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The "Man in the BLUE SHIRT"

This will be our fourth RS trip and I would like to share what I have learned over the past three tours...
1) Even with a carry-on, I NEVER used all that I packed. I sure packed a LOT into that little bag, just in case:)
2) Nobody cares what you wear (or that you repeat the same thing multiple times). I could not tell you what anyone wore on the tours. Really. Really.
3) I usually took two light pair of black slacks and wore my jeans. Period. Nothing else ( I mean I DID wear other clothes, but did not pack other slacks, skirts, dresses). Jeans are now made of very lightweight material so I may switch to that variety this time.
4) Scarves take absolutely no room and have no weight per se. Simply wearing the same top/bottom and changing out the scarf makes it a whole new look and you really are wearing the same outfit.
5) We buy a clothesline and carry some plastic clothesline clips. That way you can tie it from one spot in the room to another and things can dry overnight if you really need to do hand laundry.
6) Oh, and that "Man in the BLUE SHIRT" reference above? Our friend, who introduced us to RS Tours, shared that he became known on one tour as the "Man in the BLUE SHIRT" since he wore the same thing multiple times. Really, folks. No one on ANY of our RS Tours ever cared. As far as we know. Take it easy on yourself. Go eco...go light:)

Goal: Even lighter
Best of Spain April 2020

Posted by
4264 posts

This gave me a chuckle. Good to know I'll be just fine bringing the same capsule style wardrobe - with scarves for "variety" - that I wear on my solo travels, when I take my first RS tour this spring.

I guess I'll be known as the lady in the blue cardigan!

I'm forwarding this to my girlfriend, also going on her first RS tour!

Posted by
1259 posts

Great post, thanks for the contribution. There will be naysayers because we all have our own travel style. Try not to take their comments personally.

1) Single carry on-only guy myself, habits easily adapted from decades of backpacking and bicycle touring. I rarely use EVERYTHING but I'm always glad I have the few extra bits (blazer, waterproof sox, gloves, sun hat, &c).
2) Nobdy cares what I wear, that's for sure. No one on the tour cares. None of the natives care or, if they do, no one comes up to me and says, "Hey, mister, you have dressed inappropriately and we will not let you stay in our country."
3) Two pairs of shorts, two pairs of long pants (Royal Robbins stretchy travel model with security pockets)
4) Two merino long sleeves, two long sleeve zipper shirts for multiple layering possibilities. (Ultralight travel blazer gets packed, too, a nice change for fancy restaurants.)
5) My laundry processes were perfected long ago (step into shower wearing skin layer)
6) I'm that guy on purpose. Mismatched socks, red and blue shoes, fluorescent and other tastefully obnoxious colors wherever possible. Whenever the group musters, someone will look around and ask, "Where's that funny old guy in the orange?" Also, great conversation starter.

7) Do not discuss American politics with members of your tour group.

Posted by
3951 posts

All of the advice above is spot on! I'm always the gal in the hunter green Scottevest with the diet coke!
Safe travels!

Posted by
3961 posts

Fun thread! I always bring and wear a hat for sun protection when traveling. When we took the RS Greece Tour in 2017 we returned to the same hotel the last night of the tour. The desk personnel recognized me by saying "Your the lady in the hat!" I am still musing about this.

Posted by
25526 posts

I'm pale-skinned and my eyes are highly light-sesitive, so I always wear a broad-brimned hat outdoors. I swear I heard the word "sombrero" a couple of times while I was in Spain last year.

Posted by
495 posts

I have always packed on the lighter side and do the carry on thing. But I've always flown on BA which has a generous carryon weight allowance. My flight in April is on Lufthansa with a 17.5 lb limit. I'm having a hard time with this one as my suitcase (the RS Ravenna) weighs 7 lbs by itself. And I have to pack long sleeve clothes. I'm thinking of not taking an extra pair of shoes. I'm wearing my comfy, waterproof Chaco Sierra boots I was thinking a lightweight ballet flat for cold floors in the room and in the dining room. I'm going to Slovenia so I think I'll have to wait til a week in advance to see what the weather will be like. Any ideas on keeping warm and packing with a 17.5 lb limit?

Posted by
13196 posts

Fun thread! Yes, totally agree no one notices or cares what you wear!

On one tour one of the members was a very petite woman who had a wheeled duffel bag that I'd swear she could have curled up in for a nap. It was Ireland in June and she must have been from a warm part of the US because she wore her coat every. single. day. Have no idea what she had on underneath because she was so cold she literally never took her coat off. There was a long walk to one of the hotels from where the bus could park and fortunately a friend pulled her case because it was too much for her. I wondered if she changed her packing strategy after that - both for the amount of clothing and the size of the bag!

I've changed to carrying a plastic clothes hanger and some clothes pins. I bring one of the ones that has a small hook jutting out from the top of the triangle as well. I can hang multiple items on this!

Posted by
6391 posts

Wearing the same (or random) things is totally OK, as you so rightly say, nobody cares.

It's only when you become "the man in the blue shirt who stinks"...then they care.

Posted by
60 posts

Bingo. As long as it's clean and appropriate for where you're touring, you're golden. My favorite trick is to bring three tees (black, white, striped) and two button-downs - one light, one dark - so I can wear the button downs open over the tees, for a total of 11 different top combinations (six combos of button down + tee, and five shirts by themselves). No one else cares, but I like variety.

Posted by
1316 posts

To each their own and there’s no one right way to travel. But this sounds like pure hell to me.

I’d never travel carry on only for a European trip. The idea of doing my own laundry in a hotel room is anathema to me, I’m not in college. I actually do care about what I wear. I’ve paid a lot of money for this trip. I always change clothes before going out at night. My trendy nightclub days are mostly behind me, but I still often wear a smart casual outfit at night.

I’m sure a Rick Steves tour is a very different atmosphere than one of my trips. I’d at least hope Mr Blue Shirt had several of the same shirt. At my last job, summers were pretty casual so I’d often wear one of the numerous company polo shirts that I’d accumulated over the years.

I’m an advocate of packing smart. It doesn’t need to be carry on only, but it’s good practice to bring what you need and not what you might need. There’s very few leisure trips where you’ll need both a business suit and a Speedo.

Posted by
216 posts

@ Dale

Thank you!!! Thank you!!! I also cannot imagine sink washing my clothes in a bathroom sink using hotel hand soap, as I’ve read this as well. In London my husband ON OUR HONEYMOON decided to pack light. Yea well he washed in the tub and had jeans that did not want to dry for days. I rigged up my hairdryer and hung the jeans in front of it. I’m surprised we did not set the Omni Hotel on fire!!! I find my trips to be a vacation, lasting memories with beautiful pictures and what I take with me matters. I have been on trips where I have overpacked and had luggage in tow, but that’s just part of the experience in my opinion. We have over the last few years started to downsize what we take with us. I am even attempting to only take a carry on for our 14 day Scotland trip in May.. If it stresses me too much then I will just check a darn bag. I may be a bit of a princess but I need a different top at least daily with my pictures. So far I’m packing 3 Columbia 1/4 zip pullovers, 2 flannels, and 4 sweater/tunics from The Loft, 2 pair of jeans and 2 pair of leggings, 1 pair of tall boots, Sperry duck boots and my Nike lol OH and two pairs of pajamas!!!! We did a trial run and I believe I will be ok...

I applaud all of you for minimalist approach, I just can’t do it!

Posted by
4264 posts

"Any ideas on keeping warm and packing with a 17.5 lb limit?"

When I traveled in October, some of my layers were sleeveless (camis) and short sleeves to keep the weight and sleeve bulk down. My long sleeve tops were super lightweight, some gauzy or silky, but travel friendly. The longer sleeve tops added variety, but not much weight.

And the ever present blue cardigan with scarves.

My pants were lightweight and I brought tights for warmth.

Posted by
968 posts

Another gal here who likes variety on vacation. I like clothes, that’s just me. He is the same way, but what we try to do is just streamline it. I’m fine with wearing my clothes multiple times, but once in each location.

Posted by
17 posts

I plan my outfits carefully. I always take one pair of jeans. I hate and look terrible in the REI type quick drying pants (but I have worn them on tours in Peru, India, and Cambodia). Best new find is The System crepe pants by Eileen Fisher. They dry fairly quickly and fold or roll up small (although I wear plus sizes). I always change for dinner if there is time--I bring 1-2 thin material, slightly dressier blouses to wear with black pants, and a pair of black ballerina flats--The Cobh Hill brand doubles as dressier walking shoes in European cities. I bring walking shoes, the ballerina flats, and thin flip flops (doubles as slippers). In summer I add a flat pair of Teva walking sandals, and in winter, a pair of waterproof shoes, or half boots. I have a short neck so scarves tend to not look good on me. I always layer as I tend to be cold unless it is 25C or higher. I always travel with a black cashmere pashmina, and use it on the airplane as an extra blanket.

Posted by
2438 posts

Love this thread! I was at TJMaxx a couple days ago just to look. HaHa! I came home with new packing cubes, mini cubes for who knows what and more. You’d think I was planning a trip this year instead of next! And I already have my packing list started, albeit too many clothes so will have to sort when the time comes to get serious.
I wear leggings, because they pack small, wash easy and are comfortable. They can be paired with a tunic or sunshirt. Black and red are my travel colors so everything coordinates.
Love everyone’s ideas! Although I can pack for carryon only I can’t be a minimalist. I need more than one pair of shoes. I’ll wear the bottoms a couple days but want a clean top everyday. After being cold part of the time last May, I know I am over planning sweaters. As lorish33 said, less the 75* is cold.

Posted by
5697 posts

In 42 days of winter travel, my husband would have been called "the man in the orange sweater." Always worn over white, collared polo shirts, and under a heavy wool coat. For me, it was a choice between two pair of black pants over black leggings for warmth, black or white 32° long sleeved shirts, one of two black sweaters ... all under a bulky parka. So we look the same in all photos. Note : unless you have more talent than I do, a change of scarves does NOT make a whole new look.
We had access to washing machines at least once every 7-10 days.
He packed light -- somehow, I couldn't, my roller bag (checked) was about 30#. Next time!

Posted by
9115 posts

@NursCyn — that is priceless!! Going to have to direct Brad here to this thread - he is currently planning his honeymoon trip which includes at least a stop in Paris and wondering whether he will be able to negotiate with his fiancée for carry-on only for the trip!!


I don’t dress nicely in my real life (a skill I never acquired) so I certainly don’t look any more alluring when I am traveling. I do try to be clean though! I just hope that people are looking elsewhere than at my schlumpy self!

Posted by
216 posts


Thanks lol! Do they REALLY weigh your carry on? I've never seen this happen! maybe I am just not paying attention either. I guess I better get this little guy packed and weighed to see if I need to check a bag no matter......

Posted by
1316 posts

I’ve certainly seen carry ons weighed on European budget airlines. Haven’t seen it in the USA but I’m mainly on Southwest domestically anyway .

Posted by
503 posts

@Nursecyn - yes, both BA and Lufthansa do weigh your carry on. I've noticed BA isn't as stict on dimensions of carry on - flew last week and my "personal item" was an inch longer than the stated allowable dimension - but it was shorter so perhaps that's why it wasn't an issue.

As for having to do "sink" laundry if you also only travel carry on... it's not the only option! Virtually every hotel has a laundry service and, if you stay in apartments, many have a washer and even sometimes a dryer!

Personally, my only "suggestion" for how much to take is to base it on what you can manage on your own. If you need a luggage trolley at the airport, then you are going to have problems - unless you can afford to hire your own personal sherpa!

Posted by
3134 posts

Originally, I packed heavier on my first RS tour as I felt I needed some differentiation of clothing as I’d be with people rather than solo. Hindsight, I never noticed what others were wearing so unlikely they noticed what I wore. Besides, in the end I packed 2 pairs of black jeans ( wore on the plane one of the 2). I had a clothing malfunction so I always travel with 3 pairs since. My tops repeated as well, 2 identical black and two identical navy, one white blouse, one black tank, one gray vest, one navy light no one really knew I had fresh clothes anyway...and the blouse and tank were only for flights. However, I don’t like to do sink washing, but I love to have hotels do my now I pack more: 3 long sleeve tees, 2 shortsleeved tees, 2 blouses for alone or over-shirts, 3 slacks, 1 yoga pant and 1-2 pjs, weight 20-22 lbs., 8 unders and socks, at least 3 bras, pashmina. Rarely do I pack an extra pair of shoes.

While I pack heavier now, before I used hotel laundries I often wore the same 2 on the line and one on me because I was too lazy to go into my suitcase...but this was completely solo. So, basically many systems work and how I pack now might change next year. When I can not lift my carryon suitcase, which I check anyway, I will pack even less, again.

But if you want to pack light, Meg Ryan in French Kiss had it down...or her costumer actually...once she lost her luggage. :)

Posted by
3796 posts

After reading this post I had to share this excerpt from my trip report from our RS tour last Spring-Loire Valley to the South of France:

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.

My wife makes our packing decisions, but she is now a convert to packing lighter. Clothes and fashion are important to her, but after 30 years of marriage I've worn her down.

Posted by
176 posts

On our "My Way" tour of Italy I was the lady in the burgundy t-shirt--and I have the pictures to prove it. LOL

Posted by
1620 posts

Your spot on about Jeans, they are usually made of a blend of cotton and a stretchy fabric like elastane or spandex, which make them soft and light. The ones that are 100% cotton are the stiffer bulkier ones.

I care what I wear, I could care less what other people think. I have to feel good in my own skin, and that means being comfortable by knowing I am appropriately dressed for the days events and NOT wearing the same thing all the time and I accomplish this in a carry on only. There are many tricks and tips to make this possible, just need to do some research and like you pointed out, find lighter weight options for your favorites! My Adidas sneakers are lighter than my flip flops!

Posted by
2860 posts

Yes, European airlines weigh your carryon bag.
Lufthansa is very strict about carryon weight.

Posted by
216 posts


We will be flying Delta only. The hubby and I will be doing a test run this weekend to see how much and what weight we will have in my little carryon. As far as managing my luggage, I am a fit 40 year old so I can handle my own bag. Very few occasions my hubby had to do both. We learned our lesson after our first Italy trip with luggage and wheels... First,by the time you drag it around for 16 days you will be lucky to have wheels and getting off and on the train with full size luggage SUCKS! After that, we converted to internal frame backpacks but they are still check in size at 60L. Now, we will get brave and try the carryon.

We typically use the local laundry mat and just knock it out in an hour or so. Typically we have a blast people watching on the street. Can we post video links on here? maybe we need forum video packing tutorials of our own (or do these exist).

Posted by
14122 posts

Wear what you want.
Pack anyway you want.
Do whatever you want.

What you wear on vacation is completely up to you. If you feel that dressing up is important, then dress that way. If you feel that comfort is more important, so be it.

Unless your clothes are smelly, who cares.

Posted by
40 posts

I would like to thank everyone for your replies. My initial posting generated some very helpful responses and I will use many of your suggestions when we travel to RS Spain this year!

I am the queen of stuffing...I can get layers of compression bags in my carry-on. However, we will have different airlines to contend with, including weight restriction differences. So, I will do my homework, put my clothes in the compression bag, fall down onto it (on the bed) to squash all the air out and go from there! I have never had to do laundry on the RSTours (14 days) with the exception of underwear. Even with a carry-on restrictions, I feel I can remain "fashionable", "appropriate" and "clean smelling":)

The bottom line is that you enjoy your travels (your way). There is no wrong way. If it works for you and you never have to complain about your luggage...go for it! Happy travels...wherever, however and whenever! May you meet that wonderful "man in the blue shirt" or" man in the orange sweater" or "friend in the black cardigan" on your next trip. You will find it is not what is on the outside you will remember, but the new friendships that blossom.

Posted by
3961 posts

Thanks again for this fun thread. I appreciated your last posting. "You will find it is not what is on the outside you will remember, but the new friendships that blossom." So true.

Posted by
968 posts

Letizia, my given name is actually Leticia and I agree with everything you said! Must be our names! Anyway, it’s 7.5 months out and I’m already deciding how much clothing to take (and what). I’ve decided I really like dresses, more than skirts and tops for my body shape. I’m anxiously awaiting when summer dresses will be showing up in stores and online! My goal is to pack light and with dresses I think I can. Maybe one pair of white skinnies and an extra top.

We are going in September, so I’m hoping the weather will be warm enough to not have to worry about sweaters or light jackets. I don’t recall taking that in 2015, but I must have.

Posted by
4264 posts

You will find it is not what is on the outside you will remember, but the new friendships that blossom.

Fun thread, and so nicely put. I'm looking forward to the friendships of my first RS tour!

Posted by
16548 posts

Frank II, you and I are agreeing way too much.

In the summer if I am not fishing I generally do carry-on only. In the winter in Eastern Europe, less likely.

Posted by
99 posts

Any ideas on keeping warm and packing with a 17.5 lb limit?

I love using thin, lightweight long underwear like Cuddl Duds or Thermasilk as under-layers. I have them in long-sleeves, tank tops and bottoms.