How easy is it to live out of a suitcase?

For nearly three years we have been JWalking, housesitting and HelpXing and one of the questions we get asked is about living out of one bag. Or two if you count the medium sized backpacks we carry. For the majority of the time ladies, I don’t even use my Fairtrade handbag. The story of clearing our house and preparing to leave is another story that we may bore you with in the future (if you’re interested). But what to put in a case that will need to last an indefinite amount of time when travelling to undetermined locations is the real question. First and most important item, apart from Jonno by my side, is Rocky.

The Maidstone Stash

Before I go on, I must fess-up because we do have a small storage cupboard, not much bigger that a locker at the gym, in which we stash a few heavy winter clothes, Jon’s suit,a posh frock, family keepsakes we couldn’t part with and a few momentoes from our travels. Our only other stash is the photograph albums. These are being safely stored at a close friends house for the time being. Some of Rocky’s friends are stashed but not him.

JWalking Suitcase

The Backpack Strategy

The packing of this medium sized backpack depends totally on whether we are flying or not. If a flight is involved it is loaded with everything heavy that can be taken as hand luggage. Walking boots, book (I do use a kindle but I can’t resist a good old fashioned book from a charity shop occasionally), diary and basically anything that will keep the weight of the case down. If we are travelling by train, bus etc the Backpack Strategy is similar but can, and does, include food, drinks and toiletries. Rocky is usually last in and first out.

JWalking Suitcase

Suitcase Number Three

We are not backpackers as such because we choose to travel with cases. I am now on suitcase number three. Each case is at the mercy of baggage handlers, a good few kilometres walking through terminals and, the most regular problem, disintegration of the wheels. This was my first and probably my favourite case. Sadly no longer a part of the adventure but I did cut out one flamingo as a memento and put it in the Maidstone Stash.

JWalking Suitcase
2015 – 2016 Case Number One
JWalking Suitcase
2016 – 2018 Case Number Two

So here we go with a few questions and answers. Remember this is from my perspective. Jonno’s case is another whole ball game.

What size is your case? It is a 24″ case. I always feel that some people’s hand luggage is almost as big. Rocky is not very good with imperial measurements.

Did you buy expensive cases? No, they may last longer but are so much heavier before you put anything in them. You must also remember Rocky doesn’t do posh.

How did you choose what to take? The plan was basically one of each item and one spare, ie trousers x 2, shorts x 2, pjs x 2, swimming togs x 2 and so on. The exception is underwear, socks and T shirts. I have about 6 of each. I felt it was important to take a few things that reminded me of family and friends but these were only taken if they were practical. I have a tiny leather purse that I keep a few pairs of earrings in, a hand painted linen bag that I keep my wool in, one of the PE bags I made for the boys for the socks and a few other bits and pieces. Rocky, of course, always reminds me of family.

Is there anything you specifically bought to take? Yes, boring stuff like waterproof trousers, woolly hat, practical ski type gloves, small flask and insulated cup. Rocky was already a treasured possession.

How many pairs of shoes do you take? Not enough is the easy answer to this one! All I have/need are a pair of Birkenstock sandals for warm weather. They go on forever and are comfortable. Flip flops which are light and double up as slippers in good weather. Walking boots or trainers. This is always a tricky one and depends where we are heading and what we will be doing. I did invest in a pair of open walking shoes but the jury is out on these. They are comfy but as you will see from the photo not the most fashionable. Then again when space is limited fashion is probably the last criteria as you will have seen from the many photos of me on our travels. Rocky doesn’t have shoes.

JWalking Suitcase

What other things, apart from clothes and shoes, do you pack?  This is where it all gets a bit random. Obviously there are the essential girlie bits like moisturiser, sunscreen, sun hat, sun glasses, hair clips, nail file, tweezers, etc. My only make up is mascara and one eyeliner but very rarely used. Then we have my first aid kit, antibacterial wipes, pencil case, post it notes, mini address book, notelets (for those thank you notes to hosts), wrapping paper, sewing kit, black pepper in a grinder, mini cool bag and ice pack, insect spray, vitamins, small bag of washing powder, dried seasoning, jar of decaf coffee, green tea bags, large scissors (for haircuts), sellotape, sticky labels, diary…as you can see I am the consummate Girl Guide being prepared. You know who falls into this category.

JWalking Suitcase
Amazingly small address book

Is there a totally unpractical guilty pleasure item? Yes, of course, that would be my knitting needles, patterns and about 10 balls of wool. I have to have a project on the go and the raw materials for this hobby are light to carry and the finished article can be scrunched up. I only knit small items – don’t be silly there would be no space for a whole jumper and I am not culling Rocky to free up space. I have been know to make up a reason to keep something that on the surface has no use. This would be my New Zealand Black Caps flag. We were given it at a 20/20 Big Bash Cricket game in Wellington and it is a perfect size to lay my case on when packing

JWalking Suitcase

Have you ever lost anything?  Temporarily misplaced are the words I would use and that would be a straw hat which was so much more than a straw hat as it was my pre JWalking glamping hat. Less sentiment was attached to a pair of flip flops left under a bed and a drinking bottle left in a fridge. Not so bad really. I don’t count the pearl earring that was ripped from my ear by high winds! I would be broken hearted if Rocky was temporarily misplaced.

What things don’t you carry? A hairdryer, lipstick, foundation, perfume, dressing gown, towel, hair straighteners, “going out” clothes, nail varnish, hairbrush, makeup remover, cleanser, slippers, and all of Rockys friends.

Do you pack the same way each time and does it all fit in? No and no. The basic packing method is the same but there is not a specific place for everything. Sometimes I have an emergency bag of pasta and/or rice so Jonno helps out with these or takes some of the wool to ease the packing dilemma. I have never not fitted everything in but when I gather everything up to pack it looks so much for one little case. Can you spot Rocky?

JWalking Suitcase

Your best tip for packing? Try and be ruthless about what you really need. For example, we don’t travel with towels. They are just too bulky. I have a large lightweight scarf which doubles as a towel, picnic blanket and sarong. As a novelty, I have even used it as a scarf on a couple of occasions. I am probably less ruthless than I used to be maybe I am nest building in my suitcase. Final tip, everyone should have a pointless item as long as it is small (but don’t tell Rocky I said that!)

So who is Rocky?

Rocky is my hero – here is Rocky.


Many moons ago I saved up a whole bunch of Weetabix tokens and managed to get the whole set of Chicken Run characters. He tends to sit on my bed or bunk or wherever I lay my head. Babs, Bunty and Ginger are with the Maidstone Stash probably knitting a glider as I write.

If you have a question or need any packing advice let me know – it could be the start of a whole new consultancy business.

JWalking Suitcase

JWalking Suitcase

03/04 – 05/04/2018


  1. OK, Jo, I am completely at a loss. No hairdryer, NO HAIRDRYER. I am hyperventilating as I type. I guess it is ok when you look as fab as you but I would pass out xx


  2. It looks like you have a check on. I always hear about people who travel with only a carry on. I actually used to do that but just cant seem to anymore. I mostly have been house sitting here in USA. My home country. So, usually can stop at my storage occasionally and switch things up. Also, being I am in a car, I seem to pack it to the hilt. With a carrier on top. well, I do a lot of camping so have all camping stuff in top. When I house sat in Mexico for 2 months I packed a check on about size of your and a small carry on. My question to you is how do you go from hot weather to cold ???? Do you carry an assortment for both?? I may be going back to Mexico for 2 months Feb. April. Then I plan to go to U.K as I just got a house sit in Scotland for May. So, I imagine I will need a different set of clothes for that. Now , I need to decide . Do I stop off in California after Mexico and switch it all out ??? Or go straight from Mexico to Europe. Of course some of that will depend on flying and the logistics. In any case. I think it would be hard to pack for both locations at one time.


  3. The most important items are passport & visa(s), travel insurance, credit card & budget, a recent travel guide that reflects your interests and travel style, and a thoughtful packed carry on. Eventually a pack of coffee (or tea) of your favorite brand (you’ll be astonished how difficult it can be to find a decent cup of coffee or tea). The rest you can buy on your destination, saves you luggage fees and can be taken back as souvenirs.


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