As a very frequent traveler (I used to fly at least once per week for the past two years) I have become a very efficient traveler and packer. I’ve learned what does, and doesn’t work for me. So when Patrick suggested we use backpacks for this trip instead of suitcases I politely declined. I hate backpacks.
Backpacks hurt my back. I hate how you have to take the whole thing off and awkwardly hold it or put it on the floor (ew) if you want to access anything. I hate the way they look, and the way they ruin one’s posture and silhouette. I hate how absentminded backpack people can be, accidentally smashing their packs into people as they walk down the airplane aisles. Also, backpackers have a reputation for being cheap and dirty, two words I wouldn’t use to describe myself.
So as I said, I politely declined.
Patrick said a backpack would be easier because:
– the 34-40L size he suggested was smaller than a carry-on suitcase, so we wouldn’t have any carry-on issues (or I could just get a smaller suitcase)
– backpacks would leave our hands free when traveling (what would we be doing while walking that would require two hands?)
– walking long distances on dirt/cobblestone streets with suitcases would be tough (ok, fair point)
– a small backpack would force us to travel light (I can travel light with a small suitcase too)
Not convinced, but very much in love with Patrick, I conceded and began backpack shopping.
1. Backpack $160 – After a ton of research I landed on the Osprey Farpoint 40. I was attracted to the internal organization layout, fairly simple exterior, and padded shoulder straps. That said, now that I’ve been traveling with it for over a month, I don’t love it. This thing has WAY more bells and whistles than I need. There are a ton of straps I never use, and hip belts that just get in the way (I’ve never used them). The internal structure of the pack is odd to me, I think it’s designed to be top-heavy? But this means there is space in the bottom of the pack that is designed to remain empty, which drives me nuts. I just want something simple and I feel like this bag is trying to do too much. Fed up, I ordered the pack Patrick brought, and had it shipped to Buenos Aires three weeks before we were scheduled to arrive. To this day it is still “being processed” by customs so that’s $300 I’ll probably never see again.
2. Packing Cubes $38 – Packing cubes are life. These babies are super thin, and have a secondary compression-zip system, turning my big stack of clothes into a small, rock-hard cube. They’re amazing. I got them in purple just to spice things up a bit.
3. First Aid Bag $9 – This small packing cube is the perfect size to store basic first aid essentials (bandaids, sterile alcohol pads, antibiotic ointment, gauze) and medications. I turn into a complete baby when I’m sick, and the thought of needing to navigate a foreign country + language barrier + unfamiliar ingredients to seek out medicine doesn’t sound fun. So I packed: Pepto-Bismol, Midol, Pearls probiotics, Sudafed, ZzzQuil, Tums, Benadryl, Refresh Plus eyedrops, Imodium, Advil liquid gels, Zyrtec, Xanax, Azithromycin (antibiotic), Ciprofloxacin (antibiotic), and Atovaquone (anti-malarial). I transferred everything from it’s original packaging into these tiny plastic bags which save a ton of space.
4. Toiletry Bag $25 – Same thin material as the packing cubes, same saucy purple color. Holds all of my non-liquid toiletries (the liquid ones go in a ziploc).
5. Purse $98 – Three years ago, when Patrick and I began talking about this RTW trip, I saw this bag on sale at Kate Spade and thought, “That would be perfect for our imaginary trip!”. Flash forward to present day and I’m ACTUALLY USING IT! Nylon, ultra-light, top-zip, interior pockets, this bag is amazing. Kate Spade doesn’t make it anymore because they’re idiots, but Jack Spade and Tory Burch both make something similar.
I am not a travel-clothes person.
I just don’t see the allure in their boxy silhouettes, zip-off appendages, and putty-hued color schemes. Patrick was singing the praises of wool, the magical fabric that doesn’t wrinkle or stink, but I have avoided it due to it’s extreme itch-factor. Patrick introduced me to a new wool clothing company, boasting impossibly soft products, so I bought a t shirt without trying it on (idiot). Once I finally put it on at home, I had to immediately take a shower because my skin was still crawling even after I’d taken it off. So, instead of trying to change into a travel-clothes person, I just packed, like, normal people clothes.
1. Jacket $70 – This ultra light puffy jacket packs into a tiny stuff sack so I can shove into my bag and forget about it until it’s needed. While I would much prefer a less outdoorsy looking jacket, the packability makes it worth it. Originally purchased for Disneyland, because sometimes it can get chilly during World of Color.
2. Rain Jacket $70 – I’ve been hoarding this rain jacket since college and now it’s finally getting some use. I detest outdoor gear, but it’s definitely lighter, and takes up less space than an umbrella.
3. Black Sweater $10 – I plucked this winner off a Uniqlo sale rack a few years ago as a plane sweater for long international flights. It’s a ridiculously soft and warm modal/cotton/spandex blend. It’s not on their site anymore but I posted a similar sweater.
4. Grey Sweater $58 – I used to buy these sweaters in black in bulk. It was my go-to staple for work for years. Three quarter sleeve (I’m constantly pushing up my sleeves), cotton blend, machine washable, perfect. For this trip I bought one in grey (gasp!) because I thought “maybe vacation-Maja wears grey!”. I wish I brought black.
5. Black T Shirts $20 – I brought two of these shirts because I wear one almost every day. 100% cotton, super light, breathable and comfortable.
6. Burgundy T Shirt $9 – I threw in a colored shirt (I know, crazy) because I thought maybe I’ll want a little color? I only wear this when my black shirts are dirty.
7. Camisole $10 – This super-thin nylon/cupro camisole wears like a second skin. Perfect for under sweaters.
8. Long Camisole $8 – Long camisoles are a must for long flights. I freak out if my shirt rides up and my lower back touches the plane seat (EW EW EW), so this long cami comes down over my hips and keeps me covered.
9. Slip $28 – Simple slip, super thin and lightweight, takes up hardly any space.
10. Black Day/Night Dress $237 – I’d been eyeing this Vince dress for a while and snagged it after it finally went on sale. It’s basically a sexy black bag with excellent tailoring. It transitions well from day to night and is oh so comfortable. It’s sold out everywhere but I linked to this season’s version.
11. Black Beach/Day Dress $118 – I love this dress because I can wear it as a swimsuit cover-up or as proper dress with a slip underneath. It’s discontinued, but I linked to a similar style.
12. Floral Dress $98 – This floral number by Maeve is great because it just slips on, no zippers or buttons. Unfortunately it’s discontinued as well, but basically any of Anthropologie’s day dresses will do the trick.
13. Bras $36 – I brought two of these basic t-shirt bras. Bonus: the straps convert into a racerback.
14. Undies $28 – I packed 7 of these guys because they fold up into nothing so why not. They are super soft and machine washable.
15. Sports Bra $38 – Holds ’em in place. Enough said.
16. Socks $12 – Basic, white short socks. Easy to toss and replace when I feel like some freshies.
17. Jogging Pants $25 – I love these simple stretchy capris. Great for workouts, lounging, and long plane rides. Plus they’re thick enough to avoid the Lulu-see-through issue.
18. Exercise Top $10 – Simple, lightweight, does the job, and cheap enough to throw away when it gets too grungy.
19. Swimsuit $130 – I bought this suit years ago in black and it still looks good as new. Simple, flattering, and comfortable.
20. Swimsuit cover $13 – I like to have something to throw on over my suit to get me to/from the beach/pool so I’m not like “HERE’S MY BUTT!” to everyone I pass. Super light material, folds up into nothing.
21. Shorts $20 – I normally hate shorts but these light linen ones are pretty lovely for when it’s just too hot for pants.
22. Jeans $48 – I wear these almost every day when the weather allows. Soft, comfortable, casual denim.
23. Nightie $115 – I need something between my skin and Airbnb sheets or else I’ll be up all night thinking about when’s the last time they were washed.
24. Scarf $59 – Super soft cashmere/silk blend. Keeps me cozy during chilly flights, and can be used as an evening wrap, or headscarf, if necessary.
25. Runners $49 Lightweight, supportive, comfortable.
26. Sneakers $70 – These are the absolute best sneakers. I can wear them all day, every day, and they are always comfortable. I’d been wearing classic Chucks for 20 years before the Chuck II’s came out, and Nike’s updates are LIFE CHANGING. The Lunarlon footbed feels like walking on pillows. They’re getting kinda dirty (white shoe problems) so I’ll switch them out with the fresh pair waiting for me in SF when I’m there in July.
27. Sandals $60 – Simple, cheap, slip-on sandal. Hoping to swap these out for something more fabulous in Europe.
28. Espadrilles $25 – Amazingly cheap and comfortable espadrilles from Target. The floral pattern is no longer available, but they have other cute versions. Completely unnecessary and a total waste of space but I love them.
29. Shower Flops $3 – An absolute MUST for gross hostel showers.
Junk (aka Gear)
1. MacBook $1600 – Only weighs 2 lbs, bright, quiet, long battery life, and it’s GOLD. Patrick and I are booking our trip as we go so a computer is a must. Ever try navigating a budget airline website on an iPhone? No thanks!
2. iPhone 6+ $750 – Great camera, all-day battery life, enormous screen, doubles as a cheese plate.
3. iPhone Case $36 – In addition to being pretty, this Rifle Paper Co. case has a rubber insert and a hard outer shell which provides protection without too much bulk. A shattered screen would be a major bummer because unlike America, the rest of the world doesn’t have Apple stores on every block.
4. Leica Q $4400 – The most incredible camera I’ve ever used. I feel like I shouldn’t be allowed to have it, it’s so beautiful. Shooting with this thing makes me so, so happy.
5. Camera Bag $20 – Totally ugly but it’s small and does the job. I carry it inside my purse (don’t want to draw attention to the fact I’m carrying a camera) so I didn’t want it to take up too much space.
6. Headphones $300 – Great for long plane rides. Noise canceling, and teeny-tiny for packability.
7. Earbuds $30 – Good for the gym so I don’t get my Bose all sweaty.
8. Plug Adapter $7 – Covers all the countries we’re going to, and all the plugs snap into each other so it’s super compact.
9. Notebook $20 – Lightweight Japanese notebook with water-resistant cover. Absolutely necessary for the dozens of lists I’m constantly scribbling down all day.
10. Passport $110 – Slightly worried I’m going to run out of pages and am going to have to deal with the circus of renewing internationally. I’ll just continue to ignore it until it becomes an issue!
11. Card Case $6 – This little card case from Poppin in the best. It comes in 10 colors, is super slim, and has a freakin magnet so it stays closed. Holds my ID, Visa, MC, AmEx, and debit card.
12. Planner $7 – Easy way for me to keep a visual record of what we’ve done. Totally unnecessary but it’s fun.
13. Pens $12 – I know it’s insane to carry six pens everywhere but I love them.
14. Purell $2 – After a cab, on the plane, after any public restroom, before every meal, after touching a door, basically I’m using this stuff all day.
15. Mints $2 – I have jaw problems due to work stress (lol) so mints are easier for me than gum. That sentence made me sound 100 years old.
16. Sunglasses $116 – Ray-Bans just seemed so romantic and classic. These High Street versions provide a little more coverage than the traditional Wayfarer.
17. Water Bottle $8 – I have mixed emotions about this water bottle. When we’ve needed it, we’ve NEEDED it. For example, in Curaçao we got to our hostel super late at night, the water is not safe to drink, there weren’t any stores open, so we needed something to sanitize tap water in. In that instance, I’m SO glad I had it. But most of the time, it just takes up space. Maybe I’ll make Patrick carry it.
18. Ear Plugs $6 – I packed 14 pairs because this brand is the best and I hate shitty ear plugs and I’m crazy.
19. Neck Pillow $7 – I am a serious bobble-necker so I need this thing to sleep on planes. It’s inflatable, so it folds down into nothing. I’m not picky about eye masks, so I just use the freebies provided by the airline.
20. Blanket $38 – This thing folds out to be 55″x70″, packs up into the size of a croissant, and is surprisingly warm for how thin it is. I hate the texture of airplane blankets, so I prefer to use this one.
1. Toothbrush $Free – Whatever free toothbrush I got from my dentist and an adorable toothbrush cover that reminds me of Toothfairy tooth boxes.
2. Razor $10 – Packed one razor and three replacement blades. When I run out of replacements I’ll just buy a groovy foreign razor.
3. Toothpaste $4 – I’m very specific (crazy) about toothpaste, so I packed three travel tubes (I know, crazy) but was totally jazzed to see it stocked in almost every drugstore we’ve been in so far.
4. Leave-In Conditioner $10 – I’m just about to run out of this and I’m panicking. Fingers crossed I can find something equivalent soon.
5. Facial Spray $7 – A completely unnecessary pure luxury. I love this stuff. I use it right when I get out of the shower, on airplanes, in the evening before dinner; anytime my face is feeling a little dry/tired.
6. Sunscreen $9 – This is the best sunscreen. I’m pale AF and this stuff works. AND, the standard size is airplane friendly.
7. Facial Cleanser $8 – I had a bunch of these squirreled away from Clinique Bonus Gifts, so I packed two. Once they run out I’ll just pick up whatever wherever.
8. Face Cream $28 – I just recently became acquainted with Honest Beauty and I love their products. This stuff is a really good super sheer moisturizer + SPF 30. It separates like crazy so you gotta shake the hell out of it before you apply, but it’s worth it.
9. Deodorant $4 – No one likes a stinker.
10. Makeup Remover $8 – I’ve been using this Clinique formula for 15 years and it’s my absolute favorite. It’s super gentle and works super well.
11. Olaplex $23 – Great weekly hair masque to add some protein back into my lightened locks.
12. Hand Cream $15 – My hands can get kinda dry on long flights, and this cream makes them feel like buttah. Plus, no oily residue so you don’t get gross smudges all over your iPhone.
13. Insect Repellent $9 – OMG bugs LOVE me. Our second day in St. Maarten I got SIXTEEN mosquito bites because I forgot to reapply this stuff at night. Meanwhile, Patrick forgot as well and got zero bites.
14. Floss Picks $4 – I’m terrified of having dental issues abroad so for the first time in my life I’m actually flossing regularly. These little guys make it fun and easy.
15. Pressed Powder $27 – I’ve been using this kind of pressed powder since my sophomore year of high school. No matter how many new brands I try I always come back to it. The formula is light and the coverage is incredible. It’s like an eraser for your skin.
16. Mascara $32 -Lengthens, thickens, curls, and separates without clumping or flaking. I brought two so I’d have my next one ready to go (remember to toss your mascara every 3 months!) forgetting you can buy Chanel cosmetics in almost every duty-free shop.
17. Blush $28 – I think Bobbi Brown makes the best blushes. This one (Slopes) is the perfect natural flush shade for light skin.
18. Eyebrow Pencil $21 – I have completely garbage eyebrows so I have to pencil them on every morning. I packed five of these pencils because running out is simply not an option.
19. Tweezers $15 – To shape my garbage eyebrows.
20. Blush Brush $14 – Self explanatory.
21. Lipstick $38 – When I’m feeling like a ragamuffin I can just swipe on some lipstick and then suddenly I’m a Bond girl. The Chantecaille Lip Sheer formula is incredible, and Flare is the perfect shade of red.
22. Lip Balm $9 – Last December I was in Seattle for the holidays and I forgot my lip balm so I popped into the nearest shop (Kiehl’s) and was horrified when they told me the price. $9 for LIP BALM?! What is it made out of, MOON ROCKS? Anyway, of course it’s incredible and now I’m totally addicted.
23. Eyelash Curler $16 – Best eyelash curler. Period.
24. Cologne $Free – I love Jo Malone’s colognes (I don’t wear anything else). They’re beautiful individually or really fun to layer. You can go to any Jo Malone counter and ask for samples (they’ll usually give you a handful) so I just packed five little vials and they should last me until July when I can stock up.
25. Q-Tips $2 – To correct all my makeup mistakes.
26. Hairbrush $17 – I LOVE this tiny hairbrush. It weighs nothing, gets all my knots out, and is easy to clean.
27. Bobby Pins $5 – To keep my hair out of my face.
28. Curling Iron $10 – I know you’re probably like, “SHE PACKED A GD CURLING IRON IS SHE CRAZY” but sometimes I just want to feel pretty.
Things I buy along the way because you can find them anywhere: shampoo, conditioner, soap, and tampons
Things I originally brought and have tossed/shipped home:
- hairspray (yeah, right)
- hairdryer (everywhere we’ve stayed has had one I can use)
- passport holder (while oh so classy, every immigration agent has made me take my passport out of the holder so it felt like a hassle)
- a dress (three is enough)
- a fancy top (if I’m dressing up I’ll just wear a dress)
- watercolors (that was aspirational)
- another iPhone case (totally unnecessary)
- body lotion (use sunscreen instead)
- travel towel (everywhere we’ve stayed has had towels)
- leather pencil case (dead weight)
Are you still reading this? You’re incredible. If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below!