So we finally made it our the door. Not just out of Ashland but all the way to LAX to catch our first flight. The carpool lane allowed us to beat the Google Maps estimated time. Kate’s use of a wheelchair took us on an unusual way around the airport and through security. Kate ended up carrying a bonus bag of snacks and stuff in her lap while dad carried her pack on my back and my bag, with rollers also handled my little carry-on bag.

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We will see how we did with our packing and planning farther down the road but a true recital of what we decided to take can only help us later. And it might make you laugh now.  Below are 7 things that we had to decide that seem important now.

  1.  Buying bags –  Buying our bags seemed like a huge threshold question.  Your bags predetermine how you will travel and we wanted bags that each of us could carry, were excellent quality and had great functionality.  After good research we ended up with three types of Osprey bags.  Judi and Kate got the maximum carry-on size, John got a smaller bag to fit his frame which top loads, and I got a bag with rollers and a strong handle (on the off chance I have to carry someone else’s bag, who would have known that Kate’s injury would mean we start the trip that way?)  So far, so very good.  REI staff and Osprey on-line tutorials were really valuable in making our decision.

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2.  Shoes – Maybe the hardest decision was shoes.  Everyone wanted shoes to fit various situations but we also read lots of stories that shoes are the biggest space stealers of precious bag space.  So we compromised on bringing two pair – good quality water resistant walking shoes and a pair of sandals.  While that works when using the walking shoes, they are really tough to pack away when Fiji’s barefoot culture beckons.  Next to medication / bathroom stuff, shoes are a huge space user for us.  We just don’t see a way around it, so in the size 14 shoes go but it makes my bag feel really really small!

3.  Electronics – To stay connected and to get school work done we knew we needed a good assortment of tools.  We went with the Apple universe: an iPhone 6, an IPhone 7, 2 iPad Pros with a bluetooth keyboard, and a MacBook.  The best decision so far is the MacBook which I use whenever I can.  The phones are essential for pictures and when we are in places longer we will buy SIM cards so we will have the ability to call each other  The wireless keyboard was critical before the MacBook came along but for the moment we have stuck with it, but I sense it may get left behind soon. The kids can type on the MacBook as needed and otherwise they are amazingly fluent on a tablet.  We are also packing a JBL recharger / speaker.  I love this at home so gladly packed it.  It will allow great quality music and ability to listen to music from all our devises.  While it has yet to see the light of day, I anticipate needing it at some point.

4  Things we couldn’t part with – When that last day came, we all had things we couldn’t leave behind although we had thought we would.  Kate negotiated for a pair of shorts that are cute and she swears will double and pajamas; Judi needed another shirt and two old fashioned paper books; John talked us into a pair of sweat pants (yes those ones he loves with hole in the knees) and (Declan this is for you) his hair gel he said with tears in his eyes was a must bring item; I too ended up carrying a paper book and a bonus set of art supplies that my sister gave me for Christmas.  Time will tell the wisdom or weakness of each.  I have my thoughts on each already but I will save those for a packing update entry.

5.  Good quality clothing – I had no trouble, after research and testing, paying the $32 a pair for Ex Officio underwear.  Our philosophy has been to get great quality stuff since we are planning to wear these clothes a lot in the next 18 months.  We all thankfully all got raincoats (see Disneyland 2017 entry) but only Judi and I got Northface jackets that fold up into tiny balls of fabric.  I hope that this will pay off but as we swelter in the humidity of Fiji after the hot rains of Los Angles, I wonder if we wouldn’t have just been happier getting coats in London in October – which is our plan for the kids anyway.  I have also always been skeptical of the “I am tourist” screaming zip off pant-leg pants; that was until the first day in Nadi, Fiji when we couldn’t check into our room for hours and we were melting in the heat; and I just zipped off the pant legs and was suddenly, happily was in shorts.  I take back all those bad thoughts I have ever had about them and friends – Jason Broesder occasionally – who wear them on a casual Friday. I am now a fan.

6.  Bonus Travel Stuff – I have a hard time not getting sucked into a good travel accessory store like the fantastic Travel Essentials store in downtown Ashland, Oregon.  I bought the JBL speaker after a review in the Atlas & Boots Travel Blog and they do a great job on gear recommendations.  I am happy that we packed: a travel cribbage board, plastic camping playing cards, a cable and lock to lock our bags together (as we did first day landing at our hotel at 7:30am and having to leave our bags while we explored nearby Nadi town), bug light (which was handy when power went out last night), a door stop for a bit of extra assurance at night, two universal power converters and a Steripen system with AA batteries for water purification.  It will be interesting what special interest travel stuff gets used, gets left or maybe even gladly carried all the way around the world and not used – lots of our meds fall in that last category.

7. What didn’t make the cut – Having only four carry-on bags are a wonderful natural limitation on what goes with you.  We had some shirts that didn’t make it, the rechargeable battery charger didn’t make the cut, books that I had secretly hoped to read sitting in a hammock here at the Fiji Beachouse at sunset left behind, the DVD player that attaches to the MacBook stayed in Dana Point, CA, and about half the stockpile of first aide supplies (with the understanding that we just need enough to address the emergency at the moment, not enough to forego shopping anywhere we ever go) and John’s pair of flip flops (which we promptly went and replaced in Fiji so I’m not sure what my point was at that stage of packing – I suspect I had just lost the ‘hair gel’ debate and was looking for a random victory). None of this was shocking but until you final packing is done it is hard to know where the cut line will be.

Bonus Lesson – TSA no longer lets you bring a 4″ blade pocket knife.  I thought we had looked this up and it was still allowed.  The reasonably nice TSA guy who, after looking through my bag and Kates went through John’s bag only to discover his brand new wonderful Swiss Army Knife that his aunt had given him for the trip.   John was pretty decent about it during the whole thing.  The heart breaking part for me was when we got to the gate and he wanted to double check that the guy hadn’t just realized he was just a kid and maybe he put it back in there anyway.  It was a wonderful tiny blast of youthful, unjustified optimism.  I was sad to lose it too and will certainly do more research before making that mistake again.

If anyone is headed off on a similar trip I’m happy to send you the boring packing list that we have (2 of this, 3 of that, etc.) but it is easily found lots of places but the bonus items that we took on after researching might be useful.  Just shoot us a comment with your email address if you would like me to send it.  And of course the recap should be entertaining once we really learn what worked and what we just carried for no good apparent reason.

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7 thoughts

    1. Norance, great article and tips. Very much the way we hope to explore Tokyo. We will have around 10 days on either side of our JR Pass in Tokyo so any suggestions would be wonderful. -kai-

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  1. Sounds like you did a decent job of acquiring packs, shoes, etc. for your travels. You can never go wrong with Osprey. I have three and was drooling over a 4th at REI the other day. Ditto about the speaker. It is so fun to read your thoughts, and laugh with you. Looking forward to more……

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  2. Fun reading this! I wish I had done as much research when I took the kids backpacking Spain for just a month. Before we left our first stop, realizing how much of the kids stuff I was going to end up carrying, I made a trek to the post office and sent a huge box of non- essentials home!

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