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Rick Steves Tour Luggage Limitation

I can't seem to find the comment here on the website, but my 2019 RS Tour catalog on the last page says "Each tour member is allowed to bring just one airline carry on size piece of luggage (approximately 21"x14"x9") plus small day pack.....), I get that I am totally responsible for toting my bag from the bus to the hotel and vice versus. No problem with that, but how rigid are they on the size?

We are trying to figure out plans for 2021. We are booked for a Tauck tour of Switzerland, but would like to add another tour or sight seeing on our own (Paris with day trips possibility). If we opted for another group tour, the RS Loire/South of France seems a logical tour to add on but I'm not sure I can spend 2 weeks with Tauck eating/staying at 4/5 star hotels with a wardrobe limited to a carry-on only bag.

There is the possibility we could dump a bag of extras at CDG between the two tours since we'll like be flying there from Zurich, then home from there, but it would be easier if we could just bring our checked bags. They aren't huge and we plan to pack as light as possible.

Posted by
540 posts

They do not throw you off the tour for bringing too large of a bag. They are serious about- you bring it, you carry it and they put in the small bag warning to get folks thinking light.

And not to burst your bubble....but....RS is not going to care what size bag you take to Europe in 2021.

Posted by
5298 posts

note, its not just carrying your own bags from/to the hotel (although that might be a few blocks away), but also up and down multiple narrow staircases of small old hotels, that may or may not have tiny elevators. The worst sin you can do on an RS tour is to be late for bus departure, while struggling down the stairs with your bags.

Posted by
82 posts

My husband and I have been on 4 Rick Steves tours. On all the tours, one of the bags we used was about 25", the other slightly smaller..Take what you want and can handle. No one gave us any difficulty about them. Just keep in mind YOU WILL have to carry it yourself. The bus driver takes the luggage on and off the bus. You take it to and from the bus. Sometimes you might walk several blocks to the hotel, sometimes the bus can get right up to the hotel's front door. You may walk down cobblestone streets, sidewalks, curbs and (more than likely) up flights of stairs to your room. If you’re good with all that, take whatever you want. No one will care. We can handle everything we take and have never asked for any help. We prefer a little bigger bag so we have some extra room, if we make any purchases.

The majority of our tour mates used carry on size luggage, however we have never been the only ones with a little bit larger. Just make sure you can maneuver it easily.

We’ve taken two RS France tours and loved them both. Enjoy.

Posted by
20792 posts

You can do it. We and many of the posters do it all the time. Does require some creativity and planning. You have time to practice. We often go for four or more weeks, generally stick at two week or more cruise in the middle. We never have more than three carry-on size bags total. It does require doing laundry along the way, My wife has three changes and wears one. Then will the use of belts, scarfs, can get about ten different looks. One change is more dressy and the other two are fairly casual. I have less variation with one change been my daily travel version, one is casual, and finally dressy with dark parts, dress shirt, and I carry one tie. If it is damaged I can always buy a new one. It can be done,

Posted by
556 posts

Thanx much. My main concern was whether the tour buses could handle the size increase. All the other tours I've been on had plenty of room but wasn't sure if RS used smaller sized buses since the group sizes are smaller.

We're getting better each trip at packing lighter, but I do like to give myself some weight allowance on my bag for souvenir shopping.

Posted by
8791 posts

The bus on the Rick Steves tour will be virtually the same size as the one you will have on the Tauck Tour.

Some people bring a second bag for souvenirs and it stays on the bus through the entire trip. Plenty of room.

Posted by
6668 posts

Does my luggage have to measure exactly 9 x 21 x 14 inches?
You must be able to comfortably handle all your luggage by yourself at all times. Therefore, we strongly urge you to limit your luggage to airline carry-on dimensions.

The above from this section of the FAQ-- https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-help/tours-faq

The buses are full size ( 48-52 passenger)--- just max out at 28 tour members

Posted by
11444 posts

Yeah you do t have to worry about room for you or your luggage on Rs tour buses / they use the regular 50 seaters but only put max of 28 on it .

I’ve only done one Rs Tory but several people had suitcases that were bigger than carry on - but were still smaller than larger bags

Posted by
965 posts

You can bring whatever size suitcase you want as long as you can lug it yourself. My friend brought a 29” suitcase and a carryon size suitcase (it was full of shoes) on our GAS tour last year! I tried to talk her into bringing a smaller one but she was a newbie to travel so she didn’t she could do it. The look on our bus driver’s face was priceless lol. She handled it all by herself thankfully. There’s lots of space under the bus so you can bring a second suitcase and leave it in the bus for the duration of the tour as long as you let your driver know. On a couple of our stops, I actually left my 25” suitcase in the bus and just brought what I needed in my duffle bag.

Posted by
82 posts

One couple on one of our tours were taking a Mediterranean cruise following the RS tour. They had an extra suitcase that contained their “cruise clothes”. They left that suitcase on the bus during the entire tour. You could do that with your extra stuff, that you wouldn’t need on the RS tour.

Posted by
1405 posts

What Ellen said. There were several couples on our tour that had been on the road for awhile; one couple were into their 6th week. They packed what they needed for this tour into smaller suitcases and the other luggage was stored under the bus until the end of the tour.

*we did the Loire to the South of France and loved it.

Posted by
3436 posts

The luggage restriction is a recommendation only. As others have said , as long as you can move your bag(s) around on your own with no help, you are free to bring whatever size and number of bags you feel you need. You don't mention which tour you are taking, but remember the bus can drop you up to a half mile from the hotel door as it did in Salzburg on the GAS tour I was on.

On that GAS tour, there was a man traveling solo who had 6 bags with him! Two large check size bags with wheels, a cary on, two large backpacks, and a brief case. I was unlucky to have to share a room with him on several of the stops (this was before I decided to just pay the single supplement on every trip) and he unloaded everything every stop leaving not much more than my bed for me to place things. He had 4 laptops with him, for some unknown reason, and loaned them to other tour members who needed to do email and such, which was nice of him (this was before the days of the iPhone and tablets, so almost no one had any way to do email except in internet cafes). I remember when we stopped in Salzburg the half mile from the hotel watching him try and wrangle all of those bags. I'm sure he rethought his packing needs after that. :-)

Posted by
12 posts

We were in France and Germany 20 years ago for nearly 3 weeks and my husband and I each had a backpack and I had a foldable satchel. Our kids couldn’t believe that was all we were taking. We washed stuff in sinks, bought sweaters in a thrift store when we had unexpected cool weather, and wore Birkenstocks or hiking shoes. We pretty much travel everywhere with the same amount of stuff but did upgrade to Osprey pack because the lumbar support made a lot of difference in comfort (we’re not spring chickens any more). Last year we were on a RS tour with each of us carrying a backpack. The only additional bag we added was a small foldable backpack that was used as a day bag. One of our fellow travelers commented that we should get the “travel light award”. It can be done!

Posted by
1405 posts

Here's an excerpt from a Trip Report I wrote after my Loire to the South of France trip. That day still gives me a chuckle;

I have to post a story about the Rick Steves warning about packing light, and also his warnings that you may have to haul your suitcase a distance and up stairs. Our hotel was right beside the Roman Arena but well away from the main street where our bus dropped us off. There is a warning on these tours that you may be expected to haul your luggage over cobblestones a fair distance and the hotel may not have an elevator. This warning was tailor made for Arles. About 1/2km walk, cobblestones, uphill. We had one couple in their mid-70’s on the tour who are in good shape for their age, but the wife was struggling with her suitcase and needed help from one of our tour members. I sought her out on the morning we were heading back to the bus and carried her suitcase for her. By this time, we were a close-knit group and help like this would be automatic for some of our older members. Back to the day we arrived at the hotel though, to get to our 2nd floor room meant a climb up a steep, narrow set of stairs, we got to the top, made a sharp right and down a hall, down 3 stairs and then up 3 stairs. Along the way we ran into a solo traveler in our group-early 60’s who didn’t pack light. She’s a very nice woman-a librarian, but today she was dropping f-bombs about stairs and suitcases. I couldn’t help but laugh, but also took her suitcase and got it to her room. I believe I learned a few new words that day and she swore she’d learned her packing lesson.

Posted by
7840 posts

Laughing....I think I mentioned this on Allan's TR but I, also, have stayed in that wonderful hotel in Arles on a Road Scholar tour. Fabulous location! Road Scholar usually porters your luggage but this was the last stop of the tour and many had to leave early, early to catch a flight out of Marseilles. There was only one employee on the night shift at the hotel so our group was told we'd have to manage our luggage if we were leaving before the day folks came on at 8AM or so. I was in the annex in a 1st floor (one flight up) room. There were 2 other tour members on my floor, both with huge suitcases. One of them had the go up 3 steps, then down 3 to get to her room. If I'd realized it before we got settled in our rooms I'd have traded with her as I just had my 22" rollaboard so she only had to negotiate the circular stair part!

I agree with everyone else...huge luggage bays on the bus so no problem. On one tour the bus driver had a clothes line and an ironing board set up in one of the bays, and yes, he was quite the dresser, lol. (Richard!!)

You might consider bringing some kind of duffel bag so you could stash any non-needed clothing on the bus for deep storage instead of bringing it in every night. Not sure how dressy Tauck tours are but Rick's tours are pretty casual so if you have dressier items you could easily stash them. You'd just let your bus driver know you wouldn't need that particular piece off loaded. The drivers are excellent...they'll eat with you and sometimes join you on a tour so you get to be friends with them as well as the guides.

Posted by
753 posts

Our first RS Tour, about seven years ago, was Venice-Florence- Rome.

There was a couple [ sweet-very-young thing and and older out-of-his prime guy.] She must have bought every trinket she saw, and had the corresponding several big suitcases. Watching them move their massive luggage was always entertainment. As we left the Venice hotel, we used the vaporetto to take us to the waiting bus. Gliding thru the canal, she realized she had left her backpack -with passport- on the vaporetto landing. Our wonderful guide Alfio called the hotel, which sent staff running out to the landing, and against all odds, the backpack was still there. The backpack & passport were then mailed/shipped to the Rome hotel, with a happy reunion at the end of the trip. Moral of the story: bring whatever you want, but then realize that being mobile is a physical and security challenge.

I must admit, these type of travelers are in the minority, in my experience, on RS Tours.

Oh, I how long for the days of travel.........

Posted by
169 posts

You might want to consider a service like Luggage Free. Because different wardrobes are necessary, we use it to ship a suitcase ahead when we are traveling by land in Europe prior to a transatlantic cruise. They are very reliable and it's easy. Search around for coupons; they are out there. Generally, the piece should be shipped about 2 weeks in advance, depending on where you're going. The hotel would probably hold the bag for you if it arrives a few days before you do.

Posted by
5688 posts

Mark, thank you for sharing the story of the six-bagged man!!!! That is truly incredible. I love the two backpacks, too — how many backs does one guy have????

Although I admit myself during my backpacking days to wearing a big backpack on my back and my day one on my front, so I guess I shouldn’t mock too much.

Allan, you are a gallant gentleman. Not that we ever doubted that !

Posted by
556 posts

Thanx folks. Lots of humor here (Claudette and the shoe-aholic friend), glad it wasn't me moments (Mark and his roomy), and thankfully lots of good suggestions. I was nervous even posting this given how packing light is viewed on this forum.

As I said, we are getting better each trip at packing light but this could be a bit tricky. The Tauck hotels are mostly 4 and 5 star (the Savoy in London, the Schweizerhof in Lucerne, etc) and they include many more meals than a RS tour. Most dinners are in the hotel's restaurants so we need at least dress slacks, a nice top and flats. Actually this Switzerland tour will be one of the most casual we've taken. No especially fancy dress up occasion. Not even a sport coat for my husband. It's an early Sep trip and we'll have a range of temps from Lugano to Zermatt. I plan to bring a lightweight pair of boots mostly for traction and ankle support. Layers, leggings, and scarves are the plan otherwise.

The RS tour we're thinking of is the "Loire to the South of France", so we could certainly place the boots, extra cold weather items, etc in storage or even ship them home. Might be able to share a checked bag and/or use a couple of foldable bags that are easy to carry.

Again, thanx. claudia

Posted by
3534 posts

Claudia, sounds like you have a good plan. We have packed for 3-week trips that spanned cold Wengen, Switzerland to heat wave Rome, Italy with just a carry on roller bag and small backpack, each. And I usually have reservations for something formal - a ballet, opera, etc. during the trip. People have commented that I look nice. They just don’t know that I wore that same outfit three days ago and washed it in the sink!

Agree with other comments that the stairways can be very steep and narrow, so be sure to pack something where you feel stable carrying it up a couple of flights of stairs - not the time you would want to injure yourself! Occasionally there’s the tiniest elevators that literally fit just myself and my carry on suitcase wedged together!

Have a great time!

Posted by
28 posts

I've been on three RS tours. Never once was any comment made about the size of luggage that people brought and some of them were quite huge! On one tour the guide had the largest piece of luggage. As long as you're able to handle it and carry it, I would not worry what size you bring.

Posted by
477 posts

You will be fine. Enjoy your adventure.

unrequested editorial: Reducing one’s perceived travel requirements to a single, small bag and a personal item, regardless of whether you check your luggage or go carryon-only (a separate topic) is quite liberating; you simply have so much less to keep track of, worry about, keep clean, pack and unpack. There are many helpful posts and websites to help convince you to try one bagging. Best way to get accustomed to it is to go on a weekend shake down trip to a nearby city or just a long weekend at a local hotel.

Posted by
4245 posts

What everyone else said. Here's something that may help: Nobody cares if you wear the same outfit repeatedly. This is especially helpful if you are in a situation where there is more than one "dressy" occasion.

Posted by
556 posts

I got over the whole fear of others noticing what I was wearing a long time ago. Everyone is so much more interested in the trip that you really have to be wearing something that particularly stands out for anyone to even notice or remember. I still remember a woman with palazzo pants and a blingy beaded top on our first river cruise and a guy who showed up for dinner in jeans and a halloween orange sweatshirt.

Normally on Tauck tours I take one 25" checked bag, one 2 wheeled underseat bag and a tote for what I want during the flight and for daily use. Tauck handles the checked bag and I carry the rest to the bus when needed. Wasn't going to take it on this trip - just a the checked bag and a backback as we were already planning some follow-on travel after the trip where we'd have to deal with it all.

I think I could do a carry-on only trip if just traveling on our own and/or a RS trip. The other problem with the fancy hotels is they never have reasonably priced laundry service or are near one so it's strictly sink wash only. While I've gotten good at picking at least part of my wardrobe that dries quick some things like light compression socks and pants can be hard to get dry in time to wear or pack again. 32 Degrees or Lands End layering T's are great, fleece pullovers very lightweight, Lands End active leggings, etc. will all be going with me this time. It's keeping the shoe inventory down - especially as I have knee and arch issues that limit what will work.

I kind of keep hoping RS will have a mega sale on luggage like the guidebook one a few weeks ago and I could get the Ravenna bag I've been lusting after. If they do I'll take it as a sign.

Posted by
3436 posts

Laundry on RS tours:

In the more recent years I took a RS tour, they always made arrangements for whatever hotel the tour was staying at about the midpoint to do laundry at a very reasonable price. It is usually a fixed amount (i.e. however much you can pack into the provided bag) for a fixed price and is wash, dry, and fold only. You drop it at the front desk as soon as you can after arrival and it is usually back that evening or first thing in the morning. No special treatment, no ironing, no starch, no dry cleaning. Everything washed in the same load so watch your colors too. Since I always take mainly cotton washables in a similar palette or things that have already been washed so many times there is nothing left to fade, it has worked for me. Even if you don't wash everything, you can at least get the heavy stuff done while you are off having fun.

Some tours also have an option where RS has made an agreement with a nearby laundry to take in your clothes and do a similar wash, dry, and fold. This is not always as good price wise, many do charge by the pound, but is still a significant reduction over what you would pay if you were not with the RS group. One benefit of this is if you do have something that requires a bit of special treatment, they will usually do it for you at a slight additional cost.

Finally, the tours that don't have these arrangements, the hotel will give you directions to a launderette (washateria, or whatever you call it in your part of the world) where you can do your own wash and dry. I am not as fond of this option because you do have to sit there with your clothes until done. Saying this, I had the best laundry experience ever in Prague at the recommended launderette where I was served tea and biscuits (free!) and had a very nice chat with the owner while waiting on my clothes. And the owner's cat took a liking to me too.

Posted by
14103 posts

I've been on 3 RS tours (Turkey, Greece, Alpine) and always had a 24" or 25" with me. I never had a problem. I often packed what I needed for 2-3 nights in a backpack and left my case on the bus. There was at least one place where the guide told us a day in advance that there would be a long walk from the bus to the hotel and recommended that everyone take only what they needed for the one night and leave their luggage on the bus. They also have what they call "deep storage" where you can put souvenirs and such that you buy along with way but don't need for the tour.

Posted by
8791 posts

I have used this service to ship a piece of luggage from the UK to the U.S. It was easy and worked flawlessley. They will ship from most of Europe. Not cheap but they pick up and deliver.

https://www.sendmybag.com/

One one RS tour I took, we had an "assistant" guide. She had more luggage than anyone. Two massive backpacks--one worn in the front and one on her back. She had to buy a third bag because she bought more stuff than the rest of the tour combined. She obviously didn't follow her boss's "pack light" philosophy.

Posted by
4245 posts

Cj-traveler, you may be in luck. RS usually has at least one luggage sale a year; I think it's generally around Christmas ot New Year's.

Posted by
2779 posts

We go to Europe every year for the last 19 years - not this year unfortunately. We only take one carry-on sized suitcase that we often check, and one small hand held day bag. We have taken 18 RS tours and usually pack a collapsible bag that we can use for things we acquire along the tour and leave it underneath in the bus every day. Almost every one we have had as tour mates come with carryon sized luggage. I would guess that I have only seen one or two tour mates who brought large suitcases and they regretted carrying those up stairs to their rooms in hotels with no elevators. We wear the same clothes most days depending on the weather and have long ago got over being self conscious about what we were wearing. We were on one RS tour where a mother and her daughter both brought huge suitcases and wore different clothes every day. It was their first RS tour aod most likely their last. RS claims to travel in Europe every year for at least three months while only taking along a carry-on sized suitcase and a day bag. I can say that I have not seen any proof of that. We do not rely on laundromats or send out our laundry, we sink wash every thing we have when needed.

Happy travels and hope we all get back to Europe next year.