Now that more travel is in my horizon, the need for strategic packing is evident! What to buy? Which bag is the lightest? Which is the strongest? What about the size? Which method for packing really IS the best? Where do I start?
I am a researcher by nature and I desire EVERYTHING to be organized. So I want the best bag, for the best price but it also needs to have cool sections and compartments that serve a real purpose as well! MAN, am I a picky woman!
With high expectations danced through my head, I knew that I had to find the PERFECT packing… stuff. Last year, I began to prepare for my first backpacking trip. Two weeks in England, staying in hostels, riding trains and buses… my initial research period began. I read articles and asked advice from other travelers about what they have that works. After some good pointers and some failures on my part I have now accumulated some great packing pieces! Below are my purchases and strategies for this move abroad and the travels I am planning to take. Please comment if you have any questions.
For my carry-on bag, I did the largest amount of research I have ever done and that includes my graduate thesis. I wanted a backpack-style carry-on bag since I wanted it to be my sole backpack during my backpacking trip. That way I would not need to check it and have the potential of losing it in-transit. After weeks of research and reading thousands of reviews I found the bag below. This eBags bag is phenomenal! I have used it for my two week backpacking trip through England, for weekend trips out of town and overnight stays at hotels. There are so many compartments and everything has its place. I especially love the bag divider and the hidden laptop zip area. The link is here. Check it out, watch the video. It is phenomenal. I shared this bag within the Facebook group of teachers heading to Abu Dhabi and many of them purchased it as well. This will be my carry-on bag as I head overseas, but will also serve as my main bag as I holiday too.
The Checked Luggage:
I have spent many days in the luggage departments of stores rolling, dragging, unzipping and lifting luggage trying to find The One. I obviously want something light, so that the real weight will be of my belongings and not of the bag itself. I want durability, the bag is going half-way around the world. I also want the ability to store it easily as space may be an issue in my new home. Do they have closets in Abu Dhabi? Who knows! Upon recommendations, I found this Walmart Protégé duffle bag. It is 32” in size, around a pound in weight and very durable. The best part is the price: at $15.00 you just can’t go wrong! Now it is not the maximum of the checked baggage limits, it does fall under those measurements, but sometimes too big can cause more problems than not. Which is why I like this bag. Many who get the larger bags later struggle with weight issues and have to end up throwing things out at the last minute since they are so OVER the weight limit. With this bag you can fill it and be about on-point with clothes and shoes being the weight. I purchased two of these as ADEC will pay for two checked bags to head over there. When I packed all of my clothes and shoes (I am a girly-girl, which means that I have a lot of them!) I still had 16 pounds in both bags that I could add more things AND the space to do so! That is amazing! Obviously this means more shoes and purses! The Protégé Duffle bags are found here. I have already moved out of my condo and am living out of these bags now. It’s not easy living out of a suitcase, but these bags make it a breeze! They have wheels on one end making the dragging process all the more easy. The best part is when I unpack them, they zip up and could be stored in a drawer or easily under the bed! Check this bag out!
Those that don’t own packing cubes will never understand their awesomeness. Packing cubes are (other than being the greatest packing accessory ever) soft-sided, zippered containers. There are different sizes and brands. The small is great for underwear, socks, tank tops, sandals, cords, etc. The medium is the best size in my opinion. I use this size for my tops and bottoms. The large size I use for jeans or thicker sweaters and jackets. The whole points of packing cubes is to keep your bags organized as well as save on space. They constrict slightly to fit your clothes in and when you combine the rolling technique and the packing cubes, a miracle happens. I had one small, one medium and one large packing cube for my eBags backpack during my backpacking trip and they kept everything separated and easily located. Find this brand here. After I learned how to properly roll my clothes, the wrinkle factor disappeared. I learned to bring a few dryer sheets and place them in certain sections to keep the packing cubes and my clothes smelling fresh. As I neared the middle of my trip I made the medium bag my “dirty clothes” cube and it kept my clean and dirty clothes separate! It is not all about organization though, I can’t stress that enough. You roll your clothes and stack/stuff them in and zip closed as you fill it, they are the most amazing thing in the world. See this technique here! I don’t use elastic or rubber bands since I put them in the cubes and they keep my clothes from unraveling. Google other videos to become a pro!
I started off with just one set of the eBags packing cubes (small, medium and large). I love them. They are sturdy and handy. I used these on weekend trips and overnight trips as well! They make it so easy to pack a whole weekend in the medium-size packing cube and then go with a simple tote bag. I amaze my friends at the lack of baggage I need since I am able to fit so much into my small bag with these cubes! However, when I needed to move out of my condo and I had to fit all the rest of my stuff into the above mentioned luggage (Protégé Duffles) I needed more packing cubes. EBags is online and it would take a few days for me to receive more, so I did some research and found Target had some comparable ones made by Embark. You can see them here. I headed straight there and got three more sets. Target also had the small, medium and large size sets like eBags. The Target packing cubes were the same price as the eBags packing cubes, but unfortunately they are not as nice as the eBags. Plus the eBags packing cubes are a bit deeper and sturdier. Ultimately they do the same thing, but the Target ones don’t seem to stretch as much and only have one zipper, making strategic stuffing a bit more difficult. However, the Target ones are decent and get the job done. In the future I will be purchasing more of the eBags if needed! I now have a total of 12 packing cubes (4 small, 4 medium, 4 large) and they almost fill my two Protege duffle (checked luggage) bags.
Furthermore, I do like the bags that you can vacuum the air out or roll-up to reduce their size by pushing air out. However, if the bags are checked, the airport security will cut the bags to see what is inside. Even if you buy the bags that you roll-up to shift the air out, the bags will still get sliced. No airport security will take the time to roll-up you clothes again. Then if things cannot fit easily back within your luggage, things will get lost. This has happened to people I know! I do not recommend them for travel due to this! Perfect for storing winter clothes in the attic, but international trips, they can potentially be a downfall. Opt for the space-saving packing cubes!
I love my make-up and I couldn’t imagine moving without taking all my girly products. I found a wonderful make-up organizer after doing some research and I ordered the Ultimate Cosmetic Organizer Case from QVC. Find it here. It is small enough that it fits in my carry on bag (eBags) and I use it as my every-day organizer and have taken it on weekend trips. There are a few different colors and a video made by QVC. I had many followers and Facebook Friends that wanted to see mine. I made a video and it’s here. I made it on a whim, I use excessive hand gestures and seem to say “umm” and “like” a lot, my apologies. Since this video I have added two more eye shadow pallets, three mascaras and three make-up brushes and still have more room to go crazy at Sephora before I leave.
I wear a lot of earrings. I have no excuse here. I don’t do too many necklaces and my rings and bracelets are pretty simple, but earrings… I have a ton of them. I found cool earring holder ideas like here and here. But they cost a ton of money and would not hold all of my earrings unless I ordered like three of each and then space-wise, it defeats the purpose. So, I decided to be crafty and I made my own earring holder. It cost almost nothing and it is amazing!
Steps to my Homemade Earring Book Holder:
- Go to Michaels (use Teacher Store Discount if you have it!) and pick up four pieces of felt and a box of large-size brads ( You will only use one, but you need the large size, and they only sell them in boxes.) I got some fancy weathered metal ones, just because.
- Fold the felt pieces in half within each other, creating a book-like appearance. (Yes, some of the edges are showing because of the fold. You will fix this later.)
- Grab a pair of scissors; poke a hole on the upper spine corner, leaving room on both sides (this is where the brad will go.) Repeat this step with each piece of felt as you go through your felt-book.
- Then feed the brad through the hole. It will be tough to get all pages onto the brad. Really smash them in and then close the brads.
- Use the scissors again and cut the edges along the sides to even them out.
- Your Earring Book Holder is complete! Add your earring in as you please. Get little plastic stoppers for the dangles too, just to keep them in place at all times.
So there you have it! My carry-on, checked baggage, packing strategies, make-up organizer and travel earring holder! Hopefully some of this will help you in your travels and let me know if you find some other cool way to organize something for travel! I am always open to suggestion there!