Packing and Planning For Long Term Travel

Packing and Planning For Long Term Family Travel


I don't like moving.

Correction!  I don't like moving stuff.  I don't pack well.  I'm lazy.  Just throw it in the truck and get me going - that's my motto.  After all, I'm not moving for my stuff, I'm moving for me.  Time is just too precious a commodity to spend packing and folding and organizing.

But as I look down the long term travel road with my family, I steadily realize that we will have a lot less space and a lot less money, so I guess I better learn to choose my possessions wisely and do a much better job taking care of them.

The packing list for a long-term traveling family is a big deal.  You can't take too much, so you really have to weigh your options.  And even though we aren't traveling til next year, I figure it's best to start a list of essential travel items now so we make sure we have everything.  It's not like we're going to turn the car around in Mexico if we forget something.  Better get it right now.

We are creating our RTW packing list here and will be adding to it over the course of this year.  Eventually we will have a complete list, with links to each and every item we are using to travel.  And we are very open to any and all suggestions!

So far we have very few things on our list. We have decided, given the young ages of our kids, we are going to go with the Kindle Fire over the IPad basically because it is sooo much more affordable ($400 cheaper).  We use our Macbooks for work and Skype and such, so a tablet we really just use for books, apps, movies and such.  It's not an IPad, but it gets the job done, and if it breaks, which it most likely will, it's not as great a loss.

Does a traveling family need a tablet?

I think today you do.  I'm not a big tech guy, but if you're traveling with kids and can have 500 things in one space, why not?  When the Jetson's would push a button and have the contents of their living room squeezed into a convenient, little traveling case, you thought it was cool and handy right?  Same thing applies today.  The tablet is compact storage, and every traveler needs that.

And of course there is our tent, which we have yet to buy, but will do so soon nonetheless.  This will most likely be the Hilleberg Keron 4 which was recommended to us by our friends at the Edventure Project.  So lightweight, packable, and durable, it makes so much sense.

We have other things, like our travel toiletry bags, socks and boring stuff like that, but honestly we have just started planning.

We could use your help.  Thoughts?  Ideas? Recommendations?  What does a traveling family bring as they travel the world?

I have included some really helpful links below that have given us some great ideas and advice, but we can always use more help.


Family On Bikes: Cycling with Kids: A Guide To Getting Started

Discover. Share. Inspire:  How We Live With 321 Things

Nora Dunn: A Practical Guide To Vagabonding And Long Term Travel

Away Together: Essential Gear For Long Term Travel

A Little Adrift:  RTW Packing List


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All The Best With Your Adventures!



'Packing and Planning For Long Term Family Travel' have 20 comments

  1. December 15, 2011 @ 9:26 am Sarah Lavender Smith

    Hi - thanks for linking to our family's blog post on Away Together for packing advice, and good luck to you! I invite you and your readers to check out my new blog,, with is devoted to travel and trail running (our Away Together family travel blog is mothballed at this point). Here is an article on packing tips for runners & hikers who have a lot of running/hiking gear to bring:
    I'm looking forward to exploring your blog.
    Sarah Lavender Smith recently posted..Lessons Learned from the 2011 North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championship


    • December 16, 2011 @ 7:42 am Justin

      Will do Sarah! I'm excited to see the new blog. Can't wait to see what you new ideas you have!


  2. December 15, 2011 @ 12:29 pm Zechary Lee

    Those were really helpful links especially "Family On Bikes: Cycling with Kids: A Guide To Getting Started". It will help me a lot when I will be outside with my family and kids. Thank you very much.


    • December 16, 2011 @ 7:40 am Justin

      No doubt! The Vogel family at are the experts. Take what they say to heart, they are as experienced in this game as anyone else.


  3. December 15, 2011 @ 12:48 pm Lee Hall

    Suggestion on the kindle fire - look at the battery life. That will be important. Also, check out a portable solar charger. Try I don't have one, but interested to see if others have and use this to charge on the road. GL... Lee


    • December 16, 2011 @ 7:34 am Justin

      Solar powered - I am looking into that! Great Suggestion!

      The battery life is like 8-9 hours of video. Not perfect. The Fire is smaller, which for us is good, and it is just so affordable in comparison. Less of an investment.

      Thanks Lee, I could use the help!


  4. December 15, 2011 @ 12:59 pm Clark Vandeventer

    So right on about the kids and tablets. 500 things in 1.
    Clark Vandeventer recently posted..Taking a mental escape to Cartagena, Columbia


  5. December 15, 2011 @ 5:46 pm Adam Dudley

    Love the way you're moving forward and sharing the evolution!

    Suggestion: After you finish your first packing list do a hardcore 80/20 on it whereby you ask yourself, "If I had a gun to my head, and had to choose just 20% of this stuff to bring, what would make the cut?"

    It's a natural law...Heather and I lived in Berlin, Germany for 3 months with one two carry on bags full of stuff and we still could have left another 20-30% behind.


    • December 16, 2011 @ 7:06 am Justin


      I think I am going to put that quote in the list. That's exactly right!



  6. December 16, 2011 @ 8:35 am Jenn Miller

    Hurray for Hilleberg!! You won't be sorry, I promise you that!! In addition... a kick ass medical kit... including a suture kit and needle start kit (REI carries these) you WANT this, esp. in Central America if that's where you start. You may never need to sew a limb back on, but when you get to the hospital you'll have the right stuff for the Dr. to use. We needed it once and didn't have it... we'll never make that mistake again!!

    My .05 worth: everything (EVERYTHING) you "need" is available anywhere there are people... it may not be what you "want" but it will fill the need. The key: Adjust your expectations. Don't even TRY to pack it all. We invest up front in the first world in our electronics (must work and school) but everything else is very simple: 3 outfits each, Keens for versatility, and a lightweight kitchen outfit. The rest really does take care of itself!! :)

    Happy packing (for the record, I *HATE* packing.
    Jenn Miller recently posted..On Christmas: A Reflection On The Real Gifts


    • December 16, 2011 @ 8:46 am Justin

      I hate packing as well. And shopping! I figure if we use this time to get it as close to "right" now, we will have less to worry about later.


  7. December 16, 2011 @ 8:40 am Ian

    It socks!

    My suggestion for today is one of the first item I invested in when I started travelling about 13 years ago: SmartWool socks( Those are a must! Yes they are expensive but they are so comfortable! The first pairs I bought, and I'm not kidding, lasted about 10 years!!! I used them for trekking, running and everyday use.

    Walk this way!(Run D.M.C.)



    • December 16, 2011 @ 8:45 am Justin

      I just bought them yesterday. Best socks they make!


  8. December 29, 2011 @ 12:38 am Danielle

    Hello, one of the things we used most was out Petzl headlamp with the retractable headlamp. It's super small and rechargeable using the battery insert. It was great because you could wrap it on anything to create a lamp. As one person mentioned bring your own suture kit and needles. We also needed that and didn't have it. The only other at home convenience we used a lot was a barbecue lighter which made it much easier to light our gas stove. Everything else we needed was easy to find where we were.


    • December 29, 2011 @ 9:55 am Justin

      Great Tip Danielle! I will be adding that to the packing list! Glad you found us!


  9. January 8, 2012 @ 7:41 pm Linda

    Hi Justin,
    I have found the most difficult thing with backpacking with kids long term is the different seasons, particularly if you are going to be travelling in winter in Europe etc. The best thing that we ever did was invest in some top quality thermals for each of us as they were light weight. Also, it's a good idea to include a small bottle of clove oil in your first aid kit for toothache. I took one look at a dentist's room in Morocco once, and was thanking goodness for my clove oil until I got to a decent dentist! A small fuel stove that runs on metho (as it is available everywhere in the world) so that you can enjoy the great views whilst making yourself a coffee or hot soup, or quick bowl of pasta. Initial outlay but saves loads of money in the long run. You can buy really compact ones now and there is nothing better than doing a long hike up a mountain, being rewarded with an amazing view and being able to make yourself a hot drink or hot chocolate for the kids.
    Best of luck with your planning and upcoming adventure.
    Linda (Cairns, Australia)


    • January 9, 2012 @ 2:00 pm Justin

      These are great ideas Linda! I appreciate them so much. Clove oil - who knew? Thanks!


  10. June 20, 2012 @ 1:21 pm Jen

    I would add some tea tree oil... It is anti-septic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory. It has the ability to penetrate many layers of skin vs sitting on top of your skin. PERFECT for poison ivy, wounds on the skin AND in the mouth, sore throats (inflammation), it improves digestion... I could really go on and on and on about this stuff... but I think it would be a must... especially with kids! Doesn't smell or taste great, but it is a mighty strong healer. Read up about it!


  11. June 24, 2012 @ 3:24 pm Paulette

    Justin Thank you for your writings and your time.

    I am a US trained Board certified family practitioner. 11 months ago, my husband (office manager) and I sold our practice of 17 years for under $8000 and moved our 12,9, and 6 years olds to Ambergris Caye, Belize. Unlike the other ex-pat families, I do not blog. I teach at the local Caribbean medical school and fly to the US to work 7 days per month as a contract MD all over the US. (at the expense of my contract company)

    I eat lunch with my kids every day, play games, explore our new country, walk on the beach, snorkel, dive with the kids, and generally spend more time with my family than I did in 17 years of private practice.

    You are looking for a list of things vital for traveling/living abroad with kids. My list may be a bit unique: first aid kit with suture, skin glue, moleskin, bactroban cream & mycolog cream; pampered chef silicone spatula/scraper, one good large non-stick skillet, computer and tablet of your choice, digitally stored video library, appropriate clothing & toiletries (all organized in packing mesh cubes for each person, our tent, folding hammocks, & mosquito netting (which compress into tiny space)

    My best to you and your family as you discover all of the joys and adventures the incredible world of ours has to offer, Paulette


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