backpacking tip – travel only with carry-on baggage and bypass checked baggage fees, save time, and move about with ease.

The first of my backpacking tips is to only ever travel with a carry-on sized backpack. This will save you so much time, and money.

Here’s why.

By only traveling with carry-on you do not have to wait for your bags to (hopefully) appear on the conveyor belt some time after you have landed in your new city. Upon arrival, all you need to do is grab your bag from the overhead compartment in the plane and proceed to customs/immigration. That’s it. You are then free to explore the new land in record time whilst others are waiting (hoping?) to be reunited with their bags.

Further to that, by traveling light you will not feel the need quite as urgently as one traveling with a big and heavy backpack to find somewhere to dump your bags before you can explore your new city. With a 30 – 50 L backpack on your back, finding a hostel or set of lockers where you can store your bags is not such a pressing need.

Secondly, by traveling with only carry-on you obviously don’t need to have to pay for check-in baggage every time you fly with a budget airline. As budget airlines and low-cost carriers often offer amazingly cheap airfares to many different parts of the world, chances are that as a budget traveler you will be making use of their services. Indeed, we are truly blessed to live in an age when flying to newfound lands is so affordable.

carry on passed
Backpack passed!

Don’t offset these savings by having to purchase check-in baggage. Many times the cost of checking in a single 20 kg bag is more than the cost of the flight itself! Especially in South East Asia. So take heed of this backpacking tip and save money each time you fly.

And trust me, the smaller your bag, the more enjoyable your backpacking experience will be anyway. You will have less of a hassle getting on a crowded local bus or train, fitting your pack on the back of a minivan already packed to the brim with 60 L plus backpacks, and your back will thank you for it at the end of the traveling day. You may even save money here as you won’t have to pay someone to manipulate and massage your back and body back into shape. (But hey, don’t forget to treat yourself every now and then; it is important you remain in optimum physical condition on your travels…Ha!)

Last but not least, by traveling with a carry-on sized backpack, other travelers will look at you with envious eyes as you effortlessly stroll around the bus or train station, and get on and off local public transport with such grace usually seen in ice-skating olympians. Isn’t that enough of a reason in itself?

I believe this to be one of the most important and useful backpacking tips out there. You will often hear from experienced backpackers that less is more when it comes to traveling. There is a reason for their common agreement.

Plus, speaking from my own personal experience, you will create a sense of wonder, and surprise, among other travelers when they see you carrying around a small backpack on your back. They will instantly realize that it is in fact possible to travel the world with only a small bag. You will be a role model, even a legend spoken of for years to come as each traveler returns home and shares his or her tales of the road…”oh I met this backpacker in Cambodia and he/she traveled for 8 months around the world with only a tiny little backpack…” Instant fame from afar.

Double plus, traveling light forces you to limit your indulgent spending, and only buy what you really need…This will help with sticking to your budget, which will ultimately mean you can traveller further or longer, or both!

So remember: travel light and travel better by only taking a carry-on sized backpack with you on your travels. You really don’t need that much. And the money and time you save by not having to check-in luggage is certainly worth it in the end.

What have your experiences been with traveling with only carry-on baggage? How big is BIG enough when it comes to a backpack for long term (or short term) travel? Have you run into any problems carrying a backpack of this size? Please voice any questions or comments you have on this backpacking tip. I want to know your thoughts…

Stay tuned for the next of my backpacking tips!

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backpacking tip – wash your own underwear with shampoo as you go.

The next addition to my backpacking tips concerns something quite personal: your underwear.

In traveling around the world, we are limited in what we can pack in our backpacks. We must choose to carry only those items that are absolutely necessary, and preferably have multiple uses (see backpacking tips #6 for a suggestion on packing multiple-use items in your pack).

When backpacking, finding the right number of t-shirts, shorts and pants to bring is different for different people, as everyone has their own tolerance when it comes to wearing the same article of clothing again, and again, and again. I personally, am quite happy to wear the same t-shirt for 2 or 3 days straight, as long as I don’t stink too much! Hey, that is just me. But for others, a fresh t-shirt must be worn each and every day.

However, I do believe that wearing a fresh pair of underwear every day is necessary in order to maintain hygiene on the road, and to ward off any travel nasties. I carry around 7 pairs myself – one for each day of the week. I find this to be the optimum number when backpacking. It is enough to ensure cleanliness, but not too much to take up too much space.

how i wash my clothes
How i wash my clothes while i’m traveling

But if we only carry 7 pairs of underwear, that means we must do our laundry every week, right? Wrong!

Sometimes when we are backpacking, getting our laundry done is annoying, or hard to come by. Or downright expensive. However, I have found that it is possible to wash your underwear with shampoo whilst taking your daily shower. Shampoo, when lathered up, is able to clean the under garment quite effectively, and the shower is great for rinsing. Further to that, underwear doesn’t take long to dry at all. How is that for one of my backpacking tips!

You will be (most likely) carrying shampoo with you anyway, and so you can use it to not only wash your hair, but your clothes. This will save you having to carry another bottle or packet of washing powder or detergent…and this situation is what you want as you want to travel as light as possible – see backpacking tips #1 for reasons why.

Here is my routine: each time I take my morning shower I wash one piece of underwear and then hang it out to dry – either inside the bathroom, or outside. 90 per cent of the time, the underwear is dry by the next morning. In this way I always have a fresh pair of unmentionables to slide into for every day of the week.

Unfortunately I have not found this method to be effective in cleaning other items of clothing, e.g., t-shirts, socks, shorts, pants, towels etc. Most of the time I find that these items are still wet the next day, and still, well, smell! I think these items need professional care!

So of course, every so often you will need to get your clothes properly washed. In my backpacking experience, I get my laundry done every 2 weeks or so. This is enough for me. And boy do I love the smell of freshly washed clothes.

So remember: whenever it’s time to take a shower, think soap, shampoo, underwear…you get it…

Stay tuned for another of my backpacking tips soon!

thou shall covet thou neighbors wifi!

I’m sure everyone can relate here.

You check into your hostel/hotel/guesthouse which proudly proclaims it has wifi, only to find out that it sucks. And you just paid for the next four nights here. Damn.

But there is hope. Although your guesthouse has a wireless connection akin to tin cans on a piece of string, the hostel or hotel next door also has wifi. Could it be that their wifi trumps majorly over yours? Maybe. If it does your in luck, because your getting full bars from their connection from your room. And you get an inkling feeling that a hotel which looks as good as it does from the outside must have a fast connection…hmm. What to do?

Well, obviously you’re not happy paying for the $80 a night rooms next door, as much as you love wifi. You much prefer your $8 four post bed and four walls. But, if only there was a way one could tap into that sweet, sweet connection without needing to pay for the room?

Well, there is.

I came across this strategy of sorts whilst staying here in Unawatuna, on the South coast of Sri Lanka. I didn’t personally partake in it, but I was told all about it by the friendly owner of my family-run guesthouse. And if I’m ever in a such a similar situation again in the future I know I’ll try this.

My situation down here is not exactly as I’ve described above, purely for the fact that my guesthouse never claimed it had wifi. But it does. You’re confused.

Basically, my guesthouse doesn’t have wifi, in the sense that they own the wifi connection.

But the hotel next door does. And we can pick up on the signal here. And we know the password. And man is it an amazingly fast connection!

How did we get the password?

Well, a couple of guests a couple of years back cooked up a nice strategy, executed with finesse, and passed on the fruits of their exploits to the owner of the guesthouse, and him to me and everyone who ever stays here. They basically went to the hotel next door for a drink or two. Being patrons of the establishment they then inquired as to the wifi password. The password given graciously. After sipping forever on their $12 drinks they then paid their bills and left. But they took something with them back to the guesthouse next door. Specifically the wifi password.

Two years later the password still works. And boy am I glad. “The wifi here is the fastest in Sri Lanka”, is what you’ll often hear me tell people that ask me where I’m staying. And I stand by that. I do.

So next time you are in a similar situation do as these guys did. Go to the establishment for a drink or meal and ask for the password. Then write that bad boy down somewhere. And share. Good karma awaits.

Hopefully the signal is still strong enough from your actual hotel to allow you to connect. And hopefully they don’t EVER change the password.

Luckily they haven’t down here. And that’s why I can talk to you….And I Tho…………………..

Yes, I’m still here! Just fooling. See you next time!

shave off your underarm hair and say bye bye to the smelly backpacker within you.

A word of warning here: this backpacking tip is quite personal in nature. But I want to share something with you that has helped me in the hygiene department. I hope you don’t get too grossed out! On to the tip…

As any backpacker knows, hygiene is important on the road. Nobody wants to smell. But long term travel, hot and humid conditions, and traveling light can make smelling like roses not as easy task indeed. Personally, I only travel with about five different t-shirts in my carry-on sized backpack. And although I try and wash my clothes every week or so, the reality is that sometimes I do not. I am pretty much a lazy guy most of the time – it’s okay, I’m trying to work on this!

smelly armpits in the bus

And to make matters worse, I sweat. Sometimes a lot. Especially in hot and humid places like South East Asia where I have been traveling in for the last eight months. And most of the time me and sweat, well, we don’t get along…

I am reminded at this point of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry rightfully asks – paraphrasing here: “Why must our bodies punish us when we work out? We exercise, we stink. We exercise, we stink.” Our sweat is not kind to us indeed. And for backpackers traveling around from place to place sweat can be our worst enemy. I don’t want others to smell me. It’s not good for me, or for them, or anybody. Smelling is just bad. And for me most of my smell comes from deep under my arms.

But what if there was a way to limit the amount of body odor that exuded from that patch of hair under your arms, that was backpacker friendly?

Luckily, there is.

I stumbled across this fine nugget of backpacker wisdom from fellow travel blogger Wandering Earl. You can learn all about him at his website here.

Wandering Earl – who has been traveling around the world for years and years – used to suffer from the same “smelly armpit” condition as me. That was until he heard from a friend, who presumably heard from a friend that shaving your underarms can actually help in reducing your odor problems. He has since been a massive fan of bi-weekly armpit shaving.

After reading his post and hearing his testimonial of sorts, I became interested. Reflecting on my own “odor issues”, and embracing an open mind and my shaver, I decided to try this out myself. I shaved my underarm hair right off. First the left, and then the right.

And the result?

I am proud to say that my odor levels have reduced majorly. I can honestly say I do not stink half as much as I used to. In fact, I can now say that I hardly stink at all. TMI warning: I really need to stick my nose in there under my arms to get a good whiff. This is great news indeed!

Not only do I smell less now with my shaven underarms – which makes me feel more confident, but I no longer have to impress my bodily smells on the olfactory organs of all those who come in contact with me. This is great for Australian and what-ever-country-I-am-now-traveling-in relations. Like it or not, I am a representative of my country. Not only do I need to be on my best behaviour: I should smell good, too. I am sure the Australian tourism board would support me on this!

But apart from just smelling better than ever before, shaving your underarms also has a lot of practical use to the backpacker.

I have found that I can now wear my t-shirts for way longer before I need to wash them as they do not smell half as much as before. So instead of only wearing the same t-shirt once or perhaps twice without washing, I can now go three or four days before washing. Great for lazy travelers like me!

Before you all jump up in arms and call me “Stinky Seany”, notice that I said “I can” go three or four days. My usual practice is still to get one or two day uses out of each t-shirt. But if I cannot for whatever reason do a wash – for example, if I run out of shampoo which I usually use to wash my underwear and sometimes other items of clothing when backpacking, I know I can still travel around without leaving a trail of stinky-ness in my wake.

Try giving this backpacking tip a good go and see if it works for you. Surely myself and Wandering Earl are not alone in singing the praises of shaven armpits?

So remember: shave off your underarm hair and say goodbye to smelly armpits and embarrassing confrontations. Wear your t-shirts longer and make less frequent trips to the laundry, saving you time and money.

Until next time, happy traveling!