Daily Travel

I am going to Italy (Rome, Florence, and Venice) for the first time and I just can't decide what to carry every day. I plan on carrying my large camera and my iPad. I have heard reviews of backpacks, messenger bags, etc but many are confusing and conflicting. Though I would like to blend in and not look like a tourist, safety and having what I need comfortably is important to me.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
5988 posts

Do you mean you can't decide what to carry around the town and what to leave inside the hotel? I like to have as little as possible to walk around town. You should have a small backpack (or a large hand bag) to carry the following essentials: 1. Your guidebook (maybe Rick Steves', if that's the one you will use). Actually to travel even lighter I usually make photocopies only of the pages I need (or I even rip the guidebook apart and tear the pages I need). For example I don't care to have the entire Italy's guidebook while I visit Venice. All I need are the pages related to Venice. 2. A map of the city. 3. Your camera. I would leave everything else in the hotel, maybe even the Ipad (although it takes excellent pictures and you might want to get online while relaxing at a sidewalk cafe (many have free wifi).

Posted by Stephanie
Bryan, Texas, USA
7 posts

I mean the bag itself. I have read backpacks are not good, but then I have read that they are good... some say use messenger bags. I am just trying to plan that part of my trip and I am having trouble deciding.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5190 posts

The reason you're reading a variety of conflicting opinions is that everyone is different. So, you just have to find one that holds your stuff and that you feel comfortable with. Start by figuring out what you would use to carry around the same stuff in your hometown. I use a messenger bag, my mother prefers a large purse. But a large camera may not fit in either one of these. My mother is also very fond of her Rick Steves Shoulder Tote bag, here: http://tinyurl.com/d56dwl5

Posted by Sarah
St. Louis, MO USA
1727 posts

Hi Stephanie. I like to use a cross-body messenger-style bag when I travel. It's easy for me to access and I can keep a hand on it in crowds. When you say "large camera", do you mean a DSLR? That plus an iPad seems like a lot to carry all day every day. Do you have an iPod Touch you can bring instead? The locals will know you're a tourist even if you buy a bag from a store in Italy, so don't worry about that.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3287 posts

The camera will give you away as a tourist, as well as the open mouth as you look at all the beautiful sights:) I like to travel light, so even though I am a photographer I still just carry one DSLR out with me for the day. Zoom lens on the camera and I am ready to go. It is usually over my shoulder and I have a small cross body purse with my important stuff, as I do not wear a moneybelt. I will often have one of the RS lightweight day paks that I can stuff my camera in as well as a few essentials. Bag weighs almost nothing when empty, but can fit a lot.

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1280 posts

Hi Stephanie. My hubby and I are amateur photographers and we each travel with a mid-sized DSLR, multiple lenses, filters, winders, tripods, Ipads, etc. We also each carry a water bottle every day, and I carry a guide book, maps, a wallet, snacks, etc. The only way we can comfortably carry all of this is with a backpack. Yes...I know we stand out like tourists but by virtue of the fact that we speak English and are visiting touristy places, we would stand out anyway. So, I'm not too concerned about whether people know we are tourists or not. We obviously don't want to be a target for pickpockets but we are very careful when in crowds and we always store our cash and passport in a money belt. We invested in Kata backpacks (bumblebee and a mini-bee models) because they're very comfortable. We've tried all different brands of photography backpacks over the years (Tamrac, Lowepro, etc.) but the Kata ones are the best yet. Whether you opt for a backpack or not is a matter of personal preference but we usually walk 5-10 miles/day when we travel in Italy and anything but a backpack (with all the gear we carry) is simply not comfortable. I've tried shoulder camera bags before but because they don't evenly distribute weight across the body, they end up being very uncomfortable after a few hours. Take all your gear, go to a camera store and try various backpacks, messenger bags, shoulder bags, etc. Load them up & see what works best for you. Happy travels.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5842 posts

Like Sheron, I have found that if the pack weighs more than 3-4 pounds, a backpack is the only comfortable solution. I have a very lightweight one with several pockets. I keep things that I want to get to easily and that are not valuable in the pockets - wet wipes, kleenex, sun lotion, lens cleaner, water bottle. Anything valuable (and I try to avoid that) I put in the large compartment and secure it with a small padlock, on the theory that it discourages the opportunist. If I sit down, I make sure one of the straps is always looped around a leg or arm, including in restaurants.

Posted by Gerard
Temora, NSW, Australia
236 posts

The places you are going are populated by tourists so you will blend in with them. Leave the ipad at the hotel, select one lens a day and leave the other stuff at the hotel, spare cards and battery can go in either your pocket or bag. A nifty fifty could go in your pocket if visiting churches is your thing. Get an aftermarket camera strap that will allow you to sling it over your neck to rest at your side. I did alternate with a "small" backpack when in Rome alone, but preferred just carrying the camera.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
6625 posts

The main differences between a backpack style bag and a messenger bag:
1. Some sites will make you check a backpack but not a messenger bag of the exact same size. (I've been told it's because people wearing backpacks are more likely to knock things over.) 2. It's easier to keep an eye on who might be sticking a hand into a messenger bag than a backpack. You might look into PacSafe. They're a bit overkill with their slice-proof fabric, but I sure do like the ability to quickly and easily lock down the various zipping pockets before getting on a crowded bus. And good for you for not wanting to stick out. While true that most Italians would be able to spot you as a tourist if they studied you, the main thing you're trying to do is not be as obvious as the guy in the shorts and flipflops with the T-Shirt that reads "USA!" and speaking English louder than everyone else is speaking their language as he gripes about how difficult things are in Italy. Guess who the pickpockets are going to zero in on? You might be identifiable as a tourist, but you'll be seen as a smart experienced tourist who should be left alone. Happy travels.