Since so many of you have expressed amazement at how I am able to travel long-term with so little luggage, I thought I’d share some of my travel packing tips. 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 devices they promote are absolutely unnecessary. Their job is 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 quite easy to do overseas. In most cases you can drop it off one day and have it the next – often for a very low cost. 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 economically.
I travel with a medium size (no hard frame) backpack that contains all my electronic equipment and personal items, as well as a 22″ carry-on rolling suitcase. These two pieces of luggage hold everything I need for both warm and cold climates. Once I arrive at a destination I transfer my camera, phone, lip balm, Emory board, comb, flashlight, Moleskin notebook, earphones, phone charger, and wallet (with copy of my passport, credit card, debit card, and driver’s license) to a smaller backpack that is stored inside my suitcase while traveling.
Here are my travel packing tips about what to carry and how to carry it:
- Long trousers
- Hiking boots and socks
- Long sleeve top
TO CARRY ON IN BACKPACK:
- Wallet (containing ID card with contact info, Driver’s License, Passport, Certificate of vaccination against yellow fever, Credit Card, ATM Card)
- Airline tickets/itinerary
- Backup 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
- Extra passport photos
- Camera, case, extra battery, extra storage cards, battery charger, lens cleaning tissue
- MacBook in case, charger, extra cord
- Phone, charger, and headphones
- Plug adapters
- Wifi Extender
- Moleskin notebook
- Mini flashlight
- 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
- Lip balm
- Small combination padlock
TO PACK IN MAIN CHECKED BAG:
- One pair of long trousers
- One long Yoga pants
- One capri pant
- One pair of shorts
- Six T-shirts
- Three long sleeve tops/shirts
- Sweater or hoodie
- One pair of pajamas
- Sarong (as a beach towel)
- Swimsuit, hat, and sunscreen
- Mosquito repellent
- Detergent sheets
- Zip lock sandwich, snack & gallon bags
- Travel towel
- Toiletries kit (shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, razors, lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, toenail clipper, nail file)
- Medical kit (Band-Aids, Hydrocortisone cream, Dramimine, Imoddium, Benadryl, anti-viral, aspirin)
- Yoga mat
- Rubber bands, & safety pins
- Sewing kit
- Travel sink plug
- Combination padlock
- Cable for securing luggage to train racks
- Day-pack with rain cover
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.
25 thoughts on “Travel Packing Tips for Long-Term Trips”
Before you start putting your personal packing list together, remember the following:
Wherever you go – you can buy most clothing items overseas cheaper than at home. And often in much nicer designs – if they fall apart, so what? This goes especially for T-shirts, underwear (coming to that later), soap, face cloth, towels, aspirins and all the basic meds ……all cheaper in the third world.
Now to Barbara’s packing list:
TO CARRY ON IN BACKPACK:
• Wallet (containing ID card with contact info, Driver’s License, Passport, Certificate of vaccination against yellow fever, Credit Card, ATM Card)
• Airline tickets/itinerary
Now that’s a really a bad bad idea ! Always carry those on your person at all times !!
Carry them in a thin travel pouch under! your shirt – either in front or back. I prefer to wear mine in the small of my back. And cash, Ceran wrapped, in a zippered money belt.
Next time you visit an outdoors equipment store or your favourite online store – look for them!
• One long sleeve top
• One short sleeve top
• One Capri pants
• One set of underwear
• Small combination padlock
Totally unnecessary in your carry on day pack. Pack a 400 page fast reading paper back for stop overs and long waits instead.
TO PACK IN MAIN CHECKED BAG:
• Six T-shirts
• Three long sleeve tops/shirts
Two of each is enough – should you need more buy locally.
• One pair of pajamas
This is a joke, right? Even here up north in my igloo at 40 degrees below I don’t wear them – just pull up another sled dog for warmth.
• Sarong (as a beach towel)
Buy locally, cheaper and much nicer designs. Also doubles as a bed sheet.
• Detergent sheets
A Zip Loc bag (double bagged is even better) with regular powdered detergent is light weight, easy to replenish and a lot cheaper !
• Travel sink plug
Now that is an useful item!
I always wash my boxer shorts, t-shirts and regular shirts in the sink. Soak for one hour and dry overnight. Even if still a little bit damp in the morning – wear it, it ain’t gonna kill you!
Too much Lao Khao or Mekong Whisky will, though.
“ “ 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.””
You can arrive in Kathmandu with only a day pack with basic stuff. Everything else for the trek like:
used guide books/maps, North Fake Mountain gear, sleeping bags and down jackets, can be bought cheaply In K’Du. If you fall in love with your new down bag or jacket – mail them home.
The only exception:
Good, broken in hiking boots – bring those from home ! With decent socks. And a light weight wind breaker for freezing air-con bus rides or airport lounges.
Since I am an old guy I don’t need much in my day pack – a light weight Tablet, a cell phone and a small digital camera, that’s it.
• Backup 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
Fine, also scan them and bunker them in your e mail account or wherever, and also e mail them to a trusted friend.
. Extra passport photos
You can have those cheaply done in all the larger towns.
What I miss on this list:
– US Army P 38 can opener
– bottle opener and cork screw
– plastic fork, spoon and chop sticks
– a decent pocket knife with a 4 “ blade, buy cheaply locally. Don’t bring one of those weird
multi function very expensive Swiss Army knives with puny blades and confusing
attachments you’ll never use.
– A Leatherman always comes in handy.
**** Remember – do not carry the above on an airplane *****
Optional for back packers staying in guest houses in more remote places and beach cabanas:
– light weight tropical sleeping bag – can be used like
a blanket, use your beach sarong as a bed sheet
– mosquito net
And finally, among the multitude of travel sites two come to mind for their excellence (no, not the Loopy Planet or Travelfish):
– The man in seat 61
For world wide rail schedules and more
– Tezza’s Beaches and Islands
You can google this – I don’t know if it is kosher to
post web links here?
Love your blog. The only thing I would add to the packing tips is, if you’re going to travel between hot and cold climates, pack a set of thermal underwear. I’ve found them really useful worn under khaki pants and long-sleeved shirts.
Thanks Khali. That’s a good suggestion.
Great tips for packing. Packing a big problem when i travel i think it’s useful for me.Thanks for share with us
Barbara, you make a very good point about not taking tons of clothing along. It’s just not practical. Nice list!
Thanks Cez. Most of us pack way too much. Over the years I’ve become quite the expert in packing light, and I now get all my clothes and toiletries for all kinds of weather into one 22″ carry-on suitcase.
I was doing lots of research on avoiding luggage fees and fuel surcharges and one thing I’ve found is to follow the rest of the world baggage sizes: 21.7X15.7X9. How has the 22″ worked for you? Do you check through your suitcase or carry on?
Hi Heidi: The 22″ is rounded off, so it meets all the international baggage size requirements. Because of what I do, I have to carry a lot of equipment. No way I can check laptop, cameras and lenses. So my one free carry-on is a small backpack that holds all my equipment and I check the 22″ suitcase.
No umbrella, rain coat or poncho? What do you do when it rains besides cover your day pack?
Hi Barbara: Nope, none of them. I’ve tried carrying them but ended up tossing them every time. An umbrella is impossible because I can’t hold it AND take photos at the same time. Rain Ponchos are too hot and rain jackets take up too much room in the suitcase for the number of times I use them. Usually, if rain is forecast I use it as a work day, but if I’m out and about and it starts to rain, I just take a break in a coffee shop until the rain stops or lessens. I do carry a cover for my backpack and purse, which hold all my electronic equipment, but it doesn’t matter if I get wet- I don’t melt. Only a few times in the ten years I’ve been traveling have I been caught in a downpour and ended up drenched.
That’s a useful list… I usually forget a lot, but it’s probably due to my last second packing habit 😉
LOL Anna. I’m also a last second packer, that is, on the few occasions where I’m somewhere long enough to unpack. But I guess I’ve got it down to a science now.
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.
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.
I would rather keep the important things like passport, money, etc. in a safer place, like a waist bag in example, since the day pack is the most likely to be stolen
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.
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!
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.
Thanks for sharing your list. You may want to add a Kindle to your list. You can read it in full sun and it is very light! I had no interest in one until I watched this interview with Jeff Bezos on Charlie Rose: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Wireless-Reader-Wifi-Graphite/dp/B002Y27P3M/ref=amb_link_354202242_3/184-6968283-9885347?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-1&pf_rd_r=0WBKWC07PQS01FD615XA&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1277208942&pf_rd_i=507846
I saw this article through Facebook (someone posted it). After reading, I clicked Like then shared it.
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!
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.
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.