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Why didn't I listen to you, Rick? Packing

I was going to 6 countries with 2 different climates in Europe, from snow in Switzerland to beaches near Pompeii. I had a suitcase that weighed 49.9 pound! Ugh. Traveling with that was horrible. Next time carry on only! For sure!

Posted by
5697 posts

And that's the difference between theory and experience -- haul that heavy bag once and you remember it! Did you have a packing list that you can review after-the-fact to figure out what worked and what you didn't need. Then keep a copy to remind you next time.
If you look in the "packing" topic you can see you're not alone -- and lots of us keep trying, trip after trip.

Posted by
23343 posts

Most of us can relate to that very well. On our first trip in 72 the two of us took more than we could handle - a hanging bag, a train case, and large suitcases and that was before rolling luggage. Now it is just two carry-ons. Experience is much better teacher than all of the lecturing we could have done before hand.

Posted by
7 posts

Our first trip in '93 we took everything, a nice suit, hot rollers, 2 large checked bags and two carry-ons. You learn quick!

Posted by
11363 posts

Good for you! Great lesson you will not forget. We frequently do the “two-climates” type of trip and have figured out over the years how to manage with certain fabrics and layers. When you are ready to pack again, come back and share your ideas.

Posted by
8171 posts

I remember those years my father had to haul around 45 pound suitcases for my mother who never learned how to mix and match--and travel lightly. Had she packed by Rick's list, they may have traveled until their late 80's.
My wife and I can easily make it indefinitely with a 21 inch rolling carry on bag that we never check with any airlines.

Posted by
7 posts

Actually I managed to pack ok in a carry on, until my husband added 5 weeks and Switzerland! He was the lucky one to haul my heavy bag to the 2 level of the train, but mostly I was left to drag it on its wheels myself. Never again! I'll buy new clothes and trash them before I come home if I have to, ha ha. I found I was mostly wearing my black jeans with a nice shirt. This seemed to work almost every where. I brought a light leather jacket which I could layer under. Next time, if I can't lift it, it's not going. I didn't really bring much that I didn't need, just too many jean, too many shirts too many dresses. Not that many, just 3 instead of one, etc. also found hotels had laundry. We stayed in mostly Hilton and Marriott.

Don't beat yourself up. Traveling between 2 climates can have extra requirements. Just look for ways to scale back. Each trip and location is different.

Posted by
558 posts

Oh boy does that bring back memories. The hanging bag, the non rolling suitcase, the camera bag, and pre smart phones, the Thomas Cook European Timetable, maps and travel books! Lug all that stuff around once, and you never forget.

Posted by
3941 posts

We only pack heavy when we are driving our car somewhere. In ‘14, my mom joined us in Italy after visiting my sister in the UK. She had a big suitcase (I think it was a 30”) since she is still taking over some of my sister’s belongings. She also had a carry on size. Well, because she’s 70, my husband lugged her big bag, I got to schlep our two carry ons and my mom had her other carry on. Nothing drilled home Ricks packing philosophy like dragging that big arse suitcase around.

Posted by
14054 posts

I was able to overcome my Mother's training of "pack heavy you might need it", hahaha and am a successful light packer!

Here's a suggestion as well. Right now....and I mean tonight or tomorrow - write down everything you took, including shoes and underwear, lol. I'd sort it by kind of clothing, then make notes on what worked, what didn't, what you wore, what (if anything) you didn't pack that you needed. I saw in one of the posts above that you did mention a few things you wore which is good. However, you think you'll remember all the details but let me assure you, the memories will fade by the next time you pack.

Give yourself good notes and even ideas for capsule wardrobes if those kinds of things occurred to you as you traveled! Go to The Vivienne Files if you want some ideas on capsule wardrobe ideas! Her suggestions are so interesting and you can get going on your packing.

Next time, even with going from Switzerland to Pompeii, you could probably manage with just a few extra targeted items (puffy jacket and a bathing suit, hahaha!!).

Posted by
15860 posts

Paula, my husband and I both check 24" bags but mine doesn't weigh over 23 pounds or so leaving home. It does weigh more coming BACK (I buy a lot of books at museums) but at that point it doesn't matter.The deal is that the bag doesn't HAVE to be a carry on, just a size/weight that you can handle.

Posted by
4162 posts

Not even on my first trip in 1977 did I take a bag so big that it had to be checked. I did take a cross-body bag and a small duffle. By the time I got to Amsterdam, I'd had it with the duffle. I bought a ski touring backpack and left the duffle and a not needed 3rd pair of shoes there with a new friend.

The trip was for 4 months, from mid-September to mid-January. It started in the UK, went all the way to Greece, and returned back to London. I definitely did not over pack and I used laundromats or washed clothes in sinks and bathtubs. But I sure did wear out those 2 turtlenecks and 2 pairs of pants that I took. Even if I hadn't worn out those clothes, I would've tossed them because I was so sick of them. I packed lighter for that first trip than I have since then.

After 8 trips since 2009, ranging from 2 months to 3 weeks, like many others I've gradually reduced the number of clothes I take. I'm not down to 2 and 2 like on the 1st trip and I doubt that I ever will be.

I am down to 4 tops, 3 pairs of pants and 2 pairs of shoes. By making sure that I could grab any of the tops or pairs of pants with my eyes shut and they would work together and by taking a scarf or two that work with all the tops, I never get bored with what I'm wearing. In fact, I have a tendency to use a scarf as my "inspiration" for my packing. It's not exactly like the Vivienne Files, and she has many more items in her capsules than I would ever take, but it's the starting point that works best for me.

I'm always wearing something, so the items left, along with the other stuff I need to pack, always fit in my 22x14x9 carry-on bag. If it goes over 20 pounds, I start removing things.

The problem I'm facing for the next trip is that the 3 intra-European airlines I'll be taking all have different carry-on requirements each of which will force me to pay extra to check that "big" bag. Fortunately, the fares are so low that paying extra is not much of an increase on the price.

Good luck with your downsizing.

Posted by
420 posts

I read a post about a young American woman living in Italy who had 8 suitcases and multiple backpacks in her apartment and she needed to get rid of them. Some were expensive bags. Apparently friends would come to visit and eventually they would dump their big bag that they brought with them from the US and purchase something much more manageable for European train travel.

Posted by
15 posts

Some really inspiring comments. We will be traveling for three months - 30 day transatlantic cruise plus two months in Italy. I’m now determined to take only what will fit in a carryon and personal bag so that it will be easier to maneuver throughout Italy. Retraining my brain and hoping for the best!..

Posted by
2528 posts

We took our young adult children to Greece last year for two weeks. I told them they could only take the small suitcase they owned (all the same as luggage from ll bean had been high school graduation gift). There was lots of grumbling and threats of bringing more (from one son who said he could carry it). I said it won’t fit in car rental. They all did it. And everyone had plenty of clothes. And stuff. They all even brought their Apple computers! Must be generational.

Posted by
2788 posts

My first trip was a post-high school tour before the age of suitcase wheels. We all schlepped check-in bags and carry-ons thru all the airports. Aeroflot delayed our luggage in Moscow and mine arrived ripped with the handle missing. Thank goodness someone had duct tape and rope.

Second trip was horseback riding in Ireland plus a week and half touring in a rental car. We each had a big suitcase with tiny wheels on each corner (remember those?) and carry-on. Riding boots, helmet, riding breeches and assorted horsey accessories take a lot of room. We also bought so many souvenirs that we found a "pet" box on the sidewalk, packed it with all our souvenirs and checked it with the luggage.

I have learned so much from y'all. I now pack with just a RS rolling carry-on and a tote. Had plenty of clothes and shoes for two weeks in Hawaii, also 2 weeks in Oregon. I can't imagine needing more or wanting to haul around more for three weeks in Italy. I'm in pretty good shape for an old lady but there's no way I'm pulling or lifting more than that.

Posted by
2528 posts

In sum: "Nothing drilled home Ricks packing philosophy like dragging that big arse suitcase around."

Posted by
2749 posts

Years ago I took a group of teens to Europe. ONE girl packed according to my instructions. The rest of them overpacked. I absolutely refused to provide ANY assistance with their monster suitcases. By the end of the trip they were all converted to packing light and several went on to backpack through Europe while in college LOL!

Posted by
5836 posts

Outgoing with 49.9 pounds? Better to depart with 35 pounds or less to give you capacity to return with goodies.

Most forum participants uses wheeled luggage and many like the four wheel spinners.

Posted by
4009 posts

No one should ever instruct you about how to pack; that's just condescending. You do what YOU want to do. I've found that my experiences with lugging luggage are my best instructors about how to pack for future trips. With my recent back problems, I have cut the weight of my luggage by 2/3 and am instead using hotel laundry service!

Where are you traveling next? :-)

Posted by
35 posts

I followed packing threads for months before our recent 5 week trip across several weather zones. I planned and coordinated as suggested and in the end was very happy with the clothing I took. I would only leave out two things next time - the ballet flats I thought I would wear often ( but never did) and the denim jacket which I wore once.

However ... where I came really unstuck was with all the non clothing items. Spare driving glasses, spare reading glasses, a heavy toiletries bag, chargers, iPad, kindle ... and on and on. My bag weighed 14 kg when I left and by the end of the trip reached 18kg ( couldn’t resist Spanish shoes).

Never again. Not only a pain to manage, but also that horrible nervous feeling each time we checked in for a flight, that I the bag may go over the weight limit.

I also found that as convenient as packing cubes were to organise everything, they actually took up a lot of room in the suitcase.

Posted by
1194 posts

No one should ever instruct you about how to pack; that's just condescending.

I’m going to disagree with that statement. If you are traveling in a group then how you pack affects them. That’s especially true if they are light packers and you like a big bag. They are constantly having to deal with delays as you drag your bag. Your bag takes up more than it’s share in taxis etc. Your roommate trips over your big bag because there’s nowhere to store it. It’s not right to hold others back.

Posted by
1259 posts

Youtube is a great resource for learning how to reduce your loadand for seeing how other folks cope with a wide variety of travel and weather situations. This young lady is going to Iceland for two weeks and uses her cubes to get it all in a 40L Osprey backpack style bag.

https://youtu.be/YZH6ZLqaBWY

Posted by
4009 posts

I’m going to disagree with that statement. If you are traveling in a
group then how you pack affects them. That’s especially true if they
are light packers and you like a big bag. They are constantly having
to deal with delays as you drag your bag. Your bag takes up more than
it’s share in taxis etc. Your roommate trips over your big bag because
there’s nowhere to store it. It’s not right to hold others back.

You do bring up things I didn't consider. The first is "group" travel. You mean like a RS tour group? I would think that since each person is responsible for her own bag, that's that. But if one person slows the entire group of people, that would be a reason I would avoid group travel as one would have no control over what others do and what you describe would be indeed frustrating; I agree. If I have a roommate, it's my husband and we keep our bags in the wardrobe/closet or if neither is available, then in a corner of the room. I also rarely take taxis as I find them MUCH slower and MUCH more costly than rail/métro/tube/ubahn. That said, if one needs to take taxis with others, let the person who has the ton of luggage take his own taxi. :-)

I have never done group travel and would not opt to do so unless I were traveling in Russia or China, for example, in which it may be required to travel in a tour group so I can understand your POV.

Posted by
1194 posts

You do bring up things I didn't consider. The first is "group" travel. You mean like a RS tour group?

I mean anything larger than one where you can’t control the other persons bag or packing. The groups could be as small as two or as large as a group tour. At least the RS tours have the ability to tell the participants to straighten up.

My list is based on personal experience where we continually were made late by one couple that insisted on bringing 28” wheeled bags. We were always rushing to the airport because they were late. Why were they late? Hauling their stuff. I was able to bring a single carry on bag for the 5-1/2 week trip. They each brought 28” bags plus backpacks. We had to wait for taxis that were large enough to handle their bags (the first ones weren’t big enough). We had to wait for them on water taxis. We had to wait for them in customs. And we had far less time to tour the sites because we were... waiting.

Posted by
15245 posts

No one should ever instruct you about how to pack; that's just condescending

I'm also going to disagree. There are numerous packing methods--bundle packing, cubes, rolling, folding, to name a few--that most inexperienced travelers don't know about. Once they learn these, and other packing tips, they can decide what might work best for them. With travel experience they can fine tune to their liking.

If packing demos/ instruction was so bad why do travel stores, the Container Store and the AAA offer them?

Posted by
2528 posts

"Most forum participants uses wheeled luggage and many like the four wheel spinners." While surely so, I remain a happy outlier and pack lighter than ever. Happy, happy.

Posted by
211 posts

Ok, No one should ever pack what they cannot handle themselves. This needs to be the main point of everything. I feel we travel heavier than necessary, one wheeled carryon we check and appenzel backback that we take on plane and pac safe metro 100 on plane. We can easily move it all. My husbands Cpap is in son's rolly bag, takes up half the space, but we make it work with room to bring home treasures and carry our food from apartment to apartment in the backpacks. We have done this for the past three years and it has worked great.

This summer we arrive at Montreux train station and I see two ladies with a boat ton of luggage, I mention to my family I am sure glad I am not having to move all that crap around. Then one of the ladies approaches and I know what is going to be said. Yes they need help to get the luggage on the train. Two large check size bags, two carryon wheeled bags, one large back (check size), two small backpacks and and tote bag. The ladies carried on the two small backpacks, my husband put the rest on the train. I had to take my husbands rolly bag (he wore his backpack and crossbody bag), but I could, I just needed help to get it into luggage racks as his is heavier than I can lift. Then they get off at Visp with us and get on the same train we are going to again to Zermatt. Then the trains are broken, off we get. Eventually we get onto the bus at Visp and off the bus at St. Niklaus and then onto a train to Zermatt. And it was a nightmare for all involved because of broken trains and lines down and such but the biggest nightmare is I was responsible for my husbands bag (I have very bad shoulders) and he was now responsible for 5 large pieces of luggage. NEVER TAKE MORE THAN YOU CAN MOVE YOURSELF

Posted by
2788 posts

Northwestern, you’re nicer than I’d be. The first time, it was nice of your husband to help. After that, the ladies should have been on their own. Their bad packing decisions were not your responsibility. Or should cause (your shoulders) pain.
If you read my up-thread post, my friend and I managed a lot of luggage with riding gear on trains in Ireland. We then rented a car to tour on our own. We handled it all including the “pet box” in London, taking cabs to and from the airport. That said, I would pack less now, leaving old riding boots, helmet and breeches behind. What a difference a 42 y/o body and a 67 y/o body can manage and a different mindset experience makes.

Posted by
4374 posts

Northwestern, y'all were really nice to those ladies but this is called enabling behavior. He was not "now responsible for 5 pieces of (their) luggage." He should have said "I'm sorry but I need to help my wife with our bags." These women must have known they wouldn't be able to handle their bags themselves. This is not someone who is elderly or infirm and needs help with their one bag-hopefully we would all do our best to help someone in that situation. Hypocrite that I am, I admit I appreciate help loading my fairly light carryon into overhead bins that are far over the head of my height-challenged self, although I can lift my bag over my head if necessary and I can totally handle putting my luggage on and off trains.

Posted by
4009 posts

My list is based on personal experience where we continually were made
late by one couple that insisted on bringing 28” wheeled bags. We were
always rushing to the airport because they were late. Why were they
late? Hauling their stuff. I was able to bring a single carry on bag
for the 5-1/2 week trip. They each brought 28” bags plus backpacks. We
had to wait for taxis that were large enough to handle their bags (the
first ones weren’t big enough). We had to wait for them on water
taxis. We had to wait for them in customs. And we had far less time to
tour the sites because we were... waiting.

This is veering off the topic but why even bother waiting? This is more than about packing. Why not just meet for dinner, meet at the airport, etc as opposed to being glued to them since the way they travel slows you down? Frankly your description of this couple shows them to be very inconsiderate so I don't understand having your travel dictated by them.

If you're waiting at customs, then the size of their luggage & the way people pack are irrelevant as the declaration of purchases in order to pay taxes is about money spent. Buying a diamond bracelet at duty free, for example, doesn't require a big piece of luggage; one still must declare the purchase at customs if one spent more than the tax free limit.

I'm also going to disagree. There are numerous packing
methods--bundle packing, cubes, rolling, folding, to name a few--that
most inexperienced travelers don't know about. Once they learn these,
and other packing tips, they can decide what might work best for them.
With travel experience they can fine tune to their liking.

Yup, there are numerous packing methods. What does variety in packing style have to do with the issuance of unsolicited advice?

Posted by
1194 posts

This is veering off the topic but why even bother waiting? This is more than about packing.

We were all traveling as a group and had group reservations.

In the Galápagos the Harbor Master seals your luggage (zip ties) to prevent smuggling etc. The more bags you have the more you stand in line. And big bags are always always always the last ones off the boat.

And you’re right, they were thoughtless about many things. But you can’t abandon someone in downtown Lima. Or in the middle of the Galápagos Islands. Or in the Amazon jungle (yes, large wheeled bags in the middle of the Amazon jungle).

In the end their overpacking impacted us the most. Overpacking impacts the packer, yes. It also impacts others.

Northwestern said “Never take more than you can move yourself”. In consideration of others I would modify it to “Never take more than you can easily move yourself”.

Posted by
15245 posts

Yup, there are numerous packing methods. What does variety in packing style have to do with the issuance of unsolicited advice?

You didn't say anything in your previous statement abount unsolicited advice. You wrote:

"No one should ever instruct you about how to pack; that's just condescending. "

A lot of advice on this forum is unsolicited but if someone comes here to learn I'm not going to say "figure it out yourself."

Posted by
139 posts

Northwestern, I agree with everybody: you guys are very nice. I would help them to get their bags on the train and then they were on their own.

Posted by
12172 posts

I was in Germany in 2001, doing an officer exchange with the German Air Force, when I fully (and I mean FULLY) embraced traveling light. For years I had traveled with just a carry on. My carry on, however, was the maximum size limit and I packed it to near the maximum allowable weight. It was legal, but barely.

My NATO orders said I needed to bring a complete set of uniforms. Of course I didn't really need them but it's on my orders so I packed one each of all my uniforms (flight suit, casual blues, dress blues, boots, shiny dress shoes, belts, hats, jackets, etc.). It took up an entire A-3 bag (about twice the size of a normal checked suitcase). Because of that I had little room for any civilian clothes, so I packed a few shirts, a couple pairs of pants, a rain jacket, pair of shoes and a belt.

When the exchange was over, I traveled around Germany for ten days with just a daypack. The daypack had what I'd call a "change and a half" of clothes - two extra shirts, an extra pair of pants, extra underwear and socks plus my shave items.

It was literally the happiest I've ever traveled. Easy to hop on a train or bus or just carry my stuff when needed. Now I carry no more than 12 pounds (10 is ideal) in a small shoulder bag that fits anyone's carry on restrictions (even Ryanair). I'll never go back to a big bag unless I absolutely must.

Posted by
2749 posts

"No one should ever instruct you about how to pack; that's just condescending"

I assume this was directed to me as I "instructed" the girls on how to pack.

I guess teacher's should not teach kids how to do anything as it's "condescending" LOL! I was functioning as their leader/instructor it's part of our job to "instruct"

And of course one of the reasons we "instructed" was that we weren't paying the extra baggage fees (which a couple of girls had to pay on our budget flight from Paris to Geneva) nor were we carrying the luggage up 6 flights of stairs in Paris.

Posted by
23343 posts

....No one should ever instruct you about how to pack; that's just condescending...... So wrong. I was involved with taking 150 high school band members and approximate 50 chaperons, staff, and parents to Europe for a concert tour. You better believe that they all were instructed in strict terms, including parents, how to pack and what to pack. There was some grumbling and when the buses loaded for the trip to the airport, there was some stuff left behind. We actually held classes on how to pack. It helped to have a principal that in an earlier life was a dictator.

Posted by
9696 posts

You don't have to go carry-on only. There are still suitcases and packs that can be handled somewhere BELOW the 50-pound mark!!!

Posted by
4009 posts

So wrong. I was involved with taking 150 high school band members and
approximate 50 chaperons, staff, and parents to Europe for a concert
tour. You better believe that they all were instructed in strict terms

My comments were about one adult lecturing another about what to do, not a band leader instructing 200+ (mostly children) about what to bring on a band tour. Should I have added an asterisk to clarify??? C'mon! Thanks for the laugh!! :-)

Posted by
5836 posts

...150 high school band members....

The band packing list example is a good illustration of why simple "rules" about what to pack and don't pack do not apply to all travelers. It would be hard to impose the same weight/size limit on the band's flute or piccolo players and the band's sousaphone player. Or was the sousaphone player able to rent or borrow an instrument?

Posted by
4186 posts

Frank, I do the same thing! I take groups of 20-35 every two years or so and you better believe we have packing lessons and they have a suitcase size limit. This past summer one lady came to my office, having heard my suitcase size regulations, and proudly said she was taking two of that size, one for each hand. (She was proud because she was taking small suitcases, not big ones.) Needless to say, she only took one.... :) All the new travelers were so proud of themselves afterwards, though. Ha! However, the young people learn to pack light and manage their own as they are learning other travel skills. It’s fun to watch!