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Category: Trip Planning

Midsize maroon backpack laying on floor with unpacked items surrounding it in an orderly fashion.

Packing queen

Having had a few trips where luggage has been mishandled and has not arrive at my destination when I did, I have taken great strides to become a “packing queen” and avoiding checking bags at all costs. I take great scrutiny into what gets packed and what does not, and use unique strategies to maximize what can fit in the bag(s) that are chosen for each trip.

Adult female with long, dark hair and glasses standing with a backpack on her back.

Well ahead of departure day, we gather everything we would “like” to take, along with everything we will need. I then choose the bags that are best suited for the volume of things we have to pack. Note: we always pack backpacks – not suitcases – for ease of transporting.

We often need several pairs of shoes due to the nature of our trips – hiking, beach, everyday. Which adds a logistical curve ball into my master packing plan. Nonetheless, I make due and use the shoes as storage compartments for socks, underwear, and other small items. The key is to not leave any empty space! Be sure to cram things in every nook and cranny. Empty space is wasted space, and potentially a shirt you have to leave at home.

Once I have done my first practice run, I then consult the airline’s specifications to be sure our bags fit within the parameters for carryon baggage. If they do not, I have to reconsider and remove items that may not be needed. This process sometimes takes three or four times of packing and unpacking before I am happy with the result.

The Tools

The Osprey Manta 20 Hydration Pack is small, but can carry more than you would expect. It’s important to be sure to push smaller items down into the bottom corners, and make good use of its expandable, stretchy construction and outer straps to hold jackets and the like. This bag has been with us to California, Cambodia, Colorado, Hawaii, Italy, Memphis, Nepal, Paris, and Thailand.

While we try to avoid taking larger bags, the Women’s REI Co-op Crestrail 48 Pack is our go-to bag when we need extra capacity. It’s big enough to hold several weeks worth of clothing, but small enough to still fit in an overhead compartment. It has traveled to Australia, Hawaii, Nepal, New Zealand, and Portland.

The Women’s REI Co-op Traverse Daypack is my go-to bag for hiking, as well as traveling. It’s about the size of an average backpack, but has a unique design that expands in just the right places and has the capacity I need no matter the situation. It also has side pockets that are great for my 32-ounce water bottle and miscellaneous clothing items/shoes/travel pillows, etc. An added bonus is that it is waterproof as well. This bag really has been everywhere: hiking locally, Australia, Cambodia, Hawaii, Italy, Nepal, New Zealand, Paris, Thailand – too many places to list!

In desperate times, when I need some extra help to get things to fit just right, our compression bags come to the rescue. I try to avoid using them because it is extra work, but when I can’t quite get everything to fit, they do come in handy.

One of the best Christmas gifts I have received in that last five years or so is the “strawberry bag” Bill’s sister gave me. At first it just seemed like a kitchy gift, but with all the traveling we do, it’s been perfect! It takes up very little space, is cute to carry around, and is a life (and environment) saver when it comes to shopping local markets or grocery stores and when needing a little extra carrying space on the way home.

Some of the Miraculous Feats I have Pulled Off

Portland, 2014

Fitting a backpack containing a video camera and microphone inside my Crestrail 48 Pack along with a tripod and clothes for four days. Still having room for a pair of tennis shoes, a hooded sweatshirt, and a t-shirt I purchased while in Portland.

Epic Adventure to Bangkok, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii, 2014-2015

Packing 26 days worth of summer-climate clothing, shoes, toiletries, and other things we needed into my Crestrail 48 Pack, Traverse Daypack, and a small CamelBak hydration pack.

Italy and Paris, 2015

We successfully packed everything we needed into Bill’s Osprey Manta 20 Hydration Pack and my Traverse Daypack. All for 10 days of plane and train travel. It helped that we did not plan any hiking for this trip and did not have to pack our hiking boots.

Two backpacks laying on a bed. A small, blue daypack on the left and a bigger, maroon backpack on the right.

Clothes, shoes, and toiletries arranged on top of a bed.

Memphis, 2016

Taking photos at a conference, I successfully packed a DSLR camera with two lenses, an iPad and keyboard, and my clothes for four days into the Osprey Manta 20 Hydration Pack.

Nepal, 2017

Twenty two days of travel – twelve of those days hiking in the Himalayas – only three backpacks. That included all of the items listed in my “Preparing for Nepal” post, all of the clothing we would need, and then some!

The photos below illustrate a breakdown of what was in each bag when we returned home. Some of the items missing are the toilet paper we had taken with us for use during our trek, and the majority of the snacks we had packed and eaten. As you can see, there was still a rather large amount of things that fit in/on each bag!

Thankfully we had the compression bags to help this time. I rarely use them – I tend to just roll everything, but sometimes I need a little extra help to make things fit. Even with them, it was pretty tight getting all of our clothes to fit inside the Crestrail 48 Pack.

Small blue backpack laid out on floor with items unpacked and surrounding it in an orderly fashion.

Midsized maroon backpack laying on floor with unpacked items surrounding it in an orderly fashion.

Large tan backpack on the left, unpacked space saver bags with clothes in them on the right.

Clothing items laid out in an orderly fashion on the floor.

Accomplishing all of this is no small feat! It takes a decent amount of time and energy to get things just right. But in the end it is so worth it to not have to pay baggage fees, and to have the piece of mind knowing your luggage is safely with you every step of the way.


Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you enjoy my blog and would like to support this website in some way, using these links will help do exactly that. If you have any questions, please put them in the comments below. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

New York City guide book resting on black sandals on a sandy beach.

Planning for NYC

As we plan our trip to NYC, we’ve already completed the first few steps outlined in “The process“. We’ve booked our flight using Delta miles. I have taken notes from a couple library books and done some online research – saving everything in a Google Doc. I will soon be reviewing my notes, searching for more information, and putting together our itinerary. We have booked nearly all of our lodging using points and free nights at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) properties. The details we currently know for sure are:

Where we plan to stay

Traveling to NYC soon? If you are already an IHG Rewards Club member or decide to sign up for an account, you can save up to 15% in New York City. The hotels we have booked are:

Intercontinental Barclay

Holiday Inn Express & Suites, New Jersey North – Hoboken

Even Hotel Times Square South

Sights we plan to see

Brooklyn Bridge

Central Park

Chelsea Piers

Ellis Island

Empire State Building

Flatiron Building

Freedom Tower

Grand Central Terminal


High Line

Lower East Tenement Museum

Rockefeller Center

Statue of Liberty

Times Square

Things we hope to do

Attend a recording of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

See “Phantom of the Opera”

Food/Restaurants we hope to see/try

Breads Bakery

Carlo’s Bakery

Try a cronut


New York-Style Pizza

Rupert Jee’s Hello Deli

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream

What are some your favorite things in NYC? Send them my way in the comments below!


Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you enjoy my blog and would like to support this website in some way, using these links will help do exactly that. If you have any questions, please put them in the comments below. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

Shopping bag with airplane, hotel icon, and boat icon spilling out of it

National Shop for Travel Day

Typically I roll my eyes at the ridiculous “National Holidays” that are out there, but National Shop for Travel Day seems to be one that is relevant. So relevant that I have decided to write about it.

Founded by the Travel Technology Association, National Shop for Travel Day will be observed annually on the second Tuesday of January. This coming Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 will be its inaugural debut. Expect to see deals on flights, lodging, and car rentals from the top travel sites – maybe even a couple of my favorites, TripAdvisor and Airbnb. If we’re lucky, we might even see deals from the top airlines and hotels.

Looking to get away? Join others on this new shopping holiday and make your destination dreams come true. Log on and get the best deals before peak season – when prices will increase by 10% or more in March and April. I know I’ll be checking out Google Flights, momondo, and maybe a few other staples of mine on Tuesday.

Two airplanes flying opposite directions through a golden colored sky

Travel checklist

As our departure date draws near, below is the list of things Bill and I are sure to take care of before we embark.

  1. Put the mail on hold
  2. Set light timers
  3. Check in for our flight
  4. Print boarding passes (if possible)
  5. Pack our liquids in our REI Co-op 3-1-1 Air Travel Liquids Bags
  6. Place all of our travel documents needed at the airport (boarding passes, IDs or passports, TSA Pre-Check cards, bus tickets) in our leather RFID blocking passport ticket holder
  7. Place all of our destination information (itinerary, restaurants, confirmation numbers) in the blue thing
  8. Ensure our compression socks, headphones, gum, and my EarPlanes and Benadryl are accessible


Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you enjoy my blog and would like to support this website in some way, using these links will help do exactly that. If you have any questions, please put them in the comments below. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.

The process

Our process is one that works very well for us. Bill finds the airfare and often the lodging, and I do the activity and food planning.

Flights & Transportation

Bill follows many different blogs, forums, and apps for finding the best deals when it comes to flights. Every day he browses the milefeeds app, which combines posts from several travel blogs and forums. It all started with flyertalk.com, but has transformed into simplifying things using milefeeds for a “one stop shop.” There have been many opportunities we have not been interested in or able to take advantage of, but the majority of our trips have been the result of something he has found through online resources.


Upon having our flights booked, I commence on planning what to see and do while we are there. This consists of a multi-step process:


I make good use of our library and request travel books to read up on the area we are going to. The publishers I prefer are DK Publishing, Lonely Planet, and Fodor’s. With these in hand, I am able to learn of unique sights to see, the best ways to get around, cultural practices to be aware of, local foods to try, and read up on lodging and restaurants from an insider’s perspective. I have found quite a few interesting things by reading books before we go; Postman’s Park in London, how to dress appropriately in Cambodia and Thailand, Punaluu Black Sand Beach and Papakolea (Green Sands) Beach in Hawaii.


I always search TripAdvisor for things to do, restaurants, and lodging. What better way to find the best options than through the honest reviews and photos of others? Often, the top things to do are in line with what I have also found in the books or knew all along, but it is still great to get pointers from others who have experienced them. I have also used TripAdvisor a few times to help guide our decision when booking tours; Stonehenge and Everest Base Camp Trek being two of them.

Google Docs & Spreadsheets

I use Google Docs and Spreadsheets to keep my notes, itinerary, restaurant list, confirmation numbers, and cost estimates saved in once place and accessible from anywhere. Even if I do not have internet access, I can often access my documents in offline mode on my cell phone.


Our initial searches for lodging include IHG, Hilton, and Hyatt hotels or KOA Kampgrounds – depending on where we are going. If there are no options available from these chains, we search Airbnb to find inexpensive and unique options. We have been quite fortunate with the Airbnb]s we have stayed in. Especially the hillside lodge in Vernazza, Italy. It was 276 steps up from the center of town (which was a bit of work every day), but that was also what made it so delightful. To this day it is one of the most peaceful places we have stayed. Complete with wrap around outdoor seating in which to enjoy breakfast, relax, and take in the stunning front row views of the town and ocean, breath in the sea air, and listen to the sound of the waves crashing against the coast.


More often than not, especially when traveling internationally, we choose public transportation over driving ourselves. Domestically, however, we choose to rent vehicles over wracking up miles on our personal vehicles. Renting also becomes essential when traveling to locations where public transportation is not as readily available (the south island of New Zealand). We choose to rent from Hertz when traveling from home, as they are the closest rental car company for us. When searching options in other areas we also consider Budget and Avis to find the least expensive options.


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