Two More New Writers: 6 More Great Packing Tips

Jennifer Sutherland-Miller

This month we are excited to introduce you to the new team of travel writers joining Packsmith. Each one is a seasoned traveler bringing a unique perspective on packing light. This week we’re presenting Shannon Whitney and Jessie Beck.

Meet Shannon, The Girl Who Says, “Yes!” to Travel

During this season of my life, I work in Customer Relations for an airline. I don’t live abroad, however I do live in Texas which sometimes feels like another country. I consider myself a pretty “normal” traveler.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot a person can do with two weeks of vacation, and I’m the queen of maximizing weekends. I’ve found that while a two month trip across Europe isn’t realistic for me right now, there are incredible places all over my own country that I can visit in a weekend if I’m wiling to say, “Yes!” pack smart and travel on the cheap.

Between my expertise from work and the amount of time I spend in the air, I’ve become a carry on resource for all of my friends and family. It’s not unusual for me to receive a text in the middle of the day from my sister’s friend asking if she can carry on her sewing machine. (By the way, you can. Just check the needle or buy a new one when you reach your destination.)


Screenshot from my friend Erin.

The Standby Life

My favorite part of working for an airline is flying standby. I’m lucky to be able to pick up and go for a quick weekend, or sometimes just a day away. I take advantage of that perk as much as I can; if you can find a way to pursue your dream career with an airline, I recommend it!

Not knowing if you’ll have a seat or not is a rush. Some people say it’s stressful, but I like to pretend it’s a low-stakes version of The Amazing Race. Instead of winning a cash prize, I get to go to my friend’s wedding in Indianapolis, or a weekend in Washington D.C.!

Because standby depends on how many seats are available, a storm on the East Coast or a maintenance cancellation can throw a kink in my plans. I’ve learned to plan on my feet and often from my phone in the airport. What used to stress me out has become it’s own twisted version of fun.

When there aren’t hard plans, my yes rule comes in handy.

My standby travel style has also contributed to my strict carry on only policy. I’m never sure if I’ll make it to my destination, so I certainly don’t want to check a bag ahead of me. Rolling bags aren’t great for sprints in Houston Hobby and messenger bags dig into my wimpy shoulders.

Luckily, I found Tortuga Backpacks and I’m a believer. That’s how I got here.

I’ve learned that you have to be flexible and to take advantage of what pops up. That means a little less schedule and a lot more yes-ing.

3 Best Packing Tips

1. Toss a reusable shopping bag in your suitcase.

They are light and take up virtually no space. They can be used as a beach bag, for dirty shoes or to sneak a six pack into the park.

2. Pack at least two days in advance.

Then the day before you leave check the weather and take out at least three things. You don ‘t need all that stuff, trust me.

3. Bring a baseball hat.

It doesn’t take up much room and nobody likes a sun burnt face. I always grab it last-minute and end up wearing it half the trip.  Plus, people all over the world recognize MLB teams and it comes in handy as a conversation piece.

Feel free to ask me anything about air travel or invite me along on your next trip. I’ll probably insist on finding a ghost tour and taking a lot of pictures.

To learn more about Shannon, read her blog, Call Me Shannon Follow her on Twitter, Pintrest or LinkedIn. All of Shannon’s Packsmith posts can be found here

Jessie Beck Intro Bio

Meet Jessie, The Serial Expat

For me, travel is best when it’s meaningful. I love exploring new places the most when I can spend a few weeks, months, or even years, getting to know the local spots, making friends, and learning the everyday nuances of a place. Some may call it lazy travel, I call it immersion.

Give me a road to bike or a rock to climb and it gets even better! The only things I love more than immersing myself in a new culture are a good adventure (sport), coffee, and a delicious meal to top it all off with.

Where have I been?

In the past 6 years, I’ve called Malta, Costa Rica, Seattle, and Madagascar, where I served in the Peace Corps, home. Each time, I packed my life into my trusty 45-liter and a small duffel — no easy feat when your trip is 27 months, not 27 days.

I can’t say I packed perfectly every time (oh the silly things I brought for a year of studying in Malta!), but as one of your trusted Packsmith writers, I promise to help you pack as perfectly as you possibly can. After 30+ countries, I’ve learned a thing or two from my mistakes.

3 Best Packing Tips

1. Pack the clothes you wear regularly

I always choose to bring the clothes I feel most comfortable in and wear regularly (within reason). This is especially important when you’re moving abroad for a year or more; you’re going to want to feel like yourself.

For me, it works best to stick with neutral colors (blacks, grays and blues mostly) that are easy to mix and match, or dress up with a small accessory. Layers and multi-purpose articles (like leggings or yoga pants I can also sleep in) are key.

2. To pack lighter, get a smaller bag

My best packing tip, admittedly, I picked up from a couchsurfer in Geneva who hosted me and a not-so-light-packing Finnish girl. “To pack lighter, get a smaller bag,” he told her.

Genius! No matter how awesome (or terrible) you are at packing light, having a smaller bag forces you to limit how much of that “maybe pile” you end up including. You aren’t tempted to fit in that extra shirt in just because you have a little extra space.

I generally travel with a purse and a small 20-liter backpack (the size of a school backpack) or — if I’m gone longer than 10 days — a larger backpack that can fit in an overhead compartment.

I’ve been known to get suspicious looks from customs agents asking, “Is that all your luggage, Miss?”  Guys, checked baggage is sooo last year.

3. Have your “in-transit” essentials separate and easy to reach

The only thing worse than that guy who keeps getting stuff out of his bag in the overhead compartment on a long flight, is being that person.

To avoid that, I always pack my in transit essentials in a tote bag that I can easily pull out of my backpack before a bus ride or use as my “personal item” when flying. I like to include:

What works for you may be different. What matters is that you nail your routine and travel comfortably — without rummaging around overhead bins in the middle of trans-Atlantic turbulence.

To learn more about Jessie, read her blog, Beat Nomad Follow her on Twitter, Pintrest Facebook or Instagram All of Jessie’s Packsmith posts can be found here