I am thinking about going on one of the winter tours that include traditional Christmas markets ... But as a long-time fan of Christkindlmarkt in Chicago, I know I won't get out of there without shopping bags. How do you do it without taking extra baggage? Is there a way to sneak off to a UPS office to send items home?
Sure, UPS, Fed Ex, etc. and local post offices all exist in Europe. They tend to be expensive so be sure you want what you are purchasing. And the Christmas markets are nothing like Christkindlmarkt in Chicago. Far, far better or at least more interesting.
Uh, oh!! 😆 So I'll definitely have to work in a free-time trip to arrange shipping. Sounds like it would be wise to talk to the tour guide - but would like to hear how others have managed trip-acquired swag (even though I get that RSE isn't about shopping, I figure everyone does a little of it)
I was in Nuremberg and environs as well as Wurzburg last year and chose items from the Christmas markets that would easily fit in my suitcase. Along with ubiquitous ornaments from Kathe Wohlfahrt shops were warm hats, gloves, and hand crafted chocolate. One of the joys of the trip for me is in the uniqueness of the items in the huts and the wonderful variety of sausages...each town has its own version and all are delicious!
You might indeed need extra baggage on the way home. It's easiest to bring extra bags that are light and collapsible, like Rick's Hide-Away Tote. This bag is quite roomy and sturdy, though obviously adds no structure if you're carrying something fragile that doesn't have its own box and padding. It's also possible that you'll pack new purchases into your main suitcase, padded by dirty clothes, and use the extra bags for less important things. Some travel bags, including most of Rick's, also have an expansion feature for the trip home.
We brought an EMPTY small rolling bag and checked it for the flight to and from Europe. We also had the bag from RS that folds into a little pocket. AND......we ended up buying an extra suitcase after our tour was over for the 3 days post tour. We couldn't help ourselves with the nutcrackers, gluhwein mugs, and all the wonderful Christmas market items. We were on the 8 day Best of Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna tour last Nov/Dec and spent 2 days in Strasbourg and a day in Cologne post tour. We actually spent less on food because of all the great vendor food in the markets so we splurged on the souvenirs. We flew Delta so it didn't cost anything to check the bags for the flight home and our backpacks served as our carry on items.
I cannot recommend this trip enough! Such a magical time to be in Europe!
You can put your purchases in "deep storage" on the bus and then pack it all up at the end of the tour in the extra empty suitcases you brought with you. Buy hats, scarves, mittens, etc. before the tour starts instead of bringing them with you from home. Here are a few examples.
I always take the collapsible Rick Steves Hide-Away tote, also, it hardly takes up any space in my carry-on. On my return trip I put my dirty laundry (and other soft items) in the Hide-Away Tote, and put my new purchases in my carry-on (also a Rick Steves bag). I check the Hide-Away Tote, and can carry the purchases safely on the plane with me. (Never check on the way there, but almost always end up checking the Hide-Away Tote on the way back, so I always make sure it's got an ID tag on it when I pack it.) I did a lot of Christmas Market shopping in Prague on a solo trip there in December, and all of the items were so tiny---mostly Christmas ornaments---that they hardly took up any room. In a corner of the old town square there was a stage with different choirs from all of Europe performing every hour on the hour, charming! Have a great time, and I hope you get your fill of that European holiday atmosphere!
Gee, here I was searching the RS site for feedback on the Hide-Away Tote for my upcoming Munich, Salzburg, Vienna tour. And then I encountered this slightly older post addressing the very subject. Hooray. Thanks for the affirmations re the Tote. It weighs much less that similar Lesportsac or Baggallini bags.
Chani, thanks for the photos of hats at the Christmas stalls. Now we're talking!
Kathy, we have conversed on similar threads. Glad to hear you enjoyed the markets with lots of purchases.
Carla, did you indeed sign up? If so, which dates?
So looking forward to this.
A few years ago in Paris I bought a collapsable bag w/a solid bottom. I bring that in my check-in luggage & use it to bring back as my carry on w/gifts (Chocolates, Cookies, Nik-Naks, Wine & Prints). I just place it in the overhead bin above me. That way I have some control over its transport/handling.
Enjoy your trip.
The Munich Salzburg & Vienna tour is on my list. And, I want to take it the week of Thanksgiving when the markets are in full swing and the weather is cold!
It depends on the year whether the markets are in full swing for the Thanksgiving week. In 2017, Thanksgiving is early and some markets are not yet open. It looks like 2018 is an early Thanksgiving as well. That would have been my first choice, but as it is, I am on the last MSV tour this year because I prioritized the markets.
I just signed up for the Munich, Salzburg and Vienna tour that starts November 26. The Munich market starts November 27; Salzburg November 23 and Vienna November 18 so I should find time to visit all of them. I'm looking forward to it.
It was one of our favorite tours.....the MSV tour! Truly magical!
We took this RS tour last year and it was wonderful. It was cold but it no longer snows until January in Munich--Vienna so that wasn't a problem. We usually take a fairly large folding Baggalini bag and on the last day fill that with laundry and the gifts go into the carry-on suitcase. And no one on the tour hassles you about how much you are carrying; you just have to make sure you can carry it yourself. I packed my bag for the return flight so carefully that it was like a Chinese puzzle box so of course it was searched at LAX. The guard finally gave up and had me repack it!
One warning: if you like it, buy it when you see it. I really wanted one of the windmill carousels that are powered by four candles. There were plenty in Munich and cheaper in the markets than in the stores. But they are a little bulky so I thought I would wait and buy in Vienna. Wrong! They don't have them in Vienna! They are made in "east" Germany as we were told. I was very disappointed as they cost a bundle to ship by mail order but my always clever husband made me one which is even better.
Have a great trip! The markets are wonderful and everyone is happy, possibly because of the gluwein and hot sugared Mandeln (almonds). We were in Hallstatt on their one Christmas market day and it was truly magical. We hope to return some day.
The Christmas markets are late this year due to Advent being late. Most of them are not opening until the end of Nov. Most of them close on the 22nd of Dec. or if it is a small town, they may just be on one weekend during Advent. Very few will be open on the 24th.
I'm not a big shopper, so have no helpful info, but wanted to say HI to Kim in DC because I'm going to be on the Nov. 26 tour, too!
You could also buy an inexpensive extra bag in Europe.
I almost always send a box home, the Mailboxes Etc. store are all over and you can choose among several shippers there. They will also pascal a box for you. I usually pay about €80 for 10 pounds of stuff.
When someone can tell me how to roll up the RS hide-away bag (aka, "don't tell Rick bag"), I will be forever indebted.