What’s in the Bag?
You might be wondering what’s in the bag when we travel. If you are planning on traveling and will be using public transportation, you need to travel light. You don’t want to be dragging a rolling suitcase, especially on cobblestone streets. I recommend a backpack that is big enough for two people to put all their clothes in and still have a little room for anything you pick up along the way.
We have been using Osprey travel backpacks since 2015 and they have worked great. This bag is not the best choice if you will be hiking long distances, but great for a travel backpack. This backpack comes in three sizes, 30, 46, and 65-liters; we have four of the 65-liter backpacks and one of the 46-liter. The only disadvantage of the 65-liter, it is too large for carry-on.
I love that it is a clamshell backpack that opens completely like a traditional suitcase. Therefore, you are not digging through the top of the bag to find something that has probably shifted to the bottom. One nice feature is all the straps tuck into the backpack, no damage by luggage handlers at the airport. The Osprey travel backpack we use is available at Osprey, REI, and Amazon. Also, Osprey has a great warranty, they state the following on their site.
“All Mighty Guarantee. Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it.”
Organization in the Backpack
Another staple of our trips is packing cubes. I thought they were the craziest waste of money until I bought them. If you like to pack the kitchen sink when you go on vacation, these will help you regain control of your want, need, and must-have items. My clothes are for lack of a better term, in the circus tent realm of sizes. I can pack everything I need for a 4 week (or longer) trip in a small, medium, and large cube, and might not need the small one.
How Much Can You Fit in Packing Cubes?
How do we fit everything in the small cubes? Well, a little trick I have found is to buy new underwear before you leave. You are probably thinking that it is crazy, but you will never be able to roll your underwear as tight as a new pair was rolled at the factory. Also, who wants to travel with old worn-out underwear if you will be walking a lot.
I only pack 5-8 pairs of woolx underwear. Even though they are wool, they are not itchy or hot in the summer and can be washed like regular clothes. They are not the cheapest option, but by far the best I have found for traveling.
I can fit a pair of jeans, 4-6 shirts, 10 pairs of underwear, a couple of pairs of shorts, and 5 pairs of socks between the large and medium cube. Since I will have a pair of jeans on for the initial flight, that gives me 2 pairs for the trip. You do not need a new pair every day. You should be able to get 5-7 days in before needing to wash anything. My wife can bring a few extra items in the same space. We use the small cube for toiletries in a plastic bag, and also one for any electrical adapters, charging cables, etc. We do bring an extra pair of shoes and that works great as a filler around the cubes in the backpack. All the items above fit in a single 65-liter backpack with room to spare. The backpack typically weighs about 20-25lbs (9-11kg).
Dirty Little Secret
Speaking of dirty clothes, when we bought our packing cubes a box of dryer sheets was included. I found that odd, throw one in your dirty laundry bag and no smells transfer from your dirty to clean clothes. So bring about 10 for the trip to be safe. We usually bring a kitchen size trash bag for every week we will be traveling for dirty laundry. They will rip at some point, so have a couple of spares to be safe. They are also great if you get caught in the rain and don’t want wet clothes soaking everything in the backpack. It is nice if you have a spare backpack or one that can be dedicated to the laundry bag. But not a requirement.
As a test, I was able to get 10 t-shirts, a bathing suit, and a pair of blue jeans in the large cube. I put 10 pairs of underwear, 5 pairs of socks, and a polo shirt in the medium cube. Above are pictures of the before and after.
Video Review of our Backpack
We are giving away an Osprey Porter 65L backpack on YouTube. Check out the video below to learn how to win. Only entries on YouTube will be counted.
Electronics and Toys
Before our South Africa 2019 trip, we did not take laptops, dedicated cameras, etc. I have since added a dedicated camera and the pictures have been much better. I am still learning how to use the camera. It is a bridge camera that falls between a “point and shoot” and a DSLR camera and has a fixed lens. If you look at the pictures from the South Africa trip, you will see much better picture quality especially when you zoom in. Check out the camera specs and pricing here. I did a review of the camera including real-world examples of the picture quality. We have our cell phones, charging cables, and power adapters. All pictures on this site that were taken on the Eurotrip 2015-2016 and before the South Africa 2019 trip were all from a phone camera, nothing fancy.
If you are from the US, T-mobile is the best option for international travel. You get free-roaming (text and internet, calls are about $0.20 a minute) in 210+ countries. You will not have blazing fast connectivity with the free-roaming. I typically upload 750-1000 pictures over a 3-week trip. Most are uploaded to Social Media or backed up over T-mobile without an issue. Speeds were between 128k and as high as 20Mbps in Marseilles, good enough for booking a hotel or maps. I did notice that app performance was better than direct browsing. We also like the option to use wi-fi calling and texting, those calls are free if the destination is included in your plan. Coverage was good enough for most things we need except in the middle of nowhere in Iceland and a few stretches in rural Poland.
Due to COVID-19 and my recently diagnosed medical issues, we have decided it will be worth purchasing travel insurance on future trips. Although we have never done this in the past, it makes sense to protect ourselves against unforeseen changes in plans or illness.