You need both a main pack and a day pack when travelingYou will need two pieces of luggage when traveling overseas: Your “main” luggage/pack and a “daypack.” The main pack is where you store all of your clothes and supplies. The daypack is a small backpack or messenger bag that you can carry around during the day to keep your essentials in.

There are three main options for your main luggage when traveling overseas: Backpack, Suitcase, or Hybrid Option.

Choose which works for you. Within each type of luggage category, there are plenty of options. You can purchase large or small, cheap or with all the “bells and whistles.” (Those bells and whistles are hard to pass up….we’re not saying who, but one of us just bought a pack with a matching hair scrunchie! :-o)

Why we prefer to travel with backpacks, especially if we're traveling to more than one or two cities:
  • You may be stuck carrying your luggage in-between cities. Backpacks are less cumbersome and make it easier for you to navigate.
  • Once you have a backpack strapped on, you have your hands free. You can still walk through street markets and be able to look at the items.
  • If you need to catch a bus or train, it is easier to walk (or run) with a backpack.
  • A backpack doesn’t care if the road is paved or rocky, it travels the same. Try carrying a suitcase up a rocky path in Switzerland (nightmare).



Backpacks come in different sizes, and are sized using liters for the measurement. (We know, you’re picturing how much soda the backpack can hold, aren’t you?) For instance, a medium-size pack would be about 50 or 60 liters. Also, many packs are able to expand for larger loads. This is especially convenient when you keep buying things on a trip and need to make your pack bigger!

Packs can be one of your biggest investments for the trip, but there are bargains to be found. We’ve picked up good, used packs for as little as $5. For details, check out our tips for thrifting.

Pack Sizes and Uses

Small Pack (short day or overnight trips) 20-50 liters
Medium Pack (less than a week) 50-70 liters
Large Pack (longer trips) 70+ liters

We’ve all seen and used suitcases before. However, if you travel for an extended period of time or overseas, you want to take extra care in picking out the right suitcase for the trip. You want to make sure that your suitcase not only is sturdy enough to survive the trip, but also lightweight enough not to slow you down.

Tips for Picking a Suitcase

-Go with a hard case
Depending on where you travel, the airports may not be very easy on your luggage. Fabric suitcases can have a tendency to get caught and tear. If they are a lighter color, they can also have a tendency to get really dirty. Kristian travels with a hard case when she uses a suitcase. Just be sure to get a lightweight one.

– Go with wheels and a pull out handle
Trust us on this. When you’re running through the airport to catch a plane you don’t want to be carrying that thing around. Even better are the wheels that do 180° turns.

-Go with a main suitcase and travel size suitcase that connect
Again, running through the airport, this really helps as you won’t be taking down old ladies in your wake with suitcases flying at both your sides.

– Go Dark
Kristian: This may not be proven, but over my many travels I have come to notice a pattern. Out of the very many suitcases that get randomly checked in customs, it seems that the bright ones get pulled to be opened and checked. Maybe it’s because they tend to be the ones to catch their eye. But because of this (and a desire not to have someone rummaging through my personals) I go with a dark colored suitcase.

If you plan on using your luggage for many different occasions, and you want a versatile option, a hybrid pack may be the way to go. It’s the “transformer” of backpacks. It can function as a smaller rolling suitcase, but it also has straps to use it as a backpack. It’s not the luggage you want for hard-core hiking, but it can work well for small trips.

The hybrid pack was perfect for our friend Heidi (see video). Heidi mainly travels in the US for overnight and weekend trips. Her overseas adventure was about a week long. She wanted something affordable that she could use for her short day trips as well.

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