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What to pack for a year

by Michael on January 7, 2012

One of the questions we often get is: how do you pack for a year? Packing for long-term travel is actually not as daunting as it sounds. We basically packed for a week-long vacation that will happen to be repeated many times. After our first four months of travel we’ve learned a few things, so some items have been tossed (Michael’s sport coat), and a few have been picked up (lightweight hoodie).

Based on our experience so far here’s a current inventory of what we have with us:



  • 2 Pairs of Pants
  • 1 Pair of yoga/warm-up pants
  • 1 Pair of Shorts
  • 2 Mid/Long-sleeve woven shirts (no-iron cotton)
  • 2 Short-sleeve woven shirts
  • 3 Tank top/camis
  • 2 T-shirts
  • 1 Lightweight cotton hoodie
  • 1 Merino wool long-sleeve t-shirt
  • 1 Knit Sundress
  • 1 Knit Cardigan
  • Week’s worth of undergarments
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 2 nightgowns/sleep shirts
  • 1 Bathing suit
  • 1 Lightweight raincoat
  • 1 Straw hat (the squashable/packable kind)
  • 5 pair of shoes— (I know, I know: Michael only has 2 pair—but my feet are smaller so I can pack more):  1 pr. Keen hiking sandals, 1 pr. flip flops, 1 pr ballet slipper/flats, 1 pr. city walking shoes, 1 pr. mid-heel sandals


  • 1 Belt
  • 1 Watch
  • Costume jewelry:  2-3 ea. Bracelets, necklaces, pairs of earrings
  • 1 Sarong
  • Toiletry kit
  • Makeup kit
  • Hairbrush (but NO hairdryer)


  • Notebook computer
  • Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital camera. It offers the same features as the larger Rebel T5 in a smaller, lighter body.
  • Android phone (unlocked, in some countries I’ll buy a SIM card, also doubles as mp-3 player)
  • Earbuds with microphone



  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of  shorts
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 2 short sleeve shirts
  • 2 pairs of Ecco shoes (one walking, one hiking sandal)
  • 1 belt
  • 7 t-shirts
  • 8 pairs of underwear
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 lightweight hoodie
  • 1 hat (these vary along the way depending on the country and use)


Other Stuff

  • Writing tablet and pens
  • Pocket calendar
  • Toiletry kit with the usual items

Shared Items

  • Fold-up world map
  • Inflatable globe for trip planning
  • Fold-up umbrella
  • Travel alarm clock
  • International electrical adaptor
  • Fold-up cotton shopping bag
  • Collapsible daypack
  • 1 Phillies rally towel (just in case)
  • Rocky statue (serves dual purpose as backscratcher)


Delsey quitled bag

Looking at the list on paper it sure seems like a lot but we fit it all into the following luggage:

We’ll probably make further adjustments along the way but after four months on the road what we have now seems to be working.


Barbara January 8, 2012 at 2:46 am

Hi Michael & Larissa,
I like your wisdom considering this like packing for a “one weeker” that will repeat itself. You both have good basic choices of clothing and practical items.
It is also a must for each of you to have a notebook because a whole year is a lot to be sharing one notebook!! That is great to have a Kindle too. You got to have some good reading for the slow moments.

Have a great day.

MR January 8, 2012 at 7:28 am

you both dont have cell phones? what do you do if you get separated?

Us January 8, 2012 at 10:04 am

We manage. Just like we did before cell phones. It’s actually quite liberating. Thx for checking in.

Us January 8, 2012 at 10:05 am

We’ve actually each gone through a few notebooks already getting ready for the book.

John Discepoli January 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm

ditch the alarm clock and use Riss’s phone, will work offline. Also liberating. Replace with a deck of cards.

Us January 11, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I don’t like having phones turned on when I’m sleeping. But we’ll look into that.

Amy April 14, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Just found your site and LOVE it–especially little Rocky (being a native Philly gal myself). I have learned the art of packing lightly, but always end up with tons of stuff I buy to bring home. From big stuff like art or statues to little stuff like scarves, figurines, or carvings, I always end up adding a few more bags or carry ons. Even a nicely rolled up carpet from the Atlas mountains is still another carry on! So do you not buy a lot of things or do you ship them back or what?

Look forward to reading more about your travels, and perhaps replicating them someday! 🙂

Us April 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Hi Amy,

Glad to hear from a transplanted Philadelphian. We don’t buy much when we travel. It makes it easier in shopping locations to pass things by when we know we’re not interested. To take this trip we got rid of most of the things we accumulated in 25 years of marriage so we really don’t want to start accumulating again. That said, it couldn’t keep Michael from buying a small rug he liked in Turkey that was only $20.

Thanks for writing,
Larissa and Michael

Phebe June 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm

We’re taking off for our retirement travels – very slowly and unplanned, beginning in New Zealand. I’m also planning to just use a small rolling duffle, the 23″ size. Do you use compression sacks for your clothing? I’m planning to do this, and just wondered. (I figure I can separate clothes by season or function, it’ll help keep things dryer in rainy seasons, plus I can use it as a leg pillow – I need to sleep with my knees elevated due to some injuries.)

Larissa June 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I use some compression sacks. They’re great for organizing, but keep in mind that the more you stuff into your suitcase, the heavier it will be. (I realized this as I tried to hoist my highly compressed suitcase onto an overhead train shelf.)

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