One of the biggest things to figure out before we started our trip was what things to bring with us, how much, and how to carry it all. We started with the goal of traveling without any checked baggage which meant a single suitcase and personal item each. I wanted to be reasonably comfortable in many different situations including roadtrips, desert treks, long air/train travel, and many unexpected adventures, so packing involved many tradeoffs.We mostly accomplished this and in this article I’m going to lay out how we did it and how it’s been now that we’re ~ 3 months into our travels.
A quick note on air travel. We packed according to US travel rules which means our suitcases are roughly 14 x 9 x 22 in (36 x 23 x 56 cm). I was aware that some EU flights have more restrictive size limits, but our suitcases generally fit those. What I hadn’t realized before our first local flight from Barcelona to Porto was that many EU regional airlines have a severe weight limit for carry on luggage. Every regional flight we’ve had has had a weight limit of 22lbs (10kg) for your suitcase and personal item combined. Unfortunately, our suitcases weigh in at more than that by themselves (around 30lbs or 14kg). This has led to us checking bags more than planned, but so far it hasn’t been too annoying or expensive.
What’s in my suitcase
My suitcase is from Timbuk2, I bought it around 2 years ago for our honeymoon. It was a big step for me since I’d never bought a suitcase before and had been traveling with large backpacks for the previous 15 years. I still miss the mobility that comes with wheeless luggage sometimes, but it’s mostly been a good thing. The suitcase has chunky wheels that do better on old cobblestone streets and that it has good organization.
My clothes pretty much fill up my suitcase and just about everything else goes into my messenger bag. I set a goal for clothes to be able to have enough to last 10 days between loads of laundry. The clothing that I brought breaks down as follows:
To help organize this all I use packing cubes. I don’t think they help me pack any more efficiently, but they have been great when we are doing short stays because they provide some organization to help me find things. Also, when we’re moving cities every day I’ll usually pack a few days worth of outfits in a small cube and place that in the front of my suitcase to make it easy to get only what I need out.
What’s in my personal item
I use a messenger bag from Timbuk2 as my personal item. I’ve been using this bag for 2 years as my daily commuter bag which means that it’s had a hard life. I’ve biked with it through rain storms, loaded it up with gear for camping, and generally thrown it around. It shows some wear, but is still an awesome bag. It’s been great for this trip because and can fit a deceptive amount of stuff while still being comfortable and when we are more stationary I empty it out of everything but a few essentials and bring it with me wherever we are going. I’m not sponsored by Timbuk2, I just like their gear, but I’m open to sponsorships. 🙂
For everything else this comes down to electronics, and a few other odds and ends.
20. Backup credit cards
21. Nintendo Switch w/ case
22. Lip balm
23. Travel adapters
24. USB C charger (82 watt)
25. Kindle Paperwhite
26. Backup battery
28. Messenger Bag
31. Random change in four currencies
32. 10L small expandable backpack
35. Chargers, cables, and adapters
- Imodium tablets
- Antibiotic ointments
- Petroleum jelly
- Nitrile gloves
- Hand wipes
- Antiseptic wipes
- Povidone-Iodine wipes
11. Duct tape
12. Alcohol wipes
13. Large tin
14. Small tin
15.2. Naproxen (Alieve)
15.3. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
15.4. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
15.5. Loratadine (Claritin)
After 3 months of traveling, these are my lessons learned.
Things I’m really pleased I brought
- Jackets. I brought three (a down jacket, fleece, and windbreaker) and have used all of them extensively. This might just be because we’ve been traveling in winter so far, but I’ve used them all and they’ve made life way more pleasant.
- Carabiners. These have been really handy for clipping things like my water bottle to my messenger bag to make it easier to get to or freeing up space inside my bag when flying.
- Kindle. The Kindle has been great for reading since I can bring tons of books with me anywhere we go. I’ve particularly enjoyed it while waiting around at airports and train stations or when we’re in transit. Also, I enrolled in the SF library digital book program before we left which allows me to borrow just about any book I want and have it on my Kindle for a while, for free!
Things I wish I brought
- A compact knife sharpener. One of the annoyances of staying in Airbnbs most of the time is that I’m usually working with someone’s leftover kitchen gear. Generally that translates to not much equipment, and what there is is in bad shape. Having a way to make dull knives a bit sharper would be nice.
- A small spice kit. Again kitchen annoyances, I’m usually working with a limited set to start with and it’s a pain to keep buying basics like paprika, oregano, salt, pepper, etc.
- A travel clothes line. I read about these before leaving, but figured it would be overkill. After 3 months and 7 Airbnb’s, I’ve yet to get one with a dryer and most places we’ve stayed at have had limited ability to line dry effectively due to cold, cloudy, or rainy weather.
Things I should have done differently
- Water Bottle. I brought a 24oz bottle since I figured more would be better. In retrospect there were a few times that having the extra capacity was nice, but generally it is a bit bulkier and heavier than I’d like. Next time I’d bring a 16oz vacuum insulated bottle and maybe a collapsible bottle like this one for when I want the extra capacity.
- Battery backup. basically the same story. It’s nice to have so much charge, but I’ve yet to need more than a small topup. Next time, I’d do something like a smaller lighter battery.
- Swimsuit, so far I haven’t had an opportunity to use mine and I could probably just pick one up somewhere if we get to a place where I want to go for a swim. Maybe this will change during the summer though.
I hope this is helpful for anyone else who needs to pack for an extended trip. If you have questions about what/how to pack for and upcoming trip or if you have recommendations for travel gear, hit me up in the comments.