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Carry on & Souvenirs

How do you balance shopping when travelling while still being able to carry on? Do you check a bag on the way home? Bring a bigger bag to use as your personal item to bring on the plane?

Also, how do you bring home breakables? Glass ornaments, mugs, etc.

Posted by
6541 posts

The rationale to limit yourself to only a carry-on is to force you to travel light for the purpose of ease and mobility, and to a lesser degree to avoid a lost bag when you arrive.

Certainly picking up things is going to happen, not a problem as long as it is within the limits of what you are able to handle. Times that we had a "Home Base" type of travel, we could accumulate much more. If we were constantly on the road and had to carry everything, we keep it light, maybe picking up a few things toward the end of the trip.

As for checking a bag, we always check bags on the way home, why not? even if it were misplaced, they will get it to you in a few days or so, if at home, not a problem. We also usually pack a soft sided bag, a duffel or I have a RS backpack type bag, and use those for extra things and to check on the way home.

For breakables, packing in one of my sturdier bags, using dirty clothes covers most of it. Sometimes I will pick up some bubble wrap along the way if needed, if I were to get a larger volume, then I would look for a place that could pack items in a box and then check that.

Posted by
818 posts

I love bringing back treasures that I shop for while here is the plan that has worked best for us.....I try my best to pack light allowing more potential space.....and I always make certain that I carry a lightweight fold-up bag in my suitcase going to my destination. I also go by FedEx and get a circular tube with a diameter of about 4 inches. The tube is a perfect holder for paintings I purchase (roll them up and put them in the tube....they will not get bent or crushed.....also works for anything glass you can put down the tube).....upon leaving I put all of my dirty laundry (underwear, shirts, etc) in the fold-up bag from home and as much as I can squeeze into it......I wrap my purchases ( olive oil, toiletries, perfume, mustards) in the suitcase well-wrapped up with my clothing. The goodies I have purchased are in my suitcase, well-wrapped and secure. The fold-up bag is easy to use as a carry-on and will fit into any airline overhead bend as it is soft and molds well to any space. On certain trips we have bought a large souvenir bag with 2 see them all over Europe.....and use it for clothing from our suitcases. Since anything over 3 ounces needs to be checked you want to keep those items in your checked suitcase. The fold-up bag and souvenir bag are just full of clothing, easy to carry on and stuff in airline bins.
Hope this helps! I feel like we have gotten pretty good at this! Another tip......I have a friend that takes all of her old underwear on trips and throws it away in her last hotel, leaving room in her suitcase for more goodies!

Posted by
1259 posts

I buried two lovely Scotch tasting glasses deep inside my underwear/sox/PJs cube but only because they were free at distillery tours and I have a friend who REALLY likes Scotch.

I learned decades ago (after my son was of a certain age and stopped expecting them) never to bring anything back from business or pleasure trips. For every reason you can think of to slog goodies, gifts, mementos, and souvenirs, there’s a better reason not to. I just learned to be comfortable with “nope”.

Posted by
1660 posts


I take two bags - a small carry on and a small checked - about 22." Of course, for liquids over 3 oz, it's easier to pack souvenirs that may not meet the 3-1-1 rule. I don't buy huge items. I also take a purse/tote for immediate and accessible stuff. for the plane.

I bring some sheets of bubble wrap even though some stores in Italy (my most recent International trips) will wrap bottles of Limoncello, other liquids and some other fragile souvenirs.

I bring some large zip lock bags and put the wrapped liquids in there also. So far, so good.

For valuable or fragile items, I pack them (well) in my carry on.

Even though I take two luggage, British Airways (my go-to International airline) has a very generous bag and weight policy (as well as one free checked.) I haven't come close to the weight limit.

  • Added: As someone else wrote, I also pack items in clothing, but I wrap them in bubble wrap first. Never had a problem. I use packing cubes too for organization and keeping things together.
Posted by
7720 posts

roubrat, we do what the others do as well: pack (or buy over there) a lightweight empty duffle bag. It gets checked on the return flight, with our liquid souvenirs and dirty laundry and anything expendable. Breakables get carefully packed in our now lighter carryons. Socks make good wrapping for fragile things.

@Jane - what a great idea about the mailing tube! Makes sense.

Posted by
139 posts

I always bring a foldable/packable lightweight duffel or backpack, and use it for my souvenirs. I don't bring big things like a carpet or paintings or bed comforters. I bring with me something small like a coffee mug, fridge magnets, gloves... that type if thing. If I buy wine I drink it there haha, it never makes it home. If I'm bringing something breakable I have it with me all the time on the way home and use my own clothes to protect these things.

You can use bubble wrap but I have found my clothes work just as good.

Posted by
2955 posts

I just returned from two weeks in Italy/Slovenia with carry-on only, and I shopped. Obviously, I did not bring home large items. I had a 20" carry on bag and a back-pack; no purse. I purchased small glass items and xmas ornaments; Murano glass pendants and spoon holders; three 5x7inch water color pix and one 8x10 inch oil painting, all done by street artists; tee towels; woven tapestries ; silk scarves; dry food items; and even one pair of shoes! Everything arrived in perfect condition!
I do use packing cubes, so that fragile items can be secured within clothing.
I always plan on throwing out all my underwear, sleep clothing, and one outfit when I leave; it also works well when you can plan to throw out a pair of shoes. I plan my toiletries so that they are all gone by the trip conclusion.
I also like the idea about bringing a cardboard roll for glass items.
I do find that mugs are just too much hassle.
I travel with a Scottevest, so if I suspect I'm over the carry-on weight limit, I stuff the heavier items in the Scottevest pockets, and, of course, wear my jacket and raincoat.
Hope this helps and safe travels!

Posted by
3938 posts

I was lucky on our first 3-4 trips over as we’d end in the UK and visit with my sister. We’d get a weekender size bag from her, and my mom would take it back over when she next went.

But our last few trips we haven’t been to visit, so I picked up a compression sack. Similar to this...

So we will check one of the carry on on the way has our dirty clothes, liquids and heavier souvenirs we’ve picked up (my husband always seems to end up with a book or a game). Anything breakable goes in the other carry on or personal bag...iPads, camera and anything glass we may have picked up goes on the plane. I just wrap the breakables in my clothes...if you have breakables all bubble wrapped in your carry on, they may take them out and unwrap them. My mom had some ceramic magnets in bubble wrap and they took them out and opened them at security.

Posted by
551 posts

I always pack one of these Sea To Summit duffel bags:

The bag weighs less than three ounces, and folds up to about the size of a baseball. It's expensive, but it is very durable.

On the way home I check either my main bag or the duffel.

Oh, and I try to purchase scarves, textiles and such instead of breakable items as souvenirs.

Posted by
1641 posts

A duffel bag seems to be the way to go, I think I'll do that next time. Thank you for these recs!

Posted by
3428 posts

This is one reason I like buying 'wearable' souvenirs.... jewelry is great! So are scarves! And small, light weight items like magnets, handmade lace, Christmas ornaments, cloth wall calendars, etc. are easy to tuck into other things like a pair of rolled socks. Most vendors would wrap items in bubble wrap, but I always saved some from packages or previous trips and packed it along with a tiny roll of cellophane tape. We also usually took a mailing tube that was the length of our 'suitcase' (Rick's original bag). On the way over it was filled with socks, bras, undies, and maybe T shirts. Then on the way home the dirty clothes were in the possibly checked bag, and the tube held souvenirs (sometimes both could still fit!). If we knew we might be bringing home more on a particular trip (when the kids were at home, when we wanted the thank the grandparents they stayed with, etc.) we'd do as others mentioned an pack a collapsible bag of some kind, and if needed, we'd check a bag on the way home. Usually we didn't need to as we mostly were able to travel with one bag each and a shared 'day bag', so on the way home we each had 2 items.

Posted by
692 posts

Does anyone have any experience with Rick's Hide-Away Tote Bag?

What do you normally carry when you travel? One bag plus a personal item for carryon or do you check a bag? We each use a carryon bag plus a personal item only. All souvenirs, if there are any, must fit in our carryon luggage. The tote bags are more groceries etc. in my opinion. We each carry a similar one for that use only. Remember plastic bags at the grocery stores cost about an Euro each.

Posted by
1641 posts

What do you normally carry when you travel?

I've always checked a bag, but I want to try only carrying on next time and if need be, checking a bag on the flight home, depending on what I buy.

Posted by
692 posts

I've always checked a bag, but I want to try only carrying on next time and if need be, checking a bag on the flight home, depending on what I buy.

Give it a shot. Your travel style should be customized to fit you.

Posted by
173 posts

Shipping purchases home is also an option. Many vendors will ship for free, especially large, specialty items. Be sure to ask/negotiate. In Italy a vendor had a 500 euro minimum for free shipping, so my sister and I combined our orders. In Sorrento I had Mailboxes, Etc ship a box of ceramics home. They wrapped and boxed it, charged less than a second checked bag, and everything arrived intact.

I also take a folding duffle just in case.

Posted by
471 posts

Does anyone have experience with Rick's Hide-Away Tote -

Good news, RS replaced my (defective?) 1st one after its seams & the fabric itself started failing during a trip.
Bad news, the seams & fabric started failing. Very lightweight item, & I wouldn't use it again as my main carryon & grocery bag.

Might be okay for lightweight stuff, but the trouble is that's it's huge & invites big loads.

Posted by
59 posts

I agree and use Jane's methods, and we successfully brought both wine and Limoncello home safely in our checked luggage in Italy. I brought a very large Ziploc bag and used it and the cushioning of our clothes. It the past for continental travel we have used a beach towel, but that is a lot of wasted space!

I tend to buy smaller mementos that easily fit into a carryon bag, but love the idea about the packing tube from FedEx too! I packed smaller items in socks and wrapped t shirts around them if I needed to pack them. They all came through fine. I had some crosses from Greece and a blown glass cat, whose tai survived the trip! I bought a RS fold away bag to use to carry my items on return. I am hoping I do not overload it.... and it handles the items all right.

Posted by
1520 posts

This is why I have an expanding suitcase. Carry on on the way there, expand for all the goodies I bought and check in on the way home. You can also purchase a cheap duffle bag, fill it with dirty clothes and check that in, freeing up space in your carry on.