Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Week-Long Trip to Manchester, Indiana | Packing a Carry-On Suitcase & eBags First Impression

In a few days, I'll be traveling to Manchester, Indiana to partake in a wonderful summer camp called TAF (Taiwanese American Foundation). I'm going to be an advisor for the Youth program for high school students. I went for the first time in 2012, and am so excited to get the chance to go back! Since I'll be out of town for almost two weeks, this is the best opportunity for me to try out my new suitcase, the eBags EXO 2.0 Hard-Side Spinner Carry-On in brushed graphite. I'm a packing enthusiast (if you haven't noticed yet) so I have been patiently waiting to use the EXO 2.0 for an extended period of time. I did bring this suitcase with me on a weekend trip to Vegas earlier this summer, but I didn't feel like I really got to test out the suitcase. 

The exterior measures 22" x 14" x 9", which includes the wheels meaning it meets airline requirements for a carry-on. Made 100% out of polycarbonate, the material is durable and lighter than most "soft" luggage. I chose the brushed graphite color because it is beautiful, and might also hide scratches better. Double wheels on the casters improves support and stability, while the adjustable handle is comfortable whether you're pulling or rolling the suitcase alongside you. 

The recessed handle allows the volume of the suitcase to increase. Little details like this and the rubber feet on the side of the suitcase are just a few of the many reasons I decided to get this suitcase. To find out more about the reasons behind the design of the suitcase, check out the eBags website where there is an informative video. You can bet I already watched it! It really made me appreciate my suitcase before I got it. I knew what to look for in the design! 

The lock has a unique criss-crossing zipper design. It is also TSA-recognized 3-dial combination lock. What this means is that if I can check my luggage with the zippers locked, and if TSA should want to inspect it they have a key that is able to open the suitcase without me present to provide my lock combination. 

Not excited yet? Let's get to the inside! On the left half is a zippered mesh compartment. The mesh is sturdy, yet flexible. It has a bit of give so that I can slightly overpack it. The right half is my favorite because it comes with a moveable shelf. There are velcro strips along both sides of the suitcase to hold the shelf in place. I really like this because I can create my own sections based on the size of what I'm bringing. As a second purpose, the shelf creates a barrier that prevents things from the top of my suitcase from crushing things on the bottom. Genius! At the bottom of the right half of my suitcase is an eBags packing cube for shoes

Okay, if there is one thing you should know about me in regards to packing is that I love love love packing cubes. They make packing, unpacking, and repacking so easy. The question I get asked most about packing cubes is, "are they space saving?" Honestly they don't save you much space, but that's not the purpose of them. Packing cubes help keep your stuff organized. If everything has a place to go, you remove any chance of clutter and severely decrease the chances of upheaving your entire suitcase to look for one little thing, such as your phone charger. 

There are tons of brands for packing cubes, but I'm partial to the ones from eBags because that's where I bought my first packing cubes from almost 5 years ago and they still look nearly new. I have them in quite a number of sizes. I have the large size in tangerine (great for long international trips that require check-in luggage), small in raspberry (pictured above), and slim in eggplant (also pictured above). Why the different colors? I like the different colors because I'm able to categorize my clothes and can find them just by thinking about the color. For example, I usually pack my boyfriend and my suitcases when we go on a trip together so when he asks for something I can just tell him, "pants are in orange" rather than say something vague like, "the packing cube under the other one of the same size and color." 

When it comes to needing a specific item or unpacking, packing cubes make life wonderful. Yes, wonderful. The eBags packing cubes have handles on top so I can just grab the packing cube I need and put it back just as easily when I'm done. Do you know how nice it is to be able to take out pants from the bottom of your suitcase without having to dig through all your nicely rolled shirts that were on top? If I'm staying at a hotel I can take out the packing cubes, unzip them, and put them in the drawers or lay them out on the countertop. When it comes time to leave, I can just zip them and stack them back in my suitcase. Voila! 

I like the eBags packing cubes because they're soft and flexible so that you can stuff them and compress them as you wish. The see-through mesh top allows me to see what's in the packing cube. The zippers are large and have easy to find/grip loops on the ends making it easy to zip and unzip in a hurry. The zippers are also some of the smoothest I've ever tried. 

One last great thing about the packing cubes, before I bore some of you to death, is that they're made of nylon making them easy to clean should anything get on them. 

For my weeklong trip, I plan on packing 5 shirts each in two of my small sized packing cubes. Rolling your clothes is a must! It saves space and if you roll carefully, will decrease the number of wrinkles. In the EXO 2.0 I am able to fit two small and a slim packing cube on the left hand side. I have a little extra space along the sides, where I can tuck in something like a hair curler or straightener.

More packing compartmentalization tips! For this trip I'm borrowing my boyfriend's Nylon Hanging Travel Case in Small from Muji. Normally I use a larger toiletries bag, but I wanted something with a hook this time because we live in dorms for the duration of TAF. Yay communal bathrooms? Yay shower shoes...! Special thanks to Manchester University for providing housing and a ton of other things for all of us every single year. 

I really like this travel case because it has a hook, two see-through mesh zippered pockets inside, and various methods of keeping bottles in place with elastic bands and more mesh pockets. There is also a slim exterior pocket on the back of the travel case. This would be a great spot to tuck in a wide-toothed comb or a razor. 

My cute little bath pouf is from Muji as well! The perfect size for traveling! 

Speaking of size, if you're flying with a carry-on it's important to remember the 3-1-1 rule for liquids! 3-1-1 means all your liquids must be in 3 fl. oz. or smaller bottles, have to fit in a 1 quart bag, and only 1 quart bag allowed per person. Target has a great selection for travel size toiletries, but if you're a little more particular about what you use like me and don't like to try new things like face wash or shampoo on a trip, then it's time to get some small bottles and containers. Again, Muji has a large selection, Target has a few, and my new favorite go-to place is Daiso, the Japanese dollar store. :D Everything except for the hair dryer is from either Muji, Target, or Daiso. 

The hair dryer pictured above is the one I bring along when I travel. It's much less bulky than my normal hair dryer (which I snagged for super cheap on Hautelook, phew!). Since the Panasonic hair dryer is smaller, it is not as powerful and takes longer to dry my hair. However, it does the job and I can kind of style my hair without having to bring along a round brush. I honestly don't care too much about styling my hair, even in the mornings, but I am trying to break my bad habit of going to bed with wet or even damp hair. Also, the dorms at Manchester University are notorious for being frigid so I definitely don't want to go to bed with a head of wet hair at TAF. I should mention that the top brush part of the dryer also detaches to act as a regular hair dryer. If you're tight on space, taking off the top halves the size of the dryer making it even more compact. You can find a similar hair dryer to mine here. Another great travel-sized hair dryer is this one by Conair, which folds up. 

Now, it's time to talk towels. I was tired of having my towel take up precious space in my luggage and decided to look for alternatives last summer. I ended up with a Turkish towel. My friend Jenny recently asked me for a travel towel recommendation, and I told her about my experience after using it for three weeks in Taiwan in the summer (important because of the high humidity) and two weeks traveling around the East coast. This is what I found:
  • Dries very fast, even in the intense humidity. It dries best laid out or hung over a chair. It's best it doesn't hang from like a hook where the fabric overlaps, that slows drying time. Super awesome for a night shower-er like me because I can pack up my towel if we're moving locations the next morning without worrying about it getting mildew-y. 
  • Such a space saver! My entire towel (approx. 24"x60") rolls up to be the same size as a normal hand towel. O_O 
  • Doesn't dry me as well as a normal towel, and as I would like. Ah, coming home to a fluffy towel is the best. I've tried various methods of drying with the Turkish towel and ultimately I think letting it absorb the water, much like the traveltowel, is much better than rubbing. I think rubbing is just a habit from using fluffy towels and it works best for that, but it doesn't work that well for other types of towels. My Turkish towel is quite big so I will just wrap myself in it while I brush my teeth and whatnot, and usually by then I'm pretty decently dry. Then I just use the towel to wrap up my hair, which is wonderful!! The towel is lightweight so I don't feel like Chiquita Banana with a fruit basket on my head, which is how I feel when I use a normal towel.
  • Turkish towels are a little more high maintenance. You can wash them in the washing machine, just with bleach-free detergent (unless your towel is white). But don't use fabric softeners as it can weaken the fibers. Once a month (depending on how often you use your towel), you should wash your towel with white vinegar to remove any residue from the detergent and to return/increase the level of absorbency to full. I haven't washed mine with vinegar yet, but hope to do so before TAF to see if it makes a difference. With proper care, a Turkish towel should increase in absorbency over time!
I bought my Turkish towel in store at Poketo, and they have them again this year with a select selection in store and a large selection online. You can find Turkish towels on places like Amazon, too! Just keep in mind that Turkish towels are pretty darn thin so if you are a die-hard lover of thick fluffy towels, these might leave you wanting more. I have yet to try a travel towel as in the quick drying ones usually made of microfiber. Those intrigue me as well. If any of you are considering getting one, I have one major tip for you. When drying yourself, dab the towel onto your skin, don't rub (again like with a normal towel). Rubbing will just cause the towel to stick to your skin and will dry you inefficiently. That's the advice I saw the most from doing some research on travel towels for Jenny. 

Lastly, it's time to pack the cosmetics. Since I'm packing for a summer camp, I don't need much makeup. I want to be as low maintenance and fuss-free as possible so I slimmed down the items as much as possible.
Note: Mirror and pouch from Daiso; small white tube is a sample of a primer I haven't tried yet. 

Everything I'm bringing is part of my daily routine except for the eyeshadow and the blush and bronzer duo. I'm bringing the eyeshadow because the last night of TAF is semi-formal and so I might want something to smoke out my eyes. However, that would be the only time I would ever need shadow on my lids so I didn't want to bring my large Urban Decay Naked palette. This L'Oreal shadow is easy for me to apply with my fingers and blend out so it was the obvious choice. I don't find myself wearing blush and bronzer every day because I hardly do that to begin with, so I decided to bring the blush and bronzer duo as a way to keep things compact instead of two separate items in bulkier packaging. 

To read more about my eye makeup, check out my last post which includes detailed reviews of all the products I rely on. I am packing all of my cosmetics in a medium sized zip pouch that came with my mom's gift with purchase at Shiseido years ago. I love reusing those pouches for travel! 

Goodness, this has been quite the packing post! However, I'm not done yet! A quick first impression of the eBags EXO 2.0: 
Overall, I am very happy with the eBags EXO 2.0. The wheels feel sturdy, yet smooth. The brushed graphite exterior is looks even better in person, reassuring me that I made the right choice. Although the suitcase isn't expandable, I was able to fit everything I would need for a weeklong trip without a problem. I appreciate the adjustable heights of the handle. The only thing I don't like all that much is the criss-crossing zipper lock. I can always snap the first zipper into place, but the second one always takes me a couple of tries.
After I get back from my trip I will do a more extensive review on what I think of the suitcase and how it was to use. As always, thank you for reading! Sleep deprivation and servant leadership here I come!

You can read more about TAF here, watch last year's slideshow to get a better idea of what TAF looks like, and follow TAF on Instagram to see what we're up to next week. I'll also be posting pictures throughout the week so you can follow me on Instagram as well. :)

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