On the way back it was a different story, because I bought too many heavy souvenirs and damaged my shoulder trying to lift one of those bags overhead in Paris. I'm pretty sure I have rotator cuff surgery in my future, because it hurts to lift that arm all the time now. *sigh*. It happens, I suppose. Next trip - sorry, family, but I won't be bringing everybody a t-shirt, and I may be doubling up on wearing mine coming back. Air France at Charles de Gaulle airport was wise to require me to check my bag on the way back, and they did me a favor in doing so.
I took my small rolling suitcase (smaller than the required carry on size) and my 31 Weekender bag as my personal item. I had previously modified it with several lightweight mesh pockets for organization, but things still got lost in there. :(. Sure, it weighs only ounces and came in a gorgeous purple paisley fabric that I just adore, but it has a serious lack of efficiency and structure, even with my very handy pockets.
So I managed to travel there lightly, but I still had to search forever for my stuff in my cavernous bag. When I took it on the tour bus with me (because I needed stuff in it -- for example, the duct tape that saved me from a crippling case of plantar fasciitis, the travel blanket that kept me and my roommate from freezing), snacks for my low blood sugar, it just took up too much room in our seating area. The same thing happened on the plane. The bag just kind of flopped around and I still had to dig and search to find what I needed.
What I want from my baggage:
* Light weight, so that I don't run afoul of baggage restrictions at airports.... or hurt myself again.
* Enough structure that my bag can stand up while I'm looking for something inside.
* Small size so that I can squish it away easier under a seat and have less space in which to lose things.
* Organization so that I can find things fast and the little stuff doesn't explode all over the insides of my bags.
On the next trip I will use my tour company's provided backpack (the most expensive backpack I've ever bought!! Lol) as my "personal item" because it will be much smaller, continue to use my roller suitcase because it works best for me, and bring a very lightweight pack-in-its-own-pouch daypack to keep on the tour bus and carry around on the walking tours. It's just smaller against my back when it isn't loaded full. The EF Tours backpack still takes up more space, even empty.
Some things you need on the bus when traveling to a new city, and the rest, like your clothes, are better left in the baggage hold under the bus. Things I or group members needed last time: protein & carb snacks, nausea medicine, tissues, wipes, zip bags, travel pillows, travel blanket, notepad & pen, diarrhea medicine, allergy meds, duct tape, eye drops, hand sanitizer, rain ponchos, paper towels, umbrellas. In airports and on trains, we have also needed breath mints, bandages, a sewing kit, toothpicks, ibuprofen, a mirror, water bottle, charging cables, and a small flashlight.
There are lots of tutorials out there on the internet for making "survival kits" from empty mint tins, and I think one with all those teeny items that tend to rattle loose in a backpack or daypack would be better off in a small tin. Currently I'm fighting a battle in my teacher bag to keep my lemon and stevia packets from exploding in the bottom of the bag. They could also be corralled nicely in a tin.
Here are some of my favorite tin tutorials:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Stealthy-Altoids-Tin-Man-Grooming-Kit/?amp_page=true (This one shows how to add a mirror)
What will I put in mine? As much of the following that will fit:
Mini sewing kit
Ibuprofen & tummy meds
Wet Ones wipes
Insect repellent wipes- because Scotland has tiny biting insects that I hear will make me crazy.