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The "real" lowdown on clothes to take

We are planning to book the 21 day BOE trip for next summer. I know, I'm early :)

I have been overwhelmed with all of the packing advice and I'm trying to determine what people really take on their trips. For example, one pair of jeans for evenings? I have read no jeans--too hot. I have read no cotton, but others say cotton is best. I have also read no shorts(not fashionable in Europe), but when I read the scrapbooks, I see people in shorts.

How often is laundry service available at the hotels(approx)? That could make a big difference in what I would pack. I will wash some things out in the room, but laundry service would be an added bonus.

I just don't want to spend the next year buying a new wardrobe of merino wool and quick drying, moisture wicking clothes if it isn't necessary. I do think the undergarments and some shirts in these materials are a wise idea, but is it prudent to rethink our wardrobe? I want to dress like "me," but I want to make smart choices so we're not miserable touring each day.


Posted by
18 posts

My last trip was the first time I haven't checked a bag. For 2 weeks in Belgium, Germany and Austria, I took the following;
1 pair of nice lightweight jeans (worn on the plane to save space);
1 pair of lightweight cotton cargo pants;
1 pair of good quality gray knit pants (technically they're yoga pants but they don't look like it; nice enough to wear to dinner);
1 button up shirt (cotton and worn mostly as an overshirt);
6 solid color knit tops - 5 of them t shirts and 1 with longer sleeves, nice enough to wear to dinner;
1 plain black cardigan, nice enough to wear to dinner;
A pretty print scarf;
2 bras;
5 pair of underwear (nylon, not merino);
5 pair of thin cotton sock liners;
A packable jacket, tucks neatly into its own pocket. (I was in northern Europe in mid-september);
A pair of ballet flats ;
A pair of minimalist running shoes. These would not be for everyone but I love them - they're very lightweight and don't take up much room even if I packed them. However if you have foot problems, or if you need a thicker sole for comfort while walking on cobblestones, they may not work for you.
A pair of ankle-high boots.
Everything fit neatly into my carryon with the help of packing cubes, and other than the packable jacket nothing was bought specifically for the trip.

I don't do tours, so I can't speak to your question of whether laundry service would be available. To the best of my knowledge, none of the small hotels we stayed in offered it.

Everything except the jeans ended up being washed at least once in a hotel sink. I had no problems, other than getting pretty tired of my wardrobe choices!

Posted by
247 posts

My advice is to wear clothes that feel make you feel comfortable. And by that I don't mean wearing sweatpants or a moo-moo. lol! I mean comfortable as in you feel like yourself in them, and they're something you would wear at home when going out to a casual dinner with friends.

Jeans are great. I prefer them for evenings though when it is cooler. Usually, we trekked back to our hotel for a rest after a long day of sightseeing, and I changed to jeans and a nicer flowy top for dinner.

Almost all the hotels I stayed in throughout Europe had laundry service or could direct you to a local place that could wash laundry for you. Some hotels are more affordable than others though on this. For me, it was totally worth the Euros to have the laundry clean and to wait for me while I spent the time enjoying the sights.

I'm not a huge fan of the "travel" pants sold at stores like Eddie Bauer or REI. They are "swishy" sounding when you walk, and clingy when there's any kind of humidity. I actually really enjoyed a pair of linen pants even though they tended to wrinkle sometimes. They were flowy, comfortable and looked a little less awkward on me than the cargo style "travel" pants.

I'm not a person who normally wears dresses or shorts, and the pairs of those I did bring with me ended up getting shipped home about half way through our one-month trip through Europe. So definitely only bring things you would normally wear!

Pack clothing layers that you can add or remove based on the temperature. (Example: a cami or short sleeve top, plus longer sleeve top like a chambray and a waterproof jacket for the top layer.)

A light pashmina, scarf or sarong is a great way to dress up any outfit or add an extra layer if you are cold.

Ultimately... pack lightweight clothes you enjoy wearing and that make you feel like "you". 2-3 pairs of pants, 3-4 shirts and the accessories to go with is plenty. Bring tennis shoes or at the very least, shoes you can walk 6 miles a day in! It is nice to have one pair of comfy and cute sandals to wear to dinner and let your feet have a break.

Remember: You can always buy some clothes in Europe if you find your wardrobe is lacking.

Merino wool is awesome for socks... I haven't found it a necessity for any other articles of clothing though.

Lastly, contrary to what you might read - absolutely no one in Europe cares what you're wearing. As long as your clothes are clean, fit you properly, and are suitably modest for your current location (i.e. churches) you will be just fine. You will be one of thousands of other travelers the locals see each day, and I'm sure they stopped paying attention to what their international visitors clothing long ago.

A smile and a friendly "hello" in the local language will get you more friends than any clothing ever could.

Posted by
1241 posts

Rachel: I looked at the scrapbooks, too. And saw all the ladies in capris...but then I noticed that the guide was wearing a skirt which looked so nice in contrast to the "tourist". That got me thinking....if the material in the skirt is either crinkle or wrinkle is perfect for hot weather...ahhh air- conditioned. You can wear with them with tights in the evening.
I've seen some skirts that are reversible and if you bring cute tee-shirts you can have many outfits.
These are perfect for city locations. Of you course you still may want to wear shorts for hiking. I wore wool skirts with sweaters when I traveled in the UK in the Fall. We were treated very nicely and I think dressing a little better worked for us. I think it depends on your personal style and age. I did wear slacks the last time I went to Europe...but did change to a skirt when we went to the theater or out to just felt so much more special. If you are outside touring the sites all day, think about layers. One fleece layer over your regular clothes with a rain layer available. You can find water resistant shoes with good soles that will go with both skirts and slacks. I had some slip-ons for nights out. Wear your regular clothes with suitable outer wear and you will be just fine. Bring underwear that dries fast. Don't bring jeans unless you are very young as they are heavy and take too long to dry .Comfortable shoes are the most important thing.

Posted by
170 posts

After each trip to Europe I have learned to pack smarter and with less clothes. I feel Rick Steves packing list is a great guide. For me jeans don't even make it into my carry-on suitcase. Love Eddie Bauer Travex clothes. Their Travex Departure shirt looks great with a tee underneath. I have convertible pants in case I need shorts. They wash well, dry quickly, and are comfortable. Pack enough for one week and do laundry. Cotton does not dry as fast as moisture wicking clothes. You don't need to dress up on your tours. You will be glad to pack light as you will carry your suitcase. If laundry is available your guide will provide you with that information. I have never wanted to take time to drop off and pick up laundry.

Posted by
3662 posts

The confusing illustrations you give are well-chosen.

The RS folks might be better able to answer your hotel laundry questions specific to the places you stay. We have stayed in a B&B that did the laundry for us for free (amazing) and in hotels that did it in one big load at about 1 EUR per kilo (even though they had a list with high prices per piece). We have done it ourselves at self-service laundromats and left it at laundries who did it for us at that same 1 EUR per kilo rate. I hate sink washing and we both would rather take everything all at once to a laundry, or have it done for us.

We typically travel for 4+ weeks and take carry-on only. I have a 22" Lipault spinner and a tote and my husband takes the RS convertible backpack we bought in 2009 and his CPAP in its bag. We pack for a week and a day, that day being in transit or laundry day.

My "formula" is 3 bottoms, 6 tops, 2 tanks, 1-2 layering pieces (1 cardigan and/or 1 vest), 1 rain jacket of some kind, 3 scarves and some cheap jewelry to spice up the other stuff. Everything is coordinated so I just grab what's clean and get dressed. I wear the heaviest shoes (high topped hiking boots for me) on the plane and pack one other pair of comfortable shoes. Sometimes I take a cheap pair of flip-flops for in the room. Add in something to sleep in, 3 bras, 3 pieces of shapewear, 8 panties, and 3-4 pairs of compression socks and I'm ready to go for clothing.

I keep the weight down to 20 pounds. My spinner weighs 6 pounds itself, so that means 14 pounds of clothes and whatever else I put in it. If the weight goes over, something comes out. By using packing cubes, that piece of luggage isn't even totally stuffed.

Lists from us or from the RS recommendations on packing are great, but there's nothing like seeing combinations as examples of how to coordinate and how many outfits can be made from just a few garments. My favorite online resource for this is the Packing section on the Vivienne Files. She recently came up with a template that looks very useful with a little tweaking, but she has lots of other packing and useful posts on her blog. Besides the packing, my favorite ones are the 4x4 Wardrobes. Keep in mind that the garments she shows are often very expensive. Don't let that be a turn-off. It's the concepts that are important.

My little secret: another trip is a great excuse for getting new clothes. My husband's secret: he still takes some of the things he took on our first trip to Europe together in 2009.

Posted by
4372 posts

Hi Rachel,

Here's my list for 2-3 week trips to Europe. For Italy, I exchange one dress for an additional pair of capris/top.

I agree that you want clothes that you normally like to wear. But, I do like to dress up a little more because Europeans generally look more stylish. I haven't bought clothes from specialty shops - just Macys, etc.

2 pairs of comfortable sandals - Black Keen Rose Sandals (day) & black sandals (evening) - comfort over fashion for the amount of non-stop walking.
1 black lightweight jacket - I wear this on the plane & some evenings
3 light-weight, washable dresses & two culotte-style slips (they’re cooler when it’s hot) – Black/white patterned dress; Black w/ macramé accent dress; Black ruffled “flapper” style dress
1 thin open-weave black sweater to wear over dresses on cooler mornings
1 pair of khaki capris & a black polyester T-shirt
2 tops for evenings - a bright multi-colored blouse & a cheetah print blouse (wear one on the plane with the black pants)
1-2 pairs of black nice pants for evenings
3 scarves – turquoise pattern for black dress; cheetah pattern for black dress or black top; dressy long maroon/black for more formal accessory with black top/black pants
4 bras/5 panties & a lightweight nightie

Posted by
9576 posts

I did the 21 day BOE last Fall. No one really changed for dinner. For the group meals we sometimes went straight from a touring activity to dinner.

There were a couple places that would do laundry, the hotel in Reutte and the one in Monterosso. There were other places along the way that the guide pointed out laundramats. I managed wih doing sink laundry the whole time but that was my choice. I was gone for 8weeks.

I did take too much stuff. I took jeans but it was really too hot to wear them other than on the plane over and back. Otherwise, i took 2 pr LLbean essential pants and a pr capris. I had Lands End cotton modal tee shirts which i knew from experience dry quickly plus Lands end cardigans. I bought the Ex officio travel underwear which was terrific and smartwool no show socks. I had 2 pr Altra Zero Drop athletic shoes which worked great. I took scarves but bought a bunch along the way. I don't wear skirts or dresses at home so did not take any on vacation. I had a Marmot Precip waterproof jacket which was invaluable.

This tour was THE most fun!! Really. I think about it every day, still. Im on my iPad so haven't figured out how to copy a link but if you look back three or four pages in this tour forum I did a Trip Report which may answer some questions for you.

Posted by
796 posts

For a RS tour, you could get away with nothing but jeans and tee shirts. I wouldn't count on any of those places having a laundry/dry cleaner service (or elevators, bell staff or air conditioning). The hotels we choose always have dry cleaning and laundry services and that is a good thing. I can't imagine washing stuff out in a sink even at home. If you were going to the symphony, theater, ballet, fine restaurants or staying in a fine hotel you'd need dressier clothes but since you aren't, you can carry just jeans. As for shorts, yes you do see them in the scrapbooks but Europeans are more cultured and classy for the most part and can tell at a distance who is an American by clothing and behavior and loudness of voice.

Posted by
3580 posts

It's interesting. Rarely does anybody mention what they sleep in. I take light-weight cotton knit pants and also wear a t shirt. The pants don't look like pajamas so can also be worn to breakfast or sub for regular pants. No way would I ever take a bathrobe, even for a trip down the hall to the loo. Too bulky and heavy.

Shorts. If it is hot enough I would wear shorts, but never take them with me. The Capri pants work well. I do hand washing of sox and underpants every couple of days, but usually get to a laundromat at least once a week.

If you use a laundromat, keep in mind that you need something to wear for that. I try to hold back a couple of pieces of clothing that don't need laundering yet then wear my longish raincoat over that so I'm covered up. Just pay to have your laundry done if you don't want to or can't do it yourself. I find that pants and other outer garments can be worn a number of days without washing if kept clean.

I've traveled a lot. I started building a travel wardrobe of items I mostly use just for travel. A favorite Columbia shirt, a minimal fleece sweater, a couple of scarves, and a multi-pocketed travel vest. I have one raincoat I prefer for travels because is covers me to mid-thigh and has pockets in the right places. I started wearing nylon underpants to save on weight and for wash ability. My first trip to Europe I just picked comfortable things from my wardrobe and took that. The only mistake I made was to take a white shirt. That shirt was gray by the time I had hand washed it for a month.

Posted by
506 posts

I totally agree with shop in your closet and wear what you are use to wearing. We just got back from three weeks in Italy, my friend bought the Eddie Bauer Travex jacket and my husband did too and they were awesome! The women's is called The voyager, and they have men's too. If you are going in the summer I can tell you the southern part of your trip will be very hot and humid, even in May we ranged any where from the 90's to the 60's. I would bring more summer clothes a couple pairs of pants and one of those Eddie Bauer Jackets. We always look put together and never have time to change for dinner, just freshen up. This was my 10th European trip, and I wore Sketcher Athletic shoes, took a light pair of slip on Sketchers and a pair of Earth Sandals and my feet were the best I have ever had. Yes there is laundry service. My friends had theirs done in Florence and we had ours in Cinque Terre. We usually pick RS hotels even though we travel on our own. We have always found a laundry service or at the very least self serve laundry, no problem. Just look put together like you would in any city. You will really blend in with all the tourists. I cannot stress enough that you see so many types of dress you can people watch forever!

Posted by
49 posts

Thank you all for being so helpful! It's nice to know what people actually take as opposed to just looking at random packing lists.

The blog that was linked is great! I wouldn't choose to take the same types of clothes, but it works wonderfully as a template.

Back2Italy--I am just a few miles north of you in Lafayette :) Small world!

Posted by
2697 posts

There is no need to buy special travel clothes if you don't want to. You're in Europe, in hotels in towns and big cities, not hiking through the Sahara or something. Yes, quick drying underwear and socks can be helpful, but not necessary. Wash a pair of socks and your normal underwear in your sink and see how long they take to dry. Not long, I bet. Just do it on night 1 of a 2+ night stay and you're good. As for clothes, I don't like the look of most "travel" clothes so don't buy them. If you like it and will wear it other times, great, but if not it's a waste of money. In my opinion. And there will be laundromats in every decent sized town (RS books list locations of laundries in most towns). Many of these will have laundry service - for more money they will wash and dry for you so you don't need to sit and do the laundry yourself. Much cheaper than a hotel service, in my experience.

Shorts - people wear them, especially North American tourists, but Europeans do to. Shorts don't look fashionable, but if you don't care, then wear them. It's less noticable in the countryside, and fine for beaches and outdoor activities like hiking. In bigger, stylish cities you will stand out more.

On summer trips, I might bring 3 dresses (casual - sundresses etc), 1 skirt (ditto), 1 pants (nice, slim fit jeans), 5 tops that match all the bottoms, a scarf that matches everything, a rain jacket, a cardigan or sweater that matches everything. If hiking I'll add shorts or pants more appropriate for that. Swimsuit, a week's worth of undergarments, leggings and a tanktop to sleep. Walking shoes and ballet flats, all that match all the clothes. I find dresses and skirts more fashionable, and cooler temp-wise, than shorts or pants.

Jeans are fine. They are heavy, but you won't need to wash them very much if at all. Hot, but good for nights. Bring ones that look good (well fitting, good color) and they can dress up for a casual but nice dinner.

Dress like you, with smart edits - like pick a neutral color and make sure everything matches so you can create lots of outfits with a small number of items and shoes.

Posted by
1633 posts

Good on you for thinking ahead! It's never too early to plan IMHO. I'm already thinking about my wardrobe for my Spring 2016 trip.

Much of what I would say has already been said - I second the Vivienne Files website to help visualize your wardrobe. Definitely go with what is comfortable to you - I've had more than one trip where I packed things I didn't like wearing but were easy care materials. Just make sure you test drive it more than once before taking. This includes underwear (the expensive nylon travel underwear is NOT comfortable for me), shoes, and socks.

I have just a few suggestions. First, try hand washing and drying anything you're considering taking (even jeans) and see how long it takes to dry. Some thinner jeans and other cotton clothing actually will dry overnight. Keep in mind the time of year you're planning to travel and remember that temperature and humidity affect drying time. I suggest testing your laundry soap as well (I cut up strips of 3-in-one laundry sheets like these). Laundry will likely be available on the tour, but be ready to pay for the service. I remember paying about $20 in Italy to wash a very small bag of clothes, and they weren't even dry all the way.

Second, you don't have to buy expensive travel clothes if you read labels carefully. Anything with a high proportion of rayon, tencel, modal, or spandex is more likely to wash and dry quickly. I've found "travel" clothes at Target, TJ Maxx, Old Navy, and even Goodwill. No expensive travel underwear for me either a local Hanes outlet store sells a decent substitute 3 for $20. I did splurge on two pairs of the swishy travel pants - I've learned to live with the sound.

Lastly, don't worry too much about having a giant wardrobe. Everyone on the tour is going to be wearing the same clothes over and over again. The people you meet in Europe won't know that you're wearing the same thing as two days before. You'll resent your travel clothes when you get home, but eventually you'll be willing to wear them again. I've never regretted packing light - so it's worth the effort!

Posted by
2526 posts

"As for shorts, yes you do see them in the scrapbooks but Europeans are more cultured and classy for the most part and can tell at a distance who is an American by clothing and behavior and loudness of voice." Shorts are sold and worn by folks beyond the shores of North America...perhaps they are also less cultured and classy than their compatriots? And while it may still be conventional wisdom about loud tourists from here, I've noticed this to a significantly lesser extent in recent years and while observing boorish behavior by some Europeans (can this truly be?). Finally, when I spot European tourists in this area, I don't believe they should dress like a local.

Posted by
2298 posts

I'm with you on the "want to dress like me" thing, and that's exactly what I do. I'm a stylish 50 year old at home and that's what I am when I go on vacation, I own no special "travel clothes". I just returned from a 2 week solo trip to Poland and the Czech Republic and here's what I brought, including what I wore on the plane:

2 bras
6 undies
5 pair socks, Wrightsocks and Smartwool
Short-sleeved nightie
Black Calvin Klein un-lined anorak jacket (the best jacket ever-stylish, light and functional with great pockets)
Navy Michael Kors light cardigan
Black light pullover
4 3/4/long sleeved tops
4 short sleeved tops
2 tanks for layering-black and orange
2 pair Hudson jeans--they use a lightweight denim that does not lose shape and dries overnight
Black Fly London Yel boots--super comfy, no foot pain and no blisters
Orange/red Fluevog oxfords

I washed socks and undies daily until I didn't need to, jeans every 3-4 days, tops as needed. Krakow was hot but the other cities much cooler so some tops I wore more than once before washing. I felt I had enough variety and was able to layer for new outifts so basically pleased with my choices, even looked nice enough for the opera in Prague. All of this plus my toilet articles and other packables weighed 20 lbs, total suitcase weight was 28 lbs. and I could easily handle it on and off trains, etc.

Posted by
9576 posts

I'm not sure how people can give an opinion on whether or not there is laundry service in the RS tour hotels if they have not been on an RS tour, but I will repeat, there are hotels that provide laundry service. I am not sure why I get so annoyed. Ugh and sorry to the OP.

I realized after I posted last night that a couple of tour members did have the hotel do their laundry in Florence as well. It was fairly expensive. Others chose to spend some of our free time in a laundramat and actually had a wonderful time talking with a gentleman named Corleone, lol.

I do agree with doing trial wash/drys at home to see how long it takes things to dry. For some reason, even things that look like they have the same fiber content (say cotton + modal or cotton + rayon) will have different drying times. I actually take a 2.5 gal ziplock bag for my laundry and yes, I am able to get my clothes clean. I also wash my jeans in this bag and altho it takes longer for them to dry they do fine. I have taken a lighter pair of jeans, not something heavy like regular Levis.

My travel clothes are now distilled to a wardrobe that I wear every day. I started wearing the Land's End cotton-modal Tees after seeing them recommended by Janice on the Vivienne Files as they are great to use for layering. As mentioned above, they also sink wash well and dry overnight. I also started using the cardigans as a completer piece based on her wardrobes and found they travel well too. I am glad you like her blog and love the travel wardrobes she is doing right now. The clothing she shows is way too dressy for me but I can easily use her color scheme suggestions. I love the navy/aqua she did recently. I think the thing I would work on is picking colors first, probably from your current wardrobe, and working to fill in any gaps. You will want every shirt to go with every pr of bottoms, so start shopping in your closet and then start working your packing list on paper.

If you are interested, here is my Trip Report.

As I said, this tour is so much fun. It is also very busy and you move at a fast pace. There is no time for anyone to worry about who is wearing what. All you want to do is make sure you get everything back in your suitcase and get it back on the bus for the next adventure!

Posted by
49 posts

Pam--thanks for the info. I read your trip report and found it very helpful! I didn't think about hotel or local laundry service until I started reading the scrapbooks.

I agree about the Vivienne Files--too dressy, but still great information. A couple of her color combos are ones that I was already thinking about. I just switch black whenever she uses navy.

Posted by
3428 posts

As others have said- flexibility, coordination, layers and a sense of YOUR style and comfort are what makes light travel work. Don't buy special clothes. Look at your current wardrobe and start assessing things. If you aren't a dress person, don't plan on taking dresses. Same for pants, or shorts. GO WITH WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. As you need to add/replace things over the next year, think about your travel. Add/replace with things that will enhance your travel wardrobe (as well as your day-to-day one).

I am allergic to wool and rather warm natured- so no wool or heavy sweaters for me. I also don't 'do' skirts or dresses anymore, and am not comfortable in shorts or capris in public. I wear cotton blend docker's type pants and light weight jeans. Usually black, khaki, or grey. For tops I wear cobalt, red, purple and some black and white prints/stripes- Ts and turtlenecks . For 'dressy' I take what I call 'big shirts'- button-up shirts that can double as dress jackets. Sleeve length depends on season. I wear one pair of pants, and pack 2-3. I wear one T (again, cotton or modal blend), one big shirt; pack 3-4 Ts and one more big shirt. I wear cotton socks. We've only done trips of 9-11 days, so I usually take enough socks and panties for the trip, and take 3-5 bras. I seldom have to do any sink laundry for our trip length. For a longer trip, like yours, you'd need to do some, or go to a laundry, or get it done. I like to have a hooded coat (better than umbrellas, but I often take a small one of those, too). Summer it's a waterproof windbreaker style; winter, a longish winter coat. Add gloves and a hooded scarf (or hat) in winter/fall. I usually take 2 or 3 scarves to dress up things at night. If you want, substitute a pair of shorts or capris or a dress or skirt for some of the pants. Also, take shorts or yoga type pants and a T for sleep wear, and they can substitute for day wear in an emergency. I only take the one pair of shoes- the ones I wear, a well broken-in pair of walking shoes with a thick sole. I do take extra inner soles/ liners so I can change them out. But taking a pair of fold up flats, or sandals would be ok- along with flip flops for showers, if you want. We haven't stayed at beaches, so I didn't take a swim suit, but add one if you want, along with a towel.

With toiletries, make up, wash cloth, sewing and first aid 'kits', feminine supplies, electronics, etc. my bag will weigh about 20 pounds total (hubby's a bit less). We each have one of Rick's original bags. Bought them more than 20 years ago and they still look great. Empty, they weigh about 2 pounds.

Posted by
524 posts

What's this scrapbook that I've read in several posts? I'm sort of doing a combo of suggestions, but making it as close to my style as possible. Although I know people wear shorts in Italy, I decided not to. So, I did purchase a cute travel skirt...I would wear it not traveling, too. I think the difficulty for me is that I never wear flat sandals, let alone walking sandals, with skirts or dresses.....ever! So finding a pair or two of sandals with the right skirt or dress in which I feel pretty has been challenging, but I think what I've pulled together isnt too bad. I am mostly doing mix and match, but I have to confess I am sneaking a couple of items that won't mix or match with anything else...but they are light weight dresses and roll into nothing.

Posted by
49 posts

I stumbled onto the scrapbooks on this site. Now, I just search scrapbooks and it pops up. People will create online scrapbooks of their trip detailing what they did, where they stayed, where they ate, etc. I always pay attention to the photos to see what people are wearing. Some of them have travel tips that can be helpful.

Posted by
506 posts

Rick Steves has a contest every year for tour travelers to make a scrap book of their trip. It was just put on the web site about a month ago. It is really fun to read. You should be able to still find it.

Posted by
526 posts

Hummm, Most RS Hotels do have air conditioning and elevators. Plus, some have even have bell service and laundry service.

I don't normally take blue jeans, I don't find them that comfortable. I do have a pair of denim slacks that I have taken when traveling during cooler season. I do usually hand wash my own clothes, my preference. I have used laundry service and regretted my decision. I don't like the way laundry services normally wash and dry clothes. I am very particular in what is dried and for how long; they tend to over dry. I, too, don't like travel pants, they are swishy and I have yet to find a pair that fit properly. (I will be so glad when the low rise pant is not longer). My very favorite pair of pant came from Sam's, Khaki and Company. All clothing will mix and match to make many outfits. I don't wear scarves, so don't take any. I do take some costume jewelry. What I take is determined by where and when I am traveling.

2 bras

1 pair of jammies (shorts or capri length light weight knit with t

4 pair of underwear (my normal everyday ones, they wash and dry just

5 pair of no show socks ( these really are more difficult to dry

1 pair of walking shoes (dependent of where I am....waterproof
boot/sandal/or dark colored tennis type shoe, Merrell's all the way
for me

1 other pair of shoes to wear in evenings or slow touring days

3 pants ( capris or pants, dependent on travel weather)

*1-2 casual dresses (South of France and Italy can be very hot in summer)

5 shirts ( long or short sleeved)

1-2 t- shirts to layer

1 cardigan

1 waterproof hooded rain jacket

The way you dress is totally up to you. Wear what you find is comfortable.

Posted by
16883 posts

Staff here don't tend to search out any clothes that are specifically marketed for travel, except that the search for the ideal shoe always continues. From our regular wardrobes, we choose items that are easy to wash and dry, versatile, and appropriate to the season. For instance, having a pocket (especially if it's a snug-fit or zippable) is handier than no pocket, but it's been many years since I brought my full-of-pockets "travel vest." Some cotton items may wrinkle more than others, but a few wrinkles are no big deal. I do not bring jeans during most of the year; winter only, or if the daytime weather forecast right before departure is particularly cool. Most of your outdoor time will be before dinner. Even when weather is cool, other layers will keep you warm, day or evening.

You should have two or three laundry opportunities during the 21-day tour, but I try to plan on just one. These services won't always be facilitated by the hotels, but your guide and your book will indicate Laundromats, which may be self-service (€8-10/load) or full-service (usually under €15 to wash and dry a load).

Posted by
774 posts

Hi Rachel. I have to add my comments as I am obsessed with packing light and my packing list. I started out using Rick's ladies packing list and then found and use a mix. I pack between 10 and 15 clothing items, all must match. I vary the list to fit my style; I rarely wear dresses but will pack a skort for warmer weather. The aformentioned Vivienne files website does have some good matching ideas but is too dressy for me; do have a look though.

I have a few things purchased just for travel like Jockey microfiber undies which do dry overnight after a sink wash. My Scottevest Chloe hoodie with many pockets is my plane attire and cool weather go to; with a raincoat ( I have a columbia brand which I wear at home) are my outer layers. I wear similar clothes to what I would wear to work in a business casual type of office. I Rarely wear jeans, so i do not pack them. The weight of clothes is important to me. I try to keep to 2 pairs of shoes only, that is a big weight and space decision. Layering is important. I have a long sleeved black Tilley silk button down shirt that can be used as a light sweater or if really cool over a shirt and under a sweater and coat.

I wear scarves at home a lot and use them for travel for warmth and to dress up. I have one thicker scarf for the plane and really cool days. The Wright socks and smartwool are great; Inuse them at hime and for travel.

Hope that helps.

Posted by
4372 posts

" For a RS tour, you could get away with nothing but jeans and tee shirts. I wouldn't count on any of those places having a laundry/dry cleaner service (or elevators, bell staff or air conditioning). The hotels we choose always have dry cleaning and laundry services and that is a good thing. I can't imagine washing stuff out in a sink even at home. If you were going to the symphony, theater, ballet, fine restaurants or staying in a fine hotel you'd need dressier clothes but since you aren't, you can carry just jeans."


I've enjoyed meeting a variety of people on our RS tours who have a variety of interests. The above post reminds me to add that there's limitless opportunities during all of your free time - yes, even to attend concerts, theater, ballets, etc. so it's nice that you can include dresses & a lightweight nice jacket that also could also double as a coat. Or, if you are more inclined to want to hike & walk all day and like casual restaurants, focus on that type of clothes. By washing clothes in a sink (gasp!), you can bring whatever you want for any extended trip.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
106 posts

One thing I am bewildered about is why any of the Rickites haven't passed on this advice: even if those tee shirts or trousers are not totally dry the next morning when you are off to a different city, you can bring them on the bus and they will dry. You just drape them over the front of an empty seat.

I also use the Eagle Creek packing system. The last night in Murren, Switzerland I used the laundry under the Belleview Hotel. I had a little trouble with the dryer and my Euros so I folded up damp shirts and trousers in my Eagle Creek System and stashed them into my nylon tote. By the next city, everything was DRY and wrinkle-free! Who hoo!
That tip about draping the damp clothes over an empty seat I learned from Theresa and Mike on Village Turkey.

Posted by
952 posts

I am so glad I had months and months to prepare for our trip next October. I actually enjoyed reading all of the packing and shoe posts on RS and found that yes, I needed to do some shopping for our trip. Much of our everyday clothing was mostly cotton (slow drying), we had no raincoats, and our "everyday shoes" would not be comfortable or hold up for miles of walking.
I had never even heard of merino wool socks until I came to the forum and now I can't stand to wear anything else for any length of time - cotton socks now feel coarse and it seems they are imprinting right into my flesh! Now I have three pairs of mid calf, three knee highs, and three below the ankle as well as two full length merino tights. I wear those socks every night now when I walk as I continue to exercise and "break in" the shoes I am taking with me. It must look funny to see a person walking in shorts, headband, and ankle boots lol but I am just old enough to no longer give a damn.
I tend to get hot easily so bought several light synthetic 3/4 length sleeve shirts and a couple of sleeveless tanks that can be worn under a sweater or light jean jacket. I believe that with what I have purchased I have clothing that will travel well in any season because I now have the ability to layer - something rarely needed in Fl!

And the raincoat.... oh gosh, I found the cutest raincoat at Kohl's but alas, the fleece lining is sewed in AND it is only water resistant. We had already bought a marmot precip for dh (thanks for the recommendation Pam!!!) so I bought one for myself. It hangs nicely and looks nice for a raincoat. I still kept that other raincoat though .

I found that my cotton Hanes underwear easily dries in 1- 1.5 days after hand washing IF I both wring them out and then roll them in a towel and squish extra water out, so I'm not buying special underwear. Of course you could just go commando and not even have to worry about it!

This site also gave me the impetus to start exercising again and although I am still on the low side of miles, I find myself easily able to cover 3-5 miles of fast walking. Now it is time to start tackling stairs!

Posted by
43 posts

Nance, it sounds like you will be well prepared. I suggest that you reconsider getting quicker drying underwear though. There will be times on the tour when you will only be able to do wash in the evening and will leave the next morning, so it is more convenient to have something that will dry overnight, even in humid weather.

Posted by
40 posts

For a RS tour, you could get away with nothing but jeans and tee

If you were going to the symphony, theater, ballet, fine restaurants
or staying in a fine hotel you'd need dressier clothes but since you
aren't, you can carry just jeans.

This advice/perception is incorrect. On a Rick Steves tour, half of your dinners are included in the price, and in my experience from actually going on a Rick Steves tour, we go to fine restaurants on several occasions. A nice dress or a skirt will be appropriate on those occasions (and jeans would be inappropriate), and on any other occasions where you'd like to look a little nicer. You also have several evenings free, and are free to go "to the symphony, theater, ballet," or other fine restaurants if you so choose. Also, it is quite hot in many of the countries you'll be visiting in the summer of your Best of Europe tour, so I absolutely would not bring jeans. Because... PHEW! Sweaty! ;)

I wouldn't count on any of those places having a laundry/dry cleaner
service (or elevators, bell staff or air conditioning). The hotels we
choose always have dry cleaning and laundry services and that is a
good thing. I can't imagine washing stuff out in a sink even at home.

This may well be a "good thing," for some, but not for others. I prefer staying in small, family-run, full-of-character hotels as opposed to "fine hotels," since I am in Europe to experience Europe, not fancy, overpriced hotels that I'm never going to be in. Just because some think bellhops and laundry facilities on-site are important and a "good thing," in no way means others do. There are normally many places along the way that have laundry facilities quite close to your hotel. Some hotels even have a deal with the laundry places to drop off your clean laundry when it's done. I might email the tour people at Rick Steves and ask them which towns have good laundry facilities nearby. I'm sure they'd be happy to let you know!

As for shorts, yes you do see them in the scrapbooks but Europeans are
more cultured and classy for the most part and can tell at a distance
who is an American by clothing and behavior and loudness of voice.

This is also incorrect. And actually kind of insulting. :(

Posted by
2007 posts

Allora, I absolutely agree with everything you say and I have been on enough Rick Steves tours to know. You said what I was thinking a lot better than I could have.

Posted by
49 posts

Thanks again for the advice. It is helpful to hear what items are beneficial and which aren't necessary.

After reading the previous post about the lack of services at RS tour hotels, I read different trip reports and scrapbooks and looked some of them up. I think they look like fun places to stay. I wasn't expecting elevators, bell service, etc. I honestly didn't think about laundry until I read some posts mentioning it. It isn't a big deal, though. We have done mission trips to Africa, India and Guatemala. After seeing some of the hotels RS uses, it's all good :)