Backpacks: a challenge for backpacker family!

Family of five, going on a year-long world tour. Our luggage consisted of enough clothing for the five of us to last 4-5 days. And some other items, such as laptops (since my husband was working remotely and the kids had to do homeschool) and swimsuits.

We knew beforehand that we will be on the move, a lot! Knowing that we planned to visit at least 15 countries, with an undetermined number of cities, we needed to be able to pack and move easily. [Glad to have chosen that option, especially when we had a situation where we had to change trains 4 times in total (instead of 2), sometimes with a really short 3 minute notice, on our way from Dusseldorf to Amsterdam!]

 We decided that traveling with only 5 backpacks, all carry-on size, will be our goal.

 Why? Because it is easier to carry around, from subway to airplanes, from walking to train.

Also because it would save us a lot of trouble like losing our luggages during our transits, to save time without having to register our luggages for every flight and then wait at the carousel. (We had to wait more than 1h30 on a previous trip! So no more for us!)

That being said, having to pack for several months, for a family of 5, in only five backpacks was a challenge!! It took me 2 days of trials and errors to be able to fit everything we needed in those bags. I had to find a solution since our departure was imminent! We are not the most fashionable people and we didn’t mind not bringing matching outfits and accessories nor different kinds of shoes. Our priority: comfortable clothing and easy to wash and dry. (last point: REALLY IMPORTANT!) 

So basically, we had to fit all of this:

In those (laptops/electronic supplies and some toys were in 3 small school backpacks):

We had to keep in mind that in the worst case, we can still buy things if they are lost or broken along the way. Even if we knew that some items would be harder to get, like shoes…!

[FYI, when you have big feet like us, plan ahead to where you are going to be able to find shoes. It was easier for us to buy new running shoes in New Zealand, knowing that it would be hard to find our sizes in Japan (my husband did find 1 store selling bigger sizes in Tokyo! Or having friends join us in Bali and bring a pair of shoes for our son that they ordered on Amazon…! Shoes anecdotes section deserves an entire post!]

I watched different techniques of folding clothes on youtube. There is the Mary Kondo, where you fold the clothing in thin rectangles. Or the army roll (like in the picture below). I also bought packing cubes to help organize our things.

I used all these techniques to be able to fit every single item! Not an easy task I must say but we made it happen!!

Luckily, we were able to have practice run a few months earlier when we spent 10 days in London and Edinburgh. We were able to test the packing cubes and see how well we can manage to travel with backpacks. Therefore, we were able to improve and modify some things prior to our year long trip.

We had already planned to send some boxes to my parents (that they will keep for us until we return). That way, we can keep souvenirs and gifts from our travels without having to carry everything with us. If you plan to do so, make sure to keep a small part of your budget to this, because it can be really expensive.

Fastforward to the very last day of our trip! That our hotel room the day before our flight…: 

That’s like a harder level of puzzle packing, which caused me nightmares!

By the end of our trip, we ended up with 6 backpacks + 1 checked luggage… That’s more than what we left at the beginning! Say hello to our 7 little luggages friends!

Yes, it was the only time that we had checked luggage during our world tour!

In our defense, we were in Japan for 2 months and we bought a lot of things (Copic markers, plushies, video games, fake food kits, souvenirs!) Since we bought some fake food kits, they are required to be in checked luggage. So we thought “since we have to get a checked luggage, let’s fill it completely with amazing stuff!”

Even though it was a lot of trouble carrying all of these from our last hotel in Tokyo to our house back in the USA (walk, trains, planes, buses, rental car) we were happy to bring all these souvenirs with us. 

Our advices for preparing a backpack style travel:

Sturdy backpack: we chose two different Osprey backpacks that fit well on our backs. It needs to be comfortable to carry the bag for some pretty long distances. Our hotel/airbnbs were rarely right next to a subway station or bus stop. And not to mention that your bag will have a rough time; drop on the not- always-clean ground; ground being sometimes rocks, mud, hot concrete, wet floors, etc!

Minimalist: try to bring as little as you can, because you will come back with more anyway and you need some space for those souvenirs! And don’t forget that everytime you are moving to another city or country, you have to re-pack everything. So the more you have, the more time it will take you to pack. And trust me, that process is exhausting!

When you are discouraged while trying to fit everything in your luggage, keep in mind that it’s for a way more rewarding and unique experience!

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