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Bags on tours

I'm about to admit something that may shock some of you----but----I recently took a Rick Steves tour. After years of defending all types of tours, I thought it was only fair to actually take an RS tour to see what all the hubbbub was about. But more on that some other time.

I want to talk about the bags I saw my other participants take. There were 27 people on my tour and 26 of them had wheels. The only person without a wheeled bag was, perhaps by coincidence, the youngest person on the tour. (Not me, I had wheels.)

We had bags of all sizes. Many were larger than carry-on and the owners readily admitted they wanted the extra room. About four or five were RS rolling bags. The rest were other brands.

And while I didn't get the exact number, there was a large proportion of spinners. They seem to do fine over the different terrain we encountered.

For those who have taken RS tours, what have you noticed about bags? Are people actually sticking to the "carry on" size limit or are you finding larger bags the norm?

Posted by
887 posts

For the most part people stuck to it but had larger carry on as they were staying an extra week compared to mine and hubby's, which were both quite small. Some bought souvenirs which caused them to have more on the way home.

Posted by
5763 posts

Frank, on three tours, I've seen a dominance of the RS rolling carry-on, but also a significant portion of people who bring very large rolling bags. I admit I like to watch them grunt and groan their way up the narrow staircases with those. I don't appreciate the people who look around helplessly waiting for someone to assist.

In conversation, it seems many either don't read the guidance, don't believe it, or just can't deal with having less.

Posted by
3447 posts

A few European size carry on bags, majority U.S. size carry on bags, and a few larger than carry on size. Almost all had wheels -- majority with only two, but some spinners.

Posted by
1068 posts

I have taken lots of tours as I don't particularly like being a solo traveler for longer than about a week. Many are Rick Steves, but have taken other companies as well. My observations are similar to yours. Almost everyone takes a roller and many are very large. However I would have guessed close to half the people have carry on sized luggage (and as I do) a "personal item" as well. Some with large rollers also had personal items, so were taking a lot of stuff with them. In my two international trips this year, I saw some increase in spinners, but not what I would call a large proportion (maybe %10-15). Although I personally am puzzled by wanting to bring a lot of stuff, I have rarely to never observed anyone puffing/panting or waiting for assistance with their luggage. The closest I have come to that was a woman with a shoulder problem who couldn't even lift her personal item into the overhead.

Posted by
931 posts

Tour mate, tour guide, hubby, and I, carried RS convertible backpacks. In fact, our guide carried two backpacks. The other nineteen people had wheels. Most bags looked to be carry on size or at least easily handled except for one tour mate who had a huge monstrosity of a wheeled bag. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it would have easily held a small person. It was as broad as two people standing side by side and stood as high as my waist. Tour mates were helpful and offered help where they thought she might need it. Some times she accepted, sometimes she got it on her own with some struggle. A bag like that would be fine if one were staying in only a few places but I'm sure it was a pita having to move it every two days on tour. To each his own, but that's not for me.
I was the only one on our tour that had visited this forum.
Although we will not be on a tour, we are planning on carry on for a five week winter trip. I think we can do it.

Posted by
434 posts

I have taken one RS Tour. Most people had a roller, a few back packs and one very strong man had a very big bag. He was young and quite able to cart it around. Ours were popped, my husband & I can usually lift it with out too much of a problem. I have more trouble going upstairs than he does but we get by.

Posted by
518 posts

" I admit I like to watch them grunt and groan their way up the narrow staircases with those. I don't appreciate the people who look around helplessly waiting for someone to assist."

The importance of reading (and I don't mean glancing over), really reading, the trip documentation, cautions and warnings regarding luggage. Study the tour dossier and see that there will be lots of moving around, on and off buses, trains, up stairs, etc., and appreciate how difficult and taxing it will be with HEAVY luggage. Sounds like many take all of this for granted. Last year I took a one-destination trip and packed HEAVY, between my wife and I we had two heavily loaded full sized check-in suitcases, one carry-on sized fully loaded suit case, and each had a day bag that we brought on the plain with us. We were OK with this because were just going to stay in one hotel for the entire week and had an airport transfer provided by the hotel.

In a couple of weeks we're going on a guided tour in Japan, complete with many train stations, local bus/transport, and everything in between. You can bet I'm going to keep it to just one backpacking style backpack, of the variety that I can carry-on. With guided tours, I can't risk my luggage getting lost because on the day after arrival, the tour heads off to a different town. I know not everyone prefers backpacks or can physically handle it, but if you can, I really do recommend it because it's not just the size of your bag (i.e., carry-on sized vs. check-in size), it's the ability to keep your hands free in busy places like a train station and not worry about dragging a suitcase behind you in a place with so much foot traffic.

Posted by
524 posts

My husband and I have taken more than a few tours. We always manage with carry on and a day bag or tote bag. We usually extend our tours on both ends, so we are gone for more than 10+ days and manage enough clothing options without taking a larger bag. In our experience, there have been mostly wheeled bags, especially on recent tours. Plus, quite a few people that take a wheeled carry on and a large, full sized backpack or over nighter. On a few occasions, there have been folks that had 26"ers. I agree that there have been tours where tour members don't seem to get the concept of traveling light.

Really, the only tour where someone needed help with large bag was on Europe 21 days. There was a couple that had two 26"ers. Plus, a large duffel and numerous other bags. They shopped the entire trip. Upon reaching Paris, we had to quickly exit coach and grab bags and walk--several blocks--to our hotel. They needed assistance and people did volunteer to lend a hand. The guide did explain, several times, what to expect at the end of the tour.

I have a spinner and have taken it, the main draw back while riding on tube or train is it may roll away. (Had experience of this occurring on last tube ride from Heathrow in London, forgot to hold onto it and away it went!)

Posted by
1911 posts

I have seen a lot of variety on my RS tours but mostly the carry on size wheeled bags-a few RS brand. I also have seen everything from the backpack end of the spectrum to the "what were you thinking" end. I have never heard anyone whine over the size or weight of what some consider large bags nor ask for help. However, I have heard several folks from the weightier end mutter they would be packing lighter next trip!

Posted by
216 posts

(Hi Mary). I was about to reply when I saw Mary's posting. On our RS tour, the man with the large bag on our tour had brought diving equipment that he used during tour free time. The second largest bag was owned by the assistant tour director. :)

Posted by
8080 posts

" I also have seen everything from the backpack end of the spectrum to the "what were you thinking" end. "

I agree with Andi! I see mostly in the range of 22" rollers but occasionally someone with a 24 or bigger. I did the RS convertible backpack for the first couple of years then over a long trip wound up with a bag that was too heavy for me to sling onto my back resulting in bruised arms. The next year I swapped out to the 20" roller and have been very happy.

I did note some spinners on my last tour which was GAS. On the way from the hotel to the gondola in Muerren I was behind one of the spinner gals and noticed she was pulling it on 2 wheels, then noted that one of her wheels was shredding. She immediately went back to holding it straight when I told her but it was more difficult going down the hill in that position.

The largest bag I've seen was several years ago and it was a body-sized duffel. The tour member was small and the bag was huge. She did have a friend trade off from time to time.

On a personal level, I travel solo and make sure I can manage my belongings. I do try to travel before and after my tours so I don't want to have to depend on the goodwill of others for assistance.

Frank, looking forward to your Trip Report.

Posted by
489 posts

Our first and only RS tour, which was this year, where 60% were first timers revealed a surprisingly well informed group about keeping it small. The largest bag was a 4 wheeler that our tour guide had. (She obviously knew what she could get away with on this tour,) I have the RS 2 wheeler and my husband took the convertible back pack, which he never used as a back pack... (again, not that big of issue on this tour). I agree with the other comment, read the itinerary well, and use "trip adviser" to research all the hotels.

What I found incredible was the size of the second bag some people brought on the bus. Many had fully packed back packs, not the small little day pack or a day bag. Then they wanted to use all the extra seats for their huge back packs that would not fit under the seat or above their heads. That was interesting.
Both of us found it a lighten load, physically and mentally not to have packed more than 17# in our carry on. It can be done. `
Our group also got very good at having the husband get the bags from under the coach while the other went to collect the hotel key. I also want to add extra stars to how we all knew the hotel room well before we arrived, not sure if other tours do this, but we haven't taken a bus tour until this one.

Posted by
1149 posts

I've done a number or RS tours, usually one per year. I haven't really noted what bags people use. On my last few it was mostly 22" wheeled bags. A smattering of smaller bags, several backpack carry on style and a few larger bags. The majority of the wheeled bags were 2 wheeled.

I don't feel the need to pack light, so I usually use a 24" two wheeler. I like having my stuff and don't want to visit to local pharmacy and would rather not spend my time doing laundry. Having said that, I also carry and handle my own bag. I'm not particularly strong or in shape. I've rolled it from the bus to the hotel in Lucca. Over and across bridges in Venice. Up and down three floors. The only time I waited for the elevator was in a hotel where the stairs wind around the elevator shaft. So effectively 3 sets of stairs per floor. I was on the 5th floor and the elevator only went to 4.

Posted by
308 posts

I've taken two RS tours and I was honestly very surprised both times at the number of people who had very large bags. However, it had absolutely no affect on me because nobody complained about carrying their large bags.

My husband and I both use carry-on size backpacks and at one stop during our last tour someone asked where the rest of our luggage was! It was very satisfying to answer that we didn't have anymore luggage.

Posted by
3 posts

On the RS tour I was on one participant had the "spinner" type wheeled bag. It was not good on cobble stones and the participant was pushing the bag and the bag got stuck while being pushed and the participant tripped over it and broke their arm. My lesson from that is no "spinner" bag!

Posted by
524 posts

someone asked where the rest of our luggage was!

For a number of years I used a small (19") rolling duffel bag. It was surprising what it held. Also, had the usual Civita day bag. I had a tour mate state, "Wow, you really take packing light seriously." I just smiled, said yes and kept on rolling.

Yes, Frank II can't wait to read your thoughts on the tour.

Posted by
3887 posts

Re - someone asked where the rest of our luggage was...our first trip to Europe in 2008 we heeded Rick's advice about travelling light. I rem being at work and telling some coworkers and customers we were only taking a carry on and personal item for an 18 day trip. Well, you'd think I had grown another head or something. I'm like - well, we are moving a lot and don't want to be lugging huge bags on and off trains/subways/etc. (We did that with my mom in 2014 - not fun - mom had a carry on size and I think a 26 or 30"). And I have never regretted it.

One customer told me she takes a huge bag for a week in the Dominican! With enough clothes for double that amount of time. Yikes.

Now, when we travel by car, I have tons of stuff, and if we were going somewhere and just staying in one spot for most of the trip, I'd be tempted to bring an extra carry on size and check it and scrap one of the personal size bags...but we move around too much when in Europe.

Posted by
3453 posts

Congratulations on your first RS tour!

I have been on 10 RS tours starting in 2007. What people brought with them for their luggage has spanned all points of the realm of possibilities. I have noticed more and more wheels over the years, but it surprises me that it seems to be the younger tour members who have those while the retirement age + members still seem to use backpacks and non-wheeled bags. There have been a large predominance of RS branded bags of all the offered sizes and configurations. Every tour guide on all 10 of the tours (excepting the London City tour where we did not change hotels) had two very large backpacks to drag from the bus to the hotels. I use a RS convertible Classic bag that I bought before my first tour and it is still in very good condition and allows me to carry everything I need for up to a month away from home comfortably (yes, I do laundry at least every 10 days or so on every trip).

Some of the strangest things I have seen: On a France tour, one young woman had a suitcase just for her shoes (she wore at least 2 different pair ever day of the trip, none ever the same) which was a large rolling check only type bag. When we went to Mont Saint Michel she was nearly in tears because the tour guide told us to only take what was necessary since we had to leave the bus a long way from our hotel and she felt her shoes were necessary. On one of the Germany tours, a man brought with him 2 large checked bags, a large carry on bag, a brief case, and a backpack - all for a 11 day tour. He said everything (including the THREE laptops) was necessary because he was working while on tour. Lucky for him he had family members along who helped him drag everything to our hotels at each stop. And the strangest of all, to me, was on the Spain tour. One woman had no baggage at all other than a large purse. She bought clothes as we went and threw then away when they got dirty.

Posted by
2246 posts

Wow Mark - The lady on your Spain tour sure found an interesting way to travel light. Otherwise, did she fit in well with the rest of the tour group?

Posted by
276 posts

Hi Frank I'm looking forward to reading your report. I'll take my first next year. I'm paying a hefty price tag as much as any other escorted tour but getting it appears only half the time guided. The rest I'm on my own. I've been researching the area and finding things I want to do being my own tour guide. The more I research the more I think I could have done this on my own and wonder why I booked a tour. Talk about full circle. I've gone from exclusive escorted tours to how can I do this on my own.

I always checked bags. No reason not to as my bags were always handled by the tour company. Years ago everyone had checked bags. Besides the tours were jammed pack with activities and moving from spot to spot. Who had time to do laundry or wanted to for that matter. I never had a problem until my last tour when my bag was delayed. I had a tight connection and the airline didn't get my bag to my connection in time. Then it took 5 days to finally get to me. If I check bags I will make sure I don't have any tight connections. On that last tour only two had carry ons the rest all big checked bags. Since my last tour I've bought a two wheel carry on and a backpack. I have learned since my last trip. My bag was very heavy. I learned I could do with less and I packed heavy clothes. I've gone shopping and now have light weight "travel" clothes that will only be worn on vacations. And things that will wash and dry quickly if needed. The trip will determine if I check or carry on.

Posted by
276 posts

Mark - so sad that one can't get away from work for 11 days. The Lady of Spain was lucky to find clothes. I'm keeping some space in my suitcase for a planned clothes shopping spree in Italy but they're coming home with me.

Posted by
3453 posts

The Lady in Spain seemed fairly normal, fun to talk with about various topics, and participated in all tour group activities. Never got around to asking her if her suitcase just got lost or she always traveled that way and she never mentioned anything.

Posted by
34 posts

I believe I was the only person to have the convertible carry-on bag with no wheels on my Best of Europe in 14 days tour last year. Many of the wheeled bags were RS brand, but many were other brands too. As was case in Frank's observation, I was the youngest tour member as well. I had no problem carrying it, and it made tasks like traversing stairways much easier.

I found it fairly easy to pack for a two-week trip in October, with a variety of clothes, into a carry-on sized bag. And while I certainly understand the reasons for wanting a wheeled bag, I do think that keeping it to carry-on size is very important. I know that lost baggage is probably less common than many people believe, but it would have been quite crippling to be without my bag for even a day or two on the tour. If you want to upsize it and check it on the return trip, it's not a big deal if it gets delayed a day or two.

Posted by
865 posts

One woman had no baggage at all other than a large purse.

Perhaps she had Hermione Granger's magic purple bag. :) What a carefree and confident way to travel!

Posted by
8080 posts

"I bet it was shedding, Pam. Those spinner wheels look flimsy at best and when people realize that they need to treat the spinner like a 2 wheel upright in order to walk from Point A to Point B, they see those wheels only get worse."

Mrs. EB, The wheel had gotten a little cocked so wasn't pulling straight on the wheel surface which was making it worse. It was more of a drag and I'm surprised she didn't notice it felt different BUT we were all talking so her mind was likely elsewhere. They are certainly not as robust as the inline skate wheels on the 2-wheelers.

Posted by
518 posts

I had to buy a new suitcase last year and it was surprising how few the options were for two-wheeled cases. Most of the offerings from all the major brands were 4-wheel spinner style. I can see the "ease" with which they glide along smooth surfaces without much effort on the part of the user, for example, at an airport. But seriously, most anywhere else they just don't hold up because the wheels are so small. Cobblestone paving for example, or just about any rough or uneven surface. Or the fact that they roll away on sloped surfaces. Not to mention, all else being equal, you get less volume in a spinner because the wheels account for some of the height.

Posted by
18424 posts

I bought a spinner last year because there were no 2-wheeled lightweight options in the size I wanted (just above carry-on size) in the stores I checked. I was pleased, and relieved, that the bag survived a summer in Spain during which I often had to cover a mile or so to my hotel. However, the wheels took enough of a beating that the bag no longer wants to roll straight even on smooth surfaces like airport concourses; it's now easier to tilt it up onto two wheels all the time. The wheels still seem pretty solid, but I won't be surprised if the bag doesn't make it through France next summer. But then again, I don't buy expensive luggage, so what can I expect?

Posted by
152 posts

Our entire trip was three weeks long, and we managed with 21 inch suitcases (one was RS and one was Eddie Bauer) and day packs. No one on our twelve day RS tour seemed to have excessive luggage. One couple on our tour lost their luggage coming from the US. Her suitcase caught up to her on day three, but he didn't get his until day six. They had to spend way too much of their vacation dealing with the missing luggage situation.

When our tour ended we went back to Switzerland for 5 more days where most people we encountered had HUGE suitcases. It was entertaining to see them try to lug them up and down the stairs of the train station.

Posted by
1068 posts

I will add to my earlier comment, that it seems to me that people on a Rick Steves tour generally pack lighter than people on other tours. There are been a few on RS tours who brought very large or multiple pieces of luggage, but not many. And I have been on tours (safari to Africa) where the company was insistent about light luggage. But with other companies, some which porter luggage for you and some which don't, there was rarely anyone with less luggage than I can (although a few were like me, a carry-on and personal item.) I wonder if (assuming my observation is accurate) that has to do with the RS admonition to pack light on tour because you will be carrying your own luggage or if it because people who follow, know, read or watch Rick generally agree with his pack light philosophy.

Posted by
37 posts

Hi all,

As far as bags go the bottom line is this:
We try and give you the best advice we can on how to travel. We believe that if you can get everything into a carry-on bag you will be better served. Not only does it minimize the chance of it being lost by not having to check it at the airport, but it will lighten your load when you get there and are moving around from hotel to hotel. Our tours are very casual and so they require nothing more than some comfortable clothes and good shoes to travel around in. If you choose to bring a bigger suitcase, understand what you are getting into and are fine with carry it to and fro, than that, of course, is fine with us. You are still welcomed on our tours. But when you are packing think about what you really need to have with you and what you will require for your trip. Hopefully you will get it down to a comfortable amount that you are good to go with. We have some wonderful advice on what to pack on our website. Just type 'Packing Light' into our SEARCH window and you can find some excellent information conveyed there. Good Luck Packing everyone:)

Posted by
31262 posts

Frank II,

It would be interesting to know which tour you took? Hopefully you had a great time and I'm sure we'll enjoy reading your trip report.

My experience on eight RS tours is much the same as what you described. The majority of tour members were using wheelie bags, mostly with two wheels but a few spinners. Those bags weren't ideal on rough cobblestones as they were often bouncing all over the place, so most people just picked them up and carried them. Stairs were another problem area and again most people just carried them. On some tours there are a few like myself that use a Backpack or other soft-sided luggage, and my kit definitely doesn't fit the "pack light" guidelines. My philosophy is that "if I packed it, I'll carry it" so I don't expect any help.

There was one notable luggage choice on my Spain tour a few years ago. One of the tour members appeared to be travelling only with a TB Western Flyer or Tri-Star along with a TB Pilot. I wasn't as familiar with the TB product line then, so didn't really take a close look at it. I was most impressed with his "packing light" skills and hope to emulate them some day.

Posted by
9376 posts

I was on the Heart of Ireland tour and I had a good time.

I wanted to visit Western Ireland for awhile and found trying to do it by public transit very difficult. (I don't like to rent cars on my own in Europe and trying to drive the Dingle Peninsula and enjoy the scenery at the same time would have been impossible.)

I'm probably going to take another RS tour. It will be one where doing it on my own might turn out to be lots of work.

As for bags, I tend to spend a lot of time in airports. I notice bags to see what people are using--especially those that are carry on size. Very few convertibles anymore. It used to be all two wheelers and now spinners seem to be taking over. Some companies are even working on using tough spinner wheels.

I use a two wheel bag but may consider alternating with a spinner depending on where I am going.

Posted by
744 posts

Frank: Just curious when you took that tour. A woman who was on our Best of Paris tour last year took the Heart of Ireland tour in September.

Posted by
342 posts

We've been on 4 RS tours and take the RS carry on size with wheels and a backpack. We usually tour on our own at the beginning or end of the tour so our stay is a minimum of 3 weeks. In my bag I take a compact tote bag in case I have extra items to take home. We travel with my husband's guide dog so we also have 15 pounds of dog food with us along with her blanket, brushes, supplements, and medicine in case she gets sick, in those bags. Our bags get lighter as we go so that tote bag is rarely needed.

Posted by
38 posts

Well, Stan . . . My husband and I take one of those larger bags you seem so opposed to, and we manage it quite nicely with no extra help. When you see us on tour and choose to be judgmental, I hope you will take into consideration that my husband wears size 14 shoes, which occupy about a third of the space in a carry-on bag.

Posted by
84 posts

In the future, we plan to try and emulate our Prague & Budapest tour guide. We each had a carry-on wheely bag and matching under seat bag. She had ONE small wheely bag and her briefcase for tour stuff. That's all. She wore jeans daily and a variety of slinky fabric tops (these likely would have fit into a sandwich bag). One sweater. One extra pair of dressy flats. I aspire!

Posted by
1007 posts

Our last RS tour was to Sicily in April 2016. I used the Classic Back Door bag purchased at the Rick Steves store. This is the kind that converts from a suitcase to a backpack. I found it convenient to use it as a backpack when walking from place to place. It was nice to have my hands free. I also had a small carry-on bag. I was able to carry the Back Door bag on the transatlantic flight, but not on the intra-Europe legs of the trip (Alitalia from Rome to Sicily).

Posted by
588 posts

I am going on my sixth RS tour this year plus I have been on a couple of tours with Collette Travel. I also use the 22 in two wheel roller and a RS backpack. I have the RS 22 in bag but it has never performed to my expectations so I use another one from Costco. I do love my RS backpack. I take a Civita bag and I also have the under the bus stowaway for souvenirs but as I get older they are not used as much. I did take a large spinner on a Collette Christmas Market river cruise but found it too big and awkward to handle but needed it for souvenirs and heavier clothes. Not again.

Most people on my tours stick with the 22 in roller and a backpack. By the way I check my bag with the airline as people bring far too much on the plane and break rules. Another subject. Looking forward to Frank's review of a RS tour. I thought you had been on them. You gave me great advice on trains for Germany.

Posted by
66 posts

Great thread! I'm not especially strong so I really try to pack light. I pack travel pants and blouses that can be sink washed and will be quite dry by morning. For me, it's all the non clothes items that are space hogs: my hair blower, my tablet, my camera, journal, hot water bottle (my back can be fussy and the hot water bottle is a necessity if that happens), etc. The non clothes stuff easily takes up 50% of space in my suitcase. Whether I'm gone for four days or four weeks, I pack the same stuff. I wear the only shoes I take, a sturdy pair of walking shoes.

Several years ago I went on a RS tour and two women lost their checked bags on the flight over. It was three days before they got their bags. Since then I just use carryon, either backpack style or two wheeled, no matter where I travel. My ideal would be underneath-the-seat only, but that space is getting smaller due to electrical boxes.

Posted by
2 posts

My late wife and I went to New Zealand and Australia with a group (not RS, sorry). All we took was carry-on. No problem, even though we were in cold, damp weather and very warm weather. Layers!

I was a high school teacher, and my students were always amazed when I told them that if I bring enough clothes for three days, I have enough clothes for three months.

I currently travel with a RS convertible carry-on or a carry-on size roller bag. On my most recent Road Scholar trip to Peru and the Galapagos, most people in our group of very active, experienced, older travelers packed light, and had the 2-wheel roller bags. I had the convertible carry-on, and I used the backpack straps only once or twice.

For my next trip to Europe, however, I will be required to check my bag. It is a hiking trip with REI (the Tour du Mont Blanc), and trekking poles are highly recommended. Trekking poles are generally not allowed as carry-on. I will wear (or pack in carry-on) my high-top leather size 14 hiking boots, at least on the way to France. I can replace anything lost or delayed, but it is ill-advised to spend ten days hiking in boots that are not broken in.

Posted by
1273 posts

I've read a lot of packing threads and blogs over the years and have never seen my situation discussed. I wear all cotton clothes because polyester and wool make me itch, so cotton blends, fleece, and "travel" clothes are out for me. I am also cold-natured so while others are in short sleeved shirts, I am often in a sweater or sweatshirt (yes, I love European a/c which isn't like stepping into a refrigerator). I'll never match the very lightweight packers but I do travel as light as possible with the standard RS roller bag and a handbag. I've been on five RS tours and the RS rollers seem to be the most popular bags.

Posted by
3503 posts

I just signed up for the Village Italy tour. Unlike most, I read all the fine print about what to expect before checking the box. After all this discussion about size of bags, this paragraph does give limits which are apparently not always enforced:

"Pack light: Each tour member is allowed to bring just one airline carry-on-size piece of luggage (approx. 21" x 14" x 9") plus a small day pack or shoulder bag. Your Pre-Tour Planner includes tips for packing light and creatively."

Just a little FYI.

Posted by
1047 posts

On our Best of Italy tour, most everyone had carry on bags with wheels. Some bought a separate bag in Italy for souvenirs and kept it in deep storage on the bus. The largest bag by far was our guide's bag. It was twice the size of our carry on bag.

Posted by
9376 posts

Lo, bag size isn't enforced. If you can carry it, lug it, manage it, you can bring it. They aren't going to send anyone home who has a larger than carry on size bag.

However, a carry on size bag is easier.

Posted by
4495 posts

Lo, Frank is right. When we took our first RS tour, we spent an inordinate amount of time measuring our bags - like you, I'm a fine-print reader. Well, had there been a prize for "least luggage," we would have won it. One lady, who was always impeccably groomed and dressed to the nines, had a huge roller bag.

And on our first bus tour, it was almost as bad. But again, we would have won the "packing light" award.

Follow the guidelines; it will make you trip experience much more pleasant.

Posted by
3503 posts

It does seem like most people on the tours do follow the each person is "allowed..." guidelines, but perhaps if they are not a real requirement, the wording should be a little different.

No problem with packing light here. I keep my bag at about 20 pounds so I can manage it on my own, just because it makes more sense to me. With my next trip being a summer one, I hope it will be even lighter.

Posted by
5763 posts

Lo, I take it as a strong recommendation, not just a suggestion. They might not strictly enforce that requirement per se, but they do enforce the assembly and departure times. To the extent that big heavy bags slow people down, they will say something to people who are slowing down the group. If everyone brought large bags, they'd have to adjust the pace. Sometimes hotel elevators are too tiny, stairs too steep, and the bus is 100 meters away. My original complaint was over some people who were expecting luggage to be handled by someone else.

Posted by
53 posts

i have been on 3 RS city tours --Rome, Paris, London. Many had larger bags (not huge just not carry on size) but then again we stayed in 1 city and did not need to schlep our suitcases around. most all of us stayed longer in europe either before or after the tour as well. all hotels had elevators so no schlepping up stairs, no one had a backpack. some with only small carry on size had to buy extra suitcases/backpacks for the Souvenirs and wine they bought. I also went off season so we needed warmer heavier clothes. I have yet to be able to travel with a carry on size and I do wish I brought more at times (sorry Rick but some of us do regret not bringing more---we just wind up buying more then having to figure out how to fit it in our suitcases). but on tours where you move around constantly, it is probably better to carry less--I just have not been able to do that yet.

Posted by
102 posts

Bags on Rick Steves' tours deserves a book-sized history.
Well, in 2002 my first tour followed all previous independent travel by using one carry-on backpack.
Now, the 20th tour, My Way France next month, will be served using a single six-month old Rick Steves roller with semi-hard sides.
Not every tour in-between was so simple.

There was last summer for example, a My Way Italy trip, when I mistakenly bought too many grandkid presents and wound up with an extra bag, much too full. Yes, By Rome, and dragging what felt like gym barbells, from bus drop-off to the hotel I promised myself, "never again!"
I'll still buy stuff, but will Always Ship Home packages Airmail, and be thankful, whatever the shipping fee!
This solo traveler thins travel bags down to under 20 pounds before leaving, knowing there will be additions along the way on tour, and on pre and post tour weeks. But no more add-on bags, ever again!
Other tour travelers run the gamut, from perfect single, lightweight rollers (mostly) to bags "bigger then Delaware" yet they also deal with these bags, largely without help.
That said, there have been times when stairs throw this now My Way Only tour traveler, who is very grateful for elevators. Thankful also for the few times when a fellow traveler did assist another who was struggling, when the need was evident.
Such situations are Not Being Dependent, It Is Being Human.

Posted by
4495 posts

Larry, you're right, it depends on the situation.

I carry a medium size backpack (Appenzell), and it weighs less than 14 lbs, fully loaded. But 2 years ago on a Best of Sicily tour, I came down with what the doctor in Palermo called "a really ugly case of bronchitis." And yes, when my tour mates saw I was flagging, someone would swoop alongside me and grab the pack. And I was grateful, if slightly embarrassed. But mostly grateful. And my DH and I are always ready to help someone who needs it.

I have less sympathy for people who bring multiple large bags and stand around looking for someone to help them out. Luckily, we don't get many of those on RS tours. A note: my DH has a friend who is just horrified that on RS tours we're expected to carry our own luggage. "I'd never go on a tour like that!" he says.

Posted by
11 posts

We take the travel light tenet to heart, each carrying a RS convertible backpack during our two RS tours. We're former die-hard backpackers and we prefer having our stuff on our backs and our hands free. It's also much easier to navigate through crowded areas and up and down stairs without a drag bag. Also, (and I didn't see this mentioned in the other comments), the rattle and roar of a dozen or more rolling bags over cobblestones is deafening. I really dislike disturbing a town's peace that way.

Can I interest RS in designing and selling a scaled down version of the convertible? Maybe 2-3 inches thinner (flatter) and an inch less in both the length and the width. I always have more space than I need and haven't yet found a bag that is more compact than the RS convertible but also fits the packing cubes and my quality criteria. I'm working toward packing even lighter and the weight of the bag is part of the equation.

Posted by
10 posts

This might be helpful to some. I am one of those "girls" that can fit a cup of ice cream into a half cup weight watchers measuring cup.

We have been on two tours with RS and a number of others. We DID do the carry on for both of the RS trips and have since.

However since I can squeeze a LOT of weight into a carry on, and get by without any more, I think it is less stress to carry less in a bigger bag. 😊

You just have to refrain from packing the bigger bag.
I think the easiest way is to make sure that you are traveling within one season. So you only need light weight or medium weight clothing. And don't LIKE to wear the same things for days.

The bigger suitcase doesn't really weigh more and you can use cubes to organize and make it nice. AND have room for the occasional purchase.
Our first trip with RS I bought copper ware in France. A sauté pan and a round bottom bowl. Totally worth it especially when I watched "Julie and Julia" and saw Julia Child's (actor) in the same shop with the SAME (owner) shopkeeper selling her the same stuff I bought. It was heavy but my clothes fit into and around it in my carry-on. You have to admit that RS trips have more cool experiences in them than the average bear...
We are planning on the Eastern Europe trip this Fall and I will be bringing a light weight spinner with minimal contents. And We are going to have a blast. I cannot wait for the vacation from our vacation.
Oh the day we all did laundry in Amboise, France, I bumped into a MAJOR rock and roller on the river walk along the Loire. And I met a lot of nice local people in the laundry, too. If you don't know, most RS trips have that built in day to meet and greet the locals who are used to us, and wash your undies. In our experience, anyway.

Posted by
41 posts

Look for the day that says "No Bus" and that is the laundry day. There are limits on the amount that bus driver can drive, so their down time is our laundry time. Make sure to ask if they use hot or cold water and if they actually use soap. Not so sure on the Best of England tour. People don't notice what you wear so let your hair down. Underwear is non-negotiable though. Good luck.