When my family went to Thailand for the first time, we wanted to pack lighter than we ever had. For 10 days of travel, we only took one carry-on travel backpack each for our luggage. This was quite different from our “truckload of camping gear” style, or our “suitcase, plus a carryon, plus a duffel” style. It was even different from wilderness backpacking where we would plan to pretty much wear the same thing every day, and only be out for two or three nights. This was TEN days. ONE backpack. This was going to be a big deal for us, so we needed to do it right.
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For this trip to Thailand, my family wanted to pack light for various reasons and decided that a travel backpack would be the best way to achieve that. (Read which travel backpacks we recommend by clicking here.) Traveling with a backpack would make us fast and mobile, free up our hands for the important things (like shopping and eating Thai street food), cost less in baggage fees, make public transportation easier, and make sure that we were traveling with less stuff from home so that we would have space for more souvenirs.
Lugging multiple suitcases to Thailand is touristy. Packing light in a travel backpack is touristish.
My family had a lot of overnight backpacking experience, Colorado-folks that we were, so we are used to carrying our homes on our backs like a turtle. However, I quickly discovered that carry-ons that are airline-compliant are about half the size of camping backpacks. And, yes, that is me whining.
Traveling in Thailand with Travel Backpacks
We each had a large travel backpack that replaced a suitcase and a small daypack (actually, the kids had “slack-packs”) to carry our wallets, tickets, snacks, phone chargers, books, and all the things that we would want or need to be easily accessible during the flight. The small pack we would stow until the seat in front of us, and the large backpacks we stowed in the overhead compartment (I sound like a flight attendant as I type that).
When traveling for 26 hours worth of flights and layovers, it was convenient to have all of our belongings on us, like a turtle. We could grab or shed a layer of clothes, brush our teeth, get a hair tie, or swap out a book. We also didn’t have to worry about lost luggage, which would be a rotten way to start a trip abroad.
Having a travel backpack meant that our hands were kept free. This was useful when walking on the streets to a different destination and allowed us to zip around crowds faster, in general.
When we traveled on a train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, we were also thankful for the backpacks because traveling with a lot of luggage would have been burdensome to store in such a tight space. You essentially share your train seat/bed with your luggage, so a nice, compact backpack makes a lovely traveling companion.
Packing the Travel Backpack
Inside of our backpacks, we used packing cubes on this trip. Packing cubes basically became drawers inside the dresser that is a backpack. They allowed our stuff to be organized, everything to tightly pack in, and stacked in a way that felt like we fitted more in the backpack than we could without the cubes. We had several colors of cubes to make it more visual, too. If we knew our swimsuits were in the blue cube, for example, we could hit the pool or the beach that much faster once we arrived at our lodging. And, if we were sitting on the floor of the Bangkok train station and needed a hair tie (do you see a theme here?), instead of dumping out all of our belongings onto the floor for all of Bangkok to see, we just removed the appropriate packing cube, and voila!
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Running Out of Room in our Luggage
One of the biggest highlights of Thailand for teenagers with allowance burning a hole in their pockets was the amount of affordable shopping available at the night markets. Their meager allowance and savings went a long way in buying all kinds of sassy, fun clothes, toys, and jewelry. About four days into the trip, we had already outgrown the backpacks. At a night market in Chiang Mai, we bought a cute elephant duffle bag at the night market for about $3.00 to hold our souvenirs. By the end of the trip, the family had acquired a couple duffle bags and would start checking the backpacks onto flights. We weren’t as concerned about lost luggage, teeth brushing, or hair ties by that point. The duffles still kept our hands free and carried the essentials while we checked the rest.
Do you prefer traveling with a backpack or luggage? Leave a comment below!
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