As my life is completely on the road, packing is a skill that I mastered very quickly and have become an expert over the years. As much as I love my lifestyle there is that one thing that I dislike about it too, and that is carrying my suitcase! Not because it is so heavy but it does become one very quickly after dragging it around uneven Bangkok streets or walking mile after mile in Heathrow Airport. My suitcase takes just over 60 L and generally it weights around 13-15 kg. I use compression packing bags to ensure I can fit as much as possible in small space and it keeps clothes clean. I also have high end backpack for my laptop and it could also take couple of day’s wardrobe if necessary.
Over the years I have learned that you need way less that you think first time packing and as long as I have passport and visa, rest I can buy!
Here are my five rules of packing for long term travel
1. Pack then remove 50 % of items
Over the years I have noticed that I never use all the clothes I have with me. On average half of items are never taken out from suitcase during trips. When leaving from home or after staying in one place for longer I do purchase new clothes more freely hence the need to think twice what I take with me.
I start packing with putting everything I want to take with me on bed and then one by one remove items. I consider how many times I would wear this during the trip and if it is just few times – item is out!
This rule applies also to cosmetics and for example hair drier/straightener. Pick your favorite cosmetics and get rid of rest – you do not need five different moisturizes!
2. Mix and Match
Mix and match go together with previous tip. Make sure every item in your suitcase goes together with everything in your wardrobe. Consider style and colors when purchasing new items to make sure you get many different outfits by mixing clothes together. For example taking 3 tops and 3 bottoms you get 9 outfits! Check out inspiring boards on my Pinterest page.
This does make wardrobe maybe bit on the boring side but you could spice up your outfit with scarves.
3. Buy new thing – > get rid of something
When living on the road you always have the same kg amount you can take to new destination. That means shopping aint so much fun anymore as you will need to carry it around the world with you. My rule is if I buy something new, I need to get rid of something – this rule keeps the weight of my suitcase standard.
4. Avoid jeans and jackets
Or have just one pair each and wear while traveling. They take quite a bit of space in your suitcase and are harder to wash/dry. Instead of jacket, consider layers and instead of jeans have other pants that take less space in your suitcase. This works in countries with warm climate so I follow this rule at times.
5. Travel size – everything
You can purchase anything and everything in travel size but best is if you find small bottles that you can fill up with your favorite products with. If you don’t have any at home you can purchase travel bottles like Humangear travel bottle. General rule I have is that if I don’t find travel size, I don’t buy it or take it with me.
Rule I Don’t Follow
Many long term travelers insist on having only a carry-on (like Tim Ferris) but I personally see no point in that as I am never in that much of a hurry to get out of airport or could not survive day or two without my suitcase. My travel insurance covers me in these cases so I get to purchase couple of new items to change up my outfits. Plus when airline loses my suitcase, I get it delivered to my hotel i.e. no carrying for me! This have happened to me once in all my life and it happened only because the plane I was supposed to fly with broke down at last minute and I was put on another that left right after – no time to move my suitcase – I was totally ok with it as my suitcase weighted 25 kg and lived on third floor with no elevator… felt pretty sorry for the guy who brought it day after!