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Do people truly stick to the ONE bag recommendation on the RS tours?

We are going on the 10day Italy Venice, Florence, Rome tour & then spending another week in Italy on our own.

Just curious if everyone really sticks to the ONE BAG (plus daypack) recommendation (in one section of the tour info it says 'recommended,' & in another area it says 'rule'). I understand I'll be carrying my own luggage, etc . . . but I was planning on a 9X21X14, plus another tote type bag, plus a small purse. All small & lightweight . . . will I be the exception or do others bring more than one bag?


Posted by
4637 posts

Experienced and smart people follow R.S. recommendation. Sometimes you have to walk with your luggage farther than you would like. Sometimes hotel does not have an elevator and you go up several flights of stairs. Then you are glad that your bag is just one and not too heavy.

Posted by
1940 posts

Sounds like you will fit in beautifully. We always travel with one rollaboard each (RSteve's brand), plus one tote bag (to put cameras, netbook, travel pillows, carry on toilet articles clear bag, and other miscellaneous stuff in. When boarding the plane, I will put my travel purse in the tote bag, too, so the combined bags count as my 'personal item.'

When de-planing and moving on foot, the tote tag straps are secured over the handle on the rollaboard, so we still have one hand totally free. To me a tote bag is similar to a daypack....when on tour, we put a sweater (if chilly) or rain jacket , umbrella (if rain chance), hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, etc. in the tote and often leave it on the bus when doing day tours.

We are not big shoppers, but if you might be making purchases, it's a good idea to have a small tucked away foldable tote. On the flight home, we typically check the rollaboards, just so we don't have to keep up with them in airports and during connections.

Oh, and I should have added, the tote bag's straps are long enough that it is carryed on my shoulder when going up stairs or entering the bus, etc.

If doing weekend trips, we try to get share one rollaboard or use smaller duffel bags instead.

Have a great time on your tour!!

Posted by
599 posts

YES, Margaret . . . the way you travel is my plan . . . a rolling 21X14X9, and a tote that just has essentials in it, that my purse/daypack can go in . . . I hope to leave this tote mostly empty & use it for my purchases . . . so coming home, it will be full. thanks!!

Posted by
4469 posts

You're going to Venice - wonderful!! Pack lighter than you ever have before because you will be carrying your one suitcase (& any extras) up & down, up & down, up & down over gorgeous bridges & uneven stone.....that make light travelers smile and heavy-packers sweat!

Per your question, we each pack a carry-on, and slide an empty small backpack inside one of our suitcases to use during daytrips. I leave about a fourth of my suitcase empty to bring back any souvenirs, and we have the backpack as expandable space if we wanted it later.

Posted by
3551 posts

Yes, tour members do follow recom. After a wk lotsa of luggage pieces gets old, tiring and heavier ea time you climb flights of steps and most cobbled and irregular. I have been on RS tours and carried my own always however I am in vg shape for 60 plus. I hope at some pt Rick realizes his tours are getting quite costly for no luggage service after all both tours I went on we're 90 percent seniors and half of those were weak. The lighter u pack the happier u wil be.

Posted by
333 posts

I has been wondering the exact same thing! I'm on the 21 day Europe tour in May. I have a rolling carry on/backpack with detachable day pack. I was debating buying a cheap duffel bag for souvrnirs- having read somewhere that it's possible to leave something like that on the bus do it doesn't have to be lugged about. But I can't find where I read that... Much is made about sticking to a carry on bag, but on the RS DVD that comes with his tour book there are lots of people with bigger/more luggage (and sometimes struggling), so I assumed it was a strong suggestion as opposed to a requirement. That being said, I learned the hard way on my 3 week Russia/Europe trip 3 years ago not to take too much. I packed a giant suitcase AND a regular suitcase AND had a backpack and camera case. My big suitcase got its wheels busted somewhere between Omaha and Amsterdam and then due to "whatever" had to lug those suitcases a mile plus over curbs and rugged terrain in Russia to my cruise ship... I arrived in tears! NEVER AGAIN!

Posted by
774 posts

I do stick to carryon only to Europe and check my bag to return. I have an expanding suitcase, aRS bag, that zips to expand, so it gets checked on return. I have a 20 inch rollaboard and a totebag that can sit on top of the rolling bag as I walk through the airport. My purse goes in the totebag for the flight.

On the tour, I do carry a thin backpack or shoulder bag that would be like a grocery bag that I use during the day outings in addition to my purse. I can put a sweater or a purchase in the extra bag.

I have taken 4 tours and find that some will have large,suitcase that had to be checked and a
Large tote. Just as long as you can carry it yourself, you should be ok. Some RS hotels are walk ups, no elevators.

Hope that helps.

Posted by
62 posts

I traveled for 2 months with just one backpack and its daypack. I started that way when I was a kid just out of college, and 20 years later, I'm still using the same bag and still travel that way. I am actually considering going with a rolling-backpack this time, but every time I compare them, I lean back toward my old standard. ... I should actually write the bag company -- that MEI pack has stood the test of time and is still in great shape!

I cannot go without the daypack, though -- it holds your books, maps, water, jacket, scarf, stuff you buy, picnic supplies, whatever, and isn't too big to be bulky. I just take what I need for the day and am off.

I can't tell you how many times being self-contained has helped me stand by on an earlier flight or get somewhere quickly when I really needed to.

Posted by
9713 posts

Rankster, there is room in the luggage bay of the bus to leave stuff in deep storage during your 21 day tour. You will say bye-bye to your driver (who will be part of your group by then) and the bus when he drops you at/near your hotel in Paris so you will need to get it all to your hotel front door. We had to walk about 2 blocks to our hotel in Paris from the bus drop point. Just remember this is a 52 person bus so the luggage bay is big enough to accommodate luggage for all those people. You will have 28, probably 30 including driver and guide. Sometimes the guide will have 2 pieces and on my Village Italy tour the bus driver had a bike stashed in there. Actually on the Village italy tour the bus driver got a huge box when we visited a pottery demo to put everything people bought there!! Also at some point, probably the Florence to Rome leg you will probably have a substitute driver as your driver will need to go 48 hours without moving the bus for his enforced rest period. No problem as your bus/driver will catch up with you in Rome so your stuff can just stay on the bus. Don't worry about this. Your Russia experience sounds like an an awful learning experience.

Chinalake, my experience on 5 tours is that most women had a 9X21X14 type bag, a tote bag or day pack and a purse. You will be fine, but heed the warning about Venice. You will arrive there by vaporetto and the less stuff you lug the better you will be. Try to stuff your purse into your tote bag so you only have 2 things. You may have to go over several bridges (steps up the bridge and down the bridge!!) plus get off and on the boat. You will need to have on your money belt before you board the vaporetto so you don't worry about your valuables. Duck in to the bathroom to put it on after you pass thru Passport Control/Immigration and the customs walk thru. In Venice, find the bathroom before you exit the building and turn down the walkway toward the Vaporetto stop. I don't remember a bathroom down by the dock altho there may be one.

Posted by
31471 posts

In my experience on eight tours, I've seen a variety of luggage combinations and not everyone in the group seems to follow the recommendations exactly. Of course, the trip will be a lot more pleasant for those that do travel with smaller bags.

Posted by
691 posts

Ah, Italy! Hills, rugged cobblestones, charming bridges over canals that have steps going up them and back down, rugged cobblestones, hills, curbs, dashes across streets, stairs coming up out of the metro, stairs up and down buses and trains, narrow train aisles, small cars, stairs up and down to your room (no elevators), hills, rugged cobblestones, stairs. One check-on rolling bag and one normal (not giant) backpack (maybe a small cross body purse). That's it, that's all you take - along with some laundry soap. What an awesome trip you're taking!

Posted by
724 posts

Chinalake, we are on this tour in april ams that is exactly what I am taking. A RS convertible rolling bag and a largish tote (where I plan to store my crossbody purse). I also have a large tote that folds up into a tiny pocket that I plan to bring in case I need it for souvenirs (it's that RS bag....this one I'll keep in deep storage if I need to). I will check my rolling RS bag and possibly the souvenir tote for the trip home and hubby will probably just keep his large backpack as a carryon for the trip home.

Any larger purchases we make on the trip will probably be shipped (we have our hearts set on getting a Cuckoo clock in Germany).

I know some folks use their tote bags as their luggage for a couple of the stops, including Venice. If your tote is large enough you could probably pack for the 2 days worth thus saving some hassle!

Posted by
127 posts

After three RS tours (heading to Ireland for 2015!) I'm sold on my non-rolling convertible backpack/suitcase that I carry with an attached shoulder strap. Doing it this way serves two purposes- It makes you want to pack light and it is easier to carry (along with a daypack) up/down all those stairs at a hotel and across cobbled streets. The purpose of the shoulder strap (instead of the built in backpack straps) is because I'm carrying my daypack on my back.

I realize that not everybody is physically able to do it this way but it really works well for me.

Posted by
1068 posts

I generally travel with a RS piece of carry on luggage. In case that gets gate checked on a puddle jumper, I also carry a 12x9x6 that fits under the seat in front of me. That has my camera, chargers, Kindle and other things that would not fare well in the baggage compartment. Generally, what I buy on a trip still fits in my suitcase for the return flight (although on one or two occasions a poster did not.) I find most people on a RS tour travel with that much or slightly less, although the occasional person brings a very large case or an extra piece of luggage. In one hotel I had to carry it up 4 double flights of stairs and was glad I packed as light as I did.

Posted by
920 posts

I carry a RS carry-on bag and a mid-sized backpack and have no issues with mobility, even in Venice. My backpack holds my travel documents and electronics and easily fits under the seat. I think you will be fine with your luggage.

Posted by
5021 posts

Here's what we take on any Europe trip, including the 21 day BOE: my main bag is an Appenzell Day Pack, which works as a carry-on. Then I carry a smaller bag with a shoulder strap that fits the "personal item" category. My Veloce guide bag goes inside the shoulder bag; it will be my day bag or purse. Everything else stays on the bus or in the hotel room. My husband carries a smaller backpack - Redhead brand, I think - and uses a laptop bag with a shoulder strap as his "personal item." He packs a Civita Day Bag into his backpack, and that's what he carries around daily - everything else on the bus or in the hotel.

We don't use roller bags; they can be a nuisance on cobblestones or climbing lots of stairs in the hotels. And using backpacks and bags with shoulder straps leaves our hands free - sometimes to help our fellow travelers who have too much luggage! And yes, everything we need for a three week or longer trip fits into our bags. Enjoy Italy - sounds like a wonderful trip.

Posted by
338 posts

I have been on eight RS tours. Most people (including myself) stick to the one suitcase plus small daypack rule. I only remember three individuals who brought two suitcases each and a large daypack. No one cared. Everyone is responsible for carrying their own bags. Just remember that the bus may not be allowed to park near the hotel so you may have a bit of a walk carrying all your bags.

Posted by
352 posts

I did RS Sicily in 2012. On that trip was a delightful lady from New York City who brought the BIGGEST suitcase I have ever seen! That bag was essentially empty when she arrived, however she did have a smaller roll aboard bag packed INSIDE the big bag. She left the enormous bag on the bus for the whole trip, and used her smaller bag day to day. She was a real "shopper" and whenever we got on the bus she transferred her purchases to big bag. This strategy seemed to work for her, although I wasn't present when the tour ended and she left the group. Not sure how much she had to pay to get it home either, because it would have been very heavy! Bottom line: bring whatever size bag works for you, knowing you are the one that has to carry it and lug it around. I use a carry on size roll aboard, a tote type bag, and a small crossbody purse. You can leave whatever you like on the bus during the stops - take your tote and/or your purse when touring. On my first RS tour in 2009 I was the ONLY person with a bag without wheels. Every other tour member had some sort of wheely bag, I used the RS convertible carry on. I was very pleased with my choice in Venice, and on our train days. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
3580 posts

If the tote plus purse will fit under the seat in front of you, you can probably fly carry-on only. Stick the purse inside the tote to make it one item.

Posted by
16883 posts

On the itinerary page for each Rick Steves' Tour, you can get an idea about how far you might carry your bags under the Activity Level section, such as this description for the Venice, Florence, Rome tour: "Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room." In Venice, any walking route could include a bridge with stairs.

I will reiterate that some hotels may not have elevators, or they may not start at the ground floor, or they occasionally go out of service. Where elevators are provided, they may fit only two people with luggage. Hotels often have rooms arranged over several different floors.

Most of our bus tours allow "deep storage" underneath the bus for an item that you don't need until the end of the tour. However, there are exceptions when we don't use the same bus for the whole tour or the bus does other jobs between our usage. This is the case on the Venice, Florence, Rome tour and the Heart of Italy tour, for example. The place where tour members will find this info is in the Pre-Tour Handbook that you receive with your confirmation letter. Any changes to the plan should be summarized in the letter that you receive 30 days before the tour departs.

Posted by
170 posts

You have received a lot of good advice already. We also have used RS convertible backpacks for our 20 and 25 day tours. Not all tours have under storage in their buses. You will receive that info in your pre-tour package.
Check with RS office as I saw on the news that Venice is banning rolling bags. Not sure when that takes effect but the fines were to be 500 Euros if used. Venice wants soft wheels used on suitcases now.
Most of your hotels will have hairdryers so don't pack one. When you get your hotel names check their websites to see if hairdryers are listed or shown in bathroom pics. Cuts down on a lot of weight.
We had to walk 1/2 mile in Prague to our bus, so pack light and do laundry in your room or send it out. I take some RS liquid soap but had to buy powder laundry soap in Kraków too wash clothes in our room. I would only recommend liquid soap as it was real harsh to our skin and caused rashes as it was hard to rinse out of the clothes.

Posted by
87 posts

i have been on 2 RS city tours--rome & paris and both times had a large bag. both hotels had elevators. we were not the only ones with large bags but were in the minority. I am learning to pack less for my next trip---I hope, but I really had no problem as we only stayed in 1 hotel all week.

Posted by
1 posts

I read in the Denver paper that Venice has banned roller-type suitcases within their fair (!) city. It is applied only to tourists to keep down noise and wear and tear on the pavement. You may want to google this issue, as it may very well affect your choice of luggage.recently

Posted by
8889 posts

jimmerjam, this is one of those urban myths that won't die, caused by a mistranslation by some newspaper.
What Venice is banning is the large metal-wheeled trolleys used by street traders, NOT wheeled suitcases.

Posted by
23 posts

My husband and I are going on a BOE 21 day next fall and were planning on taking RS Convertible back packs plus a small bag. My husband got a new "Euro" bag from RS for his "plus one" carryon, has anyone travelled with this before as their day pack? Now I'm wondering if he should take a rolling carry on with this Euro bag so its not too complicated to carry, or do you think it would be manageable? This bag would be great for carrying his camera, tablet, etc, and in Venice I'm thinking he could pack in it for the couple of days or I could put his stuff in my carryon for that part. Ideas?

Posted by
1834 posts

Chinalake, This conversation has morphed into a wheelie versus convertible carry-on and I'd like to share the advice I have given in the argument. Find a wheelie the size you want to take as well as a convertible carry-on the size you are considering. Load one with about eightteen pounds of stuff and pull or carry it a mile on city streets. Then do the same with the other one. I'll bet you will go with one carry-on and one personal bag after that.

Posted by
1759 posts

Hi China, I think the bags you're planning to bring will be fine. In my experience on 6 RS tours, most tour members bring a 20-21" rolling suitcase and carry on bag. There are a few backpacks and a few that get by with just a carry on. Whatever you decide to bring is fine as long as you can manage it yourself. There may be times when the bus parks a few blocks away from the hotel and instances in which you need to carry your luggage up several flights of stairs. I spend a lot of time developing my packing list and finding clothes that mix and match and can be washed in the sink and dry overnight. Good luck!

Posted by
11450 posts

China.. I have only taken one RS tour.. 14 Day Family Europe,, with my 11 yr old dd. There were several of us moms onboard alone with our kids( interestingly .. we were all married.. except one widow lady, but had elected to take our kids on one on one trips solo)

Anyways.. we went to Venice.. before we arrived the guide suggested that we combine luggage so that the kids did not have to bring their suitcases into Venice.. those cute arched bridges you see.. most of them are not ramped.. they are STAIRS.. so since some of the kids were younger.. he thought it would be easier that way.
Since we were only there for 2 nights it was easy to just combine what we needed for a two night stay and put it in one bag! Most folks on the tour did this.. even those with hubbys with them.. and we were all told we could store our other suitcases on the bus.. ( which they keep in a proper supervised secure lot)

I think a carryon shoulder bag is fine.. with a rolling suitcase.. as long as you can handle both should be no issue at all. And yes.. a few places had no elevators.. so do keep them both light.

Posted by
420 posts

You will be so happy to have just one small bag. I've gone on 8 RS tours and on the last one, I once again had too many clothes! And just one small suitcase. It is very liberating to have a small amount of luggage and you will still be dressing very smart. Please try it!

Posted by
15 posts

My experience/suggestion is "less is best". You will have cloths washing opportunities pre planned for each tour. My wife and I do fine with a carry on size suit case each along with a day pack.

Posted by
724 posts

Regarding "personal item", has anyone ever been refused because of its size? I have a Weekender which will fit under the seat in front of me as long as i don't over pack it. I still have my regular carry on as well.

Posted by
3685 posts

Not knowing what a Weekender is or how big it is, it's hard to say if it will be accepted or not. You need to check with your airline about that.

There are size limits, but I haven't had problems with the totes I've used as my personal item. They are all Baggallini brand and vary in size from 19"x16"x5" (Expandable tote) to 15"x11"x5" (Kindred tote) to 13"x9.5"x4" (Hobo tote). I am able to put my small crossbody purse, my meds and everything I need for the flight in any of those totes and they all go under the seat in front of me. Needless to say, the smaller the tote, the less I carry which is a good thing.

Posted by
9713 posts

Kathy, are you talking about under the seat on the bus? That space is pretty small and there is a flip down foot rest that gets in the way. There is always enough room on Rick's tours for everyone to have their own set of 2 seats so you will have plenty of room. There is also room above the seat, but again, not as big as on an airplane. I usually had my bus tote bag on the seat beside me.