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Going minimal on a RS tour: what would you leave out next time?

This was my third RS tour, and although I'm getting better at packing with each tour, even so there are always some things I bring that I wish I left at home. Here are the extras I brought that I could have done without:

  • A second pair of shoes (wear one, pack one). Could have just taken the shoes on my feet. Never used the backup pair. I know this involves a little risk (what if I step in a puddle?)

  • I brought a jacket, a fleece pullover, and a fleece shirt as layers; I should have just brought one or two of them, not all three.

  • I brought the whole RS Italy book, should have just torn out a few chapters and left the rest at home. I never want to do that to the book, but it would help with weight and bulk - that book is heavy.

I did bring an umbrella that I never used, but its small and I still think I would bring this in the future.

My suitcase is a Ravenna Rolling Case. Here's a funny thing: two people on my tour had exactly the same case, and in the same color as me!

What about you? Anything you bring that you wish you left at home?

Posted by
14159 posts

I need to cut down on my stuff other than clothes because I've got that down pretty minimally. I agree you probably overdid with the layers but it's hard to tell in a transitional season! I took a rain layer plus a puffy vest plus some wool glove liners on my April/May trip to France/Belgium/Netherlands. I did wear the puffy vest a few times...enough to be glad I had it. Never needed the gloves. Wore the rain jacket more for a wind layer than actually having rain BUT that was a shock. I'd never travel without a rain layer.

I have gone to having the guidebook on my iPad Mini to read on my Kindle app. I get the paper guidebook for planning then use the e-book for reference on the go. I had previously torn them apart and that worked well but the ebook works better for me.

Posted by
115 posts

I really like having an extra pair of shoes, as much as we walk I like to give my feet a break.

Posted by
16706 posts

I would never cut down on the shoes; you need more than one pair just in case. I usually take 4 or 5, including hiking boots, city sneakers, and dressy sandals at a minimum. But that is just me.

You should be fine on most trips in spring/summer with one wind/waterproof jacket and one fleece layer, in addition to your regular clothes. I never take an umbrella.

I never take a RS guidebook; just lots of maps and screenshots of things that are important.

Posted by
202 posts

Confessions of a veteran RST alum/avowed light packer: I generally carry on outbound/check my bag inbound due to glass container liquids packed amongst unmentionables. Recently did the exact opposite on domestic SEA-SAN 6-nt jaunt. Didn't fret one whit about carryon weight - packed all to my heart's desire. Was then, THAT traveler, more than fortunate when another taller, and with superior upper body strength than me, traveler kindly took notice of my (inadequate efforts) plight and then graciously/generously assisted me lifting my own case into overhead compartment. I did eagerly relinquish my overweight luggage to the hold below when airline asked for volunteers at the gate on the return. SO not worth it and if I have any sense, will not be guilty of doing ever again. Normally in packing, I'm all about the weight of what I'm bringing along for the ride. I can always bring however much paperwork as I like, as long as it's compact in size and takes up next to nothing in weight. I've definitely X-Acto bladed hefty RST guidebooks to manageable size so I travel only with the pertinent info needed. I rely on my accommodation for most toiletries (bring my own face wash/toner), never travel with heavy footwear and tuck in a lightweight umbrella without a thought. For international trips, I'll bring my own compact/effective travel hairdryer, lightweight/quick dry washcloth and preferred nonmetal water bottle; these items are important to me and good for my well-being.

Posted by
1259 posts

Arriving at your own version of lightweight packing is pretty much up to you. There are endless resources on the web: thousands of packing lists for every climate and destination, videos, and testimonials to support every decision. There is a level of risk involved: you might really need something you left behind and cannot or simply do not wish to acquire it locally. You set your goals for total mass, acceptable risk, level of comfort, and reliability and then compromise and adapt to suit. For instance, I travel with two pairs of shoes because I know from experience I prefer two pairs. So I had to first find light shoes and then figure out how to reduce mass by that amount in some other way.

My international packing method is adapted from my experiences after several years of ultralight backpacking and a decade or more of bicycle touring. Both sports required carefully scrutinizing and rationalizing every gram of each item.

Posted by
8590 posts

I now bring only one middle layer item - a sweater, sweatshirt, or (even better) a hoodie. Often worn on the airplane rather than packed. They're all too bulky to bring more than one. Can be used as a pillow.

Posted by
531 posts

Here's the thing, this is Europe, so you are not traveling to any third world countries. You can forgo 1-2 week's worth of certain toiletries to cut down on weight given you can find most products or similar ones over there and replenish as needed. I brought three pairs of shoes on the GAS tour, including lightweight dressy flats, which I only wore once (Mozart dinner). But my Allbirds and Boots weren't really appropriate for that, so I am glad I brought those.

I always bring an umbrella to Europe (I typically travel in the fall), and if you lose it, just buy another one there...5-10 Euros. No biggie.

The key for everything is comfort and multi-purpose when possible.

And I do love my Rick Steves products, especially my backpack, although I don't think the picnic utensils are worth bringing. I brought them on a solo trip to Europe in 2018 and never used them.

Another great idea I've heard about is bringing clothes that you plan to get rid of anyway and just leaving them behind along the way. A couple of new items of clothing bought in Europe make great souvenirs!

Agree wholeheartedly on not bringing the entire tour book. That is so much unnecessary weight!

I continue to refine my packing list every year and make note of what was not used during the trip.

Posted by
640 posts

I wear a pair of sturdy walking, hiking, weatherproof shoes. My backup is a solid pair of shoes that function as hotel room slippers (crocs, slides, etc.) but strong enough for walking around town.

Posted by
97 posts
  • I would skip taking my compact umbrella. I took a combo windbreaker that was water repellent with a hood which was more functional for me.
  • I would only bring a base layer and skip the puffy vest. I did bring a lightweight fleece jacket and the aforementioned windbreaker for the Alps.
  • Bring packable hangers vs. clothesline. Drying hand-washed clothes is a challenge anyway in the small rooms.
  • I tore out pages from the RS tour books (Rome and Paris) but actually didn't use them. I created a spreadsheet for each city with what to do on what days and used those instead. It was a waste of my time to rip, sort and put together from his books. I did use his rip-out city maps since the font was larger and the metro stops were noted on a single map.
  • I used my second pair of shoes in the evenings and on bus days to give my feet a rest. I brought moleskin along but only used it for 2 days.
Posted by
3614 posts

To counter what I consider to be cultish dogma by some fans of a certain travel guru, I will say that it is not true that you can always get something you didn’t bring. At season transition times it may be very difficult; and, anyway, who wants to spend travel time searching for an item that could easily have been brought from home. Among these I include a spare pair of shoes, the hat-gloves-scarf cold weather insurance mentioned above, a spare pair of glasses, enough of your prescription and otc drugs to last the trip. I like to be clean and look reasonably nice, and I would never plan on sink washing. All that being said, I have managed innumerable trips with a 21 or 22” case ( checked) and a smaller carry-on. I hope no one chimes in with, “I have never brought ________, and I have never needed it.” The point is that when you do need something, you do. Except for the shoes, the items I mentioned weigh little and take up little space.

Posted by
4428 posts

I have never been on a RS tour, but do travel carryon only. I have traveled with only one pair of shoes and had no problems but after my LL Bean hiking boots disintegrated while hiking at home I decided it would be risky to travel with only one pair. After all on a trip, your feet are extremely important. Definitely tear out pages in the RS book-my carry on was opened because I had the entire book in it and they said that "thick book" was the reason. I take silk long underwear for a lightweight extra layer which takes up minimal space in luggage. I take a rain jacket with hood but no umbrella. I have foldable hangers to hang up clothes that I have sink washed. I think I got them on Amazon and take up very little space.

Posted by
80 posts

I don't think I'll fit in with the Rick Steves tour group. I've never been on a tour and will be going in August. I've travelled all over Europe with my 25-inch suitcase and never had any issues. I usually buy a ton of olive oil on my trips, vinegar, too and other souvenirs but it sounds like the Rick Steve crowd is about something else. I'm kinda of regretting booking this trip as you all sound so, intense. I do bring enough underwear for the whole trip because I refuse to wash my underwear in the sink, I brush my teeth in. It totally grosses me out. It would be better in shower, but my friend's husband does it in the bathroom sink. I'm also the type that doesn't want to waste time doing laundry even if I have to drop it off or go to the store to buy more stuff. I'm the kind that walks around the entire day touring from sunup to sundown.

Posted by
2857 posts

Disney, the size of your luggage has nothing to do if you will fit in. Friendliness, willingness and curiosity are much more important.

But remember that you are responsible for getting your luggage from the bus to your hotel room. You may have a little walk like we did in Sorrento plus a flight or two of stairs.
Which tour are you doing?

Posted by
2212 posts

Disneyfreak67 - we just finished our 7th trip and while we start with carry-on, we shop along the way. The only rule is that you have carry your own stuff. By the time we finished the Eastern France tour we had dragged 4 bottles of wine on and off the bus multiple times (cause bus heat and wine don’t mix) but it was totally worth it. The older we get, the more strategically we shop - heavy stuff closer to the end of the trip.
One trick for sink wash that is fairly popular is to take an extra-large ziploc bag and do the washing in that.

We just finished a 30-day trip. I keep trying to refine my packing and sometimes I’ve got a winner and sometimes an epic fail. I still need to find a waterproof raincoat where the hood doesn’t fall in my eyes. For now, the umbrella will stay. There were more cool days in Sicily and hot days on the My Way Italy stops. Next time I’m going for the lightweight thermal top and sleeveless or short sleeve tops and maybe 1 long sleeve top. I can layer and if it’s cool enough to layer, no one is seeing it under my jacket anyway. The real conundrum is the 3-1-1 bag. If we carry-on and have an LHR connection, it really limits what will go in. Next trip I’m taking a tiny toothpaste and buying a bigger tube at the destination. It was inexpensive.

Posted by
848 posts

Hey Tony. As one of the three on our tour with the same color suitcase, just wanted to say I love my Rick Steves bag. It light, just the right size, on sale at the time I bought it and has served me well through a good number of trips. If something works well for you, who cares whose name is on it? And I always bring 3 pairs of shoes, two pairs of sneakers and a pair of slip-on flats. I’m especially glad I did for this tour. Who would have thought a boat ride in Veste would resulted in most of us being totally drenched in seawater?

Posted by
8520 posts

There is some sort of misconception out there about what it takes to travel on a RS tour. No one measures your luggage, or even pays much attention to what you bring. There is one requirement and one requirement only, you must be able to handle your own luggage yourself. If you can handle a bigger or heavier bag than a carry on, no problem!

I think your list depends a great deal upon how one usually dresses or deals with rain. I would never use an umbrella at home, so I sure wouldn't pack one to bring on a trip. I use my good quality waterproof rain coat with hood. I dress in layers most of the year, so I would only have one warmth layer that went under the raincoat along.

It also depends on what seems "cold" to you. A person from the Northern US is going to have a different take on this than someone from Florida. It is the same with heat. I'm going to swelter with much heat or humidity and someone from the Southern US is going to deal with it much better.

I am a firm believer in packing in a way that makes sense for you as an individual and meets your needs. No worries about what others think is "right."

Posted by
131 posts

Thanks, Margie. I forgot about that boat ride and getting so wet! That's a very good point.

Posted by
80 posts

@Horsewoflie We are doing the Berlin, Prague and Vienna tour. I imagine it will be hot in August so, I'll be taking extra clothes. I can carry my own suitcase as I've carried it all over Europe with no issues.

Posted by
80 posts

@Patty -- that is exactly why we like a bigger bag. I've seen some photos on Rick Steve's site where people have their carry-on bag but then, are toting around several more bags in addition to their backpack. I rather pack it all in my rolling suitcase and tote that around than, a bunch of separate bags. Seems odd and defeats the purpose. I've never waited a long time for my bag at any airport except one but that was because the whole travel industry was on strike in France so, not really anything you could control.

Posted by
848 posts

Of course you can bring whatever size bag you like but the RS group does “advise” 21x14x9 and a small daypack or shoulder bag on their website and documentation they send you before the tour starts. There’s reasons of course and most are for your benefit. On our Southern Italy tour there was an Amalfi coast boat ride where we had to carry our luggage down a narrow ramp onto a bobbing boat, a hotel without an elevator which meant multiple steps to climb to your room, a 15 minute walk uphill and over cobblestones thru town because the bus driver had a specific spot to park and unload and then there was the very angry bus driver in Sorrento that was not happy about the difficulty of trying to fit two of our tour mates oversized and very large bags onto his small bus that we took into Naples.

Posted by
80 posts

@margie In that case, that should be disclosed when you purchase. It is too late for me to cancel. I went back and read my terms and condition and nothing in there says you must bring a carry on only. It does have a section where you can click Rick Steve's packing tips and he mentions that he has a self-imposed limit for himself at 20 lbs. Key word is "himself". But does go on to explain why he likes a smaller bag but nowhere does he say it is a requirement. Luckily, we are not doing any boat tours. The tours are packed with at least 28 travelers these days so, I'm not sure why the bus was so, small it couldn't fit all the suitcases.

Besides wearing the same shoes for 12 days of walking at least 6 miles a day must stink. It is not healthy for your feet to wear the same shoes. I'll be bringing two pairs.

Posted by
131 posts

@disneyfreak67

The Tour Conditions states a couple of things under "Tour Member Expectations":

  • Carry or roll your own luggage for up to 15 minutes over uneven pavement from the bus to the hotel (not applicable on 7-day city tours), then haul it up several flights of stairs to reach your room.

also states:

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

And there were people on the tour that did have full size bags. Nobody threw them off the tour. But it can be a hassle to have too much.

Posted by
848 posts

Disney, it’s under tour conditions and states….. “Pack light: Each tour member is advised to bring just one airline carry-on-size piece of luggage (approximately 21" x 14" x 9") plus a small day pack or shoulder bag. Your Pre-Tour Planner includes tips for packing light and creatively. 
https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/tour-conditions

I did not do say you couldn’t bring a bigger bag, some do and some, as we’ve seen on numerous tours wish they hadn’t for many reasons of which I listed just a few. As for the size of the bus going into Naples, we were transferred onto a smaller bus because of the traffic situation in and around Naples where it’s not easy to maneuver a large tour bus and most people read their tour agreement and do not bring large oversized bags which means it’s usually not a problem loading the smaller bus. Obviously, some people just need to experience the situation rather than rely on others for advice on what has worked for them and what hasn’t. Have a great trip!

Posted by
848 posts

And I bring 3 pairs of shoes but my feet aren’t a size 13 either.

Posted by
80 posts

@margie... I respectively disagree it says "advised" not required. But your statement above makes it sound like it required because your tour had trouble with the bags on the bus and water tour. All I'm doing is pointing out the fact it is not required which you seem to agree with. I wear a 9 1/2 I don't have dainty woman feet. I'm pretty tall too. I could probably fit it all in carry-on but I then, I would have to hand carry my souvenirs. I don't usually buy the tacky made in "China" souvenirs. Over the years, I picked up pottery all over the world. I've bought Russian nesting dolls in St. Petersburg because of my heritage. I've bought countless bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I've never been to Berlin, Prague and Vienna so, hoping to pick up something unique from those countries.

I get it. It is a different style of touring. Not my style. I just wish, I was aware more before I purchased. I had no idea you had to be of a certain mindset.

Posted by
8590 posts

Nobody will bat an eye at your 25" luggage. Most of the people on our tours have been experienced travelers and not competitive or critical.

Posted by
399 posts

disneyfreak67, I think you are overthinking the luggage problem. As long as you can handle your luggage nobody will care much one way or another. There is no mindset other than to enjoy oneself, don't be a grump, and be on-time.

On one trip a young woman brought a huge suitcase. She explained it this way. She did not want to do any laundry on the trip. So, 12 days worth underwear and sox, 4 pairs of jeans to be worn 3 days each, 6 tops to be worn two day each, one pair of walking shoes, and one pair of lightweight sandals, a few toiletries, a small camera, and a light weight day-pack. Oh, she did bring one hat also, IIRC. And one money belt. <--- not to be forgotten.

I've done the 'bring old but usable underwear' trip a few times. It only seems to help near the end of the tour when you can start trashing the used underwear you won't be bringing back home. I also did the same with old pants and shirts but just once. Walking around Italian cities and towns, among the well dressed Italians, I looked like a bum from America. Una brutta figura! Now I try to dress like I see the local men dressing, it seems to relax things a bit. Maybe it's just me, not them. :-)

Posted by
301 posts

@Disneyfreak

I agree that you are overthinking this, but I also understand how that can happen. Before my first RS tour I was a little nervous because there are people who can get rather preachy about packing light (to be clear: I'm not referring to everybody who advocates carry-on only and a generally minimalist approach, I'm talking about the people--some of this board but mainly "out in the inter webs"--who act as if checking a bag were some kind of moral failing and make sure everybody knows about their disdain). I've done five tours now and I try to pack light, because I do agree that there are huge benefits to it, but I don't always succeed. The key with the RS tours is that you don't make your luggage somebody else's problem. As long as you're handling your stuff and not complaining about having to lug it up several flights of stairs, nobody will care.

I think the same attitude applies to souvenir shopping--it's your money and only your business what you do with it. I've also been on tours where several tour members have ordered bottles of olive oil, cases of wine, etc. No big deal.

On a more practical note, on long trips, I've been known to make a visit to the post office to unload some stuff. Not cheap (though usually not terrible either) and it lights your load.

Caroline

Posted by
848 posts

Disney…“The key with the RS tours is that you don't make your luggage somebody else's problem. As long as you're handling your stuff and not complaining about having to lug it up several flights of stairs, nobody will care.” That’s it in a nutshell. I’m sorry you feel offended when all this has been is advice on what has worked or not worked for a majority of people traveling on these tours and which I thought this part of the forum was all about. And yes, there is a Rick Steves mindset and he’s quite vocal about it…travel light. But that doesn’t mean people don’t bring stuff home. We just got the case of wine we shipped from Lake Como and I fretted about the limoncello not breaking in my checked bag. And there was the leather purses from Florence on the BOI tour and the crystal from Dingle Ireland.

Posted by
663 posts

I’m on a RS tour right now, and I haven’t had to wash anything in the sink. Sometimes there will be laundry facilities at some of the hotels, or a nearby place where you can do it yourself or sometimes drop it off and pick it up a few hours later. We stayed at one incredibly fabulous hotel in Tuscany that did our laundry for us for 25 euros. We were given a bag to stuff in whatever we wanted washed, and when we got back to the hotel later that day it had all been washed, dried, ironed, folded, placed in a decorative basket, with a ribbon tied around it and a flower placed on top. We were all sad to leave that fantastic hotel after 3 nights, but now we are enjoying Elba, so it’s all good.

Posted by
131 posts

Angela,

Are you on the Tuscany tour? How is that going? It looks very interesting. That's on my not-so-short list of RS tours I want to take someday.

Posted by
663 posts

Yes! And it has been FABULOUS!!! It has far exceeded all expectations. We’ve all decided that it should be renamed to the Tuscan food and wine tour. OMG we’ve been eating so well! We’ve visited multiple farms, a winery, and we’ve had a pasta making class! And we’ve also visited a couple interesting little towns, seen lots of Etruscan things, and visited a Benedictine Abby, where we ran into a monk that our guide knows and we chatted with him for a few minutes. It’s been pretty amazing, overall. I’m sad it’ll be over in 3 days.

Posted by
15552 posts

Disneyfreak67.....relax. You can bring any size suitcase you want. As long as you can handle it, no one will say a word. (I've been on three RS tours and people brought all sizes of cases.)

In most tours, the driver will have a section of the bus's luggage compartment for purchases that people don't need every night. Some even bring a packable duffel bag to hold their purchases while underneath the bus.

While I have not been on your particular tour, in some hotels they can do whatever laundry you may need.

I have found sinks to be getting smaller and smaller. About four years ago I started taking a dry bag like this one to wash my clothes:

https://seatosummit.com/products/lightweight-dry-sack?variant=7896140447772

I use the 8 liter one. I call it my portable washing machine. It's meant to hold water out, but it also holds water in. It weighs less than an ounce. I've been using the same one for four years. I used to use exlarge ziploc bags but they didn't last long.

Put water and a little soap in. Shake. Put in clothes. Add water to cover. Shake. Let sit for 15-20 nimutes. Empty the bag. Rinse out clothes. Dry with towel. Hang to dry. It takes no time.

Posted by
399 posts

Regarding not making your luggage somebody's else's problem, I would like to point out that other folks will often help a person struggling with luggage. RS travelers are generally very nice folks.

FWIW, I badly twisted my foot at the start of a tour and for about four days had to depend on others to lug my bag upstairs and up hills. No problem, several guys helped me out. Needless to say I will do the same for others.

Posted by
66 posts

I stop bringing book after my first RS tour; never got to read it during the trip.
I always bring another pair of shoes; and a pair of flip-flops which I wear on the tour bus.
Off topics: hand sanitizer works great as deodorant; apply it to shoe insoles will also keep your shoes smelling fresh!

Posted by
1159 posts

As long as you're handling your stuff and not complaining about having to lug it up several flights of stairs, nobody will care.

This. And the suggestion RS gives about bags is below a section headlined with this:

Tour member expectations: RSE tours are physically active, our hotels are centrally located but may provide fewer American-style amenities, and our people policy emphasizes NO GRUMPS! These are essential characteristics of the RSE tour experience.

Anyway, back to packing, mine seems to get heavier as I decide I want a bit more instead of less. For this next tour I'm bringing a small pair of binoculars that will be handy to look at the stained glass in the churches. I'm bringing a small iPad because of Covid concerns (we may need to be looking things up online).

Posted by
1224 posts

I don't take an umbrella but buy it there if needed, super cheap. My jacket for summer travel is my raincoat, and I usually bring one other light outerwear for cool mornings/evenings but will buy whatever else I need there. I usually only take 2 pairs of shoes to rotate them but we leave next week and am also taking a pair of dressy very light strappy sandals for evening shows. They actually fit into my RS cross body bag and are so light I don't notice they are in there and carrying them around all day. I do sink washing every couple of nights and feel that I still look and feel just fine vs paying for someone else to do them. I always tear apart my books as I don't want to carry around all that extra weight.

Posted by
848 posts

Interesting how this showed up today with Rick Steves June Travel News……

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/packing-light/packing-smart

“At my company, we've taken tens of thousands of people of all ages and styles on tours through Europe. We allow only one carry-on bag. For many, this is a radical concept: 9" × 21" × 14"? That's my cosmetics kit! But they manage, and they're glad they did. After you enjoy that sweet mobility and freedom, you'll never go any other way.”

Posted by
2764 posts

I am always reminded of a Girl Scout group I took a few years ago.

I recommended they follow Rick Steves type guidance. They felt that they didn't need to do that.

The adults all said "we aren't touching your luggage, this trip has no porters and if there are any extra luggage charges you pay for them"

After they carried their oversize luggage up and 6 flights of stairs in Paris, over to the metro, down the metro stairs, through a couple of stations and to the check in at CDG they all said "never again". I expect some Rick Steves tour members feel the same way after their tour since it sounds like Rick also doesn't do porters or baggage handling assistance :) (Oh and I wear a size 10 shoe and took hiking shoes and a Girl Scout uniform on this 2 week tour... it all went in a carry on I could lift into the overhead without help. Yes, I wore the boots on the plane :) ) Most of those girls have since gone back on their own doing backpacks only (they quizzed people we met on the tour for hints, nice thing about staying in hotels or hostels oriented to very young travelers. I felt very old but it was good for the kids!)

As for the "leaving my old clothes" plan. Personally I have no desire to go anywhere dressed in clothing that's ready to be thrown away but that's just me.

I often check coming home especially if my trip ends in Paris where I tend to stock up on some liquid cosmetics so I can't meet the 3-1-1 requirements

Posted by
66 posts

Forgot to mention duffle bag!
It's especially handy if your tour include Venice; pack just essentially in the duffle bag and leave the rest in deep storage.
For my trip home I pack a few heavy stuff (e.g. shoes) in the duffle bag, it then also goes into my carry-on bag. In the event it's over the airline weight limit, I just check in the duffle bag.

Posted by
1 posts

I took a hair dryer, (internationally compatible type) but never used it once. We were doing the Turkey tour. All the hotels had them in the bathrooms. Waste of precious space that could have been used for "priceless" souveniers.

Posted by
531 posts

@carol I can't do the leave your clothes behind thing with my tops and bottoms, but it works well for old socks and undies!

Posted by
19 posts

We took our first RS tour, Village Italy 14 days, in April-May 2022. We each packed in a 21” bag and followed the “don’t bring it if you can’t wear it three times” rule. It worked perfectly! We had the right amount of clothes, shoes, and accessories, plus room for some purchases, and the ability to handle our own luggage up hotel stairs. Packing in cubes kept me organized, though my husband preferred to go cubeless (!). It was absolutely doable, and we’re looking forward to booking our 2023 tour as soon as they’re announced. We’ll never pack another way!

Posted by
6 posts

@disney - be prepared to meet the most wonderful people, see sites that would otherwise go unnoticed and have the most incredible time of your life - we've been on 2 RS trips and we will go to Andalucia in Sept. Don't get overwhelmed by the 'what to bring'. The joy of bringing less just meant that we didn't buy a lot of crap that we didn't need. If we saw something that we wanted, we had it shipped back. Our bags expanded, so on the way home, we checked our bags.

Because of the great local guides, we ended up in an underground wine 'men's dinner club' in Pamplona where only the guys could cook in the kitchen, while the women drank wine, we've made yogurt on a goat farm while the farmer served us his home cured salamis, stayed in palaces, hiked a portion of the Camino, surprise boat rides through Bilbao, went to a bullfight (our choice), visited a church where the horses were blessed before the Paleo. Ate some of the most incredible foods.....and still had plenty of time to explore on our own.

I've tried to explain the RS experience to others and words do not do it justice.

Posted by
3 posts

Once I learned how to do sink laundry, I never looked back. I'm about to depart for Germany for the 2-week tour, and I'll (obviously) be wearing one day's worth and will bring 3-4 more days. The key is finding the right time to do laundry: when you arrive in a new city, immediately do 2 days' of laundry. Sure, it's more fun to look around on your own, but while other people are catching up on email or browsing nearby shops, in 30 mins, you'll be done with laundry and still have 20-30 mins to burn before meeting up before the typical orientation-walk-on-the-way-to-dinner meetup. Note that this works best on quickdry clothing. (I'm a runner; nearly my whole wardrobe is wicking fabric.) The key is not letting laundry pile up: 2 days' is fast, and obviously 3 days' will take you 50% longer - maybe more, because you'll run out of dry towels and clothesline space to hang up stuff.

I normally bring a very light hooded rain jacket rather than an umbrella, plus another thin thermal layer. I also tend to bring a very lightweight long-sleeved shirt for sun protection, so short-sleveed shirt, sun shirt, thin thermal layer, AND rain jacket can keep me warm all the way down into the 40s. (That's how cold it was when a bunch of tour members went ballooning in Turkey!)

For shoes, I wear my hiking boots on the plane and put my sneakers in my luggage.

In my day backpack, I have:

  • guidebook
  • a water bottle
  • my lightweight rain jacket, which also doubles as instant picnic blanket, pillow, and "cushion this thing I just bought in the bottom of my bag"
  • an extra packet of tissues bought in Europe (which doubles as TP if needed - I also carry one in my pants pocket)

which leaves me plenty of space to throw in food from the street market to share with others later. :)

Posted by
15 posts

We did Heart of Italy in June. I packed several sleeveless dresses and a denim jacket. My idea is that the dresses were long enough to get me in anywhere, easy to pack and cool. I figured on carrying the jacket in my daybag and wearing anytime places wanted my shoulders covered, or anytime the air conditioning was too cold for my liking. I learned at Italian AC is not like American AC and that I was never cold in an air conditioned building. While in the US there are few places indoors that would be uncomfortable in a denim jacket, in Italy in the summer, it was more than I wanted. So, I would make sure any dresses have at least cap sleeves, or carry a pashmina as a cover-up for visiting churches

Posted by
8 posts

I overpacked my backpack on our first tour and it was comical - and a pain! We will go on our 3rd tour this fall and I now have the layering, capsule wardrobe ideas and laundering down! If I buy a piece or two of clothing, something will be left behind!
A light rain jacket with a hood is on my “to buy” list. Happy travels!

Posted by
15 posts

Great advice from the experienced RS travelers! We will take our first RS tour for the 13-day Best of Scotland next April. Since it will be cool, I'm contemplating how much warmer wear to pack. Website says temps range from 39-52 in April. I'm also wondering about a refillable water bottle. I try not to buy bottled water if I can avoid it. In your experience, were there plenty of places to refill a water bottle? Any suggestions of what type to bring (plastic vs metal, etc).
Thanks! Betsy

Posted by
18 posts

Kentucky Girl/Betsy, the Scotland trip was my first RS tour, in late April 2017. I stayed warm with long-sleeved tops (they might have been lightweight merino wool), a lightweight Uniqlo coat, a hat, and scarves. Our day at Culloden Battlefield, though, the weather was gray and blustery. I was so cold, I went into the gift shop in search of a sweatshirt, but I ended up with my favorite souvenir of that trip--a beautiful hand-knit poncho made by a Scottish artisan.

Posted by
8520 posts

This question has new urgency as I realize that I should not check a bag for my September trip due to airline/airport issues. Time to really pare down. First victim, my collapsible hiking poles. TSA won't let me carry these on. I think there will be fewer pants and shirts, more time spent on laundry.

Posted by
131 posts

Carol now retired,

It's really nice to arrive and not have to go claim any bags! If you can get your luggage down to carry-on only, you won't want to go back to checking bags again.

As for sink laundry, we just made it a part of the routine. Every 2 days, we did it the night we arrived in a city, so if it didn't dry overnight it had an extra day to dry.

Good luck!

Posted by
25 posts

Thinking about downloading my guidebook on a small Kindle I'm bringing.
Don't bring an umbrella. buy one of you need it. Lots of cute ones in gift shops.
Always have spare shoes even if just flip flops.
Packing a shampoo bar with also will be a bath soap.
You really can use hand lotion as hair conditioner.

Posted by
1224 posts

Carol Now Retired - we pack light because we don't want to lug it around but most importantly because it makes us mobile. This last trip we were coming home during all the airport chaos with checked luggage in Europe, and it was smooth sailing as we had no checked luggage. Having to check my bag would give me anxiety.

As others have said we sink wash and hang dry. If its a 2 night stop we wash on the first night, if its a 3 night stop the 1st and/or 2nd nights and 1 night stops no washing is done. It works for us. Our clothes are moisture wicking and pretty fast drying too as we have to travel in the summer (I'm a teacher) so we don't bring a lot of layers (really just for rain) and dress for hot weather so less material overall.

Posted by
25 posts

I am a "full figured " girl and did a NO luggage trip to Italy. NOT by choice. My luggage was checked at the airlines insistence, and lost, and not found until just before the end of the trip and even then much was missing/stolen. I found nothing in my size in the stores. I was panicking! Finally I found a very expensive store with a few items I could get for a very hefty price. So, I am sure to bring in my backpack/purse at least 2 full days of clothing and, PJ's undies and meds. Exp pants and undies. You can always get socks, scarves, gloves, T shirts, sweaters, etc. in tourist areas. Not having PJ's was a big problem as my teenage son was sharing the room.
Suprisingly, many of our meds can be bought in pharmacies in Europe with no Dr prescription. Just talk to the pharmacist.
I'm bringing a very light leggings and top ( cuddle duds) for PJ's which can double as extra layers if needed.
DON'T LET THEM MAKE YOU CHECK YOU BAG . I leaned to measure and follow the carry on rules.
Lost luggage is a BIG problem right now with all the airline issues.

Posted by
2459 posts

@catsunderfoot You are entitled to compensation from the airline for your delayed baggage. Google “Department of Transportation Delayed Baggage Compensation”. File a claim with the airline.

Posted by
25 posts

Mary, they gave me flight vouchers which I could not use and a token amount which didn't even cover the cost of the things I bought or what was stollen. But.... the trip went on. Lesson learned.

Posted by
241 posts

On our first RS tour one member lost her luggage for most of the tour in Spain. Part of the problem was after Granada we were in areas the airline could not deliver to. Finding underwear was a big deal in Barcelona. Since then I always carry a complete change of clothes, my favorite sandals and several pairs of underwear.

Posted by
118 posts

So strange – I did much better with packing on the 1st RS trip than 2nd – going to do better on 3rd – I always carry on my luggage –

2 pair of shoes NOT 3 – I wear boots (fun change & wonderful in rain) & pack a pair of walking shoes – brought a 3rd pair shoes on the 2nd trip & 2 are enough – I alternate each day

I brought an umbrella 1st trip & raincoat 2nd trip – umbrella is easier to pack & to carry in case of rain

My back is ‘more special’ than 5 years ago when we made our 1st RS trip so no backpack – my roller bag that goes over head & trying something new this upcoming trip – a beach bag that’s transparent on the sides with lots of transparent pockets so I can more easily organize & find what I want - especially on the plane

Layers are always the key to comfort

I bring 2 pair quick dry underpants, 2 bras & 2 black, quick dry undershirts (look like tank tops) & use the bathroom sink for handwashing

I find skirts & tights comfortable & easy to change with different tops & get me in anywhere

I wear / carry my warm cardigan on the plane