It is a wide-eyed reaction everytime we share how we packed for Africa. We are asked about it often so what better way than to put it in writing!
First thing’s first. A bit of backstory is needed, otherwise, you would be safe in assuming that Brandon and I were used to this kind of travel in order to go about it this way.
Nope. Nope. And nope again! Our honeymoon to Africa was his first major trip outside of the states and it was my intention to do it with the least amount of luggage.
After my first few trips abroad, knowing how easily you can overpack and how straining it could be, I was determined to fit us into one backpack! And so, the first wide-eyed reaction to this idea came from my sweet, sweet husband! (Rightfully so, huh? I mean, it was our honeymoon and he was thrown right into the lion’s den with no experience–he did get super close to a lion, no den though…you get it? We’ll get back to this tidbit later!)
We were prepared to work with the bags we had when in the last minute stages of grabbing the odds and ends that we needed, we came across a backpack that was a return item from Target.
It was marked down and standard carry-on allowance. Target does not carry this brand any longer but you can check out eBags here. I was so excited about this bag because it had all of the elements I look for in a backpack without all of the bells and whistles.
It is a soft bag with a zipper that opens the bag completely down the middle so you aren’t shoving anything to the bottom of a backpack that may be taking up space. When opened, it has two zipper areas for the front of the bag and the back so that both areas may be used for clothing. It also has a smaller compartment at the base that rests against your lower back that we used for socks and underwear. It is pictured below so you can see just what I mean.
So there we were, laying out a month’s worth of clothes. Yes, you read right! Not only were we sharing a backpack, but we had to brace for the elements of Africa for a whole month in that one bag. With nearly matching shirts and pants (ahh the honeymoon phase), we got to work.
We began by establishing how much clothing we would need. Our rule is to pack for half the amount of days that we are traveling. Four weeks away meant ten days of clothing was going to be our comfort zone.
We always plan to do laundry during distance travel. So on the days when we were in between safari and the next destination, we chose Airbnbs that had laundry available. For anyone who has tried Airbnb, it is a whole new experience to do so in Africa. We’ll have that posted for you soon!
Because I prefer soft bags, I tend to stick with rolling my clothing. (A bit old school now from what I keep reading!) I find the luggage cubes to be very useful but just opted out for this trip because some of my stuff fit better in the cubes than his and vice versa–we just kept it simple. We had a great travel laundry bag along with us and we were set in that area.
So Here’s a Breakdown
10 pairs of pants x 2
10 shirts x 2
5 shirts to layer with total (Bran only needed 2. I took 3.)
1 pair of socks for each day x 2
1 pair of underwear for each day x 2
2 swimsuits x 2
*54 articles of clothing + 30 pairs of socks & underwear for one carry-on*
We packed away socks and underwear in the back compartment first.
We then began rolling every piece of clothing.
As I mentioned, cubes are great. But I have always been able to fit more in a bag by rolling versus any other method.
When we finished rolling everything, we separated the articles that were the largest.
The largest articles made for the first layer to create a solid base that fit the edges of the bag.
After, we used the smallest items to fill in the gaps and create a second layer.
We scanned for some of the bulkier items.
Leftover pants, a sweatshirt, and then unrolled them to lay flat over the two layers. (This keeps the clothing from building up too high.)
Any extra articles were placed in the opposite compartment.
The zipper flap was left open without worrying about closing it.
Once the items were organized we just placed the flap over the clothing without zippering. We then zipped up the bag on the outside, so as to make it easier to close.
Being able to fit all of our clothing together in one bag for Brandon to carry-on made it so much easier to pack “my” carry-on!
Again, we used a standard size backpack that Bran had since college for all of our toiletries and essentials.
We both wore our comfy clothes and comfy boots on the plane so it’s a short list of what we took in our second carry-on.
We each packed a Dopp kit, a pair of flip-flops for the beaches we would be visiting in Zanzibar, or if we needed them for showers, and our travel towels. You can check out our essentials list for the items we bring on every flight that made it into our Dopp kits. But I also didn’t leave the U.S. without my carabiner. I always bring one for trips where you are moving from place to place and you don’t feel like fitting everything in its exact place. So my safari boots (Yes, I am the girl who loves boots, boots, and more boots so I brought a second pair) hung from the carabiner for the length of the trip.
We also had two small bags for camera equipment that attached to our backpacks (I also always carry my jackets on the plane with me) and we were off! Brandon was really not impressed by the idea of carrying all of our luggage. Like I mentioned, he didn’t have extensive experience being out of the country and honeymoons were supposed to have bellhops and all-inclusive booze!
Instead, we found ourselves in the middle of a major flight delay before we even left the country. (The first time the bags came in handy was using them as pillows while the entire passenger population huddled around the flight gate. For five hours everyone was looking for answers as to when we would be leaving)
We got to chatting with a few other couples on our flight that had similar safari plans for their trip. When we finally took off, that meant landing at 3 a.m. the morning that we were to begin our safari.
Instead of having a full day’s rest, now we would be hitting the ground running with only two hours of sleep.
We finally landed at the quiet Kilimanjaro Airport, passed through customs, and were right out the door to meet our guide. All bags in hand. Those other couples, after not seeing their luggage on the belt, were told that it was not on the plane! Bran looked at me with such relief knowing that that could have been us but instead, we had everything we needed. Let’s just say he has been a super fan of this method ever since and the jet lag was the last thing on our minds with breathtaking wildlife staring us in the face in no time.
The big bonus was for the trip home.
Once we got through the longer legs of our flight, we didn’t mind checking our backpacks. (If they showed up a week later, it wouldn’t affect our trip.) You see, when you go to a place like Africa with lots of little nieces and nephews and people that would love some of the beautiful things you stumble upon, you get them!
Needless to say, we came back with tons of souvenirs for everyone which was difficult to carry around from airport to airport, but worth it in every way, because we had space and the allowance to do it without being charged!
I will never forget the look on the kiddo’s faces when we handed them their gifts. I especially can’t forget Brandon’s beaming with pride and accomplishment, and already planning the next big trip in his head–backpack style of course!
There are so many great tips and trick for packing for extensive travel. What are some of yours? We would love to hear from you! Leave us a comment below!
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