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Is the 21”x14”x9” Rolling Carry-On really enough?

We took the RS Best of Europe in 14 days tour back in 2019 and made all the packing mistakes. We used big suitcases, we packed too much clothing, and we suffered the consequences. Now that we are ready to get back on the road we bought into the concept of bringing one 21”x14”x9” bag per person, so we purchased the RS rolling carry-on in that size. We have watched the video about the benefits of using this size of bag, and I admit in concept it would be great to be that couple who effortlessly glides through Europe without a care in the world… but… my wife isn’t convinced that this bag will work for her. She is not quite like the first class passengers on the Titanic who pack steamer trunk after steamer trunk, but she isn’t far from that and I’m having a heck of a time trying to convince her that we can do this.

Can anyone share experiences of having traveled for two or more weeks with nothing but a 21”x14”x9” bag? How did it work out for you?

Posted by
9993 posts

We have gone as long as 8 weeks even in winter with a bag that size for each of us plus a daypack. There are some concessions but doing without a few things and doing a little laundry along the way makes up for any inconvenience. I used to take a large-ish handbag as well, but I am increasingly doing without that, as well. Still, if a large purse helps your spouse embrace the rest of packing light, it can be helpful.

There are lots of lists on this site but here is my paired-down one:

  • Two pair of shoes only. Wear one and pack one. Forget dressy shoes. For a city trip, I bring a pair of athletic shoes for most day wear and a pair of black leather shoes that look OK when I want to feel more dressed but that I can still walk 2 or 3 miles in.
  • Three bottoms maximum. Hubby often makes it on two pair of pants.
  • Mix-and-match tops. I like a 4-5 nice t-shirts and a couple of cardigans or hoodies to layer for most seasons, maybe one dressy blouse.
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Minimal jewelry and, in my case, no makeup.
  • Learn to manage on small amounts of toiletries and refresh with things you buy as needed.
  • Use the hairdryer that is inevitably present in every hotel or B&B bathroom.
  • A small "kit" with ibuprofen, Benadryl, Imodium, a thermometer, a few bandages, and a good supply of wet wipes.
  • Keep electronics to a minimum. For me a phone and an iPad.

One of my mantras is to take only clothes I will wear at least three times in two weeks. No "just in case" items. Very occasionally I have bought something new along the way if one of my wardrobe items wasn't working as I had hoped. Do I get sick of my wardrobe? Yes, Especially after 6 or 8 weeks I want to burn everything, but for the ease of traveling lightly, I do it every year.

A note on the challenges of packing special items: We take trekking sticks as we go to the mountains a lot. We have to check the bags as a result, but we still pack light. For really long trips, a supply of medications can be daunting to pack. Downsize bottles, use Ziplocs, etc., to keep the bulkiness down.

Posted by
8412 posts

Wife and I easily did 4 weeks in Italy with that size bag, plus an airline 'personal' size bag.

Took less stuff on our 2nd trip.

There are very few places on the planet where washing clothes is not possible

Posted by
684 posts

I travel with a carry one roller bag for vacation and business. I have been successful in traveling with the carryon for as long as a month and across different timezones/weather. You will need to plan on doing laundry mid-way through the trip, but for me that hasn't been a problem.

I have travelled with friends who are like your wife. When we went to Europe together for 2 weeks, they didn't even own a carry-on roller bag. The biggest hurdles we needed to overcome in packing were clothing, make-up/hair products, and shoes. We eventually talked our friends into taking the carry on. Given that both of them had back and knee issues, they really appreciated traveling light after the fact.

Here are some of the suggestions that worked for our friends in their packing strategy:

  1. Make-up & hair products: since my friend was not going to go without her standard regime, we got travel-sized bottles (TSA approved) and put her products into those for the duration of the trip and then spread the transport of those across our group. She had enough products to get her through the trip without the extra weight. She had to leave behind the heated rollers and curling iron and we substituted a packable hat, headbands, and barrettes.
  2. Shoes: three pairs--comfortable walking shoes, (wore on the plane) comfortable walking sandals, and ballet flats. The ballet flats were her dress up shoes. She did use them and they are actually not that heavy.
  3. Clothing: this was the most difficult, but we eventually got her down to separates that could be dressed up with jewelry or a scarf.
  4. Packable duffle bag for souvenirs. I do this all the time and then plot my souvenir buying. If I find items I really like and don't want to ship, I have the duffle bag and then on the way home either check my luggage or the bag.

I would also have her trial her packaging strategy for a local trip. We did that with my friend and she found that she could live out of a carry-on suitcase for a long weekend trip and that gave her more confidence for our European vacation.

Finally, if you are a light traveler, you can always save extra room in your suitcase for her overflow.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
241 posts

The best packing advice (maybe it was here?!) that really made carry- on achievable for me was to pack as if for 1 week, regardless of trip duration. With that, you can either wear those items on repeat (what I now do) or do laundry if you're both ok with that, midway through. There are packing lists galore, including from RS. I find they don't work for me, though.
My spouse drags a 26" monster of a suitcase for any trip more than overnight. He cannot be convinced to change this and brings full-size bottles, multiple shoes, etc. Whereas for me, as other minimalist packers, I love the challenge! In the end she might just need to do what makes her happy and you "do you".
It was worth the $ to me, in my pre-Covid travel the world life, to sometimes use a hotel's laundry service for pants too bulky to hand wash, if she is willing to try the week's packing experiment.
Lastly, rethinking how the items work- my black "athleisure yoga" pants went from hiking to museums or a nice dinner- instead of needing a complete costume change- I lay it all out on the bed to figure this out. Edited to add, based on more comments/advice after I posted:
I can look really stylish and chic and not offend anyone with my BO and while maybe not look like "a million bucks" do it all with my black, white, gray and camel "capsule" and basic makeup. I have so far not attracted pickpockets and have frequently been asked directions by others at tourist sites! I wear a tiny pair of gold hoop earrings and simple gold chain (heirloom) and never take them off. I tuck the necklace under my tank top or sweater for hiking or more casual activities and when using public transport.
I dress this way anyway now in my regular life, too. As far as colder weather, there are many options for packable down or synthetic jackets. Mine, black, stuffs into its own pocket that fits in the bottom of my "personal item". It can double as a, albeit lumpy, pillow. The layers many have mentioned, with something like Smart Wool long underwear, work nicely. I have gone on two trips above the Arctic Circle and once to winter in Australia with the carry -on method. Another plus to cold- weather travel is you can really re-wear your chosen clothes, if you just wash out your underwear nightly. Merino can last quite a few days, I air it out inside out overnight. In Australia I wore the same pair of jeans for over a week, then retired them to the bottom of the suitcase.
Like others I take a fold up tote that is flat on the bottom when I start out. As I accumulate souvenirs for the journey home I pack those in the carry on and fill the tote with all the laundry- can also serve to protect liquid items. One very final suggestion, depending on the airport, is to look for gifts prior to the flight home- especially true for food items. Then you can use Duty Free services.
Finally, since you both have experienced a RS tour (I've done 4) you already know your fellow travelers will be friendly and low- maintenance (regardless of luggage size) and none of them will pay attention to your clothes nor are likely to "dress up" for dinner!
Really, if she has the slightest interest in trying this method the tour is a perfect opportunity.
Even pre- Covid, the other advantage was being able to be nimble if a flight was cancelled- my bag was with me.
Happy new year!

Posted by
763 posts

My bag is smaller. It's 14" x 13.3" x 9." https://www.samsonite.ca/luggage/underseat-luggage/samsonite-small-rolling-underseater/554761041.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9NaejumO9QIVQgPnCh20jACkEAQYASABEgLgI_D_BwE

I have made several ~3-week trips with it.

  1. Budapest-Vienna-Prague-Czesky Krumlov-Salzburg-Munich
  2. Lisbon-Madrid-Barcelona-Nice 3.Denmark-Bergen-Oslo-Edinburgh-Amesbury-Exeter
  3. Mainz and Namibia--with a different bag (without wheels), but it was just as small.
  4. Costa Rica--Arenal and Manuel Antonio
  5. Quito, Isla Isabela, Isla Santa Cruz, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Lima
  6. Amsterdam, Rome, Orvieto, Florence, Verona, Venice

This last trip I did in November, so my clothes were bulkier. I bought a U-shaped travel pillowcase, and carried two sweaters, a hat, and gloves in there.

Usually, I bring 3 pairs of pants (wearing one on the plane), one dress or skirt, 6 tops, a jacket, a rain jacket, a hat, sunglasses, an umbrella, several pair of socks and underwear (6-8), one or two bras, a camisole, a swimsuit, sometimes pj's of some type, flip flops, 2-3 pair of shoes, a big scarf, pit stick, a bit of makeup, wipes, insect repellent wipes, spare camera batteries and SD cards, a phone, an ipad, a bridge camera (some trips I also brought an underwater camera), a plug adaptor or two, charging cables, kleenex, prescriptions and OTC meds, bandaids, a mini sewing kit, laundry sheets, and, if we are staying in apartments, solid shampoo and conditioner. (My husband carries some of this in his backpack-style bag, and some of this will also be in my Travelon cross-body purse.) Of course, I'm wearing some of these items on the plane.

Oh, and this last trip, we each brought a supply of Kn95 masks.

I've been travelling this way since 2014, and I never, ever want to go back to struggling with large suitcases.

Posted by
359 posts

Four weeks in Ireland with a 21x14x9 and a small backpack each for my husband and me. Much good advice in this thread about how it can be done. The two things I would stress: roll the clothing and use packing cubes. If you haven’t already, look for Sarah Murdoch’s Packing Light and Right video on YouTube.

Posted by
493 posts

I have travelled with one bag that same size on multiple trips, even on a seven day cruise, and it seems that even with the limited clothes items I bring there is always something that does not get worn and in hindsight I wish I had left it behind. I wash underwear and other lightweight items as needed in the bathroom sink. I have gone to laundromats on occasion to do a bigger load. I dress casually and bring no fancy items. I pack as light as possible because I know that I have to carry my own suitcase up and down flights of steps and onto trains and busses and it needs to be manageable. I am not a big buyer of souvenirs. On my very first trip to Europe when I was in college, I brought a 26” hardsided Samsonite ( no wheels - back in the day before suitcases had wheels) to Spain and had to lug that heavy thing everywhere. That cured me!

Posted by
5516 posts

Rick Steves said in a video long ago that he used just one pair of shoes - well broken-in. That’s rough. As Laurel said, plan on 2 pairs, one dressier than the other.

Carry-ons have worked for the 2 of us now on the last several trips, from 2 to 5 weeks. However, we’ve also stayed several times at apartments that included a washer, and sometimes a dryer, too.

I’ve got an entire drawer of scarves - some are treasured souvenirs of trips - and bringing a couple lets me easily dress up on a trip, with minimal luggage space needed.

Posted by
10939 posts

Prior to the pandemic, I made three twelve week trips to Europe every year with just a carry on the size of your new bag and a backpack.

I pack five days of clothes and just do laundry more often. Most toiletries can be bought in Europe so no need to take extra.

I find the best thing to do is make a master packing list of everything you think you might need. (there are many packing lists on the internet.) Then go through your master list and for each item ask yourself if you really need to take it or if it is easily available should you need it. If you don't need to pack it, cross it off the list.

I also using packing cubes, envelopes and folders to keep me organized. It also allows me to take more should I want to as a well organized bag is easier to pack. Then you get to play a form of Tetris trying to figure out the best way to pack it all.

I admit, I am constantly changing my list as I find newer and better items to replace what I have.

It geets easier with practice.

Posted by
9493 posts

Wow…we all want to talk packing today!

I’ll say the thing that will help her is getting her head wrapped around the concept of a capsule wardrobe. Every top goes with every bottom goes with every completer piece (cardigan or other long sleeve topper unless you are traveling midsummer!).

The best example to me is a blog called www.theviviennefiles.com Although many of the clothing choices are too dressy for my N. Idaho lifestyle as well as being more expensive than I would pay, it’s instructive to see her weave wardrobes based on scarves, paintings, outdoor scenes, etc.

Once she can see how this works she can “shop in her closet” to see what would work for packing in a small suitcase.

Did you all by any chance do packing lists for your 2019 trip? It’s instructive to revisit those and see what did not get worn or was only worn once and delete those from future trips.

I’ll add I’ve gone from 4-8 weeks with my 21” bag. Here is a link to my Trip Report from Sept/Oct for 4 weeks in France. I have a section on my capsule wardrobe. It’s the same clothing I took prepandemic as well. The color combo of black/white/cobalt/aqua suits me.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/trip-report-9-21-10-24-paris-road-scholar-tour-of-sw-france-paris-lol

I recommend trial packing several times before you go!

Posted by
3209 posts

OK, let me be the contrarian. Yes, of course limiting yourself to carryon only is entirely possible. As has been evidenced by the previous posts. DH and I have also done this on several occasions. But this is NOT how I prefer to travel, and am much happier when I can bring a 24" and just check the thing when flying. I can still manage it just fine by myself when travelling by train.

So my suggestion would be to have your wife try it out for one trip. If she's miserable, then agree to the use of a slightly larger suitcase, like a 24".

Posted by
8263 posts

Black. I take several pairs of black pants, shoes, different weight jackets, but change the look with different colored tees, sweaters, scarves. All items that pack flat, no heavy jeans. I'm not going to coordinate several colors on a trip.

Posted by
565 posts

We have used this bag for years and always do carryon only. Our daughter used one of these bags, plus her daypack, for when she did a study abroad semester in France even.

The longest I have been away is 3 weeks, and we did that one winter with these bags. Very easy, IMO.

When we took my mom to France one time, she bought this bag and wanted to try carryon only. My daughter and I were at her place and packing our bags, and mom was too. I went to check on her and she was stumped because the suitcase was open, but her stuff was piled so high it never would have fit. I took a look and we got it all pared down. The biggest thing for her was that she had not put medications into ziplock bags, and instead they were all in original containers. She also had clothing that was just more bulky than what she truly needed, and we pared down her shoes to 2 total. She was amazed at how she could still travel and look nice without having to take so much stuff.

Posted by
9493 posts

I’ll add that I check my bag. I usually have a few hours layover at a hub and it’s just a PIA to keep track of it as a solo traveler.

Posted by
306 posts

It is absolutely enough. I have traveled more than one and for 30 to 45 days with only a 20x14x9 "international" size bag that I keep at 17 pounds outbound.

You can do this too for however long you travel because:
1) You can buy consumables in Europe; toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc.
2) You can take a very limited wardrobe because no one cares what you are wearing. (Unless it smells, so buy wool...it is antimicrobial so you can wear an item 2 or even 3 times before washing.)
3) You can hand wash clothing...or go to a laundromat, or have your hotel do your washing, or rent an apartment with a washer.
4) You only the need 2 pairs of shoes: the heaviest ones you will wear whenever you are on the move with your luggage.
5) If you forgot something, there will be a store for you.
6) You can limit your electronics to a smart phone...no tablet, notebook or laptop is necessary.
7) if you are taking paper travel guides, you can rip it apart and take only the parts you need. And you can toss those as you travel. (Take photos of any pages you want to save for reference.)
8) back to # 2...you can use weatherspark.com to check temp, humidity, rain/snow sunset/rise data for averages and specific years for nearly any location on earth. This will guide you in your wardrobe choices.

If you take only a carry-on bag you will not worry about losing your luggage in transit and can more easily move about while traveling.

You will feel so free!

Posted by
5467 posts

I wouldn’t dream of it - I don’t want to spend half the trip thinking about laundry. I always check a bag unless doing a short city break. It means we can take cameras, binoculars and electronics in the hand luggage and clothing and footwear and liquids in the checked bag.

I use EasyJet as my default airline within Europe and their cabin baggage size is 18 x 14.4 x 8.

Posted by
341 posts

If your wife can’t be convinced that she doesn’t need to look like a million bucks (or Euro equivalent) most of the time you are never going to get her to pare down to a carry on suitcase. Some women just don’t have the mindset to throw on some lipstick and go. It’s almost impossible to fight against that strong a current, so let it go if you can.

Posted by
21 posts

These are all great responses. Thank you. I agree with all that has been said. The issue is one of discipline and attitude adjustment. My wife has always traveled with a full array of outfits, shoes, makeup, purses, etc. But those where different kinds of trips where her bags were transported for her. As you know, the European tours we are talking about are completely different. When we found ourselves in Beaune, France back in 2019 lugging 26” bags up a tiny spiral staircase to our third floor hotel room it almost put me in traction! Lol. I knew then that things had to change if we want to continue taking these tours… and we do. I am going to have her read every post so she can get some different and positive perspectives on minimizing her packing routine. Keep the good advise coming. The back you save may be my own!

Posted by
4938 posts

My packing list is very similar to Laurel's. I carry an Appenzell backpack: 18"x13"x6.5". My husband's bag is slightly smaller, and he takes more clothes than I do! Although on our last trip to Europe - back to back RS tours in 2019 - he allowed as how he brought too many shirts. Our longest European trip packing like this has been about 4 1/2 weeks; in 2022 we're planning almost 7 weeks.

This is definitely doable; many of us on this Forum pack like this, even folks who check their bags. And once you've done it, I suspect you'll never go back to the bigger bags. Oh, and we have had tourmates who did, indeed, look like fashion plates. Carefully planned mix-and-match will save lots of suitcase or backpack room.

Using packing cubes or 2-gallon freezer baggies to compress and/or organize also helps.

Posted by
1499 posts

I have RS rolling carryon and had no problem on the 21 day BOE. I travel when weather is warmer so I wear a sweater on the plane and take a windbreaker just in case there are cooler days and a very small umbrella. I take two weeks worth of underwear as they are very thin and take up no room. I take one thin pair of slacks, four or five thin skirts and five thin shirts. I wear something different each day and all mix and match well. My skirts and shirts dry easily and don’t require ironing. I wear the skirts at least 3-4 times before washing. My shirts require more washing if it’s hot but I can usually wear them twice, maybe three times each.
I do my own laundry when needed and I send out on the days laundry is offered on the tour.
I wear enclosed shoes on the plane and pack one pair of sandals, one hat and travel sized toiletries.
I have a bag that fits over the bag handle and that contains reading material, liquids, meds, and my purse when boarding the plane. My iPhone is my camera and computer. The tablet stays home. The make up stays home except lipstick and mascara.
I don’t buy souvenirs. Been there, done that!
I can lift the bag into the overhead. I’m 73.
It can be done.

Posted by
3244 posts

Our experience is similar to Laurel & Joe. We have spent a month in Europe and have used a similar bag (Travelpro). I have taken numerous packing classes over the years & learned early on to pack light (under 20 lbs). We carry on a personal light weight bag and check our luggage. We have never regretted packing light. We do hand washing and send out laundry as needed.

Posted by
781 posts

Before you get too carried away, measure the bag. We recently entertained a thread here on the forum about oe of the RS rollers that is described in the shop as 21x14x9 but the bag that was delivered to the OP was actually only about 18x13x8. It was pictured fitting inside her previous bag which was truly 21x14x9.

The rewards of packing light are less stuff to keep track of and all your stuff is always with you. But going light is not for everyone. Problem is, you won't know till you try it. As several wags have said, hardly anyone ever comes back from an RS trip saying "I wish I had taken more stuff!" Once we've tried going light, most of us never go back.

There are literally hundreds of websites and yootoob channels dedicated to traveling with only the minimum gear to keep you warm, dry, and secure. It is not difficult, it presents no hardships, and requires no new equipment or clothing -- although you can go completely nuts replacing everything with expensive things. I come from ultralight backpacking and bicycle touring, so packing light for international travel was a natural extension of methods I already knew.

You can research light packing on the web for days but never really get comfortable with the idea. A great way to test your system is to pack up your kit and go for a multi-day road trip. Be sure to include what you'd wear onto the plane and your personal item's contents. Do your laundry at least once in the sink, shower, or laundromat.

When you get home, evaluate your system, compare it against those of experienced ultralight road warriors, find some duplicates, make a list of things you can buy on the other end instead of carrying.

Posted by
7 posts

I am a fairly recent convert to travelling with only carryon and I love it! I agree with most of the suggestions already made - but have my favorite packing technique to add. All of my larger clothing items (pants, jacket, dress, sweaters) lie on top of each other and are folded in one larger bundle. This works so well as it keeps everything wrinkle free, and is a super quick way to pack and unpack without having to roll or fold individual items. I also use two travel cubes to keep small clothing items and toiletries organized. As a former traveller who used to bring the largest suitcase possible to make sure I had everything I might need, I’m still amazed at how I was able to comfortably travel around Australia for 3 months and another time to Spain for 5 weeks with only carryon.

Posted by
1571 posts

My best packing trip ever was two weeks to Greece in May. I took one pair of black knit pants, one pair of jeans, black shorts, one print skirt in black, pale green and lavender, one black pencil skirt, a pale green sweater set, a lightweight black cardigan, black and white striped shirt and a black knit tee with pink, green, yellow and lavender polka dots, plain black tee and pink with black polka dots short sleeved shirt, ballet flats and sneakers and a swimsuit. All items were synthetic (except the jeans) and sink washed and dried overnight. I could mix and match almost everything. As you can see, I had 14 items of clothing and two pairs of shoes. Skirts were my friend. It can be done. You can look stylish, look like you have multiple outfits and still pack light. Check out “the vivienne files” blog for ideas on mixing and matching.

Posted by
13391 posts

CJean, so you don't feel left out; first I determine what I need then I pack that into the most efficient bag size. Sometimes, most often, that results in some sort of carry on option but not always. But I don't have the travel experience of most of these guys here.

And check the European airlines as many allow a slightly larger bag BUT, many then do have a weight limit that makes tough to fill a carryon unless you move all the heavy stuff to a personal bag.

Good Luck

Posted by
1735 posts

Yes. My husband and I have been traveling since 2000 with Eagle Creek backpack suitcases bought that year. Our longest trip was six weeks and it was no problem. I was 75 on our last trip (2019) and still had no trouble with the backpack. (I realize I am very lucky in having no back or knee problems so far). I limit my bag to 17 pounds when I leave home (3.5 pounds is the weight of the bag).

Posted by
509 posts

I ask because for me it’s not my clothing and shoes, but all those ‘things’ I need to pack from prescription meds to extra eye wear and so on.

Posted by
760 posts

She can do it! You touched on the importance of attitude and mindset. If your wife can be comfortable with wearing outfits more than once, washing the clothes (sink or otherwise) during the trip and recognize that she is not auditioning to be the next face of Dior, she can manage with a 21" bag. I travel with a 19.3H X 13.8W X 8D backpack. My last international trip was 3 weeks and 2 countries which included Michelin starred restaurants and hiking in boggy, windy, chilly terrain. Everything does double duty - silk tanks can be dressed up for "fine dining" and provide warmth when out on the windswept moors. Shoes are comfortable and low heeled. Wardrobe choices mix and match and are of the same color pallet.

Posted by
763 posts

I'm not sure how much my suitcase weighs, Diane. It is never too heavy for me to hoist into an overhead bin or carry up flights of stairs, but it's a bit of a challenge to do so. So, I'm thinking around 20 pounds fully packed.

Posted by
4938 posts

Several people have asked about or mentioned weight. My Appenzell, fully loaded, weighs about 13 - 14 lbs. My husband's bag comes in at about 11, but his "personal item" is bigger than mine, and weighs more. We each end up at close to 18 - 20 lbs total.

I mentioned some of our fellow travelers looking like fashion plates. On our first RS tour, in 2009, one of our travelmates looked amazing, with carefully coordinated suits, scarves, and jewelry. She did NOT travel light. But on several trips since, we had ladies who always wore something eye-catching, but managed to mix up the elements (see Pam's post above about "capsule wardrobes") so effectively that they always looked freshly clad.

And on our 2018 Best of Europe tour, the "fashion plate" was a guy! Marvelling at his new daily outfits became part of the fun of the trip. And I think he just had a smallish roller bag, and something like a messenger bag as his personal item.

Posted by
60 posts

I have also become a believer in carryon only travel. I find it freeing not to be worried about all of my luggage and “stuff” while on the move. I think the more stops/different hotels you have, the easier it will be with smaller luggage. The times that I have traveled with a large suitcase, I’ve ended up coming home with many items that were never used/worn and it seemed like a waste of time and energy to drag it all around.

My husband and I have been using the RS Travel backpacks since we took a RS tour (also 14 day Best of Europe) a few years ago and we haven’t looked back. I’ve found the packing cubes really help a lot to keeps things organized and consolidated, and they seem to save space. In my opinion, you need to be willing to do a little laundry for this to work. I don’t mind taking an hour or so out of my vacation every 6-7 days to do a load of wash at a laundromat (I’m not one for rinsing things in the sink). It’s actually a good chance to observe local culture, read a book, or just sit and relax. Also, all of the clothes I take need to match each other and be machine washable and dry-able (no time to deal with delicates). Yes, you may have to be willing to go a little more casual, but that’s my normal style anyhow. And I honestly don’t think anyone cares what you wear while leisure traveling, as long as it’s clean and presentable.

In my “regular” life I’m not high maintenance when it comes to hair and makeup, and I’m willing to pare down even more when traveling. Perfectly fine with the hotel shampoo and hair dryer, and I can leave my mousse behind at home. One trick that worked for me was to use a travel sized bottle of product (moisturizer/cleanser, etc) for a week at home, to see how much I would actually need. It was a lot less than I thought! And if everything still won’t fit in the TSA approved ziploc bag, you can always do a little shopping when you arrive at your destination (they also use shampoo in Europe!). Also, looking for wipes or solids in certain products saves you on your liquids allowance too.

But light packing is just one way to operate, and it’s obviously not for everyone. To each his own travel style!

Posted by
15 posts

I second all of the above small bag packing tips. For the airport and plane I use a backpack so I can be hands free for pulling my RS bag which goes in the overhead.

Anything that I will need on the plane goes in the backpack. I always take a fleece in the backpack and wear it on the plane and for cool evenings. The little bag of cosmetics and creams plus medications go in the backpack as well. I have room for a book in there too.
Find those tiny little plastic jars for makeup items like moisturizer, night cream, etc. and
little squeeze bottles for shampoo, conditioner, hair gel. These little containers
sometimes come in their own plastic bag especially for travel at Walmart where the travel size products are found. The best set I found, a combination of jars and bottles was at Safeway for about 5 bucks. If your husband has room in his plastic liquid bag put couple of your things in his.
Fold your pants to fit in the zipper part of RS bag. Wear one, take two or maybe 3.
I pack my T-shirts in 1 or 2 gallon plastic bags and after wearing one I fold it nicely and put in a separate plastic bag to be worn again. Wash underwear and socks in the sink. I wash and husband wrings. Get 2 stretchy clotheslines from RS website.

Posted by
1400 posts

Let her pack as much as she likes with the provision that only she is carrying her bags.

Posted by
31 posts

I love the idea of packing light. I'm not good at it, but I think it would be convenient. Seems to me, if your wife isn't into packing light and she is coerced to be against her will, it may not be a good trip for either of you. She needs to be who she is, despite what others think she should be. For my husband and I, our rule is you pack it you carry it. I travel with a large backpack I wear on my back, along with a smaller backpack and a purse which fits in the smaller backpack. That being said, my husband will sometimes offer to carry something for me out of the goodness of his heart. But I am capable of carrying it, but I think I'm slower. If I were going on a RS tour, I would leave the big pack under the bus and take in what I need each day. When we travel domestically by auto I only take into hotels the clothing, books, etc. I need for the next day. You will need to work this out as a couple. I hope whatever you decide you have a fantastic trip. Happy planning!

Posted by
7456 posts

Yes, it is enough! We have traveled most years to Europe for a month but also twice for six weeks to Europe and also six weeks in Asia. Doing laundry makes it possible. And we always carried on.
When we arrived at our hotel in Milan, the staff kept saying they couldn’t believe we were from the USA as we
were traveling like Europeans! Do it once and don’t look back!

Posted by
40 posts

Yes, that size bag is plenty. My wife and have used that bag on over a dozen 3 week European trips. Beyond the airline carryon benefit, we simply don't want to lug around a larger bag on trains, buses or other forms of transportation between points of lodging. Learning to live with that size bag is part of the trip planning experience. Plus, I always come home thinking I could have packed even less!

Posted by
143 posts

For my first RS trip (Best of Europe in 21 Days) in 2008 I brought two large suitcases because I was remaining in Europe for an additional three weeks post tour. I learned quickly that it was too much. On successive trips (18 tours later) I pack just a carryon and a personal item (day pack size). Over the years I perfected packing and I’ve toured 8 weeks encountering varying types of weather with simply a carryon. Most importantly I continued to evaluate what was needed, what was used, and what was simply excess weight and made adjustments. Initially I washed clothes in the hotel room. Now, I plan inexpensive and efficient drop-off laundry service (wash, dry and fold) and pack accordingly. The guidebooks sometimes provide laundry options. It is critical to choose what is most comfortable for you. An enjoyable tour includes packing what’s necessary and comfortable for you,

Posted by
3658 posts

I've traveled with carry-on bags exclusively for over 10 years and only checked them when I was required to do so or more rarely if the flight was nonstop. It's worked fine for me for both domestic and European trips, as it did for my first trip to Europe in 1977-78 which was 4 months long.

Over time I've progressed down in size and empty weight to the three 2-wheeled bags I have today:

  1. An expandable 5.5 pound (41-45 liters interior) Eagle Creek 2-wheeled Load Warrior. I last used this for a 4+ week trip to Italy in 2017 which included the RS Village Italy tour.

  2. An expandable 4.5 pound (36-39 liters interior) Eagle Creek 2-wheeled International carry-on. I most recently used this bag for a 5-week trip in the summer of 2019 which included the RS Portugal and Spain tours back-to-back.

  3. A new non-expandable 4.5 pound (38 liters interior) Osprey 2-wheeled Global Carry-On which is shaped like most European bags (19.5x16x8 inches). I haven't used this bag yet, but I'd like to take it on my Covid-willing, tentative 5-week trip to Ireland and Wales in the summer.

I also pack for a week, no matter how long the trip is. Coordination and layering are essential for that. I hate doing sink laundry, but will do it to keep the number of garments to a minimum. I love doing laundry myself in a European laundromat. Whether I meet locals or other travelers, it's always fun.

I usually plan my travel clothes around a scarf, which can substitute for a bib. 😁 It's much easier to wash a scarf in the sink and have it dry by morning than to do the same with a top.

I'm not a fan of a severely limited color palette, but even that can work with the right scarf to spark things up.

My basic clothes for any trip include: 3 pairs of pants, 8 total tops, pajamas (long underwear can double for those), 3 bras, 8 panties, 2 shapewear tanks and 3 pairs of Sockwell moderate compression socks. If needed, I add a fleece and/or a packable puffer jacket, a packable rain jacket, a pair of light fleece gloves and a warm hat.

I try to wear the tops and pants 3 times before washing them. The other items get washed more frequently. But everything must be lightweight, washable and dry overnight in case I can't get to a laundromat in a timely manner.

As for street shoes, two pairs are plenty. On my feet 90% of the time are a pair of lace-up breathable waterproof ankle boots. I always take, but rarely wear, a pair of comfy flats. And after some slippery shower floors, I take a pair of non-slip shower shoes.

Without what I'm wearing at the moment, I can pack everything I need in any of the bags listed above, especially if I use compression cubes to get the air out. I weigh everything individually on my kitchen scale, then each packed cube on it and finally the fully packed bag with a luggage scale. If the bag weighs more than 22 pounds, or whatever my airline allows, I take stuff out until it doesn't. This is where having an empty bag weight below 5 pounds is a real help.

I find it fun to develop the optimum combinations of grab and go outfits so that I don't have to dawdle around deciding what to wear.

Posted by
152 posts

I pack similarly to BB. I have several suitcases, all of which are smaller than 21x14x9. The largest is 20x14x8, with wheels. I don't like to be separated from my things and since we must fly regional airlines to get to international departure airports we follow those carry-on guidelines. I tend to follow the 5-4-3-2-1 packing rule, and even then I have things I don't use. My bags have never been checked for size, but have been checked for weight. I learned my lesson at O'Hare checking in for a Lufthansa flight to Frankfort, when I had to repack/redistribute everything.Consequently, my personal item is usually pretty heavy as I put guidebooks, etc. in it.
I don't think I could manage a larger bag.

Posted by
3140 posts

I usually travel with only carry-on and personal item. I take Tide Sport to wash clothes in sink whenever I'm in a hotel for 2 nights. I buy clothes that dry quickly. I have shampoo soap and stick foundation so they don't take up space in my clear liquid bag. I do pack a small set of heated rollers. I wear my rain jacket and i do have the one with lots of pockets. Since I'm not working, no computer. No large camera. Wear largest/heaviest shoes on plane. I am constantly looking for new items that make this packing easier-merino wool sweaters are great for all kinds of weather. I got some at Uniglo at good prices. I like Rohan pants-one pair is lined. I am a big fan of flannel-lined pants-they're not too hot in moderate temperatures. Bean makes some but Rohan are quick-dry. I confess that I wear a regular shirt and leggings as pjs. Bring a fold-up bag for acquisitions on the trip and on the way home, put dirty clothes in it and check it.

Posted by
2678 posts

I don’t always do it, but I can. I make it a point to do so if my trip has lots of hotel changes by public transit.

Number 1 tip for anyone who wants to pack light but worries about fashion/matching/outfits is to make a big game of it and spend an hour or two trying every combination on. With jewelry and shoes. It’s a logic puzzle to find a small number of items that all work together to make cohesive outfits. Maybe you love that pink blouse but it only works with the wide leg jeans, but those don’t work with your walking shoes…instead of adding the jeans and extra shoes, replace the blouse with the green one that works with the other things you are bringing. And so forth.

Last minute packing doesn’t work, you need to plan it well. I’ll lay out about 30 items, try them on in outfits and get it down to about 10…

My “rule” is 10 clothing items (pants/shirts/dresses, not counting swimsuit, coat, socks, underwear). So a summer trip might have 4 sundresses, 3 t-shirts, 1 lightweight pants, 1 shorts, 1 blouse. Fall might have 3 pants, 4 long sleeve tops, 1 sweater, 2 short sleeve tops. Every top matches every bottom, unless there’s a formal outfit in there.

2 pairs of shoes - comfortable shoes for all day walking and dressier but still comfortable shoes. We like to go out for a nice dinner then walk around the city. I’m not going to a fancy restaurant in sneakers, but I’m not walking for miles in spike heels. Some sort of middle ground is necessary.
If it’s a beach trip, then I’ll add flip flops for a third pair

The next issue is makeup/toiletries. Places like the container store sell small containers, and many will fit in one small bag. You will be surprised how little product you actually use in 2 weeks. Those 3.5oz “travel size” bottles are way too much of most things. Try it and see.
Makeup you can minimize with a plan. Maybe you can’t bring every color and palette you have, but picking a look and just bringing those products works.

Posted by
2678 posts

Oh! One more thing. Nix the “just in case” packing. You’re going to Europe, not foraging in the wilderness. If you aren’t sure you will need it, and it’s not life or death or very expensive, leave it home. IF it comes to it, you can buy it there or discover you can make do with something else.

Posted by
4341 posts

I’ve been to Europe more than 10 times on 3-week trips, and I’ve only taken a carry-on suitcase & small daypack-size bag as my personal item (purse inside it). The first time, we thought we were required. After that trip, we’ve never wanted to check a bag except domestically for my husband’s golf clubs.

I’ve tried the capsule wardrobe mix & match plan that many women like to do, but I didn’t like it. My favorite way for the last 5+ trips is to select outfits. Personally, I like it much better, and I like the color variety instead of one palette color. I also feel I look nicer in a dress, so 2-3 of my outfits are a dress. My first bit of advice is to have your wife pick 5 outfits out of her closet that would be her favorites for a trip. Analyze those for details - what about them makes them a favorite? I took that information over the years and now have favorite lightweight washable clothes that I enjoy wearing when I travel…and at home. I like one dress to be black, so it’s perfect for daytime or evening with a bold necklace & a few scarves in different colors. I bring 4 outfits total & an extra top, a black cardigan & black Columbia lightweight raincoat. One pair of extremely comfortable shoes; mine are the black Rose design Keen sandals. And a pair of lightweight black flats for evenings. It’s so easy to get ready in the morning because there aren’t a lot of decisions to make.

If a lot of the suitcase bulk is hair styling & makeup items, have her talk to her stylist to see what modifications they could make in hairstyle or products to reduce the amount of items & the time to get ready each morning. (I might get my eyebrows dyed before my next trip.). An example on size - I can easily fit more than 3 weeks of foundation liquid makeup in a tiny Clinique sample jar that’s the size of 4 quarters stacked.

And maybe it would help to add that I also used to travel often for work. As a professional, I needed to look nice, and I still only brought a carry-on suitcase. If it’s important to her, she definitely can do it.

Hope you have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
15 posts

The RS bag has a zip pocket on the front of it. It is handy to pack the rain jacket in there.
When you arrive at the airport and it's raining just take it out of there. I keep the jacket in there for the whole trip and just pull it out as needed. It's out of the way and handy.
The 16 pc. Travel Container Set from Good to Go at Safeway has very very small bottles and jars. A sampling is: Two- .5oz bottles, two- 1 oz bottles, one- 1oz Fliptop bottle,
one- 2 oz Fliptop bottle, two- .5oz jar, two- .33oz jar, ad so on, even a mini funnel and cream scoop.

Posted by
31 posts

I guess, I’m not a minimalist. I carry a dslr camera and there is no way I’d go to Europe without one. I always take a checked bag because I don’t normally go longer than 3 weeks so I’m not interested in doing laundry. I would do laundry if washer and dryer are in the room but I found at most European Airbnb’s they only have a washer so you have to hang dry your clothes and timing wise might not be possible, And finally where the heck do you pack olive oil to take home. I guess, I pick up too many liquid souvenirs to take home to do only a carry-on bag. Otherwise, it is possible if you aren’t like me 😊

Posted by
6508 posts

rcf026, you've got lots of good examples, but your critical observation is where it starts: ". . . The issue is one of discipline and attitude adjustment . . ." The mindset has to change to accept the facts that: nobody cares if you wear there same clothes multiple times; nobody cares if you wear the same clothes all day; nobody really enjoys carrying your large bag for you up six flights of stairs; and, Europe is a civilized place - you can find anything you must have, over there.

You likely witnessed people on your BOE tour that were successful at it, and they survived. Nothing inherently wrong with checking a bag, or even a big bag. And some people need bigger bags because they have bigger clothes. Its just the advantage in mobility from packing light that makes it worthwhile for many people. We plan our packing based on one week's worth of clothes, knowing that we will launder everything at least once a week, either by the hotel, a laundromat, or by hand. Its not a big deal. We pack only clothes, an absolute minimum of toiletries, no computers, hairdryers or irons, and no extra pairs of shoes. Our goal is to be comfortable, not fashionable, without looking like slobs. If you start with the idea that every day requires a new outfit, or more than one, then it wont work.
Oh, and we do pack an empty foldable duffle bag for souvenirs, like olive oil and wine, which gets checked on the way back.

Posted by
21 posts

No one has really addressed the issue of cold weather packing. That seems to be the most challenging to me. I get the layering concept, but what does your 21”x14”x9” list look like if the weather during the trip is projected to be in the 30’s and 40’s, or even 50’s? Before you hardy Mid-Westerners chime in please note we are warm weather types (Florida) and we consider the temps above to be very cold.

Posted by
8263 posts

I use a backpack in addition to the roll aboard and count it as a personal item.
Winter wools are squeezable, compressible in compression bags. I wear the heaviest, thickest clothes on the plane. In cold weather, I avoid synthetic but stick to wool for sweaters, socks, scarfs, gloves, shawls that can serve as blankets in a pinch.
Like Pam, I check my rollaboard, too. We have plane changes and layovers, so I don't like schelping it around.
Why would a Floridian go somewhere 30-degrees? ;-)

Posted by
15 posts

Been to Europe as late as November. You will be just fine. Take that nice rain jacket (Gortex is good). Wear a short sleeved Tee under a long sleeved Tee and put your fleece on and then the jacket. Put on a light weight scarf , not silk or polyester but maybe rayon and don't forget gloves. Some people like a hat or you can put the hood up on your jacket. Adjust layers according to the day. I always take a button up shirt to wear as a layer over a Tee instead of wearing two Tees. Comes in handy as a light wrap to keep a breeze off my arms if it's a warm day "but". I can fold it and roll it up and put it in my day bag which is a nylon purse which empty goes in the backpack/personal item for the plane.

Posted by
15 posts

Also, once you get to the destination and it tuns out to be warm enough without all the layers you can carry the fleece or sweaters in a separate nylon bag which you have rolled up and stuck in the corner of your luggage. It's easy to carry that extra bag when you move on so you don't have to try to pack the bulky items.

Posted by
21 posts

Why would a Floridian go somewhere where it is thirty degrees? Because it’s there!

Seriously, we were fortunate to retire early and sometimes the best prices and less crowded destinations are to be found during the cooler months when kids are in school and families don’t travel. We have some flexibility despite the fact we have to work around other family commitments, but in an effort to avoid the heavy travel months we will be traveling mostly during cooler months. Thus my question about packing for cooler weather.

Posted by
3209 posts

No one has really addressed the issue of cold weather packing

This is where the layering can actually work for you. You're much less likely to be sweating in cold weather ( unless you are into wilderness hiking or winter sports). That thin inner insulating layer is also helping to keep the outer layers clean. So you can wear them for more days before they need washing. (Barring accidentally spilling marinara sauce down the front of your shirt). And clothing doesn't have to be bulky to be warm. Silk thermals, merino or cashmere sweaters - these are quite thin, yet are warm. And you don't need a big poufy down jacket that makes you look like the Michelin man. Look for packable down jackets that squish down to next to nothing. I don't even pack my jacket- I just wear it onto the plane. Throw in a pair of gloves, a packable hat and a scarf and you're good to go.

Posted by
1210 posts

Wherever I travel and no matter for how long I only pack this size bag and only pack for a week. If you pack carefully, mix and match washable items you can sometimes go for more than 1 week without doing laundry. I sometimes check this bag and take Rick's Euro bag as a carryon (no rollaboard.) In that I carry meds, jewelry, documents, 1 outfit or at least an extra set of underwear, ie, all the things you absolutely have to have when you land. It has never been a problem and it is so freeing. I always wear my heaviest items and if I take more than one pair of shoes I wear the heaviest. I dress in layers and pack &/or wear a cashmere sweater or puffy vest for under my rain coat. I can move about quickly and never have to ask for help. I love it.

Posted by
4938 posts

No one has really addressed the issue of cold weather packing

As CJean said, this is where layering works. Some years ago we did back to back RS tours: Best of London in February, followed a few days later by Best of Sicily. London was cold and wet; Sicily was warm, sunny, and dry.

The only changes I made to my regular packing list was to add silk long underwear, and to waterproof my windbreaker. I already regularly packed a mix of long and short sleeved tops, as well as a fairly heavy cardigan. I found the silk underwear under a long sleeved top and the cardigan to be toasty, and on the more unpleasant days I added the windbreaker.

Oh, I did replace one pair of cotton/poly slacks with a slightly heavier pair of corduroy jeans. The cords seemed to me to be warmer than the slacks, but were still light enough for Sicily.

Posted by
4341 posts

Sorry, I didn’t see your request for addressing cold weather during my earlier reply. When we’ve traveled to Switzerland during a cold snap and ended in Rome during the same trip, I modified my packing list. I only brought one dress and the rest were long pants and a capri. I bought the cheap grocery store tights to wear under my pants in Switzerland and a 32-degree micro-warm top from Costco to wear under my shirt. I still just brought my cardigan and Columbia raincoat but added one long-sleeve warm t-shirt for the day we were hiking in the mountains. I also added a pair of gloves.

Posted by
306 posts

For this:

"But I am capable of carrying it, but I think I'm slower. If I were going on a RS tour, I would leave the big pack under the bus and take in what I need each day."

If anyone plans to do this, they may have to take both bags onto the bus and pack and unpack while in transit on some days. You will sometimes be dropped off on a street and need to walk to your hotel after a brief stop. You can ask your guide about each day's drop plan. However, if you rise early enough you could do your unpacking in the morning before the bus leaves on most days. You will get to know the driver well because each day the driver will have to retrieve and return your bag to undercarriage storage.

Packing cubes will be your friend if this is the way you go.

Posted by
372 posts

One thing that I might add, is to look at what your clothing is made of. A lot of people wear 100% cotton t-shirts. When those are rolled up, look at how big and bulky they are. If you are packing a t-shirt you might consider a cotton/modal blend or some polyester. I also pack some button-up blouses that are long sleeved and have been treated to be wrinkle resistant. They are also lightweight and don’t take up much room. I also bring cashmere cardigans as a 2nd or 3rd layer. Cashmere and merino are both lightweight, warm and take up little room.
I use Rick Steves smaller Rolling Backpack (20x14x7). I have never used it as a backpack, so in 2019 I cut the straps off and hopefully made it a little lighter. I used that and an average sized backpack for 4 weeks of travel. Layering is your best friend. Scarves can change the way an outfit looks from day to day. My other best friend is merino wool socks. They are warm when the weather is cold and cool when it hot outside. They last forever and they dry fairly quickly if you wring them out well when you hand-wash. I wear them year-round.

Posted by
8412 posts

Let her pack as much as she likes with the provision that only she is carrying her bags.

Fasteddie, are ypu trying to get OP killed?

Posted by
694 posts

We routinely check our small rolly-bags, with a change of clothes in our backpack for emergencies (spilled drinks on a long flight?)... The value in packing light above all to us (and there are many ways to do it) is to unburden yourself for the rest of the trip's logistics (Paris Subway?, Hotels without lifts/with broken lifts), longer walks from the station to the hotel, etc.).

Joe, Fast Eddie - I regret to say that IMO only personal experience provides lasting understanding... The couple in question will, of course, help each other as required.... BUT, until the wife has to cope with lifting and shifting her bag herself, and hauling it around the local park three or four times to simulate walking with a rolly bag from the station to a hotel (while her husband hauls his bag beside her) she may not fully appreciate the dilemma, or seek another solution.

Posted by
3658 posts

Y'all are concerned about packing for cold weather. Having lived in Texas the first 30 years of my life and now near Tucson for the past 17, I totally get your dilemma.

I do have some experience with traveling in cold, wet and baaaad weather. You don’t have to travel in the winter months to be cold in Europe.

You've received lots of good advice about packing and being prepared for that. I couldn't do what most people suggest because I can't wear wool. Period. Just the thought of the Cashmere and Merino that so many recommend says "hair shirt torture" to me. So I stick to fleece, blends, synthetics and thin Supima cotton, which by the way, dries very quickly.

One surprising exception is the Sockwell socks I mentioned in my earlier post. Somehow my feet, ankles and calves don't mind the typical blend of about 32% Merino Wool, 31% Rayon from Bamboo, 32% Stretch Nylon, 5% Spandex.

I much prefer synthetic fillers to down. Having lost a lot of weight over the past couple of years, I had to replace almost all my clothes. (Pobrecito, eh? 😉) During that process, I was very price fixated, shopping only sales and discounted items at Eddie Bauer and Land's End.

I was determined to be especially frugal in buying cold and wet weather clothing (which is needed rarely at home but always in the Pacific North West and usually when I'm in Europe). Someone on the forum mentioned Amazon Essentials. I took the bait and found a treasure trove for fleece and synthetic packable puffer jackets. I was most pleased that they had zippable outside pockets and deep inside ones. Something that the much-more-expensive-even-on-sale EB jackets I tried and returned lacked.

So I'm providing the links (embedded in the bolded names like Sockwell above) in case y'all might be interested. They are all for layering or outerwear jackets.

Amazon Essentials Fleece. I have 3 full zip hooded ones (in ivory, charcoal heather and purple) and 2 full zip plain ones (in yellow and black).

Hooded fleece.

Plain fleece.

I have 3 full zip lightweight puffer jackets including 2 hooded ones (dark yellow and olive) and 1 plain one (red).

Hooded puffer jacket.

Plain puffer jacket.

Having dissed Eddie Bauer, I must confess that I've been a customer for decades and do get so many garments from them that I get awards points.

Relevant to this discussion are rain jackets. Being a PNW company, EB does know rain.
Over the past couple of years, I've bought 3 to replace the 5 various brands and styles Goodwill got because they were all too big.

The Rainfoil Packable Jacket is the style I chose, but there are many other good options. I first got it in black and loden. Then, being a sucker for purple, in deep eggplant when that color appeared.

For my summer trip to Ireland and Wales, I will definitely take one of the rain jackets and one of the fleeces. Whether I take a puffer jacket or not will depend on weather predictions and other layering choices.

Posted by
480 posts

I am in Spain now, traveling for two weeks, with my RS rolling backpack (like Janet, I always roll mine, so I cut off the straps). I carry a Tom Bihn Maker’s Bag as my personal item (13.5x10x7 messenger bag).

For this trip, I packed for a range of temperatures from 30 to 75.

I have (including what I wore on the plane):
4 pair pants (2 leggings, one lightweight jean, one Duluth Flexpedition pants)
One skirt
5 long sleeve T shirts
1 long sleeve tunic button down shirt
3 short sleeve shirts
3 sweaters (2 merino, one cotton blend)
Undies
1 pr lightweight long johns that I use as jammie pants, and I use one of my Ts for sleeping
4 pr socks, all merino, crew and no-see (I can re-wear once before washing)
One pr fleece-lined tights
One pr regular tights
Tunic length heavy fleece (my outer layer when it’s cold)
Tunic length lightweight rain jacket (wear alone or over the heavy fleece)
1 pair Allbirds slip-on sneakers
1 pr tall boots (Teva waterproof)

This all fits in my suitcase or on me for traveling, along with all the other stuff (toiletries, electronic adapters, masks, covid tests 😳, etc, etc).

I can layer up or down to suit any temperature. I have plenty of extras, since our apartments have washers but no dryers, and I don’t want to do laundry every day. So we do a load every three or 4 days, and stuff has time to dry before I need it. I have been warm when I need to be warm and cool when it’s hot.

And I’m currently on a train that took no effort to board.

Posted by
2219 posts

I went to Australia and New Zealand for a month with the 21” carryon and Civita backpack. The temperature range was 40 to 105 degrees.

Cold weather is easy to pack for. You don’t sweat, so shirts can be worn multiple times. I wear the same fleece and outerwear every day. Those are the most bulky items, so I wear them on the plane. Then I pack 2-3 pairs of black leggings, 5-6 long sleeve t- shirts, a pair of pjs, 4-5 pairs of socks and undies. Rather than go to a laundromat, I wash occasionally in a sink. All the clothes are quick drying synthetics. These tend to be lighter and less bulky, which also helps.

For warmer weather I throw in a few t-shirts, 1-2 pairs of capris, and sandals.

One thing that helps is I don’t take dressy clothes. If you have to get dressed up to go somewhere, we don’t go there. I don’t take jewelry and take minimal makeup. The only electronics I bring are a phone, Kindle, and point and shoot camera. I think I’m going to drop the camera going forward. I forego a second pair of shoes on most trips.

I get tired of my clothes and I never look super fashionable, but who cares. I am there to have a wonderful experience, not impress people.

Posted by
781 posts

No one has really addressed the issue of cold weather packing. That seems to be the most challenging to me. I get the layering concept, but what does your 21”x14”x9” list look like if the weather during the trip is projected to be in the 30’s and 40’s, or even 50’s?

Nothing on my list changes. Lightweight packing is deceptively simple and practical. Decades of experience have left me with clothing that keeps me warm, dry, and secure in most weather. I am adequately equipped for wind, horizontal rain, light snow, sun, and heat. Sure, I'd be in trouble facing hours of 0C, but I cheerfully ignore that likelihood, figuring I can hang out in the bus or huddle in a pub.

You've got to do your own research and testing. Our stories here are prejudiced by our preferences and tolerance for discomfort and risk.

Posted by
21 posts

Some of you have mentioned that you take along a backpack with the carry-on roller to round out your light travel kit. I’m looking for a small one in the 13L range that can serve as additional packing space when in transit and as a light daypack at the destinations. Im looking at the Osprey Daylight which seems like a good one. Does anyone have a favorite they can suggest?

Osprey also has a 15 liter cinch pack and 20 liter tote pack in the daylite series. I would recommend either of these over the 13 liter pack, especially if you want to pack a windbreaker vest or jacket. 13 liters is small. The 20 liter bag has a trolley strap and can be slipped over your suitcase handle. 15 liters is good for strolling around town. Do you want a pack that has an organizer panel? What are your criteria?
If you have extra money to spend and desire USA made - there’s the Tom Bihn synapse 19 at 19 liters. There is also a 15 liter TB pack - I think it’s called illuminator(?).

I just looked at 13 liter daylite pack. It looks like a good daypack - just don’t expect it to hold much beyond what a large purse would hold and a rolled up light jacket. Do you need it to carry additional (over flow) clothing/items to supplement your suitcase? The 13 liter is truly a daypack. Not much room for overflow items. But, fine to wear around town and at the airport. It also has “water bottle” side pockets which increases its usefulness. (The 15 liter cinch pack does not.). Osprey has a video on it under the “daylite plus” pack listing which compares the two.

Posted by
1515 posts

To answer your last question about a packable backpack, I took this Eddie Bauer backpack to Italy. It worked good on the days I didn't want to carry a purse. My largish crossbody purse hurt my neck. For my September trip I am changing to an extra small purse similar to this Travelon. To save weight I changed from my 2 lb PacSafe tote to a now out of business RuMe cFold. It is almost identical to this Travelon packable tote, weighs less than 8 oz and has a trolley strap. My plan is to pack each of those inside of each other, plus my "normal" personal items. I'll see how that works when I do final test packs but I should easily be within United's personal item limitations.

Your wife can pack carryon only if she really wants to. Each of you make a packing list, edit it, edit it again and again. Test pack, test pack again and again. What starts out as a pile on the bed becomes a jigsaw puzzle to fit everything necessary into the suitcase. Use packing cubes. Weigh and measure the packed bag. Try again. First time I packed light for Europe, it took me about five attempts. I ended up weighing everything I took.

I'm enjoying everyone's ideas and suggestions for rcf026. I didn't think I could pack light but have managed quite well for several domestic trips and to Italy pre-covid and now enjoy the challenge. When I went to Ireland years ago, I took a very large suitcase, a carryon, a large camera bag in bygone days of film cameras, and a leather backpack for a purse; packing lesson learned.

I am putting together my packing list for September and aiming to cut 5 lbs for my previous Italy carry-on and personal item weight total. It is doable without cutting too many clothes, 6 days worth instead of 8, which now is 2 shirts (6) for each pair of leggings (3). My feet tell me 3 pair of shoes are non-negotiable. My packing list is similar to the the ones other people have noted. All the incidental things are what take up weight and bulk; some of those need substitutions or culls. Everything I take is sink washable. Forever New powder works good, but the individual packets are no longer available on Amazon. For me to lift my RS Rolling Carryon overhead, it has to weigh lessu than 20 lbs.

Posted by
21 posts

Sunbaked, You may be right about the Osprey 13L being a bit small. I saw and like the 15L. What I’m looking for is a daypack that will not be challenged as a personal item by the airlines, and that will fit nicely under the seat in front of me on the plane. It should be large enough to pack a few items that may not fit in my 21” roller and then at the destinations I can dump the packed items at the hotel and use the pack during tours for daily carry so it shouldn’t be too big either. Does that make sense? If, so do you feel the 15L fits the bill? Thanks!

By the way, I’m in Florida too enjoying the sunshine. My daughter heads back to Chicago this week. I don’t envy her one bit! 😂

Dear OP,
The RS appenzell (about 22-23 liters) fits under airplane seats when fully loaded and passes the frontier airline sizers. (Been there, done that - a few times). I have a Patagonia bag similar to the 20 liter osprey tote pack (just bought two of the osprey as gifts). My Patagonia bag passes the sizers and fits under seat when fully loaded with 3-4 days worth of clothes. By the way, the appenzell can hold about 3-4 days worth of clothes as well. So, anything in that 15 - 20 liter range should work as an under seat bag. Just keep in mind that the osprey tote pack may be slightly floppy as a daypack. Not much structure from what I can see in the photos. But, it will work. I will have to look at the video more closely.

You may wish to start a new thread on day packs as a separate question. Prepare for a deluge of responses from us pandemic social distancing loungers who are kind of bored.

Posted by
21 posts

Sunbaked, I thought about starting a new thread but figured we could take care of business here without all the fuss. Based on the responses so far I think all these frustrated travelers are doing a great job with their answers while they wait for normalcy. I hope soon they will be too busy traveling to bother! When that day comes I won’t mind a bit!

Posted by
111 posts

No one has really addressed the issue of cold weather packing. That
seems to be the most challenging to me. I get the layering concept,
but what does your 21”x14”x9” list look like if the weather during the
trip is projected to be in the 30’s and 40’s, or even 50’s? Before you
hardy Mid-Westerners chime in please note we are warm weather types
(Florida) and we consider the temps above to be very cold.

Prior to Covid, I did a three week trip to Europe that included a week long Norwegian Fjords cruise as well as a 19 day trip to Vancouver and Alaskan cruise and cruise tour. So not the coldest weather ever, but for a Californian, I was cold! Rather than heavy clothes, this is what helped to keep me warm:
waterproofing my shoes
having socks but also sock liners
using a neck gaiter (get microfiber)
wearing tights under my pants
wearing a camisole
using a pashmina
a pair of magic gloves (the kind that sell at Walmart or Target for a buck or two)

I didn't need these all the time, but with a puffy packable coat and the above, I wasn't cold. Keeping my hand and feet warm, as well as my neck (using the gaiter) and then wrapping the pashmina around my neck and over my head was really helpful, as were adding tights and the cami (I was more comfortable with a cami than a shirt)

I actually packed the jacket in an 8x10 nylon zipper bag and used it as a pillow on the flights. Everything else took very little space.

I would also recommend these sites for your wife to peruse. I should have added, I do all my traveling with a carry on (either a rolling Travel Pro or a backpack-I started with the Rick Steves one, but I am short, and found I preferred something slightly smaller and now use the Hynes 38 L bag from Amazon)

https://ladylighttravel.com/
https://herpackinglist.com/

Good Luck!

Posted by
3658 posts

Like horsewoofie, I had neck pain problems with a largish cross-body tote/purse. I recently switched to a small backpack purse. It's much better and I'd love to use it for my personal item on the plane, but at only 6.5 liters, it's way too small.

So next trip I'll stick to my typical very small cross-body purse. But I'll probably put that purse inside a backpack for getting through TSA and onto the plane.

I have the same Eddie Bauer 20 liter Stowaway backpack both horsewoofie and joe32F have. I also have the EB 25 liter Stowaway backpack. These backpacks are comfortable and each weighs only about 11 ounces.

Being the same about luggage as my husband is about tools, I have 2 more backpack options. One is the Rick Steves Appenzell that some have mentioned already. At 22 ounces, it's a bit heavy for a daypack.

And one is a rather oddly shaped, but very well designed and comfortable, 21 liter Rangeland Weekender. I used this for a recent domestic trip and was pleased at how easy it was to pack the kinds of things I'd put in my personal item, but it also is a bit too heavy (20 ounces) for a daypack.

Which backpack I take next trip will depend on what I need to put in it. But at about half the empty weight of the other two, one of the Eddie Bauer ones will probably be the most practical.

Lo,
That Rangeland bag looks like a good airplane under seat bag. I noticed that there are two different configurations for the interior. My only “issue” is that I don’t see this as an “around town” daypack. Good for flights and going to the office, but not so much as a day time, walk around pack.

Posted by
21 posts

I was keen on the Osprey day bags but thank you to those who pointed out the Eddie Bauer 20L. It looks like a good economic bag for packing a few additional items and then transitioning to a day bag during tours. Given the low price it is worth looking into.

Although it wasn’t the initial intention I like the fact that this thread has become one stop shopping for suggestions on a full light travel bag kit. Useful stuff.

Posted by
2879 posts

I always travel with a carryon sized bag even though I usually check it. What I pack is very similar to Pam. My personal item is a Sherpani along the lines of this. I have no idea of the liter size, but it holds a change of clothes (long cube) my electronics (iPad, phone, camera (Canon GX111, I think) chargers and back up battery, meds, liquids if checked bag, snacks, financials, paper docs. I like a bag like this because it is a backpack, tote, crossbody and also has that luggage strap for going over the handle. However, I use it as an add a bag for the lightness it creates with my wheeled bag so the tote handles are important to me in more ways than one. Also, while it is a good personal item and fits most airline size limits for same, it also works and looks nice walking around one's destination when a larger day bag is necessary or can work as a 'bus bag' on tour. Sherpani often has more colors than they have right now. Here's another Sherpani with the same features but less expensive.

For learning how to pack, I would also suggest Travel Tips by Laurie. While I pack lighter and smaller than she does, and dress slightly better (I'm sorry, tees with words, etc., just no), she is one of the few more mature women with regular packing videos who makes any sense. She is a pilot's wife so has to pack with a carryon and personal item only for her standby tickets. She takes makeup, so I think she might help a lot of women formulate how to pack makeup lightly. I expect some of her bags are rather heavy, IMO, but it is a place to start if one is an overpacker, and then slowly you can step up your game from her. I will say she is getting lighter...so that's good.

As other's have said, your wife needs to be able to manage her own bags, so she should test pack and lift them overhead, walk around town with them, carry them up and down stairs while still at home. It is a rule at our house that if you pack it, you carry it. However, if you always carry your wife's luggage up stairs, lift into bins, etc. you can, BUT she should be able to manage them on her own. You never know when she might have to do so. Things happen. ;)

She can have a fun time figuring this all out in anticipation of her trip!

Edit: Both Sherpani bags are 17 liters.

Posted by
1515 posts

Rcf026, keeping this as your 1-shop packing thread but getting back on track again a bit, is your wife starting to buy into carryon packing? I’m curious how she feels about everyone’s suggestions.

As I mentioned in my previous post, packing cubes help organize and keep your suitcases organized. There are lots of previous threads about people’s favorites if you use the search feature. Everyone has their favorite brand or type. I used RS cubes but found they are too light weight and don’t hold up. I found Sharper Images cubes at TJ Maxx that work ok, but use two sets for the sizes I want. Because they are thinner I can organize better.

I fold clothes, not roll. I use a small cube for leggings, another small for undies. One medium cube holds blouses and another is for sweaters and more shirts.

You can also save weight, bulk and room by using lightweight bags for electronics, drugs, 311. Unfortunately the RuMe ones I really like are no longer available. I didn’t see anything similar doing a quick search on Amazon. RS toiletries bag is light weight. I pack anything that will leak in small ziplock bags.

I just added a luggage scale and a small tape measurer to my packing list. Besides keeping the weight down, I struggle to keep the Rolling Carryon’s packed depth to less than 10”

Enjoy the packing journey. And your trip.

Posted by
21 posts

Horsewoofie, My wife has actually favored packing cubes for years and we both have a good assortment. She is not against the concept of packing light. During our 2019 RS trip she and I both came to the conclusion that it is the smart way to go. We also have no issues with doing laundry on the road. We used a pretty convenient laundromat in Switzerland during our last trip and that went very well. Having said that, she suffers from a reluctance that sets in when she realizes that she will be living out of a 21”x14”x9” bag for long periods of time. I get a lot of, “Hmm… I don’t know!” from her. I don’t want to make her out to be some spoiled diva because she is far from that, but she is accustomed to having a choice of outfits, shoes, etc., and a full array of makeup during her vacations. It is a mental thing more than anything else. Also, bad memories tend to fade so she is not thinking about how miserable we were at certain points when the bus dropped us off blocks from the hotels, or when we were assigned third floor rooms with no elevator. Those are the moments I need her to keep in mind, along with the fact that we are not getting any younger. Avoiding such burdens will add a great deal of quality and comfort to an already fantastic experience.

Posted by
1515 posts

Rcf026, I’m so glad you clarified. I had visions of you hauling huge suitcases plus make up bags and carryons a la 1960’s.

Posted by
21 posts

Horsewoofie, it wasn’t quite that bad but as I stated previously we did make all the classic mistakes back in 2019, and if I can help it that won’t happen again. This thread has definitely provided us with some good advise and it has confirmed that experienced travelers agree going light makes for a much better trip.

Reading all the tips provided here and elsewhere has been very helpful. I would never had thought of some of this stuff. For example, while researching a daypack I am considering I saw a video that suggested filling it with small packing cubes during travel to haul things that didn’t fit in the carry-on roller. Then dump the cubes at the hotel and use the daypack during tours. That’s really smart.

Keep the good advise coming!

Posted by
13391 posts

Lo, I found that Rangeland bag on Amazon about 5 years ago because it was the perfect under seat size, perfect price; been carrying it ever since.

My preferred long haul is Turkish Airlines and while they allow a little larger carry on bag than the US Domestics they put a 8kg weight limit on the bag, but no weight limit on the personal item; so nothing but fabric goes in the carry on and the personal item handles all the heavy stuff.

A spinner carry on with that personal item over the handle (has a strap for that) is so freeking easy to handle in airports and I rarely have need to put the backpack on (I watch and trip over the two wheel bags that others are dragging with all the weight dragging their arms down and stretching out 8 feet long blocking everyone else in the airport and feel good life can be so easy).

With the personal item I no longer need or want a carry on with a lot of pockets on the outside, they just grab on things in the overhead and often swell the bag to an illegal size, so I am switching to a hard shell carry on slides in cleanly in the overhead without grabbing on other bags (the extra kg of weight just moves to the personal item).

As for "day pack"; I dont carry bulk during the day and if I wanted to carry anything it would be a small cross body pouch for the money, passport, etc...... odd that many that travel light crossing the Atlantic travel heavy in town.

But for an overnight or two night bag (I do that a lot), its pretty perfect.

Posted by
117 posts

I have the rolling 21 inch RS bag and have taken it to Italy on a 13 day “My WAY” tour and on the train from London to Venice before the tour. I also took it to Nepal and India for 3 weeks and have traveled within the US with it for some 2 week hiking trips. For hiking trips I also take a day pack stuffed into a second carry on bag that is the size of a big purse. I packed a lot in it and used packing cubes. I weighed my clothes and that helped in keeping the weight to under 17 lbs for the British airways flight weight limit. (On one trip that weight included the fancy black dress and heels for a black tie formal affair). I don't usually bring fancy dresses. Obviously, luggage weight is not as much an issue with U.S. based transatlantic carriers if your bag is the approved carry on size. I am one of those travelers who doesn’t mind washing clothes in the hotel room sink. I take clothes that dry fast. I love cotton but don’t normally travel with it since it takes too long to dry. I recommend doing a trial pack of everything you think you will need first. Then you can see what might only be worn once or twice and leave those things home. One of the packing tricks I learned on this forum is to wear multiple layers of clothing on the flight since the international airlines weigh the bag not the traveler. That has the advantage of keeping you warm on the flight too assuming you get as cold as I do on airplanes. It’s a good idea to dress for the weather on the plane not the weather at your destination. A pashmina scarf is helpful for that and later can dress up a solid color outfit so it looks more pulled together if style is important to you. I used it as a towel on the beach and it dries quickly. I pack a kindle and iPhone that fit in the pockets of my light weight travel jacket. If I get cold I put a cardigan under it. I don’t travel with a heavy fleece or puffer jacket.

Posted by
1 posts

I personally loathe traveling with a carry-on other than a smallish back pack(enough room for an extra change or 2 of clothes in case luggage gets lost) that fits under the seat in front of me. I don't want to be bothered with keeping track of my luggage through airports while eating and going to the restroom not to mention the search for space in the overhead compartment on the plane.

I have a 24" hard sided roller that I check and is perfect for a trip to Europe. It's big enough you can take enough clothes and shoes in colder months to be comfortable and not worry about doing laundry multiple times(what a waste of time) along with plenty of room for souvenirs. My bag has never weighed more than 35 lbs. Everyone is different though so try both out and see what you like better.

Posted by
565 posts

We just returned from Iceland this week. When I was packing my 21" rolling RS bag, I was so pleased that I had everything I needed plus room to spare. I went to zip it up and saw an area next to the zipper teeth that looked a bit frayed. Looking closer, there was a hole in the zipper fabric! I was so upset as I loved that bag, but it just plain wore out. We have been using it for 15 years, and for a few years my husband was using it weekly for work trips, so it was well worn. We live near the RS headquarters, and I almost drive over to buy another bag, but didn't have it in me.

I had to use a duffel bag instead, which is a 22" Osprey that we used for Iceland this summer. So I knew it would work, but I love the structure of a real suitcase as it is easier to pack, IMO.

So guess where I am headed today? Yes, off to RS to replace that bag.

FWIW, we were only gone a week, but with winter in Iceland we needed warm clothing. I wore/carried my heavy parka on the plane, but we used a space saver bag for my husbands as he didn't want to carry it and his is bigger than mine. That worked wonders for room in his bag! He wore his hiking boots and I wore my snow boots, and then we each stuffed socks into the other boots that were packed in our bags to save room. We also brought our lightweight shells (rain jackets), and those fold up easily and don't take much room. It was nice to have two jackets depending on the weather and what we were doing. We brought our mountaineering/snowshoeing pants as we did a glacier hike, and of course some warm layers for that. We managed to fit everything into the carryons, but did have to check them as we had micro spikes which cannot be in a carryon.