In an attempt to make our travel life a bit more streamlined, I’ve been searching for the perfect travel bag for years. If we were just packing for our upcoming Portuguese Camino trek, it would be kind of a no-brainer.  It’s because we have to pack for the Camino and also pack for the days before and after the Camino, that’s making it a bit tricky.  I need the perfect travel bag.  Don’t we all?

When we walked the Camino de Santiago in 2015, in an effort to purge the weight of our backpacks, I wore the same pair of pants for 45 days.  By the time we caught up with the rest of our clothes in Aix en Provence, France, my pants could almost stand on their own.  The other day I pulled those same pants out of a drawer and shuddered at the thought of putting them on again, but they’re so damn perfect for trekking.  They are lightweight, dry quickly and they have loads of pockets.

The Perfect Travel Bag

In my on-going search for the perfect travel bag, I’ve had my eye on eBags’ Mother Lode Weekender Convertible. A bit too pricey, I have been resistant to take the plunge and I was resigned to taking our trekking backpacks on this trip.

You know how whatever you search for online ends up in your Facebook feed?  Well, a couple of weeks ago my dream bags showed up in my feed and they were significantly reduced in price.  Apparently, eBags has pop up sales.  Long story short we bought two bags at $50 off each bag with free shipping.  NOTE:  My little story is in no way a paid endorsement for eBags.  It’s just me sharing our travel tips.

It’s My Body That Doesn’t Hold Up

What I don’t love about our trekking backpacks is #1 I find the support frame very uncomfortable and yes, I had it fitted to me before we bought it.  But the reality of trekking over a mountain with a loaded backpack is vastly different than trying one on in a store. #2 I do not appreciate the fact that the backpack has to be opened/closed from the top.  It’s a pain in the arse because invariably the one thing I want is at the bottom of the pack. In all fairness to the pack though, it has held up well for years.  It’s my body that doesn’t hold up under the weight of it.

Our trekking backpacks, made for hiking.

I’m So Over Wheeled Bags

There are several things that attracted me to our new bags.  #1 It opens and closes like a suit case with a zipper and opens out flat.  Yay!  #2 It has removable backpack straps so I can carry it on my back as we move from point A to Z.  It also has a shoulder strap and/or can be carried with just a handle.  #3 It has no wheels.  I’m so over wheeled bags and trying to pull them over European cobblestone streets.  Also, a wheel frame adds weight, wastes space and it’s not overhead friendly on flights.  #4 This bag is carry-on perfectly sized, which is one of our flight goals – just carry on.  It should be noted that although this bag can be used as a backpack, I don’t believe it is meant to be a trekking backpack.  That would be the user’s choice.

travel bags

Hoping these will prove themselves worthy of being the perfect travel bags.  NOTE:  These are the full size, “not” the Junior version.

My goal for this bag is for it to be our go-to travel bag for any trip, long or short. Although, we will keep our trekking backpacks for future adventures even though I have a love hate relationship with my bag.

Packing Cubes

About a week or so ago I posed the question on our Facebook page.  Packing cubes, yay or nay?  Wow!  What a response.  Aside from a couple of naysayers, overwhelmingly readers replied with a resounding, Yay!  Personally, I love packing cubes.  They will prove to be especially helpful while packing for this upcoming return to Portugal because each of us will have a “Camino” cube and a “Before/After” cube.  Makes it so much easier when you don’t have to unpack everything to find one thing.  Don’t you agree?

packing cubes

Packing cubes, Yay or Nay?

Before I cut the tags off of our new bags, I practiced packing said bags to see if they were going to work.  I’m already in love.  We tend to pack lite, but even so I wasn’t sure these bags would hold everything we would need, no matter the length of the trip.  So far, they’re looking good!  I have packed everything I need for a month with room to spare should I, in the future, need to add in a pair of jeans, or cold weather gear.

The Perfect Daypack

Included in my on-going search for the perfect travel bag, has been the perfect daypack. I think I found it. The GoGoMountain bag is very lite weight, foldable, water resistant with an added water resistant cover, and it has a USB port.

While walking the Portuguese Camino, we’ll need to carry a few things with us each day. Extra socks, rain gear, snacks, water, a first aid kit, medications, phone chargers, paper and pen, and all of our documents are essential.  Here’s a picture of our newly acquired daypack along with a couple of other bags I’ve had for years and never leave home without.

travel bag

Our new daypack/emergency pack and three little bags I never leave home without.

A zippered flat bag carries all of our paperwork and easily fits in the daypack. The small black zippered bag holds all of my chargers, and the small shoulder strap purse carries our passports and serves as my wallet.  I have been in love with this little purse for years.  It never leaves my body when we’re out and about.  Never.  When I’m wearing a jacket, it fits nicely underneath.  It’s a RFID bag, so the contents cannot be scanned.  Not everyone believes in the RFID concept, but I figure it can’t hurt.

The other purpose of a daypack, especially in situations such as walking the Camino when we’ll be in a different location every night, is the daypack also serves as an emergency pack.  Everything vital is with us at all times.  I think all too often we all get caught up in the joy of travel and we forget that shit happens.

Keep it Simple

With all of the being said, you may be wondering just what do we pack for a month of travel.  Our golden rule is to keep it simple.  If you’ve ever noticed I’m almost always wearing the same clothes in our travel photos.  To read a more detailed list of our Camino essentials list, read here.  This year, we’ve added a carbon monoxide detector to our stash of stuff.  For this trip we are taking:

  • 1 pair of hiking pants
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 4 short sleeve shirts
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 1 sweatshirt or sweater
  • 4 pairs of socks/undies
  • sleep wear
  • sneakers
  • hiking sandals
  • flip flops
  • rain jacket
  • rain pants
  • personal toiletries/meds
Trains & Planes

So, here we are just two weeks away from crossing the pond once again and taking on our second Camino.  But, first, we’ll need to take a bus to the Metro Station, catch the Metro to Union Station, hop on a train to Newark International Airport and then take the red-eye from Newark to Lisbon.  From Lisbon, we’ll hop on a train to Porto.  We’ll spend a week taking care of business, catching up with friends and eating at all of our favorite spots.

After eights day of embracing our beloved Porto, we’ll put on our sneakers and start walking!

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