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Packing Light


If you pack light, you’re more likely to enjoy your trip. Learn Rick’s tips on choosing the right luggage (carry-on size is best), clothing, shoes, travel info, and electronic gadgets.

Complete Video Script

Packing light is essential for happy travel. Think about it: Have you ever met anybody who, after five trips, brags, "Every year I pack heavier"? Learn now or you'll learn later the importance of being mobile with your luggage. Pack light.

While large, unwieldy suitcases are bad for this kind of travel, smaller, carry-on sized wheelie bags are popular and can work well.

If you don't mind slinging your suitcase over your shoulder, a bag like this works great. This is a convertible suitcase/backpack. It's designed to be as big as you can carry onto most airplanes. I use it as a backpack but if you zip away these padded shoulder straps, it converts into a soft-sided suitcase.

You’ll see all kinds of travelers and bags on the road. Remember, you'll be walking a lot with your bags — especially if traveling by train. Before your trip, try this test. Load everything up, and go downtown. Window shop for an hour with all your gear. If you can't do that comfortably, go home, spread everything out on the living room floor, and reconsider.

Pick up each item one at a time and look at it. Ask yourself, "Will I use this swimming mask enough to justify carrying it around?" Not "Will I use it?" It’d be great fun here on the Riviera. But will I use it enough to feel good about carrying it through the Swiss Alps? Frugal as I may be, I'd rather buy it here than pack it all around Europe.

Don't pack for the worst scenario. Pack for the best scenario and if you need something more, buy it over here.

If you run out of toothpaste, that’s no problem. Then, you’ve got a great excuse to shop around over here… and pick up something you think… might be toothpaste.

You can get virtually everything in Europe. If you can't get one of your essentials here, perhaps you should ask yourself how 400-million Europeans can live without it.

Whether traveling for two weeks or three months, I pack exactly the same. Everything I need fits in this bag. For travelers, Europe is casual. For warmth, layer it. In the summertime, I've got a light sweater and a light jacket. That works great. In the winter, of course, you’ll want to check climate charts and pack for rain and cold. For pants I like to wear these jeans. And, in the Mediterranean where it’s so hot and muggy, I bring a light pair of long pants, as well. A pair of shorts doubles as a swimsuit. For shirts: I have a T-shirt, two or three short-sleeved shirts, and I like to bring a couple of long-sleeved shirts.

The thing that determines when I need to do my laundry is when I run out of socks and underwear. How many you take is up to you. As far as shoes go, this is really important: bring one pair of well broken-in, sturdy walking shoes. If you bring a second pair of shoes make it a light one.

For travel information, this is really important, but don’t go too heavy on this — I bring a notebook, the maps I need, couple of chapters ripped out of various guidebooks, and my favorite guidebooks covering the places I’ll be traveling. I also have a toiletries kit: very small, just the basics — you’re on vacation. And a miscellaneous stuff bag full of odds and ends — you know…the ten essentials that you’ll never need. I didn't pack an umbrella. But it rained so I bought one. They're cheap over here. And when I'm out and about, I have my day bag.

For women, of course, there are differences and lots of clever tips. But it’s just as important to be mobile, and these same basic principles of packing light apply.

Now, let me talk about electronics. These days, there’ s WiFi just about everywhere. I bring a laptop — because I’m working; a little point and shoot camera works fine for me; I buy a simple cell phone over here — it’s handy for calling within Europe; and I bring my smart phone from home. These days, this is an increasingly valuable tool for those on the road. All of these are dual voltage — they work just fine in Europe. Your only concern is physically plugging it into the wall. Your American plug won’t work so you need one of two European adapters: in Britain you use the adapter with the three rectangular prongs, and anywhere on the Continent, the adaptor with the two little round prongs works just great.