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GAS tour and luggage

My friends and I will be on the tour leaving 10/1. One friend is planning to bring a 29” suitcase and a carry on size suitcase. This is her second trip to Europe. On her first trip, she brought both of those suitcases and a duffel bag so she feels that by eliminating the duffel, she will be able to handle 2 rollers. I’m trying to convince her to downsize the big suitcase at least. She knows we’ll be hauling our own suitcases and on her last trip she did take a few trains so she thinks she knows what she’s facing. On one hand, she is an adult and can make her own decisions. On the other hand, is it feasible to have both on this tour? I’m hoping to get insight on those that have been on this tour on what it’s really like to haul your own cases and what distances we’ll be facing with hauling our suitcases.

Posted by
1002 posts

In the 6 RS tours I have taken, there has always been at least one occasion where there was a decent (half-mile?) walk with luggage, sometimes hilly, sometimes narrow sidewalk, or other less than wide/smooth path.

Suggest that she load up her cases and take a walk, and tell her she will NOT get any help. Other than that, well, she's an adult. Good luck!

Posted by
5972 posts

I recall some of the elevators being very tiny, so going up the stairs with luggage was a major issue. Then there is the funicular, gondola, etc., up to Mürren. Slowing the group down when they're trying to meet a schedule is a reason for banishment.

Posted by
648 posts

Folks take whatever they want to and some have no issues. Others a grumpy for the whole trip.
The benefits (or joys) of packing light and using only a single carryon-sized bag and a backpack-sized personal item cannot be explained to those who will not hear; they can only be learned by experience. You can show her all the videos, packing lists, and even show her your fully packed-out bag.

If you’re good enough friends, you can have The Luggage Talk with her: no one is going to help her since you’re all schlepping your own belongings and it was her decision to bring one more HUGE bag than was necessary. This can make for some spectacular fireworks even among friends.

Do you have time for a test run? A long weekend to a nearby restore town or city?

Posted by
1939 posts

I like Liz in PA's advice and have seen same on the tour website several times. In addition to taking a walk with her fully packed luggage over cobblestones, bricks and dirt paths (all surfaces she might need to travel over while on the tour), also tell her to experiment with carrying it all up and down a few flights of stairs. This might be the only way to convince her it's in her own best interests to pack light.

Posted by
2725 posts

She sounds like a high maintenance friend. Do you really want to travel with a high maintenance friend? IMO, it is a good way to ruin a friendship. One needs to be very careful with whom one travels. On the other hand, as this is a tour, it will likely work out as you have other people to distract you. If you are the type of person who can tell her that you will not help at all with her luggage...and stick to that, then it might be OK. Also, heavy luggage is a good way to pull a muscle, which can lessen the fun of the trip...

This is why solo travel is so much more fun...for many reasons...than traveling with most other people, IMO. Only my husband works for me, otherwise, I'm solo. YMMV

On my RS Greece tour, the only person with a large suitcase was the guide. That was the only suitcase that she had. She managed fine, if not sometimes indelicately, as she said when she had down time, she did not want to be doing laundry. So if your friend is a heavy packer, I'd suggest she see about just bringing the large suitcase, assuming she can lift it...I don't think I could carry one up stairs that size.

On the other hand, my daughter once dated a pilot's son. As she was packing for junior year abroad, he made sure she had bags she could lift and manage easily as he said they'd been trained that being able to easily lift and manage the bags was more important than limiting the # of bags. She was packed so much better than the other kids, although, in fairness, she likely owned fewer clothing items than most of the girls, we not being shoppers...

Posted by
3400 posts

I think it will be a challenge for your friend, but it is her challenge. Either you accept her the way she is or you will be frustrated. I do agree she needs to know in advance that she will be handling her luggage by herself. Sometimes this means climbing steps to your hotel as well as climbing steps in your hotel. Elevators can, and do , go out in hotels periodically. A traveller may face the challenge of bringing luggage up or down several flights of stairs.

Once the tour is underway, she may want to manage these bags by not bringing both of them into the hotel each day. If she feels like she must have both bags, perhaps she can pack in such a manner that one bag stays on the bus most of the time and she only takes both into the hotel room at one point in the tour to change things up a little. This only works if the bus remains with the group for the entire tour. I know that on our Switzerland Tour, the bus would sometimes disappear for a few days and everything had to be taken off at that time.

Posted by
625 posts

It may or may not help - but maybe you/the friend should think in terms of total liters of packable space rather than sizes of bags.... I like a backpack (30L) and a carry-on size rolly bag (22"/40L). One can add a 30L duffel/other bag that fits securely on top of/over the handle of the 40L bag to also get to 70L. Or for heavier packers, one can have the 40L carryon-size rolly bag, the 30L duffel and the 30L backpack, but check the 40L bag the same way one will check the 29" bag. With three smaller bags carrying up stairs is much easier than with a single larger bag, and packing by days enables leaving one bag on the bus for several days with much less of a problem.

Posted by
3768 posts

We’ve been on this tour and the descriptions above are accurate. One other factor of lots of luggage, especially if you’re sharing a room - several of the rooms were not large. If she stayed in American- brand hotels or similar during her previous experience, this will be different.

On the positive side, sounds like she won’t need to do any laundry during the trip!

Posted by
1544 posts

Carol said what I was going to say - which is one of the bags could live on the bus as her "deep storage" item. If the bus leaves you for a day or two, she won't have access to it, but she'd just have to plan for it. On several of my tours there were people with very large bags - they struggled, but it didn't seem to impact their enjoyment of the trip (except when they were dealing with their bags). As you are typically a group of 28-ish on a bus for 50-ish, there is plenty of bus storage, so that's not a concern.

You're justified in being worried about how this will impact your trip, especially if she is a complainer or your roommate - with her luggage and yours, there might not be space to walk around your room! As others have mentioned, experience is the best teacher. IMHO, I would (just once) outline your concerns to her (maybe in an email, a little less confrontational). Give her links to a few online scrapbooks (https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/scrapbooks/tour-alum-scrapbooks - the 2017 winner is the GAS tour) and note that many of them mention size of rooms, walking, no lift, etc. Then let your friend know that you're taking your Rick Steves commitment to heart - no grumps (e.g. complaining about things like too heavy luggage) and that each of you will be taking care of your own luggage and won't be able to help her.

That's it. She either will (or won't) take your concern to heart. The biggest part is to stick to the plan when you get there. If she falls behind the group while walking to a hotel, keep her company, but don't help (alert the guide know so you don't get separated from the group). If you miss a train because she's dealing with her bags, then you catch the next one. On the up side, you'll get your bag unpacked at the hotel while she waits on the elevator. So be it. But don't let her choices bring you down - do your best to live by example and enjoy your adventure!

Posted by
1173 posts

I have been on the GAS tour and bring two suitcases to roll will be a challenge to say the least. If you are comfortable talking to her about this, do point out that she will have to bring her suitcases to her room and to the bus every two days. This can turn into a drag for her and that if you are both sharing a room, the rooms are not that big and it will be a challenge where to put her suitcases and yours in the room and still have room to walk around the hotel room. Some of the hotels may not have lift which means she has to bring each suitcase up one at a time and leave the other suitcase in the lobby and then go back to get it. Many times just checking in, we are told you have 15 or 20 minutes to get ready and meet the group for a walking tour on our way to dinner. Which means she needs to be ready quickly but spent her time getting her luggage into the room.

It would be easier if she had one suitcase and another bag she can put over the handles of that suitcase. She should practice dragging the two suitcases in her neighborhood to see if she can handle walking with them to the hotels on stones and uneven pavement. The bus cannot leave you in front of the hotel and many times you have to walk to the hotel and you need to wait your turn ( 27 other people) for the lift and for the staircases and to get your key and get into your room which could be on a top floor.

If she is strong and able to do it then there won't be an issue.

She needs to be aware that this is a fast paced tour and keeping track of all her stuff and repacking stuff can be a challenge when one has a lot of stuff and she cannot depend on anyone to help with her bags.

Posted by
21198 posts

Let me be the contrarian. You are rarely successful changing behavior by lecturing, discussion, threatening, etc. Just look at the volume of postings relating to packing light and wearing money belts. Packing light, wearing money belts is learned behavior. The only thing you can really do is model your packing light behavior. When she sees you with one bag easily walking up and down stairs, etc., and she is struggling with her bags she might reconsider. AND --- on the other hand -- she might consider her struggling with extra luggage is worth the trade off for having more things. The last thing you want to do is "brow beat" her into taking a lot less as she will grumble at you when she doesn't have the things she thinks she needs. Let it go. It is not your role to teach her how to travel light. Both of you will be happier.

Posted by
74 posts

On one of Rick Steves' Tours we were on the bus stopped outside the small town of Rhonda and we walked 1/2 mile on to the hotel. That is part of the fun of the tours IMHO and she would be missing out on that experience if she couldn't transport her stuff. She may just prefer to call a taxi to get door to door service if she insists she needs two rollers. However, there are travel bags that fit over the handles of a roller. Her gear will be more compact and much easier to transport that way.

Posted by
30 posts

My husband and I were on the GAS tour in May. Murren was a challenge to get from the gondola to the hotel with just my rolling carryon bag and a small daypack. If you stay in the same hotel, it's mostly uphill from the gondola and I had a tough time with the thin air, (asthma). Laundry service was reasonable in a few of the hotels, including the one in Murren. That being said, some people have to learn the hard way....good luck and enjoy the tour. We had a great time!

Posted by
7475 posts

Hopefully she can 'piggyback' the smaller bag on the larger and just have to tow 'one' bag

Does she have a medical need to bring extra stuff, or just needs to have a new outfit each day with a special dinner time outfit? (and wants to go the entire trip without wearing something twice?)

How did she manage on the 1st trip?

Not been on that tour, but as noted above, the bus does not always drop one in front of the hotel. Also the elevators tend to be decidedly smaller. Had one hotel where a 21" case and one person filled the elevator

Posted by
980 posts

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and insight. I have decided I will try to talk to her about it one more time and then I will just have to let it go. Life is way too short to worry about what others are packing. She is a good friend although we’ve never traveled together. The good thing is that there will be three of us and we’re splitting the cost of a single room for the third person so we will all have a chance to have our own rooms for a third of the tour.

When we had the conversation about packing and I asked her what she packed last trip, she told me she was totally miserable bringing the 2 suitcases and the duffel. She said she only wore half the stuff she brought so I was just so surprised that she’s only eliminating the duffel. Her trip was just last April so it wasn’t that long ago! Oh well, let it gooooo! Let it goooo! I have the song floating in my head lol.

Posted by
289 posts

Claudette
The " Rick Steves Tour Conditions" that you signed a release for when you signed up for this trip states:
"Pack Light: Each tour member is allowed to bring just one airline carry-on piece of luggage (approximately 21"x14"x9") plus a small day pack or shoulder bag. Your pre-tour planner includes tips for packing light and creatively."

You can remind your friend that she signed this document as part of her tour release forms and she is required to bring one small carry-on and one even smaller day bag. It sounds like there are multiple friends on the trip. Who will be her room-mate? That person will be very angry at her because there will be no place to put baggage in the room. The first hotel in Trier is a room at a Senior center. You actually have tons of room in this hotel, but the rest of the tour is probably going to be very small rooms. You usually have to put suitcases on desks and floors. I hope she understands that it won't be fair to her room mate.

Posted by
84 posts

Hello. We did this tour last August. You’ve made an excellent choice! Best advice for ALL of you:
Read the tour rules together-
1 carryon size bag, 1 personal item just like the plane.
Grumpiness isn’t tolerated, neither is tardiness. (Okay, 1 oops)
There are several hotels with major steps for entering. US ADA rules are not in historic Europe.
The gondola is SRO and everyone has a bag by their feet, not two.

Peruse the packing strategies here in the forum. Pam from Idaho travels often and posts lots. She has this down to a fine science. There are many websites about capsule wardrobes for women for travel or not.

We have traveled in Europe a fair amount independently. We’ve done three tours with RSE.
Febreeze fabric refresh is your friend, put some in a travel size spray bottle.
No one will remember what you wore the day before yesterday unless it was truly distinctive in fabric or design. And lucky you -all of you- monochromatic clothing is THE look for this fall.

Posted by
8242 posts

Thanks for your kind words Hickory!

I have a suggestion for a Plan B, in case she insists on this amount of luggage.

To me the most awkward place for a big bag is on the gondolas to Muerren. Usually the bus parks at Stechelberg and you take gondola #1 up to Gimmelwald, then walk out of it and around to the gondola going up to the next level which is Muerren. Then you walk from the gondola station to the hotel which likely has an uphill stretch.

SO.. once you are in Trier, she should rearrange her luggage so that she has enough clothing for 4 nights - the one in Baden-Baden and the 3 in Muerren and pack that in her carry-on size suitcase. My suggestion is to pack 1 pair of pants, 2 shirts, undies for 4 mornings, socks, toiletries, pj's. Her rain jacket, light gloves and hat if she has them. Wear whatever shoes she might need for hiking in Muerren and leave the others in her big case. She can then leave the big case on the bus (tell the driver when you load in Trier) and use it as a closet. After Muerren you've got Munich and she can take everything in there and juggle it around. For the one night in Hallstatt I'd also just want a small bag.

If she is the kind of person who has trouble making decisions on what to wear, it might be helpful for her to have a packing list for the 4 nights done ahead of time so she can see what goes with what and not really have to think about what she'll put in the carry-on sized bag.

Another thing to consider is that that amount of luggage may require some time to pack. IF she's not a morning person, hopefully she will repack everything the night before and just leave out what she needs for the AM. I AM a morning person and when on tour I still pack up the night before.

I am certain you will enjoy this tour!

Posted by
1290 posts

I’ve had this same issue with a friend and I don’t care if she brings her huge suitcase and the kitchen sink. She did so this summer to Greece, while the rest of us took carryon only. She struggled and fell once when the wheels hit an uneven patch. I helped her up but never once helped her get on and off trains or up or down steps. I had no problem watching her struggle nor did I rub it in her nose.

We travel to Mexico this February and it will be interesting to see how she packs for that trip.
If your friend doesn’t listen, so be it! I wouldn’t offer anymore help or any suggestions either.
It’s called tough love!

Posted by
980 posts

A few members of my RS travel group have been on a few tours and they said they have seen various size suitcases brought by tour members so the carry on size suitcase only condition doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced as long as members can carry their own. One member even told us they had an elderly lady on their tour who was unable to roll her own suitcase and had to rely on the kindness of other members to do so for her. The lady ended up mostly staying in the hotel for walking excursions as she was quite frail apparently.

So I had another talk with my friend and asked her what she was planning to bring. Apparently, the carry on suitcase is for her shoes! I asked her if there was anyway she could cut down to at least her big suitcase and a backpack so she can have at least one hand free if needed. I talked to her about the gondola in Mürren and how we would have to lug our suitcases uphill. Thanks for the specifics, Pam, I didn’t know we would have to take 2 gondolas! I’ll pass on the suggestion about leaving her big suitcase on the bus for Mürren but will they even allow that? I also gave her the link to a capsule wardrobe website that she can look at for ideas. I even offered to go over what she is packing! I reminded her that we’ll be able to do laundry so really, bringing 3 pairs of pants is plenty. I think I’ve said enough to her and I won’t bring it up again unless she mentions it.

Now, I must confess...my first 3 trips to Europe, I brought a carry on size suitcase even though I started checking it in because I hate lugging my suitcase through the airport. After the third trip, I um, moved up to the next size suitcase. The 25 incher!!! Why yes I did! I got tired of not being able to buy anything to bring home. This suitcase actually weighs less than my carry on size and I have brought it with me on several trips and have managed quite well. I hope I don’t disappoint you all 😂.

Posted by
8242 posts

so the carry on size suitcase only condition doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced as long as members can carry their own.

That’s correct. The bus will be full-sized so the luggage bays are huge. It’s not a space issue it’s a “handle it yourself” issue.

Yes, you can leave stuff in “deep storage” on the bus while you’re away for a few days. If you are worried talk to the driver after you arrive in Baden Baden. BTW the driver I had for this tour practically had a closet in one of the halves of the luggage area. I’d swear he had an ironing board! He was always pressed looking, lol!! (Richard!!)

I’ll also add that there are actually 2 ways to get to Mürren. The way I described plus you can also get there from Lauterbrunnen which involves a gondola ride then a transfer to a small train, then a walk from that end of town to the hotel. So still 2 transportation segments.

I’m glad you talked with her and yes, I agree you are right to leave it now.

Laughing that you’ve moved up! We’ll still love you! I’ve gone to checking my carryon size bag because I realized I didn’t want to mess with it at my layover airport (and I always have at least one layover) plus I was creating anxiety for myself about finding room in the overhead bins. My solution has been to give myself time in my arrival city for my bag to catch up with me if needed.

Now...time for the fun part! Planning your free time!

Do you have your final information with your tour guide?

Can’t wait for a trip report!

Posted by
75 posts

I urge her to downsize to a 24-25 inch suitcase with a duffle or backpack, two items only! We took the GAS in 2014 and it was the trip of my life but I remember one room where we were literally sleeping in a renovated attic. Also I echo what C.Figora said about the walk from the cable car to the Hotel in Murren, a fairly long walk indeed including a hill section. RS is/was called Europe Thru the Backdoor for a reason, you port your own bags and stay nimble and mobile. The bus has "deep storage" for any large purchased items. Good Luck!

Posted by
980 posts

Pam, our guide is Andrea Wolf. I posted on another thread to ask if anyone has had her as a guide but so far no replies. We've been trying to work on what to do during our free time and have a general idea but nothing definite. Honestly, being used to independent travel, this is the most relaxed I've been planning a trip. A little too relaxed, I think lol. We have been focusing on planning our non RS tour cities including Paris, Budapest and Oslo.

Again, thank you all for your advice and tips. I'll let you know what happens after the trip!

Posted by
8242 posts

Doug, OP and her friend are going on an RS tour. There is really very little time to shop when on these tours. They are not shopping focused but are packed with other interesting sights and activities. They might have time for shopping before or after the tour.

I have been on a couple of tours where people arrived the day the tour started and their luggage did not arrive so shopping was essential but they wound up missing some of the group activities to search for clothing. Oh, yeah, then there was the gal who packed sundresses for early April in Belgium and had to go buy some warm clothes.

Claudette, altho I don't "know" your guide I'm sure they will be wonderful!

Posted by
30 posts

Claudette - Our guide was Andrea. She's a lot of fun, very laid-back but extremely well-organized. I think it was the first night that I requested the cream garnish be omitted from my soup because I'm lactose-intolerant. The entire trip from there, she called ahead and organized a lactose-free menu for me everywhere we went. I know you'll have a wonderful time, enjoy and tell Andrea I said hi.

Posted by
980 posts

C.figura- Andrea sounds like a perfect guide! And my friend (not the over packer, there’s 3 of us lol) who has dietary issues will appreciate her thoroughness. I will say hi for you.

Pam- got a wonderful review above! And much as I love shopping, I don’t want to waste tour time looking for clothes either.

Doug- I’m short and a bit fluffy shall we say so it would be tough for me to find clothes esp bottoms in Europe. Tops would be no problem so shopping would be more time consuming than I would want it to be.

Posted by
7908 posts

The last thing I would want to do on an expensive tour is to go shopping for new clothes.