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Our Life in Two Bags: What We Pack for Our Three-Month Travels


And, Off We Go . . . Down to 2 Bags. What a Relief!


Carla and I usually travel for three months at a time, fitting everything we need into just two carry-on bags. In a blog post from February, I wrote about our minimalist approach to packing. Today, I’m going to talk about specifics, including the items we bring, our preferred clothing brands, and the reasons behind our choices. I want to make it clear that we are not paid for any of the recommendations we’ll make here; they are based solely on our personal experience. We have included links to them in the hope that it will help you in preparing for your next trip.  


We usually travel with one spinner suitcase and a backpack that fits neatly on top. We've had great experiences with Samsonite suitcases because of their smooth wheels, which glide effortlessly over cobblestone streets and nearly every over surface. Just make sure it meets the size requirements for international travel. As for the backpack, after trying several, we’ve fallen in love with the Aselin 40L Travel Backpack. It has a computer compartment, packs like a suitcase, and comes with a durable luggage strap – all for only $40.00!


We’ve read a lot about using compression cubes and have tried them but didn’t find them particularly useful. Instead, we tightly roll our clothes to maximize space. Carla recently found some roll up compression bags on Amazon that she’s thinking about trying for our next trip.


Carla Demonstrating the Fine Art of Packing


Now, let’s delve into our strategy for packing when traveling internationally. Those who know me are aware that fashion is not my forte, so my choices might not align with your preferences. You’ll need to tailor my advice to suit your personal style. However, I’m confident you’ll find enough tips here to help you reduce your luggage to two carry-on bags, regardless of your fashion preferences.


One of the secrets to packing light is finding clothes that can be worn multiple times without washing. I’m talking about natural, breathable, high-quality materials such as merino wool, bamboo, or performance blends. These fabrics are not just lightweight and quick-drying; they are also naturally odor-resistant. Merino wool, for example, is particularly valuable for its temperature-regulating properties and ability to stay fresh even after several wears. 


Simcha Wearing One of His WoolX Merino Wool T-Shirts: Day 4


You can’t go wrong with Merino wool for travel - it’s simply the best! WoolX and Smartwool are our “go-to” brands for both tees and button up shirts. WoolX stands out for its exceptional fit, while Smartwool offers a more diverse color selection. Both brands are recognized for their comfort and durability, with short-sleeve and long-sleeve options in different thicknesses for various temperatures. When I travel, I usually bring three short-sleeve and two long-sleeve Merino wool t-shirts. I can wear one for 4-5 days without noticing an odor, and they don’t wrinkle, keeping them looking much nicer than my regular cotton t-shirts. They also air-dry faster than cotton, which is convenient since so many of the Airbnb’s in Europe don’t have dryers.


For pants, I usually pack three pairs: one pair of jeans and two pairs of lightweight, quick-dry pants from Lululemon. I find Lululemon pants ideal because they are lightweight, do not wrinkle, and dry very quickly. They are also extremely versatile - I can wear them for hiking and then later for a casual walk around town. Although the men’s selection is more extensive, Carla has also found some Luulemon pants that she loves. They are quick drying, wrinkle-free, and incredibly durable.


Carla usually brings along a couple of skirts that go with all her tops, as well as a versatile dress - usually black - that she can wear anywhere, from the plane to the beach to a nice restaurant.


Sporting Our Outerwear on a Cold Day in Spello, Italy


We’ve found that bringing along the right outerwear is perhaps the most important part of our packing. Everything we read emphasizes the importance of layering, and that’s absolutely true. We typically pack a lightweight fleece and a lightweight coat or puffer that can be worn together as a heavier coat. We wear the heavier of the two on the flight, so it doesn’t take up luggage space. It also comes in handy as a pillow on long flights.  

 

I usually pack a lightweight windbreaker from Lululemon and a warm fleece from Kuhl, which I can wear separately or layer together when it gets colder. While Kuhl may not be as well-known as Patagonia or North Face, their products are outstanding and stylish, with more subtle logos, which I prefer. Carla, on the other hand, has a soft Patagonia jacket and a packable Arc’teryx puffer that she layers, as she is far more-cold natured than I am!

 

Footwear can take up a lot of space in your luggage, so it’s important to pack only the shoes you know you will need. Comfortable white tennis shoes have become a universally stylish choice in recent years. We wear them on our long morning walks and throughout the day, and Carla even wears them with her skirts and dresses. If we’re traveling to a moderate to warm climate, these are the only shoes I take, while Carla also brings her Teva walking sandals. If the weather is colder, then we each add a pair of walking boots and smart wool socks.

 

Lastly, we pack very few toiletry items since we can purchase most of what we need once we arrive. The exception is deodorant, as the options abroad often don't work as well as those from the States. Additionally, buying full-sized products at our destination helps minimize our environmental footprint, as travel-sized items are often over-packaged and contribute to single-use plastic waste.


Our Lightweight Outerwear in Chania, Greece


Before we began traveling, I had never heard of the term "capsule wardrobe." Now, I find the concept invaluable. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing that can all be mixed and matched to create several different outfits. This approach means we pack fewer pieces, which saves space and promotes sustainable fashion by encouraging fewer but higher-quality purchases and minimizing waste. It also makes us happier: our luggage is lighter and easier to manage and deciding "what do I wear?" becomes much simpler.


I highly recommend doing a trial packing session before your trip. The reality is that we often overpack and end up wearing fewer clothes than anticipated. Even when we've reduced our luggage to two carry-ons, we still find that we don't wear everything we pack. Make sure you're likely to wear each item before including it in your luggage. Both Carla and I often bring more than we need for the sake of variety, only to find that we don't use everything we packed.


Mastering the art of efficient packing for international travel with just two carry-on bags epitomizes meticulous and thoughtful preparation. And for us, it remains a work in progress. However, by prioritizing quality over quantity, functionality over excess, and versatility over duplication, you can travel with greater confidence and ease. By embracing the wisdom of minimalist packing, you'll find that you free yourself up to enjoy your adventures - unburdened by the weight of unnecessary stuff. So, pack with purpose, travel light, and let the world be your playground!


Packing is so Easy when You're Visiting Warm and Sunny Greece.

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Guest
May 17

Great article Simcha! I'm sure it will help a lot of people who want to travel for an extended length of time. When I went on pilgrimage to England and Scotland for a month almost 30yrs ago., I only took a large backpack that had polar fleece pants & top, silk underwear, some toiletries, raincoat and a reflective tarp for sitting on the ground. My pack weighing only 15 pounds, and also had it's own raincoat. I agree that less is more and it's amazing how quickly you become used to living this way.

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Simcha
Simcha
May 17
Replying to

Thank you! I hope the article will be helpful. We're often asked what it is that we take (or don't take) to travel for so long with just 2 bags. I remember the days of "backpacking". I was right there with you. I'm finding the older I get, the less stuff matters, and the less I want. Good to hear from you!

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