Travel Packing Tips

Travel Packing Tips for Long-Term Trips

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I’ve been back in the States for 16 days but there ain’ t been no grass growin’ under my feet, as they say. I spent two whirlwind days in Sarasota, drove a day and a half to North Carolina, spent three days on the Outer Banks performing such delightfully entertaining tasks as cleaning my house (which had been shut up for more than eight months), drove two days to Illinois and since then have been enjoying a wonderful reunion with my family. I’m finally beginning to settle back in but nothing feels real yet. Let’s face it – I don’t have a job and don’t want one. I have no desire to get sucked back into the traditional (or even non-traditional) job scene. What I want to do is find a way to make money through my writing and I’m hard at work doing that. I’m writing the book I’ve always talked about and I’m working on several articles for submission to various magazines. In fact, one of the Yoga magazines has asked me to submit a short synopsis of an article that I pitched to them.

Although I had tinkered with the idea of heading to the northeast to see the fall colors after my family visit, it looks like that won’t happen because of other obligations – I have to be back on the Outer Banks next week to oversee the removal of trees in front of my house in order to open up the view to the water from my living room. Then I may have to head down to Key West to oversee the rental of one of the apartments in a house I own there. I could let this get me down but that would be ungrateful of me. I’ve had an opportunity that most people only dream of – to travel the world for six moths – and I won’t lose sight of how fortunate I am. So I’ll be on my way back to the Outer Banks next Tuesday morning.

In the meantime I thought I’d share some of my travel packing secrets, since so many of you have expressed amazement at how I was able to travel for six months with so little luggage. For anyone considering a trip around the world my first advice is to understand that the travel equipment companies like Magellan’s and REI offer SOME really good items but in general, most of the cutesy devices they promote are absolutely unnecessary. Their job is to sell stuff and they do their best to convince customers that they cannot possibly travel without the latest and greatest travel devices, but the truth is that very few of these items are absolutely necessary.

Second, unless you want to schlep tons of luggage wherever you go, you must be prepared to wear the same clothes over and over. Laundry is exceedingly easy to do overseas. In most cases you can drop it off one day and have it the next – often for a pittance of a fee. Also, many budget accommodations are not the most accessible. Often the road does not go all the way to the hotel’s front door and it is necessary to walk some distance to get to the facility. Other times, the hotel or hostel is at the top of a long, steep flight of stairs. The last thing you want to do is load yourself down with luggage if you are trying to travel cheaply.

I traveled with a backpack that contained all my most important equipment and personal info, as well as a 22″ carry-on size rolling suitcase. In these two pieces of luggage I was able to carry everything I needed for both warm and cold climates. Once I arrived at a destination I transferred my laptop, cables, and important paperwork from the backpack to the small suitcase and locked it up. In between travel days I used the backpack as a day pack, carrying only things I needed on a daily basis, such as camera, lenses, sunblock, swimsuit, sarong (in lieu of a beach towel), hat, paperback book, etc. I also brought along a very small PacSafe shoulder bag, which I used only on days when I traveled from one country to another on airplanes. The PacSafe has steel cables through the shoulder straps and steel wire mesh between the outer material and the inside, so it cannot be sliced or slashed, and it has a strap long enough for the purse to be worn bandoleer style across my chest. Inside I placed my wallet (containing money, driver’s license, credit card, and ATM card), passport, airline tickets, iPod, pens, passport, calculator, Dramamine (I get motion sick), lip balm, Emory board, comb, and a small paperback book, making everything immediately accessible in one safe, handy place as I negotiated long check-in and security lines.

The following is my packing list, which actually was small enough that it allowed me a bit of room for a few souvenirs:

TO WEAR:

  • Canvas khaki trousers
  • Tennis shoes and socks
  • Long sleeve top
  • Sweatshirt
  • Glasses
  • Underwear

TO CARRY ON IN DAY PACK:

  • ID card with contact info
  • Driver’s License
  • Passport
  • Master Card
  • ATM Card
  • Pens
  • Wallet with half of my cash
  • Airline tickets/itinerary
  • Certificate of vaccination against yellow fever
  • Passport photos
  • Lip balm
  • Calculator
  • iPod & earphones
  • Hairbrush/comb

TO CARRY ON IN BACKPACK:

  • Camera, case, extra battery, extra CF cards, remote, charger, lens cleaning tissues, manual
  • iPod charging cable
  • MacBook in case, charger, extra cord, CF card adapter, coax cable,Headphones
  • Plug adapter for different electricity
  • Spiral notebook
  • Manila envelope for storing receipts
  • Copies of itinerary, passport, driver’s license, contact numbers for Master Card & bank debit card, and contact info for travel insurance, etc., all in plastic sleeve
  • Mini flashlight
  • Zip lock sandwich, snack & gallon bags
  • First Swimsuit
  • One long sleeve top
  • One short sleeve top
  • One Capri pants
  • One set of underwear
  • Eyeglass case
  • Wet wipes
  • Portable toilet paper
  • Small hand lotion
  • Emory board
  • 1 paperback book
  • Extra small combination padlock
  • Second wallet with other half of cash
  • Extra passport photos
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen

TO PACK IN MAIN CHECKED BAG:

  • One khaki trousers
  • Two mid-calf pants
  • One pair of shorts
  • Three or four short sleeve tops
  • Three long sleeve tops/shirts
  • One set Yoga clothes
  • underwear
  • pajamas
  • Lightweight rain poncho that stuffs down to a 6″ x 6″ plastic bag
  • sandals
  • socklets & socks
  • Sarong
  • Second swimsuit
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Detergent in tube
  • Wet wipes
  • Portable toilet paper
  • Trek towel (absorbs 10x their weight in moisture)
  • Toiletries kit (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, 2 razors, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, travel shower cap, soap in zip lock)
  • Dental floss (can be used as strong thread as well)
  • Medical kit (Asian meds, Band-Aids, Hydrocortisone cream, Dramimine, Imoddium, Benadryl, anti-viral, malaria if required, Pepto-Bismol, aspirin, sting-ease)
  • Q-tips
  • Travel knife
  • 1 paperback book
  • Maps
  • Yoga mat
  • Duct tape
  • Rubber bands, & safety pins
  • Sewing kit
  • Zip lock sandwich, snack, & gallon bags
  • Travel wash line & sink plug
  • Travel clock with alarm
  • Larger keyed padlock
  • Lightweight Cable/wire lock (or plastic cable ties?)
  • Cable for securing luggage to train racks
  • Rain cover for backpack

You can modify as needed – for instance if you are not going to colder climates you will need fewer long-sleeved tops, etc. Since I began in SE Asia where it was hot I did not pack a coat. Instead, when I got to New Zealand where it was winter, I bought a coat, gloves, hat, scarf, and a pair of woolen socks in a secondhand store and then donated all of it to another secondhand store when I left the cold weather behind.

In future blogs I’ll discuss things you can and should do to ensure safe travel, as well as things you need to do before you leave that will allow you to be away from home for long stretches at a time, such as setting up online bill paying and setting up special ATM-linked accounts. In no time at all you’ll have the benefit of my experience and you, too, can hit the road.

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14 Comments on “Travel Packing Tips for Long-Term Trips

  1. A very comprehensive list and some very useful tips. Even as a man I always pack a sarong. Sarongs have so many different uses and I have even used mine as a carry home bag after a morning of grocery shopping for fresh produce in the local street markets. I would be delighted if you took a look at my travel blog and especially the post ? wrote about how to pack light. Thank you and happy travels everyone.
    http://www.dontworryjusttravel.com/tips/travel-tips/how-to-pack-light

  2. This is a really complete list. Have you added something to this list since the writing of the post?

    • Hi Doug: I’ve actually kept it updated over the years, so it’s pretty current.

  3. Pretty comprehensive list. Quite wise of you not to pack jeans, which can be one of the worst items to pack when it comes to long-term travel.

  4. I used to find packing very difficult, but I discovered the more I travel, the less I need to pack. Last time when travelling in Thailand and Sri Lanka for more than two weeks, I took the smallest backpack. It was lots of fun. Less is more as they say ! Great tips Barbara!

  5. I always love to see what people choose to pack, and your list seems exemplary for long-haul traveling. Still, I kept looking for one small can’t-live-without iconic item. I remember reading a similar list of must-take items packed by Johnny Apple, the late New York Times reporter and gourmand. Another exemplary list — but he also carried a small pepper mill.

    • Hi Terry: You comment made me chuckle. I don’t carry a pepper mill but I
      have added salt to my list. They hardly ever have salt on the table in Asia
      and I must admit that I’m addicted to the stuff.

  6. Wow Barbara, that’s a great (& complete!) list!! I’m printing it out & using it on my next trip, even if it kills me! :-)

    My problem is I’m always packing this or that item “just in case” – Heaven forbid there should be space leftover in my luggage!! :-)

    Thanx for the tips!

  7. That’s unacceptable, right?! Macs never used to be anywhere near that. I’m old enough to remember the very first that had pointer recognition and 2 buttons, nevermind all this new stuff they have.

  8. I could not find one single item you did not cover and then some. Great list and we will print this out and pass along all our friends, maybe even incorporate it into our website giving you credit of course.

  9. I could not find one single item you did not cover and then some. Great list and we will print this out and pass along all our friends, maybe even incorporate it into our website giving you credit of course.

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