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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Journey of Tips

After moving back to the D.C. metro from the S.F. bay area, I had only one week home to unpack, attend a wedding, and then re-pack for Asia.  We only had 2 nights booked in Hong Kong when we left the U.S. from NYC.  Typically being a pretty detailed planner, I realized the joys of actually planning things as you go and going with the flow.

I traveled for 44 days visiting, over 13 cities, and 8 countries with just a backpack, which fluctuated between 10-13 kg (22-28lbs).  Throughout this journey, I picked up quite a few travel tips that I thought would be helpful for anyone traveling esp with summer travel.

1.  Pack appropriately!!

You know this, you really do, but you don't realize it until you don't have the right clothes.  I would say to always bring:
  • Tennis shoes (you never know what kind of outdoor hike, waterfall trek, bumpy bike ride you can encounter) 
  • Comfortable sandals (will do a future post on sanuk vs. teva sandals) for all the walking you're gonna be doing, can also be used if you need them for a filthy shower or walking around your bunker
  •  A jacket even if its a hot and humid summer (great when you find yourself on a 2AM trek on top of a volcano - yes its COLD up there! or it'll help when you find yourself sleeping in the airport or even a super air-conditioned ferry ride) .. something lightweight, but trust me, you'll be happy you brought it when you need it 
  • A hat to shield yourself from the sun whether its basking in the sun all day or out tomb raiding temples
  • Bring a daypack to hold all your things as you sight see throughout the day. I used a cross body bag while traveling, but I would say my cousin's daypack was definitely better than my bag. Last but not least, definitely bring a money pouch that you can place underneath your clothes... very helpful for storing extra money, passports & plus you never want to put all your money and valuables in one place, you gotta spread it out!
With this all said, I did bring my favorite outfits although I had to wear them over and over... try to find things you can mix and match easily since space is precious on a trip like this, but with all the photo shoots you're going to do, you of course wanna look good ;) Just don't forget the essentials! & remember, the less you bring, the more you can bring home!

2. To suit case or not?

I wasn't sold on using a backpack initially since I really didn't want to carry a big backpack on my shoulders, but it turned out to be really helpful and I think it helped me build some muscle lugging that heavy thing around... ha! I used a 35L Northface backpack, which was good enough for the trip, you may want to consider something larger if you want to pack more stuff... my cousin carried a 60L backpack. The great thing is when you have to move really quickly and go up stairs, having a backpack is much easier.

Also, don't forget to bring combination locks to lock up your bag when you are traveling, definitely a necessity and if you don't buy those TSA approved locks (but I'm not sure if they work in Asia), make sure you unlock your stuff before you check in your bag or they WILL break your locks (yup, I totally forgot one time :( I would definitely recommend using combination locks over keys...just in case you lose the key and it is ONE more than to carry!

In addition to my backpack, I also brought a large soft travel bag that was helpful for me when we had to check in our backpacks and to keep anything important or valuable. I would also recommend putting in one pair of clothes, contacts/makeup/toothbrush into your carry on, JUST IN CASE your luggage is delayed or lost, which happened to us! We slept in the airport that night so luckily I brought some extra stuff with me, but was definitely extremely relieved when I had a few things while our luggage was on its way

3. MUST USE travel websites

The following travel websites were EXTREMELY helpful on our trip. Considering we did no planning beforehand, we needed good online resources to let us know what the best accommodation for our budget was, places to see, things to do, and how to get from here to there.  These are my favorite resources:
  • Tripadvisor - BEST resource for reviews on accommodations, restaurant and attractions
  • Airbnb - You can find the best deals on airbnb and hopefully a lovely host like the ones we found that can give you great information, use my link for $25 off your first stay! This is great when you're traveling with more than one person... they're usually very cozy! People either rent our rooms in their own apartments or they rent out their entire apt/home. Otherwise I would use if you'd rather go that route 
  • Couchsurfing - stay on a free couch and meet some cool people (will do another post my own personal experience) if you're brave enough! I would definitely recommend it, but obviously use common sense and chat with your host for a bit ahead of time before you stay there and if you don't feel comfortable, don't stay there
  • Flights:  We used skyscanner to get an idea of where the cheapest places to fly were.  It has a great option where you can select 'everywhere' with flexible dates and it'll list the cheapest places to fly from your current location.  I would use it in addition to using sites like, or (we found that our flight from NYC to HKG was cheapest on hipmunk so worth a try!) since it isn't all inclusive
    • We used, or for low cost air carriers, no frills but gets you to where you need to be!
    • Be sure to always pay for checked luggage as if you don't and they force you to check your luggage, it will be a hefty expense! 
    • Don't be afraid to check our buses and trains in Asia as well, they're very cheap and if you have the time, another experience to tell! 
 I could go on for days about tons and tons of travel advice, but I think I will leave it at there for now and add more tips as I go into detail about each place I traveled to. Hope this helps!  Travel happy!


Haidée said...


Leeann @ Join the Gossip said...

Great tips! I am going on a little vacation next month and am already thinking about what I need to pack.

44 days? That's a long time! Sounds like a blast :)

Couture Carrie said...

So amazing, darling!
Love these tips!


MizzJ said...

Great tips! The only problem I had with backpacking it, was ability to stuff in things that I bought! How did you store all those? is another good site to find cheap accomodation. There's user reviews and online reservations!

Style, She Wrote said...

Sounds like an amazing adventure! Hope you had a wonderful time and thanks for the tips! xo style, she wrote

Fabíola Beltrão said...


Josie said...

Cute photo! And your packing tips are absolutely brilliant.
xo Josie

Cafe Fashionista said...

Gah! I am so printing this out and referring to it the next time I travel. Great tips! :)

Annemarie @ Brunch at Saks said...

Fantastic tips! I especially love all of the travel websites you've added! Going to bookmark this post for the next time I travel.

Happy to be following you now :) xx

Audrey Allure said...

Great travel tips and thanks for all the travel websites!

Allison said...

SUCH good advice - when I was in China I wish that I had a backpack (hindsight!), so that's definitely great advice.
I'm also bookmarking all these travel sites - so good to have on file :) Can't wait to read more detail about your trips, dear. xo

Michelle Lee said...

great tips :)

your newest follower Michelle

Miss Caitlin S. said...

That's great advice, you're smart to break this all down like that!!! I would struggle with the backpack vs. suitcase for sure and always appreciate the tips. PS what an amazing experience you must have had!

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yiqin; said...

but tiger is really bad :(

nedsi said...

Wonderful! you are so right and I needed to hear this.

Mimi said...

wow, i am definitely gonna keep these in mind! i always tend to overpack! it's amazing how all you needed was in one backpack! :)

<3, Mimi
$25 Apothica Gift Card Giveaway :)

lucy and sarah said...

Such great info. thanks!

ivy's closet said...

Awesome post! I really liked your input.

ellie said...

Wow, you are such a wonderful traveler.

mazzy may said...

Such great information. Thanks!