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Question Regarding Luggage for My First Rick Steves Tour

My husband and I just signed up for our first Rick Steves tour. We decided on a 7 day tour to see if we enjoy traveling with a group. We've traveled together independently for the past 42 years. If we think group travel is for us I have a list of future trips in mind.

I've read through the all the RS tour information, I think. It's a lot to take in. I know the luggage suggestions/requirements. I hate to purchase a new backpack just for this trip. Besides a small backpack I use as a carry on, I always check a larger LL Bean backpack. The larger backpack is slightly larger than recommended, measuring 25"x16"x9". I can comfortably wear it as it has an excellent waist strap. I've purchased chest straps too. I feel confident I can manage it on my own. My husband has assured me he'll help me out if I struggle, as he has in the past. Typically, we take three week trips. This one will likely be two weeks in total so I will not pack as much, or buy as much.

The question is...will it be okay to take the slightly larger backpack?

Looking forward to your comments.

Traveler Girl

Posted by
14067 posts

"The question is...will it be okay to take the slightly larger backpack?"

Yes, really the guidelines are there because you have to manage your own luggage. If you can manage a larger bag then take what you like!

BUT if you are going on a 7-day tour is this one of the City Tours? If so you have even less to worry about since you'll not be moving hotels during the tour.

Posted by
2434 posts

I hear you about not wanting to buy any new luggage as I have a closetful myself for various trip scenarios. As long as you can handle the larger backpack, I don’t see an issue. They do not have luggage police on the tour so you can take what you want. Have a great time on the tour and don’t stress out over all the pretour info.

Posted by
603 posts

Hi, I hope you have a great time on your tour and I would love to be in a RS tour group with you because you sound conscientious— after all you’re carefully reading the info that the office sent :)
As Pam and Mary have said, take whatever size piece of luggage you can handle comfortably on your own. Happy travels!

Posted by
6603 posts

I have never taken a RS tour, but have read enough posts on this forum to know that there is no real rule about luggage. Rick's tours recommend carry on sizes because he wants to make sure that people don't overdo it since everyone handles there own luggage. But there is no rule that says you cannot bring a larger bag.

Posted by
102 posts

Rick's suggestions are to make moving luggage from bus to hotel and back easier. If you have a 7 day city tour you will stay in one hotel and moving luggage around is not an issue.
I've seen people take enormous bags on tours - but they managed them to and fro and up and down. Take what is most comfortable for you.

Posted by
325 posts

The RS requirement is that you can manage your own luggage. Nobody is weighing or measuring your luggage. Our first RS tour was an 8 day trip, as we weren't sure we were tour types. We are leaving for our third RS tour in the spring! Happy travels!

Posted by
834 posts

The luggage guidelines are because, on some tours there’s hotels with no elevators and floors to climb, the tour bus can’t always drop you off close to the hotel and we’ve walked blocks, some of the tours have a water taxi to the town where you spend the night, etc. if you’re on a city tour, you wont be carting luggage to multiple hotels. Thank you for reading the guidelines, we’ve been on too many RS tours where people have literally been in tears because they didn’t read the guidelines and didn’t realize they were really going to have to haul their luggage up a steep hill in Mürren or climb 4 flights of stairs in Colmar.

Oh, and there was the time in Sorrento where they had hired a local small bus to transport us to Naples and we learned some new Italian words as the driver attempted to fit two very oversized bags into a small storage area.

Posted by
15279 posts

Starting this year, when you arrive at your first hotel, you will be greeted by an AI generated Rick. He'll welcome you and ask you to put your luggage in front of him. Then, a virtual tape measure will appear. If your bag is over the limits, you will not take his tour but a big bus tour that only has shopping stops. Everything will be optional.

Just kidding, as everyone has said, if you can handle it, you can bring it. In fact, some people will have two bags....the second being empty at start and kept in the baggage compartment of the bus. By the end of the tour, they will be filled with souvenirs. And this I'm not kidding about.

Posted by
11255 posts

Our tours are physically active! It's an essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. ...— among other things — you'll need to happily…
Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (possibly several blocks) and up stairways to reach your hotel, then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.

If you can move, you can bring it.

Posted by
834 posts

Yes Frank, of course, in Florence it’s purses and leather jackets, Switzerland, all that wonderful chocolate, Italy and France bottles of wine.

Posted by
160 posts

Thank You everyone for your quick replies to my question. I am happy to report my "big green backpack" as I call it will be making the trip!

Pam - I've learned so much from your posts. The tour is not a city tour. We change hotels three times.

Mary - I have luggage stored in two places. However, the past couple decades I use my big green backpack. I have had it since 1993.

Accidental Tourist - Who knows, maybe we'll be on the same tour someday in the future. I am been known to be very dutiful. I even read instruction booklets :)

Mary - I appreciate your response.

LizLynnwood - In the 80's I used a giant Samsonite suitcase. Often I checked two bags. And had two bigger carry on bags plus a purse. So for me my big green backpack is minimal packing :)

KD - I hope you have a great trip. I sure hope we decide to like tour group travel as I have several RS trips on my radar if we do.

margie - I've been hauling my own luggage, with assistance at times from my husband for years. Our lodgings often have no elevators and lots of stairs.

Frank II - Ha Ha! I do like to shop at flea markets and thrift stores. And as I wrote above, I used a lot of luggage in the past. In fact my motto was "If you don't return with your full allotment of luggage, you've wasted your trip :)"

joe32F - I've never complained about carrying my own luggage. The past several years it's my big green backpack and a smaller backpack for daily use. I the not so distant past I managed to carry them 3/4 of a mile from a train station to a youth hostel. I have confidence I'll be able to manage.

margie - For me, I buy kitchen items from flea markets and gifts for family and friends. And, of course, chocolates in Switzerland. Once on my form for U.S. customs I mixed up my < and > signs. So the customs official queried me on my purchases. I was in grad school at the time with little extra money. I began itemizing for him, a soup ladle, a small pan, a little doll, etc. from the Geneva flea market. Each item was a half franc or a couple francs. Finally, he just waived me through.

Again, thank you all for your posts. This is the third time I've tried to reply. The first two times it mysteriously disappeared before I could proofread it and hit "Add Reply". And each time I started over, there were additional responses to my query. Hopefully third time is a charm.

This is the best forum. I appreciate all who take the time to post.

Happy Travels everyone.

Traveler Girl and her Big Green Backpack

Posted by
4904 posts

Something to consider. From time to time some bags are gate checked regardless of size / weight. If that happens to you or your husband's bags, and it goes on it's own vacation,........

To decrease the possibility of one of you finding yourself in Europe with no clothes so to speak, do this.
Pack half of each person's clothing and other stuff in each bag. If one bags is gate checked and doesn't show up at your destination, you'll both have enough to get by until it does show up.

Posted by
14067 posts

"The tour is not a city tour. We change hotels three times."

That is good to know! I could not think of a 7-day multi city tour but now I see that the Heart of Ireland is that length.

It doesn't change my answer, though, lol. If you can manage it and carry it up a flight or two of stairs then you can take it. The buses on the RS tour are regular size coaches so there is plenty of room in the luggage compartment to stow things.

Years ago when I did the Best of Ireland one of the tour members had a rolling duffel bag that was about the same size she was. She did have problems managing it (long walk to the hotel in Kinsale but you're not staying that so no worries!) but was with friends and they pulled it for her. She was chilly the whole time so all I ever saw of her clothing was her coat - no idea what she had in the duffel, lolol!

And thank you for your kind words!

Posted by
160 posts

Pam, my backpack does look too big for me when I wear it.. Many have commented it must hurt my back to wear it. But if it's adjusted properly it does not hurt. And I have to be careful due to genetic osteoporosis. However, as long as it doesn't hurt to wear it, I'm using it. And I am very careful not to knock anybody out when wearing it.

And, yes we are taking the Heart of Ireland in 7 Days tour. We just finished making flight reservations. Other than clothing my backpack was pretty well ready to go last autumn when we had to cancel our trip which was to be a three week trip traveling independently. This trip will be less than two weeks so am taking a lot of things out. Who knows? Someday I may be a minimalist packer. Oh, who am I kidding?

Happy traveling!

Traveler Girl

Posted by
14067 posts

"Who knows? Someday I may be a minimalist packer. Oh, who am I kidding?"

Oh sweetie....we're already working on you, didn't you know?

And for goodness sakes, don't open any of Mardee's bag/purse/suitcase/clothing threads, hahahaha!! ALL lightweight and do double duty!

Posted by
160 posts

TC, - The idea of dividing the clothes between a partner's luggage and one's own is a good one. My husband and I have always checked our larger pieces of luggage and just carry on a small backpack. We always leave on the first flight out from our regional airport. This has always meant a long layover at the hub before our overseas flight leaves. We don't want to haul around anything extra for a sometimes eight hour layover. So far, in 58 years of flying, I've only had my luggage lost/misdirected/delayed one time in the late 70's. Hope I didn't just jinx myself!

Pam - I have been chuckling about your last post all afternoon yesterday, into the evening, and laughed with my husband about it just before I went to sleep. Woke up chuckling too. I needed a good chuckle. As much as I hate to admit it, you may be right. I may turn into a minimalist packer. It's Mardee's shoe posts that get me, but so far I've resisted.

Regarding packing light, I just reviewed RS suggested packing list that is with my trip documents. I was surprised to see that I actually take fewer clothes than recommended on his list. But, BUT, I like to take books. I typically take five paperback books, one to read on the trip over, one for the trip back, and three to read while on the trip. The rest of the books I read are on my phone. On one recent trip my notes indicate I read 15 books during that trip. I don't bring the books back home with me. But I do buy a lot of items while traveling and that fills my luggage on the way home

Many thanks to everyone!

Traveler Girl, the bookworm with the Big Green Backpack

Posted by
14067 posts

"I typically take five paperback books, one to read on the trip over, one for the trip back, and three to read while on the trip. The rest of the books I read are on my phone. On one recent trip my notes indicate I read 15 books during that trip."

I remember the old days, lol...when I took at least 3 and bought more for the trip home. One disaster of a trip I realized I'd already read 2 of the paperbacks I'd brought with me, hahaha. I do 99.9% of my reading on my iPad Mini Kindle app these days so I always have something available. I can't quite read on the kindle app on my phone unless I'm desperate but even with the weight of the iPad Mini it's worth it to me!

And I'm glad you are laughing....and yes, the shoe threads, lol!!