Travel and Overpacking isn't a Fun Experience

After traveling throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, South America, and Africa, I've learned that overpacking sounds excellent when you are packing. It is not so great when you have to carry everything around, making multiple trips at the airport, taxis, trains, or walking in general.

I used to travel with a lot of camera equipment that included multiple camera bodies, lenses, flashes, a tripod, and whatever gadgets I thought I might need. Then, I thought about packing all the other stuff I needed. It wasn't so bad in the Navy because we usually used transports and vehicles and then were stationary until our mission was complete. That changed when I was assigned to Combat Camera, and we regularly deployed and had only to take what we could carry. I learned very quickly that I don't need as much as I thought.

When traveling for Educational Tours, I try to pack as lightly as possible and never check a bag again! There is nothing like the stress of being in a foreign country and all your essential stuff getting lost at the airport. I learned the hard way; it was cool going shopping for new things, but it ate into my travel budget, and that sucked.

I realized that if I packed smart and light, I would have an easier time at the airport, traveling on trains, and taxis. Now when going for two weeks, I bring a large rolling carry-on bag (22x9x14) and a Day pack. I can carry everything onto the plane and won't have to check luggage. It took a few trips to get my packing style down, so I now travel lighter, and I'm able to enjoy and focus the experience, culture, and living in the moment.

***For my EF is what you are allowed. ONE checked bag (stored in the plane's cargo area); it can be no more than 50 lbs and a total of 62 inches when you total the length+width+height. ONE carry-on bag no larger than 22x9x14, One personal item (1 purse, briefcase, camera bag, laptop computer (Computers are not checked), or ONE item of a similar or smaller size to those listed above that can be stored under the plane seat. I DO NOT recommend that you take all that is are required to haul your own as light as you can. If you check a bag, take a small backpack on the plane if you decide to do a carry-on look at my recommendations below.

Before we depart, I will have a meeting, and we will go over how to pack your bag efficiently. I use the roll method because you can pack more into a carry-on. If you have any me at

Carry-on Luggage

This is the Travelpro Crew Versapack; it is a piece of expandable carry-on luggage. The luggage is affordable ($122), and I have used this on past trips. I liked that it rolled smoothly, and I could place my Daypack on the handle; it didn't become unsteady. The wheels are stable and won't break after a couple of trips.

This is carry-on compliant with airlines - sizer bin and falls within standard airline regulations of 22"x14"x9" the actual size is 21"x14"x9" and is expandable to 11". I don't recommend expanding initially; you want to save room for souvenirs you might pick up on your travels.

This bag also has an external USB port that provides access to power if you have a power bank for your phone. I tend to take a lot of videos and pictures with my phone and listen to music, so I most definitely have a power bank. The padded pocket is large enough to carry a laptop, but I don't recommend bringing your computer.

Backpacks - Carry-on Style

Everyday backpacks are great for school, but when you travel, you want to think about all-day comfort. School backpacks are generally top-loading, and that's great for carrying books and school supplies, but when you are traveling, you will not like how everything you want falls to the bottom, and you have to spend time looking for something.

I still love my military-style daypack because it's not technically a top loader, and it doesn't open like a suitcase. It has side pockets, top pockets, and a large center to manage where I put my quick access items. I don't suggest purchasing one of these because they are rather expensive; if one of your parents has one lying around snag it, you will love traveling with it.

I suggest getting a carry-on sized daypack so you can carry on the plane with your carry-on luggage and not have to check anything. That means no checking your bags, waiting for your luggage, lost luggage, and no luggage being thrown around the airport to the conveyor.

I have two suggestions for daypacks that are comfortable to wear for long periods. They both have cushioned straps and a waist strap. Believe me, when I say a daypack with a waist strap is a blessing, it takes some weight off of your back, making walking around fun and not as exhausting.

The first bag is G4Free 45L Hiking Backpack Daypack Outdoor with Rain Cover. It's not very expensive ($35.99) it is airline 22"x"14"x9" carry-on compliant its dimensions are 21.7"x12.99"x9.84" and features one main zipped compartment, two zipped front pockets, one unzipped middle pocket, two side pockets, and a bottom pocket that holds the rain cover. This bag is designed to help you stay organized during your travels. This bag comes with a sternum strap, and a waist strap makes wearing it more comfortable.

The second bag that I suggest taking a look at is an Osprey Porter 46 Travel Backpack ($84). It is a little bit more expensive than the G4Free, but it has other qualities that make this a good bag for travel. This bag is a backpack that converts to a duffel bag. It is airline 22"x"14"x9" carry-on compliant its dimensions are 23"x15"x13" and features a large U-zip luggage-style access to the main compartment and shoulder straps and waist straps that are stowable. The front panel has an organization pocket for easy access to small travel items. I like this bag because it's sturdy and reinforced fabric.

Personal Bag

As a group leader, I have to carry a lot of information, and I'm not always particularly eager to wear a Daypack. If I decide that I am not going to take a 35mm DSLR camera with me during the day, I will wear a sling pack. It isn't too large or heavy, and it allows me to put the bag in the front when I go into crowded areas to prevent pick-pockets. There are many different types of sling packs that you can get, but make sure that it has some padding, so it sits comfortably on your shoulder without discomfort.

The bag pictured to the right is a 7Senses Sling Bag Crossbody Backpack Shoulder Bag ($19). The bag has high storage capacity and has 5-functional compartments: 2 zip front pockets for quick, easy access to small items; 1 large main compartment suitable for clothes, shoes, books, small camera, medical/first aid supplies; 1 padded sleeve; 1 side mesh pocket for bottles; 1 zip pocket for cell phones, it's small, and like a fanny pack pocket, so I tend to keep money there. This bag is also water repellent so that an unexpected rain won't ruin your gear, just don't swim with it.

This bag is perfect for flying because it fits nicely under your seat. There are many sling bags, so do a little research and find one that works best for you.

Laundry Bag

Okay, so you might not be a fan of laundry, but to pack light, you have to think about taking fewer clothes. That means don't bring one outfit for each day, plan on bringing 6-8 ensembles (one of the outfits you'll wear going, so no luggage space is taken). With the Heavy Duty Vinyl Waterproof Dry Bag ($12), you can put your dirty clothes in it, toss in some detergent with warm water, let everything soak for 5 minutes and then shake and tumble for about 10 minutes and WHAMO! Your clothes are clean; all you have to do is empty the water, wring out the clothes and hang to dry.

Now here is the cool part of this bag. When we are returning, you might have gotten too many souvenirs to fit in your carry-on luggage. This bag can be used as a travel bag, and you can check a bag at the airport when we head home. It folds flat, so it doesn't take up space traveling to our destination, so it's a perfect reason for you to start thinking about how you're going to do your laundry, I promise I won't tell your parents you are self-sufficient, I don't want to ruin the right thing you have going.

There are multiple sizes I wouldn't get anything over 20L. The larger bags do have more cumbersome straps and take up some packing space.

3-1-1 Liquids Rule

If you are traveling with carry-on only - You are allowed to bring one small bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces or less per container. Consolidating these containers in the small bag separate from your carry-on baggage enables TSA officers to screen them quickly.

3-1-1 for Carry-Ons - Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container; must be in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in the screening bin. The bag limits the total volume each traveler can bring.

Be Prepared - Each time a TSA officer stops to screen a carry-on bag, it slows down the line. It's best to Practice the 3-1-1 rule to facilitate the checkpoint experience.

If you are checking a bag - Put your liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes in check baggage, and you don't have to worry about size/amount limitations.