How to Pack

It's extremely important that you know what to bring and how to pack correctly when you travel.  You must learn to get by with only bringing what you absolutely need.  With few exceptions such as a small travel umbrella, you should only pack what you will absolutely need and not what you think you might need.

When we first began traveling, we were typical tourists.  We brought a large suite case with us, checking it in on our flight and pulling it around everywhere we went.  We quickly learned that pulling a heavy bag over cobblestone streets was not too friendly.  Our clothing was typical of a novice traveler.  We wore and packed bulky and heavy blue jeans and wore running shoes, both of which took forever to dry when they got wet; and they did get wet one day, in fact soaked.  On the day we visited the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles in Fusson, it rained the entire time.  Fortunately we had brought rain jackets, but that did nothing to protect our pants and shoes.  At the time, thinking to bring a small travel umbrella on our trip was not even on the radar.  Over the years with many travel adventures now under our belt, we have learned what to bring and how to pack; getting it down to an art.

In the Rain
Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau Castles - Fusson, Germany

You need to learn how to travel light with a single carry on bag, even on a multi-week trip.  Don't think that it cannot be done.  Once you know what to bring and how to pack, you should easily be able to fit everything you need into a single bag that meets airline carry on restrictions for size and weight.

Rick Steves - Packing Smart and Traveling Light

"there are two kinds of tourists, those who pack light and those who wish they had"

-Rick Steves

I remember years ago noticing a couple boarding a train at some station in Europe.  As they were rushing to catch their train, they were each holding luggage in their arms while pulling larger bags on wheels with other bags strapped to the top.  They must have been traveling with 6 or 7 large and medium size bags.  As I watched them struggle getting on the train lifting their heavy bags I started thinking about what was absolutely necessary to bring on a trip and what was the best way to carry everything around.  This was during my early years of travel when I was experimenting with different types and sizes of luggage.  At the time, I had a hard sided suite case with a  telescoping handle and wheels that was small enough to fit in an airlines overhead compartment and could also be worn as a backpack.  I never was happy with this type of bag for several reasons.  I also felt like I was walking around with a piece of luggage strapped to my back - not cool!

Since we are discussing packing, here is a photo showing some of our boxes when we moved from the US to England for a three year stay.  We were packing up our life and moving our house contents was a bit different than packing for a vacation.  For several years prior to our move, we used to travel to Europe from the US once or more a year.  Our trips were always self-planned with the occasional group day trip excursion if it made sense.  We learned a lot from all those trips, but living in England gave us the opportunity to travel easily and more often all around Europe and other locations as well.  We devoted our stay in England to travel; exploring all we possibly could during that time.  This opportunity came about as the corporate offices of my company were located in Langley England, just outside of London where I was offered a position as a Product Manager for the international markets of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

Moving into our flat
Unpacking - Windsor, England

With all our trips, we were constantly trying to simplify and improve the way we packed and what we brought with us.  We were always looking for the perfect backpack for travel having the right sized main compartment with additional side and top storage areas.  We learned to only bring the minimal amount we required for the trip and how to pack it.  If we found we we were bringing things with us that we did not use, we tried to eliminate those items on future trips.  You have to ask yourself 'do I really need this?'.  Again, don't bring things you think you may need, only bring things you know you will need.

Think about bringing Disposable Clothing.  These are articles of clothing you may be planning to throw out eventually such as underwear, sox, old shirt, etc.  The benefits are that you will be getting rid of some of your older clothing while at the same time making room in your backpack as your travel along discarding items.  This additional room can now be used for items you may have purchase during your travels.

Don't wait until the last minute to start packing.  Practice packing and organizing your pack days or a week ahead of time. You may actually spend hours contemplating what to bring and how to pack it.  Think about what you actually need and what you will actually wear.  How many pairs of pants and underwear do you actually need?  How many shirts, sox, etc.  Organized you pack with the must bring items such as rain great, umbrella, electrical plugs etc.  How does it all fit?  What does you pack weigh?  Spend time working it all out, not just in your head but by going through the actual packing activity.

Think about bringing older disposable clothing.
Don't bring things you think you may need, only bring things you know you will need.
Pack your backpack and wear it around on a walk to be sure it fits correctly, is comfortable and not too heavy.
Consider items you can leave behind and purchase upon your arrival such as toothpaste and other personal items.
Bring clothing that can easily be interchanged allowing you to wear different pants/shirts combinations.

Our Travel Skills Tips & Tricks pages are full of ideas and examples showing you what to wear, purchase abroad and bring with you on your travels.

Be sure to review and print our Travel Packing Checklist helping to ensure you have included everything you need.  Check off items as your gather them together for your trip.

Sample Backpack Contents
The following will give you an idea of what to pack and how to pack for a trip of several weeks.  What you pack will no doubt be different, but in general, this should give you a good idea.  To stress the point of all you may be able to bring, we may have even over packed here.  We could have easily eliminated an under shirt, tank top and the separate hiking shorts as we will be wearing and bringing other pairs of convertible cargo pants.  We have also included items for a cooler climate including a heavier fleece jacket that can be worn under the primary/rain jacket, fleece gloves and running tights for additional warmth.  We have been extremely conservative here, using our 32 Liter Pack coming in at only 14 Pounds with everything you see here.  It was full, but well under the typical Airline Size & Weight Restrictions.  In fact, we still had room in the top and side pockets as well as the front pocked where we would place our travel documents.

For a longer trip of several weeks, a better choice may be a larger pack up to 40 Liters giving you additional room for items acquired during your travels but still meeting airline size and weight requirements.

Oops, we forgot to include our travel Umbrella and Travel Buddy!  Now you see the importance of using a Travel Packing Checklist.

  • 1 Pair of Convertible Cargo Pants
  • Rain/Day Pants
  • Running Tights
  • Tank Top
  • Sweatshirt
  • Hiking Shorts
  • Extra Day Pack
  • Money Belt
  • 3 Lightweight Hiking Style Shirts
  • 2 Convertible Long Sleeve Shirts
  • Travel Binoculars
  • Camera Case
  • Backpack Rain Cover
  • Cable & Lock
  • Notepad / Pen
  • Fleece Gloves
  • Underwear / Sox
  • Charger Cable / USB Plug
  • Universal Plug Adaptor
  • Camera Tripod
  • Glasses
  • Clear Bag with Toiletries

In photo not packed

  • Belt, Hat & Jacket (will be wearing)
  • Fleece Jacket (will be wearing or strapped to pack exterior)


Remember, in addition to everything you see here, you will also have another complete set of clothing including pants, shirt, etc. - the ones you will be wearing.

Fully Packed

Size: 32 Liter

22 in. L x 12 in. W x 8 in. H

Weight: 14 Pounds

This 32 Liter Pack is well within the limits of the Airline Size & Weight Restrictions.

Rolling your clothing will help reduce creases and wrinkles and compress them giving you more valuable room in your backpack