What to pack to travel the world? Good question. Want to see the ultimate packing list I use for my full-time travels? Below you’ll find my full packing list travel, which will totally give you some ideas for your next trip.
When traveling the world or embarking on a long-term travel adventure, there are some essential items you’ll need to pack in order to have a successful trip. It’s different for each and every one – so what works for one person, might not work for another. But there’s a formula for what you’ll need to bring on your trip, whether it’s for a week, a month, or even a year or longer.
I first wrote about this in 2010, and since then my “hobo essentials” have changed and morphed many times over. In October 2019 I re-composed this entire travel packing list and surrounding content.
I now keep this post up to date with the latest and greatest travel bits and bobs that I hit the road with…every time! It’s the perfect template of travel bag contents so you can create your own ultimate pack list.
Check out my special Amazon Storefront with specially curated travel gear that I use all the time!
Travel Kit Contents: This is the Real Deal
This is – quite literally – exactly what I pack for my full-time and long-term travels. There are a few minor differences in colour or style (some things I own are older or newer), and in a couple of cases I’ve gone with a very close approximation (since I may have bought that scarf from a Nepalese lady in a market). Your own packing list for vacation will vary according to your personal style and preferences; consider this your travel packing list template.
In the description next to each of the items in this post, you’ll learn why I travel with that item, tips and tricks for using it effectively, and a link so you can get more information and see where to buy it yourself.
Note that many of the links below are affiliate links; if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a (deplorable, but noteworthy) commission. This is how I make my living, and can spend all the time I do providing posts like these to help you travel. I thank you in advance for your support!
Use this travel packing list as a guide for developing your own ultimate packing list, for vacation, a long-term trip, or lifestyle travel. The truth is, once you have a certain amount of basics, you can travel for as long as you want with it. The beauty of having versatile clothing and items is that you can pack light and still have everything you need for an extended period of time.
FELLAS: Don’t get overwhelmed by “little black dress” recommendations. Aside from clothing and some toiletries, you’ll get lots of use from this packing list.
For wardrobe choices, check out the Best Travel Clothes for Men, and also Aviator’s collection of merino wool tops and travel-friendly pants.
Packing Tips Before You Travel
Let us first start with the most basic and important item on your travel packing checklist: your documents. This is especially critical if you’re traveling internationally, but even if you’re staying within your own country, it’s always good to have all of your documents in order.
See also: Essential Things to Do Before You Travel
First on the list is travel insurance. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have good travel insurance when you’re on the road. Travel insurance will protect you in case of an emergency, whether it’s a medical situation, lost luggage, or even trip cancellation.
Travel insurance can be obtained through your credit card company, travel agent, or directly from an insurance provider. I always recommend getting travel insurance directly from an insurance provider. This way, you know that you’re getting a policy that is specifically designed for travelers and that will cover you in case of an emergency.
There are many different types of travel insurance policies available, so make sure to read the fine print and choose a policy that suits your needs. Start with this travel insurance guide that includes a glossary and some specific recommendations.
If you’re traveling internationally, you will need a passport. A passport is a document that proves your identity and citizenship and allows you to travel to foreign countries. If you don’t have a passport, you can apply for one at your local post office or through the Passport Office.
Make sure to check the expiration date on your passport and make sure it is valid for at least six months after your planned return date. Also, be sure to check the visa requirements of the countries you are visiting and make sure you have the necessary visas.
A visa is a document that allows you to enter a foreign country for a specific period of time. Visas are required for most countries, and the requirements vary from country to country.
There are two main types of visas: tourist visas and business visas. Tourist visas are usually valid for a shorter period of time, while business visas are typically valid for a longer period of time.
Always make sure to double-check the visa requirements of the country you are visiting and make sure you have the correct type of visa.
Flight tickets are your proof of travel and allow you to board your plane. It is crucial that you have your flight tickets with you when you travel.
If you’re traveling on an international flight, make sure to have your passport and visa with you when you check in for your flight.
If you have booked a hotel, hostel, or other types of lodging in advance, be sure to bring your confirmation with you. This will help to ensure that you get the room you booked and that there are no problems with your reservation.
Now that you have the most basic needs covered, let’s move on to what luggage and packing tools you’ll need for your trip.
Time to Pack my Bags! Here’s the Ultimate Packing List for Travel
Here’s my international travel packing list in all its glory…..keep reading below to learn how I reduce this to carry-on size only, along with a few clarifying notes and packing information. When it’s time to pack my bags, this travel checklist is exactly what I use.
Vacation Packing List: Luggage and Packing Tools
One of the most important aspects of packing is choosing the right luggage and packing tools. There are many different types of luggage to choose from, so it’s important to find one that suits your needs.
Carry-on luggage should be small enough to fit in the overhead compartment of the plane and should have a weight limit of around 10-15 kg. Checked luggage is larger and can weigh up to 30 kg (though most airlines allow something closer to 20kg for free).
Here’s a list of luggage and packing tools that I highly recommended and that will make packing a breeze.
OSPREY FARPOINT / FAIRVIEW WHEELED TRAVEL PACK – If you are not aware of it yet, a wheeled travel backpack is an amazing travel packing tool. It is specially designed to be comfortable enough to wear as a backpack but with wheels and a handle for easy rolling, making it the best of both worlds.
This bag is perfect for the items on this trip packing list. It’s 65 litres, and has the added benefit of some zip-away backpack straps for when rolling isn’t practical. (Here’s why that’s great). Here are the features I look for in my checked luggage: soft-sided, rugged wheels, durable lockable zippers. This luggage has all that…and more. NOTE: It is not carry-on sized.
If you need something larger, check out the Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Travel Pack 80L/28″, or the Daylite Wheeled Duffel 85L (though something as big and heavy as these will be a bear to wear on your back, so use the straps only when you must).
When I’m traveling with carry-on luggage only, I use the Pacsafe EXP21 Rolling Carry-On (since discontinued. If I were to replace it, I would choose the Osprey Daylite Carryon Wheeled Duffel 40L, which has some ingenious backpack straps that don’t take away from valuable carry-on packing space).
If you prefer hard-shell spinner luggage (checked or carry-on size), I recommend the Textured Collection by Level8. The material is ultralight and scratch-resistant, the wheels are super quiet and ridiculously smooth, and the built-in TSA combo locks are fun. If you need a bit more space in a carry-on, the Level8 Grace EXT Expandable rolling carry-on with separate laptop pocket is amazing. This is what I’ve been traveling with lately. Available only on Amazon, here.
See also: Checked vs. Carry On Luggage, and How to Choose What You Need
HOBOROLL (SEGSAC TRAVELER) – The Hoboroll has been a long-time friend and useful packing/travel companion. It organizes all my little stuff (like underwear, socks, scarves, workout gear, etc) and compresses it to fit gracefully into my luggage. And it’s ultralight so it doesn’t add weight while saving lots of space.
Use the Discount Code the-prof-hobo for 25% off ($10 minimum purchase)!
PACKABLE TRAVEL BACKPACK – This is one of my favourite pieces of travel kit. Sea to Summit has two options: for a day pack that packs down to the size of a tennis ball (smaller, actually), check out their award-winning Ultra-Sil Day Pack. Here’s a video demo I created for you. The backpack is perfect for carrying around your essentials while exploring a new city or going on a day hike.
PURSE, WALLET, DAYPACK – I cannot stress enough how important it is to invest in a good-quality purse, wallet, and daypack. A cheap purse will fall apart after just a few months of use, and a poorly made wallet can be a pickpocket’s dream come true.
Your daypack, purse, and wallet choices boil down to personal preference and needs. At the very least, look for RFID protection in your wallet. Having a purse/daypack that is water resistant and tamper-proof also helps.
Pacsafe makes great secure travel-friendly and stylish bags – I own a few purses and daypacks made by them and can attest to their quality. My Pacsafe daypack of choice is the Pacsafe Citysafe CX Anti-Theft Backpack. It can be worn as a backpack or carried as a tote, has all kinds of organizational and security features, and is made of recycled materials!
While I think Pacsafe has the best range of options, I recently tested the Everyday Totepack by Peak Design, which I think has its merits and is a sleek unisex look with some incredible organizational features.
For yet another option (that I think could be a real winner), I’m currently testing out the Knack Packs S2 Medium sized expandable backpack. The ability to expand from 24L to 35L makes this backpack incredibly versatile for all travel needs.
See also: Best Anti-Theft Bags and Accessories, and Tips for Keeping Your Stuff Secure
Vacation Packing List: Clothing
Now, let us move on to one of the most important aspects of packing – clothes. The number of clothes you take with you will, of course, depend on the climate of your destination and the duration of your trip. For instance, if you are going to a tropical country for two weeks, you won’t need to pack as many clothes as someone who is going to Europe for six months.
As a general rule of thumb, I would recommend packing clothes that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits. For example, a neutral-colored top can be worn with a skirt, shorts, or pants. Denim is also very versatile and can be dressed up or down.
I’m obviously skewing this trip packing list towards women (since this is exactly what I travel with), but men can translate the basic idea to fit their own needs.
2023 UPDATE: I did a 3-month carry-on only trip through Europe in summer with a 100% Merino Wool Travel Capsule Wardrobe. It worked a charm! Here’s why you might want to consider doing the same.
Here is a basic formula that you can use as a packing guide:
2 PAIRS OF (FULL-LENGTH) PANTS – Two pairs of pants are all you’ll need, if you’re also bringing the stuff below. Fellas, unless you really want to pack dresses and leggings, you might just want to take three pairs of pants. 😉 (See also: Best Travel Clothes for Men). My absolute must-haves are Anatomie’s Kate Cargo Pants and Luisa Skinny Jeans. If you have sticker shock, click here to learn why it’s actually worth it.
Use the discount code NORA20 to get $20 off your order!
(Minimum order amount is $120 to qualify. Enjoy free shipping on all domestic orders.
1 PAIR LEGGINGS – Multifunctional pants such as yoga pants or leggings can be worn both as pants and as pajamas, and as an underlayer for extra warmth. They are also great for working out, hiking, or simply lounging around the house. I am utterly in love with Unbound Merino’s leggings – first off they’re made of merino wool which has a thousand travel-friendly properties. In addition, they’re comfy, durable, flattering, and the hidden zipper pocket helps keeps a few things secure while you’re on the go.
1 PAIR CAPRI PANTS or SHORTS – Capri pants or shorts are perfect for hot weather and can be dressed up or down. Go with a pair of capri pants or shorts – as you like (I find capri pants to be more versatile).
“LITTLE BLACK DRESS” – Every girl needs the perfect “little black dress”! Here’s what to look for in a travel dress: lightweight and short sleeved (you can add layers for cooler climates), wrinkle-free, dark colour, classic style. I actually own two dresses, but if you want to keep your pack light, one will do.
I am currently testing out the ultimate travel dress, by Unbound Merino. It’s simple, comfortable, and can be dressed up or down with belts, jackets, and accessories. Stay tuned: it’s coming to stores soon.
2 TANK TOPS – Regardless of climate, tank tops are invaluable as shirts (duh), Pjs, workout wear, and underlayers. I like to have 2-3 tank tops on hand, and I replace them as needed. If you want a high-quality and super duper comfy one, check out Anatomie’s Bri, or Unbound Merino’s muscle tank.
2 TEE SHIRTS – 2-3 tee shirts are ideal (depending on how many tank tops you also have). I really like the Evolve Top by Encircled because it can be worn a few different ways, dressed up or down, and is super comfortable (and sustainably made).
I’m also a big fan of merino wool, and this merino t-shirt from Aviator ticks all the boxes.
For a lighter tee that is impossibly soft and comfortable, I am in love with the Bamboo V-Neck Tee by NxTSTOP. They have styles for both men and women.
1-2 LONG SLEEVED SHIRTS – Assuming you’ll be traveling through different climates, a long-sleeved shirt is a must. I like these ones (REI, Amazon) because they’re understated and multi-purpose, they layer well, and Icebreaker makes awesome long-wear quality merino wool stuff. It will take you from hiking the mountainside to relaxing at the cafe.
My latest love affair is with Aviator’s merino wool hoodies; everything is sustainably sourced, well made, travel friendly, and UBER comfortable.
CARDIGAN (SUGGESTION: CHRYSALIS CARDI MULTI-FUNCTIONAL CARDIGAN/DRESS/SCARF) – I had the Chrysalis Cardi (pictured above) for over 6 years and got a ton of use out of it! It’s super versatile, ridiculously comfortable, and can be worn a million ways, from scarf to dress to shawl. A great extra layer to have on hand.
If this doesn’t float your boat (or if you’re a fella), check out Aviator’s hoodies. Their zip-up First Class Hoodie has travel-friendly features like a hood that doubles as a sleep mask, mitten-cuffs, and zip up pockets.
LIGHTWEIGHT JACKET – I have a couple of light-to-medium weight jackets (which is partly why I tend to travel with checked luggage). But if you want to pack light you only need one, and if I had to choose, I’d choose the Kenya Safari Jacket (by Anatomie) for its versatility, style, and comfort. Here are Anatomie’s lightweight jackets.
PACKABLE WATERPROOF RAIN JACKET – You need a waterproof layer that can fold up into nothing. You can use it on its own in warm climates, and over layers in cool climates. Jack Wolfskin makes the best one I’ve ever tried: the JWP Shell is waterproof, windproof, breathable, comfortable, and the world’s first fully recycled jacket.
Buy direct from Jack Wolfskin here (women, men), or on Amazon (women, men).
DOWN JACKET (Jack Wolfskin, Amazon) – The Jack Wolfskin JWP Down Jacket is part of their Pack And Go series, designed specifically for travel. It packs down to less than half the size/weight of my last down jacket, but keeps me just as warm. It’s wind proof, water resistant, and the down is RDS-certified (responsibly sourced). I’ve worn it on cool nights in temperate climates and on mountaineering expeditions alike. I consider it essential travel gear.
Note: The rain jacket and the down jacket above can be worn separately, but also together for an additional level of protection against cold/weather. It’s like having three jackets in two. Here’s a video I made to explain the concept.
UNDERWEAR – I have around 5 pairs of underwear; synthetic materials are notoriously easy to dry, so bring fewer pairs and wash more often as a rule. (I usually stock up at La Senza when I can).
BRAS – One or two bras should be enough. Look for support, a good fit, and most of all, comfort. I buy relatively high-quality bras since I wear them daily and they need to last. I love Understance for their ethically made bras that don’t have underwires and thus pack up like a dream (and still provide a ton of support).
SPORTS BRA – If you are actively participating in extracurricular activities while traveling, you might want to consider packing a sports bra. I use my sports bra for working out, and for active expeditions such as long hikes.
PJs – If you are staying in communal dwellings or in other people’s homes, it’s prudent to have something to sleep in (and make nighttime bathroom runs in). So comfort is paramount; but also something that you can be seen in (if not downtown, then at least downstairs).
BATHING SUIT – 1-2 bathing suits will do (depending on how much you like to swim/sun); bikinis have the added benefit of doubling as emergency bras/underwear!
SCARF (FOR STYLE & WARMTH) – A warm scarf takes the edge off cool or cold days, is easily layered and accessorized, and can be used to wrap up fragile items (like external hard drives) while traveling. I like to buy scarves on the road; they’re the perfect wearable souvenir!
WARM HAT – Choose a low-profile, lightweight, easily packable hat that you can chuck on in cool climates. It also doubles as a packing-aid to pad fragile items.
Vacation Packing List: Footwear
Your choice of footwear can make or break your trip. They’re important for comfort, function, and style. But also, they need to be multi-functional otherwise you’ll be hauling around too much weight. Here’s what I travel with:
SANDALS – It’s important to be selective when it comes to choosing the right travel sandals. I could write an entire post about my specific choice of sandals and what makes for the best travel sandals. Wait a minute: I did! You must read this before you buy/select your next pair of sandals for travel.
VIVAIA – Vivaia makes sustainable washable footwear that is incredibly comfortable, folds up and packs extremely well, and looks incredible. I get compliments every single time I wear them, they’re both casual and dressy, and they’ve replaced my walking/casual shoes below. I have five pairs of Vivaia shoes. Check them out in this video I made.
WALKING/CASUAL SHOES (OPTIONAL) – These are optional, depending on your personal style and the climate you are traveling in. (You could just get a decent pair of shoes that fit the below description for hiking and wear those everywhere).
2023 Update: I have found the perfect combination of the above casual walking shoes with the below hiking shoes in the Xero Prio! They’re not as hardcore in the hiking department as the Terraflex or Mesa Trail II, but they’ll more than suffice for most trails. They’re also great for exercising, and snappy enough to wear around town as you would any pair of runners. They’re ultralight, super flexible, and ridiculously comfy.
HIKING SHOES (NOT BOOTS) – Who needs hiking boots! They take up too much room and weight and are clunky as hell.
I’m all about barefoot trail shoes, and in my experience they work 10x better than hiking boots! They’re ultralight, squishable, water-resistant, breathable, lightweight, and easy to pack.
My first pair of hiking shoes were Vivobarefoot Trail Shoes – which lasted seven years and hundreds of mountain trails. But when they wore out, I discovered there were other barefoot shoes out there at better price points.
So I got a pair of Xero Terraflex shoes, which are light, comfortable, and super-duper-grippy. If you want ankle support, Xero also makes barefoot hiking boots.
Not sure about using barefoot trail shoes in place of hiking boots? Watch this video which explains why I love them 100 times more!
CHEAP FLIP FLOPS – Not only are flip-flops commonly fashionable, but they are also highly functional. A cheap pair of flip-flops can serve many purposes: You can use them as indoor shoes/slippers, in dodgy showers, and even around many places in Asia where you are required to leave your shoes outside before entering temples and some businesses (and your expensive shoes will surely walk away without you). Flip-flops are light and easily packable; trust me you will find uses for them.
Vacation Packing List: Toiletries
This toiletries list you bring on your trip will depend entirely on what you need and prefer. You’ll see from the toiletries list below that I’m a raving fan of Lush products, since they’re natural, long-lasting, and mostly solid (which is infinitely easier for packing). One shampoo bar lasts me 6+ months. Use this toiletries list as a guide for your own selection of toiletries:
FACE WASH – Looking after your skin is more important than ever when traveling. Different climates can be incredibly harsh on your skin. This face wash is from Lush and is particularly handy for travelling as it is solid, making it easy to pack and use whilst on the road.
MOISTURIZER – Jojoba oil is a great multi-purpose moisturizer. I use it mostly for my face, and a few drops will do, so it lasts forever.
SHAMPOO BAR – The more solid toiletries you own, the less messy disasters and carry-on tribulations you’ll endure. I like Lush’s solid shampoos (and matching tins); they smell great and a little goes a long way – it lasts upwards of 6 months.
CONDITIONER – Unfortunately Lush’s solid conditioner bars don’t work well with my long curly hair. So I use whatever conditioner I can get my hands on while I’m on the road.
RAZOR – Get a razor with replaceable blades; they last longer, do a better job, and pack smaller. Go with a popular name like Gillette; you stand a better chance of finding replacement blades abroad.
HAIR TIES – If you have unruly hair these are a must! They can be really handy when the weather gets especially hot or humid and you want to get your hair up and out of the way.
TOOTHBRUSH – You can bring any ol’ toothbrush you like, but I love the Philips One by Sonicare rechargeable electric toothbrush. It’s super slim, comes with a travel case, and only needs a charge every month or two with a USB-C charge cord.
TOOTHBRUSH COVER – Looking for an easy way to keep your toothbrush clean and protected? These lightweight best-selling toothbrush covers ensure your toothbrush is kept clean wherever it’s stashed. Made from lightweight materials, they’re easy to include in any international travel packing list – so you can rest assured knowing your toothbrush is always fresh and bacteria-free.
TOOTHPASTE (TOOTHY TABS) – I like to use Lush’s Toothy Tabs, since they’re solid, take up almost no space, and just half a tab will do so they last a while. Here are some alternatives on Amazon (I’ve tried the Hello brand and it’s pretty good).
NATURAL FLOSS – I sometimes go years before I am in a good place to have my teeth checked/cleaned by a dentist (Chiang Mai is my preference), so I’m a sucker for good personal dental hygiene, of which dental floss is an essential part.
DEODORANT (SALT CRYSTAL) – This wee little crystal deodorant stick easily lasts 6+ months. In addition, it is free of harmful chemicals often found in traditional deodorants. Plus, its solid form makes it light and easy to pack into your vacation checklist when traveling.
EXFOLIATING WASHCLOTH – You get a great exfoliation, and a little soap (solid or liquid) goes a long way. The easy-to-hang tab makes it perfect for hanging in the shower or anywhere else, and it dries quickly so you don’t have to worry about mold or mildew build-up.
SOAP – You can usually collect little bars of soap along the way. I like to use natural soap when I have the chance, and Dr. Bronner’s makes some great (liquid and bar) soaps. The bars go a long way, and can be used for many things including hand-washing laundry; just get a container for it for easy transport and use.
NAIL CLIPPERS – I like the large sturdy toenail clippers, that also have a built-in file.
TWEEZERS – A good pair of tweezers is not only great for cosmetic purposes, but can be quite versatile for many unexpected uses!
MENSTRUAL CUP – These take some getting used to, but believe me it’s worth the effort. You’ll save the cost and hassle of carrying tampons/pads, there’s no waste, and you can wear them for longer times (ca-ching! Can you say long rides on buses?)
MAKEUP – My makeup kit is very small. I have an eyeshadow stick of some sort, a couple of shades of eyeliner, and mascara.
BLEMISH STICK – I get zits, and when I do, they’re usually epic. So I use Burt’s Bees herbal blemish stick to get them under some semblance of control.
I carry a small baggie with over-the-counter meds to get me through just about anything. I also take vitamins and supplements to keep my immune system in top working order – at the very least I take a probiotic and multi-vitamin when I travel. Learn more about that here: How to Stay Healthy While Traveling.
ALLERGY MEDS – I never know when I’m going to be staying with animals I’m allergic to, so I’ve usually got allergy medication on hand. A few different blister packs in a ziploc bag doesn’t take up much space or weight.
PAIN KILLERS – From menstrual pain to migraines, pain killers are life-savers in a pinch. A few different blister packs in a ziploc bag doesn’t take up much space and can be easily thrown into a weekend trip packing list.
ANTIBIOTIC CREAM – From nasty insect bites to cuts that just won’t heal, a good antibiotic cream can help the healing process and prevent infections. So I made sure to include it in my travel essentials list!
OIL OF OREGANO – I like to have these on hand to take when I feel illness coming on; oil of oregano is a great natural immune-booster.
TURMERIC – Turmeric is one of nature’s most potent antibiotics, without killing your natural (good) gut bacteria the way prescription antibiotics do. Also good for inflammation. You needn’t use capsules either; you can mix powdered turmeric and honey, or use fresh turmeric (where available).
Vacation Packing List: Electronics
Your specific choice of electronics depends on what you do on the road. Digital nomads will have more sophisticated technology requirements; as will professional photographers again. Here’s what I take:
LAPTOP – I live by my laptop, as it is the conduit to my location independent career. Thus I need something that is light, small, has a long battery life, and solid-state storage (which can take the hard knocks of travel better). For me, the winner is the MacBook Air with a souped-up ram and processor.
LAPTOP STAND – I initially balked at the extra space and weight required for this (and the accoutrements below to go with it), but after too many years of slouching in front of my laptop, I got this portable lightweight laptop stand to raise the screen to eye level. Neck pain: be gone!
WIRELESS KEYBOARD – With my laptop screen raised to eye level with my Roost stand, the next step to creating an ergonomically friendly workspace is this wireless keyboard. It’s much lighter and easier to travel with than I’d anticipated. While I initially had the Apple magic keyboard, I much prefer this foldable Bluetooth wireless keyboard by iClever.
WIRELESS TRACKPAD / MOUSE – The last component to my ergonomically friendly portable workspace is this wireless trackpad / mouse. I like having a trackpad separate from my keyboard, so I can arrange each at the best angles for whatever layout my workspace has.
WIRELESS EARBUDS – I’m not a big fan of noise-canceling headphones; some travelers swear by them. For me, they take up too much space and I don’t like to tune out my surroundings like that. But earbuds don’t tend to stay put in my ear – I’m always adjusting them! Not these pretties. They fit over the ear and stay put no matter what you’re doing. The sound is incredible, and it’s the best bang for your buck.
LAPTOP SLEEVE/CASE – Although a neoprene sleeve would do the trick, I like extra laptop protection in a case that also has pockets for chargers etc. InCase makes excellent laptop accessories; I have owned this very bag for almost 15 years, and I only replaced it (with another InCase sleeve) because I changed laptop dimensions.
SMARTPHONE – My phone is also my camera. I like to say I have the kind of camera that also makes phone calls. If you’re buying a new phone, make sure it’s unlocked so you have the greatest amount of choice for how to use it abroad.
Cell Phone Travel Basics: International Phone Plans, SIM Cards, and More will tell you everything else you need to know about using your phone while traveling.
PORTABLE EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE – A portable external hard drive is essential for computer backups, as well as storing extras like photos or movies that may not fit on your computer’s hard drive. I have this Silicon Power Rugged Shockproof model for extra durability.
KINDLE E-READER – I love my Kindle! It holds an arsenal of books (which are impractical to carry in paperback while traveling), and the Paperwhite version of the Kindle is great for reading in any environment with an adjustable internal light. And the battery life is exponentially better than the Kindle Fire and other tablets. Even though it’s small and practical to carry around, you can still store a lot of books on it- which comes in handy when planning trips!
ALL-IN-ONE POWER STRIP/EXTENSION CORD/SURGE PROTECTOR/TRAVEL ADAPTOR/USB CHARGER – I absolutely adore this puppy, and it comes with me on every trip, no exceptions. It’s a compact extension cord (since room layouts aren’t always great for working and charging stuff), has two outlets that you can plug any type of plug into, four USB charging points, and it has surge protection. It’s literally one of my favourite pieces of travel gear and when I’m packing for travel – checked or carry-on – it always comes with me.
Vacation Packing List: Extras
Almost done packing! Now that we’ve pretty much covered the essentials you need for traveling, let’s move on to some final tidbits that will make your trip go smoothly and comfortably.
SUNGLASSES – In the first few years I cycled through multiple pairs of cheap sunglasses. Finally I invested in Polarized Ray-Bans (REI, Amazon) and I haven’t looked back. They look and feel great and polarized lenses make all the difference. And because it’s a good name I’ve had them replaced when things have gone wrong (as they do) without question around the world. Plastic frames are more durable for travel.
SUN HAT – The main characteristic you need in a sun hat is something light, preferably made of a material that will keep your head cool as well as sheltering you from the sun. Bonus points for something that squishes into your luggage and comes out looking great.
EXERCISE BANDS – I exercise almost every day on the road, made possible by my exercise bands. They’re light and easy to pack, and help me to get a total body workout with various resistance exercises.
PLASTIC DOCUMENT HOLDERS – There’s always a few official documents you’ll need to have with you, in addition to copies of your passport and other ID. Store them in compact plastic folders to keep them safe, organized, and protected from the elements.
(BETTER THAN A) PASSPORT WALLET – I used to have a regular ol’ passport wallet; you know, the ugly utilitarian hangs-around-the-neck kind of wallet. It fits a purpose for travel days, but only on travel days.
Now, I use the Pacsafe Anti-Theft Tech Crossbody Bag. It’s large enough to hold passport, phone, cards, cash, and a pen, and slim and subtle enough that it doesn’t attract unwanted attention. Typical of Pacsafe, it also has all kinds of anti-theft features, is RFID-protected, and is even made of recycled fishing nets.
BONUS: I can use it as a hands-free alternative to carrying a wristlet when I go out on the town with just a few essentials. I walk through it in this video.
HEADLAMP (REI, Amazon) – This is an awesome piece of kit. Not only great for camping and backcountry trips, but it’s great for finding your way to the bathroom in yet another new place, providing light when there’s no power, and lighting the way when your day-hike goes long. The headlamp strap is crucial for hands free work. I personally own that is USB-rechargeable, and has a hands-free activation option.
STERIPEN ULTRA – If the water is questionable, a SteriPEN is crucial! Stop wasting plastic by buying bottled water; the SteriPEN makes any (clear) water drinkable in 60 seconds. This model is great because it fits any sized bottle top, and is USB rechargeable. But….a SteriPEN isn’t infallible. Click here to learn about all your options for drinking clean water abroad.
COLLAPSIBLE TRAVEL MUG – The latest addition to my Zero Waste Travel kit, I love this collapsible travel mug so much more than my Contigo, because it’s so ultralight and easy to carry! I have no excuse to ever order coffee in a paper cup again. IN ADDITION to my collapsible water bottle and travel mug, I also have collapsible tupperware and reusable cutlery. Click here to learn more about how I eliminate all single-use waste when I travel.
MINI SEWING KIT – You can sometimes find awesome mini-sewing kits in hotel rooms; until then, this is a good one to go with. Essential for repairing clothes along the way. And it’s the size of a credit card and pre-threaded. Can’t lose!
SMALL SCISSORS – Although these small scissors are usually called “nail scissors”, I find them to be a handy multi-purpose scissor that (almost) always clears carry-on security, just in case you’re going carry-on only.
Congratulations! You made it to the end of this ultimate packing list for full-time travel and long-term travel. Now that you know what to pack, don’t forget to print out this list or save it somewhere safe so you can reference it next time you’re packing for a trip! If you want to see me pack these items and learn more about my specific choices of gear, watch this video!
How I Turn This Into a Carry On Travel Packing List
This full travel packing checklist is not carry-on friendly. I check a wheeled case on flights (it weighs about 15kg), and I carry on my purse and daypack containing my electronics, a scarf for warmth/blanket needs, and anything else I’d need immediately if my luggage went on a round-the-world tour without me.
Learn more about why I prefer checked luggage for super long-term trips here.
When I am able leave my big suitcase somewhere (like a home base) and travel from there for a while, then I reduce this load to carry-on size. My first two carry-on only trips were about three months each; one was while sailing the Caribbean and the other was house-sitting in Switzerland.
I remember one fateful carry-on trip when I left my base in Grenada to spend a few months house-sitting in Panama. Unfortunately life got in the way of my best-laid plans, and I never returned to Grenada and the rest of my stuff there. After that happened, I ended up traveling for two whole years with carry-on luggage only! If you want to see what I used to pack, check out The Ultimate Carry-On Packing List.
Packing for Travel With Carry-On Only
When it’s packing time for a carry-on trip, obviously I don’t take as much stuff with me as I would with a full suitcase travel packing list; I reduce my wardrobe to a few items that will satisfy the climate and culture of my destination, and everything is colour-coordinated so I can mix and match at will. This reduces bulk quite a bit.
I also reduce my toiletries list down to the essentials for the amount of time I’m traveling. (Because I like some specialty toiletry products, I tend to stock up a bit when I have my full suitcase).
Lastly, I usually leave behind some or all the following (depending on the trip):
- Yoga mat
- Travel Towel
- Checked Luggage (obviously)
- Hiking Shoes (I bring the Xero Oswego or Xero Speed Force that takes care of walking around town, working out, and hiking).
Here are some tips for a smart and light packing guide, especially suitable for carry on travel:
Digital Nomad Packing List – Electronics
Any good digital nomad packing list is going to have a fair few electronics. (Check out this post, where a panel of professional travelers reveal what electronics they pack for their unique combo of travel and work: Electronic Travel Gear – Travel Experts Reveal What’s in Their Bags).
Remember that with every piece of electronic gear, there’s an accompanying entourage of cables and adaptors. The things I immediately need are in my laptop case, and the rest is usually contained in a nondescript light waterproof bag (dollar store stuff; nothing fancy).
Vacation Packing List: Occasional Extras
If I’m in one place for a while, I often buy an inexpensive item or two locally to complement my wardrobe (eg: stylish shoes, or warmer layers). I never spend much on them, and I usually give them away when I leave. The general rule is: if it can’t replace something in my bag, it can’t come with me!
Now that you have the ultimate travel packing list, you’re ready to tackle any trip. No matter where your adventure takes you, be sure to pack smart and enjoy the ride!
Down the Rabbit Hole…
I’ve written full reviews of some of the items you see in my packing list. If you’d like more information, check these out:
Travel Bag List
Luggage is one of my favourite topics, and I’ve tried just about every kind out there. Here’s a breakdown of my travel bag list:
Pro Packing Hacks – Here are the Best Travel Accessories to make your travels a breeze
Best Traveling Clothes for Men (including a solid case for merino wool)
Miscellaneous Travel Gear and Clothes
Every year, I publish an annual roundup of my new favourite pieces of travel gear. There’s just too much to list here! Have a look for yourself, and click on what interests you.