Tricks for Packing Light
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
Traveling with Only Carryon- good story
On the way to the cruise port outside of Rome, the shuttle driver told me it was too bad the airline lost my luggage. I told him I only brought one bag. His response- "So you work on the ship, then? It's impossible to cruise with just one bag." He was wrong- thanks for all the great tips you all contribute.
Tacoma, WA USA 11/20/2013
My wife and I always get our khaki slacks and jeans heavy starched at the dry cleaners prior to leaving. They don't wrinkle and look fresh after weeks of wearing. Unless they get soiled, we just keep wearing them day after day. Remember, they'll never see you again.
Florence, Alabam USA 11/15/2013
add to recap
If youre paying attention to what you bring and use, you will usually learn what is needed and not. im still flexible and if i dont need it then i send it back home on my next shipment. It can be spendy, but id rather have the space up front than to haul something across the world.
PDX, USA 11/05/2013
After a trip -- recap
Just got back from 5 weeks on the road, and as I unpacked I made a pile of things that did not get used or that could have been left behind -- then I weighed the pile. Five pounds of stuff I had carted around ! This will be a reminder for next time. Also, we had a week in Vienna mid-trip (K&T Boardinghouse, 3rd floor, no elevator) so we left our roller bags at the hotel in Salzburg and took the train to Vienna with just our "personal item" bags -- what as pleasure !! I'll pack lighter next time !
San Francisco, CA USA 10/31/2013
Love the rolling backpack
Just returned from a 5 week vacation in Greece, Italy, Croatia and Turkey. We took 2 cruises and we were on our own for planes, buses and trains in between cruises. I packed in Rick's rolling backpack and had plenty of clothes for everything. 2 bathing suits & pareo, nightshirt & robe, 2 dresses, 3 pairs of shoes, 3 pants, 4 shorts, 6 sleeveless tees, 3 long sleeve shirts, rain jacket 3 bras, 6 panties and the clothesline. I was shocked that I could get that much in. Other cruisers could not believe that was the only bag I had other than a day pack for toiletries. It was a blessing not to drag a huge bag onto trains and through Rome when trying to find our hotel.
Stafford, Ct USA 10/27/2013
More Pants and Dress Shoes
Having read the Packing List for Women, I realized that one to two pairs of pants for women is not enough. Take four pairs. I like the knit pants from Walmart. Cost $15/pair. Comfortable and wash well. Clothes get dirty traveling, things do happen, and you can't always wash. I found this out on a recent trip to Eastern Europe. Also a pair of dress shoes, black flat pumps worked well for the opera in Vienna, and a nice dinner in Prague.
Columbia, MD USA 10/20/2013
Not a tip, just want to confirm, travel as light as possible! Just got back from three-week trip of a lifetime to Italy. Daughter in law brought the max allowed in 1st class. Total nightmare on trains, planes, stairs. Five planes, eight trains, many hotels no elevators. Stress damaged the trip and the relationship.
Kaneohe, HI USA 10/20/2013
One Bag travel
I really like www.onebag.com for recommendations on packing light.
Morgantown, WV USA 10/15/2013
Shellie, I bought the PacSafe CitySafe 200 for my river cruise/tour last May and absolutely loved it. I liked the safety features and that it was a lightweight, attractive purse. I got what I felt was a great price of $60 at tamperseal.com.
Missouri City, Tx USA 10/10/2013
I have found the best purse for travel! I've just returned from a RS trip to Spain and found the purse I took to be perfect. I took the PacSafe 175 CitySafe bag. It's slashproof. The top folds over & snaps. the zipper has a little catch that's really hard for a pickpocket to quickly get into. And, the bottom of the purse is so deep that I put my arm into the purse up to my elbow! It has a zippered compartment where I kept my daily money and an RFID pocket, where my hotel key could go and not come into contact with my phone (which de-activated the hotel key - this happened only once, 'til I figured it out). It was big enough to also carry a bottle of water. Sometimes, I had my sweater in it or my shawl for church entry. Yet, it wasn't too bulky. The strap is long enough that I could sling it across my body crosswise. It's just the best, which is why I mention it. I have no connection with the company that makes it.
Minneapolis, MN USA 10/08/2013
For laundry, our recent two-week trip to Belgium and Holland was our first for planning to do laundry there. When we got to Delft our hotel had reasonable per-item prices, but when inquiring about submitting our laundry past the daily deadline, we were unable to do so but the hotel did recommend a drop-off spot just off the Markt Square which was a fabulous tip. The laundry (there called a "wasserette") was incredibly convenient, and cheap. We used Wasserette Stomerij, at Nieuwe Langendijk 4a, which is just behind the New Church. A smaller load cost us 10E to wash and dry, and saved us 2 prime vacation hours sitting in a dreary laundromat. Similarly, why waste time washing in your hotel sink, packing and dragging with you laundry soap, clothes pins, clothes lines, etc? I almost can't believe Rick recommends DIY over the drop-off method. It was cheap, fast and easy. We will definitely do it again.
Red Bank, NJ USA 09/30/2013
You will need an umbrella. I just got one when I got there. Cheap and everywhere.
Packing light, luggage, trains
DON'T buy toiletries in Europe; we checked out of curiosity. There are better ways to spend your vacation and you want products that work. I also don't like perfumed toiletries. Limited selection, very high price, glass deodorant bottles, everything in big containers. What's the point if you have to carry larger bottles? Besides the size and weight, what would a broken deodorant bottle do to your bag?
Buy small containers and take your own. If you are going to be carrying it, why carry big containers of stuff you don't like? Roll on deodorant: Use a nail file or screw driver to slightly bend the edge away from the ball of the bottle. Squeeze an ounce into a small bottle. Lasts three weeks by rubbing on a few drops daily. (That's all it takes and you can use the full bottle at home without it leaking.). Stick deodorant- break off the stick and put it in a small container. Mousse: I have to have it for control and static. Spray into a small mixing bowl. Let sit for a day or two, then stir out the air and bubbles. Looks like a gel but works like mousse without weighing down hair, 2 oz. for three weeks. Conditioner: Absolutely take your own since hotels didn't have it; 2-3 oz for three weeks. Root Boost: Avon or other spray put into a small spray bottle. Travel bottle of hair spray. Small container of moisturizer, 2-3 oz body lotion. All fits into a quart size bag.
Make up: Check the internet for 'baking' to remove your metal eye shadow and other make up pans from their plastic containers. Get free samples of powder, blush, mascara from department stores. I use an Avon mirrored, magnetic eye shadow container- it holds blush, powder, four small shadows without falling out and has a double ended brush. Also: BB cream with SPF or a tiny bottle of foundation. Small mascara, lip stain and gloss, nail clippers, tweezers, Jane Iredale SPF powder, small bottle of SPF 65, 1/2 emery board, eye drops, tiny container of favorite moisturizer (Eucerin). It all fits in a double sided GPS case. Case Logic, 4.5" x 6.5". All makeup is in a tiny case that travels well, is easy and inconspicuous to pull out if you do your face on the run, and none of it is in my quart bag. I have never, ever been stopped for having makeup outside the quart bag.
This may sound high maintenance, but those vacation pictures last forever.
First aid: Dental repair kit, eye glass repair kit, sample pill packs, bandages, rubber bands, zip ties.
Laundry: Take synthetic fabrics if able. Use hotel shampoo to sink wash clothing, press out the water, roll in the hotel towel to blot, then hang dry. I carry two cheap plastic store hangars with clips and most things are dry the next day.
Cold area vacation: Layer a fleece and a rain coat. Take warm things that you don't want, then leave them behind. I wore a waffle weave shirt, cheap gloves, and fleece headband in Switzerland, then left them behind when I went to warm France.
Knee high leg gaiters: Keep out rain, snow, wind, cold, mud, dirt, stones. You can wear 'regular' pants in bad weather and use gaiters to cover from the knees down. I've seen hikers wear them with shorts. We went bike riding in Austria and every one had dirty pants afterward. I took off my gaiters and was clean and dry for the rest of the tour.
Backpack luggage: Ours was a total waste and we had less packing space because of the bulk of the straps. Rolling over cobble stones is no big deal. A carry on bag isn't that hard to carry up hotel stairs. If you don't want to carry it in your hand, you certainly don't want it on your back. Train overheads are either brief case size or at least a foot high. I unzipped and expanded my bag and we had only one train where it was a tight squeeze when expanded. If not expanded, it fit everywhere. In fact, my regular, big carry on would have fit anywhere, too. I always read 'meets international carry on restrictions', but I didn't see any place my regular bag wouldn't have fit! When on trains, there are bags all over the place, anyway. In the aisles, on seats.
Train tickets: Keep in mind that the guy who delivers them will know you are going out of town. I'm really glad we bought first class tickets. Worth every extra penny. Second class was like a zoo (really) when first class was spacious and quiet. Some cars are quiet cars with no kids or cell phones, too.
Rail Planner: Download it! No internet necessary and usually accurate. You can track your journey because the app follows the train using the time on your iPod or phone. You can tell when your stop is coming up and get ready to hit the door when the train stops.
We found that we were allowed to get off before others boarded. We had read that people jam onto the train before others can disembark, but didn't find that in five countries, including Italy. Language: I tore the language phrases out of my AAA tourbook for each country and kept the small paper in my pocket. It was enough to get by. We never used the phrase cards I bought. Just be polite and say something appropriate in the local language. People switch to some English or you can use gestures.
Clothing: Scarves? I didn't go to Paris, but I saw fewer than 10 in three weeks. There are jeans and bright colors everywhere. Locals wear Nikes and other rubber soled shoes everywhere, just not the huge soled running shoes worn in America.
West Bloomfield, MI USA 09/25/2013
Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria, Germany: I saw lots of women in shorts in cities and lots of bright colors. Things may be different in Milan or Paris, but other cities not so much.
West Bloomfield, MI USA 09/25/2013
Looks like Ryanair has gone to: 21X14x7
Joshua Tree, California USA 09/11/2013
Packing for Europe in Summer
My daughter and I each packed our undergarments in a zippered mesh bag, which was light and really helped keep our delicates protected when doing laundry on our trip. Also glad I brought a small bottle of Woolite (2 oz) fr handwashing. Wished we had brought a few plastic clothes pins to hang things to dry as the dryers cost 3-4 euros for 20 minutes so we didn't get everything totally dry. Glad to have brought sturdy flip flops, not for touring, but to go to the lobby, have breakfast, run to to the corner store after taking my shoes off for the day and for the beach! I'm particular about pillows, so packed an old feather pillow that I didn't mind leaving behind. Gave me extra space when I returned and weighed nothing. Very happy to have not taken jeans in August. Finally, women wear neck scarves in Europe...except in extreme heat...and they are sold everywhere for very little. A good way to spruce up your wardrobe and also buy a lightweight souvenir or two for under 10 euros.
Seattle, WA USA 09/06/2013
Technology for traveling light
Traveling with IPad saves on the books and papers needed. Walking tours (RS), novels (Kindle), maps, reservations, etc. can all be installed on the device.
Napa, CA USA 08/20/2013
I have taken several shorter trips (5-7 days) with a regular backpack (not a hiking one; one like a kid would take to school. Jansport or another brand). I did this for five days in Dublin, Ireland, five in Boston, MA, and seven in Southern California.
I use the "laptop" section for rolled clothes. One pair of pants, a few shirts, pjs, socks, etc., and then the "main compartment" for another pair of shoes and my toiletries bag (it's very small) on top. The front pocket I usually put my phone charger and contact solution bottle in the water bottle spot. I still have a lot of room.
I wash clothes when necessary but anything can go two days or more when traveling. I wear one outfit, sometimes two shirts layered, and a light rain coat. I have a small (very small) cross body purse that has my wallet, phone, keys, etc., and that's it. I can wear the cross-body purse under the backpack no problem, or on smaller airlines like RyanAir I can just tuck the purse into the backpack and I meet the one bag requirement. It's all about the experiences and the less stuff you bring the better!
Seattle, WA USA 08/20/2013
Pick clothes strategically - Europe in July 2013
First time traveling so light and what a relief! Followed RS packing list for women faithfully and used RS new Rolling Backpack. My husband and kids loved the Classic Backdoor Bag. The key is to pick clothing that are moisture wicking, quick drying, and wrinkle resistant. It is worth the investment! E.g. Royal Robbins Discovery skort, Travelsmith/Magellan/Chicos Travelers/JJill Wearever tops and light jacket, Columbia/REI pants and packable raingear, ExOfficio or microfiber underwear and quick-dry socks (e.g. WrightSocks double layer). Make sure the color palette works with all tops and bottoms so anything you grab from the suitcase works together (e.g. black or khaki bottoms, and beige/white/black/sky blue tops, plus a light scarf or jewelry to liven up outfits). Capris, skirts and dresses worked best in Paris and London.
Women don't wear shorts in big cities and definitely favor black. Men and teens are okay in shorts. Pack only two pairs of shoes (comfortable walking sandals and closed-toe shoe). We only washed underwear and socks in 11 days (clothesline and microfiber towel a must!). Good quality moisture-wicking clothing does not absorb body odor so it can be reused even in sweltering and humid Paris. I used Wrinkle Whiz to freshen up clothes or just washed sweaty areas. Packing cubes were great to keep everything organized and in cramped hotel rooms where it was impossible to unpack. We took trains, double-decker buses, underground and walked everywhere with our light luggage. Best trip ever. Thank you, RS!
Houston, TX USA 08/04/2013
I travel light by taking samples of shampoo, conditioners, makeup products, perfume, etc. You can find hair product samples at major salons that are sealed in packets and cosmetic products at the large department stores. I have obtained foundation samples from cosmetic counters at high end department stores. Good products! I also use freeflys.com and have received Band-Aid, toilet paper samples, etc. Go thru a shopping mall one day and you will be amazed at all the free samples that are available. It also gives you the opportunity to actually test the product.
Moreno Valley, CA USA 07/24/2013
Plastic school supply boxes
To keep my "precious" souvenirs from being bent or crushed, I bring plastic school supply boxes to store them in. They begin trips packed with things that will be used during the trip. They're cheap and being plastic, won't create any concerns with TSA and are light weight.
Beaverton, OR USA 07/21/2013
What Weighs Nothing
I have found some things that weigh nothing, absolutely nothing, and make my trip so much easier. First, I only take ONE key with me in my money belt. All the rest of my key chain is locked inside my vehicle at home in the parking lot of the airport. (If I didn't have to drive myself, I'd just leave them at home on the hook.) On two extra sheets of paper I have color copies of my passport and driver's license. One for the hotel and one to hide in case mine is stolen or confiscated so that I can take it to the consulate. Always get the business card of wherever you are staying and put it in your money belt. That has saved me so many times when I couldn't remember the address. If I have to, I can call a cab, show the card, and get safely back to my room. Now my oddities: I have a small compass/safety whistle I wear around my neck down inside my shirt. It really doesn't add to the weight and helps when you're lost. I have attached to the inside of my suitcase a large safety pin. On it is several safety pins of various size, a button, a hair barrette, several rubber bands and a small roll of duct tape. I can't tell you how often I have used all of these items. My last little note is to watch how much your organizers weigh. The Rick Steve's packing cubes are marvelously light. Ziploc freezer bags are worth their weight in gold. All the rest: debatable. Happy Travels!
Winder, GA USA 07/13/2013
I went to Spain, France, and Italy last month and I only had 1 carry on luggage with me. The only liquid items I brought were my liquid foundation, and eye contact solution. Being a beauty junkie, I bought all my "essentials" such as tooth paste, soaps, shampoo etc... at the local French pharmarcies. It was heaven exploring all the different European beauty products, plus they made great souvenirs.
Los Angeles, Califo USA 06/26/2013
I will be traveling to Norway with my mom in a month. I have greatly appreciated this site and the graffiti wall with all of the travelers' advice. Love the crosspacking idea, throwing things as you go, etc. I bought Rick's convertible backpack, forgoing the roller option because of comments about switching back and forth, weight issues, can help my mom with her bag while carrying my own. I also bought the Civita daypack. Couldn't find a better option/$ and I love how compact it is. Also purchased travel cubes - found them cheaper elsewhere but opted for Rick's to be sure of quality. Found Coleman's washcloths (like handiwipes) 10? in a tube for a few bucks, throw as you go, use them for camping also. Bought four microfiber towels at hardware store for under $3, sewed them together for one big towel-cheaper than other options ($20+). Sierra Trading Post great site to find name-brand travel items for less! Any other advice for Oslo/Nutshell/Bergen/ Valdres area greatly appreciated-using plane, train, ferry/boat, bus. Rich@RickSteves great help!
Northern, WI USA 06/22/2013
My husband and I cross-pack when we travel. Half of my stuff in his bag and half of his stuff in my bag. That way, if one bag is lost you will still have clothes to wear until your lost bag is recovered
Dallas, TX USA 06/15/2013
Ladies, there is a bra on the market called "The Boobypack". It's a pseudo sports bra with pockets on both sides of your body. They're perfect for storing your passport, cash, phone, and credit cards! You have no need to worry about theifs when your valuables are so close to your breast!
Cleveland, OH USA 06/13/2013
Must have item: a compass
Rick: I would add one item to your phenomenal packing list: a small pocket compass. I got turned around so many times in the narrow, winding streets of Madrid and Sevilla this last month. My compass helped me to to orient my map so that it matched the orientation of the streets, and helped me quickly determine which way to go. I recommend this update to you list.
El Paso, TX USA 06/09/2013
Looks like Rick Steve's rolling carry-on designed for European standards does not meet European standards
Rick Steve 9"
Ryan Air 8"
EasyJet 10" (8" guarantee no hold)
We have booked and paid for a Vueling roundtrip flight Rome to Paris.. I was just about to purchase Rick Steve's rolling carry-on (three of them, one each for me and my two teenage kids), but I noticed it (9" deep) exceeds the Vueling size requirement (8" deep).
Out of curiosity, I checked other airlines. It would be ok with EasyJet (10" deep). But exceeds the Ryan Air (8") same as Vueling. [I should have booked EasyJet. I almost did.] A new nuance, however, with EasyJet is that as of July 2, 2013, they give a no-hold incentive if 8" deep or less (and meeting the other reduced dimensions).
Houston, TX USA 06/01/2013
Train luggage and the senior traveller
I have a tote and the larger RS roller bag and am travelling alone using the Eurailpass Scanpass. (Currently in Tallin) I have had few problems with the luggage EXCEPT the weight, getting on and off trains. There are usually places at the end of a car where you can store larger bags. My clothing isn't the issue; I'm not carrying too much. But I was so enthusiastic about picnicking I brought a whole little bag filled with picnic stuff. I was so enthusiastic about washing out I brought a whole little bag with laundry stuff. Ditto first aid. And I brought some Maine moose souvenirs for my Scandinavian friend, not realizing that they have moose here (they call them elk!). So my bag is very heavy and awful to get onto trains. I pared myself down to my tote bag and a daypack for my three day cruise/visit to Tallinn and I am much happier.
As far as guidebooks, I have survived totally with the RS book loaded onto my iPad along with other books, and also on my phone so I don't even lug the iPad with me normally. You can pick up local maps easily if you need paper.
Topsham, Me USA 05/25/2013
My wife and I have been devotees of Ricks and light travel for years and we take his basic bags with us everywhere. His cubes are a must have and really help with sorting and balance in your pack. We use his toiletries bag, clothesline and money belts. If you pack right, you could live out a carry on for months! Less is more and makes the trip really fun. Tours are for sheep, plan your own trip and go to small towns and meet real people. Always fly in and out of Amsterdam so you can visit coffeeshops both times. I highly reccomend this. The Cannabis Cup is from November 24-28th 2013, don't miss it!
Wimberley, TX USA 05/23/2013
Packing Smart and Travelling Light
I to would recommend ebags.com. Bit obvious but I find stuffing my socks and underwear into my wives shoes (she always takes a lot) saves a lot of room!
Type of luggage Rick uses
Could anybody provide information as to where I can order the type of travel pack and the day pack Rick uses on his trips?
Canby, OR USA 05/19/2013
My wife and I are seniors and need to sit-down frequently during sightseeing, but there are no seats or benches on the streets almost everywhere. So, in our last trip to Europe, we purchased a combination backpack/foldable seat for a very reasonable price from Dick's Sporting Goods, when we needed to sit-down anywhere, we simply unfold the seats and sit for a few minutes then proceed with our sightseeing.
Glen Allen, Virgin USA 05/09/2013
I list all my items on a spreadsheet. Print it out and bring it with me. I can then see what outfits I can make up. I can go back and look at where I went, season, what worked and what didn't. It doubles as a handy list so IF your luggage is lost you can have an accurate list for the airline. My rule is usually 3 shoes, pack one and carry two. 1-2 patterned jersey dresses for dressing up, scarves, mix and match tops and bottoms. Make sure everything goes with everything and worse case, buy something !
Cupertino, CA USA 04/28/2013
Packing Cubes - Where to buy them.
Ebags.com Or Eagle Creek Good packing cubes at fair prices.
Fl USA 04/23/2013
pack to donate
when i travel i bring mostly clothes that i am glad to leave behind - on my last day, i give them to the b&b owners or hotel clerks to donate to a church or charity - i then fill my almost empty suitcase with gifts and other purchases - the fragile ones i surround with whatever clothes i can't live without!
fort pierce, fl USA 04/23/2013
Packing light with cubes is a breeze. RS sells cubes in the Travel Store or others can be found in luggage stores or online @ Travelsmith or Magellan. They are rectangular nylon ouches with zippers that fit into the suitcase. I use them to pack rolled items of clothing, undies, misc. items. Clothing can be rolled to fit neatly and emerge unwrinkled. I usually use one for shirts, tees, one for pants, capris. No need to unpack and repack all items in the suitcase after rummaging around for one or two items. Even my husband is a believer. Also, I have found the Zenergy line of clothing from Chico's to be perfect for traveling. They are microfiber, travel friendly colors, don't wrinkle, can be rolled, washed out and dry the next morning. A light weight but you can also wear leggings underneath when extra warmth needed. These look nice in cities like Paris and London when you don't want to appear too casual but still need to travel light. These mix and match beautifully!
Birmingham, AL USA 04/17/2013
What are these cubes everyone has been talking about?? I am planning a trip to the beautiful town of Lorenzago di Cadore, Italy. there will be a laundry, but I would like to pack as lightly as possibly, it may even be chilly there in September.
Belleville, mb USA 04/15/2013
Guidebook tip - I always make photocopies of pertinent sections of my guidebooks, and then combine them, along with important papers, and a copy of my itinerary into a bound book at Kinkos/FedEx. This makes both a souvenir, and keeps my stuff together - it also allows me to not have to rip pages out of my guidebooks so that I can use them next time.
Knoxville, TN USA 04/07/2013
My four secrets: 1. Packing cubes - have used for decades for pleasure & business travel. 2. Draw string mesh bags for undies, sox, & dirty clothes 3. ExOffico and REI nylon undies. 4. Zip Lock bags for misc junk - take extra empty bags. Future project - switching to all microfiber hand wash and quick dry wardrobe.
San Antonio, TX USA 04/05/2013
RS Packing Cubes and RS Bag
I have to agree that it is difficult to fit both the large packing cube and the two small cubes neatly in the bag. I did it before, but I guess I am over stuffing them now. Nonetheless, I am very happy with my bag and using the packing cubes.
Lafin, PA USA 04/03/2013
RS Rolling Backpack
For the RS Rolling Backpack I have found that the large RS packing cube fits perfectly but the two smaller ones just don't work. I now use the Large RS cube and two Eagle Creek tube cubes and the RS small Toiletry bag, with this line up I able able to pack everything I need with room to spare plus the rolling backpack will stand up nicely on it's own.
Wichita, Ks USA 04/02/2013
First, measure the inside of your suitcase. If using RS rolling carry-on (13"X20") - you can fit (2) medium ebags cubes, (1) ebags slimline cube, and (2) Eagle Creek full tube cubes. Travelon has a few sizes that may help as well for another option. Packing folders (Eagle Creek) can be a good alternative. Bold Colors are harder to ignore and leave behind.
FL. USA 03/30/2013
Luggage Freedom Rocks!
I'll be in GB/France for 14 days in early May. I'm bringing a single wheeled carry-on and that's it. I have no plans to buy any souvenirs etc. that I'd have to lug around. Traveling light is "de rigueur".
NYC, USA 03/24/2013
Agree with last comment. I use the small plastic bags for prescriptions, jewelry, and other small items. Just toss them when finished! I also peel the label from prescription drugs and attach to an index card rather than carry the bottle. Easy to carry in the money belt in the event there is a question. The index card can be laminated easily. A copy of passport picture page and signature page can be reduced to credit card size and laminated to carry in the money belt. My philosophy is to always have passport info on the body in the event of an emergency!
Birmingham, AL USA 03/18/2013
My local grocery sells tiny plastic bags for holding pills (in pharmacy section).I use them to hold a day's worth of sunscreen which I have to use. Weights nothing, doesn't leak, and even reusable. I pack very light and this is a real help!
Williamstown, MA USA 03/16/2013
Becka, I 2nd your choice of bags. I have the Longchamp tote, and I also bought a Longchamp daypack that folds into almost nothing. My last trip to Italy both these bags were with me. I used the tote on the plane for my extras, camera, ipad, paperwork, etc. The daypack was folded and in my carry on luggage. I pulled the daypack out when touring towns. I have the older version that has a draw type closure, so when the straps are pulled to go over my shoulders, it secures the bag, no hands can go inside, no zippers to open. Longchamp is expensive, but worth it. I bought both my bags in the Duty Free shops at different European Airports and saved $50-60 on each bag over Nordstroms or other US stores.
Centennial, CO USA 02/07/2013
Wow! Sarah from Austin, the idea about clear leftover linen bags is awesome! I love Rick's idea about buying your toiletries when you get there- it's "local" and you might have more interesting souvenirs to take home!
Houston, Texas USA 02/07/2013
For women who want to carry a purse rather than a backpack, the Longchamp 'pliage' bag is VERY light and can fold up to fit in your luggage. I see women with this bag in New York and Paris - it is chic but not flashy. Also, the fabric is waterproof, which makes it functional as a beach bag.
NYC, NY USA 02/03/2013
Amazing how light you can pack!
I've only been traveling abroad for 2-3 years but after my daughter made me spend 12 days in Europe with only a single backpack, I've become a true believer! I use the Rick Steves Rolling Backpack and take 2 pairs of polyester Dockers, 4 Royal Robbins Expedition L/S shirts, 4 ExOfficio underwear, Marmot lightweight rain jacket, Kuhl fleece pullover. Add my Rick Steves toiletry kit and microfiber towel, mini-ipad and small travel camera and lastly the Rick Steves Da Vita Day pack. I wash at least every other night in the sink and could live for a month if needed. I was one of those people who used to take everything possible on a trip, I now find it rather liberating to grab my carry on/backpack and enjoy the journey! I do not work for any of these companies I just did a lot of experimenting and found they worked the best for me.
Wichita, KS USA 02/02/2013
First trip overseas, still packed light!
For two weeks in Berlin, I brought a carry-on and a briefcase. The briefcase was my under-the-seat bag, so I packed snacks for the flight, guidebooks, all my electronics like camera, iPod, etc., and I packed inside another bag that I used as my "daybag," a small Army surplus bag with inside pockets originally used to carry a gasmask, just large enough to carry essentials like maps, a phrasebook, camera, and a sweater, but small enough to not look like a backpack tourist.
Even with just a carry-on, I managed to pack in an extra pair of shoes, a suit (the carry-on had a fold-out suit bag), and a week's worth of clothes. And I still had room to pack in extra clothes I bought while I was there. The trick is using every single square inch--rolled up socks inside shoes, folding big items flat and using smaller items like underwear in the nooks and crannies. If you can fit your fingers in a cranny, it's not packed tight enough! :)
Seattle, WA USA 11/14/2012
Hey .... Don't leave your underwear behind (no pun). No one wants to find it regardless if it's in a plastic bag. Just throw them away at home... And, leave a nice tip for the room attendant instead. Thanks.
Scottsdale, AZ USA 10/22/2012
My fiance and I spent 18 days in Italy with only one carry-on sized backpack a piece. It was fabulous.
What I packed and used (yes, I had more packed but could have done without): -Three quick-dry T shirts from EMS - handwash in sink at night and they are dry in the AM to wear again! -Two pair Northface pants- the kind that can roll up to capris and zip off to shorts -rain jacket from LL Bean with hood -Keen sandals -One dress with pashmina and heels -Zip-up sweater -of course underwear and bras -Toiletries were travel sized- dont forget what you dont bring you can buy. -I also brought disposable cloths from EMS that I cut into quarters to use for washrags. Use twice and toss.
This was the lightest I have ever traveled (not a heavy packer to begin with). I also had a day bag with a zipper that I could lock w a TSA travel lock to prevent pick-pockets. and the standard money belt! We Loved the freedom of not lugging around a suitcase!!
Buffalo, NY USA 10/20/2012
I make my own solid lotion and (palm free) multi purpose soap bars. They are free of nasty chemicals and do not require a plastic bottle so are ecofriendly as well. I use the soap on my hair, face, body and it works for laundry. So easy to pack!
Fairbanks, AK USA 10/12/2012
Packing for train travel
Found out on our recent trip why you really need to pack light, as well as compactly, especially if you plan to travel by train. We used all three varieties of trains [INVALID] the local, the regional and the high-speed. Some of the smaller stops are literally two minutes long. You have to carry all of your belongings, often through aisles obstructed with luggage and get on or off QUICKLY, or you'll find yourself riding to the next station. You can't count on rolling your suitcase (often because the aisle is too narrow or obstructed). And you need to be able to fully lift your luggage over your head, because those overhead racks are high, and often are the only space available on a crowded train. And train stations [INVALID] trains are, of course, at ground level, but to get you to your correct track, you and your luggage are going down stairs, under tracks and up lots of stairs. Larger stations may have some small elevators or escalators, but don't count on them working. We used trains from Wiesbaden to Paris via Cologne, Rome to Innsbruck via Padua, and Innsbruck to Frankfurt via Munich, so these lessons are based on consistent experience. The takeaway is this: the trains are fun and very handy, but be ready for them. You need to be able to move quickly while carrying all your gear (there really isn't anyone to help you with it). Don't know if I could possibly get by with the minimalist set of "luggage" that Rick carries, but the closer you can get to it, the better!
Mentor, OH USA 10/05/2012
Women packing light
Followed Rick's Packing List for Women and used Magellan & Eagle Creek packing cubes. I also used Rick's lightweight red tote bag, the hanging toiletries bag and the folding tote bag - all indespensible!
Venice, FL USA 09/26/2012
Washing clothes while traveling light
In France this summer, we went to the laundry mat to wash clothes. There was a pizza restaurant with sidewalk seating one door over, so we had pizza while our clothes washed. Also we met a nice couple from Australia and another girl from Canada. Loved talking to them about their travels. Another fun thing about packing light! Happy travels.
Dallas, TX USA 09/22/2012
Traveling Light for Several Years
For two weeks of vacation in France this year and Italy last year, I packed 4 outfits: 1 pair of capris, 1 pair of long black pants, 1 skirt, 1 dress, 3 tops, 1 long-sleeve top, 1 black cardigan sweater & a black jacket (all typical clothes from Macy's but materials that dry fast w/out wrinkling), 2 bright-colored scarves, 4 pair of underwear, a pair of black sandals that work with dresses, a pair of comfortable Keens (no socks), lightest silky nightgown. We stay at hotels at least two nights, so we wash clothes every evening or every other day in the hotel sink and roll up in the towel to speed up drying. I bring two 10-packs of Woolite for detergent. It only takes us a few minutes to wash. I bring one hotel sample of shampoo in case the first hotel doesn't have shampoo. Makeup is a tube of foundation, mascara, and lip balm along with toothbrush/paste, comb, and Aspirin. I bring my Kindle for plane/train reading, and the ipod shuffle to listen to music – neither needs their recharger for this time period. I don't bring a purse, just the moneybelt. My husband packs similarly, and he places his backpack inside his suitcase through airports and train stations. My classic RS roller suitcase is about one-fourth empty, so I have room for something fun to bring home. We easily managed the Venice bridges, the Paris subways, the walk up to our hotel in a village in the Dolomites, etc.
Mill Creek, WA USA 09/04/2012
RS Rolling Back Pack
I've noticed some comments about the new RS Rolling Back Pack and tipping when the bag is fully packed. I've just returned from an RS 14 day tour of Scandinavia and used this bag. I found that the way the bag is packed makes all the difference. When I packed the bag carelessly on the fly, it did tend to to tip. But, when I took time to pack the bag properly, it stood fine on it's own. I put heavy things to the bottom and made sure that items packed in the inner lid pocket were evenly distributed. Using our packing cubes with this bag really helps, too. As a bonus, I was able to test the bag in an Easy Jet template at the airport in Stockholm and it fit perfectly!
Rick's Product Manager
Edmonds, WA USA 08/21/2012
I always photocopy pages from my travel books that I think I will use, or I tear them out of the book to bring if I don't need the entire guide. Or - if I need the whole book with me, I throw out sections once I've visited those towns.
As for carrying toiletries, I use lots of ziploc bags. That way you can see what's inside of each one and you won't have a mess in your suitcase if your shampoo leaks. I also carry a large plastic bag for stowing dirty laundry until I get to a place with a washing machine/laundrymat.
Don't feel inclined to buy expensive trial-sized toiletries. You can always take the full size items you already have at home (like shampoo, powder, lotion) and pour them into small containers. Just don't do this with anything that needs to stay sterile in the bottle, like contact lens solution.
Narragansett, Ri USA 08/05/2012
Getting the most out of carry-on allowance
Re: Getting the most out of carry-on allowance
Be careful because some airlines will not allow two carry-ons when you return. No purse, backpack, etc. We had that problem when I brought a group of students back from London.
Louisville, KY USA 07/25/2012
Getting the most out of carry-on allowance
The allowance is one case and one "personal item" - meant to be a briefcase or similar. The Lands End size medium canvas tote is exactly the max measurement, and they have a zip-topped version. Great for visiting a market once you arrive.
Victoria, BC Canada 07/21/2012
As a notorious overpacker, two trips to Italy were made much easier because I made use of laundromats. In Florence I stayed at the Best Western Grand Adriatico and there was a laundromat two doors down. In between the laundromat and the hotel was a bar with patio seating. While my laundry was washing, I had a glass of wine and felt like a local. In Sorrento, I found a laundromat at the corner of Via del Corso (the main street) and Via degli Aranci. I grabbed a beer at the market next door and people watched while I waited. The laundromats allowed me to pack just a weeks worth of clothing for a two-week trip and I got to chat with other travelers and locals for some great dining tips.
New York, NY USA 07/10/2012
Pack As a Couple
If you travel as a couple, pack as a couple. Avoid duplicates in toiletries, co-ordinate colours (so you don't have to separate colours for washing). We use those Eagle Creek Pack-It folders. Take only one folding board. Avoid situations where you have a dressy dress but he only has super-casual.
Victoria, BC USA 07/07/2012
Packing cubes are like drawers in your suitcase. I never go anywhere without them. It's so easy to pull out these cubes as opposed to digging through your suitcase for that one item. Going through the X Ray machine is simplified in case the TSA has any question about what you're packing.
San Diego, CA. USA 07/04/2012
Great travel dress
Just received and tried on the Magellan In Transit dress and all I can say is "Wow". You can wear it so many different ways and it is not complicated to figure out how to do that like some others out there.
It will be the first thing I pack in my Rick Steves backpack along with a pretty scarf for my upcoming European trip.
New Orleans, LA USA 06/05/2012
Wearable carryon sport coat
Someone mentioned a vest below, I'd also like to mention another kind of "wearable carry on" called the Presentation Jacket from Duluth Trading company. It's durable, has tons of pockets including two hidden zipper pockets. When I'm going through security, I zip up all my change, keys, iPhone, money, etc. in the zippered pocket of the jacket and put it through the x-ray. People are less likely to steal a jacket. It also has tons of pockets inside the jacket big enough for passports, phones, tickets, etc.. It also has gussets for freedom of movement for us bigger guys which makes it comfortable enough to wear while sitting down.
Durham, NC USA 06/05/2012
Picking the correct bag
The easiest way to pack light is to first choose the correct bag. If you are doing carry on or checked, first look at the weight of the bag itself. Wheels always weight more. If you are able bodied, consider a convertible style bag, one with hidden backpack straps. Choosing a smaller bag in any case will make you pack less. Consider that you really only need a few days worth of clothing for any length trip. Plan to wash in the sink, or find a laundry. Make a packing list and stick to it. Take essentials, and left the "fashion" stuff behind for standard travel. Layout your "outfits" and make sure everything coordinates (women). 2 pairs of shoes is a must, wear one on the plane and pack the other..your feet will thank you. Always bring a light sweater and a rain coat..you don't need an umbrella, a coat with a hood is better..your legs are going to get wet no matter what!
Cool, Comfy Feet
Before our first European trip I was blessed to discover Grasshoppers canvas slingback sandals (the kind with elastic crisscrossing the arch and velcro across the toes). They are like walking on clouds. Now I practically live in them at home and abroad. This year's version is "Sunrise." (last year's unfortunately was NOT comfortable, but for the past five years, *ahhh*). If you can't find them locally, try Amazon for good deals. A great surprising plus is how comfortable they are without socks. After a few days of constant wear they can, naturally, get a little smelly. This is helped by spraying your feet with deodorant.
Bluff City, TN USA 04/20/2012
All TSA-type "gotcha" stuff (coins, keys, electronics) go in a one-gallon ziploc with NAME on it before I leave home. Instantly thru security line, pick it up, THEN at gate spend time putting everything away where you want it.
Columbus, Ohio USA 04/16/2012
When you need your shoulders covered
Check out Holy Clothing's "Sunita" dress. http://holyclothing.com/index.php/dresses.html It's a sleeveless dress with an over-dress that buttons at the shoulders to covert to a shawl. And a very flattering cut.
Austin, TX USA 04/07/2012
zip locks FREEZER bags best
It's worth the tiny extra weight to always use freezer zip lock bags for packing. Their extra strength means safety and reusability, even in the cosmetic kit. Also, use a brand name one, the cheaper ones can disappoint. A fairly large one is also nice for dirty clothes!
Schenectady, NY USA 04/06/2012
Daypacks not always necessary during the day
Sometimes I think people go overboard on the daypack thing, thinking they must carry a daypack with them wherever they go during the day, even when they're just walking around the city they have a hotel room in. Carrying a daypack around in a town or a city marks you as a tourist and makes you a target for thieves. Ask yourself if you would carry a daypack with you when out and about in your hometown on a Saturday. If not, then you don't need one while exploring a city you have a hotel room in. Daypacks are handy, however, if you are headed out all day into the surrounding countryside or another town for the day.
I also find daypacks handy on small overnight to few days jaunts away from a city you will be returning to where you can store your luggage. In fact, I managed well one time living out of a 12"X15"X5" daypack for 5 days in Greece. In addition to the slacks, shirt, undershirt, boxers, socks, shoes I was wearing, the bag contained a longsleeve and shortsleeve shirt, shorts that could double as bathing suit, undershirt, boxers, socks, cap, synthetic travel towel, silk dreamsack, guidebook pages, book, camera, and basic toiletries. That was some liberating travel.
Houston, TX USA 04/02/2012
Packing Light and Smart
In 2007 we purchased from eBags two of their Weekender eTech Convertible backpacks with lifetime warranties for an upcoming 6-week trip to Europe. We love these bags: They are large enough for relatively light packing for 6 weeks, yet small enough to fit in the overhead bins on the plane. We also use eBags' packing cubes. For a six-week trip through Europe, I packed: 1 rainshell, 1 lightweight fleece jacket, 1 pair waterproof walking shoes, 1 pair walking sandals, 2 tshirts (modal/cotton blend), 2 short sleeve and 2 long sleeve (with tabs) UPF 50 shirts, one sleeveless shirt, swimsuit, 1 casual skirt or skort, 1 pant with roll-up legs that converts to capris, 1 pant with zip-off legs that convert to shorts, 1 pair capris, 4 pairs of socks, 5 undies and 5 lightweight bras, two lightweight nighties, and 2 scarves (one pashmina and one gauze). We did laundry every 7 to 10 days, and I always had an appropriate outfit for every occasion and weather condition. For my day bag, I use either the Rick Steves' Veloce bag, or the Travelon Large Anti-theft Tour Bag, both of which can be carried as a shoulder/cross-body bag or as a backpack.
Surrey, BC Canada 03/15/2012
I suggest getting your guidebooks COMB-BOUND at Kinko's/FedExpOffice. You can remove the pages you want to take with you, but replace them when you get home--leaving the book intact. About $5 each. Also suggest Rick sell his books this way.
San Jose, Calif USA 03/10/2012
Parachute Blanket and CoolMax Blanket
I purchased a "parachute blanket" recently from Travelsmith. It rolls up into its own nylon bag (which remains attached to the blanket) and has four corner pockets which hold sand and/or any type of thing to weight the corners. This was one of the most useful items I have ever traveled with in 30+ years. Both my husband and I have a CoolMax blanket that we also have used for travel for many years now and both these items are invaluable. Both these items can be used for multiple things such as beaches, picnics, warm blanket, covering up in a sunny area, pillow when rolled up, etc. Just wanted to pass my two cents along in this regard.
Scotte Vest: I have purchased 3 items and they work fine to reduce the amount of stuff in your carryon luggage. Easily fit a camera, iPhone, IPad ( inside pocket) documents ahd a whole lot of other things. I even put a Cannon Camcorder in one of the pockets. Love the convertible where sleeves come off.
Branford, CT USA 03/06/2012
This is not a bag
I read an article today about carry-on luggage; somewhere in there they made mention of a coat by Scottevest that doubles as a carry-on bag. 33 concealed pockets, and you can fit an iPad, water bottle, all your documents, toiletries, and a couple of shirts, basically everything you need. I imagine you'd look quite shifty wearing that on the street though! [I'm posting this out of sheer amusement; am nowhere near the USA and had never heard of the company before]
Please be aware that Lufthansa and Allitalia airlines have severe carry-on bag dimensions, basically equal to an oversize briefcase: 21.6" x 13.7" x 9.8" on Alitalia, 21.6" x 15.7" x 7.8" on Luft. Goodbye, carry-on travel.
Estes Park, CO USA 02/28/2012
Goodbye, Carry-on travel
"Goodbye, carry-on travel."
No! Goodbye overpacking. The regulation size is over 2600 cu in. I've pared my "stuff" down to 1400 cu in. Add 100 cu in for the bag, and I still meet the limits with ease.
What I find is more difficult is the weight limit, 17.6#. But by choosing a light weight non-wheeled bag and consciously eliminating unnecessary, weighty things, I meet that limit with pounds to spare.
Littleton, CO USA 02/28/2012
Ok...here's my 2 cents worth...for most trips of at least 10 days for summer travel...I take 3 skirts, 6 tops, 3 dresses, 2 belts, 2 scarves, 1 PJ set, 2 shoes...one sandal, one closed toes...5 undies and 3 bras. The skirts and the dresses are made of that wonderful stretch fabric that packs in almost no space at all. I call them rubber clothes. I take 6 tops because I sweat a lot and hate to wash clothes while traveling. My smallest toiletrie bag that hangs up in the bathroom, my Ipad and charger...filled with books, etc...and that's it...carry on is the best way to go!!
Florid USA 02/26/2012
Scrubba wash bag
I just ordered a Scrubba bag, after having read the previous post. The inventor, Ash Newland, emailed me and said he would send me a prototype, as they are still awaiting enough orders to start mass production. I must say, it looks like a wonderful product for those of us who refuse to send clothing out through the hotel, or to sit in a laundromat for hours.
VA USA 02/02/2012
Reducing clothes when traveling
Last year traveling in Europe I met a guy who invented the Scrubba wash bag. Its essentially a lightweight waterproof bag with a flexible washboard inside. I just saw a video of it in use and thought I would share it here (http://youtu.be/H7lLzVltvmc). I reckon it could easily cut down on the amount of clothes you need to pack and get around having to pay for laundry which I found to be very expensive even in hostels in Europe.
Sydney, NSW Australia 01/30/2012
If you want to pack light, start with the luggage. My wife and I traveled through France for 15 days during the summer. We each brought one carry-on size bag. Don't pack at the last minute, plan ahead. If you pack clothes that coordinate, and are made of light weight, fast drying material, you will be amazed at the amount of clothes you can pack. I packed 5 days worth of clothes and had to hand wash each outfit twice. You may have to wash a few items here and there, but it beats carying around multiple bags through streets, airports and rail stations. Just about every B&B we stayed at had a hot towel bar, it works great for drying clothes fast.
The Woodlands, TX USA 01/16/2012
I don't like the bulk and weight of a regular handbag, so I sew Velcro strips on the openings of the Eco-bags meant for groceries. The bags weigh next to nothing, hold up to 40 pounds, are colorful, and don't look like a purse to potential thieves. Just stick your arm through the handle holes and grab the bag when you are in a crowd. For shopping, keep a second bag rolled up inside this bag.
Burlington, NC USA 01/14/2012
I wear one pair of black Mary-Jane style Merrell shoes all week long. Since I don't like to wear socks, I take 2-3 extra pair of insoles and change those like socks! Super comfortable, really. I also "modified" a lightweight jacket for travel. It's a black car-length with a belt, so dressy enough for Paris, but no "safe" pockets. I sewed a velcro pocket inside for my valuables, tacked the belt down in the back so it wouldn't get lost, and even strategically sewed a button on the shoulder to hook my purse over. Obviously, I still have to hold it but you would be surprised how much it helps not to have to hitch my shoulder all day to hold my bag. When I need cash, it's easy enough to reach inside the velcro pocket. In the spring, it never got too hot to wear, even inside! We take lots of photos so I bought scarves to wear and for souvenirs. They helped to give me variety. I'm taking the same plan to Seattle soon too!
Indianapolis, Indian USA 01/08/2012
Free Cubes & Wrinkle Free
I save all zippered, durable plastic packaging that bed linens & drapes are sold in. They're clear, it's easy to see which items are in which cubes, and they're free. If I know that certain outfit pieces will get paired with others, those get zipped up together. No need to disturb the rest of the suitcase digging for one item. If you carefully roll the clothes and put them into the ones that 'just fit', they won't come out wrinkled.
One more tip. You've seen the travel spray bottles of Downy Wrinkle Free to release wrinkles in your unpacked clothes? You can make the same formula by diluting fabric softener - about 6 parts water to one part softener. Put it in a small spray bottle, and you'll be wrinkle free. Be sure right after you've sprayed your shirt or dress to run your hand down the front & back to help release any stubborn wrinkles.
Austin, TX USA 01/06/2012
A wonderful website I've discovered:
It sells a variety of carry-on friendly goodies that aren't available in stores.
Nashville, TN USA 01/05/2012
Tricks for packing light
Many of the earlier posts have had some great tips: bring 2 or 3 pairs of travel underwear and socks that you can wash out. This is a great alternative to throwing things away, especially if you travel a lot (and most of these items can be used for everyday wear too). For men, Ex Officio and Magellans make good underwear, and I've found that most women's underwear is normally pretty thin and fast drying. My favorite socks are the Tilley travel socks, which are very light weight and dry overnight. They are a little expensive, but they are guaranteed for 3 years, and I love them for everyday wear. Previous suggestions of bringing soap leaves, using shampoo for washing clothing, or bringing a small amount of Camp Suds or other travel wash in a small container, also work well. The advantage of bringing these items is that your luggage is lighter and more compact from the very beginning of your trip.
MT USA 01/04/2012