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packing in one bag for a mixed transit trip

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Last weekend, Evan and I headed out on a quick two-night trip to the northeast. We were flying in to Newark, Lyfting to Jersey City, using the PATH train to head into NYC, then taking a bus from New York City to Boston the next day, and flying home from Logan. (I’m exhausted just recounting all that!) Originally, I was packing into my small (but roomy) packable tote, but since I knew we’d be walking around a lot and trekking through Boston on foot, I wanted something easier to manage, since my tote doesn’t have a shoulder strap or anything.

We bought a packable backpack last summer that we’ve gotten a lot of use from, so I decided to pick up one of my own without spending a ton of money on it. VenturePal’s Large Hiking backpack fit the bill at just under $13. Initially I thought I’d just throw it into my tote and deal with switching things over once we got to Jersey, but I ended up doing the opposite – packing into the backpack and throwing the packed tote in, just in case. The forecast for the weekend was shifty – rain expected, of course – so I packed in a way that I thought would be optimistic, just in case things were sunny instead.

On the plane, I wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a lightweight C9 track jacket. I really wanted to wear my favorite Crocs sandals, but since the weather forecast showed rain, I stuck with my trusty Sperrys.

What I Packed


  • Two pairs of socks (I packed these “just in case,” and didn’t use them since it didn’t rain)
  • Four pairs underwear (extra underwear is something I’m always going to tote.)
  • Two sports bras
  • One pair sleep shorts (I wouldn’t have brought sleep stuff, but we stayed with a friend in Boston and I think everyone appreciated that I wore clothes to bed)
  • One sleep tank top
  • One pair Uniqlo drape pants
  • One pair Uniqlo Relaco shorts
  • One t-shirt
  • One Uniqlo sleeveless tank
  • One black popover shirt


  • Toothbrushes/toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Single face wipes to remove makeup (I didn’t use these. The first night in the hotel I used a washcloth and the second night I passed out with makeup on. Whoops.)
  • Body wipes
  • Dry shampoo
  • Meds for both of us
  • A couple random ziploc bags
  • Two lipsticks
  • Mascara
  • Foundation
  • Sponge
  • Contour
  • Welly first aid kit (I’m a sucker for branding and Welly is great at it, but I don’t recommend the band-aids. I used a fabric one while we were on the trip and it started fraying within an hour.)

Comfort and Entertainment

What Did We Buy There?

  • Dramamine (I had some at home but didn’t pack it. I would probably have been fine, but wanted to ensure a nap on the bus, so I grabbed some from Target on the way)
  • Evan forgot hair stuff, so he picked up a small hair pomade thingy

The organization of the bag was perfect – I don’t like a lot of pockets, and this one only has three, including the main space. Even though 50 liters is more space than I really need, I was glad for it because I could easily throw in the few purchases I made on the trip (another set of Uniqlo drape pants and Relaco shorts, and two shirts from the shows.)

I will say that this bag doesn’t look super touristy so if security is one of your concerns, I think this bag would fit the bill quite well. It would also be a fine daypack, too, if you wanted to offload some things where you were staying and set out for the day. It’s definitely durable, but not waterproof, and it probably wouldn’t be my primary bag choice for a week+ trip. But for a weekend where I specifically wanted to feel well-organized and mobile, it was really great, and I’m so glad I’m learning how to pack less!

Are you a minimalist traveler, or a “just in case” packer? What must-haves do you always pack?

May 20, 2019

Travel on a Budget – My Best Tips

Posted in Living, Travel by

Travelling on a budget is something I am actually pretty great at. For a few years, I was responsible for coordinating trips of large groups of international students at one of the best jobs I’ll ever have, and I learned a lot of sneaky little tricks from it when it comes to booking travel and how to pack.

Tip 1: Learn how to pack, and let go of the checked bag. Everyone knows by now that checking a bag is the best way to get a vacation off on a bad start. I’ve only checked bags twice (when I was moving) and I guarantee you that you can easily go on week-plus long vacations using only what fits in a carry-on. (Plus it’s cheaper to do laundry than it is to pay baggage fees!) Below is what I brought back from Michigan with me (I did some shopping there since it’s hard to find great places where I live now.)

collageTo save your eyes from squinting too badly, in my rolling bag, I shoved: two pair of denim, two pair of shorts, a skirt, bra, two sports bras, running shirt and shorts, compression tights, five pair of socks, ten shirts, a bathing suit, two pair of underwear (I’m starting to bring old ones on trips and throw them out after wearing,) a pair each of shoes and sandals, my brush, two dresses, a hat, four magazines, an iPad case, a pack of batteries, and an extension cord. In my carry-on bag, I had a whole mess of stuff. My liquids, three books, two water bottles, an iPad, and a swim cover up are the strangest things. Choosing not to check a bag doesn’t mean you’ll be wearing the same two outfits through an entire trip!

Tip 2: Research. Before you get close to booking your flight, start researching to see what the lowest prices are, then lie in wait until that fare comes available on the day you need. I have Airfare Watchdog set up to send me alerts when prices for routes I fly often are below a certain point. Prices are usually cheapest six weeks before departure, and it’s true that fares are often more when purchasing via a Mac computer. (The last time I checked the difference, it was $150 on one site!) I also never book over the phone because there are added fees per ticket.

Tip 3: Last Minute Fares. If you’re just looking for any sort of getaway, check out airline last minute fares for a cheap weekend away. If you’re travelling for some kind of sickness or emergency, many airlines offer “distress” rates. You’ll have to produce some sort of validation, but if you can’t get it to them right away, they’ll process it and send you a reimbursement check later.

Tip 4: Use Priceline to book hotels. I’m an admitted hotel snob, and I will give up the mini fridge and in-room microwave to stay in a fancy 4- or 5-star hotel. What is the point of vacation if not to relax? That’s how I like to do it. Once you use Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” tool enough, you learn what hotels go for what prices. I try to always stay at a Hyatt-owned property (make sure you enroll in their rewards program!) to earn points, and in most cities, I can book them out at $80/night.

What budget travel tips are your faves?

May 30, 2013