To check or not to check, that is the question.

My husband and I are embarking on a three-week holiday to Eastern Europe at the end of August/early September for our 25th anniversary. We land in Prague, will definitely visit Budapest, on to Slovenia, and end in Croatia (both Hvar and Dubrovnik). Travel will be by plane, train, automobile, bus, foot, scooter, boat... etc. etc. Question is, do we attempt to manage a three-week EuroTrip with only carry-on luggage? And if we only take carry-on luggage, what on earth am I going to pack that I won't despise after wearing it every day for three weeks running!

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1920 posts

I pack for 7-8 days and plan to do laundry once a week while there. You can get a pretty varied one-week wardrobe into a carry-on using basic colors/mix and max outfits/accessories to dress up or down. Others here don't like the idea of doing a load of laundry once a week and just pack for 3 or 4 days and do hand wash in hotel room. So what if you get tired of wearing the same things over 3 times during a 3 week period, you're in Europe! You can wear a wider variety of clothes when you get home. For examples of what and how to pack, see the Travel Tips section. You can try searching for "what to pack" but the search function isn't very functional yet so not sure what will come up.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

This is an easy question to answer for me personally. Regardless of trip length, I never check bags. In fact, when on personal travel, everything I need is in my backpack. Even if the overhead bins are full, I will never need to check, because the size of my backpack fully loaded is such that I could still cram it under the seat if needed. If not on personal travel and packing business attire, I still carry-on but with a small roller. I have had to check it before when bins were full, but that has been an exception and not a rule. When I say small roller, I mean the smallest I can find that doesn’t have Hello Kitty on it. I can’t help it, I hate traveling with anything larger than a backpack. What type? Timbuk2. Depending on airline rules and what I need while flying, I’ll either stuff my small Timbuk2 mini messenger day bag into the larger bag, or I’ll keep it out with some stuff in it. For three weeks, I’ll need to do a little laundry. Could be in the sink or at a laundromat…depends on what’s available nearby and how easy it is to do. It doesn’t matter if I’m traveling here, Canada, Europe, Asia, or anywhere else, this is how I do it. Anyone can travel this lightly (men and women)…you just need to give it a whirl. Also, if you seriously get tired of everything you have, just go to a cheap place, such as H&M or UNIQLO, and buy a couple of cheap shirts, pants, skirts, or whatever to mix it up. As long as you buy just a couple of things, you can find a place to cram them in somewhere for your trip home. You’ll still have to do some laundry in there somewhere.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2923 posts

As I read this, the question is not about checking bags but about packing light.

There has been so much written about this (Rick has a chapter about it in ETBD, and I'll bet there is tons on this site) that I'll just say that with your fast-paced multi-modal itinerary, with so many changes of venue, you will especially regret hauling every ounce you do not need.

Pack wisely (it's an art) and you should be able to hold off your clothing despite for 3 weeks—after which you'll be home.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12572 posts

Worse yet, you are wearing the same clothes in every picture taken. That is the trade off you make for the convenience and flexibility of carry on. Basically we have three complete changes of clothing - pack two, wear one. With some accessories and cross matching we can get ten or so different looks. More important for wife than me. We plan on hitting a self laundry about every seven days - can be less or longer depending on activity and climate. In between - we hand wash (rinsing may be a better phrase) each night the underwear, socks, shirt we worn that day - ten minute process. The key, of course, is the selection of clothing. We avoid all cotton. Prefer the synthetic blends as they are easier to carry for and cooler in hot weather. Now if you are my cousin who says that it is unAmerican to wear the same clothes for more than eight hours and I don't go on vacation to wash clothes, then you don't do three weeks on one carry on. In someways it is learned behavior. We are much better at it than we were thirty years ago.

Posted by Chris
Tyler, TX
161 posts

I agree with Adam.....packing light is an art. I never check bags and always have more than enough clothes to get me through a 27 day trip without tiring of my wardrobe. I manage to take 3-4 pairs of jeans, couple sweaters, tops and tees along with couple dresses and skirts with coordinating tops and scarves and belts. I usually travel with 1 pair good walking shoe and maybe 2 pair of ballerina flats. Usually the only items I wash are underwear and perhaps a top or two. I never roll....I lay my items out flat and fold and pack from there. I use RS rolling suitcase 21 inch. It never weighs more than 28 pounds and I still have room to take a few items home with me.

When packing I try to plan to wear my bulkiest clothes for the plane ride hence my outer jacket, a sweater, a pair of jeans, either flats or walking shoes and I have a sweater material wrap that I roll and attach to the top of my bag for the ride to keep warm on the plane. I do take a personal carryon as well for my quart size bag of liquids, cosmetics, iPads, headphones, and hairbrushes. I use shampoo from wherever we stay and body lotion as well or will pick up a travel size bottle of something local once we land. I never bring a hair dryer or curling iron. I also do not take jewelry other than what I board the plane with and it is never expensive jewelry.

Inevitably I always come home with clothes I've never worn.😊

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1631 posts

I love the wardrobe suggestions at http://theviviennefiles.blogspot.com Often her choices are too expensive or don't fit my life but I love how she puts colors together and starts with basic wardrobes. Look back in her archives for suggestions for cores of four and eight garments.

As others have said the clothing itself makes a difference. I, personally, like the Lands End cotton/modal tee shirts. They layer really well and dried overnight even in rainy Wales last Sept. They are also pretty light. Several Long sleeve and short sleeve tees along with 2 cardigans and a couple of pair of LLBean perfect fit pants were great for 3.5 weeks last fall. I actually was not as sick of them as I thought I would be.

I am planning to be gone 5 or 6 weeks this fall and will take the same set up, but will probably add a cardigan for a little more variety. I am planning a test pack next week when some new packing cubes get here. This will be packed in Rick's convertible bag. For last Fall's trip my suitcase weighed 20# when I left home which was too much. I want to cut back to 16# if I can. I may have to wear the 3rd sweater layered over one of the other sweaters on the plane!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5495 posts

I pack for 3 months (okay, 89 days, no Schengen advisories, please) in a 21" rolling bag and a Civita daybag. I do some hotel-room laundry and some laundromat washing, take about 8 tops, 4 bottoms, 2 pairs of shoes and a week's worth of rinsables.

I look forward to the day that I evolve enough to ditch the daybag.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1291 posts

What everyone else said... When you go to the Vivienne Files you can search for "packing" in the search box in the upper right corner of the page. That will go to several postings just about packing. The great thing about the VF is that you can see the combinations of basics and accessories instead of seeing just a list. For our month-long trips my husband and I pack for a week and a day, but we could go much longer than that. We wash clothes once a week, or more often if we rent an apartment with a washer. It's always a fun experience to use a public laundry in a different country. In Koblenz it was the heavily tattooed and pierced guy who helped us, not the cute young female student. In Annecy after doing my best to decipher the French instructions I finally noticed the English version below them.
Update: Since I wrote this, the Vivienne Files changed it's format. (Hmmm, there's a lot of that going around...). At the moment there is no search box, but on the right side of the page there is a conglomeration of "labels" in alphabetical order, with those having the most posts in bold and larger font. Packing stands out as one of those.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

welcome batriggs,

if this is your first and only trip, who cares?

If this is the first of many trips, thats a horse of a different color.

either way you will learn what to bring and what not to bring. We can tell you how, but its up to you to figure out what works for you. Everyone is different and have different needs/wants. If you want to be a clothes horse, go for it. See how you like schlepping 2+ pieces of luggage around with you up/down stairs/escalators, in/out of airports, down sidewalks in/out of trains. Its all up to you. If you dont mind and it doesnt bother you, who am i to tell you its wrong? There isnt a right or wrong way, it what works for you.

What you can do, is to pack like you want and then spend some time walking around your city with the luggage in tow. Try taking your public transportation with them too. Take them up/down stairs and escalators and see how you like it. Spend a WHOLE day doing that and then think back, was it fun? Do you want to do that on your travels. Just so you know, there is alot of cobblestone overthere and that fun in itself.

as far as packing clothes that you may despise since you have to wear it day in day out, again, who cares? If youre worried about how you look, i would look at it this way. They dont know you from dirt in a hole, so if you dont look as nice as you THINK you should, you wont be there long enough for anyone to notice, except maybe in Paris.

If it really bothers you to have more clothes to wear, you can do this:

in each city/country you visit. Buy 1 new outfit and donate/trash 1 that you brought with you. that way, youre helping the local economy and satisfying your need to not look at the same clothes day in day out.

i forgot to add. Im a male and my wiring is for practicality so take my reply as you see fit. I know that females are wired differently and things like clothes are an important issue.

happy trails.

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
557 posts

I check half and carry on half. I prefer to check if I can and I know I am in the minority. Toiletries are part of the issue and I don't want to waste time doing laundry (I hate doing laundry at home, why make myself do it even more on vacation?). Although for a three week trip, accept that you will have to do laundry. I have a very light Samsonite roller that is bigger than a carry on but still manageable for lugging on trains/buses/boats or around a city waiting for a connection.

The deciding factor for me is my flight. If I have a direct flight, I will check. If I have to connect somewhere, especially if it is a tighter connection, I will carry on. I figure chances of lost luggage are much higher in that situation. And when I check, I always pack a small carry on with a change of clothes and pjs in case my bag gets lost. But, knock on wood, my bag has never been lost.

The nice thing about summer travel is that you can easily fit a weeks worth of outfits into carryon, maybe more than that. Light knee length or long skirts, neutral tops to mix and match. You can bring a couple of thin scarves or cheap jewelry to change the look up if you need. If you do carry on and you have to connect in Europe, make sure you check the carry on requirements of your connecting airline. Sometimes they have different rules.

Posted by Peter
Fort Nelson, Canada
51 posts

These replies (and others on the same topic on other posts over the years) are very informative on packing light. However, one thing I've never really seen on many of these posts about carry on and packing light is where and how to pack those things you want to bring back (small bottle of limoncello, small pottery from that agriturismo, street art from Piazza San Marco...). When we're away it's usually for 5 weeks and I can't get my head around how I can make small luggage work for me.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1920 posts

Well, if you mean things you collect as you travel around, some people will send stuff home part way through a trip if it gets to be too much. Others bring along a small folding duffel in their carry-on and then pack their dirty clothes, etc in it and check it on the way home, no big loss if it disappears on the flight home, and then put their valuable souvenirs in their carry-on and bring it with them on the plane. That's what I do. I almost always end up checking one bag on the way home.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5619 posts

@Peter - I take one of the Rick Steves tote bags that folds up into it's own pocket. It's in my carry on when traveling to Europe, but it can be used to transport clothes to a laundromat when there, use as a beach bag or whatever. I put my dirty clothes in it and check it on my way home. If I bought wine or something I might check my sturdier carry on instead. My carry on can be expanded to hold any purchases I make if necessary. Of course if its expanded I would have to check that bag on the way home.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5495 posts

Since I tend to take long trips, I send things home that I buy (mostly books, too heavy to schlep anyway). And, I throw away some clothing pieces as I get sick of them to make room for things I buy. The only time I check a bag is if I buy fluid gifts (like those 20 jars of Maille mustard in seasonal flavors).

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3098 posts

I try to pack as light as possible...always... and the checked bag is not the issue (just check it if you want) it is dragging the stupid bag all over Europe as you are in and out of planes, cars, buses, trains, boats, up long flights of stairs etc... That is where the problem comes in. You really can dress fashionably and cute with very few items if you plan it out. A few great basics and some lightweight accents and inexpensive jewelry will give you a whole array of 'outfits' as you mix and match. Once I found out that if I wear mostly black or boring colors on vacation I never tire of them. Spice it up with some colorful scarves and throw those away if you tire of them. I also buy a number of new items(not my basics) when I go, so it is hard to get sick of my new clothes.

The other thing I cannot figure out is the advice to leave your toiletries at home so you can pack light and then just buy them in Europe... You then have to try to stuff them into a bag you have probably overpacked and still haul them all over. I would rather pack the smallest size of items that I need and then if I run out, worry about it, but I prefer not to land in Europe and get stuck buying large sizes of brands I might not know. Just take what you need. Just bought a new bag today that has the 4 spinner wheels and weighs all of 3.7 lbs. It is an IT bag and they have them at TJMaxx... around 50 and it just worked great on a flight home from Fl... there is one size a bit bigger that still probably fits in the overhead.

Posted by Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
884 posts

Well, you may end up getting sick of your clothes, I always do on our 4 week trips, but not as sick as I'd be dragging around a large suitcase!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21058 posts

bat,

I normally check my main Backpack when travelling to Europe, and so far I've never had a problem with that. At times there can be a short wait before it appears on the carousel, but most of the time that only takes a few minutes. Packing light is always a good idea as you'll have to carry or drag whatever you decide to take, but I'd have no concerns with checking luggage.

One point to mention however - if you'll be using any budget airlines in Europe, their luggage requirements are often more stringent than carriers on this side of the pond, so you may have to check luggage. Also note that some of them have fairly tight rules for carry-on.

Happy travels!

Posted by Leigh
Missouri
413 posts

I agree completely with a previous poster - I do get tired of wearing the same things over and over, but it is still better than the alternative of lugging around heavy luggage. I usually bring about 4 tops and 2-3 bottoms. I bring a scarf for a different or dressier look, and that is about it. I find myself explaining to others why I am always wearing the same things in my pictures, but heck, I'm in Europe seeing and experiencing great things, so who cares? I always do a lot of sink laundry. For a 3 week trip I would need to visit a laundromat at least once or maybe twice because after a few sink washes I will despise the clothes not because I am tired of wearing them, but because they will look and feel filthy to me without a real wash. I usually have some extra room in my backpack for a few purchases, and I will mail some things home. I have never regretted not bringing more clothes with me. Before I started packing light, I would over pack every time, and then I would regret spending a couple weeks lugging around a huge heavy suitcase full of some clothes that I never even wore.

Posted by Susan
Columbus, USA
94 posts

Here is a different way to think of it, our Honeymoon was to Hawaii. After a delayed flight that caused us to miss the next flight, our luggage also didn't arrive with us. It was in the 60s when we left Ohio and in the 80s when we arrived. Let me tell you walking around in longsleeve pants and longsleeve shirts was not fun. Plus the added worry of when it was going to arrive and trying to figure out where to get it.

I would say if you do decide to check your bags have at least a change of clothes and undies and a toothbrush:)

Also half way through our Germany trip (we packed light) I was trying to figure out how to pack even lighter as I was so over schlepping things around.

Enjoy your trip!!!

Posted by Mary
Reno, NV, USA
202 posts

Choose one color note (black, navy, you decide). I do solid black knit pants and a black skirt.
Choose one print item of clothing with that one color note. I do a black skirt with lavender and green floral.
Coordinate other items of your wardrobe with a couple of colors in that print. I do a lightweight green sweater set, lightweight black sweater set, black top, lavender top, black and white print top, print top with black, lavender and green.
By mixing an matching, this allows you to create several different outfits without getting too bored and still pack light.
Choose items that a light weight (polyester or cotton/poly that wil wash and dry overnight.
Do not pack any item that you can't wear at least 3 times.
I pack 4 or 5 bottoms (pants, crop pants, skirts), 5 or 6 tops, 1 pair of sandals, 1 pair of walking shoes, raincoat, 2 sweaters, coordinating scarf, swimsuit and microfiber towel.

Hope this helps.

Posted by Tom
Stafford, Virginia, USA
143 posts

OK, I agree with all of you about packing light, and I envy all of you who can get a lot of tops, bottoms, and sweaters into your bag; but, after packing trip papers (e.g., train tickets printed at home, copies of auto and hotel reservations, etc.), books/ereader, guidebooks, maps, voltage converters, phone chargers, camera, GPS/laptop/ipad/etc., umbrellas/ponchos, notebook, extra pairs of glasses, hair-dryer and/or curler (for wife), toiletries, medicines, shoes/slippers/boots (if in winter), hangars (for hanging drying clothes at night) – there’s not much room left in two small suitcases for the clothes! And that doesn’t even take into account some of the medical accessories that I now need to take with me. That’s my dilemma!

The best packing story I encountered on a trip occurred when a young American couple, on their first trip to Europe, asked us what we did about underwear. Turns out they had bought enough underwear for a clean pair every day, and just tossed the dirty pair at the end of the day! Of course, that left them a lot of room in their suitcase for souvenirs.

Posted by Mira
Midwest
297 posts

If I'm doing a multi-city itinerary, I travel with a bag I can carry easily. Occasionally I check it for convenience during the flights, but I make sure it's something I can lug on and off trains, busses, etc easily. I take a large purse (under seat) as my "personal item" and load it up with toiletries, a guidebook, kindle, snacks, and any other non-clothing misc items. Then a carry-on size bag with clothes for 5-6 days (plus what I'm wearing), that makes about a week of clothing. Then I have laundry done during the trip (I'd rather pay a laundry service than waste vacation time in a laundromat). I wash small things like underwear and socks in the sink, but not clothes. Washing clothes in a hotel sink doesn't work for me.

The key is planning, making sure everything matches everything else. With 4 tops and 3 bottoms you can make 12 outfits (or more if you add a scarf, cardigan, or other accessory to change it up) if everything works together. Consider what you wear on the plane as part of your travel wardrobe and work it in outside of the plane day. Make sure it all works with 2 pairs of shoes, max, and wear the bigger one on the plane. Plan it ahead of time, try everything on in outfits to make sure you're happy with it.

There are all sorts of mix-and-match tips on how to make 6 shirts and 4 pairs of pants/shorts work style wise, without wearing the same thing all the time. This just depends on personal style, and if you care. Someone who just wants clean, neat clothes can throw in 5 shirts (short or long sleeve or a mix, depending on weather) and 3 pants that match the shirts, some socks and underwear, wear a jacket on the plane, and be done. I personally mix it up with scarves, necklaces, and cardigans over basic shirts, pants, and dresses. I take a basic black shirt-dress (dress up or down), 2 pairs of pants (jeans and black), a skirt, 4 tops that go with all the bottoms, 1-2 sweaters or cardigans that go with everything, including over the dress, tights for under the dress or skirt, a few cheap necklaces, a scarf that matches everything, underwear, and a swim suit and flip flops if swimming is in the cards.

I've done super-light travel - three summer dresses, a cardigan, and necessities thrown in my under-seat bag and that's it. I've also checked a big wheeled bag, which is fine for trips in which I get a cab to the hotel and stay in that city for the full trip, but way too much for hopping around.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

@ Peter

"These replies (and others on the same topic on other posts over the years) are very informative on packing light. However, one thing I've never really seen on many of these posts about carry on and packing light is where and how to pack those things you want to bring back (small bottle of limoncello, small pottery from that agriturismo, street art from Piazza San Marco...). When we're away it's usually for 5 weeks and I can't get my head around how I can make small luggage work for me."

I send stuff back home. Its expensive, but it beats carrying it around. If im flying alot as i will this year, some of the airlines will charge for the checked baggage so i just opt to send stuff back home.

if its my last stop, i can check in luggage, but thats usually not the case.

happy trails.

Posted by Nancy
Costa Mesa, CA, USA
159 posts

I always pack carry on only - lugged a larger suitcase once on a European trip and vowed "never again!" So, how to get all those travel essentials into a carry on bag and a personal item?
I start with shoes - only two pairs - one I wear and one I pack - IF it's summer where I'm going I will stretch to three - one pair being a pair of thin flipflops - that's it, no exceptions.
Clothing: For two weeks or longer, I pack 4 bottoms - jeans/pants in winter, capri's and skirts in summer and 6 tops. For winter, that means a turtleneck, v neck sweater and 4 long sleeved t shirts. For summer, 2 sleeveless tops and 3 short sleeved ones and a long sleeved, lightweight (think washable linen) blouse. Rounding out the packing list is 2 cardigans in winter (1 lighter and 1 heavier) and 1 cardigan in summer. Jacket is either a lined raincoat (winter) or an unlined waterproof shell. This winter, I did add another jacket - a packable prima loft one from Land's End which stuffs into it's own pocket. I used the jacket as the "filler" for my travel pillow and it worked great alone or under my lined raincoat.
4 pairs underwear, 2 bras and 4 pairs of socks (in winter), and 3 - 4 scarves, couple pairs of earrings and a necklace or two rounds things out - this is the total clothing I take including what I wear on the plane.
All clothing items go with each other so I can potentially have 24 different outfits - plenty for a 3 week trip.

I've reduced my toiletries to a small 8 x 4 inch zipped case and find that the 2 oz. size containers are more than enough for 2 - 3 weeks - but things like shampoo, toothpaste, soap, etc. are easy to replace so I don't worry about running out.
I do take enough OTC medications (advil, immodium, dayquil/nighquil, etc., etc.) to last for 4 days - this gives me enough time to purchase more if needed. Only other things in my carry on is a travel umbrella if it will more than likely rain, a small laundry kit and a plastic folder of my travel documents.
Other "stuff" that goes into the "personal item"
small camera
small crossbody bag with wallet, sunglasses, kleenex, iphone and lip balm.
kindle
ipad
small bag with chargers and a monster strip
noise cancelling headphones
yoga pants
travel pillow - with jacket as "filling"
All this easily fits into my 20 inch carry on and personal tote!!!

Posted by Sarah
St. Louis, MO USA
1618 posts

My airline lost my checked luggage for my entire 2-week European trip 7 years ago, and since then I never check a bag. I also don't get tired of what I bring because I'm grateful to have my own stuff with me! As far as wearing the same thing in every picture, I would hope viewers of your photos would be too enchanted by the scenery to pay much attention to what you're wearing. I wore the same pair of jeans every day during that ill-starred trip because I'm 5'0" and finding pants that fit without needing to be hemmed is an epic journey in and of itself.

I follow Rick Steves' packing list as a guide to packing light - you can find it on this website. I modify the list for my own needs but it really helped me pare down to the essentials. As much as I dislike the 3-1-1 liquids rule, it has helped lighten the load and ensure that I bring only the necessities.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7825 posts

I'm carry-on only. I like not worrying about standing in line to either check or retrieve a bag, being able to hop on and off public transit/trains without worrying about lugging an anchor with you, and being out of the airport toward my first European activities (or on my way home from the airport) 30-40 minutes before the checked luggage people (and that's if everything goes right for them).

I can live indefinitely with five tops, three bottoms, two pairs shoes, three pairs underwear and socks, a shorts/swimsuit in one, a belt, one or two warm layers (depending on time of year), a packable rain shell, a little electronics, a minimum of toiletries and self-laundry kit (includes what I pack plus what I'm wearing). As long as everything mixes and matches, I have 15 different outfits. I keep the load under 20 pounds and only take up about two-thirds of my carry-on (good thing because the load always expands).

I wash underwear/socks plus maybe a shirt nightly in my room and plan a laundromat stop at least every other week to wash everything.

Posted by Connie
North Coventry
6 posts

You won't regret packing light with carry-on only. You would regret the time and energy spend dragging your luggage around once you get there. I've done it and will never do it again. Personally, I wouldn't get tired of wearing a black top (doesn't show soil easily) every day, but I realized not everyone feels the same way. The poster who suggested bringing colorful scarves had a great suggestion and I plan to try it on my next trip. The travelers on this site always have great practical advise. When I'm traveling, I'm so immersed in Paris, London, Basel, wherever, that I seldom am conscious of what I'm wearing anyway. And if anyone is critiquing my clothing choices, which I seriously doubt, I really don't care - not like I'm interviewing for a job or something. I keep master packing lists and evaluate them after every trip. I have one for Europe, one for Vermont (annual trip), and for business trips. I definitely helps make the process easy. When I arrived home on a Saturday from a business trip to Switzerland and had to pack my bag to leave for Vermont on Sunday, the lists were critical. Without them I'd probably still be standing in front of my suitcase dithering about what else to put in.

Posted by April
Portland, OR
353 posts

I agree with others that you will be far less tired of the same clothes than you would be of carrying around that suitcase. I did it one time.....never, ever again. I take a carry on suitcase and a jansport backpack. When I go over only the suitcase has clothes and the backpack allows for accumulation of souvenirs and gifts.

You are going to be there at a very hot time of year. Likely you will sweat and I agree that I wouldn't wear those clothes twice either. The trick is to bring comfortable mix and match tanks and t's, skirts, dresses and linen pants. Scarfs bought over there are cheap souvenirs and they break up the outfits that you mix and match. Many hotels will do your laundry for a fee, so we usually do that once or twice on a trip.

Posted by Dave
Ventura, CA, USA
910 posts

My answer is yes, carry on only. By the way, I could never hate the clothes I took to Europe, too many great memories. Pack lite, pack smart.

Dave

Posted by June
Edmonton, Alberta
380 posts

I also go carryon only and when returning home, I do check my rollaboard and have 2 bags when returning, as I pack a foldable simple bag that packs flat in my rollaboard. I use travelfashiongirl.com as she has packing lists for different countries and weather. She has a few lists with picture examples, for instance, I use the maximista list, that I think has 14 pieces. I alter her list to meet my needs, I do not take a skirt, so I might add a skort or capris. It is a simple enough plan that men could alter it for their needs. I do also like theviviennefiles.com, in fact, yesterday she had a post on having basics in your closet (black pants, black t, black sweater, white button down shirt, white sweater, light khaki pants) & adding a few prints give you a multitide of outfits. It is neat.

When carrying on, I use a rolling suitcase, 20 inches, for Europe, now I use Rick's bag and like it; I have the expanding zipper, so coming home I check it, as there are a few extras in the bag! I also have a backpack that I put under the seat with everything I need for the flight. I prefer a backpack, as it is easier for long walks in the airport..

I also wear a Scottevest fleece, google his products, many pockets and I love the Chloe hooded fleece. Scottevest has men's And women's products. Much of what used to be in my pack,that I 'need' on the flight, like gum, noise cancelling earbuds, kleenex, lip stuff, ibuprofen, paperback book, and more is in my many pocketed jacket. It has a cool attached glasses cleaning cloth and a key clip that sort of pulls out of the pocket, so they are easily returned to the pocket and not lost. It can hold an ipad too.

There are a few on this list who can go on board with one bag, but I too am not there yet! Check out onebag.com too. I tried the bundling packing method, but rolling each item works best as does packing cubes. In my suitcase, I will put my shoes in plastic grocery bags, and line the shoe with another bag; I shove my undies in each shoe. It keeps the shoes integrity and a lot fits in each shoe. Sometimes my umbrella is in a shoe too! Upon arrival, a flat packing cube becomes the drawer for all the undies.

I am a bit obsessed with my packing list, which is a word doc that I print and take along to help me pack up when leaving. I save them and the next trip gets a new lost, based on my scribbled notes, that I only wore this once, so that might not get to come on the next trip!

Have a wonderful trip. With your many modes of travel carry on is highly recommended.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1291 posts

June beat me to it. I also thought the Vivienne Files posting on March 1st was an excellent example for packing, even though it's not billed as such and Janice didn't include any accessories. I really respect her patience with doing all the combinations. I've been working on that for our next trip and it is tedious. I typically take 8 tops and 3 bottoms. For the first time last April, I had everything so well coordinated that I had more possible outfits than I had days (28) to wear them. I did find myself preferring some options over others and realized that I could have taken less.

As far as toiletries go, one time years ago Janice mentioned that she successfully lived a month at home using only the travel sizes (100 ml or 3.3 oz) of the basics. So I did the same and our results were the same for most items. I don't know abut Eastern Europe, but my husband and I have found some smaller (not as small as 100 ml) sizes of things we both use, like toothpaste, body wash and shampoo, in stores where we have gone. And although we usually stay in apartments, we take the hotel stuff we like with us. We find those products often much better than what we get at motels here in the States. This may be TMI, but we have also found that those potty drops sold at travel stores, online and elsewhere, do not work. So we buy air freshener at our first location and it lasts the entire trip. Perhaps we travel too cheaply, but I have yet to meet the European hotel, B&B or apartment bathroom that has an exhaust fan.

Posted by Jim
Slidell, LA
365 posts

One bag, possibly the RS convertible backpack or the new rolling backpack which is a little smaller, is all you will need if you don't mind doing a little laundry. Use combinations of clothes that will work with each other and consider cleaning out your closets. I did this on my last trip for two weeks in France by finding all the clothes I hadn't worn in a year and making that my travel wardrobe. I learned on the first two trips that the locals (and other travelers) don't even notice or care what you're wearing...only the money you spend there. I started with a full backpack and lightened the load every few days until it was about half full when I headed home. On the last day in Paris I donated what was left to a homeless shelter and all I brought back was what I had picked up in my journey, in a bag I checked all the way home.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1631 posts

Lo and June, I so agree about the VivienneFiles March 1st blog. It is easy to think basics are boring but I love the way she incorporates the impulse buys in with the basics. It also reminds me that the accent pieces don't need to all match each other, but rather just go with the basics.

Posted by BG
Albany, CA, USA
1524 posts

I am not young and strong, and recently even hauling a carry-on bag, along with purse or other item up airplane or train stairs, and heaving it into overhead bins has become a tiring chore. I've decided after many trips to Europe, that getting there has to be a reasonably enjoyable experience also, so I have eliminated the stress of dealing with hauling luggage on an airplane (the worst!). Also, my trips to Europe are usually 10-days to 2 weeks minimum, and a carry-on doesn't work, even if I have a washing machine available. I travel to cities and like to dress well, need at least 2 pair of shoes, and I often travel in Fall or Winter, when I need sweaters, coats, boots, etc. I check a new, medium-sized, 4-wheel spinner suitcase that holds virtually all the clothes I want. and it is very lightweight and easy to wheel around. I make sure to not pack it too heavy, and can lift it without a problem. I bring a purse and small duffel bag or backpack on the plane with me, with all my essentials that I cannot be without. I feel so relaxed and free waltzing onto the plane carrying almost nothing. Not having to fight to cram a bag into overhead, if there is room! If I'm not in a hurry, I don't mind waiting in line to check a bag or going to baggage claim, and so far my bag has always arrived even with multiple plane changes. (and I have travel insurance if it doesn't).
So far this arrangement has worked well on planes, trains, buses, cars and on foot. Probably wouldn't on a scooter though!
Whatever kind of bag you use, as others have said, plan your clothing carefully and keep it as light as possible.

Posted by Michelle
Iowa
61 posts

I am going to agree with most of what people said about packing light. It seems crazy but I did not get tired of what I took on a 3.5 week trip last year. I would echo what others have said about scarves, I liked a paishmina for cooler mornings/nights, and a lighter weight scarf I picked up in Morocco for color/dressing up an outfit. I think most of the major cities I went to had scarves for sale around the major sites, so you can always pick one up if you want to change it up. I would also agree that everything should be in one color family. I like to bring a pair of cool weather running tights for under pants or long skirts for cooler days (I don't think that will be as much of a problem for you in August) and on the plane. Depending on your hair type you can try shampoo bars/bar soap to decrease the amount of liquids you need to take.
As others have said, pack what you think you need, then carry it around the house/neighborhood for an hour or two. Make sure to do some stairs as part of this. This always helps me to decide what to eliminate from my bag.
Remember that you can buy most everything in Europe that you have here. If you have way too much stuff to come home, you can buy another suitcase to check on the way home :
Enjoy your trip

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
738 posts

I'm one of those that will avoid checking bags at all costs. I just returned home from a 6 day business/personal trip with varying weather - 10 degrees in Toledo, 50 degrees in Denver and 72 degrees in North Carolina (with possibility of rain). I still fit everything into my carry-on rollerbag and didn't have to wash clothes. I rolled my winter coat and strapped it to the top of my roller bag, but everything else fit into my roller bag.

For our trips to Europe, we travel with Eagle Creek 20" carry-on, then each take a backpack. The backpacks start out not full, then as we purchase stuff we have room in the back packs. Then when we pack for our flight home, we might check the roller bags and pack wine, lemoncello, in the rollers, then anything else in our backpacks (clothes make great packing material for breakables). We also take a very lightweight nylon bag for overflow just in case. Have yet to say "I wish we packed more clothes".

Posted by Bob
Gettysburg, PA
1439 posts

When we go, it is usually for 2 or 3 weeks. It isn't the " checking " that is at issue- it's the hauling around that gets old real fast. Unless your hubby enjoys being a pack mule, travel lighter = traveling easier.

Whatever your decision, enjoy your special trip & report back to us!

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

I am actually considering getting smaller bags! Here is what we had for 42 days of travel including an 11 nt TA & 30 days traveling in Europe:

This included 4 bottles of wine, 2 glass wine glasses, a small coffee maker with coffee, creamers the little liquid ones, sugar, a supply of paper plates, salt, pepper, real silverware, 2 netbooks, 2 kindles, 2 umbrellas, a twin size flat sheet, all of my own shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, etc..., a sport coat & zippered sweater for DH (think layers), 3 prs of shoes for me (white dressy sneakers, sandals black strappy kitten heel) and 2 for DH, (1 black walking 1 sandal) plus all of our clothes. We did laundry 3 times in a laundromat and I washed some things by hand at night.

I don't skimp on comfort things when I travel and I take only the clothes I know I am going to wear.

I use packing cubes for most things except pants - they go in the bottom. I have 3 long jersey knit dresses and 2 short ones that travel really well. I can wear them with heels for dressy or sneakers (not gym type but cute white ones) and short dressy socks or sandals for casual. The long dresses are nice as they are pretty warm in cooler weather - especially with leggings underneath. I am not a fan of pants and generally choose a dress unless it is really cold. I had 1 pr pants, 2 prs shorts, 4 shirts, 5 dresses, 1 sweater & all the base garments. I carry a good supply of costume jewelry to dress things up.

DH had 4 prs of pants, 2 prs shorts & 8 shirts.

Plus swimwear - we spent 2 weeks in FL at the end of trip.

It just takes some practice - we haven't checked a bag in almost 15 years. I have everything in travel sizes - my poor 3-1-1 bags are stuffed to capacity!


Posted by janettravels44
Chicago
974 posts

my husband and I have done as much as 3 mos on a rollerboard carry on bag each, plus a lightweight nylon messenger bag with the computers, cameras etc each. We sometimes check the bags like on the long haul from the US if it is a direct flight, but once there we like having something easily managed on the subways, buses and trains.

on the other hand, it doesn't bother me in the slightest to wear the same outfits repeatedly. I build everything around black or dark brown slacks -- black jeans that read as slacks in the winter, plus a pair of dark cords -- in summer it is a pair of black and a pair of brown linen slacks. I always carry silk long john bottoms as that extra layer if things are colder than expected. it takes no space to speak of and early last May in Spain I was glad to have it when it was much colder than expected and I had lightweight clothes. for tops, I have cotton Ts and turtles, a silk turtle for layering, a travel shirt with the hidden pockets and such, a cashmere sweater in winter, a polartek cardigan, a lightweight raincoat or trench coat. In fall/winter/spring I use the scottevest.com trench coat with the 18 hidden pockets -- very handy for being out and about without a purse. In summer, I have a very lightweight rain/windbreaker coat. in summer I have in addition to the two pair of linen pants, a wrap skirt. I always have two pair of really comfortable shoes. In summer, one of those is a pair of good walking sandals. for dressy occasions, I have a capey/sweaterlike thing that I can use to dress up the basic black slacks and black top -- and finish with a scarf or necklace. it works fine for the opera or dinner in a nice restaurant.

if you move around a lot, there is underwear available from REI and other travel stores that dries very quickly so you really can take just 3 or 4 pair and wash them evenings and count on them being dry in the morning. by choosing dark colors, you don't need to launder slacks on a 3 week trip and you can wash tops as you go or nip into a laundromat on occasion.

Posted by Chris
Tyler, TX
161 posts

Christi........I'm very curious how you managed to pack 4 wine bottles in your carryon and take them onto the plane with you?

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

@Chris - we arrived on a cruise ship - that's how!

Posted by Terri Lynn
Nashville, TN, USA
642 posts

I will confess that we do not travel as light as Rick recommends. There is no way I would want to travel with just carry on luggage. We do each carry a big carry on bag (on wheels) and a big suitcase with wheels. We don't stay in cheap hotels or hostels and travel first class on planes and trains. We stay at luxury hotels and there is always transport from the airport or train to the hotel and they handle our luggage for us. We use the drycleaning and laundry services at the hotels. We have a need for dressy clothes as we enjoy the theater, ballet and symphonies as well as good restaurants where you can't go in looking scruffy.

I am excited for you as we adore Prague, Budapest and the cities in Croatia as well as Poland. You are going to have a great time!!! I recommend carrying what you need for the activities you plan. You might even go clothes shopping in Eastern Europe which is fun.

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
678 posts

Looks as if I am in the minority on this one. I always check a bag when traveling overseas, and almost always when traveling domestically, too. This is for multiple reasons. It's a trade-off between size and weight of the bag and how often we need to find a place to do laundry, or get it done. We find that doing laundry as travelers is often not convenient and takes time away from what we came to do. I try and limit myself to forty pounds in my 25" Eagle Creek bag, because a lot of time when you come back the initial flight is on a European carrier, and they tend to have a lower limit than U.S. carriers (which is also often true for carry-ons). My wife tends to press that limit a bit more, I have yet to talk her out of it. It's just too much stress worrying about what they will accept, just to avoid checking a bag. Also, it would stress me out to be jockeying for overhead space for a giant carry on, worry about whether it will fit in the overheads on a short hop flight that is likely on a foreign carrier. (We always make a long hop flight to Frankurt or London, then a short hop to our destination, since it's much easier and quicker that way.) We have been to Europe about 15 times and twice a bag was delayed, only by a day though. I also am very picky about my dental supplies, need a medium to big bottle of mouthwash and a small one of fluoride rinse - don't want to try and source that in Europe where I can't read the labels. (For all I know they put sugar in mouthwash in Hungary). In addition, my job carries a lot of pressure and it always feels like I barely get out of town without them forcing me to cancel it. If I could spend two solid day packing, I could get it all into a smaller bag. If I spent another half hour every day getting ready during our trip, I could figure out how to get it all back into that smaller bag. It's a trade -off between time and size of bag. I am strong enough to carry a 25" bag up the metro steps, check back with me in 20 years and I might see it differently. Another thing is, the reason it takes the better part of an hour to board large plane these days is giant carry-ons, and I don't wan to contribute to that (o.k. that mostly happens on the SFO-ATL flight that I often take, because people are too cheap to pay the $25 to check a bag) - it's less of an issue on long haul flights because more people check. Having said all of this, I am thinking of going to a 22" bag because on our England trip last year, we could barely fit our two 25" bags into the boot of the rental car. I think with packing (compression) supplies I might be able to fit nearly a much into the smaller bag, if I had a little more discipline. The weight would be a non-issue with a 22", and I could feel free to expand the compartment without fearing that I would go overweight. I would still check it though, I just don't want to worry about will it fit in the bin or won't it, will the bins be filled, etc. There are enough stressors already on an overseas trip for me.

Posted by jturie
Valley Forge, PA
42 posts

I haven't read all the replies here, so apologies if this is redundant. DON'T DO IT!!!!! Force yourself to carry on and you will never regret it. Take it from someone whose wife is a horrendous over-packer. Our last trip to London/Paris, she packed enough stuff to clothe the wait-line at the Louvre. Problem is, guess who had to drag that monster suitcase around? Me! Have you ever humped two 40-pound suitcases up into a rail car or shared the backseat of a London cab with one? And this was for a trip with only two lodging locations, one of which was a third-floor flat with no lift (and a washer-dryer). Never again.

I'm a business traveler who goes nearly every week. I pack the same amount for a four-day trip as I do for a three week trip. It's in a carry on roller duffle bag. It is the ONLY way to travel IMHO. You can get a lot of variety by packing two pair of slacks and 5 or 6 tops. Nobody but you will know that you're wearing the same outfit for a third time.

For a three week trip I'm sure you'll have a couple of "down" nights just to relax. Before you head downstairs in your hotel for a glass of wine, do a quick load of laundry. If your hotel has a launderette, so much the better. I will pay the $$$ to send out my laundry if the hotel offers that service, and just replace one fancy meal with something quicker and cheaper.

I realize that no one wants to do laundry on vacation...but I don't want to visit a chiropractor either!

Posted by janettravels44
Chicago
974 posts

Obviously people travel in the style they wish, but for a newbie, getting advice is good -- nothing wrecks a trip like having too much luggage especially if you are doing train travel or moving around a lot.

We go to the opera and theater and occasionally to fancy restaurants. My basic black
slacks and top with a dressier jacket or wrap and some jewelry works just fine and I have a go to piece
that I always pack for this purpose that takes up almost no space. If black slacks are the base, then
you also don't have to have dressy shoes so long as you have unobtrusive black shoes. I have a
pair of walking shoes that will work fine with slacks and not look like hiking boots
or athletic shoes or somesuch that would detract from a dressier look.