Posts Tagged ‘packing’

Career Breaks: They’re Not Just for Backpackers
Thursday, November 13th, 2014

When we first started telling people about planning our round-the-world trip, we often got the comment: “You two are going to backpack?

The short (and literal) answer was “no.” We’re in our fifties, so this didn’t seem like a good time to start teaching our old spines new tricks. Yet this is often the image of a round-the-world journey: people with overloaded backpacks trudging through airports and train stations. But there are alternatives.

Consider Your Itinerary:  Indoor or Outdoor?

Think about the types of places you’ll visit during your career break. Where will you be hauling your luggage? Through built-up areas or through the woods? Unless you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors, it’s probably easier to take a wheeled suitcase. Our itinerary includes visits to major cities, with a few road trips in between. We won’t be camping, so backpacking is not an issue for us.

We each took one 22” wheeled suitcase along with a tote bag, plus one small carry-on bag to share. Each of our smaller bags has a sleeve to slide it onto the handle of the wheelie. Whenever we have long walks we are actually carrying very little, just pulling our belongings beside us. Most airports, train stations and buildings have ramps and elevators, so we’ve rarely had to carry our bags.

Expand Your Lodging Horizons: Beyond Hotels and Hostels

Anyone traveling long-term needs to alter their concept of lodging.  What works on a one or two-week vacation is not going to cut it for months on the road. Hotels and hostels each have their advantages, but when staying for more than a week, they feel cramped, and hotels in particular can get expensive.  We crave privacy and space to stretch out. A place to call “home,” even if it’s just for a week or so.

We chronicled our journey for The Philadelphia Inquirer as well as our own blog, so we spend many hours writing. Wherever we stay is also our workplace, so it’s nice to have more space to write.

The best option for us has been vacation rentals.

Short-term rentals are well equipped and cost-effective. In major cities they’re often cheaper for two people than staying in a hostel. As a rule, $30-$50 per person per night will get you a one bedroom flat with a fully equipped kitchen, wi-fi and sometimes even a washer and dryer. Having our own kitchen means we save money on meals, especially since we can stock up on a few staples to use over the week. Since we both love to cook, it’s fun to visit the local food markets and buy fresh ingredients.  Imagine visiting the spice market in Istanbul and going back to your flat to whip up some couscous.  Or picking up fresh shrimp and cilantro in Saigon to make a rice vermicelli dish . . . delicious!

There are many sites that offer properties with photos, pricing and online booking. Some have global reach, such as Airbnb and Homeaway; others are more regional, such as Stayz in Australia and Holiday Lettings in the UK and Europe.  For longer-term rentals (usually a month or more) we’ve been happy with Sabbatical Homes.  Regardless of where you’re going, simply start with a search using the terms “vacation rentals,” “holiday rentals” or “self-catering” and your destination.  Plenty of options will come up, and you can create your own list of favorite sites.

Most of these sites are listing services. You contact the property’s owner through the site and discuss any booking questions such as dates, facilities, etc. with them directly.  Pricing structures vary by site and country. Airbnb, for example, quotes prices on a per night basis plus a 10% service charge for booking.  In the United States, it’s common for owners to add a one-time cleaning charge to the cost of the rental. In Europe these fees are usually included, but VAT might be extra. Be sure to calculate your total cost so you can make an informed decision.

Since you are dealing directly with the owner, it is possible to negotiate pricing.  Often they will quote prices on a nightly basis, then offer discounts for weekly or monthly stays.  Off-season rates will be cheaper, and booking last-minute might get you a discount if an owner doesn’t want their property to go empty.

The best aspect of renting a flat (or cottage or cabin) is that we can immerse ourselves in our surroundings. Rentals are typically located in “real” neighborhoods, not in the “tourist ghettos” full of hotels and souvenir shops. We love buying our food in the local markets and getting to know some of the nearby residents, who are often our landlords. In the bush country of Australia, our host took us in his pickup truck for an impromptu kangaroo-viewing safari on his 3,000-acre ranch; we played ball with the neighborhood kids in Bali, and the owner of our flat in Malta gave us a homemade figolla, the traditional Maltese Easter cake. These are experiences we probably wouldn’t have had in a hotel or hostel.

When we started out on our career break, we wanted to feel like we were living in, not just passing through, our various destinations. We’ve rented places in Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Europe, have had great experiences everywhere, and met some fantastic people. And it’s convenient to simply wheel a suitcase through the door.

Larissa & Michael Milne turned 50, sold everything and embarked on a 1+ year round-the-world trip in August 2011. They have been writing about their experiences for The Philadelphia Inquirer and have been chronicling their journey on their own site, Changes in Longitude. They also participated in the national Meet, Plan, Go! event in New York City on October 16, 2012.

Packing Tips from Career Breakers
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

There are endless packing lists and tips on the Internet – and they are a great place to start – but we find that no matter how much advice you are given or receive, it will really come down to personal choice.

So you won’t find any lists here, but but you will hear tips on what worked for us and some of our career break vets.

Minimalist Packing Advice

For career breakers, one of the hardest things to do is imagine what life is like living out of a single suitcase for an extended period of time. This means leaving behind many things. So we asked Francine Jay, aka Miss Minimalist, to provide some ‘minimalist’ packing advice.

  • Bring a travel clothesline, and travel packets of laundry detergent. These two simple items will save you tons of space in your suitcase. The more often you wash, the less clothing you’ll need to lug around!
  • Use packing cubes. Life on the road is much easier (and more organized) when you don’t have loose stuff rolling around in your suitcase. I think of my packing cubes as “drawers,” and use them to keep like items together. If space is at a premium, you may want to consider compression bags.
  • Don’t pack stuff you can buy on the road. For example, bring only small quantities of toiletries, and simply buy more when you run out. I have fond memories of shopping for toothpaste in Tokyo!
  • When it comes to clothing, versatility is key. Pack items that go from daytime to dinner, or can be dressed up with accessories (like a scarf or necklace). Favor items that can be layered, so they’ll work in a variety of climates. And choose your shoes wisely, so that you can get by with one pair (or two at the most!).
  • For winter travel or colder climates, pack silk long johns. They’re extremely lightweight, take up next to no space, and eliminate the need for bulkier clothing. You can even wear them as pajamas in a pinch!

Career Breaker Must-Haves

No matter how many times we say “no really, you don’t need to pack everything!” people don’t seem to listen. So we asked some of our career break vets to tell us what things they can’t travel without. You might find some surprising items!


Michaela shares why carabiners, a head lamp, and her journal are the three things she never leaves home without.


Ever think a frisbee was an essential item to pack? It is for Kirk, and you may become a believer too! Hear why he loves packing a frisbee, plus ear plugs and his Swiss Army knife.


If you are packing something that only has one use – leave it behind. Hear why from Lillie.


Sherry shares some of her packing tips along with the items she doesn’t leave home without.


Lisa shares her profound love for her laptop and the other items she doesn’t leave home without, including a raincoat, watch, and packing cubes.

What items do you think you can’t leave home without?


How to Pack for Your Career Break
Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

If you are just starting to think about taking a career break, you may not even be thinking yet about what to pack. But the time will come when that is priority – and struggle – number one. Here are some of our best tips to pack for your career break travels.

1. Pack Only What You Can Carry

Whether you go with the traditional backpack or a wheeled suitcase, you will be carrying all of your worldly possessions with you from city to city, country to country.So you will want to only pack what you can carry. One way of limiting what you bring is to get a smaller backpack or suitcase. If you get the biggest possible backpack available, chances are you will be tempted to pack it full right away. If you are limited in size, you will be forced to really evaluate what you are bringing. Plus, you’ll want to leave room for all the souvenirs you might want to buy!

In addition, airlines are now charging for overweight bags. This is especially true for smaller, internal flights. That’s just another added expense that you won’t want chipping away at your budget.

When packing it’s extremely useful to lay out everything you plan to bring. By visually seeing everything together, you can step back and evaluate what you truly need. The general formula is to take just half of what you originally planned.

2. Dress in Layers and Neutral Colors

No matter where you travel, there is a good chance you will experience multiple climates – even in the same day! Dressing in layers is a great way to be prepared for any moment. It is also smart to layer and wear your bulkiest items when you’re flying.

Dressing in neutral colors also allows you to mix and match multiple items in your limited wardrobe.

Those who are new to long-term travel may find that one of the biggest challenges up front is the clothing issue, or lack thereof. But keep in mind that as you will be living on the move, chances are most people won’t know that you are wearing the same things every other day. And more than likely, so are they! Not to mention, it can be refreshing not to worry about what to wear each day – with just a couple options, it is one less decision to make!

3. Evaluate What’s Most Important To You

While you generally want to pack light, you also need to weigh potential extras that may be of particular importance to you. For example, if you are a budding photographer, you likely won’t want to travel without your various cameras and lenses. For you, that extra weight will be worth it, even if it means our daypack is as heavy as your main pack or suitcase.

Likewise, if you’re an avid diver, you may want to bring your own diving equipment. A fervent runner? You’ll want your running sneakers for sure. Or maybe you are going to do a lot of hiking and want to bring your walking sticks.

Also think about what you will actually be comfortable wearing – don’t go out and buy a bunch of technical clothing if you aren’t likely to wear it. And while people may tell you to stay away from jeans, if that’s what you’re comfortable in, go for it!

4. Use Packing Cubes for Separating Gear

The last thing you want while traveling is an “exploding” backpack or suitcase – you don’t want to find yourself removing everything while digging through your pack just to find one particular item. This can be extremely frustrating, especially if you are on a train or on your way out.

Keep your backpack or suitcase in order by separating your gear in individual packing cubes. Packing cubes are made of nylon and mesh and come in multiple shapes, sizes and colors, making them the perfect way to stay organized! If you need a new t-shirt, you know which cube to grab. Even if it’s placed at the bottom of your pack, you only have to remove two or three items to get to it. You can use separate cubes for just about everything – shirts and bottoms, underwear and socks, even toiletries and electrical/tech accessories.

A key to packing in packing cubes is to roll your items – this saves space and keeps items somewhat wrinkle free. Cubes also make it easier to repack. It won’t take long for you to figure out the best configuration for items in your backpack or suitcase and it will soon become automatic.

5. Keep Toiletries Light

Toiletry items can easily become the heaviest part of your backpack, so it’s best to try and keep them to a minimum. One way to do this is to only pack what you need for the immediate weeks. You can easily pick up most items like shampoo, soap and toothpaste con the road, so starting off with smaller sizes is a great idea. Plus, if you pack a large shampoo bottle, the bulk of it will still take up more space even as you use it up. You might also consider shampoo bars from Lush, an all-natural cosmetics company – they are compact and long-lasting!

Some items of your toiletry bag that may be more difficult to find overseas. If you wear contacts, you may want to bring extra lens solution as that may not always be available. And women may have a hard time finding feminine hygiene products in other countries – especially tampons. Unless you are comfortable with OB-type products, you will want to pack extra tampons.

In addition to any travel medications you might be on (such as malaria pills) perhaps you have a regular prescription for something. You will want to make sure you have enough of it to get through the trip. It is very important that you bring your doctor’s prescription with you as well.

Another item that will take up a lot of space in your backpack is a traditional bath towel. Instead, use an ultra light towel! They are small, lightweight, soak up water in an instant, and dry super fast. And if you are worried about a towel for the beach, use a sarong! Again, these are small and lightweight and can even be used as a wrap if you find yourself using a communal bathroom.

6. Pack For the Immediate

If you plan to be in various climates during your extended travel, pack for your most immediate. Warm destinations obviously require lighter clothing than cold weather destinations so you won’t want to be lugging around down coats and boots while in the tropics. Likewise, if you’re starting in a colder climate, consider donating your cold weather gear to a local charity before moving on to warmer weather. If you really want to hold on to an item, simply ship it home. The extra space will make it worth the cost!

And not to sound like a broken record but you can always pick up necessary items when you get to your destination.

7. Be Culturally Sensitive

It’s important to keep in mind the local cultures in the countries you’re visiting – you are a guest in their country and you should be respectful. Sure, Thailand is hot, but they are a very conservative country in the way that they dress. You won’t see many Thai people in skimpy tops and shorts. You can certainly dress this way, but be prepared to attract unwanted attention and don’t expect to enter temples dressed that way. Make sure you have a top that covers your shoulders and long pants or, for women,  a skirt below the knees.

Other Quick Tips

? Don’t bring anything that needs to be dry cleaned.
? Dry-fit clothes are great items as they breathe, dry fast, and don’t wrinkle.
? Fabric softener in your pack is a great way to freshen up your wardrobe.
? Are you a runner? Deodorant balls can be great for keeping sneakers from smelling up your pack.

Don’t Leave Home Without:

? Extra passport photos (you never know when you’ll need them for visas)
? iPod (great for listening to travel podcasts and keeps you company on long road trips)
? Water bottle (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!)
? Straps and carabiners (great for strapping/attaching extra things to your pack)
? Dry bags (great for keeping valuables such as cameras and computers safe when on or near the water)
? Plastic bags (great for separating items in your pack, especially wet items)
? Headlamp (see Our Favorite Gear entry)
? Journal (you’ll regret in the future not documenting this incredible passage in your life)
? Camera (no explanation needed)
? Photos and/or postcards from home (a great way to share your culture and life with the people you encounter)

Travel Gearology Update
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Jannell Howell kicked off her first around-the-world journey in January and has already explored Thailand and a bit of Cambodia. She is now in India with plans to see Jordan, Europe, and Morocco before coming back to the U.S. In 2010, Jannell started Traveljunkie’s World Tour to blog about her trip preparations and in the process became a self-confessed travel gearologist.  This post is in follow-up to a few gear & service items she highlighted prior to beginning her trip.

In January, I explained how my passion for gearology came about and shared a few items I was sure would make my around-the-world trip better.  I’ve had a few months to test them out on the road and want to provide some results.  Additionally, I’ve discovered several items that I have not used and am trying to decide if I they should stay in my suitcase.

Still loving my PacSafe Venture Safe backpack and its anti-theft powerhouse features.  I haven’t noticed any thwarted pickpocket attempts, but I do feel much better knowing I can lock down the zippers and that the bag is durable – no frayed seams, no broken components and no worn zippers.  The Venture Safe 25L backpack is my new ‘wubby’ as I always have it with me.  

As I’ve been staying in hotels/hostels with wi-fi, I haven’t used the Alfa long-range wi-fi antenna much.  Given that I used it recently at a bus station in Thailand to gain access to a remote wi-fi signal, I can honestly say that the antenna works as described.  I was even successful in using it to increase the wi-fi signal strength at a hostel I was staying in; unfortunately, I learned that a stronger signal does not increase the internet connection speed (drat!).  If I continue to stay in hotels, hostels, or apartments with decent wi-fi, I doubt I will need to use the antenna on a regular basis.

Now that I am traveling, my focus is no longer on accruing frequent flyer miles; luckily, the Travel Hacking Cartel offers videos and other tutorials to help me USE miles to my advantage. I will continue to look at the mileage accrual deals conveniently emailed to me for good opportunities, as my next goal is use frequent flyer miles to stay in a five-star resort.  Perhaps I should change my membership to start learning ways to obtain upgrades? 

The Mobal global sim card won’t really be used until an emergency, but I have tested it twice so far. There were no problems calling the US from Thailand and I had no difficulty receiving a call while in Cambodia. I can confirm (and as advised), that the GSM sim card does not work in Japan.  To coordinate with other travelers in Thailand, I purchased a local sim card for $12 US, but I didn’t use it to call home.  I have been relying on a combination of email, Skype, and Google Voice to keep in touch back home.  I will continue to test the Mobal sim card as I make my way through Nepal, India, Europe, and Morocco.

After lengthy research, I purchased and brought a few items that I have yet to use:

— Headlamp (guess I am not staying in remote places)

— 65L waterproof bag (this was a “what if” purchase)

— Sink plug (I tend to wash clothes in the shower with me – rinse and hang up right away). Plus, having laundry done in Southeast Asia has been extremely inexpensive.

— I have yet to use my sleep sheet. Either I am a gross person or I just haven’t stayed anywhere icky yet?

In the next month or so, I’ll decide if I should purge a few items from my suitcase. I have a nagging suspicion that as soon as I send home something – THAT is when I’m going to need it!  As I am meeting and talking to other travelers on the road, I am adding to my list of travel gear and services to research.  I’ve come to understand that there is a wide range of travel styles and traveler types. For the moment I’m in the ‘flashpacker’ (backpacker with a bigger budget) category. Gear is not static – one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

What items have you found most useful when you travel? What have you discovered you can do without?


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

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