How do you pack for a year on the road?

6 Aug, 2014

How do you pack for six people (some of them rather small) for a year on the road?



Of course, our answer is that we really don’t know.  We have spent some time recently trying to get to an 85% solution.  We’ve enjoyed finding a few lists that others have posted online.  Rick Steves’ website had a helpful suggested packing list for short trips to Europe.  We heeded his “pack light” mantra for our 10-day Italian honeymoon and really enjoyed those backpacks.  We have discovered a few families that are blogging while doing the traveling nomad thing.  There appears to be a disproportionately large percentage of them from the Northwest.  Must be where the crazy people come from…

I seem to recall it being a bit easier when we were all 21-year-olds and jaunting around.   A few friends and I had a blast backpacking across Australia after college graduation.  We spent nights in hostels and even one in a schoolyard on a beautiful evening.  We played spades on the grass until bedtime.  A local police officer came by to make sure we were fine (and to check that we weren’t moving into the area for good).  Well, I am thinking this may be a different kind of trip.  Now our packing involves iPad minis, kindles (and requisite chargers) and at least eight “loveys”.


Everyone is taking a backpack and a rolling duffel.  The kids’ duffels fit into an aircraft overhead bin but are not nearly as wide as your typical roll-aboard.  Lisa and I splurged on a couple 28″ REI Wheelie Beasts (fancy name that means ‘rolling duffel’).  We did have a pretty serious discussion about taking a guitar that we don’t normally play.  It is definitely a delicate balance between wanting to pack items to refine our family’s education and taking so much that the airline baggage fee people break into cheers when they see the prow of our luggage cart swinging into their rope line.

Part of packing up was Lisa organizing this small sweatshop of a an assembly line.  I wasn’t sure if it was to get our change of address cards out or to expose them to parts of Asia.  We are so blessed to be staying with our friends, the Witkops, as we near the big departure for our Grand Adventure.


In the interest of packing light, we’ve tried to limit our clothing items.  Even when I try to be light, I still tend to pack too much.  We are trying to stay organized through using the packing cubes put out by Eagle Creek or ebags.

Partial list

Shoes–Flip-flops or sandals for all.  Running shoes also.  A pair of decent walking shoes for those that are not small boys.  However, Lisa will not admit to how many other pairs she may have.  I’ve learned not to ask.


Pants–2    Skirts/dresses for ladies.  I had to order some zip-off convertible pants to really complete the “hey, check out the rad tourist” look that I’m going for.  Lucky for Lisa I ran out of time to order in my American flag pants and my ‘Merica shirt.

Shorts–2 or 3 and at least a pair of running shorts.

Swimsuit– Just for the ladies, boys’ shorts serve both purposes


T-shirts & workout shirts–4

Nice shirts, long-sleeve & short sleeve–2

Sweater or fleece or sweatshirt–1 or 2

Scarf for ladies to dress it up

Yoga pants or jammies–’nuff said

And 1 of the following: Baseball cap or visor. Warm hat. Pair of gloves.  Rain shell.  Down jackets.  Thermals.

We had a mad scramble of buying necessary items as we prepared to craft our luggage in Texas and get ready to launch out of the States.  I think Amazon Prime might be from heaven.

PASSPORT–the ultimate textbook

An international credit card since we were previously just debit card people to avoid debt.

Several utility items also.  For food prep, we have a tiny cutting board, knife and mini spice jars.  We have two clotheslines for drying clothes in the room.  Also swimming around are a small sewing kit, earplugs, duct tape, knife, leatherman, sunglasses, small flashlights, etc.

The Electronica is legion.  It’s ubiquity seemed to earn it the right to be capitalized.  Since we’ll be homeschooling on the road, we’ve got three Apple laptops for the family.  We’ll be as paperless as possible to save weight by using our iPad minis (a generous Christmas gift from family).  Shameless plug for Apple products, as I’m sure they will be picking up sponsoring this blog, quite soon.  I know they need the publicity.  Two sets of worldwide electrical adaptors, two small power strips for rooms with too few outlets, and an amazing wireless, external hard drive for backing up the digital extravaganza and streaming music to multiple mobile devices. A bluetooth, mini-Jambox for tunes in the room and while traveling.  Cables upon chargers upon adaptors and enough to choke a mule.

Lisa has been reaching out to various curriculum publishers for digital copies.  We’ve met with various success thus far.  I am really excited to get the chance to be more involved in teaching the kids as well.  Math will be a lot of fun.

For our security conscience, we’ve got baggage locks all around and a cable lock to be able to lash our bags to something, or just all together.  We’ve begun to discuss the methods of some of the talented pickpockets in European train stations.  Neck pouches and foil for foiling RFID thieves are in the mix.

For the many photos we’ll be taking to show you, kind reader, and to record this journey I’ve purchased a ThinkTank CityWalker camera bag.  It is designed to look less “camera baggy” and perhaps, like less of a target.  I’ve got a Canon EOS Rebel T4i and a telephoto lens.  A mini-tripod still needs to be more fully tested but should allow some family shots.  Similarly, we each have a journal to keep track of our thoughts.

Lisa has a year’s supply of disposable contacts jammed into her bag and we have a packing cube full of medical supplies and first-aid kit items.  Shot records.  Digital copy of medical records.

We normally have the kids in sports or ballet so it will be a big adjustment to have them out of those activities.  We plan to do family workouts to keep everyone in shape and have brought tennis racquets.  I was amazed that they fit.  At least it’s something for the hand-eye coordination.  Will’s got a baseball.  The golf clubs I wanted Lisa to lug around for us did not seem like the best idea.  Not really, but we’ll see if car travel will allow a soccer ball and small pump.  My GPS running watch is with us to keep track our family’s running improvements!

For music, we discussed bringing a backpackers’ guitar or ukelele.  Nothing as of yet but we’ll see if we end up ordering something from the road.  And I’m sure we’ll be singing The Sound of Music in the Austrian alps.  “The Hills are alive, with the sound of…”   C’mon, admit you know it, don’t judge me.

The kids have not forgotten the really important items; Legos, small plastic animals, sketchbooks.  Whew!  Now does anyone have any experience with putting a European SIM card into their Verizon iPhone 5?






3 thoughts on “How do you pack for a year on the road?”

  1. Dear Mesquit family,
    Have a wonderful adventure, we will follow your blog, but when you return to Oregon (hopefully) we want to see all of the photos of your amazing trip.
    God keep you safe & healthy,
    Anita (and Tom)

    1. Thank you wonderful Balfe family! Lots and lots of photos already and I look forward to sharing them anytime, especially with some popcorn!

  2. So glad to be able to read your blog! You have already inspired Jeff to follow your lead! Enjoy this experience thoroughly, and watch for God to reveal amazing things about Himself, His marvelous creation, and how each of you fit into this crazy world! Be safe, but worry about nothing!

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