What did we take and what have we used after three months?
Think about packing your entire home into four bags and living for a whole year out of them. That’s how we approached our packing and as a result we really did over think things, but I believe most people would in the same situation.
Taking the right bags became an early obsession of ours and consumed many weekends and many hours of debate (ie: arguing) before we came to a solution.
We left Australia with two old roller suitcases that had seen better days and purchased two new backpacks with detachable day packs. On top of that, the girls each carried backpacks onto our first flight.
By the end of our visit to Beijing (First week in February) one of our roller cases was failing us, so we purchased a new large expandable roller bag. Also Spring struggled to handle the backpack and it was relegated to Winter.
As we write this we are coming to the realisation that our second roller bag, purchased in Bali 12 years ago, is about to give up on us.
The large backpacks purposely selected for this trip have served us well. Winter, who didn’t want to spend the money, not only because he is a complete scrooge but he would have pushed through the year with some sub-par bags out of principle, is now glad we have them.
We have carried them on trains in Singapore, Malaysia, China and India and on the streets in Vietnam and Thailand.
We certainly could not have made the one kilometre walk across the Cambodia Thailand border without them.
We carry the two large backpacks on our backs, the two small packs on our fronts and Autumn rolls one suitcase while Winter rolls the other. Spring carry’s her teddy. Hopefully we only have a few minor adjustments to make for the remainder of the trip.
With luggage you need to get organised.
We invested in some little bag organiser’s I suppose a bag within a bag. These are good for our medicines, undies/socks, swimmers, clothing, and computer or camera chargers. Just stuff you want to segregate and access easily without riffling through the whole bag.
Land travel; We load up the 2 roller suitcases and try to pack the backpacks as light as possible. It can be amusing watching hotel or airline staff react as they attempt to move our big bags. The toughest land crossing was across the Cambodia/Thailand border. We had to unload from the bus and walk to Cambodia at Popeit, then up stairs to the Thai processing area for foreigners. It was a trek that required our full commitment.
Air travel; We have always worked off the 20kg bag limit for flights. On the day or during night before a flight we rearrange our contents and spread the total weight evenly between the four bags to be checked in. Mind you we have been pleasantly surprised that most flights will take the combined weight and divide by the allowed number of bags. The first time our air travel bag system came unstuck was in Kochi in India. During check in our combined bag weight was over our allowable 15kg per bag. We had never considered such small amounts for domestic flights and as a result we are rethinking, firstly, domestic flights and secondly, cheap airlines. At the end of the day if we are not saving money there is no point.
Clothes: We have overpacked. We know it but will not throw anything out until it is absolutely worn out. For instance, Spring’s thongs were hand-me-downs and they were about to break so we threw them away after purchasing some new ones in Thailand. Not sure how long the new ones will last but that’s ok they were a fraction of the price of the Havanas. Even though the girls are four years apart, Springs only one shoe size smaller than Autumn and so we will hand down the shoes. With a growing teenager we know we will require clothes throughout the year and the little one can keep anything that fits and she likes.
Shoes: The staples – we have a pair of runners each and a pair of thongs each. Autumn breaks every pair of thongs she has ever owned and will not wear a cheap pair that we packed from home as back up and so in Singapore we purchased some sandals. She has worn them nearly every day since and they just broke in India so that is pretty good, especially when you consider she would have spared the sandals back home by wearing her school shoes during the week.
Essentials: Items that we believe you cannot travel without.
First Aid Kit – filled with plenty of band aids, this is a must during any trip, short or long and we have used it a few times.
Mosquito nets – Winter being the tighty mighty that he is only got two single bed nets that we have used successfully for the girls. But both of us have had to cover ourselves in repellent to get a good nights sleep.
Malaria tablets – due to the length of travel within Asia we needed enough to cover us for three months, from Vietnam until India. We have taken a tablet each everyday since our last day in Beijing. As we are now in Turkey, we are able to stop taking them and save what is left for South America.
Towels – we have four regular travel towels that were used daily in Sri Lanka. Perfect for hostels, homestays and some hotels that will not have room towels and extras for swimming. We also have two micro fibre towels that have come in handy when we have used our regular towels for a shower and want to go for a swim, it has been so hot that we have comfortably wiped down and then dried on our walk back to our accommodation.
Tissues – for both ends, we ran out of all travel packs by Cambodia, so that’s not too bad.
Wet wipes – again for both ends but mostly the face and hands, we have used up all our stock bar one packet that I am hiding in my carry on backpack for emergency. We are currently touring the West coast of Turkey and are using the back up.
A clothes line – one of the best things to take, it is two pieces of elastic twisted together and has plastics hooks and suction cups on each end. We have used this in bathrooms, bedrooms and balcony’s to dry our handwashing and towels.
Four rain ponchos – the girls hate them, they are long and make you sweat due to the humidity but they are essential and will continue to come in handy as we travel.
Essentials that we have lived without:
Some things were packed or purchased because we thought we would need them and so far this is a list of those that we could have done without. However, this doesn’t mean we will never use them.
Torches – many were packed but we have only used one and all others have mysteriously gone flat.
Shower caps – with girls I thought we would need them but why didn’t I think about the free hotel ones??
Decks of cards – we have three decks and have only used one. If for some reason we get stuck I am sure we can find some and they will always remind us of the place we bought them from, such as the Tasmanian set we have packed.
Cotton sheets – Winter purchased two (strangely everything we have two of was a Winter purchase but everything in four was gifted to us by sensible family and friends) rectangle sheets that are sewn shut down three sides, similar to a sleeping bag. Winter has thrown one over his body for five nights, only because he didn’t have a mosquito net.
These necessary but burdensome items are going to be donated to the first school we stumble across at the end of the teaching year.
- 1 x recorder
- Paint mixer
- Coloured counting blocks
- One heavy box of learning by logic coloured blocks
- Blocks, dice, plastic coloured counting coins, compass, protractor, ruler
- Elastic band art box
- Pencil case with scissors, sticky tape, rubbers, coloured pens, pencils, textas, pencil sharpeners
- Pencil case with acrylic paint packet and pastels pack
- Pencil case with acrylic paint packet and watercolour paint pack
- 1 cm wooden cubes = maths units
- Bunch of wooden longs = maths tens
- 101 paddle pop sticks – ‘you always need 101 paddle pop sticks‘ – this is what the teacher told me when I picked them up in Sydney
- Three journal notebooks for anyone to use
- 11 paperback novels – six from the Primary school library and the rest from home
- 2 comic books
- 2 rulers
- Large sketch pad
- 1 A4 school work book
- 3 packs of 7 high school subjects
- One primary school distance education bag
- Two sets of acrylic paints
What we would have bought, knowing what we know now?
Lighter material clothing – Australia’s climate is so diverse that we have quite strong materials, sure they are also long lasting and ensure good quality, but in Asia you can get away with some really light material all day and night.
Double bed mosquito nets – really, we could have afforded it.
More tissues – they don’t take up that much room and I would have squeezed them into every bag.
A couple of rolls of toilet paper – I thought the tissues would be enough but you really do need toilet paper, for the children if for nothing else.