Packing #1: Data Is Our Friend

Quiz time, armchair travelers!

How fast do you go through a tube of toothpaste?

How about a can of shaving cream? A bottle of body lotion? A stick of deodorant?

Many have asked how we pack for six months steaming around the globe. Down to seven days sailing, what follows in the first installment of our two-part answer.

180 Days of Toothpaste

When we started thinking about packing to spend 180 days going around the world, determining our burn rate on toiletries and cosmetics was one of our first steps.

Sure, we could take our chances on finding Smashbox Photo Finish in Ho Chi Minh City, but that would waste precious time and likely be futile. Paying onboard prices for things we could buy economically at home felt wasteful, and (not naming names) some of us didn’t want to make do with whatever local substitute we came across around the world.

At the risk of forever being labeled “obsessive,” this is how we established burn rate.

Beginning last spring, whenever we opened a new tube or bottle or stick or jar or anything we knew we would want for the journey, we labeled it with the date. By December and time to pack, we knew our burn rate and bought a sufficient supply of each product to get us through. (For the record, we each will need 2.5 tubes of toothpaste for 180 days, but Louis can get through the entire trip with one can of Harry’s foaming shave cream.)

How High Is Your Bed

Next came luggage-planning. 

Our Oceania Cruises fare included delivering four pieces of luggage to our cabin at the outset of the cruise and back home at the end of the journey, all at no cost to us. Each bag could weigh up to 50 pounds, for a total of 200 pounds in all, which sounds like a lot until you stockpile six months of toiletries and throw in a few books and extra hangers. We can also carry luggage aboard, like the backpacks holding our electronics and other valuables.

Theoretically, this means there is no limit to how much stuff we can bring aboard Insignia but for one little catch: stashing the bags. The ship doesn’t store them for us. Luggage needs to fit under the bed, i.e., into a space 10 inches/26 cm high, 66.5 inches/175 cm wide and 66.75 inches/170 cm/ long. 

With that in mind, we chose rolling duffels (those wheeled contraptions with a soft upper body that collapses when empty into a semi-rigid bottom less than 10 inches tall) as our workhorses and supplemented them with one mid-sized suitcase and a military camo duffel from Louis’s news days that is so voluminous it can hold Doris herself.

At further risk of forever being labeled “obsessive,” we outlined the perimeter of the bed in painter’s tape on our living room rug to confirm the bags would fit.

It did, as long as we left the suitcase open, and with room to spare for our carryons. With any luck, the cabin shelves and drawers would hold whatever we were using at any given time, and we could store the rest (e.g., shorts in the Antarctic, down jackets in India) in the empty bags under the bed.

The Weather Dive

But what exactly did we want to pack in those bags? For that, Doris went into “weather wonking” mode.

Long-time Partout followers may remember our ode to weather wonking in Weather Wise: A Practical Partout. Cutting to the chase (and at even further risk of appearing obsessive), Doris spent a full day with our RTW itinerary in front of her and weather apps open to determine the five-year average temperature and humidity at every single port of call on our circumnavigation. Yes, all 95 of them. 

She then noted the average temperature range and humidity index (dry, muggy, oppressive, miserable, etc.) on our excursion itinerary and tallied how many days we would be spending in each kind of weather. The results looked like this.

We are hoping the cooling effect of being at sea will transform some of those 20 “miserable” days into merely “oppressive”ones, but if there is truly no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing, we counted on the weather dive to help us dress ourselves to feel like the weather was fine regardless of what the thermometer might say.

With the weather data in hand and helpful advice from experienced cruising friends who had done this before (you know who you are!) under our belts, the big day finally arrived.

No, not embarkation. Packing the bags. 


Packing #2: Turning Data into Clothing

23 thoughts on “Packing #1: Data Is Our Friend

  1. Hi Doris and Louis!
    Being a planner and master list-maker, I appreciate your time and thoughtfulness in preparing for your trip! It will be seamless, w/o intrusion of where to get some toothpaste, and I truly look forward to many pictures and wonderful stories!

    Will this be a means of communication during your travels? I am hoping to travel vicariously and play “Where in the World are D & L?”

    Bon Voyage!



  2. I admire Doris (in general, but also specifically) for marking out the dimensions of the under-bed storage in painter’s tape, complete with a dividing line to make sure Louis doesn’t overpack.

    When we were both active cameramen the rule was you weren’t allowed to bring silly equipment you would never use, but, if you used every item you brought, you had not left anything for unplanned situations, so you lost the contest.

    Souvenirs could be posted back or have you reached the point where memories is all you need to bring back from trips?


  3. Obsessive or not, your weather tracking research yielded actionable information. I wish I’d given half as much thought to packing for our Eire/UK trip last Fall. Even at only 6 weeks long, I found myself more than once wasting precious time chasing down a particular item or product I’d run out of. You won’t regret the time spent beforehand!! Bon voyage dear friends. I am eagerly anticipating your journey – and to accompanying you vicariously via Partout. Beaucoup bises.


  4. Doris,

    Great post! But I’m surprise Louis can go six months on one can of shave cream! Does he just shave once a week? 😜

    You’re right about the weather at sea: it is never as bad as in port. I spent all seasons sailing around the South China Sea region in my Navy days, and the weather at sea was always comfortable outdoors. Our ship did not have AC in the living spaces, just fans, so indoors was uncomfortable sometimes. I used to joke that you could work up a sweat brushing your teeth. But your ship has AC. You’ll be fine. You’ll be in the Southern Hemisphere most of our winter, so it will be summer and early fall there.

    Happy sailing!

    ❤️ Pat

    Patrick Boyle +1-434-242-4088



  5. Ah, we’re all off to a good start! I’m rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation of the missives we will receive in the coming months from you both. And yes, you are totally obsessive. But as you point out, it will pay off in hours spent exploring amazing new places instead of traipsing around to find toothpaste you don’t even like when you find it, buy it, and have to use it 😝


  6. Data is your friend–material reality is your enemy! If only you could shrink those shoes…. It’s a good thing you don’t have to follow the Navy Seal adage “Two is one and one is none”–although I think it mainly applies to plans–


  7. Dear Big Sister,
    Don’t worry about being considered obsessive! You’re way beyond that 😂!
    My only question is how Louis will fit into a bed that’s only 66″ long?
    Love you,


  8. Merci Partoutians Doris and Louis! This is fascinating and you look extremely well-prepared! Can’t wait for the next installment.
    Bisous, Abrazos,


  9. And we thought packing for four months in Mexico was hard… smooth sailing… wishing you and Doris fair winds and bright skies…


  10. Doris, Doris, Doris……outlining the perimeter with painters tape is not only obsessive, but also qualifies as a quirky concept that really works! Fantastic idea!! I’m officially stealing it, adding it to my bag of travel tricks.


  11. I think you can let go of your feeling that you are at risk for being labeled obsessive in you collection of data and the prep that goes along with it. Risk implies that there may not be a chance such a diagnosis of obsessive behavior will be applied to you. I assure you there is no such chance and therefore no risk at all.


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