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Family of 5 planning 17 day Europe trip. I sent them the Rick packing video. It did not go well.

So, I rang in the new year by sending a text message to my entire family. I'm 47, my wife is 47, and we have three teenage girls. Everyone knows we're planning a trip to Europe but being a fan of Rick for 30 years now, I know what to pack but, mostly, what not to pack. I think the rest of my family had thoughts of steamer trunks and valets carrying all their worldly possessions because what I sent in the message to the whole family was Rick's nice and tidy packing video.

It's a great video. To the point, direct, and, most of all, gets across that no one ever regrets all the items they wish they had brought with them. Still, all I got back since sending that video is silence. My 16-year-old asked if this meant we were essentially going to be camping in Europe. I found it amusing as I've been trying to pull the trigger on some nice chalets in Switzerland, I've got oodles of Hilton points that I've never used in the decade that I've been racking them up, and this is obviously the furthest thing from camping. They've missed the point entirely, and I'm trying to communicate that.

I feel like this could really be a deal-breaker for my kids. I am trying to stoke the flames of adventure and traveling light so we can be nimble and actually enjoy our trip MORE by not being weighed down with luggage.

So, I ask anyone who has been here with kids, with their spouse, or a friend if there was anything that you said or did to help them understand or have them come around to the idea of packing light? I'd hate for this really be a blocker for my family, but I get that sometimes not everyone is cut out to travel this way.

Worst-case scenario, have you ever just gone with some and not others? I would hate for it to come to that as they really would like to go to Europe.

Posted by
2637 posts

Encourage the kids to pack a big suitcase and then drop them off maybe 40 minutes from home, telling them to get home without ride share services???

Posted by
9182 posts

Find one or more packing videos done by an adorable twenty-something male, an outdoorsy type who gets it all into a backpack or a Brooklyn type who travels with a tiny duffle. And find others done by young influencer females. Vet them first in case one of them has a steamer trunk. Forget showing the old guy.

Posted by
1040 posts

I had this dilemma with my mom when we took her to Paris. We were at her place packing and net thing I knew, I looked over and saw a nearly 3 foot pile of clothes in an open suitcase. She had her heavy winter bathrobe, all her vitamins etc in their original huge. containers, etc. After asking her how she was going to close the suitcase, of course I got the deer in the headlights look. I showed her how wonderful ziplock bags are for vitamins etc and she was impressed, lol. The bathrobe was a real struggle and I finally convinced her to leave it at home. Still, she had SO much stuff. I told her to pack in in the bag, which of course had to be extended, and roll and carry it around her condo, outside etc for a little bit. She did, then I pared down more stuff for her and her her roll and carry it around again. She was sold after that. We were in Paris during the sales, and yes, she did spot a thick winter bathrobe that she had to have. She found out what a pain that was to carry around in a shopping bag for the next 2 weeks. So all that said, my only suggestion is to have them do a trial run with packing and make them carry it up and down stairs etc and see what they think.

Posted by
131 posts

This made me LOL! My cousin once visited from South Africa with a non-wheeled suitcase containing among a lot of other stuff, 7 identical pairs of jeans because she couldn’t imagine not wearing a fresh pair every day. She learned that lesson fast.

I suggest you get your daughters to pack what they think they’ll need, remind them that dad isn’t going to be their Sherpa, and get them to walk around the block carrying what they’ve packed….

Posted by
59 posts

Just show them the photos of hundreds of stranded suitcases caused by the Southwest debacle over the holidays, and tell them that could be their situation. Maybe not likely, but it happens more often than you'd think. Do they want a carry-on suitcase, or NO suitcase?

Remind them that they'll be responsible for carrying their own bags, 100% of the time.

Ask them if they want to head out of the airport immediately, or wait another hour for their bags?

Ask them how many trains they're willing to miss because they couldn't move quickly enough to hop aboard.

Also: If they MUST have "essential" items like hair implements, etc., tell them to parcel the items out between the 3 of them, and share or take turns using them. BTW, tell them the implements need to be the correct voltage, so maybe they'll need to use their holiday money to buy new, small gadgets.

Tell them that things are done differently while traveling, like it or not. They can't use dollars. They'll be in a different time zone. People will not be speaking English. Travel is about adapting, and it starts with packing.

Seriously, I'm sorry that you're dealing with their resistance. If you're truly serious about packing light or staying home, then stick to your guns. Good luck.

Posted by
3540 posts

It seems like this isn’t the way you are planning to travel during your 17 day trip but it helped our two teenaged granddaughters to know we were staying in apartments with washing machines. This enabled them to think about packing light and wash their clothing as needed on our 21 day, 4 location trip. I really encouraged them to pack light so they could maneuver on trains connecting our cities. They also wanted to leave a little room for some clothing they bought in Italy and France—again encouraging them to pack light. Good luck to you!

Posted by
6113 posts

Life’s too short to pack light and spend half your time washing. Let them take what they want. It’s their holiday as well as yours.

Posted by
7509 posts

You could have said "yes, we are going camping!" But stand firm, dad! You know if you cut them some slack you'll be the one toting their bags for them. Leaving a teen behind will give them an excuse for a revenge party at your house.

Luckily, my wife understood immediately the advantage to packing light. Other people we've traveled with, not so much. It's an attitude thing, and maybe you have to dig into why they are thinking they need all that stuff. Yes, test trial is a good idea, but just might make them more stubborn.

The four points I try to get across is (1) Im not carrying your bag and I'm not changing our plans to avoid your soon-to-be-problem (i.e., no taxis); (2) if you really need something over there, they have shops and you're allowed in them; (3) nobody cares if you wear the same clothes more than once; (4) its not a hardship to do laundry over there.

It's that fourth point that people have problems wrapping their heads around. And don't let them watch Emily in Paris - it will give them unreasonable expectations.

Posted by
9171 posts

We trained our kids from early ages to pack light and gave them appropriate sized luggage. Give your kids the correct sized luggage and tell them to adhere to it.

Posted by
16 posts

These are all GREAT suggestions. I am genuinely appreciative of all the insight here. A 16-year-old me would've loved just to stuff a backpack and go across the ocean, but I never had the resources or opportunity to do that, and I'm just gobsmacked that I have to strategize this. But you all are helping with that, and I thank you! :D

Posted by
342 posts

There are lots of valid ways to pack, and lots of ways to keep it on lighter side but still have fun as well. I’m not a fan of the RS style myself, so had you sent me the video I’d reply with some choice emojis and strong words.

Did you try any conversation or did you just drop this version of shape up or you can’t come on people?

I’m trying to wrap my head around you aggressively dropping a video “this is the way or else” and debating not allowing people to take the trip if they don’t shape up to your standard.

Perhaps the healthier idea here is to start a conversation about how much walking with luggage, why light packing is a must, and sharing resources so everyone can start thinking about how best to pack. Discussing realities of hauling big bags, sharing resources on lighter packing and smarter choices kind of thing. How about some videos on capsule wardrobes, getting more from less get the point across? Or tools like packing cubes to help organize and get more in less space?

And how about opening up a conversation so they can share their concerns and issues before you simply decide they don’t get to go?

Posted by
1972 posts

Just tell them that they are responsible for transporting their luggage. If they have wheeled luggage, it may not be a big deal. My wife’s suitcase was over 50 pounds one trip. It was really not much of a problem. We took taxis from the airports/train stations if the walk was more than a couple of blocks and every hotel had an elevator.

Posted by
14066 posts

Was this the 45 minute video on packing light? I have never seen it so took a quick look. Perhaps Rick got things started off wrong by demonstrating a backpack as his travel luggage. Where else would your daughter get the idea you would be camping? Actually you need MORE stuff for camping, not less, so perhaps you could straighten her out on that. The girls (and maybe your wife?) need reassurance that they will not feel deprived at all if they pack wisely.

We took our tween and teen daughters to Europe 4 times before they reached adulthood—-once to London and Paris, twice to Switzerland, and once to Italy, all 2 week trips. The Italy trip was a graduation present, for one graduating from college, the other graduating high school, so they weren’t teens any more, and by that time they knew the drill.

It was only the first trip that was difficult, when we told them we were going to pack into carry-on bags only, no checking luggage. And it was only the older girl, who was 15 at the time, who complained, mainly because the liquid restrictions meant she could not take her makeup, face scrub, and her favorite expensive shampoo. We promised her a shopping expedition for replacements in Paris, our first destination, but she never took us up on that. Maybe because we presented it as an opportunity to practice her French, which she was learning in high school. Anyway, she survived on the hotel toiletries and the few items of makeup she was able to fit in her 3-1-1 bag. She did manage to fit her flat iron (for her long hair) into her carry-on and fortunately it was dual voltage so she could safely use it.

She totally resisted the notion of practical, lightweight “travel clothes” instead of her fashion jeans, and we didn’t push that one. We settled on 4 pair, including the ones she wore on the plane, and we ended up doing laundry a couple of times (an adventure in itself in Paris). For shoes they brought sneakers and flip-flops, and one time a pair of Uggs, and we didn’t argue that one either. Then there was the bulky hoody sweatshirt with a bold Abercrombie & Fitch logo. I tried to talk her out of that, arguing that it would just shout “American tourist!”. But she insisted, so we said she could bring it but would have to wear it on the plane and whenever we were in transit since it wouldn’t fit in her suitcase.

Ironically, it turns out there was an A & F store in Paris., so she fir right in. And there was even a knock-off store we passed on one of our walks, with the name spelled Abercombie in letters very similar to the real one. ( but without the “r”). I tried to find the photo we took of that store but it is hopelessly buried in thousands of travel photos. But I did confirm that I wasn’t imagining things, as I found a Facebook page and a Yelp listing for them.

You have to pick your battles carefully with teenage girls; I am sure you know that all to well. Here, I would be firm about the luggage size (carry-on only), pointing to all the horror stories about lost luggage* from last summer and the recent holiday season. Point out that they can also have a “personal item”—-a large purse or tote bag—- but they will need to be careful in some places. (When we were in Milan, DD1 had a nicely-dressed older woman tap her on the shoulder in the subway and remind her to keep her large purse, which was dangling from her shoulder, zipped up).

As for what they put in that one piece of luggage, try to leave that up to them, unless they actually ask for advice, or propose to bring something so outlandish and impractical you just have to veto it. If they make mistakes, so be it, and they will learn a lot. Just don’t let them skip a rain jacket if you are going to Switzerland.

TBC . . .

Posted by
361 posts

OP - This is a concern for you that you are most certainly going to lose. Three teenage girls. They will probably not actually take the suggestion to pack up now like they are going, then go out on public transport in your area, plus walk longer distances with their bags. Up and down stairs.
As father you would obviously be the one to now tote the heavier bags, and multiple bags. But, in reality you cannot take care of that many bags alone.
Someone mentioned seeking out young girl travel influencers and videos. Maybe that is worth a try.
However, if a person is going on a trip for the first time, they often have to learn the hard way.
Unfortunately, that hard way will affect you and all the others when it comes to moving around or repacking in order to move.
Since you received nothing but silence from your family after your email regarding RS and packing, I may think that none of them has even looked at the RS info. Most people are last minute people for travel. They have good intentions, but little discipline.
The tone of your vacation will start before you leave and will be a preview of what is to come.

Posted by
14066 posts

Ran out of room. About the lost luggage——in 2015 we invited our older daughter and fiancé to join us in Rome for a week. Younger daughter was invited too, but could not get away from work. They flew British Airways from SFO to Rome and, now being old enough to make her own decisions, she chose to check her bag. That was the summer of a big luggage kerfuffle at Heathrow and guess whose bag was lost? It didn’t catch up with her until 3 days later.

Posted by
1467 posts

Yea don't show the girls Rick Steves or Sarah Murdoch as they are not in their age range and may appear as outdated. BUT there are so many savy carry-on only young you tubers you can point them to. Try these channels: Alpin In the Alps, Laura Barton, Taylor Wynn. I am 57 and I love seeing what they pack, the outfits and accessories and how they travel in general, I always take away a new tip or destination. Just do a search of "Carry-on Europe". Also are you driving? Because the amount of suitcases will be limited by space and if you are taking trains then carry-on is so much easier to navigate between the stairs, the platforms, storing them, walking etc.

Posted by
6804 posts

The suggestion above that everyone has to manage their own bags is key. Manage means walking 2-3 blocks with them and being able to lift up over their heads to a luggage shelf on a train.

Posted by
3607 posts

I usually travel carry-on only, but we do take a checked bag when going to places where we need warm clothes. Maybe give them a budget that can only be used for luggage you approve. Encourage them to use packing cubes. With your travel companions, you may need to bite the bullet and check ONE bag to which you control access-give each person one baggie to fill with cosmetics, etc. Make sure they know the weight and size limits of airlines. Assign each person a turn dragging the big bag-maybe even before the trip. The women may be seeing you as their pack animal. Once they know that will not be the case, they may be more amenable to the packing videos. Maybe even have a competition based on weight of luggage and a prize for the winner. You may also need to invest in travel-appropriate clothes, such as merino wool sweaters for them. Be sure to take a folding duffle for souvenirs.

For those of you reading this who still have young kids, we never had this problem with our daughter, since we bought her her own appropriately sized backpack and rolling bag when she was 4 and made her use it for anything she wanted to bring that wasn't clothes.

Posted by
23041 posts

Everyone focuses on the difficulty of carrying heavy suitcases up the steps you may encounter in train stations and even from street level to the lobby of a hotel--a completely valid concern--but in my experience there's a second issue: Space for hanging clothes can be very limited in European hotels, and the number of supplied hangers can be shockingly low. (I usually find three hangers in my budget hotel rooms and thus devote precious luggage space to a couple of inflatable hangers.) Folks who travel with a lot of garments may not be able to hang all of them up. Will the travelers be able to find the things they want in a still-half-full suitcase? Will those clothes look decent when taken directly out of a suitcase for wearing? Even if you're blessed with tons of hangers and many feet of closet space, it's annoying to have to spend a lot of time at each stop, hanging up a bunch of garments and then later repacking them when it's time to move on.

Encourage mixing and matching rather than "outfits". If I can travel for 4-1/2 months with 3 bottoms and 5 tops, which includes what I wear on the plane, so can your fellow travelers. Shoes, of course, are a major issue. More clothes may also lead to more shoes. I manage with just the pair on my feet, though that is a bridge too far for even a lot of experienced travelers. And yes, I'm female.

Posted by
2332 posts

Can you all go away for a short weekend near home, and tell them all to pack and bring everything they plan to take to Europe?
Then, get them to carry their own bags, up and down stairs, park very far away from the accommodation you choose, etc.

I like the idea of them packing, then you dropping them off in your area and they have to get home by public transport lugging the bags.

Posted by
2959 posts

When we took our teenage girls to Europe I had them divide their clothes into 2 piles. One must have and would like. I told them I had room in my suitcase for the would likes and just left them behind, oh well. They didn’t even remember what I was supposed to have in my suitcase. Our second trip they did carry on only with no problem.

Posted by
12580 posts

Letizia is right. Dad and grandpa--aka RS--are not going to influence your girls when it comes to packing. But Youtube videos and Instagram pages from females closer to their own age will.

Search Youtube and Instagram for "packing light." Then find posters closer to your daughters age.....not someone you think is good and experienced. Remember, it has to be someone they can relate to not someone you relate to.

Posted by
3607 posts

Although I have also taken trips with just the shoes on my feet, I stopped doing this when my hiking boots destructed on a walk near my house. I now take an extra pair of walking shoes in case something happens to the pair on my feet. I have a pair of LL Bean or Lands End Mary Janes that are also good for nicer places(clearly I'm not a fashionista). This has never happened on a trip, but your shoes might be the most difficult clothing item to replace, and nothing other than your passport, credit cards and prescription medications is as important to the success of your trip.

Posted by
1040 posts

cala--We started traveling overseas when the kids were 4 and 7. I bought them each a 19" rolling suitcase at JobLot or something like that for $10 each. We still have them, and ru kids are 31 and 29 now, lol. The kids on that trip had to roll their own bags. We helped on occasion of course, but they learned from that early age to pack what they could manage. When our daughter went to Paris for her semester abroad, she took the Rick Steves 21" rolling bag and her day pack, that was it. When our son did his semester abroad, he was worse and had two suitcases. Yes, he is a clothes horse;) He had to manage, and he did, but he commented that he should not have taken so much stuff.

Posted by
266 posts

Have your daughters been involved in the planning? Places to see, etc. And getting there, and around. From your post it isn't clear, and comes across as dogmatic. Our first trip to England with 2 tween daughters I was still a packing novice and we had two huge non- wheeled suitcases- full - sized shampoo and new clothes daily, etc.
Hauling them around was a lesson learned.
My partner still insists on a huge 26" suitcase for even several days which annoys me to no end. I can go for 3 weeks+ now as a carry-on devotee. There is no convincing otherwise, and I don't have to schlep it, so I've given up.
The transportation logistics are valid, depending on the itinerary. Are you all on the move every couple days? If they are involved in the planning each may better be able to see the tradeoffs.
They could also pool personal care and makeup "essentials" into one backpack?

Posted by
2339 posts

So I’ve taken two groups of teens to year the first time I just gave them packing instructions and then when I got off the plane I saw that they had completely ignored me. However the other adults and I never touched any of that trash they carried. There was some whining but we were able to ignore them. They had to haul that stuff, all of them admitted they wish they listened to me

. The second time I got a little smarter. I made them come to a meeting me about two weeks before the trip where they had to bring their packed suitcase. Several them showed up with a 28 inch suitcases even though I told them 22”. I took them on an obstacle course. We went up the two flights of stairs at the church we went down the two flights of stairs at the church, we went around the parking lot, we went up the street, across the street, around the block, back to the church, up the steps and down the steps again. They were a few other stops. And the rules were no one could help you with your bag you had to handle everything you were caring by yourself. . The kids with the 22 inch bags weren’t overjoyed but they did OK. The second time we went up the stairs one girl wouldn’t go, she sat at the bottom of the stairs and started crying. And I told them this was normal. Seriously the chalet we were staying at in Switzerland does not have an elevator. The budget hotel I use in France has five stories and does not have an elevator. They all showed up with 22 inch bags. I heard through the grapevine that one girl still wanted to bring her large bag and her friends staged an intervention

So unless you want to be your children’s valet I suggest you do the same thing. let them pack everything they want and then take them on a scenic tour of your neighborhood. Plot your course well in advance, make sure there’s some hills, make sure there’s some stairs and make sure there’s some obstacles. just stand back and watch if they are willing to do it and understand that this is the rules - then let them take it. But if not they need to figure out what they can leave home

Life’s too short for you to waste your vacation being a Sherpa

Posted by
2595 posts

I would pull up TikTok - there are hundreds of short videos there showing other teens and young adults how to pack light. They won't believe it from you but if they hear it from an influencer, they might.

Posted by
7565 posts

Start off by buying each person a 21" carry on rolling bag with swivel wheels. We use TravelPro Ultra Lite.

And bring out a good scale and put it in the kitchen. Tell'em that they can bring anything they want as long as the bag and the items packed don't exceed 22 lbs. That's the budget airline maximum weight for carry on's.
Rule #2--Everyone carries their own bags everywhere--including on and off trains. Ole Dad needs to save his back.
I get jeans and khaki pants heavily starched at the laundry. They still look after a week. I carry 2 pants in suitcase and wear one for a 14 day trip.
I carry enough shirts where I can wear them 3 days--rotating daily. 14 day trip--5 golf shirts, for example.
We often will rent an apartment halfway through our trip with a washer/dryer--so we can carry half as much clothing.
I wear one pair of shoes--and that's it. Ladies do better with 2 pairs of shoes.

If my wife can do it, so can they.

Posted by
3607 posts

Carol your obstacle course is the best!

Posted by
3772 posts

OP, exactly how do you think you are "stoking the flames of adventure" with teenage girls by demanding they pack like a senior aged male or they get left at home? If I was your daughter I'd have already started planning for a blow out party for the night after you left. OR you could end up with 3 teenagers who are sulking and dragging their feet for the whole trip. I sincerely hope they have had some amount of input into this trip, and that it is more than just what your vision of what it MUST be.

A PP rightly suggested opening an avenue of discussion and conversation instead of imposing a list of non negotiable iron clad demands. And by all means, point them to vlogs that are more suitable to younger females and suggest ways they can share to minimize duplicating items. Try explaining WHY packing light is so important , not just for you, but for ALL of you, instead if the "My way or the highway" approach (which will rarely be appreciated by a teen).

Personally, while I have done carry on only on a few trips, the majority have been with a 25" checked bag, and it has never been a problem, whether on planes, trains, or automobiles, walking on cobblestones, or carrying up flights of stairs. And I'm 70. Unless your teens have health restrictions, I doubt they'd have much trouble either. I doubt the airlines will be dealing with a catastrophic days long blizzard in the summer, or that you will be flying Southwest to Europe.

Posted by
2339 posts

It doesn’t take a catastrophic blizzard, or a southwest meltdown, just see what happened this summer at Heathrow, Amsterdam, etc. They’re probably still people trying to get their checked bags.

Honestly, while I normally have no problem checking bags after this last year and what happened with the airlines in Europe going to Europe I will be doing carry-on coming home. I’ll check it. I don’t care if it takes a week to get here, but I was in London, reading stories of people who had been there for weeks, and still had no idea when they were ever going to see their luggage. Just not worth the hassle of having to go buy a whole new wardrobe because the baggage handlers are backed up. But they all knew where their luggage was because the air tags told them it was in the airport.

Posted by
5532 posts

I had to laugh at your daughter's question about going camping. We do go camping, (not in Europe, though), and a common sight in the ladies' room at campgrounds is teen girls with lots of makeup and hair appliances, getting all prettied up. It seems so incongruous, but then, I was never a "girly girl," much to my mother's disappointment.

I like the idea of showing your girls TikToks of young folks packing light. Or better yet, let them find these themselves. You may have to enlist the aid of an aunt or older cousin, someone who is NOT a parent.

Good luck.

Posted by
14652 posts

They are my kids, they do what I tell them

Here is your carry-on bag and your personal item; do what ever you want with it.

If the carry-on is over 8Kg i leave you at the airport.


Worked for years. Only had to leave 1 out of 4 at the airport one time out of many trips. He was 14, he survived.

Posted by
1245 posts

Chrisstip, gosh, you received some great parenting advice. I always hated getting parenting advice from folks who didn’t know my kid from a jar of Vick’s. The best recommendations I saw in the list were the practice trip to a nearby town or a suitably themed attraction and the obstacle course.

I do have a story to contribute: Before I took newbies on their first backpacking trips, we met several times to review their inventories and to perform test packs. Part of our routine was to weigh everything and keep lists. While I had veto power over anything that would be foolish or possibly endangering, folks got the go-light idea very quickly after they shouldered their loaded packs and climbed a few flights of stairs. We soon had large stacks of discarded stuff.

How about a follow up when you have more of the story to tell? All the best of luck.

Posted by
238 posts

LOL this was a great post and a great thread. I would say wait till they are 21 but it's too late for that (took my 3 when they turned 21). I took my grandson when he was 15, point is: it could be way way worse than packing heavy. I had to snach and hide his used T-shirts when he was in the shower so he would not rewear them (apparently he didn't see the point of a fresh shirt). Could not agree more with making them pack everything they want and tote it around as a trial run for the difference between wants and needs. What ever your girls like to do at home they will like to do in Europe, which maybe the core of the problem. Let them each pick a day of what to do/see. Once they start talking to their friends about the trip, and their friends start talking about how cool it is to see this or that you will get more cooperation/excitement from them. Start with the cool stuff, jazz bar in Paris or touring Pompeii and finish with packing light and washing your socks in the sink. J

Posted by
163 posts

Claudia, I laughed out loud at your comment. I also agree that the RS video doesn't cut it. As I recall, it seemed he focused more on what the average male might pack. I really like the Sarah Murdoch packing videos but agree with other posters' suggestions to find some videos with younger influencers.

Similar to Mister E, I also think it is okay to set limits regarding size of luggage given logistical limitations of how you are planning to travel. When we traveled overseas with our teens, we told them the approximate size carryon they needed. They got to decide what type of luggage and what they wanted to pack. Maybe you could allow your daughters to each pick out a carryon if your budget permits. My daughter (now a twenty-something) really likes the Beis Travel luggage designed by actress Shay Mitchell.

Posted by
1408 posts

Tell them they can either pack light or not plan on shopping during the trip. You KNOW they are going to come home with more than they brought, right?

How are you planning to travel - train or car? That makes a difference. You absolutely will not fit three large, two small suitcases and five personal items in a single car (including a taxi).

I’m going to assume you are traveling by train, and that you’ll be staying in at least 3 places, including a Hilton (which certainly has an elevator).

So, they need to be able to manage their own luggage in the airports, on the trains, from the train station to the hotel, from the hotel to the train, on the train again, from the train station to the hotel, up the stairs, etc. Do they have any experience with this? If not, do you have a train/trolley/light rail where you live? Have them pack what they plan to bring. Park your car 3 blocks from the train station. Walk to the train, travel for a while. Find a building/parking garage and lug everything up 4 flights. Then return home.

Posted by
2642 posts

We took our 3 adult kids in 2011 to Europe. The rule was 1 bag/person, nothing checked. No one complained. Because D & M covered the cost.

Posted by
2642 posts

In terms of travel, I often am hard-core "always public transportation". Not in this case. Rent a car.

With 5 persons, your costs to ride the trains will be high. Rent a car. This will give you ADDITIONAL REASONS to limit luggage.

Cars in Europe are small. I can still remember the sight from the front seat of our three kids crammed into the back seat of the medium car. My son is 6'4", and both daughters are 5'7" or taller. It was not fun, but the trip was great.

The trunk could BARELY hold 5 bags. And these were small bags. No way could you get 10 bags in the trunk.

Posted by
1290 posts

Lots of good ideas in the responses. I am surprised by the responses that are worried about traumatizing teenagers being taken on a trip to Europe by not letting them pack what they want. WTH?

Anyone that is going on a trip with me (this means if I am paying for it, if I am not paying for it but organizing it, if they are getting anywhere on the trip using the same transportation with me....) uses carryon bags only or we are not traveling together.

I deal with the person kindly and with a soft voice, but there are no compromises.

My Mom was horrified when I told her carryon only for a cruise. At the end she was pleased with the results and was happy to have an excuse not to have to dress super fancy for dinner every night.
I refuse to travel with my brother-in-law due to his packing.
My husband and younger son are happy enough to have me pack their bags for them. They never complain. (I know...but I love planning and packing.)
My older son came home from across country this summer and brought only a school sized back pack, so he is on board.

I am very happy to teach you how to pack light and to watch a hundred videos with you. If you want to go with me, you comply.

chrisstipp, I am sure your daughters will get on board after the shock. They are lucky girls. I hope you guys have a great time. Please come back and tell us how the preparation process goes for you and about your trip.

Posted by
673 posts

Get out the kitchen scales and get them weighing their clothes to see the difference in weight there can be between what look like two identical tops. Weighing clothes has become common practice in my family and has saved teenage and young 20s backpacking relatives from lugging around overweight bags because they took the wrong shoes.

Also convince them that it's OK to not take a hairdryer and a hair straightener and a curling wand.

Posted by
2087 posts

I think part of the problem is they don't want to "be seen in that again"! They seeing thousands of.people. who will not even notice their clothes. I agree with the mantra of I am paying so these are my rules. May seem tough but that is the way in my world. On trip to a wedding to Italy my granddaughter was being extremely difficult over her packing. She was extremely annoyed with me and my suggestions regarding proper attire to enter churches in Italy. She over packed and had to carry her own clothes because my son and his wife had hands full with wedding attire etc. It was a lovely lesson for her and I must admit a smile of satisfaction when she was denied entry to the wedding due to a strapless way above knee dress. I still savor that moment.

Posted by
38 posts

Loving this post. I am picturing three teenage girls trying to pack light and you trying to enforce it. Haha. I am making the sign of the cross right now. I have been on many RS tours and I still have not perfected the packing part.
The first time we took our two sons to Europe was in 2006 on the RS 21 day Best of Europe. The sons were 13 and 16 at the time. The 16 year old questioned... Why do I have to go to Europe? I responded with " Do not ever repeat that out loud in front of anyone!" He had his little girlfriend he could not bear to leave for that long. Every stop we were looking for some place with computers and internet so he could try and reach her. In 2006, no cell phones like now. She ended up breaking up with him about 4 days into the tour. He cried for about an hour on the back of the bus and then popped up and said" Where are we?" Smiling the rest of the days left of the tour. Girlfriend forgotten in a mere hour...The trip was the absolute best trip and we went on many trips to Europe as a family after that.
My advice is to let them pack with guidance but it really is part of the learning experience. It really isn't worth the fight. It's just overpacking. Not the worst thing in the world. I am so grateful for those family trips on the RS tours. My sons are now 33 and 30. They have gained such so much from travel. They have met new people and engaged with people who have different ways of life. It was good for all of us to get out of our comfort zones. Traveling builds confidence! Just enjoy the trip!

Posted by
82 posts

So, I am carefully putting in my few cents. Our family (dad 66, mom 54, daughter 22 and son 20) went to Europe for 3 weeks+ last year to celebrate our daughter’s college graduation. Daughter celebrated further and tacked on some extra time to join her boyfriend in Spain; thus she was in Europe for a month. Daughter always looks great—hair, makeup, clothes, etc. but we all traveled with one carryon suitcase and one back pack. Daughter now lives in NYC and she travels a lot; with a carryon only. There are plenty of videos out there to help you travel in this manner— multitasking tops and bottoms, limit to 3 pairs of shoes (with the heaviest being on your feet on the plane), packing with compression cubes, how to limit liquids and plan what you may need to just pick up at your destination, share amongst the family (my daughter and I plotted our liquids together and even put some in my husband and son’s 3-1-1 bags), and using your personal item as an extension of your carry on. I will also say when we rented a car, it was quite a Tetris to pack four people and our belongings in a European “mid-size” car. My daughter’s boyfriend and his family were sitting on their luggage in their rental car. We also travelled by Easy-Jet no problem, as well as by train and truly enjoyed it. It was also easy to negotiate major cities with limited luggage and was comforting to have it in the shelves above us during train travel.
In the end, choose your battles; it’s not worth a big fight before you leave the US, but make it clear they are responsible for all of their luggage, which includes hauling and stowing. The previous suggestion regarding the obstacle course is a great idea.

Posted by
6263 posts

Will anyone want to keep some space in their bags for souvenirs? Maybe new clothes/shoes?

Continue things from here by making a game of it … who can pack lightest? Get out the scale. Even if they’re not dumped in the middle of nowhere and forced to find their way home, have everybody - including Dad and Mom - do a trial packing, then walk around the neighborhood for a half hour, with luggage. Having to do some stairs would be a bonus, as well as ensuring everyone being able to get the bags into/out of an overhead plane compartment.

This is coming from 67 1/2 year old Rick Steves, but he’s fond of reminding people that nobody says, “I make sure I pack heavier with each trip.” He was a teenager on his first trip to Europe, and has gained some experience thru his mistakes, and is willing to share advice with others.

Posted by
720 posts

I have taken both teenage boys and girls to Europe with only carry on luggage. While none of them were thrilled with the requirement for carry on only luggage, after the trip, they certainly understood. The girls are now in the 20s and traveling on their own with carry on only.

The key areas of concern for the girls were having enough variety in their wardrobe for their Instagram and Tiktock videos and not having enough of their hair and makeup products and tools.

Some of the techniques that worked for us:

  • Have them research influencers their age that travel light, especially how to create a capsule wardrobe that is based on key pieces that can be dressed up with accessories.
  • Load share make-up, toiletries, and hair products. My husband was happy to give up his valuable 3:1:1 space for the girls.
  • Have them bring enough to get started and then take them shopping for product in the country you are visiting. It saves space and my girls loved make-up shopping in Italy.
  • Limit the shoes. Even at home, the girls live in sneakers and flip flops. They really didn't need five pairs of shoes. They wore their favorite sneakers on the plane and got to take their flip flops and one other light pair of shoes.
  • Have them carry and lift their luggage for a day. It really helped them understand what carrying the luggage meant.
  • Finally, if you are driving, luggage takes up a lot of space. Even if you were willing to check luggage, you might not be willing to rent a larger vehicle to transport the luggage.

Good luck.

Posted by
518 posts

You could try appealing to their wallets…if they bring more than carry-on they pay the cost of checking their bags!

Find videos of street scenes where you are going so the can see what everyone is wearing. They might be surprised to discover Europeans enjoy jeans, t-shirts and sneakers just as much as they do. And they are even worn for dining out.

Mom could be helping the girls, leading by example with her own packing, and asking their thoughts on what she should take.

Hairdryers are not needed, everywhere I’ve stayed in Europe supplies dryers. If one is not available you can purchase them there quite cheaply..

Italy is shoe heaven, so the idea of the folding tote is good..

Posted by
8367 posts

When we took our teenage girls to Europe I had them divide their clothes into 2 piles. One must have and would like. I told them I had room in my suitcase for the would likes and just left them behind, oh well.

Barbara this is priceless !!

Posted by
32 posts

You gotta speak their language! There are lots of young and trendy people on TikTok who show how they pack for different European vacations with lots of stylish outfits in just one carryon or small suitcase (sorry love Rick but he is not known for style that speaks to teenage girls!)

Posted by
2031 posts

Some EXCELLENT advice in all these response posts!!!!

Love the trial-run of packing and going thru a bit of an obstacle course with their personally luggage/totes, etc. !!! Have prizes for all who successfully complete it. Keep the tone upbeat and fun.

Yep, they probably (if they even watched more than 3 seconds of the packing video) thought "Okay Boomer" when they saw Rick Steves. And, you have to realize that even though you are personally younger than Rick, you are still ancient and somewhat clueless in your daughters' eyes.

Love the idea of offering some space in your 3-in-one for critical must haves.

Maybe do a trial run week at home....have them each pack a carry-on and have them "live out of" that packed carry-on for the duration of what your trip would be. Major prizes (maybe trip spending money) for those who are successful.

Have any of their friends done similar did they "survive"?

Above all: You want to create happy memories.......instructional, yes....but happy memories. Afterall, these are the young ladies who someday may be driving you to medical appointments, making sure you have food, providing care, etc. The years do fly by. What you do/say and more importantly HOW you do/say will be the lasting memories of their upbringing. Do it with love. If the trip is supposed to be enjoyable, keep it that way. Have guidelines, help everyone understand WHY, and then travel with great joy. Things will happen..there might be some mishaps..there might be some disappointments, but the key thing is the life-long learning experience. Do you want them to remember your barking (or texting), "I told you so." or do you want to remember the fabulous trip dad organized (and without your reminding them, what they might do differently on the next trip)?

Agree: Use influencers in their demographic group to avoid the eye rolls. If they had sent you a video (with no warning) by a 15-year old, would you have rolled your eyes or watched more than 3 seconds?

Along the have-some-fun, try to find the old comic of the really heavy guy getting off a plane, and then as he pulls of layers of clothing, we see he is super skinny. Point being, nothing says they cannot wear multiple shirts on the plane...or an extra jacket that can be then stuck in a pillow case for an extra pillow on board.

Also "ask" about sun protection as you tour...sunglasses and the (dreaded) hat, which will translate into "hat hair" for the rest of the day (a teenage girl's worst fear). So, maybe having each find the fun hat or two that they will "live in" during the day...or the scrunchies instead of wearing their hair down. A tthat age it is "all about the photos" they will post. Again, trial weeks at home.

We will all await your trip report (and hopefully your daughters will post theirs (maybe one group-effort one, too).

Posted by
297 posts

I am a RS fan from way back and am certainly long past those teen years of having the need to impress. While I agree with the RS philosophy in theory, I do tweak it to suit my needs. I think the main consideration is to travel with someone of like thoughts in travel. On our first international trip I know that I had overpacked and it did teach me to be more realistic about just what my needs are. On a subsequent trip I fully embraced the carry on only idea and purchased a new bag that would facilitate that philosophy. Although I feel that the bag I purchased was the culprit, I was miserable. Obviously I had less with me, but I also was unable to find things as they all fell to the bottom of the top to down style, and everything looked as it was thrown in a heap because it was. While I have pared it down considerably, I am not appalled by the thought of checking a bag. We may have just been lucky, but have only had the issue of a lost bag once. We were getting quite nervous as the time to leave our pre tour time in Berlin to join our RS tour and actually went back to the airport and located it the night before we were to leave. While it was a hassle, it worked out. It did teach us to have essentials for a couple of days in our carry on. And I have since replaced that difficult carry on with one that is very efficient and manageable. My sister and I are travel partners and we are of the same thoughts. I think that this is the most important---To check or not to check, you have to be on the same page.

Posted by
7509 posts

chrisstipp, please come back and report on what happens with your trip when you get back.

Posted by
156 posts

I agree with the previous poster who recommended Sarah Murdoch's videos. For one thing she does not recommend taking only one pair of shoes but shoes how to pack them and which to chose. Her packing tips including weighing your clothes was a real game changer for me. Because of her ideas my 21 inch roller was less than 16 lbs for European airline requirements for carry on and it was for a 3 week trip.

Posted by
378 posts

Three teenage, good luck. All kidding aside, first step is to get your wife on your side and be supportive, hopefully she's bought-in with packing light. Your girls may blow off your ideas but, sometimes the other parent, can be the voice of reason by simply echoing the parental intent but, in a different way/voice, that they'll listen to, and consider.

Being that your girls are teenagers, peer pressure and fitting-in are big parts to their identity so, showing them anything RS and associated is going to be quickly blown-off as 'old people stuff'. Kids today are heavily tuned into to social media so, you'll need to leverage those popular platforms and show them similarly aged 'influencers' who are traveling and how they do it. There's not a lot of teens but, there's a huge amount of twenty-somethings getting out there.

Elena Taber is a model, on-trend and should get some attention, she puts out some very high quality videos

If attractive guys are what's needed, Vaga Brothers have settled-down in their respective relationships but, they also have some relevant content

Nadine does a pretty good job of keeping things simple and not super wordy

Lexie traveled to every country in the world before age-21.... stylish, practical and attractive she's quite dial'd

Posted by
111 posts

Are checked bags included in your airline ticket? If not, tell the daughters that they can bring that large suitcase, but that they need to pay the bag fee themselves. Or maybe you’ll give anyone who doesn’t check a bag that amount as bonus spending money during the trip?

But whosoever brings that big bag is solely responsible for carrying it around. If they don’t decide to pack light, it might be interesting to them them do a ‘post-mortem’ at the end of the trip to see what was actually used or not. They may find it illuminating.

Posted by
3636 posts

You wrote that your daughters’ insistence on large luggage will be a dealbreaker for them. If this is true, then that makes this whole situation very EASY.

Put the suitcase you and/or your wife have chosen for each daughter on her bed and say this is your bag. If any of them balks, that person stays home. Done!

I remember being taken to Europe for the first time when I was 12 (Germany, Austria, Italy) and my mother simply put the suitcase on the bed for me to use. I was absolutely grateful that my parents were taking us (3 kids total). It would never occur to me to tell HER how I’m going to pack.

My mother also told me that I am responsible for my own bag so I need to be able to carry it up steps for example. So I practiced like others here have suggested.

Posted by
6 posts

I’ve rejoined the packing light and carryon crowd, a reformed packer. In my first trips to Europe, I traveled with my elderly aunt and had to manage my luggage and hers on and off the plane, in and out of the car, airport and each B and B we stayed in the 14-21 days we stayed during the summers. Amazingly, I packed enough for three weeks in a small carryon soft side and we never did laundromat runs, only some minor sink laundry. Fast forward 20 years and my husband and I began to seriously travel. I felt upgrading to 2- 29” wheeled bags plus carryons for us both was just right. No, just wrong. We wore one third of the clothes and never looked at the others! Fast forward another 15 years and we’ve now traveled on the Best of Eastern Europe in 15 days. Small personal item and a RS carryon. Our bags were weighed and measured at every airport, scrutinized and re-evaluated. Just like Rick says in his talks, “Be the first one past customs and out of the airport and on your way to your destination before the bags on the carousel even begin”. And we were. Best advice ever. The carryon and personal item saved us time, aggravation, waiting and possible lost bags. We had our bags in hand when our connecting flight was late and we were able to run with our bags from a bus on the tarmac to the gate at the opposite end of the airport. We always had clean clothes, had fun and made the start of each day easy because re-packing was never an issue. Btw, unpacking and laundry back home was simple. Less is more on a trip, particularly with flights as they are. And no one will ever see you again! Good luck, this will be a challenge convincing your daughters. If possible, limit the options of the size of the suitcases and educate with pictures from last summer with acres of undelivered and lost luggage. Be honest about the limits of the size of the trunk of the car you’ll have or what limits will be imposed on public transportation.

Posted by
1759 posts

If you feel they could not handle their own larger bags, then be the parent and set the rules. It might be a bit of a fight, but in the end I bet they have a great time on the trip. Sometimes kids don’t need to win the argument, nor should parents worry about saying no to the kitchen sink.

Posted by
866 posts


What are the ages of the girls? Does your wife share your light-packing philosophy or is she also with the kids?

Posted by
9546 posts

There are five of us (two adults, one 20-year-old, one 17-year-old, and one 13-year-old) and the kids have never been to Europe.

From another of OP's posts.

I think the earlier posts suggesting a "test drive" have great merit.

Posted by
866 posts

If it were me, I would also consider other factors than just the carry-on philosophy. Dealing with 5 carry-on bags plus 5 backpacks may actually be more difficult than say 2 large check-in bags plus 5 backpacks. You are the sole guy. Reality is that finding overhead air cabin space and lifting will probably fall literally on your shoulders. Depending on the size of a hotel rooms, I sometimes find one large case takes up less space and is less inconvenient than two carry-ons, let alone three with your daughters. Also, I have now read your other posts and see you intend to rent a vehicle for part of your trip. Five people and depending on the number of pieces and size of luggage will have big impact on the size and cost of vehicle you will need. Transporting 2 big bags is usually easier than 5 little ones (and don't forget the backpacks). Good luck.

Posted by
291 posts

Oh my lordy! I read the post to my husband and he laughed! We went to Greece last summer with the gamut of public transportation: planes, trains, busses, autos, and ferry's. No way could we have done that with large luggage!

But, I understand the angst of the teenage girl, wanting to look cute at all times. Maybe bargain with them to purchase some clothing overseas and they'll need space in their luggage to bring it all home. I second the ideas of having them search out travel blogs by young women-there are MANY out there, including this one (fairly famous) by Travel Fashion Girl, and doing a practice run of packing, dropping them off an hour a way with return restrictions.

Once they get to Europe, they will quickly see that really no one lugs arounds large luggage anymore. But, how to get them to see that ahead of time? Good luck!

Also, leave them home if need be. Adults deserve vacays without the kiddos!

Posted by
2332 posts

We all want to know how it's going with packing tips at your house?!
What's the latest with your girls and packing?

Posted by
16 posts

So very sorry for not checking in again, but, YES, they finally capitulated after watching Steve's packing video a few weeks ago.

Fast forward to last week, when we also finally settled on an itinerary:

2 1/2 Days Poland - (To see Auschwitz)
9 Days Switzerland - Staying at Hotel Alpina (We were thinking Grindelwald, but this strikes a nice balance of being a preferred Steve spot with there being a little bit of activity for the kiddos)

4 Days Munich - We were debating Berlin or Munich, and the proximity of Munich makes this a pretty easy choice.

I pulled the trigger on the plane tickets last week, and tomorrow, we get passports, so we're all-in... ;D

Posted by
9546 posts

....and tomorrow, we get passports..

Does that mean you have a delivery service tracking number showing that, or do you mean sending your application paperwork?

Posted by
16 posts

We have an appointment at our local post office to turn over paperwork for two of our kids (2 of us have valid passports) along with their passport photos.

Posted by
29659 posts

congratulations. Is that this summer (did I miss the dates?) so that clothes will be lighter?

Posted by
3607 posts

Glad your women are so smart to see the need for light packing.

Posted by
9546 posts

Family of 5 planning 17 day Europe trip. .and this ....turn over paperwork for two of our kids (2 of us have valid passports) along with their passport photos.

When I went to school 2+2=4

Did someone decide to stay home? Not really any of my business, but puzzled .

Have you seen the posts on passport renewal processing times? Runs 4-14 weeks.
Not sure what first time applications are running, but if you are traveling before June, paying extra for the 'go fast' service merits consideration

Posted by
16 posts

Ha, yes, two have valid passports, two need theirs, and I need to renew mine which I'm doing by mail and YES we're paying for the expedited service. (Seems criminal what they charge to get a passport...)

Posted by
16 posts

And, yes, they've agreed in theory to pack what Rick says. We'll see the closer we get to D-day but, for now, getting their buy-in is a win at this point. ;D

Posted by
12580 posts

They agreed to pack the "Rick" way after watching his video. Did you also suggest they watch packing videos from girls their own age? It will be more helpful in reality.

Posted by
16 posts

Actually, I did not know there were packing videos from kids their own age. Are they on Rick's channel or are they simply other people who have made packing videos?

Posted by
3540 posts

Not a packing video but in 2019 our then 14 and 17 year old granddaughters went on a summer, 3 week trip with us to warm Italy and France. Two weeks before we left the oldest asked if I’d send her a checkable packing list for their carryon and backpack contents. This is a link to what I sent and I think they pretty much took. It worked out great for their style of touring and a little shopping on the way.