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Packing for a 6-Month Trip in Carry-On

Carry-on Suitcase and a Backpack

I have been researching what to pack for our six month trip around the world for what seems like months already and I still don’t feel very close to figuring it all out. Yet, we are leaving next week so I thought I would tell you what I have figured out so far. I’ll provide updates along the way.

My Traveler Profile

Apparently, I’m not a typical traveler, because I haven’t been able to find any resources specifically tailored to my situation, which is as follows:

  • I want to make this trip with carry-on luggage
  • I’m not a backpacker
  • I’m over 60 years old (but I don’t look, think or act it)
  • I’ll be traveling from the tropics (for diving) to northern Europe and all points in between, including Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa and South America over a solid six month period
  • We have plenty of money to buy things we need along the way, provided they are available
  • We don’t need to live on $35/day and believe me, we won’t
  • All of our long-haul flights are business class

That said, I challenge anyone to find the information I’m going to try to provide here. First, I did research on packing light, capsule wardrobes and clothes for women over a certain age. I looked at travel blogs, fashion blogs, various different types of luggage, Pinterest and YouTube videos.

What I know about packing

I have done extensive research on packing and here is what I have learned:

  • Use packing cubes (watch a few YouTube videos to learn how)
  • Download various packing lists and try to customize them, our list is below
  • Figure out what luggage you want to take (lots of trial and error)
  • Decide on your capsule wardrobe
  • Decide how many pairs of shoes you want to take (I’m up to 6 even though I was shooting for 4)

Armed with this information, you can do a test pack. This was my idea because Mike was pretty convinced we couldn’t do this trip with carry-on luggage only, but I really didn’t want to deal with baggage claim or lost luggage more than 40 times during our six-month trip. Though there will be times when we have to check our baggage, I just didn’t want to plan on it.

Here is our current packing list, which might change before we leave:

Six-month Packing List

I am sure our packing list will evolve as we travel, so expect more articles on this subject. For more about how we planned the trip, see Planning Our Big Trip.

My Capsule Wardrobe

In order to pack this light, I spent many hours reviewing my current wardrobe and considering what I needed to buy to develop a capsule wardrobe where all of the pieces mix and match. After a test trip last month, I decided that I really liked athletic t-shirts, so I went shopping for more of them. In addition, I discovered that a few of the shirts I was planning to bring wrinkled very badly. Finally, I believe multitasking clothes were better than single-use clothes so I bought a long shirt that would double as a dress and a swimsuit coverup.

I think everything will mix and match nicely but I haven’t counted the number of different outfits I can create. All I do know is that I am bound to get sick of some of this stuff but I’ll have to swap something out each time I buy something new along the way. You will see a sampling of the outfits in the articles we post along the way.

Here is a graphic showing roughly what I am taking with me. (Some of my items differ a bit from the pictures).

Travel Wardrobe

At the top of the page is a picture of my carry-on and backpack (Mike has a similar setup), this is as compact as I could get with the information I was able to find. I’ll certainly let you know what I wear most and what I decide to jettison along the way. I’m sure some of the time, the airlines will make us check our bags because admittedly they are heavy. But I feel better not always having to check our bags.

Wish us luck. For a followup on the wardrobe see Getting Sick of my Clothes – Already?

What would you pack for 6-months on the road with carry-on luggage only?

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