Helpful Packing Tips

I’m currently traveling on a budget so it makes sense for me travel as a minimalist. This helps me go with the goal of carry-on only, which allows me to avoid luggage fees and move more nimbly around the world. This means that instead of having a bunch of nice outfits, I have a few high quality pieces that I can mix and match to produce a small but efficient travel wardrobe. Every single item in my bag must be necessary, and if it isn’t, then I won’t bring it.

If I travel to a new country and for weather or cultural reasons don’t have appropriate clothes, I go shopping in thrift stores or local markets, then leave some things behind when I depart for my next destination.


Travel Backpacks: Day and Night Combo

Traveling carry-on only is a personal preference that forces me to travel as a minimalist. This means I have very few articles of clothing that all somehow go together. I wear them a lot, over and over, which does get old and boring (I miss cute clothes!). But to spice things up I do supplement my travel outfits with random fun pieces I find in different cities as needed, depending on weather and circumstance. Like a sundress in Bali or a light jacket in San Francisco. But when I get something new, I typically either leave it or something else behind. My packing motto is something in, something out.

Fitting my life into two small bags takes careful planning. I use an Osprey hybrid combo, which consists of two backpacks that zip together to create one larger bag. I’ve yet to zip them together because they work so well independently so far, but it is an option. I pack the smaller bag to about 7 kilos and this stays with me at almost all times. It’s a well thought out backpack with cushioned compartments for my laptop, space for my camera, and smaller pockets for passports, scarf, headlamp, travel documents and more.

I try to keep the larger backpack at 10-14 kilos to limit airline fees. It has wheels that have been over more crazy cobblestones than I can list, and it’s still as tough as ever. It also has straps so that I can throw it up on my back, and use it as a back pack if needed. I have done this – and it worked well. When I climbed Mt. Arishiyama to see the monkey park, I put my larger wheeled backpack on my back, and put my daypack on my front.

Packing Cubes

I use packing cubes for round-the-world travel. Cubes keep me sane. I assign each cube a different clothes category, like “tops” or “bottoms.” For non-travel, this might be comparable to a shirt or sock drawer. The bottom line is, whenever I’m getting dressed and need to grab things quickly (especially if I’m rushing to check out of a hotel or go on a day tour), it’s easy to find what I’m looking for. There are tons of cubes to choose from. I use the thinnest kind available, which are similar to strong parachute material, which takes up less weight and space. Mine are white and slightly see-through, which makes it even easier for me to find my stuff. I have a cube for shoes too, so they stay together and won’t dirty up my clothes. Upon opening, my entire “bag” is filled with smartly organized “mini bags.”

Travel Digital Luggage Scale

This has been a godsend for solo travel but also when I’ve taken group trips. The travel scale lets me know if I need to lighten or redistribute my luggage contents before I head for the airport. So many airlines these days charge huge fees if your luggage is over a certain weight, so knowing exactly what your bag weighs before you leave can give you great peace of mind.

The digital scale was a huge help when I took a group trip to the Bahamas with 7 people. It’s small and easy to use – you just attach the scale’s hook to your bag, and lift it, and it instantly displays your bag’s weight. Before we left the house for our flight to Exuma, Bahamas, we were able to weigh everyone’s bag, and move things like dive goggles or flippers around so that no one’s bag was over the limit.

Another plus with travel scales is many offer weight in pounds or kilos which helps when you know if you’re over limits when traveling internationally.

Travel Tubes for Liquids

I swear by the squeezable travel tubes with suction cups that let you stick them to shower walls and bathroom mirrors. Trust me – not all hotel bathrooms are spotless so having the vertical wall suction option instead of putting your toiletries on the shower floor is great. I bought two packs of three 3-ounce tubes, for a total of six tubes in different colors (the different colors remind me what product is in which tube).

I originally bought the U.S. approved 3-ounce tubes to maximize my carry-on travel liquids, which consist of shampoo, conditioner, and face and body lotions. But when I traveled during the Paris attacks and the French airports were on code red, I ran into problems because French airport officials accused me of having tubes that were too big for international carry-on. It turns out the tubes weren’t too big, but I didn’t speak enough French to prove it at the time, so I had to leave the line and go to a different area in the airport to check my bags. Having liquids that are too big at the airport requires you to either trash them or opt for potentially luggage checks, both of which are expensive, and/or then losing your place in line, and risk missing your flight.

After the travel tube incident in Paris, I decided to downsize all my travel tubes to 1.5 ounce each and haven’t looked back. My bag is lighter, my toiletry pack is easier to get into. I do have to refill my tubes more frequently but it’s never been an issue and the smaller size is definitely still worth it to me.

Shoes I Travel With

I pack three pairs of shoes for travel: one nice pair of sandals, one pair of rubber Havaiana flip flops, and a pair of Nike running shoes. I wear the sandals every day, I use the flip flops at the beach and whenever I shower in hostels, and I use the running shoes for jogging and hikes. Sandals and flip flops do break down when you wear them so often, so I’ve replaced these a few times on the road at shops and local markets.