So many vacation options, so many different occasions! Which bag is right to take to your next trip?
I wanted to break down the different types of travel bags to help you:
Having each of these bags will keep you covered for any and every adventure you choose to take on!
Suitcases are one of those things where it's always worth it to do lots of research since they're so expensive, you'll use it a lot, and they're meant to last you a long time! You want a suitcase that will be durable, functional, and stylish, of course.
Suitcases are my favourite bag of travel since I never have to worry about it not fitting as a carry on, nor do I worry about it getting dirty or ruined if the airline requires/requests for me to check in it for whatever reason. It's also very convenient since I can roll it- it's not hard on my shoulders like a duffel bag would be.
I can probably do an entire post on choosing the right suitcase, but for now, I will say two things are absolutely required when shopping for a suitcase:
Whether you're doing an overnight or a backpacking travel through Europe, it's important to have a ergonomic backpack that's durable and has enough compartments.
Wirecutter recommends the Osprey Packs Farpoint 70 Travel Backpack but it doesn't look like it's carry-on friendly (this model is OK for carry on though). For more recommendations, I recommend reading through the Pack Chronicles, a new lifestyle blog that features a lot of backpacks, written by one of my closest friends!
tom bihn AERONAUT 45
I believe this bag gets its own category since it's like a backpack and a duffel combined. I've never bought it but so many of my friends rave about it and can't say enough. It's spacious enough like a carry on suitcase, but carries and travels like a backpack and duffel. It's quite adjustable and seems really easy and light to pack with, so even though I've never used it, I'm going to still recommend it!
Check it out here.
Duffel bags are a great option for a weekend getaway where you don't want to look like you're packed for a full week of travel. Duffels are more formless opposed to suitcases, which give me the justification to not be so strategic when it comes to packing (AKA I feel justified to be messy). I also love the feeling of just opening up my duffel wide open when I arrive at my hotel/AirBnB and letting that be enough, versus feeling I need to unpack everything right then and there when I open my suitcase.
Last year, I bought a weekender duffel that's also carry on size compliant from an Australian brand called Country Road. I am obsessed with it. It's pretty, sold, durable, and way bigger than you'd expect.
My absolute favourite duffel in my closet is my Cath Kidston foldable duffel set. Read about it here!
*Another note about the foldable duffels, I brought it over to Korea in case I overshop, which I did, and now I have an extra duffel bag to bring back with me without having to buy a new suitcase! Cath Kidston is putting out more of the model I love, in new patterns! Find them here.
A weekender tote is essential for an overnight stay. Again, if you don't want to take a backpack but don't need to pack an entire duffel, this is a great option. It carries enough, carried on the shoulder, and simple. It doesn't make you feel like you're able to go on some trek. You can find cute and cheap options from Target!
One con about weekenders is the lack of pockets and compartments, just something to keep in mind!
the bottom line...
There are a ton of options when it comes to finding a travel bag; the question is: 'For what occasion?' Consider the length, location/season, intensity of the trip, and which bag might make the most sense to take!
Am I missing a category? Let me know!
If you care at all about packing and maximising space, whether that be for more of your stuff, or empty space for souvenirs on the way back, you MUST get packing cubes.
I bought these packing cubes on Prime Day and got to use them for a handful of trips now. Click on the photo to purchase, and continue reading below for my review!
Packing Cubes are great because all of the folding and rolling you do, you can force compacts them in these bags to really maximise space, and to better organise your items! Personally I hate when I need to pull something out from the bottom of the stack and then all of my rollings for other clothes come undone. It makes a mess and I end up having to reroll everything because that's how I am. It saves you the hassle and the space.
Packing cubes come in different sizes, colours, and are made by a bunch of companies. AmazonBasics are a solid seller for a decent price. Plus, they were cheaper on Prime Day so I decided to give them a try. Since they were my first pair, I bought an assorted set of 2 medium and 2 large sizes. This isn't a huge deal, but I also love that they have side handles to easily maneuver them when need be.
I definitely use the medium sized ones more since they fit perfectly in my carry on suitcase and I use that suitcase for most of my trips. The two mediums fit perfectly stacked on top of each other, turned wide-ways, horizontally; fits like a glove. I'll put all of my tops/outerwear in one bag, and all of my bottoms/undergarments in the other. I'm left with about a third of the space to put in shoes and misc. items (since toiletries will go in my inner compartments).
I really don't think you need to get a fancy packing cube unless you really want to. Keep it simple. You want the bags to be a size that's going to fit your suitcase and fit your clothes; made of sturdy material; and has a reliable zipper that won't break on you. That's about it when it comes to a packing cube. You'll see that they're well-worth the money.
To reiterate, 2 mediums will fit perfectly on top of each other in my suitcase, as well as leaving me about 1/3 left for misc. items in the main compartment. Two larges will fit my larger, international suitcase, leaving me about 1/3 space as well.
AmazonBasics carries a variety of sizes and colours so go ahead and buy the one that works for you! Whether you purchase from Amazon or another manufacturer, they are super worth it and I highly recommend them!
Happy travels (:
Some of my most recommended and favourited apps:
FlightStats - most recently downloaded app but not sure why I didn't download this earlier! You can look up your flights and it'll tell you the terminal, gate number, baggage carousel, and any delays!
Guides by Lonely Planet - itinerary planning app. You can download guides by city plus offline maps. Solid app if you're looking for things to do or eat.
Google Maps - OK this is any smartphone standard app. I use My Maps a lot so it's helpful to visually see all the places I have pinned on my phone.
Lyft - best app to get around. Click on the link to get a $10 credit
Google Trips - helps with itinerary planning. It's extremely limited though- I think they're still working on it but there's a lot of improvements they need to make. The high advantage they have is that it integrates with gMail so they have tickets on file but there's no feature to search certain restaurants or places like you would on Google Map so you're limited to starring places they feature.
TripIt - I'm currently in the market for a good travel journal app so I can record what I've done on my trips. This one seems OK so far, probably the better free ones in the market. It lets me record my activity by day and time, and I can add photos and notes, which is nice. The other really nice thing about it is that it integrates with my gMail so it automatically records tickets for concerts, shows, and flights that I have. However, I wish the mobile app was as good as the desktop web version, and I also wish it was more integrated with other apps like Google Maps so I can see all the places within that city I've gone to, or be able to star different places that I'd like to go to.
PriorityPass - keeps your membership card stored (although most lounges require your actual card) + tells you which lounges are in which airport with super specific info like terminal, nearby gates, hours and amenities.
AirBnB (link gives you $40 off your reservation)
Units Plus (unit converter because America doesn't use the metric system while everyone else does)
Skype - to make international calls + if you want to subscribe to an international callback number
flight price tracker apps
Choosing A Device AND plan
If you haven't read my general post about wifi eggs, click here. We say 'hotspot' here in the States, but a lot of people use 'wifi egg' outside so I'll be interchanging the two, but they mean the same thing.
I did some research on which company I should use to rent a wifi egg in Europe. After reading reviews and comparing prices, I decided on Hippocket. To be honest, the prices didn't differ as wide a I thought, but some of these companies operate in various countries so the pick up locations were in their home country, or else you had to pay a hefty shipping fee (and return fee).
Since I was in France and the UK, I'd obviously want to be able to pick up in the first country I'll be in, return in my last country, and be able to use the device in every city I'll be in.
HIPPOCKET seemed to have great reviews and decent prices, I could pick it up from the airport I arrive in, it worked in all of the countries I was in, comes with charger, we can connect multiple devices at a time, and a return label for me to easily drop it off at any post office when I'm done.
Their Europe plan is now unlimited, meaning, it doesn't cost extra for extra data- the data comes unlimited so you never have to worry about usage.
During The trip
Using the wifi egg in France was a piece of cake. Never had any issues with it except it running out of batteries and us being on top of charging it. Probably lasts a good half day if everyone is connecting and using data frequently.
When we crossed into the UK, we noticed the device wasn't working at all. We had to email support about it and they sent us a PDF on how to make it work (something to do with international roaming), but because our plan was unlimited, whatever that roaming cost was on them; not us. Not something you really have to worry about since they're responsible for covering it all. The only hassle was finding free WiFi to email support, waiting a full day for them to reply and figuring out what to do about wifi in the meantime.
This actually happened twice in the UK so it was a bit inconvenient but it still worked out.
Our flight back to the States was out of Paris, which is where we landed, which is also where HIPPOCKET is based out of. Since they included a return envelope + return postage, returning the device was super easy. I put the device in the bag they gave me, put the bag in the return envelope, and dropped it off at a post mailbox at the airport. Easy peasy!
The Bottom line
Choosing which company to go with really depends on which countries you'll be visiting and which ends up being most cost efficient for you. In my case, definitely worth since it was the best option. Hiccups here and there but not anything you can't work with.
If you do end up going with this company, comment below or let me know and I can send you the PDF they sent me regarding roaming so you don't have to wait for them to reply with the same file.
It's a week before your trip and you don't know how to plan for spending money there... What are your options?!
You should have both cash and card options with you during your trip as a precaution (but not too much cash cus you'll get mugged).
I highly recommend carrying some local currency with you since depending on the country, you'll need to pay restaurants, taxis, tips, etc. in cash. However, make sure you have two separate stashes: 1 for day to day spending, meaning you should only keep maybe $20-50 worth of USD in youor visible wallet so people think that's the only cash you're carrying. The other stash should be a secret stash of the rest of your cash. It's more of a safety tip than anything else.
When I went to Paris, I needed to buy train tickets for my family but the machine kept declining my card. All the other places I used my card was totally fine but for some reason it wasn't working, so I ended up using my card at a service booth where a real person helped me buy my tickets. Had they not had a booth, I would have needed to withdraw some cash and pay for the tickets via cash.
I'm finding that it's getting harder and harder to exchange cash beforehand at bank. My dad went into his local bank and asked to exchange USD for Yen and they said it'd take up to 6 weeks... HA! Ain't nobody got time for that. Your other option is the post office, which can sometimes be cheaper than market rate.
Your worst (but sometimes only) option is exchanging at the airport. They always have high market rates, and sometimes a service fee depending on where you go. Nevertheless, you'll always get the short end of the stick there so avoid it if you can.
Of course you can be super prepared and exchange currency beforehand, but what if you need more cash in that country? My advice is to check which international banks your home bank is affiliated with. More often than not, your banks will have a partnership set up so that you're not charged an extra fee if you withdraw from those affiliate ATM.
I have Bank of America, so my international affiliate banks are:
Please note that they call 'ATM' something else in every city. So typing ATM in Google Maps in England probably won't work... You'd have to search for 'cashpoint.' I'd also recommend looking into maximum amounts, and any other fees that you may incur on your bank's websites.
Withdrawing cash from an affiliate ATM will not charge an extra withdrawal or foreign fee, but the cash will be exchanged at the rate that the bank charges, which in my opinion, is still worth it. For me, this has turned out to be the most convenient option when traveling.
SUPER IMPORTANT: You should ALWAYS notify your bank(s) when you're traveling so they don't mark it as fraud!!!
If you don't have an option to go to an affiliate bank, then be warned that you will incur a fee every time you withdraw. Depending on your bank and account, that amount will differ. I believe the standard is something like $5 per transaction.
For ATMs that try to get you with the 'FREE WITHDRAWAL' sign on the machine, be warned that though they may no charge you for using their machine, your bank might.
And of course, if this wasn't obvious, use your debit card when withdrawing cash. ;)
Paying With card
If you travel enough, I HIGHLY recommend getting a credit card that benefits international travel. The one benefit you probably want to look for is that they don't charge for foreign transaction fees. I don't know too much about credit cards and it's a game I'm learning myself still so I can't recommend any specific cards, so... go to CreditKarma & the Points Guy and do your own research :P
I can only speak to the one card I have, which is the Chase Sapphire Reserve and it's pretty freaking bomb.
ANYWAYS get a card that will benefit YOU, meaning, you can hear what your friends and experts say, but ultimately the decision is yours and you need to find a card that will benefit you in the ways you need your card to come through.
Some of the benefits might be: no foreign transaction fees, points towards travel, some kind of travel insurance domestic and international, an international concierge number, roadside assistance, lounge membership, or reimbursement for Global Entry.
It will make your life easier knowing they have your back (like I do, heh).
This isn't for everyone, but I thought it'd be nice to talk about souvenirs- not the touristy ones you buy for your friends (although it can be if you want it to be), but souvenirs for yourself to make your memories a little more special. They can be physical items, or they can be photos! Personally I don't particularly enjoy taking selfies, and it doesn't help that I'm terrible at taking them, but I still want to make my photos more personal so they don't look like everyone else's.
Some simple ideas:
Find something quirky that isn't what everyone else is doing. They'll also make for a great conversation starter and story!
jeany's travel souvenirs
1. I found Hugo at a souvenir shop in Costa Rica in 2014. I've taken him with me wherever I've traveled and make sure to take a photo of him in front of a popular site. Follow #hugofollows to see where he's been.
2. I started collecting mugs from the Starbucks Relief collection. They don't have them in every city I go, but I'll go out of my way to find them when I know they're there. I prefer them over the regular Starbucks City series. My photo only shows 5, but I think I actually have close to 13.
Go out and find your souvenir & give your travels an extra touch. (:
Front to back: bag pouch, medium duffle, large duffle.
It's a three-in-one weekender pack. Both duffles fold into smaller pouches that fit inside the bag pouch... AMAZING RIGHT?
My aunt gifted me this set knowing that I love Cath Kidston + I love to travel. Oddly, Cath Kidston has stores in Korea, but not in the States. I couldn't find this item on their main site, but I did find it on some random shopping site.
why i love it
why you might not
When traveling internationally, you might want to consider renting a wifi egg aka mobile hotspot device, especially if you don't know the language, aren't familiar with the area, are addicted to social media, or traveling alone.
Of course you can find wifi pretty easily these days at establishments like cafes, stores/malls, and museums, but it's more of a convenient factor to have wifi on hand should you need it. I wouldn't consider it something essential to your trip, especially if you'll be visiting areas that are quite technologically developed.
When I went to Korea last year, I used Pocket Wifi Korea. It was convenient, decently cheap (especially if you're sharing with a friend), and I'd for sure rent one again the next I go. I'm actually renting one when I go to Europe next month so I'll probably update this post once I come back with my thoughts on how it worked in Europe vs Asia.
In Korea specifically, I noticed a lot of AirBnBs let you rent one for free, which is a crazy great perk, but obviously only for the duration of your stay. So if you're staying at multiple AirBnBs/hotels, you'll only be able to use it during your reservation.
uses for wifi egg
Most devices should...
The only CON I can think of is that it heats up easily!
How to choose
Companies vary in product and plan. To find the right one for you, consider these questions:
wifi egg vs. sim card
I used a SIM card during my trip in Australia for the first time. I used my friend's old Australian phone, went to a local grocery store to buy a reloadable card, activated it online, and then started using it. I bought 10 GB worth of data for $30 (it was either that or $10 for 2 GB or something similar). 2 GB still would've been enough for me since I was there for only 4 days, but the offer enticed me.
I also had my phone and didn't want to use her phone to log into all of my stuff so I used her phone mainly as a hotspot to have data on my phone.
The phone I used was an iPhone 4 so the battery died quickly, and it got so so hot. Even after I connected hotspot to my phone, if it was idle for like 15 minutes, I'd have to reconnect it again if I wanted to use it.
Now that I think about it, I think the policy nowadays is that your network provider will unlock your phone for you but it's something you'd have to go into to do, and not sure if there's an additional service charge for that.
My advice: if your phone is compatible with international SIM cards and you don't mind the trouble of going into your provider's store, and buying a SIM card when you get there, then by all means, go for it. It ended up being about the same price in my experience. I think after experiencing both, I prefer renting a wifi egg at the airport, making it simple and easy!
Below is a post that might be helpful if you're considering which to get.
Let me say this: If you travel at least three times a year, and tend to be a sleeper on the plane, I'd recommend getting a travel neck pillow!
This is my review for the trtl pillow. Link below if you want to purchase!
why i love it...
NOT the best fit if you...
the bottom line
Overall, I'd recommend this pillow to anyone looking for a solid neck pillow, especially if they're looking for something compact. It's not the answer to all of your problems, but it's definitely a great starter pillow.
Be on the lookout for more reviews for more neck pillows + travel items!