Tricks for Packing Light: 2011
Share your creative tricks to fit your world into a small bag for a European trip.
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
- Rick's Travel Tips: Packing Smart and Traveling Light
New Year's Resolution
Here's a great tip!
Now that the New Year is here I plan to start saving up my old but still wearable (although my wife might argue with that!)underwear for my trip thru the back door this summer.
I plan to discard used underwear at each stop along my trek thus freeing up valuable space in my luggage for more souvenirs. Don't worry I'll be considerate and dispose of each garment in a baggie.
Here's to safe and happy travels in 2012!
San Diego, CA USA Sun 01/01/2012
Two words: Packing cubes. Seriously, the best bang for the buck to save space and stay organized. One carry on bag is all you need for two weeks anywhere in the world. Yes, my wife did it and never thought she could. Best thing ever!
Portland, OR USA Thu 12/29/2011
Packing light, and the glories thereof
Our last trip to Europe (3 weeks, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris, London, Llanidloes Wales) in May of 2011, we went carry-on only, and I will never travel any other way if I can possibly help it. We kept the luggage under 10 kilos the whole time (backpack for me, rolling case for my husband), and when we landed in an airport we could just walk out the door. It was wonderful! I wore everything I took, and didn't feel a lack of anything. We did laundry every 5 days or so, and used that time for writing postcards.
A note about luggage choices: if you're traveling someplace likely to have cobbled streets, I recommend a backpack style bag. Pulling a rolling case on cobblestones is like being followed by a very noisy cement mixer.
The packing tips here were extremely helpful, and all the merciless paring-down before the trip was incredibly worthwhile. I gave away my big suitcase when we got home!
Sebastopol, CA USA Tue 12/13/2011
I just returned from a 28 day trip to Europe. This included a 10 day cruise to Greece, Turkey and Egypt plus 18 days in Italy. I packed according to Rick's list and went to one of Rick's packing classes. I washed out underwear and socks every night. Washed shirts and pants twice in a month.When I left Seattle my luggage was 25lbs. I NEVER felt like I should have packed more. Loved the packing cubes. They made packing and unpacking breeze. Everyone on my Christmas list is getting some!
Lakewood, Wa USA Sun 12/11/2011
Sternum straps for RS packs
Outdoor Research makes sternum straps that will fit on RS packs
Harrisburg, PA USA Tue 11/29/2011
Update on My Lightest Bag
I just returned from a 3 Week trip in Central America using Rick's Appenzell Day Pack. The bag was great for my needs. Laundry needed to be done every 3-4 days but that was no problem. I weighted in at 15 pounds. The lightness and size made it very easy to carry through airports, store under the seat and for bus connections. My only wish for the bag is that the zipper went all the way down and opened like a regular bag. I will be using this bag for 99% of my traveling.
Brooklyn, NY USA Sat 11/26/2011
Traveling in style
I wanted a bag that had a good warranty and build . I went with the Victorinox 22" Werks Traveler Suitcase with a built in suiter for dress clothes.
The quality of the ballistic nylon and ergonomic handle where you can wheel your suitcase in a palm up fashion makes it easy to drag along the streets of Europe, through busy rail stations etc. This bag can hold a 15.4 inch laptop(hint remove the battery if its a bit too big and pack it in your carryon or suitcase.
Furthermore I bought a Tumi Icon Usher Messenger Bag with many pockets. I can put an IPod, Rick Steves Books and other nick nacks for the plane trip and for traveling in Europe. The shoulder strap is better than a backpack so its easier to pull if someone tries to steal it.
Furthermore both Victorinox and Tumi allow you to register the bag if its lost or stolen. And the Carry Free Guarantee of Victorinox will replace or repair the bag if its been damaged by the airline etc. for the life of the bag. Tumi comes with a 10 year warranty .
I used my United Miles which is hard to use for flights these days. You can open a credit card get 40,000-50,000( depending on the offer-be sure to get a secondary card to get bonus miles). Then you make a first purchase and get your miles. The first year annual fee is waived and after six months of having the card you can close it or keep it open.
Hope this helps when trying to find good luggage.
Saratoga, CA USA Wed 11/16/2011
Packing vitamins and little trinkets
I found this thing called the Travel Tabbi on Amazon and used it for my last trip overseas to pack my supplements and my earrings. It was a life saver. Normally all that stuff ends up disorganized all over my suit case with pills spilled everywhere by the end of the trip. This organizer has pockets that attach to it by velcro and you can take the individual pouches with you when you are out during the day (I have to take pills with my meal so it's handy).
Arvada, CO USA Mon 11/14/2011
Re: My Lightest Bag
I've been using the Appenzell day bag as my go-to travel bag for a while. I use packing cubes to organize my belongings. Happy travels!
Orange, NJ USA Fri 11/11/2011
My Lightest Bag
I have a fetish for luggage. I have gone through many different incarnations of bags. Always trying to get lighter and more efficient. I am taking a 3 week trip through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador on the trail of Mayan Ruins. I am traveling with Rick's Appenzell Day Pack as my only bag. This is the lightest and smallest bag I have ever used. I will be blogging the trip but when I get back I will post a review of the bag on here as well.
Brooklyn, NY USA Thu 11/03/2011
this tip is mostly for guys. Since I am a guy I will not give too many tips for women but plently of women here are helpful already. Assuming you'll be wearing pants, collered shirt on the plane. Pack one pair of linen shorts for hot days and heavy walking days. one pair of comfortable shorts to sleep in or go swimming in. one belt (reversable). two pairs of underwear and socks. Get rick's smallest red toiletries kit. I have the next size up but I'm going smaller this time, its half the weight. Get a cheap digital watch at walmart for about $8 and use that for your alarm as well. make photo copies of the guidbook sections you need ( or just rip them out). one t- shirt( for sleeping) 2 collered shirts,( micro fiber or linen if possible. I dont bring an mp3 or cell phone, thats just me. When I'm away I dont want to be bothered. your bag fully packed will be about 10 lbs. good luck!!!
Aiken, SC USA Sun 10/30/2011
Instead of bringing bottled perfume, I save those scent strips from magazines. I cut them to just the essential piece, about 1" by 11" then onto 2" lengths. I put a bunch in my bag and I can lightly scent myself up with one or two strips. I then put a couple of the used ones in my bag between clothes to scent them a bit. I can discard them as I go.
San Francisco, Ca USA Sat 10/29/2011
Smaller Carry-on Bag
I found a rolling tote bag 17"x13"x8" by DELSEY and took it on a test run in the US. It is meant to be an expandable briefcase, but I was able to get enough clothing, notebook, Kindle, and misc travel stuff in it for a long weekend. The size makes it good for carry-on with the smaller airlines. I'll take it on my next European trip.
Napa, CA USA Thu 10/13/2011
I'm an Ex Officio underwear fan too. So much so that the brand has become every day wear around our house. We often sink wash it at home and save on washer/dryer time and expense. Comparatively expensive, yes, but it more than pays for itself in the long run. There's usually a 25% off sale annually and that's when my husband, son and I stock up. We have also given it as gifts to travelling friends who are now on the bandwagon too.
Orange, NJ USA Fri 09/23/2011
You can sign up for email notifications of their sales. I also like their knit shirts for travel; I have different styles and colors, all of which I got on sale. They are quick dry, comfortable, and nice looking.
Altoona, PA USA Fri 09/23/2011
I second the ExOfficio underwear. I travel with 2 pair--one on and one in my suitcase. Wash out every night and always dry by morning. You could have another shirt in the space multiple pairs of underpants take in your luggage.
Altoona, PA USA Mon 09/19/2011
Beverly and I just returned from the Prague/Budapest trip and had a wonderful time. Honza was a terrific guide. One suggestion I did not see in your travel guide. Ex Officio has some underclothing which is terrific. I take two pair when I travel but you could get by with one if you don't plan to change during the day. Here is a link to their site. http://www.exofficio.com/products/mens/underwear I have used it for several years of travel and skiing. It really does everything they say and is as easy to use as they say. The link is for men but I think they make it for ladies too.
Atlanta, GA USA Fri 09/16/2011
I made a binder for all my travel/packing checklists. They start with what I need/can do weeks out, then week of travel, 24 hours before take off divided by sections. I always bring an over the door hook so I can always hang my toiletry bag. A flask is good for carrying any left over wine without the weight of a bottle. A pillow to sit on for long flights as some seats have virtually no padding and you go numb!
Austin, TX USA Thu 09/15/2011
Plus Size Clothing
For those plus size gals out there I have found a cardi wrap that can wrap almost 50 different ways and a convertible dress also. These are made from great material that is easy to wash in sink and hang to dry. I got mine from SWAK Designs for cheap. Just look for interchangeable fashions. For the smaller girl I believe cardi-wrap is a good choice as well as the infinity dress. I have struggled to find something versitile and fashionable and I do believe I fit the jackpot!
Maryville, TN USA Mon 09/12/2011
Don't Bring it!
Don't bring it because you don't need it!
I guarantee at least 30 % of the items on you packing list you don't need. Unless you are leaving for a month think twice about it Most vacations are only 10 days!!!!
USA Mon 09/12/2011
I pack and toss my oldest socks/undies and toss them. Toss means putting in the trash, not assuming anyone wants them. Then I wash a few socks and undies. I give them two days to dry hanging on the shower curtain pole. Because I wear casual clothing jeans, polos and sneakers I can spend long days touring in spite of my disabled feet. Why would I care what Europeans or Americans think of my dress? I also blend in and no one had scammed me in 33 years of travel.
Grizzly Bear Mom
Annapolis, MD USA Sun 09/11/2011
One bag / Rick Steves Rome 2011 was our bible
It IS possible to do it with on bag. One of them was from this site http://travelstore.ricksteves.com/catalog/index.cfm?fuseaction=product&theParentId=8&id=139 and it worked perfectly. Saw another one with an older one in the Ottawa airport.
Kingston, On USA Sun 09/04/2011
Tricks for Packing Light
I have used the one bag for years. I pack 3 fast drying underware from Magellans. com or Champion from Target, 2 blue and 2 tan fast drying socks from Megellans, 7 tees, 6 long skeved shirts with a blen of polyester/cotton, 1 pair of navy and 1 pair of khaki no iron paints, `1 pair of jeans, one pair of shoes, 1 pair of flip flops, toiletries, and other minor items as needed. The shirts and paints are light and do not take much room. In addition, they look nice and are not too hot for the summer and good with a jacket for the winter. I don't bring bright colored shirts or ones with writing and/or pictures on them. I will go to a laundry once a week. This works for me. I always travel in May, September, or October. In the summer you may want to go with short sleve shirts of the same material or golf shirts where you will not neet tees.
Houston, TX USA Wed 08/31/2011
Packing light for Paris
I just returned from a week in Paris in August, 2011, with my wife and uploaded a couple of videos on YouTube, one is 10 minutes and the other is 14 minutes on tip for Paris, packing, using the Metro,Europe in general, etc.
Urbana, IL USA Mon 08/29/2011
For the last 5 years I have been going to tropical destinations, including cruises and went to Spain for 3 weeks. The five things I have found to be the most useful in packing light are: 1. skorts - a skirt that is a pair of shorts underneath. These are great for day and evening. 2. Lane Bryant tank tops. They do not fade and dry quickly if you have to wash them and are great for layering. 3. Travel packettes of woollite. 4. Hanes Mircrofiber underwear (available in lots of styles) - they are thin, no too expensive and dry quickly; 5. pearl post earrings - I do not want to take expensive jewelry, but I get pearl earrings cheap and wear them on trips as they are nice and good to wear during the day or evening and go with anything. additionally, to get mielage out of these clothes for trips, I only use them on trips and keep them separate from all of my regular everyday clothes. I still take all of my toiletries, but use really small round containers that I get when I ask for samples from Mac, Lancome or The Body Shop and just reuse them. It all fits in my toiletries bag for security.
pacific grove, ca USA Sun 08/28/2011
Traveling Light and Right
Here's a few tips on packing that have helped me over time. First: Try to keep everything in a color scheme. I.e. One pair of black ankle pants will go a long, long way--you can dress them up in the evening and go casual. Take more underwear than clothing. You can mix and match your clothes and wear your clothing on multiple days. However, you cannot do that with underwear. Forget that Space Bag stuff-you can make your own by using a large zipper-type plastic bag that is normally used for food. Fold your clothing, place them in the bag and press down on the bag to let all the air out. Your bag will be totally flat--I also use this method to co-ordinate outfits as well. This way I'm not mulling over what to wear. For the ladies: Go easy on the jewelry. I never bring good jewelry with me when I travel. I will go to a store and purchase cheap hoop earrings. They suffice fine and look good for both casual and dress opportunities. Makeup--don't bring a ton. In Europe women don't wear as much makeup as we do here in the states. I forgo foundation. Just bring the basics--like eyeliner, mascara and neutral shadows. One blush. One lipcolor or chapstick. Skin and hair--Samples, Samples, Samples. Go to your regular makeup S.A and ask for samples--or go to the drugstore and get travel sizes. Shoes--Summer and spring: Flats for walking around and one pair of heels for dressy-occassions. To tell you the truth--get a pair of Tory Burch Reva flats in black and the shoe will do well for both. Nice pair of flat sandals for the beach or the heat of the summer. In winter..a great pair of boots that you can wear en route to your destination.
Chesterbrook, PA USA Wed 08/24/2011
Rick's Packing Cubes!
Rick's packing cubes are the only way I travel! I never over pack and it keep every thing in order. Worth every penny and beats thos ziplock bags!
Anaheim, CA USA Wed 08/24/2011
I also make room in luggage by throwing away old clothes! For ten weeks in Italy, I came back with a carryon and a daypack containing nothing but books and gifts I had bought. The customs agent at DTW was surprised that I had no checked luggage after ten weeks, and I couldn't resist saying, as I pointed to my carryon, "And there's no clothes in there!" He asked why not and I told him I left everything behind to make room for the items on the Customs form he was holding. He actually scratched his head.
I have to admit, after 10 weeks, most of the week's worth of clothing I started with was ready to be discarded. I pack the same number of pieces of clothing for one week as I do for three months. I hate checking baggage and waiting for it.
Toledo, OH USA Thu 08/18/2011
In Rick I trust.
I currently pack lighter than Rick and his checklist. I use a bag similar to his so everything fits with more than enough space so when I bring home that huge Oktoberfest bier stein, it will fit.
It comes down to clothes and toiletries. Always do without and get there if needed. 2 weeks worth of clothes = 1 weeks worth of packing clothes and a wash in-between.
I've taken Rick's trips and spun them my own way, traveling even lighter.
USA Wed 08/17/2011
As my underwear (boxers and tees) gets frayed and shabby, I replace them (of course) but I save the old ones for overseas trips. As they are used I throw them away thus making room for gifts on my return.
I can't stand to not wear an undershirt and they take up a lot of room on a long trip, so leaving them behind does make a difference.
Am I the only one who does this?
Saint Louis, MO USA Wed 08/17/2011
Firstly, you are a tourist. Secondly you need to have fun, that is why we travel.
Underware and socks weigh nothing and will fit into extra shoes and any holes in your packing. Bring a pair for every day.
Why anyone would have a problem with zip off pants is beyond me. Fashion sense be damned. Take whatever is easiest and most comfortable. Who are you tring to empress? Everyone around you is also a tourist.
Be comfortable, and play safe.
Baltimore, Ont Canada Mon 08/15/2011
I, too, have concluded that dresses suit me much better for warm weather travel. Or, I'll pack a couple of my Macacbi skirts and some lightweight tshirts; both roll up very small. Not only does non-bifurcated apparel help beat the heat, it also facilitates using "the facilities".
Orange, NJ USA Thu 08/11/2011
My suggestion for women traveling in not-too-cold weather: dresses. A knee length jersey knit or cotton dress (sundress, t-shirt dress, shirt dress, something casual) takes up MUCH less space than a pair of pants and a top, and makes getting dressed easier. Also looks more fashionable and less touristy.
I brought 7 such dresses, all fit in ONE Rick Steves packing cube. Add one to two cardigans or light sweaters that will match all the dresses, and some tights for cooler weather, and you're good to go. As for shoes, I had a pair of Clark's flats that looked nice and were great for walking.
Obviously not ideal for serious hiking, but is very comfortable for general touring of cities and towns, which is what I do on my trips.
Columbus, OH USA Wed 08/03/2011
Girls gone thrifty!
When my friend and I went To England, I stressed to her the importance of walking to get fit and packing light. It was her first time to travel and she brought the craziest things- 50 sample lipsticks(from her job), sweaters she thought would look cute (heavy) and more outfits than days we were there. Being a heavy girl, these things added to her baggage. Still, we walked alot and had an awesome time, and of course, I added some of her baggage to mine, that's what friends are for. Despite the overload, we still needed, just for two days, some winter coats. This was June, but it was also England. We went to a charity shop in Dorchester and found some coats for 5 pounds. While I would normally suggest dumping them later, we both still have them as a fond remembrance.
Houston, Texas USA Fri 07/29/2011
I am with the previous comment about zip off pants..and vest too!please NOOOOOOooooo, Want to stick out like a tourist wear that! Europe is known for its great fashions. I am here in Rome right know with my two boys. We packed three changes of clothes and washed in the sink or laundro mat when available. Its summer so everything dried outside. We each rolled our clothes into gallon sized ziplocks it helped keep them organised and we had them to use if needed.
Los Angeles, CA USA Tue 07/26/2011
Melanie, I wear my Toms shoes everyday and to Europe and have not had a issue with arch support. They have more arch support then they look like they have. They are really great shoes and not very expensive.
:), FL USA Mon 07/25/2011
I travel with a small buxton travel purse that fits my travel docs, maps, make-up and has credit card slots built in. It can sling across my chest. It fits easily into a large tote bag that I then use as my personal item. I can then travel with a carry on and I have the rest of the space in the tote for souvenirs. I have not found underwear to be an issue. I also find laying everything flat to take up less room. Most hotels have a clothes line in the shower making drying simple. I looked into the Tom shoes, as I find shoes to be the bigger issue for space. However, I think these shoes are unattractive and they do not have any arch support. This would be a problem after days of sight seeing.
stoney creek, ontario Canada Sun 07/24/2011
I pack enough for half the trip - then do a load of laundry. Also, if I can't easily lift my bag over my head, it is too heavy. I try to keep to lightweight clothes and layer with a jacket if needed.
Nashville, TN USA Sun 07/17/2011
carry on restrictions
There's a carry on weight restriction twist now that Thomas Cook has taken over Air Transat. The old 10kg limit has now changed, as we found out leaving London Gatwick on Thomas Cook. The carry on limit is now 5kg. Lots of scenes of passengers shuffling belongings to meet 5kg limit .....
Terrace, BC Canada Fri 07/15/2011
The best vest - - and the best price -- I've seen for the safari vest is at Great Outdoors Depot. Here's the website http://www.greatoutdoorsdepot.com/apparel-vest-safari-khaki.html
Durham, NC USA Wed 07/13/2011
One pair of shoes
I travel to Italy and France a few times and only bring one pair of shoes and those are TOMS. Toms are very comfortable and environmentally friendly and some pairs vegan. I alway bring my solid colors (like navy) that match almost anything so they are easy to pair clothes with as well. When you get your Toms, I would suggest wearing them the weeks prior to break them in because it helps with the daily walking. I do a good amount of walking while I am in Europe and these are the perfect shoes. Toms are also small, lightweight, and in addition to being very fashionable for any age (I am in my twenties, my cousin in her thirties, and mother in her fifties wear them) they are doing something good. When you buy a pair of Toms one pair also goes to a child in need somewhere that is without shoes. Great shoes for so many reasons! You can get them at www.toms.com
:), FL USA Tue 07/12/2011
Packing the packs
We just returned from Eastern Europe on a 19 day trip. We packed everything into big ziploc bags, which we just tossed into a suitcase. Makes packing up a snap.
Sioux Falls, SD USA Mon 07/04/2011
Tricks for Packing Light
I second Carol from TX who recommended Chico's cargo convertible pants. I have them in brown, grey and just bought black. They are lightweight, dry fast, look good anywhere and travel like a dream. Am taking the grey and black ones to Europe in 2 weeks.
Hendersonville, NC USA Sun 07/03/2011
Travel Vest Safety
Someone expressed concern about the safety of a travel vest if it gets hot and you take it off. It could get swiped. One simple solution is to tuck an extra carabiner attached to an enforced cord. You can leash your vest to your belt loop.
Houston, TX USA Thu 06/23/2011
Solid cosmetics and backpacks
I took solid shampoo, solid conditioner, solid face/body soap, a 2 in 1 lotion/sunscreen which worked as a facial moisturizer, all from Lush. The lotion/sunscreen kept my very light skin burn-free through 5 sunny weeks in Spain. Also, after 4 trips to Europe, I would never trade my convertible backpack/suitcase with a rolling suitcase. I feel like laughing out loud at the poor souls who are wrestling with their rolling suitcases up and down the inevitable stairs that one encounters in train and Metro stations throughout Europe.
Surrey, BC Canada Tue 06/21/2011
Magellan's has some great travel vests as well as jackets that convert into vests. There is a Rick Steves podcast from March 12, 2011 featuring Rolf Potts talking about traveling with just a vest, no luggage.
Salt Lake, UT USA Mon 06/20/2011
Solids and shaving oil
I'm sure this has already been mentioned, but still... I use solid shampoo and conditioner (from lush.com or basin.com). You can call the stores directly and they will ship it at very little cost. If you order from the Lush online site, it comes from Canada, which can take longer. I also use a small vial of shave oil when shaving my legs. It takes up very little room and I actually prefer it to shaving cream.
NC USA Wed 06/15/2011
I love the idea (for women, not so much the look) of the multi pocket vests, but if it gets hot and you take it off, drape it over a chair and it gets swiped, how is this any different from losing your bag? You are still minus all the valuables and handy goodies tucked away in all those "secure " pockets. At the very least, don't use the "passport" pocket for your passport!
Victoria, BC Canada Tue 06/14/2011
Too many clothes!
Even though I am a devotee of one bag, carry-on travel, on my May trip to Italy, I still included too much. Two pair of long pants and 3-4 wash & wear shirts along with a sweater for cool days was all I wore. Returning with unworn clean clothes added weight. I learned my lesson. Take heed, travelers.
Fallbrook, CA USA Tue 06/07/2011
I would like to know where the travel vest so skillfully described by Steve...
D/FW, TX USA Sat 05/28/2011
Travel Light -- and Compact
I use a safari vest when traveling. It's like wearing another bag: Heavy Duty 2-way Front Zipper, Breathable Mesh Lining, Huge Inside Pocket; Double Snap Closure' Ring for Keys; Adjustable Side Tabs; Pockets sized for: Film canisters, Extra gear, Wallet, Pens & Pencils, Flashlights, Notepads, Passport, ticket; General Purpose Large inside zip pocket is perfect for maps & important documents; Side Entry Hand Pocket; D rings, etc. It's perfect. You'd be amazed at what it will carry -- and it doesn't count as a casrry-on. I even attach caribiners and hang things on it.
Durham, NC USA Thu 05/26/2011
Perfect Pants for Travel
Check out the Cool Cargo Roll Snap Pant from Chico's. They can be worn as a capri or pant. I took 3 pairs (white, black, and khaki) to Italy in April. They were perfect - light in your bag, dried fast, very comfortable, and looked nice with a variety of tops.
TX USA Wed 05/25/2011
No Zip Off Pants
Dear Fashionable Packing,
I definitely would never wear zip off pants in Europe. I'm from Seattle, as is Rick Steves, and I adore his tours and books, but his fashion sense comes from going to Mt Rainier.
However, if you wear zip off pants (or shorts) in Paris, I will move you to the back of the line.
When I was 23, I wore jeans in Paris. Now that I'm 58, I wear travel dresses. At the moment, my favorite dress travel dress is the Travel Smith Women's Voyager Knit. It's super lightweight and I have a black lacey Nic + Zoe mesh tie-front cardigan to throw over it. If I were forty, I wouldn't want to cover my arms, but I'm old-ish.
I was in Paris at the end of March and I wore that outfit (and one other) with a flocked reversible Mycra Pac short Donatella raincoat. This kept me warm when the wind came off the Seine.
I am going to Paris for a few days in June with my daughter and I will be taking a blue version of the Travel Smith Voyager dress and two Luna Luz dresses in dark colors. My daughters will be wearing jeans and short dresses.
If you are a Baby Boomer (or any adult woman) and you're going to a major city in Europe, you can read my ideas at suite101.com...however, I've just told you my best clothing tips for Paris, London, or any Northern European city.
PS I'm a fan of Naturalizer and Mephisto shoes. I also like high-heel boots whenever it's not hot. You might be able to pull off zip off pants in Munich or Berlin because Germany is the Santa Cruz of Europe. However, unless you are naturally beautiful, tall, thin woman...forget weird stuff like zip off pants. Uggghhh.
Seattle, Washington USA Tue 05/24/2011
One thing I do take along to "leave behind" are the books I bring to read. A lot of the places we stay have a small library, so I will donate the book to the hotel staff after reading it. It frees up space right before I go home. I don't feel like I'm leaving my trash in Europe because the books are in good condition, and it's clear that fellow travelers do read them. In fact, I've traded books with staff permission at such hotels/hostels and have been told by staff that many other travelers do as well.
The other trick for packing light: keep a written list when you pack for your trip. When you return home, as you unpack, check your list. If you packed something you did not use, consider whether you ever need to bring it on a trip again.
Sioux Falls, SD USA Mon 05/23/2011
I am going to Italy in Sept and will spend most of my time in cities looking at art. I really want to look great and feel comfortable. Although I am in my early 60's, I really appreciated Canada Kate's comments from April of this year. I doubt I'll wear jeggings, but I certainly won't go for zip-off pants either. TY especially for the tips about your color palette and the cool sneakers... the right shoes are always an issue for me. Your posting really helped. Meg
Santa Fe, NM USA Thu 05/19/2011
"LEFT BEHIND" doesn't read this board
Pack light, take just what you need, take nice clothing that you wear here at home. If your clothing is so bad that you feel you have to "donate" it to the maid in a hotel in Europe. Take in to Goodwill in our country NOW.
USA Sun 05/15/2011
No to "leave behind"
A few weeks ago I led a group of high school students (all girls), plus two more chaperones, to England and Scotland. I only allowed everyone to have a carry-on sized suitcase and another bag to go under the seat. It was much easier for us to handle our luggage, especially since a couple of the hotels had either no elevators or very small elevators. The other groups we were paired with had giant suitcases which they struggled to carry. My group didn't regret having light luggage! I also encouraged them to stick with two pairs of shoes, which they did. I usually have two pairs in the spring/fall/winter: one to wear and an extra because it's good to rotate them. In the summer I carry three: a pair of gym shoes for the plane because it's gross to have bare feet on the floor of the airport/plane, plus two pairs of nice-looking but comfortable sandals (one black, one neutral). I generally use Dansko and Privo.
I also agree that the "left behind" concept is a bad one, especially for socks and underwear. I bring three pairs of underwear with me, all of the Ex Officio brand, because they dry extremely quickly. I also only bring only three to four pairs of socks (in seasons other than summer), and wash them using a small bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap. Who wants to wear ratty underwear and socks (which could give you blisters, anyway) on a trip? Same goes for clothing. Why would you want to wear clothes that are old and don't look nice? Just because you're on a trip and will be walking a lot, especially in the summer, doesn't mean that you should dress like you're cleaning your house, especially in France and Italy, where people tend to dress a bit nicer. I try to blend in with the locals as much as possible, and it's impossible to do that if you're wearing old clothes or ones with stains on them. How sloppy! Bring fewer, nicer items that dry quickly (Rick's clothesline is great for this) and you'll not only look great but will be carrying a lighter load as well.
Chicago, IL USA Sun 05/15/2011
Who says women can't pack light?
We just got back from a week in the Low Countries, where the weather was in the 60's most days, and usually sunny. I had the lightest suitcase of the 4 of us. It's a rolling backpack, 19"X14"X7" and has 4 small outside pockets. I packed 2 long-sleeved shirts (wore another on the plane), 2 T-shirts, and one 3/4-sleeve shirt, figured that covered all the bases. Then I packed undies and socks/hose, 2 pair travel slacks, the laundry kit (bungee cord, clothespins, travel soap, stain stick, Shout wipes), the picnic kit (snap together bowls, plastic cutlery), another pair of shoes, all my pills and non-liquid toiletries, hairbrush, and an umbrella. I had a small tote holding a shawl for an extra plane blanket, my liquid toiletries, travel journal, Kindle, inflatable pillow, passport, credit cards, jewelry, etc. I looked at my suitcase and there was still a lot of space, so I packed my favorite bed pillow! Many hotels have one pillow and either it's down, which means my allergies will kill me, or it's so thin that I end up putting the bath towels under it. I wore a travel skirt, the long-sleeved shirt, pair of shoes, underwear, and support knee-highs. I had a washable suede jacket which I wore on the plane and then stored in the overhead compartment. It turned out that I never wore the second pair of shoes because they suddenly began to rub me painfully. Next time I'll just bring gel insoles for the ONE pair of shoes.
VA USA Tue 05/10/2011
I think the whole "leaving things" debate is just so old - don't the people who post it ever read back at all? This has been debated on forums for years! I still think it is a bad idea but more than that it is a boring topic.
Canada Tue 05/03/2011
Yes! to leaving things
I am a 64-year-old retired French teacher who has traveled extensively throughout Europe and who has been leaving "things" for over 40 years. I have never ONCE had anyone take offense. In fact, I've been thanked many times. The clothing items I leave are not rags. They are quite good, but for one picky reason or another, I no longer care for them (i.e. the color doesn't suit me anymore, there's a tiny stain, it doesn't fit quite right), So far as the people in Western Europe throwing our leftovers in the trash, that it simply ridiculous. Most of the maids who clean the rooms are from deprived countries. In Barcelona, our 2 maids were from the Dominican Republic; in Italy, from Romania; in France, Tunisia. And I do not look like a slob when I travel. For one thing, I'm not overweight, which is one reason Europeans find us so slovenly. The notion that those of us who leave things behind only leave rags is absurd. I've heard that in America we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. As I leave things during my trips, I have plenty of room for my souvenirs. And believe me, the people who receive my hand-me-downs are grateful. We forget how much we have in this country and how little others around the world have. I also leave toiletries and anything else I can do without at the end of my trip. I frankly don't care whether people leave things or not; I just don't want the naysayers to influence those who've never done it into thinking it's a bad idea. It's a great idea and I will continue to do it for the next 40 years!
San Antonio, TX USA Sun 05/01/2011
This whole thread about throwing away old underwear is interesting. Why underwear? Does it take up so much room in the bag that if it doesn't get thrown away it will keep you from bringing home all of those gifts for loved ones? I found that packing the 2 pairs of shoes that I brought to be a bigger issue. Seriously, underwear? We were gone for 4 weeks in Europe last summer and I had only a carry on. I packed 7 pairs of undies along with my clothes that needed to get us from Scotland to Italy. They took up so little room that I don't understand the problem. (And they were just regular undies...nothing microscopic!) Just stick them in the nooks and crannies of your bag if you are running out of room. As far as room for souvenirs we did a couple of things (1) besides not really buying that much stuff, the small amount of stuff we did get had to be light and flat - coasters, lace in Venice, an old map, etc (2) I had purchased a small tote bag as a souvenir and for the flight home I stuck my purse in it along with any extras I had accumulated. It became my personal carry on along with my luggage carry on.
FL USA Wed 04/20/2011
While Rick has amazing packing tips for the 35+ age group, I find myself (as a 23 year old) somewhat cringing at some of the items. Zip off pants? Most non-backpacker young people wouldn't be caught dead in them. My mother on the other hand found the list extremely useful and was comfortable travelling with the listed clothing. I, however, as a fashion conscious twenty-something, was made all too aware that my European cohorts are the ones setting the trends for North American young people. I'd like to share my two cents on what I found useful as well as fashionable when I was overseas: -A pair of thick leggings or "jeggings" (young people will know what these are?) -One pair of lightweight denims or casual pants, something dark wash and in style, usually wide leg or skinny leg cut. -Three button down cardigans and a tunic style cardigan. This dresses up any tank or tee. -Three tanks/cami's, three lightweight tee's (layer as desired). -Three long sleeve or 3/4 length tops. -A simple dress than can be worn during the day and dressed up with a shawl at night. -Black flats. -Two shawls or scarves. -A fashionable raincoat or windbreaker. I have a pink Columbia windbreaker which has been great for my previous two trips. -A cross chest strap small purse or clutch. Handy and stylish while avoiding bulk. -Faux leather coat. Not bringing my real leather as I don't want it nicked. -Hip pair of sneakers. No, not running shoes, but you will see young Europeans with a variety of casual walking sneakers, looking very crisp and comfortable. Retro-style is very popular in North America and abroad. All of these can be combined for at least 10 or more outfits. Colors I chose were mainly blues, grays, some black, and a punch of color with a bright cardigan a few colorful tops. I have packed for my two week trip which is in two weeks and everything fits perfectly into my carry on. I also plan on wearing a few of these items on the plane, reducing the bulk.
Canada Sat 04/16/2011
The pantyliner tip below made me giggle. Euw!! I buy a pack of 7 mesh panties from Walmart. The mesh is so light you can crumple up all 7 pairs and hold them in one hand. You have an unworn pair each day for a week that can easily be washed in the sink afterward and dry in a snap.
Boston, MA USA Wed 04/06/2011
I like to bring a disposable flashlight - after it wears out I throw it out - in their landfill!
san diego, ca USA Mon 04/04/2011
We just got back from a week in Wales (lots of time on trains, hiking/exploring on foot, and one fancy hotel dinner). I highly recommend ExOfficio and Techwick shirts and underwear -- you can wash them in the hotel sink and they're dry by morning! I wore an ExOfficio shirt, travel pants and a hoodie on the flight over, and only packed one change of clothes (quick-dry travel shirt, pants, socks, undies) and a nice sweater for the hotel dinner. It got me through the entire week. (And, honestly, I probably could have gotten away without the sweater.) I'm never packing more than two of anything again.
MA USA Mon 04/04/2011
Packing light for the Beach
Last summer we travelled to Italy for three weeks and were going to spend 5 days at the beach. We each brought a Turkish Towel which had multiple uses. A Turkish Towel is like a giant dish towel, thin, lightweight, and packs up really small. They were big like beach towels, dried fast, and could be worn as a sarong at the beach and at restaurants. Later when we got to Florence, I packed our laundry into the towels, tied up the corners, and used them to carry the laundry to and from the laundromat. And even later in our trip we used them at the pool where we stayed in Tuscany. I even brought 3 towels as gifts for our Swedish friends who we met up with at the beach. The towels were so pretty that my friend wanted only to wear them as a shawl!
Portland, Oregon USA Sun 03/06/2011
Lotion bars instead of lotion
I recently discovered lotion BARS and now I never travel without them! No need to worry about fitting lotion in the baggie that the TSC allows. Plus, if you buy nice ones, it's a little extravagance that takes up no space! The nicest ones I've found are from Lusa Organics (and no, I don't work there).
Logan, UT USA Thu 02/24/2011
Layer your clothing and pack with purpose! Every trip I make to Europe (usually three or four times a year), I pack essentially the same things. I have found there is really no point in bringing shorts (you look like a tourist from the US and rarely have occasion to wear them). Every trip fits inside my 40L pack: 6 polos, 2 pair lightweight linen/cotton pants, 5 pair socks, 5 pair boxers, good walking shoes, lightweight cotton pullover, and in the winter, I add a pair of long johns, a scarf, and gloves. Don't forget to roll your shirts and pants - saves a LOT of space in the pack. That's it! Last summer I did 8 weeks in Central Europe with those items and did wonderfully. Some traveling companions packed two suitcases and had a horrible time lugging them around (and missed some trains that I caught just fine).
Miami, FL USA Mon 02/21/2011
Throwing out old clothes
What folks are both sides of the debate seem to be ignoring is that whether this is a good or bad idea is wholly dependent on where you are traveling to.
Old clothes left in a hotel room in Western Europe (or Japan or Singapore) will most certainly be viewed the same as it will be if left in a hotel room in New York City or Seattle[INVALID] trash.
Old clothes left behind in most of Africa and much of Asia & Latin America will be well received put to good use.
If this is a good or bad thing depends on where you are traveling to. As most of the people visiting this site are planning trips to Western Europe and not the third world for most it should be considered a bad idea for the reasons listed by others.
But that doesn't mean it doesn't have a role as a packing tip for some destinations.
albany, ny USA Mon 02/14/2011
men's carry on visual pack list
Here's my visual pack list. It was designed for British Isles in September.
Gainesville, va USA Thu 02/10/2011
Discarding clothes en route
I somewhat agree with Concerned Traveler and Andy Perry - I think some people here have gone overboard on the "take old stuff you can throw away" bandwagon. Sure, bring those old pairs of underwear and socks that you were only going to get a few more uses out of before throwing them away anyway, but going to Goodwill to buy clothes to leave over there is wasteful. Please remember that when you are in Europe, you are an ambassador for America. Your actions there can either dispell or reinforce negative stereotypes about us, based on your choices. Two stereotypes about Americans are that we are slovenly in appearance when in Europe on vacation, and that we are wasteful. Wearing old threadbare clothes that we plan to discard will reinforce the former, and leaving those clothes in every hotel room we check out of will reinforce the latter. Better just to pack light with durable, nice looking, and easy to care for clothes, and then reuse and sink wash when needed.
Houston, TX USA Tue 02/08/2011
Shipping stuff back to lighten the load
My comment involves a warning: be very careful when mailing/shipping items back from Italy. We decided to mail several packages back to the US in order to lighten our load. Not only was it expensive (about $75 for two small packages), both packages had been opened and items removed.
Sacramento, CA USA Mon 02/07/2011
My travel light suggestions
I have the packing light suggestion of taking flesh colored nylon fabric underdrawers. I can pack fewer pairs, and have no worries if they show thru lighter colored pants or dresses. They match my skin. Clever, huh! I also take body wash for bathsoap and laundry soap. Also, works great to take the stinky feet aroma out of my shoes from walking all day. Just put some on a tissue and place in shoes.
Buffalo, NY USA Sun 01/30/2011
My tip for women: skip taking extra pairs of underwear. Use pantiliners (such as Kotex Lightdays) to keep your one pair of panties clean for days on end. As you travel, your stash of pantiliners will dwindle, giving you more room in your suitcase.
Fairfield, CA USA Wed 01/26/2011
Leaving Clothes On Trip
I must concur with Concerned Traveler. To go to Goodwill, a charitable organization selling used clothes for people who cannot afford to purchase at normal clothing outlets, and purchase clothes to just dispose of in Europe is appalling. This is why America has a bad name, the consume and dispose of culture, the environment be damned. If you think people in Europe want your old clothing, think again. It's just a typical example of our elitism: they need our used, worn-out clothing. The first time I went to Europe, 2005, I spent 6 weeks and used one carry-on. If you don't know how to pack, don't know how to treat people with respect, please, stay home and enjoy you McDonald's.
Louisville, KY USA Mon 01/10/2011
Re: Leave good stuff at home
I am sorry, but I do not understand why people think they have to pack items that they leave behind when traveling.
I pack 2 pairs of pants, 3-4 tops, a jacket, 3-4 pairs of underwear, 1-2 pairs of socks (if needed) and I'm set to go. Why would I go to Goodwill and buy additional stuff, just to leave it behind? I'm not adding to someone's wardrobe, I'm leaving trash in someone's country. How do you know that the cleaning staff just doesn't put that stuff in the trash? Do you think it's their size, and they are so grateful to you for leaving your 2x worn clothing for "them" to use?
Pack LIGHT, take what you own, and bring it home. If you have to wash in a sink, do that.
Anyone can travel for 2-4 weeks with 2-4 sets of outfits. To truly be a global traveler, you don't bring items you intend to discard!
USA Sun 01/09/2011