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Travel Tips: Essential Travel Gear and How We Each Pack For Vacations

Charise doesn't share my enthusiasm for packing.

Charise and I pack very differently. I enjoy the process, and Charise can't stand it. A fact that became very evident when we were packing for Paris. Days passed, and Charise still hadn't packed. Her bag sat conspicuously empty. We had an early morning flight and the night before she was still loading things into the suitcase. Meanwhile, I had been ready to go for a while. I also try to pack as little as possible, while my wife wants to bring it all with us. Especially shoes. She's always packing way too many shoes. We already discussed our ongoing packing differences in this past blog post. Even though we pack very differently, we love to travel together. So we've both resigned ourselves to agree to disagree.

Charise and I pack very differently. I enjoy the process, and she can’t stand it.

To move forward with this endless packing debate, we co-wrote this article. We each wrote our respective sections. Below is how we each personally pack and the gear that makes it possible. Some of these products were sent to us to try out and some of them we bought ourselves, but they all help make our travels less stressful. Also if you click through on any of the affiliate Amazon links and buy something, it helps support our site. Anyway, here's how we each pack our bags. Whose side will you be on?


I enjoy packing. I know that's weird, but I like it. For me, it's the first step in taking a trip, and I'm eager to get to it. I also appreciate the challenge of packing as little and as neatly as possible. I know I'm in the minority, but I can't be the only one who finds joy in a neatly packed bag. I usually pack up several days before we leave. That way I'm not rushed, and I'm less likely to forget something important. Up next is how I get everything into a suitcase and some of the products that make it easier.

Carry-on bag

I don't like to check bags. I don't want to worry about the airline losing my stuff or damaging it. I also don't want to wait in an extra check line or at the baggage carousel. Even if a connecting flight is missed or delayed, I still have all my stuff with me. Besides those reasons though, I think traveling with less is more enjoyable. I have one bag and one backpack. That makes everything a lot simpler. It's easier to get in and out of cars and trains. Maneuvering through cities and airports isn't as cumbersome. There's just less to keep track of, and I like that. 

I think traveling with less is more enjoyable.

My carry-on is just an everyday samsonite roller bag, although I have my eyes set on an aluminum bag in the future. I think bags with four roller wheels are easier to navigate than those that only have two. I also prefer bags that have hard sides because they're waterproof and more durable.

The cubes fit neatly into my carry-on, with space left over.

Inside the bag, I find that rolling your clothes saves space over folding them. I use packing cubes to keep everything organized. We purchased this set from Amazon. We're not sure about the quality of this exact set, but they were cheap, and the idea is the same with any cubes. The cubes help keep everything separate. You pack pants in one bag, shirts in another and underwear in a different cube. If you have to get anything out, it keeps all your stuff from falling out, and it makes unpacking in your room a breeze. Packing cubes are a must. I also have all my liquids in a waterproof, clear zipper bag. If anything leaks out, my clothes will stay safe and dry.

Personal Item

Along with a carry-on, I can bring one personal item on the plane. That item is the Peak Design 20L Backpack. I've bought a lot of camera bags, and none of them have been quite right. Peak bags are fantastic though. I've owned two Peak bags. I had the Everyday Messenger, and I liked it a lot but carrying it around started to hurt my shoulder after a while. The backpack distributes the weight much better than the messenger. It comes in two versions, the 20L, that I have and a slightly larger 30L version.  It holds all our equipment with room to spare and still fits under an airplane seat.

The Peak Designs 20L Everyday Backpack.


  1. I sleep with a fan at home, but most hotels don't have them. I picked up this small travel fan, and it's excellent. It pushes a fair amount of air and drowns out noises so I can sleep better.

  2. Phone and tablet batteries are always running out. I use this Anker Battery Pack to recharge our gear on the go. It also plugs directly into the wall to recharge. That works great because it doesn't need a separate cable to juice up and I can use it as a regular wall charger at night.

  3. Planes, trains, and cabs are dirty. That dirt has a sneaky way of attaching itself to you. It can lead to your bag and clothes not smelling as good as they could. In my carry-on, I throw in a few dryer sheets to keep everything fresh. Then at the end of the day, I spritz my jackets down with this wrinkle releaser to keep them from getting grimy. By the way, the wrinkle releaser was Charise's idea. I guess all her packing opinions aren't that bad.



I, unlike Kenan, dislike packing immensely. I love him, but he's ridiculous. I know we're going somewhere once we book the tickets. I don't need to pack early to remind myself we're leaving. It also doesn't make me feel like I'm already on vacation. I might be known to procrastinate when it comes to packing, but everything is always ready when we have to leave for the airport. Also most of the things I have to pack, I still use on a daily basis. My toiletries, curling iron, and makeup are all things I need right up until we leave. I'm pretty sure more people will be on my side in this.

I love him, but he’s ridiculous.

Also, I feel I should address the shoe issue. Kenan definitely exaggerates. I packed four pairs of shoes for Paris. Four. That's not too many and do running shoes even count? I don't think so. Besides, Kenan didn't even wear all the shoes he packed on our last trip. 

Carry-on Bag

I also don't like to check bags. It is way more convenient and uncomplicated to get around. But I'm not as set against it as Kenan is. I occasionally wouldn't mind checking a bag, especially for full-size liquids or more shoes. Wink, wink.

I went for the packing cubes with the cactus pattern.

I occasionally wouldn’t mind checking a bag, especially for full-size liquids or more shoes. Wink, wink. 

When it comes to packing our carry-ons, we actually pack similarly. Rolling clothes saves space and helps with wrinkles. You still get them, but they're not as bad. I like our packing cubes as well. The zippers are pretty sketchy though. I'm pretty sure they'll fall apart soon. We'll have to do better research on the next set.

Plenty of room for more shoes.

Personal Item

My personal item is something I've struggled with since we've started traveling. I tend to cheap out on certain things. Backpacks were always one of those things. I've learned the hard way you get what you pay for. I've had several bags that were either too flimsy or just not my style. All in the hopes of saving money. In the end, I spent more money and still didn't have a bag that I liked.

My Uphill Designs bag.

That all ended when I got the Uphill Designs, Aster bag. My Uphill designs bag isn't cheap, but that's a good thing. It won't be falling apart anytime soon. Every part of this bag is handmade with full grain leather. It's so soft and fits my style perfectly. It holds all the stuff that I need on the plane, and it's fashionable enough to look good in whatever city we're in. Don't cheap out like I did. Get a great bag that will be with you forever. 


  1. A Good Book - Kenan reads on his phone to save room, but I like an actual physical book. He says it's a waste of space, but I feel like it's worth it. Hence the reason it's under my essentials. For our Mexico trip, I bought a few used books, but I haven't quite decided which one (or three) to bring.

  2. Most electric toothbrushes are too big and bulky to pack efficiently. Quip is only slightly larger than a standard toothbrush, so it fits perfectly into my bag. Plus, each brush comes with a cover that doubles as a mount that sticks to the mirror. It gets the toothbrush out of the way so I can use more counter space for my next essential. We both love our Quip brushes!

  3. Hotel counter space is often limited, and this makes it tough to keep all my makeup organized. I like this makeup bag because it keeps everything neatly in one spot. There are pockets and holders on the inside to keep brushes together and upright. It also stands straight up, so everything isn't strewn across the counter.

  4. I really like Airpods. They're great for traveling, exercising or exercising while traveling. The battery life has been great. I highly recommend them.

The Quip toothbrush fits neatly into my toiletries bag.


For most people packing is a painful chore or at best, a necessary evil on the way to a vacation. To travel though, you have to take some stuff with you. You might as make it as easy as possible. Hopefully, our suggestions helped you do just that. How do you feel about packing? Do you pack more like Charise or like me? What are some of your favorite packing tips? Let us know below in the comments.   


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