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Carry on luggage only with a family travelling to Europe?

Carry on luggage only with a family travelling to Europe?

Jan 26th, 2014, 08:26 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2010
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Carry on luggage only with a family travelling to Europe?

We are a family of four (2 kids aged 11 and 8) who are planning a trip to Europe. We will be visiting London, train to Paris and then visiting family in Malta before travelling by train in Italy (Rome, Florence and Venice).

I have been reading about packing light and can certainly see the advantages of taking carry on bags only but am wondering if any families have done this and if they were successful. I am particularly worried about the 7kg weight restriction that most airlines have. The kids are quite happy to have their own bags. I am quite guilty of packing way too much and have certainly paid for this on previous holidays.

Any advice would be great, even recommendations of particular bags.

Thanks very much!
emmamarie is offline  
Jan 26th, 2014, 08:44 PM
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You can always pay for additional luggage on the European airlines.

But, with all that train travel, it's truly best if everyone is lugging only what they can comfortably manage in train stations (where there are often many stairs involved) and on the trains.

Most people find it easier to manage smaller bags than one large and heavy bag plus tote, backpack, etc.
djkbooks is offline  
Jan 26th, 2014, 09:01 PM
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I have traveled as a family of four with even bigger kids with carry-on only. Or shall I say, I don't allow them to take any more. Even that, kids don't use even half of what they brought.

Carry-on luggage does not mean you never check luggage whose weight limit is higher. I travel with 20" or 22" carry-on size, but I often check such luggage especially when I am carrying not carry-on not allowed items such as bottles of wine or olive oil from Italy.

So does it still make sense to do carry-on "sized luggage" only? Absolutely.

If you have taken just one train, you will realize just how much lifting you have to do. Also, hotels may not have elevator to your room or there are steps between the elevator and your room. Even if there is an elevator, I sometimes carry my luggage up stairs when I see a big family with many huge luggage waiting for a tiny elevator. You will fit better in taxis as well.

There are videos on this subject at youtube such as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEGHdQGz0ug.
What often eats up your luggage space are "what if" and "one use only" items. More you travel, more you realize, or should realize that many things you thought must have can be eliminated or use something else. I see many take full size noise cancellation headphones. Besides on the plane, where else do they use them? Yes, they are nice, but I use high end ear buds that block out engine noise just as well, and oh it uses so little space!
Many people don't realize that they can wash clothes as they go. It does not have to be laundromat or expensive hotel laundry. If you choose materials carefully and choose high performance quick dry items, they dry less than overnight, takes up less space, and have wider operating range than simple cotton. Heavy cotton items don't dry overnight. Many people are so used to washing machine/iron dependent items that they don't realize there is a big market exists for people who need to travel light and be able to wash and dry items quickly.

I see many people bring jacket(s!) for each temperature range. That is what they do at home, but does it have to be that way? It is possible to layer by using light jacket only, sweater only, sweater and jacket together, etc to cover the same temperature range. What you see is that people bringing multiple jackets could just as well cover the same temperature by using a sweater they already have in their luggage. They are carring double/triple the items needed.
greg is offline  
Jan 26th, 2014, 09:06 PM
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Here is another video on packing light, by Rick Steves
greg is offline  
Jan 26th, 2014, 09:49 PM
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Thanks Greg. I just watched the videos. They really have given me a lot to think about. Now I just have to find the right bags. I like the rick steeves roller on bag - I have a bad back so don't think a backpack would work for me. Just need to find something similar in Australia that is light weight
emmamarie is offline  
Jan 26th, 2014, 11:11 PM
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Especially for the kids, I really recommend backpacks, ones with a proper hip band so the weight is carried on their hips and not their shoulders. We have a Sierra brand laptop bag which we have found perfect for this purpose. A backpack is better for their backs and leaves their hands free. Even when I want to take more (like you, I find it hard to cut down sometimes) I take a daypack and a very small roller (about 35litres).

From Australia, the hand luggage weight allowances can vary.

When our kids were a similar age to yours we travelled from Australia to Europe for 5 weeks. The 9 year old carried 5kg and the 12 year old 7kg and they had plenty of stuff (including a soccer ball). The only thing we carried for them were toiletries (which we shared). The rule we made was - if you want to take it you have to carry it yourself - and it worked a treat. Also, less stuff meant less hassle when we had to pack up and move to the next destination.

We took a small container of liquid clothes washing detergent and washed as needed enroute in the bathroom sink. And occasionally the apartment we stayed in would have a washing machine but this wasn't essential. Of course standards slipped but who cares?!

Large, heavy bags are just a drag!
dreamon is offline  
Jan 26th, 2014, 11:47 PM
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We travelled between the USA and Australia and South Pacific for 19 years (2 adults + 2 kids) using just roll-ons + one jacket each. They switched to backpacks when they were teens.

Now that the kids are adults and travel all over the globe they still only travel light. It's become easier and easier now with the extraordinarily light luggage being manufactured.
ThulaMama is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 12:40 AM
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Hi dreamon

I am not sure if my kids will handle a backpack but we have enough time to experiment so I will see what works best. I will check out the sierra brand online.
Thanks everyone for your advice!!
emmamarie is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 12:41 AM
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your kids are probably a bit too old for these videos but still useful

lelee092 is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 12:45 AM
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I usually check a bag, even though all the suitcases I normally use are carry-on size. I hate having to drag even a small suitcase through the airport. The problem is not so much checking the bag as being burdened with excess luggage on trains and on the street.

I recently spent 10 days in the US with a carryon bag so small that it slipped under the seat in front of me, plus a very small purse. Still, I had two shirts I never wore. I was at my daughter's house, so I did a little laundry, but normally I don't do laundry at all. If I should have to wash something, I use the hotel shampoo as a detergent.

We are rarely away from home for more than two weeks; for longer trips a little washing of clothing would be needed. I see you'll be visiting family in Malta midway in your trip. This sounds like an excellent chance to do laundry.

I always plan on wearing each item multiple times. I make sure all the tops match all the slacks (or skirts). I normally don't plan on "dressing for dinner", but if I need to, I bring just one very packable outfit that's a bit more elegant. I always bring at least two pair of very comfortable walking shoes or sandals, that can be worn with all the outfits. Socks and underwear are the things that need to be changed most often, but these are small, and can be stuffed in corners and crevices of the suitcase. I always stuff some socks inside the extra pair of shoes, for example. Also, socks and underwear are the only things I don't mind washing in the hotel sink.

I plan on wearing the slacks four or five times each, and the tops three or four times. In the summer, I wear things fewer times, but the items are not as heavy, so they still pack into the same space. Everything matches everything else, and nothing is a color that will show light soil. In the evening I spot clean things that have spills on them.

I looked at the Rick Steves video whose link was given above; I agree with most of what he says, but I could teach him a few things. I also disagree about bringing one pair of shoes. I suspect that if you wear the same pair of shoes every day for two weeks, they'll reek by the time you get home. I always bring two pairs of very sturdy and comfortable shoes (or walking sandals in the summer) and alternate them.
bvlenci is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 01:04 AM
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Don't your kids carry a backpack to school? I thought most primary schools in Australia have their kids carry backpacks in preference to any other sort of bag. But of course, they have to be comfortable with that. I would go with whatever they feel best about, allowing that they will have to lift them up onto trains, up stairs, etc.

And, for your own bags, absolutely agree with you that the weight of the bag empty is really important. Some weigh as much as 5kg empty which doesn't leave a lot of allowance for the things you really want to take. The lightest rolling suitcases I've seen around are about 2kg or just over. It's worth hunting them out.
dreamon is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 01:31 AM
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Dreamon you are very sensible.. thank you!! They do in fact carry a large backpack to school although i drop them off at the gate so they don't really need to walk very far! I think i might try packing their school bag with what i think they will need and see how heavy it is.

bvlenci I have also liked your post - thanks!
emmamarie is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 03:24 AM
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When people say travel with carry-on they are usually talking about the transatlantic type carry-ons which are much larger than intereuropean sizes - esp for budget airlines.

One then has to check those bags for the local flights allowing only 7kg of carry-on (way less than the weight and a smaller size the regular transatlantic carry-ons).

And not sure if an 8 year old will bea ble to carry a regular size carry-on.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 04:57 AM
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I'm a big fan of carry on only... with kids. Although I do admit, we sometimes expand into an extra bag on the way home and check that.

We are a family of 5 - we generally do this: I carry a backpack (daypack sized) and when moving between locations, I take all electronics and valuables. I may also have a rolling suitcase (smaller size). Each kid carries a backpack - like they carry to school. It is a trade off between size and weight - we also try to pack them so that we are only digging in one bag for "entertainment" on the plane/train and the others stay intact. We may end up stuffing clothes in one of those. The kids also end up sharing a rolly suitcase - not uncommon that they fight over who is in charge!

One thing with rolling suitcases - I have found the ones with 4 wheels are much easier for kids - they just end up pushing them through the airport/station. Much easier than the old 2 wheeled ones where you end up placing strain on your arm/shoulder as they are heavy.

My husband ends up carrying basically his work/pc bag and his duffel and the 4 of us share 2 rolling suitcases and backpacks and we can make it pretty easily.

This is basically what we pack:
- 2 pr. shoes per kid - wear one, pack one
- 2 pr. jeans per kid - wear one, pack one
- wear a hooded sweatshirt on the plane - this is nice to pull up the hood and go to sleep, but also nice to have a front pocket to stick glasses, tissues, etc. into
- pack 2 lighter weight sweatshirts
- 4 tees
- sweatpants or yoga pants are packed accessible. I allow the kids to wear these on overnight flights. Also double as pj's, so pj's aren't needed to be packed.
- long underwear tops and bottoms (our Spring Breaks have been cold) - these can also double as pj's
- sox and undies - 4 pr each. (Each kid gets their own gallon sized ziplock. I don't lose them in the bottom and can easily see when we are low. This also helps with organization.)

We don't do anything "fancy" or really need anything dressy. The girls may take a scarf or two and have learned to "dress up" a dark sweatshirt with a scarf. I also rent apartments where I can do laundry so I just get in the habit of every night running a load of laundry. The dryers aren't as great, so I will dry them as much as I can before I go to bed, and then hang them around the apartment. For coats, we have good "3 in 1's" - the fleece with the outer layer. Great to be able to say, 'just need the fleece' or 'just need the outer layer'.

One thing that will really add to the weight is books. If you have e-readers, that will help with the weight and the bulk. Of course, we always end up buying books in London, so we end up coming home with more books than we started with.
surfmom is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 05:19 AM
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I traveled with carry-on only (well, 90% of the time) for about 25 years before the new security rules made it sometimes too much of a pain on intercontinental flights, so now I check in a bag for about half of my big trips.

Only having carry-on is really a delight once you adjust your lifestyle to make it compatible. For example, I gradually learned exactly which clothing articles could be washed and dried overnight in a hotel room when necessary. Naturally, if you stay 3 nights in the same place, it isn't as much of a problem, but once you have found the wardrobe that is easiest to take care of overnight on a big trip, you never want to go back to the other stuff -- at least on trips like this.

I've noticed that some of the biggest bulk is in people's toiletries, especially those for women. As a man, I can travel with next to nothing in that department and get along fine, but many women seem to be totally addicted to various creams and lotions -- and if I say addiction, it is indeed because it is more of an addiction than a necessity. I have noticed that "world traveling" women don't have any of that stuff, at least they didn't when we went to Cambodia, Indonesia or Senegal, and they absolutely did not miss it either. In any case, in Europe you can buy anything like that just about anywhere rather than taking it on the plane, and you can dump it when you leave if it is too much trouble to carry.

I don't know if anybody mentioned it here, but one of the best baggage tests that you can do is to pack your bag with the things that you plan to take and then go and walk around the block with it all. In nearly every case, people find things that they decide to remove after doing that.
kerouac is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 05:28 AM
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I should also mention that I used only soft canvas style bags. I consider hard cases to be an incitation to take too much stuff, even if the case is cabin-sized, because if you pack it just three quarters full, it seems like a shame not to fill it up completely, and you also foolishly think that the difference in weight will be insignificant.

With a canvas bag, the result of just about every item added or removed can be seen and felt immediately. And it can also be convenient to have bags that can squish into small car trunks or overhead racks on trains.

By the same token, I have never owned a wheeled bag, because I consider them to be another incitation to take too much. My bags all have straps that I can sling over my shoulder if necessary. However, now that I am retired, I have not completely ruled out ever using a wheeled bag, perhaps 15 years from now.
kerouac is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 07:44 AM
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We do carryon only. Our family did a 3 week trip in winter that way, and DD did a study abroad term in college that way as well. We use the 21" rolling bags from Rick Steve's. They are pretty basic, but that is all we need, and they are very durable.

I do not take a hairdryer with me as hotels and apts have those. For toiletries, one way to cut down on things is to use contact lens cases. I put my moisturizer in one of those and it takes up minimal room. I also use a concentrated shampoo and conditioner and put those in 1 or 2 ounce bottles, depending on the length of trip.

Our kids have been taking their rolling bags since they were 4 and 7. At that time they had 19" bags, but when they were just a couple years older they too got the 21" bags and have been fine with hauling them around. Granted, on trains and such they did need help lifting them.
mms is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 07:50 AM
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Re kerouac's post . . . even toiletries addicted women can manage w/ carry on only -- an not give up any of their favorite products. Simply use travel/sample sizes and/or put a small amount of each product in small bottles/vials/tubs. If you don't have travel sized plastic containers, they are sold everywhere from Walmart to Target to supermarkets drug stores to travel shops to Nordstrom's. For things one uses very little of -- like most eye creams -- use contact lens cases.
janisj is online now  
Jan 27th, 2014, 09:08 AM
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re: kerouac's post about not using wheeled luggage.

I agree that sometimes there is the tendency to only fill it part way and feel "obligated" to fill it - I have discovered that we hate traveling with coats, so I always have them next to me when filling bags. If they fit in the bag, awesome! (and I know we can carry them on the way home if needed). The other thing I tend to use as a "filler" is food items. When traveling with families, it is nice to have snacks as needed, so I fill a few large ziplocks with snack items and they get eaten throughout the trip. Both of those options leave room for souvenirs for the way home!

The one thing to remember is that a kid cannot lug a canvas duffel bag, but they can manage a wheeled bag. (Actually, they usually manage a wheeled bag with a day pack on their back... which is pretty much impossible to carry both a canvas bag and a daypack) Like I mentioned, mine prefer to push it - which works well through airports and train stations.

Sometimes it is a little trial and error to figure out what works and at different stages... different things work well for families and then you grow out of them.
surfmom is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 10:22 AM
Join Date: Feb 2012
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We’re just starting traveling. My husband and I are planning our upcoming 20-day trip to London and Paris with carry-on only.

We will be bringing a collapsible carry-on, so if we buy too many souvenirs, we can check a bag on the return flight (since we’re each entitled to a free checked bag and it’ll be the end anyway). I think we’ll be able to manage leaving Paris with the three carry-on bags (two rolling), my purse, and his camera case.
propita is offline  

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