Travel Tip: The Best Backpack and Packing Cubes for Traveling

When we told people we will be traveling around the world with two young kids for 6+ months, most people could not fathom how we would be able to bring enough stuff with us for such a trip.  Many assumed we would need to bring several large suitcases with us in order to hold all our clothes, toys, and other belongings.  Our answer to them was that we are just bringing four backpacks, one for each person, and we were confident we would be able to fit what we needed.

Thankfully, we did not eat our own words!

Here is how we did it

Four bags is all we needed for 6 months.  Each of the Osprey backpacks have a detachable day pack (shown separately above).

Four bags is all we needed for 6 months.  Each of the Osprey backpacks have a detachable day pack (shown separately above).

Travel Backpacks

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Our Choice: Osprey Farpoint

After considerable research online and comparisons at REI, we decided on the Osprey Farpoint 55 and Farpoint 70 travel backpack.

Detachable Day Pack - Two Bags In One

In the end, what sold us on this model was the detachable day pack feature.  Being able to just have a regular backpack to carry around during the day has been incredibly convenient on our trip.  The only time we ever keep it connected is while at the airport when we have everything packed up.  All other times, the travel backpack gets stowed away and at least one day pack comes with us most places we go.

The day pack can either be zipped to the back of the travel backpack, or strapped on your chest.  In our experience, when both bags are fully packed, it is a little difficult to manage the size and weight of everything on your back, and strapping the day pack to your front does help keep you balanced.

There are other capacity sizes the Osprey Farpoint comes in, and each capacity also comes in a small or large, to ensure it fits your body type correctly.

Osprey Airporter Keeps Your Bag Safe

Another worthwhile purchase to complement your new Osprey travel backpack is the Osprey Airporter.

The last thing you want is for your expensive travel backpack to get damaged while going through airport baggage handling.  Although the Farpoint does a great job of keeping the straps tucked away when you need to, as you can zip the entire back up, it doesn't change the fact that your backpack can still get ripped or torn as it gets tossed around.  This is where the Airporter comes in.  The Airporter is small pouch which opens up to enclose the entire travel backpack with room to spare, leaving you essentially with a large duffel bag.  We chose the medium size, and even still we have room to not only cover the backpack, but to also throw in some other loose items like shoes.  The whole process to wrap and unwrap the backpack just takes a minute, and provides enough safety to justify the extra expense.  When you don't need the Airporter, you can just wrap it back up and strap it onto your backpack.




Carabiner Clips Keep Your Hands Free

Speaking of strapping things onto your backpack, it is a good idea to also grab a bunch of carabiner clips.  They are very useful for strapping loose bags, shoes, flip flops, and water bottles to your backpack to keep your hands free.  You really can't have enough of these things.

Packing Efficiently

Use Travel Cubes

While we did travel pretty light, those travel backpacks will fill up quickly if you don't pack efficiently.  This is where travel cubes come in very handy.  We purchased a mix of eBags bags and Eagle Creek bags to see what would work best for us.  The eBags are very good quality, and we prefer them over the Eagle Creek bags for clothes.  The Eagle Creek bags are really good for holding toys and other nicknacks.

Roll Your Clothes

In order to take full advantage of the cubes, you must roll up your clothes very tightly.  We find what works best is to start making a layer with larger clothes on the bottom, then another layer or two of progressively smaller clothes on the top.  Keep the bag zipped on two of three sides to ensure what you pack stays rolled tightly.  After you think you've packed as much as you can fit, start stuffing in anything you can squeeze: loose socks, underwear, and soft toys.  In the end, the travel cube should be more like a travel brick, without even a small air pocket left anywhere.  If you see an air pocket, adjust the zippers to expose that part, and stuff it some more!  

Pack Your Backpack To Capacity

The combination of bags we found fits the Osprey backpacks very well are 1-2 medium sized eBag, 2 small sized eBags, and then an assortment of Eagle Creek bags to fill in the gaps.  This still leaves room for other assorted items like toiletry bags and other random items that you can just squeeze in where there is room.  We do not use any of the large sized eBags, they might be a bit too large for a travel backpack.  This combination allows us to pack all our toys and toiletries and random items, about a week's worth of clothes for 2 adults, and even more than a week for 2 children, though since we are "chasing summer" we do not have a lot of big, warm clothes.

Osprey Farpoint fully packed with eBags and Eagle Creek bags

Osprey Farpoint fully packed with eBags and Eagle Creek bags

Shoe Sleeves

We weren't very particular about how our shoes were packed.  In fact, as mentioned above we often put them in the airporter bag.  However, if you want to keep your shoes separate from your clothes and also protect them, we think these shoe sleeves would be what you are looking for. I have also read on various travel hack websites that you can always use a large shower cap to pack your shoes.  The choices are all up to you. :) 


The Perfect Toiletry Bag

I have no idea where this was when we were traveling around the world. I hated whatever we used as our toiletry bag. It was always too big and bulky and often times we didn't have room for it in the backpack, so it would end up in the airporter bag. Not a good option. This bag is amazing. It packs flat! what! As a family with young kids we generally only have 1 toiletry bag so this works perfectly for us. 


"Fail" Bag to the Rescue! 

With our four backpacks packed, we decided at the last minute to bring one extra bag, which we dubbed the "fail" bag.  We did this because all of our backpacks were literally stuffed to the brim, and we didn't want to get in a situation where we literally ran out of room.  So we chose a medium sized shoulder bag with a zipper, which is very lightweight and easily compacts when not needed.  We coincidentally had a Robin Ruth bag from our last trip to France two years ago, which seemed like a good fit considering our travels would bring us back there again.  The sole purpose of this bag is to hold things in a last resort situation where you have no more room in your normal luggage.

Any tote bag can get this job done.  As long as it zips shut and can hold a good amount of "stuff" without making you sway sideways you are good to go. 

This fail bag has already come in handy more than once.  For example, when flying Ryan Air one of our travel backpacks was overweight by about 2 KG.  Being Ryan Air, such an offense is not just overlooked, they want you to go pay for heavier luggage.  So instead of wasting money, we just pulled out the fail bag, transferred over one of our smaller cubes, and the disaster was averted!

Hopefully these tips will help you become a more efficient packer and traveler.  And speaking of efficient check out our post about our favorite items in our first aid kit. If you have any other suggestions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact us!


Kids on the Go

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Luggage for Kids

When we went on our around the world trip our 2 kids at the time were 4 and 2 years old and the little backpacks you see in the picture above is all they could carry.  Fast forward a few years and now they are very much able to drag a small rolling bag.  They get excited about packing their own bags when we head out on a new adventure. They both love the little stuffed animal holder section on the outside of the bag because this way they don't have to lose space inside the bag and their hands can be free while still bringing their favorite plush friend along. We took these Cabin Max luggages on our latest trip to Italy and the kids were great at being responsible for them. 

Entertainment & Education

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