How to pack for a six-month adventure

Today we drove to Toronto. This morning was a blitz of tidying, unpacking, and repacking interspersed with playing with and reading to the girls, finishing my book (Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, if you’re curious), sort of watching Pocahontas for the umpteenth time (why do little kids have to watch the same movie over and over?), and feeling flu-ey (not a real word, but you get the point).

A few non-packing-related shots of the morning:




When I asked Josh to get started on breakfast, he made me promise that I’d have zipped up the suitcases by the time he called me up.

I had!

We leave on Wednesday.

What do we need?

So how do you pack for six months away from home? Carefully.

I packed too much for our four-month trip last year. It’s incredible how little we really need to be comfortable. Plus, fewer clothes = less time and money spent on laundry!

While we were away last year, I was lent a book called Vagabonding by Rolf Potts. It’s a great book about getting past the BS and excuses and simply getting out to see the world. One tidbit I remember clearly is his description of how little a person needs to live comfortably. And it’s not just in life on the road. If you pare back at home, you’ll see how freeing a minimal existence can feel. Since we got home from South Africa last May, I donated or sold about seven garbage bags of excess stuff. And in our packing this year, we’ve made sure to only bring what we need.

Things to remember when packing a long trip:

You can buy most things on the road

It’s tempting to pack everything you use in your daily life, but many items can be procured on the other end. Toiletries, batteries, notebooks, toys; there are lots of things that you either don’t need or can buy easily, so why lug around the extra weight?

You don’t need so many clothes

I always pack too many clothes. This year Josh and I are sharing one suitcase, so I had no choice but to select carefully. I’m not going to itemize my list, because that would be boring, but I tried to pack as though travelling for two weeks — one in a warm climate and the other in a cooler one. While summers in and around Cape Town are hot, nights can get chilly. Winter can also drop down to single digit lows, so a warm sweater, jacket and leather shoes have made the list this year.

Adventurous activities

Because we’re planning on spending time on the water and moving around on bikes, we have some extra luggage. As well as the two suitcases (one for Josh and I, one for the kids), Josh is bringing a duffel back with his sailing gear. I have also managed to stuff my yoga mat into the kids’ suitcase, as well as the kids’ life jackets. We will be buying second-hand bicycles when we arrive in Langebaan, and are bringing our Chariot bike carrier/stroller to move the kids around. Helmets, we decided to buy there, to avoid transporting the bulk.

…and for work

Josh is taking his knife kit with him, as he’ll most likely be doing some catering while we’re there. I, of course, need my laptop and camera, as well as a couple of notebooks. I’m limiting myself to taking one novel with me to save on weight. (It’s a tough choice, but I think I’m going to buy The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton). There’s a library in Langebaan, thank goodness, so I will get cards within the first week of arriving. Josh has lots of tech gear: his laptop and tablet, GPS unit, solar charger, his GoPro camera and housing, extra batteries, cables of all sorts. I may get him to write a post about gadgetry for travel, as it comes in super handy, and I mostly don’t have to think about it.

Minimize your hand luggage!

If there’s one regret I had last year, it was taking too much with us on the plane. Lugging shoulder-destroying backpacks and bags around the airport is the worst. Because of the stroller, I figured I’d be pushing the weight around most of the time. Not so. And there are enough times when I had Charlie in the baby carrier AND was carrying a backpack and a shoulder bag while pushing April in the stroller. NOT FUN!

The kids are bigger this year and will carry their own bags (hooray!). I will have an extra diaper bag for Charlie, but will carry a minimum of additional items: a few toys each for the girls, plus four or five books and drawing materials. April’s bag is on wheels, so she’ll pull that, and Charlie will be carrying a few books and toys on her back. Oh — I can’t forget April’s box of treasures. There are some things not worth parting a child from — in April’s case this includes her princess lip glosses (which she plays with as toys), numerous clips, ribbons, scarves, buttons, stickers and other absolutely crucial items for a four-year-old dainty daisy. Charlie has a few little cars, her “Uh-Oh” monkey and some little farm animals and dinosaurs.

I did buy April some headphones for this trip, as a day and a bit in transit will necessitate some movie watching. And snacks are an absolute requirement when travelling with kids (and wishing to eat tasty things that aren’t filled with sugar).

Holy crap, we leave in four days. Wish us luck!

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1 Comment

  1. Great tips! I’m looking forward to the day my little one can carry her own bag 🙂

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