I never check a bag when traveling abroad. The anxiety of losing my luggage on one of the many flights it takes to execute a trip is not something I like to mess around with, so I choose to pack everything into a carry-on bag. Preferably a backpack since we like to stay in a lot of different areas when we travel, and trying to roll a suitcase around is not ideal.
Bags and packs
I have used a couple of carry-on bags, but I recommend going no bigger than a 46 L bag to be safe. I use the Osprey 46 L Porter, while my wife likes to use the 40 L REI Ruckpack. Both different, but both reliable. These packs have numerous easy-access pouches, and you can easily get to the things you packed in the bottom of the bag (no taking out everything you own if you get stopped through security).
When I travel I like to go somewhere no less than two weeks, so I had to learn how to pack lightly. I have tried different techniques in order to cram as much as possible, but have found that I save most space when using REI's packing cubes. These things are great, and I have to give credit to my wife for discovering them.
Choosing what to wear
Now I am going to give you a very Type A process of planning out what I pack for vacation. This may not be everyone's desired approach, but it has helped me in figuring out what I need on a trip verses what I want. It is necessary to weed out certain items when you are packing in order to fit multiple weeks worth of clothing in a 46 L pack.
Check the weather. I know that this can constantly change in some places, but even getting a general idea of what you may see during the time of year you are going will help.
See if there are washers available. If you are staying in an AirBnb, many have the option for you to wash your clothes. If you aren't staying in an AirBnb, you can also research different laundromats nearby. This can dramatically cut down what you will need to pack, and you can purchase travel detergent that won't take up space in your bag.
Make an itinerary. List each date you will be traveling/on vacation, and what you plan to do on those days. This doesn't have to super detailed, but just enough to give you an idea of what attire you would like to be in while doing these activities.
Create a wardrobe. Using your itinerary, write (in detail!!!) exactly what you will wear. For example, if I am taking a day to hike Spain's Caminito del Rey at the end of July, I am going to want to wear a sports bra, underwear, running shorts, tank top, socks, and tennis shoes. And that is just for the hike- we may go to a nice dinner later in which I would have to plan another outfit, plus pajamas for bed. This may seem excessive, but it will make sense in the next step!
Pick out the duplicates. After you have completed your wardrobe, look to see how many days you are wearing the same pieces of clothing. Will that one t-shirt work for multiple days, or will you need another? Do you really need that extra pair of shorts, or can you manage with the two pairs you already have? Ask yourself what can you mix, match, and wear multiple times in order to create more outfits with less pieces of clothing- ESPECIALLY if you plan to wash your clothes at different points of your trip.
Deciding on extras
The clothes you decide to bring will change from trip to trip, but there are a few items that you will want to think about each time you travel. Below is a list that you can use to make sure you aren't forgetting anything:
Paperwork: Passport; driver's license; printed tickets/vouchers; travel itinerary.
Electronics: Phone; phone charger; adapters; headphones; laptop.
Bath/Shower: Shampoo and conditioner; body soap; face care & make-up; razor; body lotion; q-tips; hair brushes & accessories; hair appliances (check to see what your accommodations offer first!); miscellaneous hair care products; tooth brush; tooth paste; floss; deodorant; tampons/pads; medicine(s).
Currency: Cash; credit card; check card.
Other: Small daily travel bags; glasses; dirty clothes bag; neck pillow; laundry detergent.
Remember, most things you can purchase anywhere, so if you forget something small you will probably be fine. I hope that this blog post can be of help to you, but in case I have missed something I welcome any questions you may have for me about my packing experiences. Or, if you have any good tips that have worked for you, we would love to hear about them.
Enjoy your travels!
I do ask that this stays a positive and safe space for readers, so please, no hurtful language or remarks about other's experiences. Thank you.