“I’ve been to almost as
many places as my luggage!
— Bob Hope
I feel like Pavlov’s dog when James pulls our backpacks out of the closet. I start drooling because I know there’s a treat just around the corner.
We’ve been traveling for a gazillion years. To say that we’re “seasoned travelers” is, well, just being polite. Living out of a suitcase is second nature to us – whether we’re on a 9 month RTW or a quick jaunt to London.
One of the questions we’re always asked is, “How do you pack all your stuff for a trip?”
Easy. We use the KISS principle – Keep It Super Simple.
Over the years we’ve traveled with every type of luggage imaginable – from good ol’ Samsonite hardsides and Army duffle bags, to Rick Steves backpacks and real backpacks. And we’ve learned 5 things:
1. Pick the right bag for your trip.
If you’re going trekking in Nepal or hiking the Appalachian Trail you’re going to need a serious backpack. For a fortnight in Dublin … not so much. And for a weekend in Florida – even less – because those cheap tickets you bought will only allow you to stuff a small bag under the seat!
2. Travel extremely light.
You need to be able to take care of your own bag with no help from others. Whether you’re lifting it into the overhead bin on a plane, or tossing it on top of the bus in Kenya, make sure you can do it all by yourself.
3. Plan to carry on.
Choose a bag that fits the carry-on requirements of all the airlines you plan to use. Then the airline won’t lose your luggage, and the small size will be self-limiting. You can only cram so much into it, so you’ll have to think very carefully about the items you choose. It’s like portion control for luggage.
4. Require your bag to work harder than you.
You have enough to think about when you’re traveling – new languages, currencies, and terrain. You need a bag that does its job without giving you grief. If it’s a backpack it needs a great waist belt to distribute the load. And a wheeled bag needs good wheels and an adjustable length handle to tag along easily behind you.
5. Make friends with your bag.
For the next weeks or months your bag is going to be your best friend … or worst enemy. We’ve learned to do trial runs before any trip – especially if we’re working with a new bag. We not only do trial packing, we try living out of the bag for a week so that we can work out the kinks while we’re on familiar turf instead of struggling on foreign soil.
So you may be wondering what we use. Our go-to choice is a small rolling backpack. Talk about versatile! Effortless to roll through airports and city streets – and just as easy to convert to a backpack for cobblestones and stairs.
For our most recent RTW (Round-the-World Trip) we used High Sierra rolling backpacks. “How small is small?” you may ask. Their dimensions are 20″ x 13.5″ x 8” (that’s 51cm x 34cm x 20cm) which meets all major airlines size restrictions for carry-on luggage.
The next obvious question is “What do we pack in them?” We’ll save that for later.
So what are your favorite travel bags? We’d love to know.
Just remember, as James says,
“A rolling backpack gathers no moss.”
Terri & James
Last updated July 30, 2018
Photo Credit: 1. Sachi Gahan