What’s in my bag?
It’s a question I’ve gotten a lot over the years so I decided it was time to unzip and let my alert readers in on my essential packing list to work, photograph, video and blog your way around the world for a month.
On whirlwind RTW trips like mine, it goes without saying that travelling light is key. When you’re hopping a flight to a new country every few days, the last thing you want to be doing is schlepping a ton of luggage. Carry-on is where it’s at. To check a bag is to admit defeat!
How do you pack for a month on the road in a carry-on bag? One word: laundry. Pack the essentials and wash when needed. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned after 10 trips around the world – I never wish I had brought more, but I often wish I’d brought less.
Carry-on Princess that I am, the most important item is a good sturdy rollerboard that meets international size guidelines (19”) – which are not as liberal as domestic US (22”). My favorite luggage is made by Tumi and my current bag obsession is from their V3 line.
This hard-sided, super-lightweight bag is made from a multi-later polycarbonate. The 4 multi-directional wheels on the bottom allow it to roll alongside you as well as behind (a feature that I didn’t think I’d love as much as I do). The divided packing section inside is especially useful for those of us who often live out of our suitcases.
My “Personal Item”
In addition to my beloved Vapor bag, I also travel with what the TSA would refer to as my “personal item” – my trusty ESPN backpack (a gift from my employer which has turned out to be the best backpack I’ve ever owned). Lots of little pockets make it great for holding all of my gadgets and their various chargers and accessories. While you can’t actually own the ESPN version, the backpack itself is the Ogio Renegade and the non-logoed version is widely available.
Now, on to my favorite part…the electronics!!! I am, after all, a gadget girl at heart.
First and foremost, my laptop – the Asus Transformer Pro 2-in-1 Touchscreen. When it comes to laptops, I tend to change every 2 years or so. The most important features to me are portability & battery life and at just under 2lbs with up to 9 hours of battery life, the Asus fits the bill. I also love the touchscreen feature and the ability to detach the keyboard completely and use it as a tablet.
Though they advertise 9 hours, I can usually get 5+ hours out of it on a long flight which is pretty good for the price point. Since I work from the road almost exclusively, a reliable laptop is my most important business expense and at $1199 the Asus has proven an affordable and reliable choice.
Second most important is my Samsung Galaxy S9+ from T-Mobile. Yes, I’m a fan of Apple products, too (see below), but for my phone I’ve stuck with Android. The S9+ is sleek and the battery life is good but it’s the new dual aperture camera lens that won me over.
If you need international coverage when you travel, your only true options are AT&T or T-Mobile. I’ve been with T-Mobile for nearly a decade and that loyalty paid off in a big way in late 2014 when they introduced FREE international data in more than 100 countries. Most of the coverage is on slower EDGE networks overseas (think 2G or 3G equivalent instead of lightning fast 4G) but I still think this is a huge advance and a welcome change for international travelers like me who’ve been terrified to connect their phone to anything but wifi overseas.
I’ve now used the free international data in dozens of countries and it’s so nice to use my phone around the world just as easily as I would use it at home (with the exception of a reasonable $.20/minute for actual calls). Just remember, you must be on T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan to take advantage of free international data.
Of course, all work and no play makes Jenny a dull girl – so on to the fun stuff!
Camera, lenses and photo storage
For capturing all those great images on my travels, I rely on my Nikon D5300 DSLR camera with an upgraded 18-140mm VR lens kit. I also have a 55-300mm zoom lens but I find the 18-140 is versatile enough to cover most of my needs. I absolutely love this camera and while I am certainly no professional photographer, the D5300 has been known to make me look like one.
I carry a variety of memory cards ranging from 16G to 32G. For storing and backing up my photos while on the road, I upload them as I go to my 2 Verbatim 1TB travel drives (one primary, one back-up). And for organizing and editing all those photos, I use Adobe’s Lightroom software.
Once I’ve downloaded, edited and backed-up all my photos, I upload them into a gallery on my SmugMug site.
For HD video I recently splurged by upgrading from the GoPro Hero2 to the new Hero3+ Black Edition. To be honest, I’ve not been the best at capturing video on my previous trips, I was always more focused on photography. But with the fun, lightweight GoPro, I’m trying turn over a new leaf in the video world. It’s hard not to love these versatile, waterproof, tiny little cameras that pack a big punch when it comes to HD video quality.
But for me, the GoPro isn’t perfect for every situation. For one thing, it comes equipped with a wide angle lens (with no zoom capability) that’s great for landscape and action shots but tougher to use for close-up shots.
However, combined with the video camera on my Samsung Galaxy S9+ (which is ideal for close-up shooting) the two are a perfect pair. One thing that I find far superior in the H3 versus the H2 is the ability to use the GoPro app on my phone to actually see what I’m shooting with the camera (which I thought was a huge disadvantage on the H2 and why I didn’t use it much) and replay video right after I’ve shot it to make sure I got what I wanted.
Before, I would shoot with the H2 and never know until I uploaded the files to my laptop what the video looked like. Since upgrading I’ve gotten a lot more use out of the H3 than I ever did out of the H2.
Yes, I carry a tripod, too!
For capturing all those pictures and videos with me actually in them, a tripod is essential. Nothing travels better than the Gorillapod by Joby. It’s lightweight yet sturdy enough to support a DSLR, available in 4 sizes (I have two) and has flexible, bendable legs that adjust to any surface. A dream come true for the solo traveler!
And for my latest and greatest toy…I recently broke down and upgraded my First Generation iPad to an iPad Air. If you’ve read this far you know that I’m not a big Apple person (nothing wrong with their products, I’ve just always found my PC better for business purposes), though I do love my iPod like everyone else in the world. But these days you really need either an iPhone or iPad to have access to all the best apps, some of which are exclusive to the Apple world.
Plus, I always like to have a reliable back-up with me on long trips in case the worst should happen with my laptop.
And I have to say, I have fallen in love with my new iPad, it’s amazingly lightweight. And now that I can leave it powered on when the boarding door closes on the plane, I can finally use it for all my reading. While it can’t replace my laptop just yet (thanks to business and photo editing needs) I have a feeling that day is not far off – and I look forward to it!
Of course, none of these fancy electronics will work world-wide without a reliable universal power adapter. When it comes to travel adapters, I’m not a fan of the kind with multiple moving parts that can easily get lost leaving you unable to plug in on an entire continent. Instead, I prefer a simple, all-in-one adapter.
I recently upgraded to this powder blue beauty from travel accessory company Lewis N. Clark. Not only does it work in more than 175 countries, it also has two very handy USB ports on the side which make it exceptionally functional for charging my phone, laptop and iPad all at the same time.
And thanks to its bright color, I’m less likely to accidentally leave it behind in a hotel room….so, that’s a win!
Another handy accessory (especially for trips to tropical locales) is a reliable dry bag. Mine is not just for keeping things dry on a day at the beach, I also use it for keeping essential electronics dry on those inter-island speedboat trips and ferry rides. It’s also useful as a day pack when exploring a new city on a rainy day.
My GoBreezie Towel – A new find! One of the things I never used to travel with was a beach towel. It was just too much of a pain to fit into my small suitcase. I would always buy a cheap one on the road somewhere when I needed it and then leave it behind. I mean who wants beach sand in their luggage?
But I recently discovered GoBreezie towels. Made from a soft, versatile microfiber, they are literally sandless beach towels! They dry quickly and come in an adorable coordinating carrying case that makes it easy to throw into my suitcase. When folded, it isn’t much bigger than a paperback and they come in dozens of colorful, geometric designs. Mine is the “Across the Sea” design (pictured here).
Who’s got room for clothes, anyway?
Aside from all the gadgets, I do find room for clothes, some shoes and a few essential liquids…but I won’t get into to all that here. I did, however, take the time to break down my comprehensive RTW packing list (including clothing items) in my book, The Grown-Up’s Guide to Globetrotting, so if you’re interested in reading further, check it out!
One thing I have learned in 10 trips around the world is there are very few things that can’t be replaced along the way if the need arises so I don’t sweat the small stuff.
So pack your carry-on bag, folks, the world awaits…