…notes on packing…

Now that the trip is almost at an end, I am finally addressing the much asked question about packing.  What do you pack for 23 countries, many climates, and 8 months on the road?  As little as possible.

Our original goal was for each person to have one backpack.  We added a daypack/tote for each person to the mix in order to keep schoolwork, paperwork and reading materials easily accessible on airplanes or trains, but that was it.  The key is we can all carry our own bags.   And we do.

I have already spoken about our limited wardrobe, and if you have looked at our pictures, you are undoubtedly familiar with our travel clothes.  Though we are all looking forward to putting on a cotton t-shirt when we get home, there is no denying that the fast-drying clothes we brought have been incredibly functional, and have worked out really well.  We spent most of our trip in spring/summer climates, and packed layering pieces for our colder destinations, which also worked out just fine.

So, what did we pack?

The basics:

  • 2 pairs of shoes (1 multi-purpose and flip-flops)
  • Jacket (Per and Sian sent theirs home after New Zealand)
  • Hat and gloves (sent home after New Zealand)
  • Fleece jacket/pullover (Per sent his home after New Zealand)
  • Bathing suit – and rash guards for the girls
  • Shirts – 4 short sleeve, 2 long sleeve and 1 sleeveless
  • 1 pair of convertible pants, 1 skirt and 1 pair of capris for the ladies
  • 1 pair of convertible pants, 1 pair of regular pants and 1 pair of shorts for Per
  • Long underwear
  • Socks and undies
  • PJs – shorts and a shirt that could be used for other occasions as necessary
  • Scarf for the ladies
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletries – we refilled as we went.  We bought toothpaste all over the world!

Other random supplies:

  • Tissues
  • Hand wipes
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription medicine (buckets and buckets of Malarone since we spent a lot of time in malaria areas)
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlights
  • Bicycle locks (to lock luggage – only used once)
  • Eco bags (fold up bags for groceries, etc.)
  • Small bag of laundry detergent (refilled in Chile, South Africa, Dubai, Laos, Singapore, New Zealand, China, and Greece)
  • Clothes line – Flexo-line brand – it was awesome! Just add 2 carabiner clips and we could use it anywhere
  • Travel towels
  • Sleep sacks – silk travel sheet/sleeping bag liner – very handy!

Carry-on bags/day packs:

  • Travel paperwork
  • School work folder
  • Journals
  • gum
  • “books” (Kindle or iPad)
  • Tissues
  • Snack
  • Stuffed animals
  • iPods

Per will be writing a separate blog about all the electronics we brought.

How to keep it organized?

Packing cubes!!!  Each person has a set of packing cubes (we use Eagle Creek) in various sizes and each person has their own color.  In the rush of packing it is clear that the red cube in the corner is Sian’s and the blue one on the bed is Linnea’s.  I cannot tell you how invaluable the cubes have been.  Repeatedly, Per and I have said (the girls too, for that matter), HOW have we been traveling the past 20 years without cubes????  Everything is organized, easy to find easy and easy to move around.

The bags:

We have been very, very happy with our backpacks.  Per and I carry the Osprey Porter 46, a 46-liter travel bag that converts into a backpack.  This is a huge advantage because, unlike camping backpacks, we can fold away all the straps for airline travel, making it much easier to check through.   It is also a small enough bag that it could be taken as carry-on, though we never did.

The girls carry the REI Comet, a 35-liter backpack made for kids.  It’s a great pack, and the girls did take it as a carry-on about half the time.  Because it is a camping pack, it has tons of straps everywhere.  This meant that checking the bags for a flight involved about 10 minutes of tucking straps everywhere, and then crossing our fingers that nothing got broken.  We finally broke down in China and purchased an “over bag” for each girl (for $3!!) so at the airport they just pop their backpack into the over bag, zip it up and off it goes into the bowels of the airplane.

The daypacks and carry-ons have changed throughout the trip.  Per has used his black work backpack as a carry-on throughout the trip, and it looks as good as it did the first day.  I used an old tote for a while, and then bought a silk bag in Thailand (it can be worn as a backpack, messenger bag, or tote) that has been great.  The girls bought bags in Thailand which started to fall apart, so they then bought “designer” bags in China.  Not sure how long they will hold up either, but they are fun and the girls love them.

At first, all the packing and unpacking, arranging and rearranging was a bit overwhelming.  However, as we got into the groove of being on the move, we really started to appreciate how streamlined it was.  Would we make any changes?  Of course!  But the changes would only be small ones like choosing a different jacket, or packing even less from the start.

Now, for the final question:  How many times on our 42 flights did our carefully packed, and much used luggage get lost?  Not once.

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3 Responses to “…notes on packing…”
  1. Brenda G

    There is alot to be said about traveling light!! Overpacking is so useless!! You all looked great in every picture. The clothing was not even noticed, but the beautiful smiles were!

  2. Kim

    And there in is the lesson that most frequent travelers have learned. In one way or another I have been on the road for the better part of 30 years encompassing thousands of air segments. The lesson driven home, over and over again, if you can’t carry it on you had better have an overwhealming reason to take it along.

    It is pretty amazing how long you can go with a very little amount of clothes etc. with just a little pre-planning. You pre-planning obviously qualifies as quite a bit more than “a little” but it sounds like you pre-planning got the job done.

    In those dozens of times I did have to check bags I can only think of three times the bags came later than scheduled and never have a lost one.

    Congratulations – great job on the details. All that work gave you the freedom to enjoy and experience the most important parts.

    Love Kim

  3. Kurt

    Very nice blog. What is the brand of Per’s work backpack?

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