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To check or to carry on a bag?

I will be taking my first RS tour next summer and was wondering if the majority of tour members rely on just a carry on roller bag? I am pretty sure I can manage packing light for two weeks in Spain. I have been looking around for a new bag that would fit the parameters of carry on size limits. Seems to be a bit challenging since major airlines and many European budget lines differ in their requirements.

Posted by
3465 posts

I have been on 10 different RS tours and have never carried more than a single carry on bag.

The specific bag I have is the Rick Steves Classic Back Door Bag. It has served me well. It is large enough but doesn't push the sizing limits for any of the airlines I have flown. I refuse to have a bag with wheels since they add weight and take up space that could go for the things I want to pack. But that's just me. Only issues I have with the bag is that it is not water resistant and wicks up water from the pavement if placed on the ground in a wet spot. It also has no internal structure or frame so if not packed full it has no definite shape.

Posted by
5654 posts

..it has no definite shape.

No definitive shape is an advantage. I pack full but can still squeeze the full bag into the airline sizing boxes/frames. The RS Classic is lighter in weight than the rollers and easier to carry up to walk up rooms without a lift.

Posted by
16860 posts

I also am partial to the backpack that I've used for many years. But the majority of our tour passengers do rely on a carry-on sized roller bag. Sturdy wheels are a key feature!

Posted by
767 posts

I liked using the rolling backpack that Rick Steves sells until my wife decided she wanted it so now I use a Patagonia MLC wheelie that works for me and is slightly smaller than the RS model. Both of our bags fit easily in the overhead bins and we have never been forced to check our bags by any airline.

Posted by
5981 posts

vicwin73, Do the "...majority of tour members rely on just a carryon roller bag?" - I'd say most travelers on the tour (and in general) use roller bags, but not all are carryon size. Some people bring all sorts of luggage including huge roller bags. Its not illegal to check a bag and they won't kick you off the bus. But really, they're not kidding - you have to manage and carry your own bags, often for blocks, and up multiple flights of stairs. The less you have the better. Pick up a few souvenirs and a bottle of wine, and you're really struggling.

I'm with Mark - I use a RS Classic backpack bag. I prefer having my hands free and the lighter weight and more space from not having wheels. I bring an empty duffle to check on the way back with dirty clothes and souvenirs.

Figuring out what you can get on the airplane is a whole 'nother story. I've seen people with bags that clearly meet the limit, but who can't find space because of the bin hogs anyway.

Posted by
8265 posts

I've used the RS convertible backpack on my previous tours and was one of the few who did NOT have a rolling bag. The backpack was fine once I had it on my back however as the trip wore on and the bag got heavier, lol, I kept bruising my arms slinging it onto my back. This year I've changed to the RS 20" roller and will see how that works. I've done a trial pack and it is at 18# but I have a few more things to go in. I'll be gone for 5.5 weeks and the amount of clothing will be fine. It is slightly less than I took last year for 8 weeks.

The key to packing light is a couple of practice runs to see how little you can get by with!

Posted by
93 posts

Pam, I am impressed with your packing. My clothes are very light. It's the darn toiletries that weigh so much. Since I bring my small bottles of shampoo, conditioner ,contact lens solution, sunblock it all adds up. When it runs out it runs out..even though we have carry on we check them through ..hope we don't regret it on this upcoming trip. So on the plane we only have very small backpacks. With a change of clothes.
Where are you off to this year?
I would really like to do the new Switzerland tour someday.
Sue

Posted by
4606 posts

Backpack! Having your hands free (sometimes to help fellow travellers with their bags) is wonderfully liberating. I use the RS Appenzell bag, and have never had it questioned, even on small airlines like Volotea and Vueling. And I can fit in it everything I need for a 3 or 4 week trip. (With a smaller bag the airlines consider a "personal item.") Think about stairs, cobblestones, getting on and off buses and trains - backpack is the way to go. For us, anyway.

Posted by
8265 posts

Sue, I realized I did not include the guidebooks, lol!! Yep, toiletries are heavy. I've got 3oz shampoo this time as I ran out last time and don't like hotel shampoo!

Posted by
8 posts

So, how do you handle laundry / washing dirty clothes assuming you can bring very few items in a small bag?

I was thinking maybe bring a max of 3 or 4 t-shirts and sets of underwear, and just wash / drip dry stuff in the bathroom each night?

Posted by
524 posts

Sorry to hijack OP. Yes, I usually try to keep up with washing each night. I might put the wash in the bathroom sink before dinner and let soak. Then come back afterwards and wash. Some folk, myself included use the ziploc bag method. Place laundry in bag with water and soap, then agitate. I have been known to double bag, in case of leakage. After rinsing, squeeze as much water from items as possible. This is where a husband comes in handy, larger and stronger. One extra step will really help with drying process, lay damp item on towel and then roll. Some folks step on towel, but a husband is niffy once again. Sometimes, I will take one end of the towel and husband the other end and we twist. You might be wondering watch detergent to use, some folks use hotel soap, some use shampoo, some bring bar soap, and some bring their regular laundry soap. Remember, if you use liquid soap it has to be 3oz and included in 311 bag.

Posted by
1227 posts

My wife and I do NOT do laundry by hand at home and are not going to on vacation. Yes, we pack light and have gone 30 days with carry on luggage only. Guess what? Most of where you are going there are laundromats!!

Posted by
4606 posts

We use pretty much the same methods as Debra, although we generally only do laundry every two or three days or so. But the rolled up towel trick is a good one; everything dries overnight. The plastic bags work well if the sink is too shallow to splooch the laundry; if the sink is deep enough, we just use it. And I bring a small TSA approved plastic bottle (get them at the dollar store or Target) with the same liquid laundry product (Ecover or Emma) I use at home. I have been known to use hotel shampoo, as well.

Posted by
8265 posts

Laundry-wise, it depends on what you are comfortable with and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

I do the same as Debra and Jane as I don't want to spend vacation time sitting in a laundramat or worrying if the clothes will come out OK if someone else washes them. (Tourmates on the 21 day BOE had to hand wash all their clothes anyway after they had a hotel do them and they came back with pink spots.) I (well actually my brother) reinforced the 2 gal zip lock seams with mailing tape and it works really well and is a bit sturdier. I like to put a wash in the bag as soon as I get to a hotel in the evening, let it soak while I go out to dinner and then do the towel squeeze and hang to dry. I don't do wash if I am only in a hotel for 1 night. I think it does help to do some trial washes at home in the 2-gal bag!

Posted by
2265 posts

You all might be interested that the Rick Steve Online Shop, listed on this web site, just announced a 20% off sale on its luggage over the Labor Day Weekend. I've used the 20" rolling carry-on and the Civita day pack very nicely for a few trips now.

Posted by
672 posts

I've used the RS carry on roller for every tour we've taken. I have carried it on, but usually I check it. Many people on the tour will have bigger bags, but that's more than I want to (or can) carry. You won't regret going light!

For laundry, we sink wash every night, wring in microfiber towels and hang on inflatable hangers. I don't think it has ever taken more than five minutes, so, for us, it's a much better choice than a laundromat. This was somewhat reinforced on one tour when the guide arranged for laundry service at one stop for all those who wanted it. Fortunately, we didn't use it. We came back to the hotel to see everyone's clothes mixed up in one big messy pile on a sofa in the lobby. It sat there for hours until the last people returned to the hotel and claimed their clothes. I'd just as soon keep my underwear a little more private.

Posted by
172 posts

Pack light and launder clothes in the sink or in plactic bags using towels to help dry. If you are staying 2 days or more in one hotel it allows more time for clothes to dry. I found a remarkable soap that is highly concentrated , comes in a 2 oz. plastic bottle, and can be used for many purposes, one of which is laundering clothes. It is called Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap. It does a great job. Look for it at a local drugstores. It is a lifesaver

Hank Novato, CA

Posted by
113 posts

flew from Nashville to Atlanta then on to Paris. They made me check my roller backpack bag I bought from this site when I was in Atlanta, no option. It only weighed 17 lbs and was well within the size limits. They told me that there was no room in the overheads.

Posted by
17984 posts

"My wife and I do NOT do laundry by hand at home and are not going to on vacation."

So when you are at home, do you carry all of your clothes for a week or two everywhere you go?

I treasure having a very light pack more than I do not doing a small hand wash every night.

I have looked for laundromats many times, but they are not usually that accessible.

Posted by
544 posts

I check my bag every time. I was going to try and carry on my bag for the first tour I went on, but couldn't quite make what I wanted for 2 weeks fit in my carry on. Once I gave up on carry on, it just made packing so much easier, especially with not having to worry about the liquid rules.

I was also concerned about doing hand laundry, but there have been convenient laundry options at almost every two-night stop on the tours.

In my very small carry on I have neck pillow, eye shades, noise-cancelling headphones, and a change of clothes and minimum toiletries in case I end up going a day or two without my checked bag.