Belgian Travel Blogger Shares How She Packs and Organizes Her Travel Itineraries

Travel Blogger Sofie Couwenbergh
Sofie in Portugal

I’m Sofie and I was born and raised in Belgium where I currently still live with my partner. Currently, though, I’m answering these questions from a Riad in Marrakech, Morocco, where I’m spending a week visiting a friend who lives here. The one thing I love to do most – surprise – is explore new places, but aside from traveling, I also love dancing.

I’m quite the organizer and usually create very detailed travel itineraries, but those don’t stop me from wandering around and grasping interesting opportunities when they arrive. My plans just take away any kind of worries or frustrations while I’m in a new place, allowing me to see and do more but still at my own pace.

Blogger Sofie Couwenberghrtugal
Sofie in Sintra, Portugal

How and why did you get into traveling?

My parents have taken me and my younger brother abroad every since we were little. Living in a small country like Belgium also means that we have to drive a mere two hours to be abroad, so traveling just always have been part of my life. I couldn’t travel without my parents until I was 18, so once I reached that age, I booked a ticket to Barcelona with a friend and I’ve been traveling on my own ever since.

I’ve always done student jobs and put money aside, so whenever we had holidays, I was able to travel abroad. Things got even easier when I started working and earning a proper salary. I’ve never done an RTW trip or anything like that, though. I used to spend all my vacation days on travel and then when I quit my job and became a freelancer, focusing entirely on my travel blog, I made it possible for myself to travel whenever I wanted.

Travel Blogger Sofie Couwenbergh

How do you prepare for your adventures and travels?

I research and plan a lot. I’ll check opening times, how to get to places, what’s located where and can best be combined with what other activity… I don’t like having to look things up or being clueless when I’m somewhere, so I make sure I always kind of know where I can go, how I need to get there and what it’s going to cost me. To create my itineraries, I usually use online sources. I read other blogs, check the TripAdvisor forums (much more than the Things To Do sections on TripAdvisor), check the local or national tourism board’s websites, etc. I also love Google Maps as it easily allows me to check which places are close to one another and how much time I need to get from A to B.

Usually, I’ll note it all down in a Google Doc, which I then make available offline so I can always access it on my phone.

That’s all mental preparation, though. As I don’t do any extreme adventure travel or multi-day hike vacations or that kind of thing, I don’t really need to prepare physically for my trips.

Travel Blogger Sofie Couwenbergh
Sofie in Bilbao, Spain

How do you finance your travels?

Like most people, I think: I work. As a student, I would do student jobs and save up money to travel. Once I got a 9-to-5, I would always put money aside as well and now that I’m a travel blogger, travel is both what I do for work and what I do for pleasure. I do marketing campaigns for destinations, custom travel planning for readers, freelance writing for other publications, consulting for brands that want to work with bloggers and for bloggers that want to work with brands. I also have ads on my blog as well as affiliate links.

I don’t spend that much money on special travel gear. I have a decent camera and I think that’s about it. I don’t think you need many special things when you mostly stay in hotels or apartments like I do. It’s a bit different when you go camping or do extreme sports while you travel. My biggest costs are probably accommodation and flights.

Why is traveling important for you?

It opens my mind, introduces me to other cultures and ways of life. It allows me to truly get to know myself while getting to know other people as well. I’d say travel constantly provides me with new impulses and really tickles all of my senses, as well as both my emotions and my brain. 🙂

Travel Blogger Sofie Couwenbergh

How do you bring your things with you?

When I can, I travel carry-on only. I have an amazing trolley of the brand Crumpler that I’ve been lugging around for years and it’s still as brand new. It’s the maximum size a carry-on suitcase can be, so for me that’s perfect. Depending on where I’m traveling (a.k.a. how many warm clothes I need), it’s good for a week or even longer. I usually also bring a backpack that I use as a daypack. My current favorite is of the Austrian outdoor brand Skinfit. I actually won the Crumpler trolley in a giveaway and got the Skinfit as a present. Double luck. 🙂

Travel Blogger Sofie Couwenbergh

How do you organize things in your bags?

I tend to roll my clothes when I pack them because I tend to live out of my suitcase when I travel and I just find it easier to get things out and put things back without messing out the entire suitcase that way. I also feel like rolling saves space vs folding. When I’m traveling for just a few days, it doesn’t really matter, but when I need to pack a week’s worth of stuff into my trolley, I do usually need to puzzle at least a bit. What I do always use is an Eagle Creek Pack-It Cube. I actually use it as a dirty laundry bag. It’s so practical because you can really stuff it full so that you have a nice little package at the end of the trip that’s easy to put away.

Travel Blogger Sofie Couwenbergh
Sofie in Quebec, Canada

Any gear you wish you had brought with you from the beginning?

When I didn’t yet travel so much, I tended to always overpack. Now I always try to pack just what I need and I usually still end up taking a clean shirt back home or something like that. Unless you plan on staying in one hotel for your entire trip, I do recommend packing light. It makes things so much easier. And I also find it quite liberating when I don’t have that many outfit options to choose from.

What has been your best travel-related purchase below $100?

That’s a tough one because most of my purchases aren’t purely travel related, but I’d probably say my PacSafe CitySafe handbag. I wrote a review on it here.

What is your best advice for other travelers?

Eat local food, connect with people living in the place you’re visiting and use your common sense. Food can teach you so much about a culture, as can conversations with locals. And your common sense will help you decide when to try something new, when to take a break, when to trust someone and when to walk in the other direction.

Travel Blogger Sofie Couwenbergh

What will the future bring?

As my travel schedule has been a bit crazy in 2017, I’m actually taking a bit of a break in the new year. While I am working on a few things, no trips are set in stone yet and I’ll likely spend the first two months of the year optimizing the blog and doing all the things that I didn’t get to because I was traveling so much.

Visit Sofie Couwenbergh on her website and follow her Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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