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packing light but bringing back goodies?

Hi! I'm new here and am in love with Rick's podcasts and Europe Through the Back Door. I've been to Europe once...30 years ago...and have plans to go to England and France in June, solo! I am a notorious overpacker, though, and have challenged myself to follow Rick's advice about using one carryon for the trip.

My confusion lies in how to be sure I will have room for goodies I acquire along the way. In particular, bringing home some wine. :D I would love some tips on the best way to do this.

Excited to learn from seasoned travelers!
Thanks in advance,

Posted by
11356 posts

Back a collapsible duffle in the bottom of your luggage. Check suitcase on way home and carry your carry on and the duffle. Or do what I do now, I buy small things, coasters, jewellery, placemats. I am not a shopper, though.

Posted by
3984 posts

This what I usually do:

Take a nylon, expandable duffel bag in my carryon.

Pay for one piece of luggage on the return flight in case I need to utilize the duffle as my carryon and check my 21” rolling luggage.

Have never been tempted to buy wine because we can get so many good imports here.

Occasionally I have had a large purchase shipped back for me but just calculate the cost to see if it’s worth it for you.

I never shy away from buying something I can stuff clothing into as I think it takes up very little room.

I’ve narrowed down my purchases over the years to textiles and gadgets I KNOW I can’t find in the US or the price is significantly less, i.e. a $200 Provence tablecloth for 60€.

EDIT: And welcome to the forum! You are on the right track for having a great trip.

Posted by
8597 posts

tracey ditto on taking a collapsible duffle to check on the return trip. We pack it with the liquid souvenirs (wine, jam, olive oil), and use all our dirty clothes to pack around them to help protect them. The non-liquid souvenirs that we dont want to lose, go in the carryon. Note that there are special padded plastic bags you can use to seal and contain wine bottles, that help - look up Wineskins for one brand. Sometimes, if there's too much stuff, we pack it in the sturdier carryon bag and check that, using the duffle for our carryon on the return

Posted by
1025 posts

Wine is problematical.

It is heavy, fragile, and to be frank, unless you know what you are purchasing (i.e., you have a desire to break the bank on an excellent vintage and label, or if you are buying direct from a vineyard or its agents) you run a real risk of buying something okay, but not exceptional, and then having the task of bringing it back on trains, in cabs, and finally, on your flight home.

As the earlier poster indicated, there are so may excellent wines available in the U.S., that unless you are a serious oenophile with great contacts abroad and an inexpensive mechanism for shipping wine from Europe, your one-off wine purchases will be very difficult to schlep around England and France comfortably.

I always look for smaller and less fragile things to bring back when I am one bagging it, which is pretty much all the time. True story: A friend returned from Italy with an extra suitcase filled to the brim, including extra cushioning, with really beautiful artisan pasta, colorful and elegant. She told me how unique it was, and that it was only available in a particular region and town, as the manufacturers didn't export it outside Italy. A month later, I was on a trip to San Francisco and found a huge display of the same pasta, marked down for clearance, in a North Beach store. Out of kindness, I didn't tell her about that find and let her keep believing she had scored a great purchase.

Posted by
7404 posts

Are you planning to buy the wine at your last location before returning home? Carrying wine bottles in your luggage can weigh you down, but it’s weightless if you just drink it - ha!

Posted by
852 posts

Wine in a carryon? To the US? Sorry, that's not going to happen, you'd have to check it.

Posted by
14175 posts

Just remember that you'll need to pack your liquid souvenirs as they won't make it thru security at your departure airport. They will have the same 3-1-1 bag requirements. (a 1 quart/liter plastic bag with individual containers that are 3oz or less each).

You can purchase wine at the duty-free shop which you can bring on the plane however, this only works if you don't have a connection as you'll have to clear security again at the connection airport and will have to follow the 3-1-1- rule.

The best advice I got here when I started light packing was to pack on paper first. Distill your wardrobe to 3 bottom pieces - maybe 2 pr long pants, 1 pr capris in case it gets hot and then maybe 5 tops that will go with all the bottoms. One or 2 long sleeve sweaters or tops to layer. 1 Waterproof jacket. 2 pr shoes including the pr you are wearing. If you wear skirts, swap them out for your pants. If you wear dresses, swap out for a top and a bottom.

Do some thinking about a cohesive capsule wardrobe. Do you ever read The Vivienne Files blog? She has wonderful color combinations and suggestions on how to build a capsule. Her clothes are actually too dressy for my lifestyle. Sometimes they are too expensive as well but she does use basic pieces from Lands End and LLBean which are my price range!

We had a long discussion on here a couple of years ago about capsule wardrobes. I was traveling at the time and posted this thread about my clothing choices. I've since taken mostly the same clothing combinations for Fall of 2017 and Spring of 2018 (same time frame as you for England and Scotland).

Many of us use packing cubes to keep organized. I used to use Eagle Creek silnylon compression cubes but the last 2 trips I've used a new kind which I really like. They are from the blogger Travel Fashion Girl and lay upright in your suitcase. They do have a learning curve on how to fold clothing to load them! I use 3 in my 21" RS roller bag and use the 4th one in my carry one for my back-of-the-airplane-seat-cube.

I love talking about packing and wardrobes!

BTW, England and France are excellent choices for solo travel!

Posted by
2712 posts

There is no reason to carry wine back from France. Drink what you like, take tasting notes, photograph the label. Go to a local wine merchant with good knowledge of French wines, or look on line (you can even do that while you are there). Wine is a global industry and in the US there is a plethora of great wine, imported and domestic, so no need to risk breakage, deal with the weight, customs, etc. 30 years ago bringing back wine-maybe. Now, no reason.

Posted by
6113 posts

I bought some decent port in Portugal a few years ago, packed it well in an inflatable sleeve and padded clothes around it in a check in bag and when I got home, I found that the bottle had shattered and all the clothes in the bag were either shredded by glass shards or soaked in port, so the entire contents had to be thrown away.

Buy wine duty free or just get it at home.

Posted by
5047 posts

I agree with the above posts: don't bring wine back, due to what's available in the USA.

Regarding light packing, I usually bring 4-5 outfits [and two pairs of shoes] for two weeks, and a third of the clothes I bring will be thrown out along the way. [Instead of donating clothes to charity the months before the trip, I put the clothes aside in my carry-on.] It really helps if I time it right, and can dump a pair of walking shoes. This clears room for shopping goodies.

Instead of a purse, I use a Scottevest or Exofficio jacket/vest with inside zipper pockets. This allows me to bring a packable backpack.

Safe travels!

Posted by
8597 posts

Well, for some of us, its not about lack of good wines back home. A bottle of wine purchased directly from a winery, from an especially memorable place, or that no one back home has ever heard of, makes for a great memory. Even if you never drink it.

Posted by
173 posts

When considering a purchase of wine or similarly heavy, fragile items, always ask the vendor if purchases can be shipped to your home. I have done this with French wines, Murano glass and Italian ceramics. Everything arrived unscathed. Happy travels!

Posted by
996 posts

I have brought back wine from many of my trips. You have three main ways of doing this, although only two work for packing lightly.

1 - Buy some inexpensive wine sleeves to pack the wine bottles and place them in your luggage which will need to be CHECKED on your return home. (There are many types. For a quick glance, go over to Amazon and use the search term 'wine travel bag airplane' and see what's available. Don't forget that no sleeve is 100% perfect and remember there is a weigh limit on checked luggage. The most I've done with this method is three bottles in one suitcase.

2 - Have the winery ship the wine to your home/office if possible. This is not cheap, but you can have an entire case shipped this way if the winery has made arrangements to do this.

3 - You can also purchase a suitcase that's specifically for shipping wine. You can also see a range of available products at Amazon (suggested search term 'wine suitcase for airplane') but other places sell them as well. This would mean taking this suitcase with you on the trip. This bag will also have to be checked.

What I usually do is pack three wine sleeves and take my chances on packing them in the suitcase. I've been lucky so far. I've shipped wine to my home once. I also pack a lightweight, folding bag on some trips. That way I can have a spare bag if necessary for the return trip home. I also once traveled with a woman who always bought suitcases on her trips. She said she had a room at home filled with just suitcases she'd brought home from her trips. -shrugs-

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a fantastic adventure!

Posted by
514 posts

I bought the Rick Steve’s “Hide-a-way Tote Bag” a couple years ago and it is perfect for helping you bring back goodies. It folds small into its own zip pocket, but is quite large when open. Since it is soft-sided, it would not be good for anything fragile, but can be stuffed with your clothes and such, leaving plenty of room in your suitcase for your purchases.

I notice it is on sale right now on Rick’s site - about $15.

Posted by
2252 posts

tracey, I have successfully brought home many bottles of wine from several European countries over the years. For some reason, to me, it actually tastes better when my head knows it came for the country I have just visited. Beside which, someone once told me the US requires so many compliances with what is imported and sold here, it actually isn't exactly the same wine I have just enjoyed in Europe. Of course, before anyone jumps all over that statement, I was told that at a wonderful winery in Sicily.... in any case, I have used bubble wrap that I carry over with me, dirty clothes, ziplock bags and other improvised methods to get my treasures home. I also have used some of those very handy Amazon purchases mentioned in some of the other posts. They work well and some are even reusable. And no, when I bring wine home, I do not "carry on", even though my suitcase is carry on size. I am happy to report, I have never had a problem with breakage.....yet!

Posted by
2 posts

WOW! I am blown away by how many responses I've received today! I think I'm going to like it here. Thank you everybody and I hope to have a chance to read through them all tonight and reply.

For those who commented about taking wine on the plane. I do know that I can't carry wine on the plane unless it's purchased in the duty free shop. That's why I asked how to do this when I want to use just one carryon bag for the trip. :)

Posted by
302 posts

I have become a recent fan of the duty free at my departure airport for small bottles I can fit in the now- depleted 3-1-1 plastic bag and pkgs or jars of iconic national items, like Tim Tams in Australia and various flavored licorice in Copenhagen I can tuck in my carry on or underseat bag. As all the others, I also take a zippered pouch that unfolds to full size duffel. I start out trying to add to my carryon and when it just can't hold anything else out comes the duffel. Dirty clothes at end of trip go in my original carryon and I check it, and then I take the duffel instead. Don't discount airport shopping on departure. I bought a sweater I wore home on the plane and have worn constantly since- a reminder of the trip.

Posted by
1063 posts

Check with your airline. Some airlines in the States ship wine regularly. Alaska ships wine for free for passengers flying out of CA.

You may also want to check with the winery. they should have a ability to pack and ship for you.

That being said, the only thing close to that I've ever brought back was some herbal liqueur from a small monastery that does no outside sales.