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This is Part 2 of the post: Cost of Travelling the World for 1 Year. Click here for Part 1.
Wanderer grunted as he emerged from the basement lugging 2 large empty suitcases. “Okay, I got them. Let’s start packing!”
“Nope.” I shook my head. “Too easy. Instead, we’re going to fit everything into these,” I said, pulling out 2 small backpacks from the closet.
“WHAT?!” Wanderer yelled, throwing up his hands. “WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS?”
I ignored him.
“WHY?” Wanderer demanded again.
“Because I don’t like waiting in line and paying for check-in luggage,” I said, crossing my arms.
Long intense glare, followed by a loud sigh. “Fine. I guess that makes sense.”
Back when we packed for 2-week vacations, we always brought 2 giant luggages overflowing with crap—80% of which never got used.
What we didn’t realize at the time is this:
The more space you have, the more useless stuff you’ll end up bringing.
So this time, instead of figuring out what we think we need, we only brought what we could fit into 2 carry-on bags:
A 32L Marmot Helm
A 40L M.E.C
By keeping it at 40L or less, we made sure that we’d be under 7kg and 56cm x 36cm x 23cm, which is within the carry-on limit for most airlines, including RyanAir and EasyJet.
Full Disclosure: The links in this post are affiliate links so I will get a small commission if you buy the items. But if you find a better deal in an outlet or buy used, feel free to do that instead.
Here’s what we ended up bringing:
- 2 Macbook Airs
- 1 Bestek International Travel Converter/Power Bar
- 2 smartphones
- 1 Anker power bank
- 2 usb keys
- 2 headphones
The power bar and power bank were lifesavers. Our smartphone ran out of battery A LOT. And when you’re trying to navigate your way around Asia, you’re pretty screwed without GPS (we also used the offline Maps.Me app when we didn’t have data and it worked like a charm). The power bar has a voltage converter and surge protector, which kept our Macbooks from getting fried.
- 7 pairs of underwear/person (enough to last 1 week without doing laundry)
- 7 pairs of socks/person
- 2 bathing suits each (Wanderer’s swim trunks also doubles as board shorts)
- 4 T-shirts, 3 shorts, 1 dress shirt, 1 long pants, 1 light jacket for Wanderer
- 4 T-shirts, 1 shorts, 1 dress, 6 tank tops, 3 skirts, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 long pants (also doubles as workout pants), 1 light jacket for me
- 2 hats (Wanderer’s baseball cap also happens to be a bottle opener!)
Since we ditched Europe and flew to Southeast Asia the second the first wind chill hit our jackets (early November), we didn’t need to pack any winter clothes at all. One pair of long pants, a long sleeve shirt, a windbreaker, and a scarf was just right for slightly chilly days/rainy days.
To save space, I tried to only bring clothes that serve more than one purpose. Like Wanderer’s shorts/swim trunk, baseball cap/bottle opener, and my scarf/shawl/beach wrap/picnic towel/back cushion. Who knew a shawl could have so many purposes? I also discovered that men’s clothes take up SO much more space than women’s clothes. Apparently I was able to stuff in 3 tank tops in the same space as 1 of Wanderer’s T-shirts. Why is it that my girlfriends need so much more luggage space than their hubbies? I just don’t get it.
- 4 pair of shoes
- 1 pair of sandals/person
- 1 pair of running shoes/person
I thought about bringing hiking boots, but in the end decided “nah”. As it turns out, exactly 2 pairs of shoes each were all we needed. I even wore my running shoes to a mossy forest hike in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia and all I had to do was rinse off the mud. No biggy.
A lot of female travellers say to bring a pair of flip-flops. But I decided to buy a pair of Teva Verra sandals instead, which are comfortable enough to walk long distances in (unlike flip-flops which shred the skin between your toes) AND doesn’t look too butch with a dress. Luckily these sandals ended being super durable because I was using them as shower shoes, walking shoes, AND beach sandals. 3 purposes in 1! Triple-win!
- Allergy meds, Tylenol, nausea meds (all packaged into 1 medium-sized pencil case)
I’m glad I didn’t over-pack on meds. As it turns out most off the shelf meds were easy to find and pretty inexpensive in most countries.
- Contact lens solution + contact lenses (1 year supply)
- Mosquito spray
- Aloe Vera
- Hand sanitizer
- Deva Cup (DO NOT click on this if you’re a guy. I’m serious. If you end up going “ew ew ew why did I click that”, don’t blame me)
- GIRLS, this is seriously the BEST thing ever for travel. You will save SO much space (AND money, AND the environment!!!) by not having to bringing all that monthly “you-know-what” crap. I was originally worried about the Deva Cup being hard to use. I got used to it pretty quickly. Now I can’t leave home without it.
- Travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste
- 3 books (we mailed them back after we read them to save space)
- makeup (1 eyeliner, 2 eye-shadows, 1 eye-shadow brush, 1 lip gloss)
- 1 pair of glasses
- 1 pair of sunglasses
- 2 mouth guards (to prevent teeth grinding at night)
- 1 electric shaver
- 1 hair brush
- 1 umbrella
- 2 sets of earplugs
- 1 sewing kit
- 1 travel-sized first-aid kit
- 1 nail clipper
- 1 money belt
- 2 swimming goggles
- 2 Packtowl travel towels
- One of the most useful things we brought. Takes up little space, absorbs 4 times its weight, and dries fast.
- 1 small notebook + pen
After stupidly bringing 2 suitcases on vacations, let me tell you, living out of 2 backpacks is life changing! No waiting in line to check in luggages, no need to pay extra (we saved at least $750 on carry-on fees in total), and absolutely no need to worry about having your stuff stolen on bus rides. Carry-on rocks. Seriously.
I also found out that I have an obsession with travel squares . Not only do they help you save space, they also help you organize your stuff into categories, making things SO much easier to find. And if you don’t want to bother buying travel squares, you can also use cloth bags and pencil cases. As long as you compartmentalize your stuff it makes life SO much easier when packing/unpacking.
So here is everything we brought for 1 year all in 1 photo.
Packing everything we needed for 1 year into 2 backpacks was actually a really good exercise because it proved that we needed WAY less stuff than we thought. And not only that, we ended up saving at least $750CAD and countless hours awaiting in line by not having to check-in our luggage.
So here’s my challenge of the week for you guys. Can you pack everything you need for 1 year into 1 backpack? Try it. It does wonders for de-cluttering your life.
Click here for Part 3 of Cost of Traveling the World for 1 Year for tips on how to save money on flights, accommodations, and transportation!