We’ve been dedicated travelers for about two decades. Our trips average about thirty days each and we’re gone about four months out of each year. While Covid slowed us down a bit we’re getting back to it again and we’re dusting off our travel essentials.
When we travel our basic packing includes two carry-on sized suitcases, which we usually check on flights, and two heavy duty backpacks that we carry onboard. We prefer these because it’s a combination we can easily manage ourselves, it costs a minimum to check (mostly free) and they carry all we really need if we pack wisely. By attaching the backpacks to the extended suitcase handles we can easily navigate city streets, buses and trains.
When selecting the essentials to carry there are three main criteria. Is it small, is it light weight and was it necessary? Every trip has been a learning experience and often we have discovered what things aren’t worth taking and what choices could be improved on.
Our very first suggestion is to put together your own emergency kit. We use a 4 x 7 inch zipper case that usually gets stashed in a mollie pouch on my backpack. Everyones needs are different but start with an abbreviated first aid kit. Packets of anti-bacterial gel, alcohol wipes and a few band aides. After that we add an eyeglass repair kit, a miniature screwdriver set, a tube of Super Glue, a pocket flashlight and a magnifier. We also add a small bottle with an assortment of over the counter pills.
What follows is a roundup of what we’ve learned and a few of our favorite discoveries. As a disclaimer we need to let you know that many of these items are linked to Amazon, and should you click and purchase it could provide us with a small commission.
Stumbling Around in the Dark. As we travel every room is an unfamiliar space. Getting up in the middle of the night can be an adventure. Stubbed toes, bruised shins and searches for bathroom lights. It’s remarkable how few rooms, both hotels and cruise ships, are equipped with nightlights?
A Great Nightlight This little gem is worth its weight in gold. It’s motion activated and recharges using any USB charger (cord included). It measures a small 2.2″ x 2.2″ x 1.1″ and weighs only 5 ounces.
With space and weight being a primary consideration, not only do we look for things that are small and light, we also try and select items that are multi-purpose or work together.
Never Enough Outlets? There are never enough outlets when you travel and keeping phones, cameras and tablets charged takes planning. This Portable Travel Adapter is compact in size and only takes up 1 wall socket. Ideal for smart phones, tablets, laptop and other electronic devices. 3 power outlets and 3 USB ports allow you to charge up to 6 devices simultaneously. Its high-speed USB ports automatically detect devices and deliver optimal charging speed, up to 2.4A per port. Only 2″ x 2″ x 2.5″ and 4.5 ounces
The Power Cube is a great choice for size and weight but there can be times when available outlets won’t allow it to plug in. International outlets usually require an adaptor and some outlets are recessed or are located in a confined space. Every traveler should have a set of international adaptors but it’s also a good idea to take along a short power extension cord too.
International Power Adopters
Don’t Go Without These. This set of adaptors should meet all your travel needs. Select and carry only those needed for the countries you’re visiting. Ultra Compact Size only measures 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.75″ with a Max Load Rating: 10-15A/250V. Includes 11 Grounded Types of International Adapters – AE (Type C), UK (Type G), AU (Type I), EU (Type E/F), JP (Type A), Switzerland (Type J), Israel (Type H).
While it doesn’t include a voltage converter most modern electronic devices will out switch to use the available current.
A Small Piece of Insurance. Every once in a while you’ll find a socket that won’t accept a charger or cube because the space is just too tight or the outlets are just too close together. This six inch extension cord will solve those problems.
Octopus Charging Cables
The Right Charging Cables. Not sure which charging cables to carry? This Multi Charging Cable is the answer. A short, 2 Pack of 6 inch octopus cables. Includes 1 Multiple USB Fast Charger Cord Adapter, a Type C, Micro USB connectors compatible with most Cell Phones/Tablets/Portable Charger including iPhones, Androids and type C devices.
International Power Charging Kit
Our Set of Must Haves. Our electric travel collection consists of a multi outlet Cube, a pigtail, socket adaptors and an octopus cable. It takes up only a space about 2 x 3 x 4 inches and separately can easily fit into small nooks in a suitcase or backpack.
It doesn’t include a voltage converter as most modern electronic devices will out switch to use any available current.
Today it’s becoming more common to find USB charging stations on airplanes, in airport waiting areas and hotel rooms, but when your phone’s dying and there is no charging port to be seen you need a backup.
Keep You Phone Charged – There are lots of power banks out there but we like this one for a couple of reasons. The price is good and it has three ports, 1 C and 2 USB out.
ENEGON 2-Pack Portable Charger Power Bank 10,000 mAh, Phone Charging Battery with a USB C port and Dual USB Outputs for iPhone, iPad, Galaxy S9, Tablets and More. comes with 2 Micro USB Cables.
One of the most important travel accessories is your luggage
When packing to travel we try and keep it to two carry on size suitcases and two backpacks.
A Serious Backpack
I’ve been traveling with mine for over six years and it’s a workhorse. It measures 12 x 18.5 x 12 inches and the big compartments can be cinched down to about 10 inches thick. Perfect for air travel as the TSA bag can be stored in one pouch and my laptop and tablet in the outside pouch for easy access. It also meets the carry on requirement.
A MilSpec shoulder backpack equipped with a molle webbing system on the front and sides to allow more attachments. 2-way cord zippers, comfortable padded back area, ventilated mesh padding shoulder straps, a chest strap, and waist belt which are detachable. Features 2 large pouches, 2 medium and an attached small molle pouch.
Luggage and air travel is getting harder every year and it isn’t likely to get any better. One of our biggest fears on international trips is arriving and discovering our bag(s) didn’t and that has happened more than once. For that reason alone we do a lot to avoid checking our bags but unfortunately so does everyone else. That makes airplane overhead bin space stressful to try and get into. While our preference is to skip checking a bag whenever possible it is getting more difficult. Understanding that we will often still have to check a bag or two we now pack considering the loss a possibility. No more his and her suitcases but splitting the packed items. We also “survival” pack our carry-on backpacks with clothes that will last a couple of days.
Soft or Hard?
We learned a long time ago that those gorillas pictured in the American Tourister commercials are still handling luggage and they are so skilled at destruction that hard suitcases aren’t much better protection than soft. On a couple of trips we got lessons on the real advantage of hard-side suitcases though – they repel water much better. On one trip we sat on a plane looking out at our luggage sitting on an open luggage cart for twenty minutes in a torrential downpour. When we retrieved those bags they weighed fifty percent more from the water inside.
It’s already been pointed out some of the advantages of small over large. First carry-ons help eliminate the concern of missing bags and a carry-on bag is also much easier to handle. Becoming a professional packer allows you to squeeze more into a small space and you can stop worrying about weight limits at check-in like you do with a larger bag. There’s also rarely a weight limit for carry-ons – lead bars are okay provided you can lift them.
Domestic versus International Sizes
The size limits are not international. There are a few inches of difference between carry-on luggage dimensions. Most domestic U.S. flights adhere to carry-on suitcases of 22″ x 14″ x 9″ maximum. Because of metric identification many international flights use 21 inches instead. If you do some travel outside the U.S. select the smaller size, especially since luggage rules can be a bit more strict overseas, especially with budget aicarriers.
Two-wheel versus Spinner Luggage
Believe it or not there have been studies on the use of each type. Spinner luggage uses four multidirectional wheels and the bag is mostly carried standing up as you walk wheeling your bag beside you instead of dragging it behind. While wheels on two-wheeled bags will usually allow an extra inch or two in the actual bag interior height, spinners are easier to navigate through airports and tight spaces.
If you regularly do a lot of walking with your luggage the two-wheeled bags could be a better choice. It takes up less sidewalk space and its easier to add your backpack to the extended handle of the suitcase.
Backpacks versus Carry-Ons
While we are nervous about checking our backpacks we think they have a number of advantages over suitcases. Foremost is they are easier to carry. My wife gives me a hard time when mine hits forty pounds even though I’ve spent some of my life carrying much heavier backpacks for serious distances. Also when we can’t get access to an overhead bin the smaller packs can get shoved up under a seat where a suitcase won’t fit. Those extra outside pockets on backpacks also come in handy when going through TSA.
Carry-ons do have the advantage of being sturdier and do provide better security than backpacks. They also allow better peace of mind in the event they get checked and are easier for those that aren’t up to carrying around heavy suitcases.
A Backpack To Pack
A Day Outing Backpack A backpack for traveling is one thing but often when you’ve reached your destination it’s nice to have a lightweight backpack for an outing. Here’s one we through in our luggage for just that purpose.
Peak Gear Foldable Backpack folds to just 6 x 5 x 1 inch. This packable day pack is small, foldable and weighs almost nothing. The perfect light backpack for travel. You’ll want to take this collapsible travel backpack on your next adventure, whether you are hiking or spending a day out shopping.
Laundry While Traveling
The real secret to traveling light is to travel with easy wash and dry clothes. The new generation of moisture wicking polyester clothes are our choice because they wash and dry quickly, but you’ll need some accessories to help get the job done while on the road.
Multi-Use Hanger Clips – These are worth their weight in gold. Perfect for hanging delicates in the shower. 16 Pieces of Stainless Steel Portable Clothespins with hooks.
- Simple but practical, portable and convenient
- Multiuse Laundry Hook – Perfect for travel, hang items to dry anywhere.
Help Shirts Keep Their Shape – Drying clothes on those thin plastic hangers will often leave puckers on the shoulders but not with these inflatable hangers.
Take along 1 or 2 NewFerU Inflatable Hangers when you travel. White round shoulder, portable inflatable folding clothes drying hangers with stainless hooks. Set of 8.
Rinsing out clothes is just one of the chores that goes with long trips and carrying along some easy to use detergent is a lot more convenient than searching local stores and bringing back large containers.
Vacplus Laundry Detergent Sheets Natural – 60 Sheets Fresh Scent Liquidless Bulk Laundry Detergent, Biodegradable Laundry Strips, Travel-Friendly Efficient Laundry Detergent
Don’t wast money and add weight with a commercial wrinkle remover. We travel with a small, empty spray bottle and just add water to spray those travel wrinkles away.
A 50ml Fine Mist Mini Spray Bottle (set of 3) refillable reusable empty atomizer spray bottles perfect for travel.