At the top of our packing list (based on two years living out of suitcases)

We know this to be true. Happiness in traveling is directly related to how little we put into our suitcases. But, hey, on our round-the-world trip, we faced some real challenges: a long period of time (a 14 month trip), different climates (ranging from hot Southeast Asia to cold New Zealand), and varied activities (hiking, snorkeling, walking safari, hanging out in cities).

We each planned to take a wheeled carryon-sized suitcase and a shoulder bag. We’re just not willing to lug around backpacks, like we used to do.

IMG_9106 - Version 2

Two carry-on Eagle Creek suitcases , an REI carryon (Joe) and a Baggelini carryon (Beth) sit on the sidewalk in Wellington, New Zealand awaiting the airport bus

Long before our trip, we put together a master packing list and continued to tweak it over time. A week before departure, we did a trial run of packing our bags – only to discover they were too full. We reluctantly eliminated a few items, so at least the bags could be zipped shut, but, through our entire trip, our bags remained at a level of being precariously near the too full point, as if one more item could prevent their closure.

We resolve to do better. We know a few items to be pulled. We also know that if we get something new to add to the suitcase, then something else needs to be subtracted from it. A few items in our bags rank as star performers. In two years of travel and suitcase living, the following were underestimated when originally packed but turned out to be indispensable:

HER list

Black cashmere cardigan sweater. Who knew Beth would wear this almost every day of the trip? It even doubled as a bed jacket. Thanks, Lands End!


Lands End black cashmere sweater – worn in almost every country and almost every day as we traveled around the world

Silk long underpants. We packed only lightweight pants. Every time it got cool or windy – Beth layered with the long underwear and was happy. They’re very light and took almost no room in the suitcase.

HIS list

Travel vest. iPhone, notepad, pen, sunglasses, wallet, tissues, business cards, earbuds, sunscreen, and keys didn’t begin to fill the pockets.


Joe wearing his travel vest on a visit to a friend on Vashon Island, WA

Voltage Valet. Most of the places we stayed had few or inaccessible electric outlets. With this handy little power strip – we had 3 outlets and a USB port for charging our 2 MacBook Airs, iPad, IPhone, Sony camera, and a Kindle.

HONORABLE MENTION from both of us

Packing Systems and little mesh bags. Day after day, month-after-month, we have lived out of our suitcases and organizers keep things – well – organized.

Eagle Creeek pack-it folder holds organizes our shirts, pants and a few sweaters.  Little mesh bags keep the small items from getting lost.  Beth's purple nylon travel wallet gives a sense of scale.

Eagle Creeek pack-it folder organizes our shirts, pants and a few sweaters. Little mesh bags keep the small items from getting lost. Beth’s purple nylon travel wallet gives a sense of scale.

After two years of perpetual travel, we’ve learned to be happy by traveling light, staying organized, and carrying along our star performers.


January 2015

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
This entry was posted in Around-the World - 2013-14, Trip Planning and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to At the top of our packing list (based on two years living out of suitcases)

  1. Pingback: What’s missing from others’ travel packing lists | simpletravelourway

  2. laurelbf says:

    In preparation for our trip/move, my boyfriend and I will be selling everything except what we can fit in a car, and then whittling that further (leaving most of the carload with a friend along our route) for two months as we roadtrip and camp in the national parks. It’ll be a dramatic life change and we’re working to identify those “key pieces” in every aspect of our day to day! Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. This is the best choice for me to have a cashmere cardigans in Australia and it gives me safety as well as great look among people.

  4. Marge Abbott says:

    Joe and Beth — We’ve really enjoyed your adventures. Would love to see you when you are out this way again.

    One question for you — would you recommend Barcelona or Porto? We were in Lisbon this fall and really enjoyed it and have spent time in Madrid and Sevilla (which was quite fine!!). Trying to decide where to go after Woodbrooke later this year.

    Marge & Carl

    • Thx. We enjoyed having you along on our trip. We too have enjoyed Madrid and Sevilla, but we haven’t yet been to Lisbon. We highly recommend both Porto and Barcelona. We stayed in the old sections of each city, walked, and never ran out of interesting things to do and see. We recommend staying in the old city in each, not out in the suburbs. Porto’s urban walking had — we thought — steeper hills; we got used to those. Barecelona was more expensive; we didn’t get used to that. Hope to see you in June, if you haven’t left for Woodbrooke before.

  5. icelandpenny says:

    Absolutely the right rules for happy travel (not to mention a happy middle-aged back …)

  6. Travelling light is the only way to go. We try to keep the weight down too. There’s no way I want to be dragging a huge suitcase around. I saw in a catalogue recently one of those power strips and we went to get one but the shop didn’t have any. I am keeping a look out for another one. Happy New Year to you both.

  7. Thanks for the tips. We have been unable or unwilling to travel as light as you did. We have been travelling with a carry on, a small back pack and a large suitcase. Every time we come home I swear we will lighten our load next time. Somehow this never seems to happen. Besides carrying too much stuff, our carry-on bags are very heavy. This was a problem in New Zealand and Australia, as both Air New Zealand and Qantas weighed your carry on bags. The limit was 15 pounds. We sent home a bunch of stuff via slow post from New Zealand and just left some things in the hotel in Christchurch. We leave again on February 1st, with new resolve to lighten the load once again.

    • When traveling “less is more” when packing. In our experience, almost everything has to “do double duty,” and taking less means (for us) doing more hand laundry – often o few pieces daily. For us, it’s worth the trade off. We all struggle with “taking off the pounds,” don’t we? Bon voyage for your Feb 1st trip!

  8. Quan says:

    I’m a huge fan of one-bag travel and love that your black sweater tops your list!

    • Thx and, btw, as I tell joe what to reply, I’m sitting up in bed wearing my black sweater over my PJs.

      • Linda Busby says:

        Also impressed with little black sweater (and almost every day use). Your indispensable list overall is quite helpful–and short! Thanks for the incredible journey with you! Welcome back to wherever you’re heading next.

      • Still wearing my black sweater today, and I’ve added an identical sweater, except it is gray. Now I can alternate, but I have a tough decision to make: what will I remove from my travel wardrobe to make room for this second sweater? We enjoyed having you along on our trip. Stay tuned for our next adventure please.

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