How and Why I Travel the World With Only a Tumi Backpack
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Back in 2013, eBags was offering an incredible 35 American AAdvantage miles per dollar spent. I decided to treat myself to some very nice luggage: an $895 Tumi expandable carry-on. That netted me by far the most expensive bag I ever owned, along with 31,325 AAdvantage miles, worth nearly $450 today. Even following several devaluations over those six years, that’s still an excellent return.
While the miles were nice to have, that purchase ultimately changed the way I travel. The rolling bag didn’t last long — it got scuffed and didn’t look great after a few uses — but I brought it to a Tumi store and promptly received an $895 credit towards anything from the company’s website.
One of those items was the Alpha Backpack (which the company has since replaced with the $525 Alpha 3) — another pricey acquisition, by my standards, but an entirely worthwhile piece of gear, especially since I had the credit to use up.
Tumi may have designed it as a roll-a-board add-on for business travelers — the handle passthrough lets you slide the backpack right on top — but since it’s so durable, I often end up filling it to the gills and bringing it on trips solo, packed full of cameras, my laptop, clothes and sometimes even a second set of footwear.
My light load even got the attention of legendary road-warrior Rick Steves, who maybe has me beat, since he travels with his own paper guidebooks as well.
So what’s in my bag? I make some tweaks depending on which equipment I need for work and which climates I’ll be exploring — this time, I had to factor in stops in London (LHR), Kuala Lumpur (KUL) and Hawaii (HNL).
Here’s what I brought along — and it all fit, with (just a bit of) room to spare:
- Apple MacBook (12-inch)
- Apple iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XS Max Smart Battery Case
- Google Pixel 3 XL
- DJI Osmo Action
- Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
- Bose QuietComfort 20 earbuds
- Universal AC adapter with USB ports
- Baseball cap
- Collapsable Timbuk2 messenger bag
- Allbirds wool runners
- Eye mask and earplugs
- Dental kit
- Oman Air pajamas
- Socks and underwear (6 sets)
- Jeans and belt (1 pair)
- Shorts (1 pair)
- T-shirts (3)
- Long-sleeve linen shirt (1)
- Sweater (1)
- Gym clothes (shorts and shirt)
Of course, the big question is… “why?” I often travel in premium cabins, and wouldn’t have any problem bringing along a rolling carry-on for free, let alone a few checked bags. For me, it comes down to flexibility, whether it’s not having gear get in the way as I’m snapping away, or having the ability to board a flight last and not worry about finding a spot for my luggage — making the most of some last-minute work time at the gate, instead. A couple of wrinkled shirts seems well worth the tradeoff for me.
For more tips on how to pack light, see:
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,040
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
- $250 Annual Fee
- Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
- Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
- Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
- Earn 2X miles on all other travel
- Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
- Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.