The first time we heard about flashpacker travel, we knew we were already doing it but we probably had too much baggage in tow.
So what is flashpacking anyway? I’ve heard it defined as backpacking on a luxury budget. In our case, it is digital nomad travel without the hostels.
A few months ago, we set out to knock 10 countries off our world travel challenge and decided to up the ante by downsizing our luggage into one backpack each.
Want to know if it was a success? Here’s how we managed as flash packers.
What is Flashpacker Travel
Flashpacker travel has become more popular with the rise of the digital nomad lifestyle.
A flash packer can take many forms. For some, it’s an adventure traveler that wants to stay in more luxurious accommodations than a hostel.
Once you pass a certain age (somewhere in your 20s) staying in a hostel with a bunch of other people definitely loses it’s charm. If you can afford a nice hotel, there’s no reason to suffer.
For other people, flash packing is a way to be a minimalist traveler. Instead of flashpacker, many people refer to themselves as carry-on only travelers.
Have you ever gotten home from a trip and realized that you packed so many things you never used? Somehow it happens no matter how little you pack.
Our Flashpacker Travel Experiment
Our flash packing experiment was born from a mistake.
Guy and I decided to go to the Balkans for a few months in our car. Unfortunately we were turned away at the border of Serbia because we didn’t have the car registration.
I figured out that we could leave our car in Bratislava, Slovakia and fly to Sofia, Bulgaria for $9 each. We added one bag each and the final price was $55 for both of us.
Then I looked for a one way ticket from Sofia to Tel Aviv – $85 for both of us without bags. With bags it was more than double.
From Tel Aviv to Cyprus, then Cyprus to Malta, then Malta to Porto was $200 for all 3 flights for 2 people!! The same flights for our suitcases were more expensive than they were for us.
Every kid who’s ever done a study abroad knows this European travel loophole and takes advantage of it but could we really live with just a backpack each?
The Pros and Cons of Backpack Only Travel
I figured we didn’t have much to lose trying it out. Worst case scenario, we would buy a suitcase and some new clothes on the road, then get our new suitcase a plane ticket.
The easiest way to share our experience in a way that might help you decide if flash packing is for you is with our list of pros and cons.
- Getting on and off a plane and in and out of a hotel with just a backpack is sooooo much easier.
- We felt really light. We’re all about minimalism, but in practice you start to see how much possessions weigh you down and hold you back.
- Within a week, we had a system nailed down where we had an exact place for everything, we were efficient and we even had our laundry figured out.
- My compression packing cubes made it so easy to pack, unpack and get a lot of stuff into a little bag.
- My little packable tote bag allowed me to unload stuff into a 2nd bag.
- The backpack I was using is a great travel backpack with lots of pockets but I wish it was a little bigger with a separate pocket in the back for my computer.
- Guy’s backpack is really a camera backpack and although it holds more than mine, the structure of his bag made it hard to stuff it bigger.
- The fact that we were traveling in spring meant we needed clothes for freezing snowy days, rain and warm summer days. One bag is definitely easier in one season, specifically summer.
- It would be nice to have more shoes. I brought trail runners and flip flops. Guy had trail runners.
When we got back to our car after 5 weeks, you would think we would overjoyed at having tons more stuff and the truth is we really didn’t miss much.
I was happy to be reunited with my Barefoot Dreams blanket and my Yeti coffee cup. Guy was thrilled to have the coffee pot. Having an extra pair of shoes was great too!
Our Final Thoughts About Flashpacker Travel
Being a flash packer, whether you decide to keep all your things in one backpack or add a wheeled carry on allows you to travel light and see/do more things.
By staying in better accommodations, it’s the chance to take advantage of adventure travel without roughing it.
If you travel off season or the shoulder season, you can get amazing flight deals too.
Do you think you could travel with just a backpack for a month or more?