How to Pack – Part 2 of 2

In my last post, I reviewed what to consider when packing for a trip – weather, activities, and social expectations. Let’s get into some specifics. All of the recommendations below are items I have personally tried, except when noted. Also, I’m (sadly) not getting paid by any of these brands…but they can offer any time and I’d probably accept!


Choosing shoes for travel is, in my opinion, the hardest pre trip choice you’ll have to make. I generally don’t recommend brining more than 2 pairs of shoes on any trip, unless it’s longer than 2-3 weeks. Not including flip flops if you’re staying in a hostel.

Unless you’re a complete fashionista, I generally recommend a pair of every day walking shoes and then if you plan on any hiking, then a pair of hiking shoes. Of course, you need to consider your activities. If you plan on a nice dinner out, then a pair of ballet slippers will generally fit into any size suitcase, but they’re not great for lots of walking around in.

I can’t recommend enough the Keen Sienna MJ Canvas shoes. They were my primary shoe in Turkey, and not only did I walk around Istanbul’s cobble stone streets in them, I hiked in the Cappadocian hills and never once had any foot fatigue. They do get a little stinky, so when I got home I used some baby powder in them. I now have 3 pairs…one for getting wet and dirty, and two in different colors for every day use.

Keens at the Beach

My Keens and I at the Oregon Coast

Base Layers

I’m allergic to the cold. You think I’m joking? I wish. I have a fairly rare condition called cold induced urticaria. Not only is it annoying, it can also be somewhat life threatening. As a kid, my only option for layering were those waffle long johns that I think were meant for sleeping in. They usually made me sweat too much, and I felt pretty ridiculous with them under all of my clothes. For a while as a poor graduate student, I bought leggings from Target or Ross, but they always seemed to pill or bulk up under my jeans.

Fortunately, I eventually found much better options. There are many types of base layers now, and what you decide to buy will depend on your activity as well as your budget. I really like Winter Silk’s long underwear. They come in different weights aren aren’t bulky, so won’t take up much room in your luggage.

Day Bags

For safety, I recommend cross body bags or backpacks. Shoulder bags and clutches are too easy to steal or lose along the way.

For cross body bags, be sure to get one that zips closed, it’ll be much harder for pick pockets to access. I purchased the Ogio Tablet Purse for my trip to Turkey because of the padded section for my ipad and the hidden pocket for my passport. It also has a long, thick strap that can be both cross body and over the shoulder. I loved it so much that I continue to use it to this day, and I constantly get compliments on it.

I also brought a small backpack because purses tend to hurt my back after too long. I can’t emphasize *small* enough – bringing a big backpack can be just as bad for your back if it gets too heavy. Mine was actually a small camelback style bag without the bladder in it. Here I am in it in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul!

Hagia Sophia Cat


I recently heard that airlines were considering making the allowed carry on size smaller, which makes me think that luggage manufacturers are in on the deal since they know everybody will have to buy new bags. I did a TON of research on carry on bags because I prefer not to check luggage if I can get away with it. This ensures I won’t bring too much stuff and what I do bring won’t get lost somewhere along the way.

I love my Osprey Porter 46. It is the largest size carry on allowed by most major airlines. I especially wanted something that opens on the side as opposed to the top. I find traditional backpacks to be frustrating when you’re looking for something towards the bottom of the bag. Interestingly, it looks like they have updated it since I purchased mine. It now has an organization panel which is kind of interesting.


How to Pack – Part 1 of 2

Being accepted to study for a year at Queens University under an exchange program at my undergrad college was probably the highlight of my youth. Packing for said trip, however, was my downfall. I don’t remember exactly what I brought with me, but I know it involved two large suitcases, a trunk, and two carry ons. I looked ridiculous pushing all of that luggage on a cart through Heathrow, transferring to a domestic flight.

In retrospect, brining that much stuff was absolutely overkill, even for a 10 month trip.
To be fair, I had never been a really great packer. At the end of every year of college, I would pack all of my stuff until the following year. Most would be stored at my best friend’s house, the rest would be shipped home with me to Oregon and then back again at the beginning of the next year. Inevitably, after my best try at packing, my best friend would come in and redo the entire job for me. She always managed to get more stuff into less space.
Packing for a 1-2 week trip (or even 3) is admittedly much easier than packing up your life every 4 months, but it’s still a challenge.  There are a lot of things one needs to factor in such as weather, activities, and social expectations.
Let’s break that down a bit.
Yes, weather is unpredictable, but you can at least try to anticipate what you’re going to need. Clearly, if your destination is warm, you don’t need as many layers for warmth. However, if you anticipate rain or snow, it’s important to bring layers. I’m a fan of base layers because they aren’t bulky to pack. Sometimes, you just get stuck in bad weather. When I was in Istanbul, my friends and I were drenched in a sudden downpour as we made our way to the Chora Church outside of the city center. Of course, right at that moment, the price of umbrellas soared, so we just got wet and dealt with it. If we had foreseen rain for the next few days, of course we would’ve paid the price.
Unless you’re just going to the beach to lay out and relax, you’re probably going to be doing a mix of activities. This can sometimes make packing a challenge as you want to be properly attired for different scenarios. When I went to Turkey, I knew I’d be doing a whole lot of walking around the city, but I also wanted to be prepared for a nice dinner out. So I brought a dress that was on the casual side but could be dressed up with a simple necklace and earrings. Shoes were the hardest for me because comfortable shoes that are also not dowdy can be hard to find. Shoes also take up a lot of space in your luggage, so you don’t want to overdo it there. It took some time, but I settled on a pair of keens (see next post for more info). The only thing I didn’t factor in, because I didn’t expect it, was hiking. Fortunately my keens worked out, but a good pair of tennis shoes would’ve been better.
Sadly, this sign exists because people are stupid.
Embed from Getty Images
Social Expectations
This is something that women need to consider more often than men, but that doesn’t mean men should just wear whatever they want. I feel that it’s best to blend in with the culture as much as possible, especially in more conservative countries. It’ll be important for you to do your research, and I recommend reading travel books and using google. For example, for men and women, wearing shorts for just walking around is not acceptable in Indonesia. Just a quick google search came up with these suggestions.  Does this mean that I always 100% follow the social norm? No, but sometimes I regret it. For example, when I was in Istanbul, I brought a dress that showed my shoulders. It definitely brought me some unwanted attention. I might’ve gotten that attention anyways, but it made me feel a bit more visible than I would’ve liked to be.
In the next post, I’ll focus more on specific gear that you should/shouldn’t bring and how to pack.