Preparing to leave your home for 3 months and live out of a suitcase while moving from place to place traveling the world is a daunting task. We’ll outline how we did it and are traveling the world with each of us having a single suitcase and a backpack.
Planning the Trip
Planning the trip is one of the most challenging parts of extended travel. We’ve planned trips to different parts of the world before and it always comes with some of the standard questions:
- Where should I eat?
- What things are the must do activities?
- What things are better skipped?
- How can I stay safe in my destination?
- How should I get around?
- And many more
Answering these for a single country or even city can be daunting. We are visiting 18 countries and 6 states on our trip around the world. Needless to say, keeping everything straight is a challenge.
Pick Your Countries/Places
Identifying where you’re going is step number one of every trip. Our first order of business was to pick out the countries we wanted to visit and then arrange them in order of when it would make sense to visit them.
There are always numerous ways to organize the trip, but there are certainly constraints on planning. This is where I like to use Google flights to identify which of our places have cheap connections. Some also have bus or train connections which can be found on omio.com or rome2rio.com. Figuring out your route is the first step and possibly the most stressful step in planning a successful long term trip.
Determine How Long You Want to Spend in Each Place
This definitely goes hand in hand with picking the countries but now is the time to plan it out. You’ll find that some days are cheaper to travel and this is what largely dictates how long you spend.
If you want to spend longer you can splurge but for us it was easy to find the cheapest day to travel on the train or the day with the cheapest flights and plan our trip around that. Spending less on travel allows for flexibility in spending on the fun stuff: dining and activities.
Create a Calendar
We used Notion to plan our trip. It was easy to visualize all of the places we would be, how much time we were spending and that allowed us to book an appropriate number of activities.
Whether you decide you want to plan in Google Calendar, iCal, Notion, or in a physical planner we cannot recommend this step strongly enough. It helps to keep everything organized.
One thing we liked about Notion is that each item has space for notes where you can insert file uploads (useful for activities with tickets), A booking number, notes about the place or anything else useful or relevant.
Plan and Book Any Activities That Require Advance Booking
Some activities don’t require advanced booking. Those we put on our calendar to remember but didn’t associate a specific time. We have been doing nightly planning to make sure we are on the same page and the calendar allows us to remember all of the things we wanted to do.
There are two types of activities that require advance booking. Some you can book whenever you want. Those ones are excellent. They usually have a booking engine on their website and you can go ahead and book, print the tickets and not worry about it again until the day of the activity.
The other type is activities with set booking windows. Two that we have had to deal with are the Ben and Jerry’s factory tours and the Last Supper painting in Milan. These tickets only come available at a certain time and are limited.
These kinds of activities definitely add a twist to the planning. We had to check for the Last Supper tickets every day. About a week before the tickets were released they posted an announcement on their website of the release date and what dates would be available for booking.
Ben and Jerry’s has a standard release schedule. They release their tickets on the Tuesday of the week before. We are grateful that it came at the beginning of our trip so we were able to get it booked before we left but it is certainly something to be aware of when planning. You may not be able to get everything booked before you depart. Incorporating flexibility into your plans is essential.
Since being out for just two weeks, we’ve already been to several places where people are being turned away because things are booked out. If it’s important to you to do, make sure you book it as soon as possible.
Packing for an Extended Trip
Be Prepared for Different Seasons.
Unless you’ve planned your trip to stay in the same season as you travel, you’ll face different seasons. We have anything from snow to 100 ºF on our trip. This means packing for both winter and summer weather. When you’re trying to implement lean packing strategies, this can create some unique issues.
We tried to keep it simple by utilizing layering where possible. We both brought a thinner long sleeve as well as a heavier long sleeve to have options. We brought hoodies, packable jackets, and rain jackets rather than a winter coat. This allows us to layer in a way that can accomodate all sorts of temperatures and weather.
Thermals also help to supplement clothes that would otherwise not be warm enough and can be layered under pants or even a short sleeve t-shirt to provide some warmth and flexibility in dress.
Pack Things That Can be Thrown Away or Mailed Home
As you travel from one climate to another it can be nice to either throw things away or mail them home. It can be expensive to mail heavy packages home and we definitely don’t want to encourage waste but, if you are wanting to pick up souvenirs or flights have different requirements for weight, it may be necessary.
On our trip, the first few airlines have more lenient baggage policies than JetStar which we are flying throughout Australia and New Zealand. We have planned accordingly and will mail some of our colder weather items home or donate them as soon as we have finished with them.
Packing Like an Essentialist
In his book, Essentialism Greg Mckeown outlines a method for eliminating not essential items/activities from your life. For us, that meant eliminating waste in our outfits.
We packed our clothes so that all of our tops match all of our bottoms. For me that includes tan or gray pants with darker colored shirts. Ellie has darker pants – navy and black – with lighter colored tops. This ensures that we don’t end up with our only clean clothes being a top and bottom that don’t match.
It also makes it easier to dress for the different weather. You can always adjust for a warmer or cooler day by switching out a long sleeve for a different t-shirt or pants for a different pair of shorts.
Eliminate Shoes and Toiletries
These are the two biggest space eaters. Taking 4 pairs of shoes, as you can imagine, just takes away space from other travel equipment or clothes. As we packed, we found that taking out a pair or two of shoes added a lot of space for other things we needed.
Toiletries were the other bugaboo for packing. Ellie wears contacts so having enough contact solution for 3 months obviously doesn’t fit TSA requirements for liquids. One solution to this problem is to purchase replacement toiletries as you run out. As soon as Ellie uses all of her contact solution we’ll stop by a pharmacy and purchase some more.
If you are traveling to countries where this may be possible, that is something you will need to account for but it comes at the cost of that space for other things. There are many different ways to make space. The cost of getting rid of some things may be some comfort but bringing it comes at the cost of comfort in some other areas. Packing like an essentialist helps to focus energy and space on the things that matter most.
Planning and packing for an extended trip can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be. We planned our trip over 3 months leading up to our departure and we did multiple iterations of packing to make sure we had everything we needed and could fit it in the suitcase. It is all part of the process.
If you’re looking to travel but don’t know where to start, we are big fans of using a travel agent, particularly for cruises, all-inclusive resorts, and higher-end properties. They can be a ton of help if any issues arise and often have access to better pricing so you can save money and have the extra help of a travel pro.
Lots of people don’t understand that they don’t have to pay a travel agent, their commission is already included in the price so you get the best of both worlds – more help at the same or lower price. We’ve had great luck working with Fine Outing Travel. They specialize in cruises and resorts and have saved us a lot of time and money. Check them out to see what they can do for you.