For this trip we have a situation where the trip dates were locked 6 months before the event. How to indulge the compulsive planner? Spend 6 months planning to be flexible, of course! Instead of guidebooks, research went into establishing contacts in most of the probable destinations, determining best things to take with us and what to leave home, and figuring out how to do it all with 3 small pieces of luggage - all carry-ons, to guarantee maximum flexibility. Unlike Hawaii, this trip would be in multiple locations, most of which will be determined on the fly. I did end up researching travel costs, and there are economic reasons to choose some routings over others, so we do have some constraints. But even those are flexible. The rough plan is to start in Brazil, continue to Argentina, then to Paraguay, then Chile, and back to Sáo Paulo for the trip home.
As for what to take with us, we will be trying a number of things and will report on what worked well and what did not after the trip.
Luggage was the first consideration. What we have always used in the past was inexpensive stuff procured at a discount store like Costco or WalMart, or even from the flea markets. This stuff is fine for domestic travel and hiking around well-groomed trails in national parks, but not durable at all. We needed something both durable and versatile. I consulted a globe-trotting friend of mine who goes by "Mr. D" and he advised:
Buy Tumi luggage - it is the best luggage. Let me repeat so you get the idea in your head: Buy Tumi luggage - it is the best luggage. Yes it is very expensive, but it is so well made, it lasts forever - I have some 10 year old Tumi pieces which I used heavily all over the world and they still function like new. I love Tumi so much, I buy their other products especially made from ballistic nylon - in addition to extensive collection of travel bags or various styles and sizes, I have a winter jacket, wallet, reversible belt, passport case, TSA locks, flashlight, and toiletries bag. There is no better way to ruin the trip than to have a broken zipper or a ripped off strap on a cheap-shit travel bag you got at a discount shop. With some luck, brand new Tumi luggage can be purchased on eBay at substantial discount. Do I have to repeat it one more time, or you get the idea???You really have to appreciate candid advice like that! Taking the hint, I procured 3 items (2 used and 1 new) from eBay - Tumi Alpha Travel large satchel, Tumi T-Tech Forge Lambert medium satchel, and a small Tumi backpack. A tiny purse (not from Tumi) was added for tissues, sunscreen, and other items generally not worth stealing.
Clothing was the next order of business, and Mr. D again advised us, "You can be stylish but you do not need a separate outfit for every day. Keep in mind that you are traveling to enjoy your destination and not to put up a fashion show." We will target 4 days of clothing maximum: 1 to be worn, and 3 to carry. This may be too much and could be revised down to 2 to carry later. Need to be able to wash nearly everything in the sink or shower and hang to dry. Everything was subject to scrutiny - pants, shirts, shoes, socks, and underwear. We bought stuff and wore it around the house, to work, etc. to field-test fit and function. Several things failed and were scrapped or returned. What we have now seems OK. We will report after the trip what worked well and what did not. Be advised that in our upcoming photos, we will often be wearing the same clothes.
Last are accessories and electronics. Less is definitely more here. No jewelry except nondescript (and cheap) watches and wedding rings, plus some very plain ear studs for K. Only a few "toys." For example, I bought some ancient iPhones from friends who had recently upgraded, and my brother provided a couple of old non-smart GSM phones from his collection to serve as backups. Very small and inexpensive, used laptop. Everything that was not already ugly was made to look ugly and undesirable to thieves - both to "snatch and run" thieves as well as muggers. Are we planning to get robbed? Not at all. We are planning to be flexible. Thumb drive and dropbox.com used for data backups. Color scans of all important documents. Encrypted files to store sensitive data. Web mail access. Internet phone service. All that stuff was meticulously researched, implemented, and tested. Some things have backup and contingencies, others do not. Again, we will report later on what was needed or not as well as what worked or not. Overkill? Absolutely! But it all served to entertain my planning nature and keep me out of guidebooks and misinformation. I should mention that K, however, did not feel constrained and is surrounded by a large stack of guidebooks borrowed from the library. My only concession was to load a few e-versions of some guidebooks onto my ancient iPhone, just for future reference.
Check out the sum total of our luggage for six weeks out of the country:
Do you think you could do it?