How to pack for all four seasons and a year of travel

Trip Planning
Trip Planning

I’ve had lots of emails through the blog asking what we packed for our year of travel.  I did a lot of pre-thinking and planning for it and glad to say we did fantastically well!  After live testing I can offer proven advice and some packing hacks that made our travels go brilliantly smooth. Below is a video while we were in Wales that will walk you through what to pack.

Going to hot countries for a year is no problem but travelling through Europe (Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Wales, England, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Austria) with all four seasons ahead of us required we pack heavy winter gear, rainy weather clothes and summer wear. How do you pack minimally, fit it all in one bag and able to carry it wherever you go?

If you are planning a trip of your own, here is a video I did when we were housesitting in Wales. I’ll walk you through what we packed, how we packed and what we carried it all in. Then below I’ll provide a list with some commentary.

For starters you need a good travel bag. One that will hold everything, is light enough for flying (without paying overweight charges) durable for the wear and tear of flying, light enough for dragging down cobblestone streets, on buses, trains, cars, ferries and walking for miles.  I didn’t want to carry burdensome bag packs and searched high and low for a good alternative. While looking in Sportschek at the recommended and very costly backpack options ($300+) I came across some hockey bags and thought huh…..these could work well! And I have to say they were brilliant!

The perfect bag
The perfect bag

 At the bargain price of only $80 each they were like the Hummers of suitcases but extremely lightweight when empty.  They had large, heavy duty wheels which worked fantastically when we had to drag them for miles on cobblestoned streets to get too our accommodations.  They had tons of space, a few different compartments and retractable handles.  We usually stayed for 3-8 days in one spot and when we had to move to the next (usually by train) we didn’t want to throw out all the food, spices, toiletries and things we had accumulated for the short term.  The bags could be loaded with these things to the hilt and we could easily wheel them wherever we had to go.  When we were flying and had to lose weight (under 50 lbs or 25 Kg-most airlines) we’d just plan to use up all our groceries or leave them behind. We both also carried backpacks that contained our laptops, camera, travel documents and important items in.  We’d keep the backpacks light when ground traveling and loaded them up as a carry on when flying- opposite of the hockey bags on wheels. I can’t say enough how well the hockey bags worked, the only minor pitfall was on one train trip in Scotland and once in Italy on the high-speed Frecciarossa; the isles were too narrow to pull them down, so I had to tip them on their sides and drag them to a storage spot.  Occasionally it was a chore finding space on the trains to store the heavy bags that contained our lives for a year, but we managed.

Here is my packing list which was very similar for Janet.  The key for 4 seasons is layering.  Think light, warm, durable, waterproof…pieces you can add or remove depending on the weather. Everything you can buy at home you can get in Europe so don’t feel the need to pack it all, you’ll want to do some shopping and bring home clothes as souvenirs but bring the necessities so its not urgent to shop.

For starters; Pick up some travel packs/organizers at your local travel store, I found mine at a Winners here in Canada.  These are critical in keeping your suitcase well organized and easy to pack and unpack. They are various sized mesh/ fabric bags that hold and zip up your clothes and stack inside your pack. They are a must have!  I used a few hacked ones that worked really well also; ‘the plastic bags with zippers that bed sheets come in’.  I used a few for t-shirts and my dress clothes, I wasn’t sure if they would hold up but they did. I demo them in my video.

  • 9 socks (4 smart wool and 5 cotton). I’m telling you socks are important and I lived in my smart wools.  They keep your feet warm in cool weather and cool in warmer weather.  They wick the moisture and keep your feet dry which is so important in inclement weather and when walking miles through the streets of Europe or hiking the trails of the Cinque Terre. They could go days without washing and remain fresh.  Invest in some good smart wools at about $25 each.
  • A zip up sweater
  • Columbia down vest
  • Columbia waterproof/windproof rain jacket ¾ length with hood (my outer layer). This was an important piece, a good rainproof outer layer. When it was cool I wore this alone or a sweater, in the coldest of winter (which is only maybe -10’c) I would wear a long sleeve shirt, polar fleece, my down vest and Columbia jacket on top. 
  • Light Columbia polar fleece pullover
  • ¾ length Columbia zip up knit jacket, was also a great piece that I wore a lot.
  • 1- Eddie Bauer travel pants- these are great because they can be dressed up or down and specifically designed for travel, quick drying and wrinkle free.
  • 1-Lululemon Cargo pant- super light and great for hiking and activities.
  • 2 Jeans – a lot of travel blogs will advise against jeans for travel as they are cotton and not good for keeping you dry but I’d advise on bringing some of what you often wear at home. I lived in my jeans, they are a universal clothing item you can wear anywhere.  I wore out a pair and another in Europe. 
  • I-Lululemon Karate Pant
  • 1- sweatpant
  • 1-black sweater, to dress up a bit and layer
  • 9-pairs of underwear- you need enough to get you through a stretch that you might not have access to a washing machine, but you can always turn them inside out!
  • 1- pair of light, long underwear for a few really cold days.
  • 1- black golf shirt
  • 2- tank tops
  • 6- t-shirts, I lived in them and couldn’t have too many. I bought a bunch along the way and love the extra long ones you can find super cheap in the UK at PriMark.  (If you come across one, please pick me up a few more pairs!)
  • 2- pairs of lightweight nylon shorts
  • 2-pairs of cotton shorts
  • 1-flannel PJ bottoms for colder nights
  • 1- pair of quality slippers. So glad we brought these for the cold stone floors in our apartments. We went through a few pairs and bought new ones along the way.
  • 1-pair of good leather gloves- I got mine at Coach and they were excellent. Leather is great as its good in all kinds of coolish weather, warm and dry. Mine came with an insertable fleece layer or bring a light pair to wear under for those frigid winter days.
  • 1-large wool scarf- a must, you’ll want one big enough to wrap around and cover your face. The humidity and wind can make the cold bite, so I wore my scarf a lot.
  • 1-hat, I had a stylin wool cap but a pull-on wool would be good too.
  • 1- dress shirt (for things like the opera or a nice dinner)
  • 1- pair of black dress pants- hardly wore them but good to have for a dress up need like and invitation to Christmas dinner.
  • 2- belts (one casual/ all purpose, another a little dressier)
  • 1- hiker/walker boots- mine where by Salomon, lightweight and waterproof for trekking through the rain and snow. They were a nylon type, breathable and great even in a bit warmer weather.
  • 1- pair of Salomon hiking/walking runner style shoes. Lightweight and waterproof. These had the carabineer style, pull string laces that were great.
My shoes- footwear is imporant
My shoes- footwear is important
  • 1-pair of black dress shoes, I took a moccasin style Italian loafer from Aldo. These were light, bendable and easy to pack.
  • 1- pair of flip flops (get thee to the beach!)
  • 1- swimsuit and bought a few more in the summer. You might want a pair for the hotsprings or a spa over the winter.
  • Super Important to have- a Packsafe or Travelon, theft proof day to day travel bag that holds your camera, cash, passport and important items you don’t want to lose. I show it towards the end of the video, these are so useful and keep you from being a target for theft.

If you didn’t check out the video have a look.  I’ll walk you through and show you the features of all these items I brought.  Off coarse we had to buy some things along the way and accumulated more than we needed.  After winter we packed up a box of our winter gear and sent it home from London.  The cost was about $200 cdn so we had to decide if it was worth sending or just donating, we gave away a few things along the way.

This should do you for a year and if you (or I) missed anything you can pick it up along the way.  I’m not a shopper and would rather spend my time seeing the country than searching stores so I was glad I brought most things with me. Janet decided to wait and buy a swimsuit overseas and drug me through ever swimwear store in Italy, there was a mission to find one- you know, girls and the perfect swimsuit!  So maybe keep that in mind and plan accordingly.

Good luck and Buon Viaggo!

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