Brynne from Femme Frugality Shares Her Best Packing Ideas for Hassle-Free Travel

Femme Frugality

My name is Brynne. I am a full-time personal finance writer. I am the creator and owner of the site Femme Frugality, and contribute to a number of personal finance publications online and off.

Helping people with money is a passion of mine, but I’m even more geeked out on languages. I’ve studied five outside of my native English (though that doesn’t mean I’m proficient in all of them!)

Femme Frugality

How and why did you get into traveling?

I grew up in a military family, so travel was a part of our lifestyle. We moved every couple years. Aside from that, my parents were big on road trips, whether that be to visit family or various historic sites. Thanks to them, I have itchy feet and have always been pretty mobile.

I do a lot of research before I travel. I read all the reviews for each individual hotel or Airbnb, research each neighborhood, and put together a list of “must-sees” before I head out. I try to frontload all the stress of planning so that once I reach my destination, I won’t have to worry about a thing. If it’s a vacation rather than a business trip, I am sure to allow some time for R&R in my schedule, too.

If I’m traveling to a location with a different culture, I do my best to research cultural norms before I go so I don’t accidentally do anything disrespectful. If the language is foreign to me, I at least take some primer lessons so I’m able to communicate a little bit. Many library systems offer these lessons for free.

Femme Frugality

How do you finance your travels?

I’m all about frugal travel. There are a select few luxuriously expensive trips I’ve been on in my lifetime. I’ll drive eight hours before I’ll pay for airfare. When I do have to pay for airfare, I either pay with travel rewards or book with the airline where I’m currently amassing points for my next free trip.

If at all possible, I couch surf with friends and family while I’m on the road. If I have to get a hotel or Airbnb, I try to find one with a kitchen so I can cook my own food while I’m there. Sometimes I book hotel rooms with travel rewards or Airbnbs with referral credits.

Before I head out, I look for coupons on entertainment—or free entertainment in the area. A lot of areas even have discounts for students, the disabled or the elderly, so if I’m traveling with any of those demographics I try to dig for those discounts before I leave.

As a blogger, I have gotten discounted or comped accommodations before. I’ve also been able to access shows, museums and other attractions for free before, too. Sometimes a company or hotel will reach out directly to me or through one of my marketing partner networks. Other times, I get in touch directly with the hotel, attraction or even department of tourism to see if a partnership would be mutually beneficial.

Femme Frugality

Why is traveling important for you?

When I was younger, I enjoyed the fact that traveling really allowed me to recreate myself. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t necessarily feel like a new person every time I hit the road. But I do continue to enjoy another benefit I gleaned from my youth: learning about others. The new experiences we have with new people in new cultures when we travel turns us into fuller human beings with a broader understanding of the world—even if you’re traveling domestically.

How do you bring your things with you?

I used to take one carry-on and one personal item max. Not only is paying for baggage expensive, but it can also be an inconvenience if any of your luggage gets lost on connecting flights. As a military kid, I learned how to pack things really tightly so I can fit a lot into a backpack. My favorites are from Jansport because they come with a lifetime warranty and fit in overhead storage.

Since I started earning travel rewards, I do get a free bag when I travel with certain carriers. Depending on how many layovers there are and how long I’ll be gone, I take advantage of that. If there are a lot of connecting flights sometimes it’s not worth the risk of losing my bag.

Femme Frugality

How do you organize things in your bags?

I roll up my clothes into teeny tiny cylinders, putting any changes I’ll need on top. Because clothes get wrinkled this way, I’m sure to pack some Downy Wrinkle Release, too. Anything I’ll need for entertainment during the flight goes in my purse. I carry a large purse.

I don’t pack a lot of shoes, which I think saves me a lot of space. I don’t own a lot of shoes to begin with. I’ll typically pack a pair of flip flops in the bag along with heels if they’re absolutely necessary. I wear my sneakers on the flight because they’re bulkier and take up more space in my bag.

I usually bring one or two ziplocs in case I end up doing a water-related activity while I’m there; I can use my phone without it getting wet that way. I also pack as many plastic grocery bags as I can cram into my backpack. You never know when you’ll need them for wet clothes or some other random occurrence, and they take up so very little space. Don’t worry—I recycle them when I’ve used them to capacity!

Femme Frugality

How do your bags and gear hold up?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a bag break or tear on the road.

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

The one thing I manage to forget frequently is a phone charger. I have my phone plugged in until the moment I leave, and then I forget to unplug and pack it. Luckily you can buy a replacement almost anywhere.

Once on a trip to Mexico, I tried to pack particularly light. Because we were doing different thing at various points during the day, sometimes I’d have to wear two or three outfits per day—but I only packed one. It wasn’t that big of a deal as each thing only got worn for a few hours each before I had to change, but I did wish I had packed at least one more dress.

Femme Frugality

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

I don’t usually buy things specifically for travel. I try to make do with what I already have. But once while I was in Canada, I did buy some flat, adhesive GoPro mounts for my 360 camera. It was somewhere around $20USD, and was a great investment. I was able to put my camera exactly where I wanted it for the shot, and have been able to use them again since.

What is your best advice for other travelers?

Don’t expect everyone to speak English. Even if they do speak it as a second language, in some areas it’s disrespectful if you don’t at least make an attempt to speak the area’s native tongue. That doesn’t mean you have to be good at it—you just have to try.

Also, don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to have a great time. A lot of iconic attractions are free, and skipping the shots of a perfectly Instagrammable (and expensive) hotel room isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen to you. The best part of travel is learning about other cultures and people, anyways.

Femme Frugality

What will the future bring?

I’m headed to Japan in a few months to visit one of my childhood friends. I’m beyond excited. She’s been gracious enough to let us stay with her, and the airfare was free through travel rewards.

Visit Brynne on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

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