The first time I went to the UK, I didn’t take luggage. No rolling suitcase, no duffel bag, no bag just for shoes, and no extra bag to bring souvenirs back home. I had a backpack. A backpack that comfortably fit all of my clothes when they were rolled, and yet was still small enough to be considered a carry-on. The pack itself was light weight, easy to carry, and was built with enough to support to keep my back from feeling the weight. My whole family actually traveled this way.
Some of you may think this is completely horrendous, and that you would never in a million years cram all of your clothes into a little backpack. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you why it was my absolute favorite way to travel, and why I did it again the second time I went to the UK.
First let me say, not all backpacks are created equal. Once we decided that this was how we were going to pack for our trip, we invested in some nice hiking backpacks because A: they had a separate backing that kept the bulk of the pack off of your back, thus allowing your back to breathe while carrying it around, and B: They had extra hip support, if your pack started to feel too heavy on your shoulders. These packs were built to carry a lot more than what we were taking with us (think, hiking into the wilderness with your tent, sleeping bag, cookware, etc. because that’s what they were designed to do).
First of all, when I am flying somewhere, checking luggage is always a scary thing to me. When I traveled to Prague, so many fellow classmates were without luggage (i.e. clothes/toiletries/you get it) for several weeks while the airline tried to find their suitcase and mail it back to them. Granted, we were in Prague for several months, so packing regular luggage was kind of necessary. But if you are only going somewhere for a week or two, save yourself the hassle of lost luggage, and just pack a carry-on. Most airlines allow you to have a carry-on plus one other smaller bag as well, so your computer, camera or purse can remain separate.
As soon as you land at your destination, there’s another immediate benefit. No waiting at the luggage claim. When we arrived in England, everyone else that had just spent over 8 hours on the plane was waiting for their luggage, but we breezed on past with our handy dandy carry-ons and were one of the first groups out at the taxis.
Another huge win is that we also were able to take everything we had with us. Now, we didn’t do this every time we left the hotel, for obvious reasons, but if we decided to go out on a long excursion, it was so convenient to have everything you brought just right there in your bag. No more situations of forgetting something important in the hotel room.
There is also no more packing of unnecessary items. Do you really need to bring 5 pairs of shoes for a week long trip? No. No you do not. When you have limited space to pack, you tend to pack only the essentials. And it’s kind of refreshing, in my opinion, to do without some things for a while, and see what you actually miss and what you can live without.
Also, with all the different pockets and hiding places in backpacks, it a lot harder to have something stolen. Although this has never been a issue for me, it’s still gives me piece of mind. Purses can be an easy target for snatching, whereas a backpack that is around both arms is much, much harder. And burying items like passports, valuables and extra cash down low, within the clothes in your bag can keep them extra safe.
And probably the best thing of all? Not carrying luggage, obviously. When we travel, we travel. Different city every day kind of deal. And it makes it so much easier to cover ground, board trains, walk across cities, basically you name it, when you have a backpack instead of a rolling suitcase. Your hands are free to hold phones, maps, boarding passes, or your sandwich you picked up in the train station. And since they are carry-on size, they general fit well under tables, in train overhead compartments and even beside you in the seat. And I can’t tell you how many times we’ve arrived in a city before our hotel room is available. But instead of wasting time, waiting to drop our luggage off, we just start exploring the city, and when the room is ready, even better!
If you are adventuring outside of the city, into the wilderness, all of these things still apply. There’s a reason hikers have made these backpacks a necessity on long journeys.
While I know this kind of traveling is not always what is needed, and sometimes luggage is really better suited, that is 100% totally okay. I’ve traveled both ways, and there is no right or wrong way. But I encourage you, on your next adventure, to grab a backpack and see if you can pack what you need in a carry-on. It’ll make your trip a breeze.
Have you gone backpacking recently? And what are some things you absolutely have to pack when traveling?