For example, there are plenty of charity shops here that would take some old clothes, but none of them want your old knickers.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
878 posts

The other option is to ship your things back as you accumulate more than you want to carry.

Posted by Matt
Washington, DC, USA
571 posts

Zoe, I'm one of those people who does wear old tee shirts and socks as I go along. I still feel like I look nice because I still bring quality outer garments. But I also tend to wear the same combinations two or three times in a multi-week voyage so I pack lots of underwear and throw them away rather than attempt to do wash. It's an old trick my grandfather used in his travels. But frankly, that gives you only so much space. I agree with Frank and others that packing a collapsable travel bag is your best option. The only time discarded clothes really gave me extra souvenir space was when I took a pair of old shoes as a change for my feet just on the days when I was on trains and not on my feet. If you throw away a pair of extra shoes, you get a lot more space in your bag on the way home. A few pairs of socks...not so much.
Happy travels.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, you dont say where in europe where youre going ,but that shouldnt matter really. what i did was to send stuff back home every other city/country or there about. Depending on where you are going and how many stops or flights you are doing, it could cost you more $$$ to bring them back on the plane than shipping. Its something you will have to figure out. If you check the carriers youre going to use, you will find that what charge you for your checked bag. trains dont. but do you want to carry an extra bag(s) from the first or so week all the way thru your trip? if you can keep it to one or 2 bags it maynot be that bad, again, whos going to carry this? anyway, what i did was about every other country send a box back home, about the size of a large USPS Priority Mail box. France and UK had their version of the USPS Priority Mail box. The usual cost increase was about >2 kilo. it cost me approx 60 USD to send the stuff back home and they took about a week to make it back - which was a surprise since i thought it would take longer. iac, there were cheaper options, but by boat and about 1 month in transit. the people in the UK and Paris were really helpful in giving me info as to the best/least expensive way to go. anyway, thats what i did. i wasnt lugging around an extra suitcase or bag either. btw, i took along all of my RS books for that trip, so anytime i finished the city i was in, i would send back the corresponding RS book along with amy trip material i p/u along the way. just my 0.02. happy trails.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
7332 posts

Hi, fellow Zoe! I travel for three months at a time. I always take a few t-shirts and some comfortable pants that I am prepared to part with along the way - after a couple of months I am ready to pitch a few items. This leaves enough room for some purchases, anyway. Then there was the time I returned with no clothes in my luggage at all... And I think I look okay while I'm traveling, Frank. If I were going for two or three weeks I might not be so willing to leave some things behind.

Posted by June
Edmonton, Alberta
475 posts

My last few trips I have gone TO Europe carry on only but when returning I check my rolling suitcase with heavy things and put breakables I bought and my dirty clothes in a thin light bag like the bags you would put your groceries in when you bring your own bags to the grocery store. I always travel with this extra bag, as it packs flat. If I have something breakable, the clothes are wrapped around it. I also put the stuff in plastic bags, like the grocery store provides, which is what I use for dirty clothes during my trip. This will not work for liquids though. Have a good time.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
3399 posts

Let the kids buy what they want, as long as it'll fit into a backpack book bag and carry on suitcase. My family travel rule is that everyone carries their own bags without exception.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
1113 posts

Re: David's advice Amen. Travel light, travel comfortably, travel fast. Also, we substitute small/light gifts for relatives and friends, filling that small void with souvenirs. Full camera memory cards complete the kit.

Posted by Zoe
Friendswood, TX, USA
3 posts

Thank you, everyone! These are great responses and very helpful. The consensus seems to be that this method is not all that useful. I'll use the tips suggested by you all. Thanks again for your responses.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8183 posts

We don't usually focus on shopping. One trip the kids did buy quite a few souvenirs, some too large for a carry-on. I had them hold off on their purchases until late in the trip. We bought a roller duffel from a street vendor for about 8 euro. The kids carried anything fragile/important in their carry-on and put the larger souvenirs in the duffel, using their clothes as packing material, then checked it for the flight home. I also used my emergency duct tape to reinforce the duffel. I don't like to check, but I'm less adamant about it on the trip home.

Posted by Judy
Alexandria, MN, USA
142 posts

We just returned from 18 nights in Italy. We only had carry-on luggage on the way over. We always bring Rick's nylon bag along to carry purchases back and then check 1 bag on the way home. We also left a total of 8 items there. It was clothes that were fine but maybe had faded some, had a stain,etc. sometimes the maid appreciated the things. This has worked well for us on trips. Wear your heaviest things on the return flight.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3134 posts

We seldom have our bags completely full on the way over. And we always pack a colasable bag each. That way we can use it if needed. Alot of toiletries, etc. also get used up and you can toss any leftover, that will free a bit more space, too. And tossing socks or undies helps a bit if needed.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

I agree with the idea of packing a collapsible bag. Also, my husband and I sent stuff back on our honeymoon (we bought a lot more souvenirs than usual, along with tea because it was England and we love tea), and it worked like a charm. Expensive, though. In Britain, the price jumps a lot once you hit a certain weight. I don't know about the other countries, since I only overbuy in England because of the tea.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

@ christina, the people running the RM office in the UK told me to try and keep it < 2 kilos. I found the same thing in Paris. happy trails.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

That sounds about right. We had to take some things out of the box we sent to the US from Britian. The postal worker in London was very helpful.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
3399 posts

The world is now smaller, and there is little available in Europe that we cannot purchase in the U.S. at lesser prices. Therefore we seldom purchase any souvenirs of any kind in Europe. Our biggest worry is stuffing our small backpacks into a 21" carry on bag when EasyJet really means one item carry on per passenger.
I just hate to think what my father went through with my mother's bags when she never learned to travel the world in anything but the "continental style."

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

I agree with the above that most souvenirs are not really necessary. I stick to consumable items I can't get at home (tea, alcohol, certain kinds of candy) and to postcards, which are flat and light to pack. Then I always intend to use them plus ticket stubs to make a scrapbook of my travels. I will probably finally get around to that after I finish grad school.

Posted by Zoe
Friendswood, TX, USA
3 posts

Thanks again, everyone, for your helpful replies. My question is answered!

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, with re to souveniers and such. yes you maybe able to get everything over here but there are something that you cant. as mentioned some foods stuffs and such. i have also been adding to my Hard Rock Cafe shirt collection in addition to my "university of..." collection. those takeup space no matter how good you pack. happy trails.

Posted by terry
44 posts

Packing light is not the easiest of tasks. Maybe try to use some of those space saving bags...the type that you roll them up, and it flattens the clothing. The can also use their day packs to bring back souvenirs. Heck at the very least post cards take up very little room.

Posted by Deb
Sioux Falls, SD
120 posts

Here's some alternatives to taking clothes you will toss. (I personally like to take clothes I normally wear. I like them, so I ususally want to bring them home again.) The first poster already recommended an extra bag that you check on the way home. Great idea. There are a lot of collapsable bags that take up little packing room. Another idea, I take books to read. As I go, I leave them in the libraries of the B&Bs and hostels we stay at. It leaves room for souveniers and most hotel libraries often allow guests to pick up a book and take it with (or leave one, take one). Another idea, Ship it home! Go on line before you leave and find the UPS/FedEx/DHL stores in the cities you will be visiting. Most sell packing materials. At one DHL store, we paid to have our breakables professionally packed for us. Worth every dime; all arrived in U.S. unbroken. Many stores also ship now. I personally am willing to pay for it. You can also take some basic packing materials with you.

Posted by Cindy H
San Jose
144 posts

Another vote for shipping it home. Many countries have flat rate shipping just like we do in the US. So it is a fixed price to ship it home no matter how you load the box up. A 12" x 12" by 7" box cost around $40 from France to California. There are several advantages to this method: * You don't have to haul the items around to/from the airport * You don't have to stand in line to check them in (assuming every thing else is carry on) * You can buy more stuff if you want - The limits for shipping things on a daily basis are different than a single entry back into the US. Single entry = $800, or $200 per day shipped (must be marked "for personal use"). You can also mail $100 per day of gifts to friends. This is kind of fun. Who doesn't enjoy getting a package from an "exotic" destination? * Customs is a breeze, as you've already declared your items that you shipped - you only have to declare the items with you. * You don't have to wait for a checked bag when you go through Customs
* You can send home liquids Btw, Zoe, you may enjoy this post on a family traveling light:

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
4235 posts

This isn't exactly what your thread is about, but have the kids bring a mailing tube with a roll of bubble wrap packed inside. If necessary, it can be lashed to the outside of their backpack. There are many types of poster art - some more 'high-brow' than others. You can also roll up watercolor prints, too. The bubble wrap comes in handy for wrapping delicates. Also, they can search for particular types of souvenirs from each locale - magnets, tiny souvenir plates, keychains, bottle openers, silver jewelry charms, earrings, matchboxes, small cowbells, t-shirts, Christmas tree ornaments - all small items. Dissuade them from choosing swords, breastplates, alphorns, Venetian masks, Beefeater hats... ;-) And don't forget - if they simply must have that sword from Toledo, have it shipped home or placed in checked luggage - that type of thing can't go in carry-on luggage. You might want to oversee their packing so that no one is left in tears at the security checkpoint :-( My way of 'tossing' old clothes is to pack my replaceable clothing, toiletries, etc., in my checked, collapsible bag that I always pack inside my carry-on and I pack my carry-on with my 'precious', irreplaceable things (souvenirs, favorites pieces of clothing, expensive toiletries). If anything happens to my checked bag (the wine-bottle-bag on top of mine gets crushed, my bag is run over, it's lost forever), I got home with the irreplaceable items. Also, try to encourage them to leave home with a less-than-full backpack. Then they'll have room for goodies :-)

Posted by Stay-ce
Northern California
155 posts

Hello Zoe, We are also a family of six in the same situation. I told the kids a fun, easy souvenir for each place we visit, would be to mail themselves a postcard home. It would have the local stamp and cancelation on it. Then they can relive their memories when they check the mail at home. It will also give them a project in finding the perfect postcard, unique post offices and the cost of postage. We are also bringing 1 checked duffel bag of consumables. That we plan on using all the items within and replacing with our purchases. I like the bubble wrap idea. I'm going to add that to this bag. It will also have our picnic supplies in it that I won't be sad to leave behind at the end of our trip. (Collapsing cooler, thin picnic sheet, ziplock bags, Tupperware, wine bottle opener, freezer packs, etc.) It will also have our normal size toiletries in it and female products. Along with some easy snacks that will sustain us until we get to our first market.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, i did the same a Cindy spells out when i was in the UK and France. for those of you that want to use UPS/FEDEX/DHL, go to their web site and do some number crunching for shipping weights and size. I did, and found that using the slowest option i was in the 100 buck range. i may not have used the correct shipping/wt/zone, but thats what i found out. if youre going to UK or France, the Royal Mail and La Poste is online where you can check their fees. I coudlnt find anything for the Netherlands since they went private. a comment for those that want to carry an empty bag to "check in". thats all find and dandy, IF, you have one flght to/from or if you have multiple legs were the airlines dont charge for 1 piece. but if there airline charge for checkin luggage and you have multiple legs, it can get expensive. I myself choose to mail home if possible so i dont have to lug it around. Also, all of my packages made it home before i did. happy trails.