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Ease my fears re: Rick's Classic Back Door Bag

My boyfriend and I each purchased Rick's Classic Back Door Bag for our upcoming month long trip to Europe in September. He just packed his for a 3 day weekend trip and it is pretty full. Will this bag really be big enough for a month in Europe? Any tips on how to pack smart? We're not planning on taking much but I'm still worried. Here's my packing list:

-4 shirts
-2 cardigans ( I will wear one on the plane)
-1 hoodie
-1 maxi dress (I will wear this on the plane)
-1 knee length dress
-1 pair of shorts
-1 skirt
-1 tank top
-1 pair of pyjama pants
-1 rain coat
-3 pairs of shoes (1 pair of walking shoes, 1 pair of flip flops, one pair of sandals. Will wear the sandals on the plane)
-undergarments
-Toiletries (minimal makeup, toothbrush, toothpaste, contact solution, shampoo, face lotion, etc)
-Miscellaneous items such as sunglasses, camera, chargers, iPhone, iPad, laundry soap, a book, water bottle, etc.

Every top or sweater I'm bringing can mix and match with all the bottoms/dresses but I am worried everything will not fit! We will do a trial run in the next few weeks, where we pack everything we want to bring and start adding or eliminating things. Any suggestions or tips on how to pack smart are greatly appreciated, thanks!

Posted by
16883 posts

It definitely will all fit and you don't need any more than that, except a swimsuit. Note that it's harder to access an around-the-waist money belt while wearing a dress. I try not to access it in public, anyway, but there may be times someone wants to see your passport when you weren't prepared. The main concern is to be sure that you can easily carry the bag once it's packed. That one doesn't have a waist belt, so all the weight will be on your shoulders. See also http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/packing-light.

Posted by
25 posts

I knew I was forgetting something, thanks for the swimsuit reminder Laura!

Posted by
3682 posts

You have no pants listed. That may be a mistake depending on where you are going in September. I have never taken a dress or skirt in the past because when test packing I found they took up more space than pants.

Watch the weight and plan to do laundry.

My husband still uses plastic ziploc bags, but I will never go back to them after using the zippered mesh packing cubes.

Posted by
9363 posts

Just a personal opinion, but I couldn't see trying to manage a maxi dress in an airplane lavatory. I would probably not take the cardigans (or maybe just one), and just use my hoodie in their place if I needed it. I also don't take laundry soap. I generally handwash in the sink with shampoo, but if I go to a laundromat I just buy what I need out of the machine there. I also would suggest at least one pair of pants.

Posted by
4462 posts

I'm a lightweight packer & each year take even less. Here's some ways to lighten your suitcase & give you more room to brings some fun things home:

Outerwear - 1 raincoat, 1 hoodie, 2 cardigans. That's a lot. Choose either the hoodie or the raincoat and possibly drop one of the cardigans.

Balance out the top/bottoms, i.e. 2 dresses, 1 skirt + 2 shorts = 3 tops. It helps to not think of "everything matches", but instead, what are you wearing on Day 1, 2, 3 (washing clothes), Day 4,5,6. It really helps me pack less, seeing I only need 4 outfits total + a few scarves to add variety & 1 pair of long pants instead of "extra tops". Pick up a T-shirt at a favorite location during the month to wear & as a souvenir.

Walking shoes, flip flops & sandals - which two do you really want? Shoes take space & they add up on weight. For instance, I take a pair of Keens & a pair of black sandals. The Keens are perfect for walking all day and I can also wear them on the beach. The sandals work for daytime or evening. I wear the Keens on the plane.

Toiletries - only bring the travel size of toothpaste shampoo. It's fun to pick up a regular size at the variety or grocery store in Europe and check out their brands (many are familiar). We bring the Woolite travel packs for our laundry & wash in the sink, but for a month you probably just want to pick up something there after the first week.

Others have mentioned a pair of long pants - definitely you'll want one for evening.

Water bottle - I just bought one of those collapsible ones through Amazon. I also like to pack a handful of Ziploc bags & a few sets of plastic silverware wrapped into a couple layers of lunchbags & napkins. We always use them, and by the end of the trip, that space is empty in the suitcase.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1179 posts

I run a packing blog for women and have actually traveled with just an under-seat bag which is way smaller than Rick's bag. Let me assure you that Rick's bag is more than sufficient for your trip, and is actually a great choice in luggage. Practice runs are great, and doing a trial living out of a suitcase run is even better. One really great website for one bag packing is onebag.com. Looking at your packing list, I have areas of concern:

I have to agree with the others on a pair of pants. What will you do if a cold rain storm blows in? I'd take at least one pair of pants. If it can roll up into capri length then so much the better! I'm a big fan of the Royal Robbins "Go Everywhere" pant but that may be too old fashioned for you. Maybe a RR Discovery Pant?

Maxi dresses work best in beach resorts and in warm weather. They are bulky and take up space in your luggage. If you must have maxi anything then I would suggest a convertible maxi skirt that may also be worn as a dress.

Hoodies are also bulky which makes them a poor choice for light travel. 2 cardigans and a hoodie is too much. I'd pick 2 cardigans or a cardigan and fleece to wear under your raincoat.

I think that the walking shoe/sandal/combination is fine but I might make one change. I'd go for a walking shoe, a ballet flat, and a very light weight strappy flat sandal that is the same weight as the flip flop.

Skirts work well, but skorts work better. Have you seen the Athleta "Whatever" skort? Shorts are considered resort wear in Europe. Unless you have sophisticated walking shorts they won't be accepted in a lot of places (cathedrals). That's why skorts are a better choice - they are OK in museums and churches but still useful for outdoors activities. And don't forget that you can layer your tops over your knee length dress to get a top/skirt look.

You say that your tops and cardis mix and match with your bottoms, but what about with each other? A button down shirt with roll up sleeves may be worn open over one of your T shirts. A 3/4 sleeve scoop neck T shirt may be worn as a "sweater" over your button down shirt or another T.

Toiletries: Go solid where you can with soap, shampoo, deodorant. Decant your liquids into little bottles. 3 oz bottles is too much product! I usually use 1 oz or less for foundation, moisturizer. I put face serum in contact lens case since I use less than 1/2 oz of that in a 2 week period.

Posted by
1277 posts

I agree with the shudders at managing a maxi dress in the plane lavatory. we flew in yoga pants, t shirt, cardigan, and the heaviest shoes. I packed a pair of Birkenstock sandals, and a pair of 99 cent flip flops which were only used in the hotel (including one life threatening shower)

Posted by
113 posts

Bguay,

I recommend one pair of long pants as well. I am still trying to hammer out my packing list for my 14 day RS GAS tour at the end of August.
The last time of traveled to Europe I was able to pack in a 21 inch rolling suitcase. It was packed full and I will not be taking as much this time. I will only have 3 outfits in my bag and my fourth will be the one I wear on the plane. I have only ever done laundry in the sink while in Europe. I am planning on washing something every night in the sink to keep up with dirty clothes.
I am used to wearing clothes more than one day here in the states. I rarely ever get really dirty. I put clothes on to leave the house, put on scrubs at work, then put my home clothes on to leave work. Why waste all that water and time doing laundry. Enjoy your travels and have fun.

Judy

Posted by
8767 posts

Where will you be traveling? Climates are different depending on where you're going.

I agree with the others regarding a pair of pants. You just never know about the weather. I have pants that fold up to make capris. I always bring a pair of cheap flip flops or slippers, depending on what time of year I'm traveling in, to wear around the hotel. My $2.50 Old Navy flips flops can be left behind to make room in my suitcase on my way home with no great loss. I like the idea of a skort as opposed to shorts. Much more versatile and that could double as your skirt. Or bring a skort and a skirt. They shouldn't take up much room. I would skip the maxi dress. If you want something long make it a skirt. It would provide more potential outfits if your tops all go with it.

You might consider wearing pants on the plane and packing a skort, skirt and knee length dress. That gives you three 'bottoms'. I don't think 4 shirts is too many. If you really feel like you need something once you're there, buy something new. I like to buy clothes, scarf or things like that as souvenirs. Every time I wear it after I get home it reminds me of my trip.

Posted by
1179 posts

I've been thinking about your situation a little more and have additional advice. Your statement that your boyfriend's bag was "pretty full" keyed me in. Although the space required for a 1 week trip is the same as an N week trip, you or your boyfriend may be bringing too much "stuff". This is going to make for a heavy and bulky bag. It's a really common mistake among first time one-baggers. So look at these things:

  • Make sure your clothing is made out of thin and light material instead of bulky material. This allows it to dry faster for laundry. Layer items for warmth instead of bringing a thick bulky sweater. Watch out for cotton clothing. Some is a light weight and great for one bagging. Others are a heavy weave that takes forever to dry. I'm willing to bet your maxi dress is a heavier cotton weave. Your hoodie definitely is.
  • Don't bring too many socks and underwear. These add bulk and weight. 4-5 undies and 2-3 socks are enough if you do a quick sink wash every night.
  • Take things out of their original container (except drugs). Packaging adds bulk and weight. Instead of bringing a box of Benadryl, bring a small blister pack.
  • Use zip-locks to organize instead of heavy bags.
  • Consolidate cords and chargers. One 2 A USB charger can charge all devices and is dual voltage (you only need an adapter plug). Non-Apple devices all use micro-USB connector cords so you can share them.
    Toiletry kits are a source of weight in beginners. Take things out of boxes/packages and use zip-logs. I prefer pint size and pill-bag size. Pill bags are available in most drug stores.

Some great links:
Onebag.com
Ultra Minimalist Packing List
How to Decant Toiletries

Posted by
3428 posts

My husband and I both use Rick's bags- bought them more than 20 years ago and they still look new. We even did an "around the world" trip with just them and a day bag. I don't 'do' dress/skirts for travel (and not much at home either). So I only pack pants. I take a total of 3 or 4. I take a mix of long and short sleeve tops. In Sept. in Europe you could get anything from hot to cold, wet to dry, windy to rainy. It'd help to know exactly where you're going. But in general here's what I'd take:
Layers are what work. Wear on plane: black cotton-blend pants, turtleneck/T-shirt and a long-sleeved or 3/4 sleeve "big shirt" {button up that can look a bit like a jacket}, windbreaker/raincoat with hood, good walking shoes. In carry-on: 2-3 pair black or khaki cotton-blend pants (I am allergic to wool and rather hot-natured), 3-5 T-shirts/turtlenecks (some long sleeve, some short, depending on season) 1-2 "big shirts", optional a sweater/cardigan or fleece -everything coordinates with everything else.
3-5 bras, at least 7 pair undies, same with socks, 1 pair pjs if desired.
I also take hand wipes, stain wipes, small baggie with laundry soap, first aid "kit" in a baggie- band-aids, small packets of Neosporin, dental floss, Advil or Aleve, Benadryl, Dramamine, Nyquil gel capsules, etc., sewing "kit"(various colors thread wrapped around a small piece of cardboard, 2 needles, buttons, safety pins), medications, medical info sheet, copy of insurance info, etc., 3-1-1 bag with small sized deodorant, perfume, shampoo, lipstick, chap stick, toothpaste, etc., another quart baggie with eye shadow, blush, powder, comb, brush, tweezers, razor, clippers, etc. , some "feminine supplies" if needed, wash cloth in a baggie, gloves, hat or hooded scarf in winter. Totally optional- scarves, phone, charger, adapter plug, camera & charger, extra memory cards for camera, paper & pen, extra shoe liners, umbrella, day pack. Hubby gets by with a bit less - no need to duplicate some things. Our bags weigh less than 20lbs each.
Oh- don't take a blow dryer, curling iron, straightener, etc. Even with a voltage converter and plug adapter they often don't work well 'over there'. Style your hair simply and use the provided blow dryer.
And another note- your pills DO NOT HAVE TO BE IN THE ORIGINAL BOTTLE. That said, it is always advisable to have the correct info with your medications in case of illness, emergency, needing refills, etc. Ask your pharmacist to print you an extra label and put it on a small Ziploc bag, then put the medication in the bag. Alternatively, some pharmacies will prepare blister packs with all your meds grouped according to when you take them (example, day 1, am in one blister, day 1 lunch next, day 1 pm next, then day 2...) and put all the labels on the top of the sheet. You could also use a pill organizer and put the labels from the pharmacy on one sheet of paper taped to the bottom of the organizer. Lots of ways to do it. I also carry an information sheet with all of my medications listed (both generic and name brand), the dose I take, when I take it and what condition it is for. I also list my Dr.'s phone #s, pharmacy's #, and emergency contact info as well a list major medical conditions (I have asthma, high blood pressure, PCOS, etc.) and surgeries /dates. This info sheet has come in handy when I had a severe asthma attack at work (the EMTs knew everything they needed even though I had trouble speaking). If you become ill while traveling, or need a refill because you lost meds, etc. this could be vital.
Feel free to private message me if you want a sample copy of the info sheet. Also, liquid meds should NOT be placed in your 3-1-1 bag, but should be in their own baggie, and in the original bottle. You must declare them to the TSA before screening.

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks for all the great advice everyone! Some of you were asking where we are travelling to... we're heading to Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, the Croatian coast (starting in Dubrovnik and heading north), Venice, Munich and Salzburg.

As far as the maxi dress is concerned, it is very lightweight and sooo comfortable. I've managed to easily use a portapotty while wearing it so an airplane bathroom should be a piece of cake after that!

After reading your responses I think I will eliminate the hoodie and keep the two cardigans. I can easily layer those with a long sleeve shirt and a rain jacket in case of cold weather. I am also going to add in a pair of pants and maybe eliminate the skirt!

Thank you so much for easing my fears, I feel confident that we'll have a wonderful trip with minimal baggage!