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The Carry-on challenge of the year!

My wife & I have been converts to the church of "packing light" for the last seven years, we've traveled all over Europe with each of us taking only our carry-on luggage. Well, we are leaving for London next week and it is always a little bit more of a challenge when you have to pack for cold weather, but to further complicate things we will also be attending a "Christmas Ball" at Downton Abby (Highclere Castle) and we will need formal wear! The clothes for the rest of the week was easy to pack and I use a Patagonia down jacket that is light weight and cover it with a Marmot rain jacket, with gloves I'm good to go for the cold/rainy weather. The hard part was packing the tux (coat, pants, shirt & tie) while trying to keep the wrinkling to a minimum, plus I had to add the dress shoes since I usually wear Merrell hiking shoes when I travel. I was able to fit everything in my backpack but the shoes, so I bought the Rick Steves Euro flight bag and was able to get both my dress shoes and my wife's dress shoes in it plus several other items my wife wanted to take to prepare for the Christmas Ball. So, we will each have our normal carry-on's and will use the Euro bag as our personal item. This may be a first for this forum, I never thought I would take formal wear with me on one of my trips to Europe.

Posted by
3207 posts

Yes, It can be done! I packed for my daughters wedding and assorted wedding parties in the UK in a carryon, as did my husband. The winter clothes; i.e., coat/boots can be worn on the plane. My personal item was my purse. However, my shoes are a lot smaller than yours, I imagine. A lot can fit into a carryon. Have fun! Wray

Posted by
308 posts

I admire your dedication to packing light! Unfortunately, I have recently decided to (gasp) actually check a bag for my upcoming trip to Paris in February. I just don't know how else to bring the extra warm clothes and shoes I will need to really enjoy the trip. Even my husband, who sees packing light as a sport, will be checking a bag this time. We spent a long time coming to this decision. The main deciding factor is that we will be staying put the whole time and will be taking a taxi to and from the airport.

Posted by
8421 posts

Checking a bag is not a crime. Especially since you have a good reason for it.

Posted by
3948 posts

We had to pack for a wedding this summer with things that were only used for the wedding weekend so one of us checked a 24" bag but the other took a 21" backpack. We were gone for a total of 5 weeks and traveled by train and plane to 3 countries. We just paid for one bag to be checked on all of our inter European flights too. No stress and little cost. BTW, have a wonderful time at the Christmas Ball!

Posted by
11507 posts

I pack light , usually only a 22 inch bag . However I often check it because I love dumping my bag at the airport .

So while I can do carry on , I usually don't bother . I like having a smaller bag for all the moving about we do , when we go to Europe we usually go 4-5 weeks , lots of trains , subways, stairs and inter European flights , but when I can I do check a bag.

I honestly haven't found it a hassle . Haven't lost a bag in over 35 years of travel ( always remove all old tags and stickers between each flight) . My bag is clearly labelled , and o watch them tag it at airport . Lucky I guess .

Waiting 20 minutes for my luggage at an airport is a drop in the bucket when it comes to hassles .

Posted by
8293 posts

Just check your luggage. The sky won't fall. Why anguish over a solvable "problem" ? I always check my bag, always. Once it took a day to catch up with me in Athens, but apart from that I have never run into a problem in (many more than I want to admit) years of f travel.

Posted by
2114 posts

Donald,
While it is admirable to try to fit both cold-weather and formal attire into carry-on only luggage, there is nothing wrong with checking a bag. We've done it when we had to lug formal attire (tux, etc.), and when we had to lug knee-high boots for my husband to Antarctica.

The approach I always take when rarely checking a bag is to make sure your mission-critical attire/items are in your carry on.....those items that are critical to a special activity or activities you will be doing. For instance, if one or both of you wear a hard-to-find shoe size, then keep the shoes in the carry-on. Those items that would be easier to replace on short notice, stick them in the checked bag.

How fun to attend a Christmas Ball at Highclere!! All of us Downton fans will be there in spirit with you. Please post a Trip Report when you return so we can hear all about it.

Save travels.

Posted by
5835 posts

Since legacy air carriers typically allow one checked bag without additional charge, why stress out on packing your home away from home in a carry-on. You can go half way and share on checked bag between the two of you and not try to crush your top hat into your backpack. That said, pack you "must have" stuff in your carry-on in the low probability event of a delayed bag.

PS One benefit of a backpack type of carry-on such as my RS Classic is that you still have one hand to pull or carry a checked roller bag.

Posted by
1584 posts

No, yours is not that much of a challenge. I just got back from a trip to Myanmar which included a flight on Bangkok Airways. Their carry-on weight limit is 5 KG (11 lbs). When I found that out I decided to go the checked luggage route.

Posted by
23237 posts

A few years ago we attended a birthday party in London that required tux and long gown. The formal attair filled one additional carry on so we had three instead of two. Not a problem. There was a time when we routinely packed formal wear.

Posted by
32198 posts

Donald,

I find that checking luggage isn't really a big deal. As you need to pack extra both for the "Christmas Ball" as well as warmer winter clothing, checking one bag seems like the easiest solution.

Posted by
15793 posts

Nope, there's no shame in checking bags. Like Norma, we always do for long trips as it's less stress (for us) than trying to cram it all into carry-ons. As long as we don't over-pack and can manage them, it hasn't been a problem.

Posted by
11294 posts

I'll just pile on and say that in your situation, I'd check a bag too. And I do understand that when you need formal wear, it greatly multiplies the amount of stuff you'll be bringing. I once went to a bar mitzvah, and needed two suits. Unlike on vacation, I was indeed seeing the same people again and again, so I needed to vary my outfits. With the suits plus the accompanying shoes, belts, ties, and shirts, I had more luggage on that 4 day trip than I usually carry for two weeks on vacation!

But I do want to add something: there's a false dichotomy between "packing light" and "checking a bag." Particularly now, when carry-on limits keep getting smaller, you may be required to check a bag even when you have pared down your luggage to the minimum you need for a trip. And just because you're checking a bag doesn't mean that bag has to be filled to the brim, or has to be a 32-incher. So, despite what some on this board think, checking a bag is not a "failure" - and I'm glad to see so many other posters agreeing with me.

Posted by
173 posts

I agree with the advice to check luggage & have hard-to-replace items in a carry on. Smart packing does not always mean carry on. Don't let stress ruin your trip. This is, after all, a first world problem 😄🎩

Posted by
19091 posts

I know I am very evangelistic when it comes to carry-oning, but I'm also practical. Almost thirty years ago, when I traveled on business and needed several business suits and multiple dress shirts, there is no way I could have done it without a checked bag. (That was the trip when my bags, all of which were checked, almost went to South America while I was going to Paris.)

I feel that checking a bag should be a last resort, not an objective. If you can fit the formal wear into your carry-on luggage (including the personal item) and still be within the size and weight limits, do so, but if you can't, so be it. Check something. However, I would prioritize my packing list and put as much as I can, by priority, in the carry-on bags.

Since the contents of my current carry-on only half fills a regulation carry-on bag, I might be able to take formal attire and still fit it in. In 2001, I went to Germany for Sylvester (New Years) and the pension at which I stayed had a semi-formal party, so I took along a sports jacket, tie, and dress shoes in addition to what I normally carry, but I still managed get everything into the carry-on.

Posted by
9548 posts

Donald -- i just want to wish you and your wife a lovely time at the Christmas Ball at Highclere! That sounds fabulous. Hope you'll come back and let us know how it went.

Posted by
8293 posts

It seems there are several tour companies offering a trip to Highclere to attend this ball on December 17. Princely sums are involved, and there is no mention of any charity benefitting from this, though I expect His Lordship does.