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Packing reality

Hi. First-timer on the forum. and we're seriously considering one of RS's Italy tours. I've been to all corners of the website and gotten lots of terrific info. I have a question however:

I've read Rick's packing tips, especially "One carry-on bag. That's it." Fair enough. But watching his videos, I see lots of his tour folks rolling carry-ons PLUS wearing backpacks. I also see lots of footage of happy tourers disembarking from buses, walking the streets of Paris, etc, carrying backpacks. Now I know that backpacks take up a fair amount of room, and I can't imagine packing one inside a carry-on. And there are lots of folks carrying both at the same time.

So my question is: can you take a carry-on bag PLUS a backpack? Is this what most folks do? How do you deal with them on the flight over?

Posted by
24 posts

I'm sure you will get some better answers than mine, but here is my take:

The "backpack" that RS refers to is your LUGGAGE, that is packed with your sox, shirts, underwear, pants, toilet kit and other necessaries. It can be a shoulder strap backpack or a roll-on. It goes on the bus, train, plane or car until you get to your next destination.

What you are seeing tourists carrying during the day is a smaller, lighter "daypack" that has your jacket, guidebook, camera, etc. Think of it as a large pocket that carries everything else BESIDES your overnight travel needs. The DAYPACK is the "personal item" you are allowed, like your purse, laptop case or shoulder bag when getting on the plane.

We travel as described above, each with a backpack or roll-on and a daypack.

Posted by
14267 posts

And many people, even on RS tours, take checked bags.

Posted by
2154 posts

I would love to be a person who can live happily out of my carry-on for 2 weeks, but I just can't see that happening. I have a carry-on bag that goes over my shoulder and includes the things I won't check like meds, a spare pair of shoes and a change of clothes just in case--that fits under the seat. My checked bag is a rolling one that is small-medium and I can handle it easily, including lifting onto a train.

Posted by
1767 posts

My understanding is that tour does restrict you to one bag. but you are correct you can also have a "personal item" which can be a back pack. I think they used to send you their little backpack to use as a personal item and having used it, you can get a lot of stuff in that back pack.

Posted by
4536 posts

A lot of people bring a daypack in addition to the carry-on sized bag. When you are traveling from place to place, your main luggage goes in the compartment under the bus and you don't have access to it until you get to the hotel. People will put things that they might need during the day (e.g. raingear, books, etc.) in their daypack and take the daypack on the bus. That means when they get off the bus to go to the hotel, they have both. That doesn't necessarily mean that they packed both a full daypack and a full suitcase on the way over (although some people do that).

If the daypack is a reasonable size (will fit under the seat in front of you), some airlines will let you carry it on as your personal item.

Posted by
6562 posts

My wife carries a 22" rolling carry on bag and a large zip up hand bag. She carries no purse.
I carry a 21" rolling carry on bag and a small day pack. We both don't put anything of value in the carry on bag, and we have toiletries and health related items in the hand bag/day pack.

My family travel rule is that everyone has to handle their own bags, and you must be able to drag your luggage for 2 miles.

But I'll admit I do carry both suitcases up steps in metros and in hotels without elevators.

Posted by
6562 posts

My wife carries a 22" rolling carry on bag and a large zip up hand bag. She carries no purse.
I carry a 21" rolling carry on bag and a small day pack. We both don't put anything of value in the carry on bag, and we have toiletries and health related items in the hand bag/day pack.

My family travel rule is that everyone has to handle their own bags, and you must be able to drag your luggage for 2 miles.

But I'll admit I do carry both suitcases up steps in metros and in hotels without elevators.

Posted by
6 posts

You don't need a carry-on and a backpack, though having a day bag or purse along is a good idea once you hit your destination.

Each trip I really do pack lighter and lighter.

  • On my first trip to Europe I had two suitcases, a carry on, and a purse. Thankfully this trip was to visit relatives so I had help with all those bags!
  • My next trip involved a Rick Steves rolling bag (21 inches??) with a smaller carry on bag and a purse.
  • My next trips involved just the RS rolling bag and purse... I really thought I had the packing light thing down! But........

Now I am planning a trip to Sweden/Denmark via Volvo's OSD program. They fly you out on SAS which has very strict carry-on size and weight rules. Your carry-on bag can only weigh 17 pounds! Plus you are allowed a small personal item like a purse, which I may just put in the carry-on. Upon measuring my RS bag, including wheels and handle, it appeared to be just slightly too tall. I didn't want to take any chances of being forced to check my bag due to size so I bought a new bag that is just 17" tall (about 20" with the wheels). It looks tiny, but I packed it up with what I will need for two weeks and it all fits with room - and weight - to spare. And I have quite a bit of excess packed in there. Packing light isn't so hard once you get some of the basic principals down, though it does take some trial and error to decide what works for you.

Posted by
49 posts

We have been on a number of 2-3 week trips to Europe. We each have one 22" bag and our day pack. We started with the RS backpack but have moved on to the roller bags. We don't need to check any luggage with this load. The daypacks can be carried on our shoulder or strapped to the roller bag. The best part of using the backpacks was it was easy to move around. The rollers are easier on the body, but you still have to carry them in the train and tram stations up and down the stairs. There are laundry mats in Europe so we pack for a week and do laundry a couple times. If you don't, for a long trip you will be bringing a lot of clothing. 7 days is easy to put in the roller bag. Keep in mind, most airlines will not let the bag on if you have the expander open (too fat). On the way back, we use the expander and check the bags since we normally have acquired something.

Posted by
715 posts

I don't really think it is that difficult to pack everything you need in a single carryon bag. Last summer i was gone for 2 months and everything was in one Osprey Porter carry on bag. The trick is what it is you pack. I specifically pick quick dry clothes that i can wash in the sink at night and hang up and they mostly dry overnight. It works well for me.

Posted by
2353 posts

We each take a carry-on bag, I carry a large purse & DH carries a backpack. We do not check bags. The backpack stays in the hotel while we are out and about - the only thing I carry is my large purse. Inside my large purse is a smaller purse which contains all important things. If we are just going out to dinner then I will take just the smaller purse. So far the longest we've done is 42 days - that included an 11 night trans-Atlantic cruise. Somewhere in the packing thread is a list of everything I pack - you'd be surprised.

Posted by
15 posts

My wife and I have taken 4 RS trips and we each take a roller bag - small enough to carry on, but we do check them. She brings a purse and I also take a carry on that has my camera, ipad and other personal stuff.

From my experience many RS travelers abide by the one bag plus purse idea, but many do have larger bags and some a backpack with the bag. The more you have, the harder it is to deal with.

My wife packs a very compact extra bag in her luggage and calls that a "don't tell Rick" bag. We end up buying things along our trip and she stores the purchased items in this DTR bag and puts it in "deep" storage on the bus. Of course that ends up being her carry on when we head home.

Some airlines are very strict about not just the size of the bag, but the weight as well. Swiss Air and others have an 8 Kilo limit which is just under 18 pounds. I ran into that a few years ago.

Posted by
750 posts

I have found that each time I travel to Europe I take less with me. On my recent trip to Austria (July,2014) I took only my backpack/rolling bag and found it quite liberating. I use a Patagonia MLC Wheelie, measures 21x14x9 and I could easily live for a month out of this bag because I have found a few accessories that make packing easier:

1) Sea to Summit Co. makes a daypack called "the Ultra-sil daypack", this is so compact that it packs to a size smaller than your fist. I put the daypack in my main bag on the airline and then use it daily for rain jacket, camera, water bottle,etc.

2) I use the Rick Steves large packing cube for shirts and pants and two eagle creek packing tubes for underwear and socks, a Rick Steves toiletry bag (small one) for meds, shaving, toothbrush etc.

3) I have a Marmot Mica rain jacket that folds up to a very small package and I bring a Kuhl fleece pullover that is thin and packs well. Using a Lightweight waterproof shell and lightweight fleece pullover together allows me to stay warm down to around 40 degrees F.

4) I search the internet sites for sales on many of these items and can usually by them at greater than 50% off, I have found that the clothes that are made from nylon or polyester material not only wash and dry easily while traveling but also lay flatter and pack easier. All the shirts I take are long sleeve but have the button up fasteners so I can wear them in the heat of summer.

5) In cold weather I take a Patagonia Ultralight down jacket that packs into it's own pocket and basically the same clothes except I take very thin long underwear (hot chilly's) and wear them under my pants and shirts. I will usually buy gloves and a knit hat after I get where I'm going.

I have found that by getting everything into one bag only, that passes all the airlines rules, it has made travel so much easier, I will admit that I don't carry a laptop, I only carry a Apple mini iPad.

Posted by
29 posts

I did my first RS tour in June. I took a small rolling suitcase and over the shoulder tote bag that I carried onto the plane and would take onto the bus with me on driving days. Most people seemed to have a bag and a small backpack/purse/totebag with them. A few of the members of our group brought 2-3 large suitcases which they seemed to regret once we had to walk a few blocks to our bus. On the flight over, I carried my totebag on with me and checked the roller bag because I had more liquids than were allowed on board. That worked well for me.