Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

July 6th, 2011 No Comments

How to Fit Everything You Own Into a Carry-On Bag

I have been traveling for three months now, and everything I own fits inside a carry on bag. Here is a view of my Manhattan (NYC) apartment before I sold or donated everything:

NYC Apartment- Before

After living in the apartment for only one year, I accumulated quite a bit of stuff. While this stuff made my apartment more comfortable during my time there, it (along with my cost of rent) hindered my ability to travel for an extended time. So I sold or donated almost everything:

NYC Apartment- After

I started selling the larger items (couch, bed, TV, TV stand, air conditioner, desk, book shelf) on Craigslist. This got very addictive and I ended up selling even more stuff on Craigslist (books, Blue Ray Player, sound system). Then I stuck a bunch of smaller electronic items on eBay (old digital camera, old PDA, bluetooth headset, iPods, etc). eBay made more money on the small electronics than I could have gotten from Craigslist. But it also has a listing and selling fee, so it made more sense to put the larger/local stuff on Craiglist (completely free). I  donated a lot of stuff (furniture, books, shoes, clothes, kitchenware) that I no longer needed to Goodwill and local thrift stores. A NYC donation service even came by my apartment to pick up some of the larger items.

Everything I Own Now Fits In A Carry-On Bag

Carry-On Backpack with Everything I Own Inside (Deuter Futura 32)

After selling or donating all of the stuff in my NYC apartment, and shipping some remaining clothes to my parents’ house, I was ready to travel. My only three rules for packing:

1) Everything needs to fit in a carry-on bag. I want to travel internationally with one carry-on bag.

2) Use technology to travel as green as possible. No bottled water or paper books. Do my own laundry.

3) When I want to, be able to write and work on my online businesses from wherever I’m at.

Useful Blog Posts and Websites for Ultralight Long-Term Travel Packing

I did a lot of research and the following blog posts / websites were the most helpful:

What To Pack (Travel Independent- very thorough, feedback from multiple backpackers)

Travel Light, Travel Anywhere: The Ultimate Light Packing List (Ridiculously Extraordinary)

How to Travel Long Term With Only Carry-On Luggage (Never Ending Voyage)

How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less (The Blog Of Tim Ferriss / 4 Hour Workweek)

3 Days to Go – RTW Packing List (Living The Dream -> not minimalist like the others, but still a great resource)

After doing my research on blogs, websites and local hiking/outdoors stores, here is what I packed. I purchased some of the items specifically for traveling, and already had some of them. Yes, it looks like a lot, but everything fits in my 32 liter carry-on backpack, and I don´t buy souvenirs.


Guidelines: If you are traveling for an extended period of time, it’s best to pack light and use a smaller (28 – 35 liter) backpack. This will make you more mobile, and you will thank yourself for packing lighter after you’ve been traveling for a few weeks and see other backpackers struggling with their larger backpacks. You will also want to bring a smaller day pack which can fit inside the larger backpack.

Carry-On Backpack with Everything I Own Inside (Deuter Futura 32)

Deuter Futura 32: This carry-on hiking backpack fits all my gear inside. It´s very comforable and sturdy. I originally read about this backpack on Ridiculously Extraordinary (Karol Gajda). Karol has been using it for quite a while during his light international backpacking without problems. Then I read another traveling post that recommended it at Globe Troopers. I tested the Deuter Futura 32 out, along with the comparable Osprey Kestrel 32 at a local hiking store. I ended up buying the Deuter Futura 32. At the time of this post, the Deuter Futura 32 2010 model sells for $90, and the 2011 model sells for $135. The only difference I can tell between the two is that the 2011 model has different colors available. I went with the 2010 model and saved $45. Karol secures this bag with the Pacsafe 85 Anti-Theft Backpack And Bag Protector, but I opted to secure it using the PacSafe WrapSafe Adjustable Cable Lock.

Daypack- Pacsafe VentureSafe 300

Day Pack: Pacsafe VentureSafe 300: After reading about PacSafe on Karol Gajda’s blog, I became very interested in their products. They sell slashproof anti-theft bags and gear. This small day pack fits inside my larger backpack, and holds all my electronics (EEE netbook, Canon digital camera, Kindle, iPod touch). It is slashproof, the zippers can be padlocked easily, and the bag can be locked to a secure fixture easily.


Guidelines: To keep your backpack light, pack 3 pairs max of each clothing item. Consider washing your own clothes, as it’s better for the environment and easy if you buy quick-dry clothing. Look for high-quality, fast-drying, light material. Pack for the weather you will be traveling in, and use layers to pack lighter.

Thermals, Underwear x 3, Socks x 3, Pants x 2, Long Sleeves x 2, Short Sleeves x 2, Rain Jacket

Marmot Precip Rain Jacket: Very compact rain jacket / windbreaker, can be used with layers in colder weather. It has zippers under the armits to provide some ventilation. I haven’t been in a heavy rain storm yet to test out the waterproof functionality, but as a windbreaker, I like it.

exOfficio Boxer Briefs: Their motto: “17 Countries. 6 Weeks. And one pair of underwear.” I went with three pairs since I will be traveling for a while. These are very comfortable!

Smartwool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Mini Hiking Socks: Quick-dry socks with merino wool. I have three pairs of these. They don´t dry as fast as I thought they would… Probably the slowest drying of all my clothes.

ExOfficio Men’s Nomad Pant (Regular): Quick-dry pants. Water-resistant. Very comfortable.

ExOfficio Men’s Flexcord Pant: Quick-dry pants, a good alternative to jeans. These are a lot more compact than jeans, and look nicer than the Nomad pants. But not as many pockets. I wear these most of the days since they look better than the Nomad pants, but they get a bit warm when it´s hot outside.

Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge II Long Sleeve Shirt: I originally tried the Columbia Men’s Tamiami II Long Sleeve Shirt quick dry shirt after reading rave reviews of it on Amazon. Unfortunately,  it was way too big (I wear a medium), so I tried the Silver Ridge style instead. It is still quick-dry and sun proof, but is a much more fitted look, and I like it a lot better. I have two of these. They are very versatile as there are straps to roll up the sleeves, making it a short-sleeve for warmer weather.

ExOfficio Men’s Exo Dri Tee Shirt: Short-sleeve quick-dry shirt with sun protection.

ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go V-neck t shirt: I got a V-neck so I can use this as an undershirt or regular shirt.

Thermal Base Layer Top and Bottom: I have BVD brand but this brand (Duofold) looks about the same. Synthetic thermals are great for colder weather, easy to hand wash, and take up almost no room. Before leaving, I tested this base layer with a long-sleeve shirt, Marmot jacket, hat and gloves in 28 degrees fahrenheit. It was surprisingly warm and breathable.

Not pictured: I bought a second light jacket as I got too cold when I was in northern Argentina. It´s made of material similar to the North Face jackets. Very compact.


Guidelines: You should not need more than one pair of shoes and one pair of sandals. Make sure they are high-quality. When looking for shoes, try to find a gore-tex (waterproof) hiking shoe. Do not go with a boot unless you plan on doing a lot of hiking, as it will be more bulky. When looking for sandals, try to find the kind that are made for walking longer distances, with good foot support. The sandals should also be waterproof, so you can use them instead of flip flops.

New Balance Gore-tex shoes, Keen Sandals

New Balance Men’s MW955 Walking Shoe: These a very comfortable, sturdy gore-tex waterproof hiking shoes. The best part about them is they come in 1/2 sizes and wide, so you can get a perfect fit. They worst part is they aren´t very breathable. In warm weather, my feet start to sweat with these. I really wanted to wear the Lowa Men’s Renegade II GTX Lo Hiking Shoe after hearing so many good things about them. Unfortunately, after trying two different sizes from Zappos, the Lowa shoes just didn’t seem very comfortable with my feet (I needed a half size and they didn’t have it). But even though they aren´t very breathable, overall I am very happy with the New Balance shoes. Unless you are doing a lot of intense hiking, it’s better to go with hiking shoes versus hiking boots.

Mens Keen Newport H2 Shoes: I’m very picky about my sandals, most that I have bought in the past ended up hurting my feet after a long walk. These are the best sandals I have ever owned. They are waterproof, breathable, have toe protection, and comfortable after walking in them the whole day.


Guidelines: Try to find multi-use items, such as soap that you can use for shampoo / body wash / washing clothes. Also, most of these items can be found anywhere you travel to, so don’t overpack.


Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap, Peppermint 16 fl oz (472 ml): This all-natural soap can be used for everything (body wash, shampoo, laundry, even mouthwash). It is very powerful and lasts a long time. I bought a big bottle and transferred to smaller carry-on size bottles.

Gripit Floss Holder: This is the same idea as the disposable floss “plackers”, only it holds a whole roll of floss. Using the Gripit  saves a lot of floss, and makes it easier to reach between your back teeth.

Gillette, Mach3 Turbo Shaving System, 1 system: I’ve been using this shaver for a few years now. I am also testing out the Razor Gator to use less razors. Beware of buying your razors online, apparently there are a lot of fakes being sold that don’t work as well.

All Natural Shaving Oil – Three Pack: A very smooth shave, good alternative to shaving cream. Takes up a lot less space, one small bottle provides 100 shaves!

MSR Packtowl UltraLite: Compact towel with super-absorption and fast-drying. I bought a large. The towel can also be used to dry clothes before hanging on a clothesline by rolling them around it.

MSR Packtowl Nano Lite: This towel is more compact than the UltraLite. I got a small to use as a handkerchief that I can wash out daily. It dries very fast.

Rick Steves Clothesline, White: I do my own laundry. This clothesline will be used for drying clothes. It is elastic like a bungee cord, so it could become multi-use.

I also packed 6 months of contact lenses, contact lense solution, sunglasses, small first aid kit (band-aids, neosporin, anti-diarrheal, pain relief), deodorant, nail clippers, tweezers, tooth brush, and tooth paste. I also ended up buying a different brand of Shampoo since the Dr. Bronners doesn´t work very well for that. I only use Dr. Bronners for body wash and washing my clothes.


Guidelines: If you want to work on the road, you may need to bring a few more electronics than the average traveler. Think about how often you will be using each item and try to get by with the bare minimum. I brought an EEE Netbook, Kindle, iPod Touch, portable hard drive, and Digital Camera. While these items are not bulky (and fit inside my day pack), they do add some weight to my backpack. Also, bringing electronics  means you have to worry about securing them while traveling and storing them securely in your hostel.

Netbook, Kindle, Ipod Touch, Hard Drive, Power Travel Adaptor, Extension Cord w/USB

ASUS Eee PC 1000HE 10.1-Inch Black Netbook: I bought this netbook a year and a half ago and have no complaints. It has a 10 inch screen, 9.5 hour battery life and weights 3.2 pounds. I checked the newer model out (ASUS Eee PC 1015PED-PU17-BK 10.1-Inch Netbook) and it didn’t seem like that much of an upgrade… So I opted to upgrade the RAM on my 1000HE to 2GB, and will use it for longer before getting a new netbook. I use this carry case for my netbook, it works great and fits snug: Case Logic LNEO-10 Ultraportable Neoprene Notebook/iPad Sleeve (Black)

Western Digital My Passport Essential 500 GB USB 3.0/2.0 Portable External Hard Drive (Midnight Black): This is the smallest hard drive I could find. It will upgrade to USB 3.0, so I can keep it after I decide to upgrade my netbook. I keep travel pictures and important documents on this drive. I use TrueCrypt to encrypt any sensitive documents stored here. This way, if the hard drive is stolen, I  only have to worry about items I didn’t backup to an online service like DropBox.

Apple iPod touch 64 GB (4th Generation): I sold my iPod Classic and iPod Nano when I upgraded to this. I was interested in getting an Ipod Touch  for the Skype app and music player. World traveler blog posts at Living The Dream and AhTim provided more reasons for me to have one. I like the World Nomads Free Language Guides apps for a starter in learning a new language. I use this case for my iPod touch and really like it: Speck Rubberized PixelSkin Case for iPod touch 4G (Black)

Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 3G Works Globally, Graphite, 6: Most of the hardcore traveling bloggers that I read about decided to ditch their paper books (including travel guides) and opted for the Kindle instead. With free 3G access in 81 countries, who could blame them? It’s so lightweight, and the screen looks just like a regular book. I sold most of my books on Craigslist and Cash4Books before upgrading to this. I’m a prolific reader, and the Kindle will allow me to continue my reading while traveling. I love it!

Canon Digital Elph Camera
Canon PowerShot SD1400IS 14.1 MP Digital Camera with 4x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7-Inch LCD (Black): I had one of the older model digital elphs and loved it, so decided to upgrade to this new model. It is very small, takes great pictures on automatic, and also records HD quality video. I bought a 32 GB SD card as I plan on using it for both pictures and video: Transcend 32 GB SDHC Class 6 Flash Memory Card TS32GSDHC6

Kensington 33117 International All-in-One Travel Plug Adapter: Power plug adaptor that can be used in more than 150 countries. Includes a fuse in case of a power surge.

Outlets To Go Power Strip with USB – Black: Very compact power strip with USB charger, and quite a bargain for $3. I had to crimp the ground plug a little bit to fit the Kensington Travel Plug Adaptor.


Guidelines: These are the items that you don’t really need, but they don’t take up much space and make the trip more comfortable.

Cocoon Ripstop Travelsheet (Silk), Eye Mask, Earplugs

Cocoon RipStop Silk TravelSheet: This is a 100% silk travel sheet that you can use if no sheets are provided at a hostel, or the sheets don’t look clean. I got this brand because it is supposed to be made of stronger silk, and has a velcro side entry. It can also be used if you think there might be bed bugs. I use mine mostly for comfort… It’s so tiny that it makes sense to bring along. And if you are worried about infesting bed bugs in your bag after you use it, you can pack it inside a sealed bag.

Lewis N. Clark Comfort Eye Mask: Comes in handy as you can take a nap anywhere with these. I’ve also packed ear plugs.


Guidelines: There is no stopping someone with a wire cutter, but it makes sense to take the basic precautions so your gear doesn’t get stolen.

Pacsafe Chain Lock and Wallet

Pacsafe VentureSafe 300: Slashproof day pack (picture up above with backpack).

PacSafe WrapSafe Adjustable Cable Lock: I use this cable lock to secure my backpack to a fixture in my hostel room, to make it more difficult for someone to steal it. Someone could still take it if they had wire cutters, but this makes things more difficult.

Pacsafe WalletSafe 100 Tri-Fold Travel Wallet: Slashproof travel wallet with zipper and chain to attach to belt.

I also carry an extra lock for my day pack.

Other Gear

Guidelines: I highly recommend bringing your own water bottle and water filtration system. This is better for the environment, your health, more convenient, and saves money. Also, if you are directionally-challenged, bring some sort of compass. Don’t skimp out and buy one of those cheap carabiner compasses (I tried that and they don’t work!). Get a good standalone compass, or digital compass that is built in to a watch.

Lifesaver Botle, Klean Kanteen

Lifesaver Bottle 4000 Ultra Filtration Water Bottle: The best personal water filter system on the market, launched after the Thailand tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Gets rid of all nasty viruses / bacteria in the water. I am using this filter instead of buying bottled water. It is a little bulky (about the size of a 1 liter bottle), but was worth it for me… If I had chosen something more compact, I would’ve gotten the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Handheld UV Water Purifier. The SteriPen is a UV purifier that is a lot smaller than the Life Saver, but requires rechargeable batteries and a charger (or solar panel). Also, the UV system is not as powerful, and requires a pre-filter. If you buy a Life Saver, you will also need to buy pre-filter replacements (to replace every 6-12 months) and optional carbon inserts (to be replaced every 250 liters of filtration).

Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle: If you are using a water bottle every day, stainless steel is the way to go. It’s the best water bottle choice for you (hygienic, no nasty chemicals) and the environment. The screw top on these creates a very strong seal, so you don’t have to worry about it leaking into your bag.

Timex Men’s T42761 Expedition Adventure Tech Digital Compass Watch: This is a standard watch / compass / alarm with a leather strap. It’s not flashly like some other watches, so it won’t attract unneeded attention. Simple to use versus a competing Casio model.

Alok Multi Pak: I got the larger (12 x 12) pack and a set of smaller bags. These are great for carrying anything that needs to stay waterproof. You can also use them to do laundry in and carry dirty laundry. Very handy, so many uses!

Moleskine Pocket Notebook with Travel Pen
MoleSkine Extra Small Notebooks: I brought a couple of these pocket-sized notebooks along. They come in very handy.

Disclosure: I only recommend products/services that I personally have tried and found useful. I make a small commission on some of the links above. The commission helps support this blog, so if you are interested in any of these products / services, and supporting the blog, please use the links in this blog post.

Part of the South of the Border Series

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March 11th, 2011 No Comments

Starwood Hotels Preferred Guest Program: Beware of Misleading Miles Transfer Calculations (Bonus Miles)

Update: I decided to transfer my Starwood points to America Airlines miles instead as it is a 1:1 ratio (including bonus miles) and much better deal.

I’m a Starwood Preferred Guest Member (Platinum), and have been part of the program since 2006. It’s a great hotel rewards program, and usually, I spend my points on hotel stays… Lately, I’ve been spending them on Amazon.Com gift cards and transferring to flight miles.

Transferring Starpoints to United Miles

A few days ago, I was planning a trip, I decided to transfer some points from Starwood to my United Mileage Plus account. I logged in to the SPG member website and clicked on this button to start:

Starwood Transfer Miles Screen

Next to the button is text which states: “Enjoy a 5,000-mile bonus when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to miles (must be transferred as part of the same transaction to receive the bonus miles).

I transferred 66,000 miles to United. Based on the text next to the button above, I calculated that I would get 15,000 bonus miles + 33,000 miles (2 Starpoints :1 Mile conversion) = 48,000 total United miles. After the transfer, I received an e-mail from Starwood that I would only be receiving 40,500 miles.  So basically, Starwood was giving me 7,500 bonus miles instead of the 15,000 miles that their website verbiage implies. Seems like false advertising or a computer glitch, right?

Starwood Platinum Guest Customer Service Response

Normally, Starwood has great customer service, especially for platinum members. Unfortunately, this was not the case for this transaction. I sent their customer support an e-mail and did not hear back from them for three days, so decided to give them a call today.  Neither the customer service representative or their supervisor could give me the extra 7,500 miles that their website verbiage implies. The only thing they could do was put in a “bug ticket” to update their misleading website text and reverse my transaction.

Starwood Members: Beware, The 2:1 Miles Conversion Ratio Includes Bonus Miles

If you are transferring your Starpoints to any of the airline miles programs which have a 2:1 ratio (Continental, United, Singapore, VARIG), beware. You won’t be getting 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred. Instead, you will get 2,500 bonus miles for every 20,000 Starpoints.

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