The night before you head out on vacation is often fraught with manic activity… send that last work email, give a key to the neighbor, pack the bags…
“Do you think I’ll need a sweater at night?” Better bring it.
“Will it be warm enough to swim?” Bring the bathing suit.
“Any chance we’ll do some horseback riding or skydiving?” Throw the saddle and parachute in there too…
Now what happens when instead of leaving town for a week, you go on vacation… forever.
Packing for Perpetual Travel
“How do you pack?” is a common question. To answer, I’ve put together a list of essentials and nice-to-have items in the tables below. I’ll update these as our packing list evolves, both on this post and on the new Packing List Page.
While it seems ridiculous that someone might pack a saddle and parachute, “just in case”, a lifetime of airport people watching has shown that it is more the norm than not. We take a mildly different approach.
When we were initially planning to embark on this crazy adventure we thought, “What if it gets cold? Maybe we should get some light down jackets, just in case.” This kind of thinking is how we ended up trying on $300 jackets at REI. Do the hard working indigenous people of wherever spend $300 on a down jacket?
No, they buy something local. As do we. Good thing too, as in 5 years I would have paid about $600/hour for use of that nice jacket.
Cold places sell warm clothes. Swimming suits are sold near the beach.
Unless the odds of use are near guaranteed, we don’t pack it.
If we buy something “new” we get rid of something “old”
If we need something, we buy it. If we no longer need something, we discard/donate it.
We have 2 backpacks, a suit case, and 2 day packs. The suitcase was added after Jr was born.
We check bags. Some people aspire to travel with only carry-on bags. It reduces the risk of lost bags and speeds the exit from the airport on arrival. We did this pre-child.
Now we spend a few hundred dollars per year on checked baggage fees and use credit cards that provide free checked bags (check em out.) This makes life easier at the departure airport and provides for a smooth entry into a new country.
|GoLite Jam2 Backpack x 2||50L ultra-lightweight pack. Can be used as daypack / carryon. No longer available, but super reliable - we've had these since before our honeymoon hiking trip.|
|Samsonite spinner||Light weight / maximum checked bag size. Used primarily to carry all of Jr's gear (toys, books, clothes)|
|Chrome Messenger Bag||This is my old bike commute bag. Still going strong years later, doing heavy duty as our laptop / electronics / carryon bag.|
|Cipu Backpack/Diaper bag||Winnie's day pack/carry on/diaper bag. Hers is bright gold in color which makes it really easy to find her in a crowd :)|
|Packing cubes||Used to arrange/separate clothing for easy access/packing. 1 for shirt, 1 for underwear/socks. When we arrive at a new Airbnb, unpacking is as easy as dropping these into a dresser.|
Since we travel with the seasons, we are able to (mostly) avoid extreme weather and extreme bulk. In the event that a cold snap strikes, dress in layers. Or… jackets are sold everywhere. Recent weather in Belgium / Netherlands has been a bit chilly. Winnie bought a shell and fleece from a discount European company (Protest) and had it shipped to our hotel in Brussels (free 2-day shipping.) I was going to do the same, but we stumbled upon a flea market in Amsterdam and found a slightly used Black Diamond water resistant shell for 20 Euros.
Generally, a one week supply of clothing is enough for any length of trip. We’ll do laundry once per week, or more if our rental has a washer/dryer.
Simple packing list:
T-shirts – 7
Socks – 8
Underwear – 8
Jeans – 1
Shorts – 1
Shoes – 1
Sweatshirt – 1
Light jacket – 1
Hat – 1
Sunglasses – 1
It is the 21st century, which means we have a few bits and pieces of electronic gear.
|MacBook Air x 2||We each have a 13" laptop.|
|Twelve South Macbook Case||This holds both laptops and looks just like a vintage book. Great for putting on a shelf when you go out. Nobody wants to steal an old book.|
|iPhone 7 Plus x 2||We each have an iPhone.|
|Kindle Paperwhite x 2||We each have a Kindle.|
|Wahl Li+ shaver||Battery operated, so can charge and use anywhere. I've blown up too many shavers to use anything else.|
|Google Chromecast||Plug into any modern TV and stream content. Great for rainy days. An Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV stick would work too.|
|Dual voltage hair dryer||Some of us have hair.|
|Power Adapters x 4||US to Europe/UK plug adapters.|
|Cables / chargers||all of the cables/chargers for the various devices|
Winnie has a degree in photography and is the creative genius behind our Instagram feed. She also provides most of the photos used on this site, albeit not the header image on this post because her husband is lazy and didn’t want to arrange the luggage for a photo shoot.
|Sony a7ii camera||Gotta take advantage of that photography degree.|
|Portable Hard Drive x2||backups|
|SD card x2|
Jr has his own collection of clothes, toys, and books. This is a completely revolving collection of stuff as he grows/matures/changes interests.
|City Tour stroller||Collapses to overhead bin size, rigid frame, 4 wheels great for cobblestones.|
|stroller rain guard||Great for windy or rainy days|
|stroller belly bar||prevents rapid unplanned exitx|
|stroller storage||latte holder|
|Bizzy Bear books x3||his latest fav|
|Nitrobot Attack set||Daddy likes it too|
|Zoo train set||Jr loves trains. And animals.|
|small basketball||can also be kicked|
|Peppa Pig videos||Great for when we need to pack and hustle.|
Geographic Arbitrage and Taxes
As a nice little bonus, our mobile lifestyle sometimes allows us to get a cash infusion or reduce our cost of living, through micro-imports and tax rebates.
Uniqlo is a great provider of low cost yet reliable clothing, and they happen to be based in Japan. Due to exchange rates and tax rebates, the Uniqlo store in Osaka was the cheapest we had seen anywhere by about 25%. So we loaded up. 2 years later, a large percentage of my wardrobe is still from that store.
When we were road tripping through southern England last year we needed a car seat. I found a great European made one for about $50 with free delivery (last year’s model.) It is still with us today. All of the US / China made brands were 3x the price. We did the same thing with our suitcase, replacing a broken version in Hamburg.
Because we frequently return to Taiwan we will occasionally pack extra goods that can be sold for profit. We’ve sold a stroller, blender, car seat, and some camera gear this way. The profits are small but there is potential for more if somebody wanted to get serious about it.
For the better part of 4 years we had zero home base and zero storage, beyond a guitar and a box of paperwork in a friend’s basement in Seattle. This year we did something different and put some things into storage in Taipei at More Space. Winnie did all of the research and made the arrangements (she is the brains and I am the manual labor) but they offer full English services.
Aside from our packing list, here is everything we own (a bicycle, a kettlebell, a guitar, kitchen stuff (knives, a countertop oven (kind of an Asia thing), and misc kitchen gear), a child size desk, and a few toys. All of this stuff is completely replaceable but a hassle if we keep bouncing in/out of Taipei every 6 months. So for now, we pay $25/month for temp/climate controlled storage.
I guess I’m a sucker. Or maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age :)
Even though our lifestyle is one of perpetual travel, we don’t need to pack the kitchen sink. We have the essentials and a few nice-to-haves, and add/subtract what we need when we need it.
Warm clothes are sold where it is cold. Bathing suits are sold near the beach. With currency advantages and tax rebates, it can often be cheaper to “buy local.”
As our life ebbs and flows, so will our possessions. I’ll update the above tables as they do.