Packing light???

Hi, Ok, so this weekend we are doing a trial pack run. We are not leaving until May, and I realize how completely nerdy that is! But, we are traveling with 3 kids (ages 16, 13, and 9), and while we've traveled quite a bit, we've not been to Europe together. So, I re-read Rick's suggestions about packing, and I think I gasped when I re-read that he means ONE bag. Not one bag and a carry one, but ONE bag. So, I need some advice. We have a good assortment of suitcases (we got Rick's newer, smaller rolling bags at his travel seminar last September), but I had always assumed each kid would also have a small backpack to carry books, entertainment, snacks, etc. Way off base? So, time for a poll. Do you travel with one bag? A bag and a light carry on? Should we consolidate clothes and take 4 rolling bags and a few lighter backpacks? I'd love your combined knowledge! We are traveling to Paris, Rome, Florence, the CT, and the Berner Oberland for three weeks. Flight from Paris to Rome and trains the rest. Many thanks!
Becky

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

I travel with a carry on sized suitcase (wheeled or convertible bag) AND a tote, messenger or other sort of smaller bag.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

Well when we travel, the adults have one bag each plus day sack and each kid has a day sack of a size suitable for them to carry. In it they have their overnight things (pjs etc) plus a few books, IPods and snacks, when flying otherwise the overnight stuff and excess books stay in the hotel. The adults share the kids cloths across their two big bags.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10888 posts

When we traveled with our two sons in sub teen years, it was a carry on size back pack bag for both of us and one rolling carryon size bag for the boys clothing. Each kids also carry a small, school bookbag size with a few of their things. By the time they were mid teens they each carried their own backpack style of carry on bag. Don't see why the 16 could not have his own bag and maybe a shared bag for the 13 and 9. I do carry a small messenger style bag with the family essentials for traveling. Believe me, when traveling on trains, etc., you want to keep the bag count low. Every time my wife was counting bags. For us that was 4 and later 5. You do not want to be keeping track of 10 bags.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2612 posts

I travel with kids a lot and each one has a roller bag that will not have to be checked and a day bag (they do have the lightweight RS ones). All clothes, etc. in suitcase and personal stuff... books, ipods, cameras, etc. in the day bag. If I am really tight for space I try not to duplicate items (toothpaste, bandaids, lotion, hairdryer, etc.)
The kids also each have a travel journal that I have made for them and I make them fill it out daily... fill in the blank sort of format. Highlights visited, favorite meals, special memories, places they want to return to, funniest thing that happened, etc. They really will forget so many things if they don't write them down.

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

Using trains makes it particularly important to minimize the baggage. Unless you are at the beginning or end of the route, stops in train stations are typically only minutes long, which leaves no extra time for organizing lots of bags and kids and getting them on or off the train. And transfers commonly involve a trip down a flight of stairs and up again at the other end of a passageway... which, with a tight connection time, also can be challenging with lots of bags. Certainly a day pack for each child makes sense, and can be used to carry extras on the flight, which then can be stashed in an expanded carry-on, once you're at your destination. Do keep in mind that if you unzip and expand a 20 inch carryon, it typically no longer meets airline carry-on size requirement.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2633 posts

If you've never done this, you will be amazed at how freeing it is. My bag is 2,000-cu.-in. I put the daybag inside it with my other stuff. Rick's bag is too big, imho. Your kids can take smaller bags as appropriate. Less to haul, less to track, less to worry about, less to slow you down. Downside? Hand laundry every other night.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

I travel with a small backpack and a 20" high quality rolling bag. The only problem is if you fly a leg on a budget air carrier like EasyJet that allows just one carry on. We tested the limits of our zippers on the suitcases from Gatwick to Pisa. I don't know how the bags held together, as they were so stuffed. An option would to wear number of pieces of clothing to get it out of the baggage.
And after once having a lost piece of luggage, we never check a bag on an airplane.

Posted by Nancy
Costa Mesa, CA, USA
149 posts

Hi Becky, I don't think you are nerdy at all! Having traveled to Europe with my children when they were younger than yours this was what we did. Each person had their own suitcse (small carryon) and each person had 1 personal item - small daypacks for the kids which held their ipods, snacks, sweatshirt, etc. My kids were easily able to wear their backpacks and pull their carry ons. We still travel this way and as long as each person can easily maneuver their gear it should work fine!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2529 posts

21-inch rolling bag plus messenger bag, 3 months in Europe.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
2847 posts

Our kids started traveling with us to Europe between the ages of 9 and 11. They were allowed 1 carry-on sized suitcase and 1 'day bag'- usually a school sized back-pack and a 'fanny pack' (if they wanted it). They had to be able to carry their own suitcase. We gave each of them one of Rick's convertable bags (the original model- we all still have thema and they look - and are- still in excellent condition). Our daughter didn't like having to pack light- but learned that was how our travel was going to be. Yours are old enough to handle their own bags. Just make sure their clothes are washable, and practical. Shorts are ok- especially knee length or longer. But also pack at least 1 or 2 pair of pants for cooler days/more dressy occassions. Same with shirts- some simple Ts are fine, but include at least one long sleeve shirt and one dressier/button up top. A good, waterproof, lightweight jacket with hood is also vital (better than umbrellas usually). And GOOD shoes- well made, sturdy sneakers or walking shoes in a dark color are fine- no 'dress' shoes needed.

Posted by Becky
Woodinville, WA
75 posts

Thanks for your opinions and experiences! We will consolidate to 4 rolling bags and let the kids have a small backpack each (for those who have used Rick's small and very lightweight day packs, have the packs hold up well?). Thanks for the advice about the trains and transfers. I have been focusing on carrying the bags to our apartments from the train stations but not transferring to different trains. In that case, 10 bags does seem far too many. The kids are all great about carrying their own bags, but it's just the bulk I'm worried about. And, the rolling bags we bought are the new smaller ones. I have an older model that I love. So, I'm hopeful these will work well. We'll see after this weekend! Many thanks for all the advice!
Becky

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

hi, i travel with 2 bags. Bag #1 is my large briefcase size bag. Its cordura/leather so i can squash it if i need to. i made it many years ago for college to carry my additional books. I use it to carry my travel books, food, and i can stuff 1 change of undies, socks if i choose. Bag #2 is an Ospray #46? backpag/bag. I just love it since sooooo handy. it has a handle on the side so you can carry like a suitcase and it has a handle on top so you can pull it out of the overhead. the back has a zippered top that has shoulder straps tucked inside. this is the one i pack 99% of my stuff. just a comment. IF you needed to check any bag and if it has all or most of your clothes and if its lost, then you are up a creek. if i read you right on "consolidate" clothes. yes you can buy more clothes, but you will be spending time to do so. how about trying to pack what you want to take and go from there. you may want to make sure everyone has the same amount of change clothes so you arent doing laundry over 2 or 3 days. happy trails.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2529 posts

I have the RS Civita daybag which I used for many years before I switched to a cross-body nessenger bag. The Civita bag packs so well that I still take it with me if I need to check my main carry-on (liquid purchases). It also works well if I'm hiking somewhere (a rare occurrence) and the messenger bag doesn't balance as well.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
713 posts

Hubby and I have done 3 18-23 day trips to Europe...all with a carry-on and computer/weekender type bag (whatever meets the airline guidelines). I still chuckle when I think about telling former co-workers that we were only taking a carry-on...they thought we were crazy! It does certainly help cut back on souvenir purchases...and I even get annoyed with having 2 pieces of baggage...but you should see the back of our SUV when we do a road trip to the States...it's different when you have to carry it on trains, off trains, on buses, walking to your accom...we do always end up staying with my sis in the UK before we come home and end up with an extra piece of luggage...usually full of Thortons fudge!

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

A trial pack run is a Brilliant idea, otherwise how will you know if you can handle it? We did 5 weeks with our daughters, then 14+15. We each had the RS convertible,a MEC Pod Sling and a RS money belt. The Pod is a day bag that goes over your shoulder,with the strap diagonally across your chest,messenger style. It has 2 good sized pockets for easy access one with a secret + Secure smaller pocket inside, a pocket on the strap for a cellphone(or ipod),it holds a water bottle, and was easily worn in front while wearing our bags as backpacks, or securely in front "iffy" areas. It is also big enough to hold a big lunch or a sweater,and a book etc etc for day trips.
Each of us packed our own gear and carried our own gear (except the girls passports, I had them) and we did a few trial pack runs before the trip. Pack as light as you possible can. Then unpack,and get rid of 5 things per person.

Posted by Chuck
Holdrege, NE, USA
91 posts

I travel with one carry-on bag. This includes my Cannon camera with an additional telescoping lens and any guidebooks I need. I have gotten efficient enough and discipline enough that my bag is not full when I leave home and thus allows me room for any treasures I purchase.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

hi again, nicoles comment about souvenir purchases reminded me of something. people ASSUME you have to carry your purchases with you from day 1. Not so. you can ship them back home if you choose, but if you do, do some homework up front so you will know approximately how much its going to cost. also, you DONT have to use UPS/FEDEX/DHL and the such. Try researching the countries postal service and see how much they charge compared to the big shipping companies. the way i see is, is limit my souvenir purchases or buy what i want and send them back within reason. I choose to send them back. also, you dont have to send them RUSH/EXPEDITE/OVERNIGHT either, if it takes 1 or 2 weeks, who cares? happy trails.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

Becky, nerdy = smart ;-) I tried to post a link to a segment from RS' Travel Skills Ep 1 - showing his arrival in Europe, but links really AREN'T working today!!! (you people aren't kidding!) Watch his videos on YouTube or Hulu and pay attention at :27 ;-) You can bring a second bag if you'd like ;-) Also, he does use packing cubes; things aren't loose all over his bags. Just remember - this kind of travel (European, going to lots of places esp. on trains) is very different from going from airport to airport in the USA. You are going to feel like a pack mule! So the less you start with, the better off you'll be. Also, watch the weight of your bags!!! This one is sneaky... (cont.)

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

(cont.) I'm really trying to get my stuff to fit in my carry-on ONLY. So far, I've 'needed' to bring a smaller bag (Civita, Veloce, etc.). I would always bring another daybag for using (wait for it)...during the day :-) The Civitas are great for this, because they weigh practically nothing and are very flat when empty. I also always bring an empty 12x24 duffle bag packed flat in the bottom of my carry-on (we usually need to check luggage home - we buy 'airline security contraband'/knives, liquids), and I usually bring a RS Hide-Away Tote. These weigh practically nothing and are great for those unexpected purchases while out and about, or for being able to corral the picnic fixins', or whatever - I really like the full zipper across the opening and the fact it can be locked. Since it's about the size of my carry-on, I usually also stick my daybag inside it, so I only have one bag to keep track of. Which reminds me - make a rule that everyone looks out for everyone else's bags (as in, no one leaves luggage behind, or no bag is partially unzipped). Another GREAT reason for packing light! If you haven't seen his Packing Light video segment before, it may be a bit helpful (sorry, can't link). The first time (over 20 years now!) I heard about ONE bag, I thought 'oh, no way!'. I've never looked back... 8^D

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
645 posts

I travel with one bag, a carry on size back pack. A trip is a lot easier when you are not dragging around a lot of stuff. Long ago I got used to the notion that I did not have to have a different outfit for every day I would be in Europe. I take two outfits (fashionable thin lightweight knits) in my backpack. Mix and match with the outfit I wear on the plane. I throw a guidebook/w/map and my notes in the backpack, toothbrush, (undies and makeup) and I'm done. I wear either a vest or waterproof light jacket with lots of interior and exterior pockets for snacks, phone, etc., on the plane. I buy toiletries when I arrive in Europe. Do laundry every third day. I do not take a bunch of electronic devices, just a smart phone. My entertainment is what I'm seeing over there, out the window of a train, etc. You will find it liberating to be content with a small wardrobe while you travel. If each person has just one carry on size back pack, and tucks snacks into the pocket of his/her jacket or vest, my opinion is that you will enjoy your trip more.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3586 posts

Rebecca said, "You will find it liberating to be content with a small wardrobe while you travel." Amen.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

Rebecca has it right.. I do not take a bunch of electronic devices, just a smart phone. My entertainment is what I'm seeing over there, out the window of a train, etc. i saw so many people with so much electronic crap that they were missing what was happening in front of them. again, to each his own. i do the same with my toiletries, i just by them there. no worries about liquids allowance at the TSA. again, you will learn real fast once youre overthere how much extra garbage you brought and especially on the last day/week of you lugging the luggage around. for what it worth (fwiw), i went out to my local REI and bought some "travel" shirts. Light weight, dry fast and wicks moisture away. They had lots of pockets too. I also picked up (p/u) some Merino wool socks since i did a test run with them before i left and they left my feet cool/warm and dry. also kept them from stinky too! I didnt get any travel pants, yet, but took jeans. happy trails.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
645 posts

I agree with Eileen's suggestion to watch the Rick Steves Travel Skills video, either on YouTube or Hula. You don't see him loaded down with all kinds of luggage and junk running to catch a train. Rick travels more than any of us, and he's got this "traveling light" thing down pat. I agree with Frank. May be hard to keep up with 10 bags. You must sometimes get on or off the train very quickly. Easy for a couple of bags to be left behind. Something to think about.

Posted by Becky
Woodinville, WA
75 posts

To everyone, Thanks for all your thoughts! I'm such a detail person, so I love hearing everyone's take. I'm definitely not a tech junkie, so no worries there. Although I'm finding myself reading the Graffiti wall daily now :). I'm going to consolidate as much as possible. I've always prided myself on being excellent at packing. We never check our luggage, consolidate, and don't bring junk. Now, I've just got to kick it to the next level. Thanks for the tips! Becky

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11280 posts

I use two bags, one, an Essential Carry-on (about 11#, packed), and two, a small purse-like case for my netbook (also holds a few printouts of itinerary, hotels, train schedules). The Essential Carryon is smaller than regulation carryon size, but under filled, so I could easily put the netbook case inside it if necessary. For some of my thoughts and techniques for packing, see my webpage.

Posted by Kim
Paris
544 posts

Becky -- I love that you're doing a trial run now, when you'll have time for even another trial run if you need it!! You're anticipating and thinking ahead, which to me says you and your family are going to be optimally prepared and positioned to take ALL the advantage you can of your time when you're in Europe. The smarter you travel, the happier everyone is, and the more you'll get to enjoy, which is of course the reason for coming in the first place! I don't call it nerdy, I call it savvy.

Posted by Brad
Greeley, CO, USA
232 posts

Hey Becky all of the replies are great. May 22 of this year is our fourth trip in 9 years. First trip was when they were 3 and almost 7. My wife hates my biggest suitcase but many times I take it since we can put most the clothes in it. We always fly lufthansa and they have never lost anything. I just jinxed myself. Usually though we check one large and one medium with clothes. And stuff a soft sided bag in the side pocket of one of the checked ones and stuff it with stuff we buy. We always travel by car though so its easier for us. Each of us carries a back pack. The boys carry their electronics, one change of clothes and phones. And as some have said here. I always carry their passports. Always! They carry their old ones with our phone numbers in case they get separated from us, which they never have in our numerous travels in Europe and the US. My now 11 year old worries about that sometimes. I tell I never take my eye off him even if he does not know it. That satisfies him.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
645 posts

Just one more thing to keep in mind. Many of the B&B's in Great Britain and Europe have no elevator in the building. In many cases, it's someone's home where they rent out rooms. You may be carrying all the luggage you have with you up several flights of a narrow staircase. Becky, you are smart to do a luggage "trial run" to see how much is TOO much. I hope you have a great trip!

Posted by Gretchen
Andover, MA, USA
289 posts

Hi Becky, I'm with Randy on this one: I usually travel Lufthansa and their carry-on with limit is 17 pounds! Not very much (I usually can get it down to 18-20), so before I check in at the airport, I put the 'heavy' stuff in my purse-sized carry-on (such as my guidebooks, camera, etc) then as soon as I've checked in and theyve weighed my bag, I can take the heavy stuff out of the purse for the flight and move it into the carry-on. I realize you we're asking more about carrying one vs. two bags, and as you can see I carry 2. You will do fine with two as well (one carry on and one purse). :)

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1361 posts

Hello Becky. I assume that your rolling bags are of carry - on size. When I began using a carry - on size bag as my primary travel bag (in the year 2004) I thought putting my things in the bag would require much time, and a scientific method for putting everything in the bag. Thus, every time I would repack my bag while I am in a hotel room, I would use much time for placing everything in the bag. Now I know that is not necessary. I learned to put everything in the bag in a very short amount of time. And it is easy. I use two packing cubes. A packing cube is made of cloth, the top of it is mesh, allowing air to go out when the packing cube is squeezed. I open the carry - on bag like a suitcase. One side is on the floor. I put the two packing cubes on the "bottom" (a side) of the bag. The two packing cubes fit perfectly in a bag that is 21 inches x 14 inches by 9 inches. Each of my packing cubes is medium size, 3 and 1/2 inches thick. I place the other clothes and things on top of the packing cubes. My carry - on bag has straps for carrying the bag as a back pack. I do not carry it on my back. The backpack straps can be put in a wide pocket that is on the outside of the back of the bag. I cut off those straps. I put rubber thong sandals (for showers) and other small items in that wide pocket. My bag does not have wheels. I do not wash clothes by hand in a hotel room sink.
I bring enough clothes for me to wash clothes at a public laundry once every seven days. I wear comfortable clothes made of cotton. I do not like wearing undergarments and socks made of polyester and cotton. I do not put shoes in my bag. I also carry a shoulder bag (light weight). Its width is eleven inches.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1509 posts

Hi Becky, I smiled when I read your question because our family of five is almost exactly the same ages. Our children are one year older. We have done long-ish Europe trips five times - the last four of which we all had the Rick Steves backpacks. Our youngest just recently graduated to the full size version, prior to that he was using the 2/3 size "Apenzell" backpack. Only one of them did we pay full price for. One we got 20% off during a sale. The others we have purchased on eBay for around 1/2 price (and great condition). They don't really spend a lot of time on backs, just from the train station to the hotel, but we find it easier that rolling. The backpacks are lighter and thinner, too, so they hold more both in size and weight. To answer your main question; yes, we have always had a small secondary bag for the children's "entertainment". It's up to you what you want to put in there. Just be sure it's small enough to qualify as a "handbag" on the airline of your choice if you plan to carry-on all of your luggage. If not, then the only thing that matters is how much each child is willing and capable of lugging around. We don't carry bags for them unless it's an emergency, so ours have learned to keep things simple and compact. An iPod, a notebook and a pencil should be enough to keep most children occupied for a long time. We use that 2nd bag for snacks, too. We often have our children use their school book bag as the 2nd bag, as long as it isn't overly large. It's also a great place to "hide" weight if you are using an airline with tight weight restrictions on your overhead carry-on bag. Anything heavy goes in there - at least long enough to get past the baggage weight-in.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1361 posts

And I own a Civita Day Pack (small back pack). It is the small backpack that Rick Steves said he carried, nearly every day, traveling in Europe. I like the Civita Day Pack. It is durable. And, in my carry - on bag (my primary bag): I stopped putting the compact toiletries kit (from Rick Steves) in that bag. I do not bring the compact toiletries kit. I put items for grooming and personal hygene in an external pocket of the carry - on bag. I buy a small can of shaving creme at Europe, and I dispose of it at Europe.
My carry - on bag (my primary bag) weighs not more than ten pounds when it is fully loaded. When that bag is empty, its weight is one pound.

Posted by Becky
Woodinville, WA
75 posts

WOW! I'm so thankful for all of the excellent advice! I didn't know Lufthansa had a small carry-on weight limit of 17 pounds (we are flying Lufthansa). Our trial run was so helpful! We are taking 3 roller bags (all from Rick's store). Two of them are the smaller European-sized carry one rollers. One is his older style, but still a carry on. The youngest is taking a kid-sized REI pack back. And my husband has a backpack and smaller carry on. We have one Civita day pack and are planning on buying a few more to take. They are so light and will stow in the roller bags when on the trains, etc. Again, Wow! I had no idea the response I'd get, but thank you!

Posted by Larry
Pearland, Texas, USA
417 posts

Becky, I travel with a convertible bag (L.L.Bean Quickload) with a Civita day bag inside. I like having only one bag to carry.

Posted by Kim
San Francisco
119 posts

We are planning on using the small RS rollers... what I am worried about is the extra day pack or small messenger bag. We'll fly United over and back, so I think I am ok for carry on + purse-size item. But what about flying within Europe? We will be doing Venice-Barcelona and Barcelona-Munich on some budget carrier. Do I have to get my small purse size in the roller carry on for those flights? Thanks!!
Kim

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

"We will be doing Venice-Barcelona and Barcelona-Munich on some budget carrier. Do I have to get my small purse size in the roller carry on for those flights?" It depends on the carrier. On Easyjet, you do. They allow one carryon, and they mean ONE TOTAL, not one plus a purse. But on Vueling, others have posted here that you are allowed one carryon plus a purse. So, look carefully at the find print on the website. And realize that they WILL enforce their rules, as it's how they make money. So, if you will have to check a bag, buy it online in advance, as it costs much more at the airport.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7213 posts

For us it's always one carry-on each (convertible for me, roll-ons for wife and kids) - no added personal items (except sometimes on the way home). Four favorite tops, two favorite bottoms, a bathing suit/board shorts, extra socks, underwear, and a second pair of shoes, plus the clothes you're wearing; what else do you really need? If you carry books/entertainment you run the risk of them ignoring the trip you're on (not to mention weight) - gauge that for yourself. Personally, I wouldn't even mention it to my kids as an option because we never have time to sit around and read a book. I don't even want to have the conversation where my kids say they'd rather play a game than see sights with the family - or tune everyone out while they listen to music. If you really want to bring those items, however, I'd go with one ipod touch each that they can load books, music, and simple games onto (as well as use wifi to access internet, email their friends, update facebook, or call home with Skype). An ipod touch covers a lot of bases for almost no added size or weight to your bag.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

Becky, You were very smart to do your trial packing and ask this question. My husband and I are currently on our 4th trip to Europe together. We both use the typical sized carry ons and smaller bags. Over time I have switched to a spinner, but he still uses his RS convertible backpack. He switched from the daypack to a messenger bag last year when he got an iPad. He uses both pieces of luggage all the time, not only for European travel. I switched to the spinner because even packing light it got to be too much on my back. The capacity is less than the backpack so it forces me to pack even lighter. The only problem is when the weather is cold and/or wet, as it has been on this trip and was the first 2 weeks of June in France last year. The solution is to wear the coat on the plane...weird when you get on the plane in sunny dry 90° Tucson...not so much when you get off in gray wet 40° Amsterdam. Instead of the daypack I now use a tote or cross body messenger bag depending on the trip for my "purse". I find them easier to deal with around town than a backpack.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

...Maybe it's not my Kindle...Anyway, I think you will appreciate the roller bags in the train stations. I know you will see way more of them since they seem to be the option used by Europeans everywhere. One final bit of advice from former PNW and current AZ residents: check the weather for the places you are going just before you leave to make your final outerwear decisions. I have never been too hot in Europe over the past 4 years (September, October, June twice, April) but I have been too wet and too cold. Even my Tacoma native husband admitted he was glad I insisted he include the zip out quilted liner in his coat for this trip.