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Mom says "Carry on? Are you crazy?" Need some advice from the ladies.

Hello out there. Me, my wife, and our two 15-year olds are taking our first family trip to Europe. We'll be there for 16 days. I have read all about traveling light and preferably using carry-on sized luggage. My wife thinks that's just crazy and wants to take a medium sized luggage. She doesn't think a carry-on will fit toiletries and a reasonable set of clothes. Medium bags seems to be about 25". Yes, I realize this will mean that we will need to check the luggage, and it will be a little less convenient carting it around from place to place. However, I'm wondering if those folks who took luggage larger than a carry-on were happy that they did, or whether they found it to be too inconvenient. Thanks in advance for your responses!

Posted by
85 posts

It depends on how you are traveling. If traveling by car it’s not as big of a deal, providing luggage fits in the trunk. If traveling by train it is much easier to travel as light as possible. You basically only need clothes for a maximum of one week and then do some laundry. Use mix and match clothing. Jeans can be worn more than once. Minimize the number of shoes packed.

Posted by
365 posts

Is your wife willing to carry her own luggage including up and down stairs getting into trains etc. I say this as a 67 year female who travels alone in Europe. I want to be able to be responsible and able to manage my own baggage. So of course I don't check a bag. I have seen some poor husbands having to manage their wife's too large to carry on baggage as well as their own.

Posted by
14159 posts

It depends on what you are doing over the 16 days. I've actually traveled for up to 8 weeks with a 22" carry on, altho I do check the carry on! If you are doing 1 or 2 night stays with trains in between then the 25" is going to be a pain but doable. You will see people with HUGE luggage but it is barely manageable especially hopping on and off trains.

Have her take a look at for ideas on capsule wardrobes IF she's interested. Having every bottom match every top match every sweater is key to packing light. Three bottoms and 4 tops can make 12 combinations. The Vivienne Files is expert at showing how to work with pieces!

IF your wife is interested, here is a link to my most recent Trip Report. I've got a clothing/capsule wardrobe list down in the body of the report. I DO do sink wash but I can travel for unlimited time with this capsule wardrobe.

IF you have enough time before you travel she can also decant shampoo and conditioner into smaller travel bottles, then use them at home and see how long they last. Most hotels have shampoo and conditioner altho I carry my own since I have some sensitivities. Makeup and creams can also be decanted into smaller bottles.

editing to add: Agree with cafetista - I'm a solo female, handle my own luggage at age 69. Yes, I was able to lift the 21" roller up to the shelf on the TGV train from Paris to Belgium a couple of weeks ago.

Posted by
3295 posts

If you're going to be there for 16 days, pack for 8 days and have someone else do your laundry on or about Day 8. Hopefully, your hotel will help with this.

Tell your wife to take a purse big enough to hold her toiletries. You can buy every imaginable toiletry in Europe if that's a concern.

Honestly, if we were going to spend the first few days of our trip in the same city where we land, I would be more likely to check a bag. But the way we travel, a bag that is MIA on arrival would totally screw up our trip.

I check my bag on the flights home.

Posted by
4428 posts

I agree with cafetisa.bruja-everyone has to carry their own stuff at all times.

Posted by
1841 posts

I have a wheeled Eagle Creek bag about that size. It works well for the way I travel. But I can manage it on stairs and cobblestones, onto and off trains. I like having all my stuff and it minimizes the need to do laundry while I’m on the road.

A checked bag does include a risk of delayed or lost luggage, but in general airlines have gotten better at this as indicated in this article I saw recently.

In terms of international arrivals I haven’t found that ichecking a bag delays me much. By the time I get through passport control my bag is often on the carousel or there within 5 to 10 minutes. Longer waits at passport control mean no wait at the baggage claim.

Posted by
75 posts


Let me be brutally honest and talk to you as a man to a man.

I'd simply explain them the benefits and methods of travelling light and than let everyone carry her own stuff whatever way they like. If your wife wants to take a large suitcase let her do it, but don't help her carrying it. After that trip she may well learn the benefits of travelling light. I'd like to see her face struggling with the suitcase while you're just strolling carelessly with a backpack. :-)

The trick is resisting your natural instinct to help her. You tried to help her convincing to travel light, she didn't listen, now let her suffer the consequences, otherwise you'll end up being her "pack animal" on every future trip. It's easy to take everything but the kitchen sink if you don't have to carry it yourself.

As a last try to convince her try to show her this(it's from a woman traveller):

Good luck and Bon voyage!

Posted by
437 posts

I'll second the "lighter is better" crowd. I'm an active early 60 yo woman and can handle carrying my suitcase a certain distance, but if you're traveling by tube or train in various cities up and down stairs that suddenly appear - lighter is way better. As others have said, traveling by car may be a different matter, but 4 people's luggage can also take up a lot of room. Smaller and lighter is better. Mix and match. Easy wash and dry. She may be really tired of her clothes by the end of the 2 weeks, but no one else will care. Take smaller toiletry packages. You can always buy more toothpaste, shampoo, etc there. Get her to pack her suitcase and then carry it up and down a long flight of stairs a few times to see how it feels.

Posted by
1194 posts

Tell her she has to carry it herself, including up and down stairs. Remind her that many older hotels don’t have big elevators. Make her test pack and force her to carry her load. Make her flip the bag into the car trunk etc. No, you won’t do it for her.

I travel domestically with a 16 liter pack. I travel for weeks at a time with a single carry on. I have plenty of nice clothes for every situation. If I can do it with a 16 liter pack then she can do it with a 45 liter bag!!!

My 5 key principles of light travel:

  • Pack a capsule wardrobe
  • Layer Clothing
  • Wash clothes while on travel
  • Minimize liquids
  • Minimize electronics and use USB

She’s overwhelmed because she doesn’t know the first place to begin.

Posted by
11387 posts

How much of an inconvenience a 25" bag will be depends on where you are going how you are going there and how many times you are moving.

It will be inconvenient,; its just a matter of degree and what you find tolerable.

My wife has no problem doing a 21" roll aboard for 28 days.

Posted by
2459 posts

Another good website is Travel Fashion Girl which is all about packing light.

Posted by
11445 posts

I have traveled with a 21 inch carry-on plus a daypack for up to 8 weeks. The key is, to me, not more than two pairs of shoes (wear one), and a simple palette such as navy and pink or black and red. Yes, you wear the same clothes over-and-over, but it beats dragging large luggage on-and-off trains or up-and-down stairs. I have seen so many men stuck carrying their wives’ luggage in train stations. Capsule wardrobes are the way to go and take minimal toiletries. You can always buy toothpaste, etc. Tell her no one cares if she does not wear makeup.

Posted by
6113 posts

I always take a checked bag for the two of us, unless I am on a short city break of a week or less. Never had a bag go missing yet.

I take the view that I am on holiday and therefore don’t want to do any laundry. I don’t want to get somewhere and think “oh, I wish I had had enough room to pack X in my small hand luggage, but I had to leave it at home”.

My 29 inch Samsonite bag has 2 wheels and I have no difficulty in dragging/lifting it up stairs etc. If I am away for weeks, it can weigh up to 23 kilos. It’s wheeled 99% of the time, not carried. I hire a car at the arrival airport, usually.

Posted by
15986 posts

Is your wife willing to carry her own luggage including up and down
stairs getting into trains etc.

That's pretty much the tall and short of it. My husband and I both have 24", 12 year-old Travelpro bags and check them. We do, however, pack as lightly as possible as we know we'll be hauling the things on and off of trains, up and down stairs and trundling it across all sorts of surfaces, sometime for long-ish distances. They're heavier on the back end of the trip when we've acquired museum books and whatnot to bring home! Nice guy that he is, my DH gives a hand here and there but I haven't asked him to.

We'll continue to use our bags - which we LOVE and are not really HUGE at all - as long as we're able to handle them or they fall apart, whichever comes first. A 25" would be bigger than either of us would want to manage but big, strong fellas might be able to without a problem. Just be aware that traveling in Europe can be a different animal than the U.S.

Have her pack a 25" case with what she thinks she'll be bringing and have her carry it up and down a flight of stairs a few times and roll it round the block.

Posted by
5936 posts

In all my travels, I've only had luggage delayed 3 times. And that was 3 times too many. Once it was delayed 2 days Minneapolis to Steamboat CO, we flew into Denver, so we had to wait as Delta transported our luggage 4 hours from Denver to Steamboat. HUGE hassle. We had to rent ski clothes, etc. On our honeymoon it was delayed both directions. Someone told us, if it was lost on the "puddle jumper" from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands, not a huge deal. If it was lost between Minneapolis and Puerto Rico on what was then Northwest, I was told it could be anywhere in the world that Northwest flew. In the Virgin Islands, we actually had to hire a taxi to go back to the airport to get our luggage, which once it arrived sat at luggage retrieval unattended. On the return flight they did deliver it to us, 2 days later. So now on our travels to Europe we don't stay at all in the arrival city or stay just a day or so. I do everything possible to avoid checking my luggage. I don't want to have to go back to the airport for it, nor do I want it following behind me all over Europe. I almost always check my bag at the end of the trip. Furthermore, we tend to visit multiple cities, mostly using a train. I want to be able to easily manage my luggage.

As an aside, fairly frequently, I see older gentlemen making valiant attempts to manage the couple's bags. Sometimes, the gentlemen seems less physically able than the woman. Sometimes I've sent my husband over to help.

EDITED TO ADD: The less stuff, the more time to travel! Not only does it take less time to unpack and repack, there are fewer decisions to be made about outfits, and less time spent grooming when there are fewer products! I also lose less stuff since I started traveling even much lighter. I traveled a month in Europe with my college aged daughters. Our January weather ranged from 55/60 degree Barcelona and 10 degree and snowy Switzerland. We each had a carry on suitcase and a personal item (purse/backpack) One of the girls is into clothes, her hair and makeup, etc. The same girl also loves photography and carried her larger camera and two lenses. She carefully planned her clothes/outfits, and her bag was lighter and not as "stuffed". She honestly looked darling every day. She rolls her clothes and using packing bags and makes sure every item works with at least three other things and she layers.

Posted by
9 posts

I am 59 years old, and have taken several overseas trips of longer than two weeks each, and I always use a carry-on sized bag. My personal item is a small-to-medium-sized backpack. Having the backpack allows me to carry a few items with me (makeup bag, toiletries, iPad, etc.), and not depend on putting everything in the carry-on sized bag. Inside the backpack, I also include a smaller, removable day pack for everyday use. It is much easier to roll my (smaller/lower weight) carry-on sized bag, even with the backpack on.

For the carry-on sized main bag, the bag design and capacity are important. I look for minimal pockets, with a large main area. Everything I pack into the carry-on is organized into packing cubes, making it very easy to unpack and pack the bag quickly. I agree with the mention of shoes. I pack black flats & flat sandals, which take up very little room in the bag, and wear my walking shoes.

Posted by
1194 posts

Another good website is Travel Fashion Girl which is all about packing light.

Strongly disagree with this. TFG needs a full carry on plus a full personal item. A lot of her suggested tips are actually quite bulky and heavy. She copies a lot of her articles from other bloggers without citing sources. I’d suggest
Her Packing List.

I have traveled both ways - larger suitcase and carry-on. I agree with what has been said above.
Trains and buses are doable with a 25 incher. But, much easier with carry-on.
Are you going over/up steps? Again, doable with a 25 incher. Easier with carry-on.
Consider a 40 liter backpack for your wife with packing cubes or a 22" (45 liter) rolling case or a 20" rolling case with packing cubes.
Teenagers - 40 liter backpacks with packing cubes.
Buy one suitcase (or, use one you have) - have your wife pack it. Then, take a stroll around the neighborhood with it. Try lifting it up/down (airplane bin). Try some steps with it.
Then, decide how to pack for your trip before you spend a lot of money on travel gear.
Carry-on toiletries: liquids will be limited by 3-1-1 security rule.

Posted by
1860 posts

To add to the good advice you have already received, I usually just travel with my 22" carry on (which I usually check on the way home) and either a daypack or large purse. Last year I was going on back to back tours and the 2nd had a dressier suggested wardrobe because of some of the special places we were going. I took a 25" bag with wheels. It was light and easy to handle when walking along on a flat surface, but when packed, of course, weighed much more than my usual bag does. By the end of 3 weeks I absolutely hated lugging that bag in and out of taxis, trains, and B & B stairs. Even the hotels with small elevators usually had 2 or 3 steps either at the entry or when you got to the floor of your room because of the way old buildings have been cobbled together to become a charming inn. Never again. This fall I am taking an even longer trip with 3 countries involved and planes, trains and public transportation. I for sure will go back to my trusty old 22" carry on and rigidly apply my former 'pack light' rules. Lesson learned-the hard way.

Posted by
2 posts

I just got back from London with a 25 inch suitcase that is lightweight and I did not regret it at all, as I managed fairly easily on the underground from Airport. That said, I stayed in one hotel the whole time and had researched the best way to get to my hotel so I was ready. For reference I am a small woman in my thirties and I was traveling solo, so had to carry/move on my own.

If you are going to be moving around a lot, I would probably try to downsize to maybe a 21 inch rolling suitcase as it would be more convenient going up and down stairs, escalators etc. On my next trip where I plan to hit three cities, that is my plan.

Posted by
752 posts is a great website, as Mary mentioned. Other women I know who haven’t traveled light found a lot of suggestions they easily adopted. REI and other outdoors stores have leakproof plastic containers for her to decant her toiletries.

As I read your post and other replies, I wonder if your wife is viewing this trip not only as a fun exploration of Europe, but also as a vacation from chores such as laundry ( hers as well as everyone else). Do you and the 15 year olds do laundry at home, so it will be easy for you to take the lead in Europe?

Posted by
8520 posts

I have been, in turns, both sorry for and annoyed at the Sherpa Husbands of overpackers on trains in Europe. They block the aisle with their monster sized cases as they desperately try to handle bags for both themselves and their wives.

For Public transport the most important rule is that everyone carries their own luggage. If your wife can carry her larger bag up three or four flights of stairs and lift it on and off trains and buses she should feel free to pack as she likes. It is possible to travel longer with less.

Posted by
8206 posts

My parents were world travelers, and I remember my poor father having lug 40 pound suitcases for my mother. Wouldn't wish that off on anyone.
I recognized the plus' of light travel on my first trip in 1970. Our family rules are everyone carries their own luggage--without exceptions. And the bag should be limited to 10 kg.--22 lbs.
We refuse to check any luggage due to past experience stranding us with lost luggage.
Use ultra light luggage no more than 21" long with swivel wheels. It's easier to get up airplane aisles.
My wife is very well dressed. If she can make it indefinitely with a carry on bag, anyone can. She uses black pants and carries mix and match colored tops and light jackets with them. And 2 pairs of shoes only.
I have my khaki pants and jeans heavily starched--two pairs plus the one pair I'm wearing. They look good even after being worn numerous days.
I do change shirts everyday, however I start a second rotation through the "dirty" shirts that really are not that dirty to start with.
Medicines and ladies makeup, etc. goes into an oversize handbag with a zipper top--and a shoulder strap for my wife to carry. Since I started taking a small 8" Fire tablet with me, I can get by with just my carryon and a bag of junk food to eat on the plane. Good luck to you.

Posted by
5936 posts

Another consideration is height of the person carrying the luggage. My husband is 10 inches taller than I am. He can carry any suitcase with his arm straight. For me, at 5'4", anything over 22 inches requires my arm to be bent when I carry it. This is much less comfortable. Sure, there are wheels, etc., but they can't be used on stairs, cobblestones, etc.

Posted by
418 posts

I'm a 65 year old woman that uses a Rick Steves rolling backpack suitcase. (I've never used it as a backpack). It is 20"x14"x7". It is a small suitcase and I "carry on" on the trip over and check it on the return trip. The key is to take light weight clothes, roll them and use packing cubes. You wear your pants several times before washing. If it's hot, bring clothes that will dry quickly after washing. (I have some shirts that dry in 30 minutes to an hour). You take 4-5 pair of socks and undies and sink wash any time you have 2 nights in a row at the same location. Use accessories and scarves to change the look of an outfit. Remember that you don't need to impress anyone on this trip. My bag usually weighs around 20 lbs when I leave home. It is manageable to put in an overhead bin or a luggage area on a train. The list that Pam has on her trip report is pretty much what I take. I have a Lands End puffer jacket that folds into its own pocket and a rain jacket that rolls into a small size. These go into my backpack. I also put my day pause into my backpack which fits under the seat in front of me. It can be done and you'll have plenty to wear.

Posted by
27352 posts

I'm a 67-year-old, 5'4" female. A 23-1/2 inch bag weighing just over 30 lb. is a struggle for me, but I seem to start out at that weight because I take summer-long trips and have a lot of medically-necessary pills. I also have several pounds' worth of printed travel material and maps. Fortunately, as my trip progresses, the weight diminishes. That would not be the case if the excess weight were due to taking too many clothes.

Not only are excess clothes unnecessary, they are a real pain to deal with every time you get to a new hotel. Unless your wardrobe is made of miracle fabrics that can live happily in your suitcase, either folded or rolled, many garments will probably be badly wrinkled. They'll need to be hung up and possibly misted so the wrinkles fall out or at least are reduced to an acceptable level. Believe me, doing that to 2 or 3 pairs of pants and 3 to 5 tops at each new hotel is bad enough. More clothes would be way too time-consuming. Besides which, there often will not be enough coat hangers in the room to handle a large wardrobe. Then when you're getting ready to leave the hotel, you have to pack all those clothes up again.

I don't think planning to buy toiletries in Europe is a good idea on a short trip unless too many liquids to fit in the allowed 1-quart bag is what's keeping you from being able to travel with only a carry-on bag. It's not always easy to find travel-size toiletries in Europe, and the selection may be limited even if you do find a store carrying them. So there's a good chance you'll end up with large bottles of shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, etc., and you'll be carrying them around for the rest of your trip. It's generally far more practical to figure out how much of each product you'll need for the duration of your trip and take that much.

It's true that almost every lodging (but not quite 100% in my budget-travel experience) provides some form of shampoo and some form of soap. It may be a combination product in a wall-mounted dispenser, so some travelers will definitely want to take their own products. I can wash my (fine, chin-length) hair at least 5 times with 1 ounce of shampoo.

I take only a small (leftover) bar of soap for my entire trip, to use in case the dispenser in my room runs out at an inconvenient time.

I use a solid conditioner. 1 ounce seems to last me about a month, and I wash my hair daily. Folks with thick or problem hair would use more per washing, I'm sure.

One travel-size container of solid anti-perspirant lasts me almost 6 weeks.

As you can see, basic toiletries don't need to be bulky or heavy. It's a matter of buying travel sizes or decanting them into containers of the appropriate size.

Posted by
1194 posts

Girl with the passport

My favorite new quote:

[normal life] I’ve worn the same shirt every day for a week

[packing for vacation] hmmm I’ll prob change a few times a day so that’s...32 shirts

Posted by
50 posts

How committed is your wife to taking a larger bag? Is her opinion, as you seem to have stated, that carryon only is crazy? I ask because you’re getting a lot of great advice on how to pack but that advice may not be welcomed by your wife, and if you take the advice to refuse to help her with her big bag while getting around Europe, then you may win the luggage battle and lose the enjoyable European vacation war because you now have a highly irritated wife. Of course, you may be so annoyed by having to help her that your irritation ruins your vacation. The mileage always varies.

Just my two cents.

Posted by
2 posts

My two daughters and I have traveled twice on RS tours. Both times they each packed a carry on suitcase and I packed a medium size bag. I put all our toiletries in my checked bag. We each also carried small back packs. I had no problem maneuvering and transporting my luggage up narrow staircases and though the streets. I am in my 60s.

Posted by
492 posts

Using my own experience with a similar situation as an example... I'd taken several trips to Europe with my spouse, that all focused on a single city with day trips to the surrounding area. For this, we totally didn't mind checking luggage (and a hefty luggage allowance came with the plane tickets anyways). We weren't having to go from hotel to hotel, take our luggage on trains or short-hop intra-Europe flights, unpack and repack, etc. Checking bags wasn't a problem, and I didn't go too far out of my way to discourage my spouse from bringing along several pairs of shoes despite feeling it was entirely unnecessary.

Eventually, though, we did find ourselves preparing for a trip that involved multiple cities, a couple train rides, and a quick little flight in Europe (on an airline that charged a considerable amount extra for the checked bag size/weight that was included on our transatlantic fare). I packed only a carry on and personal item, but they refused to - they were adamant they still wanted a few pairs of shoes, extra clothes, etc. So I told them that was fine, but they'd be responsible for their own luggage when we were making our way to trains stations, riding trains, getting on quick flights, etc. They ended up thoroughly regretting not following my suggestion of going with a carry on sized bag only.

Even without train rides and toting your luggage from place to place while abroad, carry on only has its advantages (not having to wait for your bags to clear customs is a big one). Having said that, I think it ultimately comes down to your itinerary. I think it's entirely reasonable to make a deliberate and informed decision checking bags is a viable option for a particular trip, just as it's entirely worthwhile to be open and able to going the carry on only route for certain trips. Are you shoppers, and do you plan on picking up lots of souvenirs? I don't think checked luggage is too unreasonable in that case. It's all about convenience, avoiding hassle, and setting yourself up for your own best possible experience. I'd add, though, that there's real value in teaching oneself how to best go the carry on route - train yourself to do it, get a clear idea of what you can and can't live without when traveling, and practice getting efficient on that front so it's something you're able to easily do when your trip plans call for it.

I should add as well, as a silly anecdote if not also word to the wise, carry on only folk need to commit to that! Some friends I occasionally travel with are quite proud of their carry on approach to travel, and how good they are at packing. Unfortunately, they also fancy themselves wine lovers, and and can't stop buying bottles of wine to bring home when abroad. Are they really carry on only travelers when they're asking me if I have any extra space in my bag for their wine bottles on the flight home? Something to ponder ;)

Posted by
6363 posts

I'm 71, about 5'8" (or at least I used to be), and travel for a month with one 23 liter backpack and a medium sized shoulder bag that I use as a personal item.

I think the operative phrase in the OP is "a reasonable set of clothes." Those of us who take carry-on sized only (even the folks who then check their bags) have learned to be flexible. Three or four bottoms - pants, capris, skirts, whatever - in neutral colors, and four or five tops. That's where I add color. Toss in a scarf or two, and you have lots of possible outfits.

Never take full bottles or jars of toiletries. The dollar stores and Target have nifty little containers into which you can decant anything. And with four of you, you can divide the toiletries up into 4 3-1-1 bags.

It's not only doable, it is absolutely worth it. Why exhaust yourself with cumbersome luggage? That can suck the fun right out of your trip.

Posted by
195 posts

I would recommend the Rick Steves' youtube video on packing light
There were a lot of good ideas which helped me pare down my luggage to a 9 pound backpack for two weeks in Spain. (It was a little more coming home because I bought a few things:) Taking dark colored clothing is one way of not having to do laundry more than once on a two week trip--if that. I also love the ex-officio underwear that is designed to be hand washed and dries within 4 hours. The best advice I got was to weigh my clothes and shoes and do a trial pack. Having said that, there are trips where you will need to take more than the basics depending on your activities. Going to a black tie event on the Orient Express, a wedding, then snorkeling, and later trekking in mountains requires more clothes. The list below was for a summer RS trip with mostly sightseeing, museum going, and walking a lot in cities.

Here is what I took:
1 pair light weight Columbia crop pants (easy to wash by hand)
4 pairs underware and 1 bra
1 pair black jeans
3 lightweight short sleeve t-shirts (they weighed 3 oz each)
1 lightweight jacket and a scarf to dress it up
1 rain jacket
1 tank top
1 black cardigan sweater
1 black skirt
2 pairs of shoes (Keene sandals and Toms)
larger cotton t-shirt for sleeping
bathing suit (didn't use it)

Posted by
454 posts

I'd never been a light packer until I took my first Rick Steves tour, when I needed to comply with the rule that all participants limit themselves to one carry-on sized bag. The packing for that trip took longer than usual because I had to be very selective in what I took. It was a 14 day trip. I don't look like I'm wearing the same five outfits in all my photos because I took clothing that was coordinated so that one skirt or pair of pants could be worn with three different tops. I took just one extra pair of shoes, in addition to the pair on my feet. All of my clothing had to go with one of those two pairs of shoes. On my prior trips, I'd think nothing of packing a pair of shoes needed for just one outfit. Now I realize how crazy that was. It was so freeing to be in Europe with a manageable amount of stuff! After that trip, I was hooked on light travel and I never use anything other than a carry-on sized bag now, regardless of destination or length of stay. I do sometimes check the bag. If there is a long layover at an airport, I don't want to have to cart my bag around. My first carry-on was backpack styled. I loved having my hands free and not having to worry about using a wheeled bag on uneven cobblestones or lug it up a set of stairs. However, after 3 Europe trips with that bag, I switched to a rolling bag, as the backpack was starting to give me back and shoulder pain. I love packing cubes. They keep everything neat and compact. Go ahead and put in that extra outfit or two you thought you'd have to leave out of your 22" bag. . .with packing cubes, you'll fit them in! I have one exception to the pack light rule. I allow myself the splurge of bringing my Nikon DSLR camera and sometimes extra lenses. Those go into small padded camera bag that fits into my day pack, which serves as my personal item on the flight. I never take a purse and never miss it.

Posted by
2212 posts

Key points are how many nights per stop and method of travel. The more movement you have, I.e. changing hotels, using public transportation, and travel style, makes a difference. If you are changing hotels every two nights and are using trains, metro/tube, etc... then the more luggage you have, the more it will wear you out. If you are only changing location two or three times and using taxis, car services, it’s not as taxing. Many things in Europe are smaller - train aisles, hotel rooms, etc.., but if you are staying in higher end accommodations, it’s not as big a deal.

Posted by
14159 posts

Sorry to post again...but some of the posts reminded me of something that I thought I would emphasize.

To "Pack Light" you have to plan for it.

You need to have flexible outfits with a capsule wardrobe so that individual pieces and colors go together. When you are starting out you usually can't pull that out of your closet and make it work so it takes some planning and working to get yourself to clothing that will do that.

Now everything I have in my closet that I wear normally is what I travel with. Today I have on my poly/cotton blue jeans, one of my Lands End cotton/modal SS Tee shirts (cobalt) and because it is chilly, the black Ideology LS quarter zip over that. don't count as I'm barefoot presently but if I had to run in to town, I'd have on my black Altra Lone Peak shoes I wore for most of my last trip.

I hope if your wife reads this she isn't put off by some of the comments. Most of us travel this way because we've tried it the other way and for us light works better.

Posted by
1989 posts

I only take a carryon for two weeks but there has to be some adjustments. I have family and friends where the females are heavy packers and the biggest issues seem to be clothing and shoes. For shoes, only bring two, I know many women love shoes but honestly, all you really need is one for walking around and being comfortable and maybe a more formal shoe for going out. Clothing can be worn twice before washing and pairing black pants or jeans with shirts can mix and max. Yes, I have gotten tired of seeing the same clothes but not when I'm lugging my carryon up a stair or two to board a train or get out of the subway.

If you have a small hotel room which is the norm in Europe, you will be so grateful to be able to store it in a closet or at the least not trip over it when getting out of bed. Bottom line is no one will care if you were clothes more than once unless you're a celeb or royalty.

Posted by
4428 posts

She really needs to think about how she'll feel if her checked luggage is delayed for several days-which happened to my husband last June. If she freaks out when you mention the possibility, that might influence her choices.

Posted by
2712 posts

You said reasonable set of clothes. If she is the type who needs different shoes for every outfit, forget it. Having had luggage badly delayed we only check bags on the way home, and even then, only if we have to. If she does not think a lot of outfits can fit in a very small suitcase watch this:

Posted by
3428 posts

we did more than 40 trips in about 20 years ranging from 9-16 days. Quickly learned that Rick's method (at the time he was the only one advocating it) was best. One carry-on bag each and one shared day bag. Wear heaviest clothes on plane. we got by with only the shoes on our feet- usually dark supportive almost tennis shoe types (think Sketchers nicer shoes). I take enough underpants to change everyday if I can, so I don't have to wash them. Everything else gets worn 2-4 (sometimes more) times. I take a small clothes roller (you can get tiny ones at dollar stores or some drug stores in the travel section). I also take Stain Wipes or a Tide pen for spot cleaning. Dark pants (pick black or navy) - usually 2 or 3 pair, one pair (sometimes two) khaki or grey, 4-6 tops and two or three scarves. One 'big shirt' to wear as a kind of blazer in summer (for dressier dinners, theatres, or cool days). I don't do shorts, or skirts or dresses. Good socks are important. You need less make-up and toiletries than you think- in fact, try to use a little make-up as possible. Get a good 'brush and go' haircut and you don't have to take a blow dryer (or ask for one at the desk), curling irons, etc.

Posted by
1420 posts

Yup, 15 year olds, even if they are petite girls, can manage their own luggage. I actually vote carry on, every one takes enough for 8 days and then you spring for commercial laundry so yr wife is not afraid of getting stuck w it. If each person has a 311 bag toiletries will not be an issue. Did OP come back with specifics, or did he just get us all galloping off on our usual hobby horses?

Posted by
3240 posts

I don't believe checking or not checking her bag is the issue. I usually check my carryon size bag. The issue is whether or not your wife can handle her own luggage. Every family member should be responsible for his or her own luggage, as others have said. Your wife needs to pack up her suitcase, walk around town, repeatedly walk up and down stairs, and lift it up over her head a few times in the case of trains, etc. If she can do that and wants to do that for the entire trip, then let her. Just make sure she knows you won't do it for her. A 21 inch bag holds quite a few clothes. A lot of hotels have laundry facilities...I use these. There are many you tube videos on packing she can watch. From what I see there are some women who take an amazing amount of makeup items. Without those items, these women would have much less weight. Tell your wife she's beautiful without makeup, that you love her face and she doesn't have to hide it under make up. Maybe then she will be able to pack light, if that's an issue for her.

Posted by
301 posts

I try to go carry-on only and sometimes succeed and sometimes don't. Threads like this can get annoying because some people get judgmental really quickly. Having said that, I am definitely always happier when I travel light. Somebody else posted the RS packing light video, I'd suggest Sarah Murdoch's as well. It's a little less "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! YOU DON'T NEED ALL THIS STUFF!" and a little more "Here are some ideas for packing less and also for maximizing what you do bring." Nobody likes to be lectured and/or condescended to.


Posted by
138 posts

I always go carry-on! From what I've read of Rick's books, traveling light is an integral part of the Rick Steves philosophy. The kind of places I like to go, you often have to carry your own bag and often there's no elevator! It's a trade-off: yes, you do have to do laundry more often, but (also yes!) you are so much more free! Rick's website has the list that he uses, and with slight changes it works for a woman.
If you stay in the same place two nights, it's easy: First night you rinse out a couple of changes of top and underwear and socks and hang them in the shower, second night they can hang in the closet to dry the rest of the way as they've stopped dripping.

Posted by
6363 posts

Grace, if you wring the clothes out by hand, then roll them up in a towel and wring them again, there will be very little, if any, dripping. Most things will dry overnight.

Posted by
1420 posts

But, the op has not come back to share more about family composition and plans, if all 4 are sharing one bathroom having 4 people's stuff air drying in the nooks and crannies would make me nuts.

Posted by
1597 posts

My wife and I have traveled with carry-on only for 4-5 week trips and never have done laundry in our rooms. Guess what, there are laundromats in Europe. Every 10 or so days we pop into a laundromat for 2 hours. Many times there is a nice cafe nearby where we can have a cup of tea and people watch. Other times we stay at the laundromat and meet some very nice locals or other tourists. Some laundromats you can drop your laundry off in the morning and pick it up in the evening all folded and ready to repack.

Posted by
95 posts

I really hope you post again with the kind of trip you’re considering. Will you stay in one area/hotel several days at a time or be trying to fit in several cities requiring many moves? Are you planning to rent a car or will you use public transportation?
I think how you plan to travel will dictate your luggage choice. The responses above have already given you a lot to consider. I vote travel light either way.
I recall traveling to Ireland with my daughter many years ago, and we had 2 medium size suitcases. We could only fit 1 of the bags in the trunk of the rental car, leaving the other in the back seat in full view of thieves. We had to go straight to our hotel, didn’t feel safe parking in lots on the fringes.
Another time my husband and I sat in Venice at a cafe and watched the tourists with huge suitcases lug them over cobblestones and up all the little stairs to get over bridge after bridge to reach their hotel. Talk about unhappy. Especially the guys trying to haul 3 or 4!
We’ve also encountered lifts so small that even with backpacks as our only luggage 2 of us couldn’t fit together.
Lastly, if train travel is in your plan just remember in some cases there can be a very short amount of time to get off or on the train and lots of folks in front of you. The larger/heavier the bag the slower it moves. If it takes longer you risk leaving something behind.
I’m a 60 year old woman and I’m heading to Europe again in about 3 weeks. I’ll take an international size carry-on and will wear a small backpack. That’s it. I’ll have plenty to wear.... same tips that others have offered up. It just makes traveling so much easier not to haul a huge bag around. Enjoy your travels!

Posted by
15552 posts

At the end of the day please remember.....

Happy wife, happy life.

Unhappy wife on vacation, unhappy vacation.

Let her look at all the information given above. Then let her decide what to do. It's her first trip to Europe and she doesn't know what's available should she need something.

Posted by
10297 posts

A month ago I packed a 25” bag for a two-week land tour of Cuba. Once I stood the bag up, I immediately put it down and emptied it out, eliminated a few pieces of clothing, and packed my trusty Dell 22” roll-aboard that has gone to Europe with me for 4-6 weeks numerous times. There was no way I was going to wrestle that 25” monster even if I was traveling by coach and staying in hotels with porters. The 22”, a daypack, and Bagalini purse from TJMaxx held clothes, toiletries, hiking poles, electronics. The 25” will be for ship travel.

This Cuba group had many very experienced independent travelers; suitcases for the two weeks were as small as 20”. These people could rough it. On the other hand, the people in the European and South American groups we ran into had 25” and up hard-sided suitcases. I wasn’t surprised because when we traveled with a French group last year, the French all had large, hard sided, suitcases, too.

Conclusion: this travel light, take only what you can handle RS philosophy has caught on with a lot of the US traveling population.

Good luck.

Posted by
4171 posts

If you haven't already, you all should take a stroll through the Travel Tips on this website, especially the ones about Packing Light. This Travel Talk on Packing Light & Right is a real eye-opener. And this is another Packing Forum thread about this topic, "Why Didn't I Listen to You, Rick?"

I'm 73 and I haven't checked a bag in years. On one recent domestic trip I watched while bags were being loaded. That's not a sight you want to see if you checked your bag.

My limits are the "big" bag's size and its filled weight. I travel solo and I believe that if I can't manage my luggage on my own, I shouldn't be going. I must admit that the grayer my hair gets, the more offers of help I get. I will accept them if the situation doesn't seem too hinky.

I have 3 roller bags, none of which is over 22 x 14 x 9 in or weighs more than 6 lbs empty. I have a luggage scale and if the filled bag goes over 20 lbs, I take stuff out until it's 20 lbs or less.

But on my next trip (5 weeks) one of my intra-European flights limits carry-on weight to 17 lbs (8 kg) for the big bag. Another limits the combined carry-on weight of the big bag and personal item to 22 lbs (10 kg).

So I got the smallest, lightest international roller bag I could afford. It's this Eagle Creek Load Warrior 20 International Carry-On. It's 21.25 x 14 x 8 in (35.5 x 51.5 x 20 cm) and weighs about 4.5 lbs (2.08 kg) empty. It has a volume of 2200 cubic inches (36L).

I used this somewhat larger Eagle Creek Load Warrior on my last 3 trips, one of which was 6 weeks in England and Scotland.

Like many others, my exterior wardrobe consists of 3 pairs of pants, 4 tops and maybe 4 layering pieces. I also take a jacket for on the plane. And I take 2 pairs of shoes. I weigh everything using my kitchen scale. Since I wear the heaviest items in transit, I know that the core packed wardrobe, including a 2nd pair of shoes, for my next trip will weigh about 6.5 lbs.

That leaves me 6 lbs for all the other stuff that will need to go in there. It's gonna be a squeaker. It's a good thing that I got "plus" tickets which include checking a bag if I must for all those intra-European flights.

I will have a small purse like this Baggallini. It, my meds and my electronics will all fit in this very light cross-body tote and stay within the weight limit of 4.4 lbs (2 kg) for one of the airlines.

My husband is the heavy packer. He fills his RS convertible carry-on with 3 times what he really needs, says he can handle it fine, then starts whining about the weight in the airport and looking for a cart. I hope you can pare down the packing for easier logistics on this trip.

Posted by
33126 posts

I wonder what Mom says after reading all these replies....

gmelgares, any discussion to report?

Posted by
4428 posts

Frank II Wives can learn to be happy with less luggage! It's called "developing a flexible attitude".

Posted by
2768 posts

I pack light and fashionably. It can be done IF she wants to. If not it’s not a huge deal. If she wanted 3 suitcases for just her then that would make things very tough. A 21 inch vs 25 inch suitcase really won’t cause much difference.

Key #1 is everyone (except for very small children, people with injuries/disabilities, etc) must carry/roll/pack their own stuff. The mom is not the pack mule for the kids. The dad isn’t responsible for carrying everything remotely heavy. Sure, there will be times when one person helps another with lifting/hands full type scenario but the default is easiest if each person has a bag they can manage. Rolling or backpack, carry on size or bigger.

Re toiletries: IF she wants to go carry on - a LOT more toiletries fit in the bag than you think. Mine has toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, contact solution, facial moisturizer, body lotion, hair gel, hair salt spray, hair cream, leave in conditioner, sunscreen, and some medical ointments. Probably more I’m forgetting. Go to a store like the container store, get a sturdier quart bag with a zipper and lots of 1 or 2 oz bottles and tubs. You just don’t use as much product as you think in 16 days - small jars are more than sufficient
Those kits you see at Target with only 3 bigger 3oz bottles are useless for anyone with a lot of liquid toiletries.

Then I have a separate small bag for makeup. That’s not liquid so doesn’t need to be in the quart bag. Technically my mascara and concealer may be liquid but no one has ever flagged it, everything else is powder/pencil/stick

Clothing - look into capsule wardrobes. Travel Fashion Girl website is sometimes helpful. The key is to pick pieces of clothing that match and layer to make a wide variety of outfits. It’s a fun challenge. To pack, I lay a ton of clothes on the bed and start putting together combinations. I end up with 10-15 items of clothes that work together and look good. It’s a logic puzzle (finding the right combination of things) and a fashion experiment.

Posted by
2122 posts

Without more information, it is not easy for any one of us to say for certain if she needs more than a carry-on case.

Europe is a large place..........WHERE will you be going? WHAT time of year (hot/cold weather)? WHAT will you be doing (basic sightseeing/mountain hikes/snorkeling/skiing/formal events? HOW will you be traveling from one place within Europe to the other (train, rental car, private driver)? What type overnight reservations (apartments, high-end hotels (elevators/bellmen/modest or older places with just stairs)?

If just the typical tourist travel in moderate or warmer weather, and if your wife has no unusual medical/physical issues, yes, she should be able to live out of a carry-on with an extra tote-bag as her "personal item" on the plane.

I agree with Frank 11, though, that if this is a HUGE issue, and she will be miserable without her comforts (of whatever she wants to pack), then let it go!!! Life is short...choose your battles!! I do not agree with the people who say to let her (potentially) struggle handling her own bag(s). Remember, what goes around comes around, and there may be a time in life you need help. So, be respectful

Also, is she the one that will be bagging the camera gear and things the family may otherwise need (bandaids, sunblock, etc.)......and before everyone piles on that those things can be purchased in Europe...yep, but maybe she needs a certain fragrance-free shampoo. She may also not know that if she uses prescription creams or shampoos, those are exempt from the 3 oz carry-on restrictions and may be simply bagged separately with the prescription labels.

When we travel, we both have fully-packed Rick Steves rollaboards, plus two large canvas Orvis zip totes (which can compress) into which the technical devices, 3 oz bags, (maybe) extra hubby shoes that did not fit in suitcases, hats, etc. go.....I also stick my travel purse into that zip tote when boarding (so I am only carrying one personal item). BUT, that said, as I have aged, it would cause likely harm to my wrists (ganglion cysts would likely return) if I were to take the bag out of the overhead compartment without my spouse's help, or carry it up/down Metro stairs. So, you folks who think I should lug my own bag.........GIVE IT A one knows what give/take/tradeoffs there are in any no judgements, please.

Times we have checked an extra bag: When black-tie attire was needed (dress shoes for spouse), Antarctica (when the ship was not sure they could get my spouse's size boots (thicker calves), so we lugged knee high-boots and we also knew we would be bringing back the fabulous jackets that we would be receiving.....ditto for Greenland/Iceland when we had to check one of our three bags (a duffel bag), because I decided not to wear my pink knee-high expeditions boots on the planes (giggle, giggle). Other than that, we have gone with just the carry-on.

Posted by
5697 posts

Carry-on or not -- it's a matter of choice. We have carry-on on SIZE bags that are usually checked, with meds and one change of clothes in the carry-on personal items. (Trips 3-6 weeks.) On trains and stairs, taller, stronger husband lifts both roller bags aboard and I follow with both personal items (mine is a RS Euro tote which has a shoulder strap so I have one hand free for the handrail.) One time I succumbed to a 25" roller bag, but only once -- cumbersome, and the extra space meant I filled it with excess items which resulted in excess weight.
As noted by others, share toiletries -- you don't need 4 shampoos. 4 deodorants, 4 toothpastes.

Posted by
10297 posts

A 22” roll aboard contains up to 50 liters volume.
A 25” or 26” contains up to 75 liters volume, 50% more. Those few little inches are a big deal.

Posted by
1426 posts

I will add a corollary issue to the lost checked bag problem; missed connection. Yes, you are on a single ticket and a full service (not budget) airline that will put you up in a hotel with a little amenity package with an oversized t-shirt, deodorant and a toothbrush. But your hotel is out in the middle of nowhere, it’s 0 dark 30 and there is no way you can find a place to buy any specialty toiletries you might need or get fresh clothes. At the very least, each person’s carry on should account for that possibility.

Posted by
2857 posts

Packing is driving me crazy. After reading this I need to repack and make both my RS Rolling Carry-On and my tote lighter. It’s at airline max now so you know I overpacked.

Posted by
8590 posts

There is also the problem of the bag growing heavier during the trip (souvenirs).

The weight argument is the one that would make sense to a man. But in my experience, its the "you don't need all these outfits" argument that is both the most difficult, and the one that would make sense to women. Its a change of mindset from what is normal behavior.

And experience says you will be blamed either way: for being a tyrant, or making the trip too difficult.

Wow! 63 replies on this question! Do we all have deeply-rooted packing issues or what? (Right now, the deep packing state is secretly gathering our data to change airline luggage rules to compel us to buy even more travel gear. The luggage giants know their target customers. We are all at risk!)

I need a better television package to occupy my free time. (I spend time on my iPad when the News gets repetitious or meaningless or my husband insists on watching yet another Big Foot show.)

Posted by
395 posts

For our first family trip to Europe in 2004, we purchased 4 25" bags. We couldn't get all 4 bags in the trunk of our car (a Toyota Camry) to get them home--that should have been a clue--and they sat in a mind-provoking mound in our living room for a week before we took them back for smaller bags. We could not have fit all 4 of us and the bags in our rental car in the UK. They would have taken up a lot of space in the B&B rooms we rented, not to mention the small bedrooms in our friends' house and only one of us could accompany even the smaller bags up the elevator in our hotel in Paris. So if your wife wants to take a 25" bag, she probably ought to be the only one of the group who does.

Everyone is different, but I have packed smaller and lighter each trip and have not regretted it, nor missed having more clothes. I agree with Pam about the The Vivienne Files--that is the website that taught me the difference between packing small (cramming as much as possible into a carry-on bag) and packing light (taking fewer things). Our last trip was the Rick Steves Best of Italy in 17 Days. I used a Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack that weighed in at under 18 lbs fully packed, and a medium-sized zip top Lands End tote for my personal item. (I use a cloth cross-body bag when I reach my destination and pack that empty in my suitcase.) Due to allergies to various things I bring all my own toiletries--about 12 items--and I had stuff left in all the bottles/tubes when I got home (gone for 20 days total). I was appropriately dressed for everything from hiking to dinner in a nice restaurant in Venice. It can be done, but as Pam said, it does take planning. And, I would add, resisting the impulse to throw extra things in "just in case". I did do one load of laundry about 5 days into the trip, and had the hotel do laundry about a week later.

Taking our boys to England and Paris in 2004 was important to me since my first trip abroad in 1977 had been a real eye-opener and had a long-term effect on choices I've made in life. Both they, and my husband and I, have enjoyed a number of trips since then and hope to enjoy many more. I hope your trip is a great adventure in the best possible way.

Posted by
915 posts

Wow! 63 replies on this question! Do we all have deeply-rooted packing issues or what?

Nah, just probably the most discussed subject on these forums. Everyone has their way to pack with the rest being the wrong way. Wonder if we will hear from the OP again?

Posted by
4428 posts

I think we're passionate about light packing because we are aware of/have experienced the problems that come when we don't.

Posted by
6363 posts

I don't think people who don't pack the way I do are doing it wrong. I know what works for me; some people have more electronics, or require more clothing choices, or have medical conditions that require more equipment, or wear makeup, or just want to take more stuff.

That's fine. My first trip to Europe (I was 20) I took a huge Samsonite suitcase and a matching overnight case. No wheelies then! I was on an educational trip to the (then) Soviet Union. The trip was for - I think - 8 weeks. I had my cases stuffed. And lordie, what a drag.

On our flight out of Kiev, because of a change of airport and airplane, we were told to dump at least half of our belongings. Trauma! How could I get along another 2 weeks without all those clothes! Well, we did, and the plane did manage to get off the ground from the short runway. And I still had that huge suitcase to drag around Austria, West Germany, and Amsterdam.

On our first RS tour in 2009, we thought we had to use only carry ons, so we did. What an epiphany! We've never looked back.

I'm glad that I can pack for a month or more in a 23 liter backpack, and I'm relieved that it comes in under 15 lbs. And the older I get, the more pleased and relieved I am. It makes travel more pleasant - for me; no judgment on other folks.

Posted by
11387 posts

Wonder if we will hear from the OP again?

Probably not....

Posted by
2460 posts

Wonder if we will hear from the OP again?

Probably not...

Why do OPs dissapear so often on this site? I'm new here and have already seen it often.

Posted by
1435 posts

When I was new, I did not realize I had to check a box to have replies to my posts emailed to me. Maybe some of the original posters aren't getting the many reply emails and just forgot that they posted here because they weren't getting reminded. Then maybe they found answers elsewhere.

Posted by
5936 posts

The first few times I used the forum, it didn't occur to me that once my questions were answered that people would want any follow up from the OP. It makes sense to me now, and it is helpful to all if the OP does respond back

Posted by
37 posts

My husband & I will be taking our very first trip to Europe in August. We'll be gone for 5 weeks and don't have any problem with packing light and using only carry-on luggage. We have been riding motorcycles for years and doing trips that were 3-4 weeks in length. We have a backpack attached to each of our bikes for our clothing. One of us carries a tent, the other the double air mattress. We each have a sleeping bag on top of our backpacks. We even have a small ice chest in one of the saddlebags. Now, I realize that we aren't actually having to 'carry' our luggage, but it certainly limits what can be brought on a trip. Laundry can be done every 3rd or 4th day at the campground or motel. Our experience in this mode of travel will certainly come in handy with packing for our trip to Europe.

Posted by
139 posts


I'm wondering if those folks who took luggage larger than a carry-on were happy that they did,

No, I wasn't happy. The first time I went to Europe I brought a 25" and a 29" - 4 wheeled expandable bags, the biggest bags I have (I still have them but don't use them except when I move). I did find it very inconvenient and realized how much those bags were obstructing me and make it difficult to move: imagine hauling those big bags into subways/trains, trying to climb electric stairs that weren't working, into cobblestones sidewalks, to get to our hotel in Paris which was uphill in Montmatre, etc etc... My husband even hurt his foot hauling my big bag in London. Because we were checking those bags, when we arrived in Rome, it took around 35 minutes just for the carousel to even start moving, plus another 10 minutes to get our bags. We were all grumpy at that point. Anyway, nothing again checking your bag, but if you might be in a hurry like we were, checking bags is not the best option.

If you and your wife have time see Sarah Murdoch videos about packing, she's great at explaining. She travels for weeks with just a backpack, and she even brings a pillow in that small bag.

I would suggest to make a trial packing with your wife, and let her try to move around with her bag. If she can haul the bag and move it by herself, then go for it.

I hope you and your family have a great time there!

Editing to add: I would like to suggest to your wife about bringing around 8 tops and 3 bottoms, these include what she will be using on the plane. If they all match between them she will have around 24 outfits for a 16 day trip. You can do a little laundry there. Also decanting toiletries is the best, just for the first days and you can buy anything there. I always ran out of something and have found products better than I can buy here at home.

Posted by
3198 posts

" Why do OPs disappear so often on this site? I'm new here and have already seen it often. "

I think it is maybe because they don't like the advice they are given, even after they've made an effort to ask for it!
A little rude though, when people have taken time to answer them.

Posted by
20316 posts

I guess they don't have email notification of new answers, otherwise they'd be driven nuts with all the answers posted in 3 short days. Usually the "thank you" is a sign-off message. "Thanks folks, we got all the answers we need. You can stop now."

Posted by
2 posts

Hi there, folks. It's me the OP! I have been following the responses; just haven't had time to post until now. I'm amazed at the response I received to my question. A big thanks to everyone!! Lots of good information to consider as we plan our packing choices. I will say to those who suggested that I let my wife struggle with her luggage in the event she takes something bigger than a carryon - I will never let that happen. She does so much for the family happiness that the least I can do for her is help her with luggage if she needs it. I want her and the kids to have nothing but great memories of this trip, not memories of me refusing to help her when she might need it. Having said that, I think the fact that a large majority of you recommended going with a carryon has made her rethink some things. Maybe we can find that "perfect bag" that's somewhat larger than a carryon, but smaller than a medium-sized suitcase.

My family and I have traveled lots of places, but all have been to places other than Europe where we didn't really need to concern ourselves too much with luggage size. (My wife and I were in Italy several years ago and we're really looking forward to getting back there, in addition to our other stops.)

Thanks again for all your responses.

Posted by
420 posts

I remember a post from a young American woman who was living and working in Italy and was wondering what to do with the 7 suitcases in her flat. She had numerous college friends from the US visit her. She said by the time they met up with her they were so sick of their larger luggage that they would ditch it at her place and buy something smaller and lighter. She decided to donate the luggage except for 1 piece which she said was pretty expensive.

Posted by
20316 posts

A couple of years ago, wifey and I went to Germany for 2 weeks. The excuse for the trip was to attend an opera festival for a week, requiring several changes of formal clothes each. So we packed the fancy clothes in one 25 inch bag and the rest we fit into one 21 inch bag and we each carried modest backpacks. One day we traveled an itinerary with 6 train changes during the day. We managed without too much trouble, but I carried the 25 incher and she carried the smaller one. Being a good husband, I am sure you will volunteer to handle the 25 inch one. As long as the other 3 bags are 21 inch bags, you should manage OK.

Posted by
27352 posts

There are definitely suitcases out there that measure about 23"or 24" including handle and wheels. You may even find them at a good price at Marshalls or TJMaxx. They will weigh less than a 25" bag empty, which is a good starting point.

Most of us have little tricks we use to save weight, many of which just trim an ounce here or there. Those ounces add up, but I think the most important thing is to address issues that can add pounds to the weight of the packed bag. I think these are useful concepts:

  • Pay attention to the weight of the bag; that varies a grat deal.

  • Don't take a lot of shoes. I manage for an entire summer with the pair on my feet and would never consider taking more than 2 pairs.

  • Don't take large bottles of toiletries and make-up items.

  • Don't pack "outfits". Pack mix-and-match separates, more tops than bottoms (a dress counts as one of each).

  • Don't take multiple sweaters or jackets (except for a separate rain jacket). Pick one warm outer layer that will work--more or less--with everything. I use a fleece jacket; others like a packable puffer jacket if they're probably going to run into low temperatures.

  • For time in potentially cold climates, long johns will provide substantial warmth without an awful lot of extra weight. They'll turn a summer-weight outfit into a spring/fall outfit. If your hotel room isn't well-heated, you can sleep in them. (I've done that several times this month, and I'm in southern Spain.)

Posted by
609 posts

It would be good to know what cities/towns you plan to visit.
I know that many poster in the forum that advocate for only carry-on have the rolling kind. So to me a bigger luggage would not be that much harder to roll around than a rolling carry-on. If you limit yourself to 3 or less destinations then you're looking at changing locations 1 or 2 times. The last time I traveled I just took a carry-on and my wife took 2 carry-on checking one of them.

By the way, great for you for standing for you wife and being aware that creating lasting memories is more important than the size of luggage you take. Remember that if Mom ain't happy (on this trip), ain't nobody happy. Have fun.

Posted by
6363 posts

acraven's comment about the long underwear is good. If we're going to run into colder weather, I always toss in my silk longies. And yes, I do believe I slept in them on our BOE tour last year. Land's End has some pretty ones. The turtle neck tops are pretty enough to wear on their own, and layer nicely.

They weigh almost nothing, and can be scrunched down to fit in any available cranny in your bag. I'm looking at night time temps for our upcoming trip, and have decided to add my longies to my packing list yet again.

Posted by
2460 posts

I will say to those who suggested that I let my wife struggle with her luggage in the event she takes something bigger than a carryon - I will never let that happen. She does so much for the family happiness that the least I can do for her is help her with luggage if she needs it. I want her and the kids to have nothing but great memories of this trip, not memories of me refusing to help her when she might need it.

Good for you. :)

I have not yet done carry on only, but plan to try on my next trip. My first trip to EU I was a disaster when it came to packing, I literally took everything and wore/used less than half of what I took. I've gradually improved over time and ready to try carry on (I think). I recently watched a packing video on Rick Steve's YouTube channel by Sarah Murdoch (it's linked on one of the responses above). She gets the packing conundrum that a lot of women face. I think it'll be useful for your wife, even if she checks baggage, since you can still pack light with a checked bag.

Posted by
1243 posts

Off topic, but wow, thanks all for mentioning and posting re Sarah Murdoch. Here is what her website says:

I’m launching a collaboration with my friend and colleague Reid Coen,
owner of Imprint Tours. Our concept is to provide the same reliable
quality of a Rick Steves tour in places that Rick doesn’t go–Asia,
Africa, South America. While the format is what we’ve learned from
Rick, these tours are a little more edgy, perfect for anyone ready to
find real adventure.

So many folks post on this forum asking for recommendations not Europe but like RS tours.

Posted by
3240 posts

I understand your courtesy to your wife. I commend it. I, too, have a husband who will do anything for me, including opening car doors, carrying, running out for anything I need. However, that doesn't mean I take advantage of it...but sometimes. Nonetheless, as a feminist and a practical person, one must be able to assert control and/or prepared for all things.

The issue is whether or not your wife can handle her own luggage.

This is very important whether or not either of you take advantage of this. Sh$# happens. Less likely with 4 of you, but there could be other occasions when she might be responsible for your and her luggage; injury, illness, separation, lateness... So it is not really the size, but what she can reasonably handle on her own, which will allow for handling unforeseen scenarios.

Posted by
6363 posts

Wray beat me to it. We're not suggesting you leave your wife behind as she struggles with her bags, but everyone in your group should be able to handle his or her bags should the need arise. As Wray suggested, stuff happens. On one tour, I fell ill, and had trouble with my backpack. My DH took the two heaviest bags; I handled our "personal items." Much appreciated.

And believe me, the less stuff you are carrying or dragging around, the more pleasant your trip will be.

Posted by
2618 posts

I travel solo, usually for 2 weeks, and while I have done carry-on I prefer my rolling 25” suitcase; I like to shop and I need a certain amount of hair product so checked works for me. That said, I don’t overpack—2 pairs boots/shoes, 2 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs undies and socks and depending on what weather I might encounter, perhaps a mix of 7 tops. I do sink laundry, even my jeans. My bag predictably weighs 27 lbs at the airport and along with a sturdy LeSportsac tote for a carry-on I’m able to handle it myself.

Posted by
15986 posts

We're not suggesting you leave your wife behind as she struggles with
her bags, but everyone in your group should be able to handle his or
her bags should the need arise.

Exactly. That's not what we're suggesting at all! It's just good planning to be able manage one's own bag should one HAVE to. But another reason to keep the bag as small as possible? European hotel rooms can be much smaller than Americans are used to. The bigger the bags, the more tripping over and around them you might be doing. LOL, we learned THAT lesson the hard way on our very first trip together abroad (London). That PITA of a suitcase was promptly retired after we got home :O)

Posted by
8590 posts

gmelgares, please come back to the forum after your trip and let us know how it turned out, whether or not you were successful in convincing your family.

Posted by
472 posts

What's Plan B for when the strongest person in your group sprains a wrist or ankle or? Can everyone else cope with the stuff?

Posted by
3614 posts

I always check a bag, even though I use either my 20” or 22” expandable. Checking allows me to bring larger sizes of toiletries than can go through security; and, frankly we are beyond the age of being able to lift those bags into the overhead bin. In either one I can fit 5 bottoms, 7 or more tops, an extra cardigan, sleepwear, a week’s worth of underwear, at least 2 pairs of shoes (+ the ones on me), toiletries, a swimsuit, and some miscellaneous.. I do not see why anyone would need a larger bag, except, maybe, in winter when clothes are bulkier. It doesn’t matter how long the trip. I plan to do laundry, or have it done, one/week.
My meds, electronics, a change of clothes, a book, and essential toiletries go in what luggage companies often call a tote. I wear a cardigan over another shirt and wear or carry on a light, waterproof jacket.
My suggestion is that your wife lay out what she thinks she wants to bring and see if it will fit into a smaller than 25” bag. Proceed from there.

Posted by
173 posts

I frequently travel without my husband, including on European trains. I'm 72 y/o and petite. My 24" spinner is the largest bag that I can manage on my own. On a two week trip to Italy I was just as "happy" with it as I was with my 21" Travelpro the year before. The key point is that everyone is responsible for his own luggage.

Posted by
15986 posts

I plan to do laundry, or have it done, one/week.

Same. We do laundry every week to week-and-1/2, depending.

Posted by
10297 posts

My husband did hurt his back while we were staying in a fourth-floor walkup apartment in Bologna. I had to make multiple trips taking 2-22” suitcases and daypacks down the four flights of stairs while he watched, in pain but so sorry to see me doing everything. Anything larger and I wouldn’t have been able to do it. No concierge, no porter, no plan B.

We caught a cab, train personnel helped us, and an orthopedist in Bolzano gave him a cortisone shot.

Posted by
30 posts

I think a lot of downsizing deals more with changing a lifetime of never wearing the same outfit once in a week, never wearing jeans two days in a row without washing, and really wanting to wear that perfect outfit for every event. Or having to have bandaids, a lint roller, replacement batteries in every size on hand always. Those are difficult habits to change, especially on a dream vacation. Most of us posting are at a point in our lives where we just don't need all that. I use to be one of those packers, but slowly became a carry on queen. It does take a lot of effort the first time you do it. I must have packed and repacked a hundred times. I did it because I wasn't going to be in any city more then 3 days and I told myself no one except the person I am going with will know I am wearing the same outfit every third day, and I can always just buy things as I need them. It was totally freeing. The best thing for me was the space we had in our hotel room and the time we saved pulling everything out at every hotel room, trying to find something we thought we packed and then trying repack everything up again. It helped to focus the trip on where we were, not what we brought. Good luck!

Posted by
503 posts

After travelling with my sisters who shopped until they had to buy extra luggage to carry their purchases home and I felt bad for them so ended up helping to schlep their stuff, I have a simple, 5 word sentence that I repeat often......I am not your Sherpa

Posted by
4171 posts

This is not exactly on topic, but popped into my head when people talked about small rooms and big luggage.

I hope you are not planning to put the kids in the same room with you without getting a room for 4 people. That's a big no no in Europe and could get you kicked out of wherever you're staying. is a good place to search for rooms for 4. Quads are rare, so your results may mostly be apartments.

In fact, if you haven't already, it would be a good idea for all of you to immerse yourselves in the Travel Tips on this RS website. Sometimes you don't know what you don't know.

Posted by
2768 posts

Another thing is that almost all “what if” products can be bought there. If it’s not something you need often and it’s not extremely urgent or expensive if you do end up needing it, or a very unusual item, you can get it there. What if you get a bug bite? They have cream there! What if you run out of batteries for an item that usually lasts over a month on one set? They have batteries there!
It’s quite possible you will have to buy one random item, but that’s much better than carrying 20 random items you will never end up needing.

Once I had to buy eye drops for an unknown allergy to...some plant that apparently is only in Greece. Once it was a shoelace. Another time it was band-aids. An alarm clock and batteries once (long story). A backpack after my son’s broke. A luggage scale. Extra shaving cream.
This is over years of travel. Sometimes people act as though if an item isn’t in their bag they will not be able to get it. You’re not going into the wilderness, stores exist!

Posted by
73 posts

Just want to note that sometimes it is the wife who packs light and the husband who wants the checked bag. My otherwise sweetie husband chronically overpacks. Then he wants to split the room in my carryon in case his checked bag gets lost.

I will say that there are some "just in case" items that are really nice to have without trying to find a store in a strange place. I always pack a hot water bottle for my back. If it's late evening, everything might be closed.

I'm now inspired to get my carryon down to 1400-1600 cubic inches.

Posted by
1662 posts


You'll get a ton of answers with many variations on packing. Packing for a long trip can be overwhelming.

Just go with what makes you feel comfortable. You can take a carry on with a couple of days' worth of stuff (inclusive of all your valuables of course.) The checked bag can hold the second half of your things.

If you are organized or can get organized, you can take all your favorites and even some of the "what if's."

Stores sell many little jars and bottles to decant your favorite liquid toiletries. Clear, plastic cosmetic cases with a zip top (just a little more room than a baggie), are now okay with most security. I've never been asked to change it. One security person thought it was a good idea.

Example: For clothes, pick dark bottoms and light tops in neutrals -- you can mix and match with a tonal look as well as a monochromatic look, etc.

*Black & white/ivory, Black & brown, Black & red/dark pink, Black & black, Black/dark grey/light grey, Black & a tan/beige color; Purples, Turquoise/blues, Orange/corals. If your base pants are navy, grey, brown, or a khaki, the above colors apply.

Those choices and certain colors can give you a lot of outfits. For women, brighten up the outfits with a scarf if liked or bold (costume) jewelry if liked, etc. Guys can wear a polo style jersey if a warm day, a heavier dress tee-shirt, or a button-down shirt left open (over a Tee) for a casual effect.

If you like jeans, (they tend to be heavier packed), wear one, take one. They don't dry fast so you may need to use a laundry mat. I've seen guys wear cargo style pants in a darker color or darker tan.

I take some bubble wrap sheets even though any jar or little bottle items I may buy are wrapped. I pack a first-aid kit. And, since I like peppermint tea, I take a few bags of that too.

I pack with Travelpro luggage and Kipling products depending on the trip. * Oh and packing cubes help too.

Posted by
15986 posts

The problem here is that we're not conversing with the traveler who wants the bigger bag. We can throw rational and tips for packing economically all day but are shooting the messenger if the subject of discussion isn't engaged herself?

Posted by
1625 posts

I agree with your wife, it is a crazy idea until you research the benefits and the biggest for me, the safety issues. By the way, I do carry on only but we do not subscribe to the "you have to be able to carry it yourself" rule. I am the navigator (bin 2, car #15..go go go) and he does security detail and the heavy lifting, works for us.
Have her go on you tube and Pinterest for great ideas, see how others do it successfully and still have tons to wear, look great and stylish. There are packing tricks and tools (packing cubes) that make it possible. I just came back from a 3 day business trip with my 21 inch suitcase pretty full due to all the events, took 4 pairs of shoes...came back with 9 ( yea the shopping was that good) and I knew they would fit because I have tricks and mad packing skills.
With that said, if she is willing to meet you half way with the medium size case, that may be a win for everyone!

Posted by
4 posts

We are a middle-aged couple with average mobility. We do carryon only, whether for two days or two months. Everywhere we go, we limit our luggage to two 21-inch rolling carryons and two backpacks. On some trips, we only take one backpack.

Yes, we sometimes wash out socks or underwear, but that’s no big deal. No matter what the climate, we get by with two pairs shorts, two pairs long pants (no long pants in the tropics), two short-sleeved shirts, two long-sleeved shirts, socks, bathing suits, one pair each shoes packed and one worn.

We will never check luggage again! Too much time wasted waiting for luggage when we could be enjoying life!

Posted by
134 posts

Carry on is the only way to go. I have traveled for 2 weeks with a carry on. Google the 5-4-3-2-1 packing rule and use a good packing list. It's better to be able to manage your own luggage than having to check and wait for it on the other end. I just spoke to a friend after her first European trip, she was miserable, because she had to 'schlep' her bags everywhere. Plus she had to buy a third piece of luggage. Ruined her vacation, particularly when she realized she did not wear 50% of the clothes she carried all over the place. Carry on, you will never regret it.