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The Ultimate Travel Packing List

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Creating my Packing List was my least favorite part of planning our Around the World Travels. I was torn between being a minimalist traveler and the fact that I was packing for a year-long adventure that would span all seasons. Furthermore, as a budget-conscious traveler, I was faced with creating a travel packing checklist that included essential travel items, plus several Just-In-Case items, so that I wouldn’t have to buy them on the road. It was a strenuous task, but I am now convinced that I have created the Ultimate Packing List.  

My detailed packing list includes every item I carry – including the bags I carry it all in. It is, perhaps, important to note that while we are full-time travelers, what I pack does not differ greatly from what I would pack for a week-long vacation. Whether you are looking for an international travel packing list for a week in Europe or a backpacking packing list for a month-long trip to Southeast Asia, our universal packing list can help!

In this post, I talk in detail about my trip packing list. To help fellow travelers, we also have a printable travel checklist that we share with our subscribers – so sign up here to get our checklist, plus other valuable travel tips!

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Travel Packing Trouble

I’ve never met anyone who loves packing for a trip. In fact, I think packing for a vacation is the most daunting, upcoming-trip-buzz-killer there is. Incorporating necessities for traveling, comfort and style – and resisting the urge to pack everything you own – can be a real struggle. I used to be an over-packer with a long packing list that went on forever. I was the traveler who checked two large suitcases for a one-week vacation…and only wore about a fifth of what was packed. However, those days are long behind me.

The more I traveled, the savvier I became. Coordinated outfits, essential toiletries and sensible shoes were the items I packed. I had a streamlined formula that destroyed my packing dilemma. I could pack for a week-long, overseas trip in about an hour; for weekend jaunts, I could pack and be out the door in 20 minutes’ time.


Travel Packing List for Year-Long Trip

When we decided to spend a year traveling the world, I contemplated what I would carry…and all of my packing angst returned. I spent weeks poring over packing checklists; agonizing over what would make the cut and fretting what would be left behind. I read travel blogs that insisted I needed over-priced travel products; a farce I regrettably fell for regarding some items and good advice I carelessly dismissed regarding others. Yet, I retained enough self-awareness to know some travel items would never make my list.

On the day we boarded that long haul flight to begin our around the world journey, my biggest source of stress was worrying over what I had packed.

Our one year of full-time travel turned into two…and two years turned into three. Packing is no longer a source of anguish; I’m happy with my packing choices. Since we started traveling the world in April 2014, what I carry in my backpack has barely changed – only requiring a few small adjustments and tweaks.

{For more insight to packing for long-term travel, read our post, What I Packed to Travel the World}


Ultimate Packing List For World Travel

My packing list seldom varies, but if I add (or get rid of!) anything to what I pack, I add/delete it on this Packing List. I’ve provided a link to each item so you can see if it will work for your packing list, too. I have attempted to link to the exact product (make, model and color) that I own, but some of the things I pack are no longer in production. In that case, I’ve linked to a product similar to mine. (If you click on any products that are no longer available, please send me an email so I can update with a better link!)

I share my packing list information in an effort to help other travelers create their packing lists for vacation, but packing is extremely personal. Above all, my best packing advice: Pack What’s Comfortable!  

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When it comes to making a travel items list, the best place to start is with clothing.

I pack clothes that can be worn in all weather; the items I carried in my backpack to Iceland in winter  are the same as when we travel to Vietnam. While my list of clothes to pack will likely work for travelers making a vacation packing list for California in the spring or Croatia in the autumn, I think summer or winter travelers should plan clothing that is better suited for the weather.

Likewise, if you are creating a beach vacation packing list – or are packing for a cruise to the Arctic –  then you will want to tailor your checklist to weather-appropriate gear.

Pro Tip: All clothing on your travel items list should be of the same color scheme to create a travel capsule wardrobe. This is a great hack for packing light – as you will need to pack fewer clothing items overall. Find out more about creating your capsule wardrobe and other top tips in our Packing Hacks blog post!


Pants, Skirts and Dresses

My trip packing checklist includes a variety of bottoms – including jeans, yoga pants, leggings, capris, a skirt and a skort – but I only pack one of each. Many minimalist travelers warn against packing heavy jeans, but honestly, I love wearing jeans – so they make my packing list.

I already mentioned that I don’t travel with zip-off, convertible pants – and here is why: I am not comfortable wearing them. I do think they are brilliant – and I would even say they are backpacking essentials if you are an adventure traveler or extreme minimalist. However, also as I mentioned earlier, you must be comfortable in the clothes you wear on your trip. I packed zip-off pants for my first trip to Europe and I hated wearing them because I didn’t think they were fashionable (I will admit, however, that they styles have come a long way since then!).

In warmer weather destinations, I love wearing dresses for long days of sightseeing…but they are also great for cool weather, when I can warm up the outfit with leggings and my thin hoodie. (This is why matching all clothing items is key!) My dresses are casual, loose-fitting and non-revealing (so that I am able to visit attractions – like churches and temples – in destinations where modesty is required).



Long Sleeve Shirts, Short Sleeve Shirts and Tank Tops

When we first left to travel the world, I didn’t pack enough shirts – I only had 1 tank top, 2 t-shirts and 3 long sleeve shirts in my bag. It was a huge mistake, as I was constantly doing laundry in both warm and cold weather climates. I have since added additional shirts without adding too much weight to my bag, which has resulted in seriously cutting down on the time I spend doing sink laundry!

That said, washable, quick-drying, non-wrinkling shirts are packing essentials. Pay close attention to the materials of the clothing you pack. If you need to wash a shirt on the road, you want to know that it will dry quickly – and that any wrinkles will shake out of clothing after taking it out of your bag.



Undergarments, Pajamas and Swimsuits

It seems to me that most travelers either over-pack or under-pack undergarments. Those who over-pack argue that you should have 1 (and sometimes 2!) pairs of underwear and socks for every day of the trip. Minimalist packers contend that undergarments are the easiest to sink wash and the quickest to dry, so there is no reason to pack more than 5 pairs of each for any length trip. I pack 8 pairs of underwear and 8 pairs of socks (which is also what I recommend for anyone who is making a packing list for a week or longer).

ExOfficio underwear are all the rage for travelers – but, personally, they haven’t lived up to my expectations due to an awkward fit, color breakdown and ripped elastic. I still travel with them (mostly because of the money I shelled out to buy them), but I much more prefer wearing the breathable Fruit of the Loom bikini underwear – which cost a mere fraction of the price of ExOfficio.



Travel Outerwear: Coats, Gloves, Hats, Scarves and Wraps

We travel in all seasons, so I pack a variety of caps and gloves (as I found they were necessary after we first started traveling). However, for a shorter, destination-specific trip, I would choose between thin and wool, rather than packing both. And, quite obviously, winter apparel is completely unnecessary if making a beach trip packing list. 

The most multi-function clothing item I pack is my wrap – and, in my opinion, it is an essential item for travelers. In addition to its obvious purpose, I have used mine as a beach towel, bath towel, picnic blanket, airport blanket and bus pillow. The one I carry is black, thin and cost around $10…and I use it all the time.

I have – unfortunately – gone through several pairs of sunglasses since we started traveling. I started with my favorite – and expensive – pair of Maui Jim sunglasses, but lost them while in Ireland. After that, I went ultra-cheap…and wasn’t surprised when three consecutive pairs broke just after a few weeks of use. I currently travel with a moderately-priced pair of polarized sunglasses, which are sufficient…but not heartbreaking if they get lost or broken. (That said, I am looking forward to the day I upgrade to Maui Jim’s again!)



Travel Shoes

When it comes to shoes, I think most travelers can get by with just 3 pairs. For more detailed information about what shoes to pack for your trip, read our blog post, The Best Travel Shoes!


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When it comes to your toiletries packing list, it is important to strike a balance between space-saving items and short-changing yourself. Our best recommendation when packing toiletries is to consider the overall length of your trip. If you are packing for two weeks or less, it is best to pack travel-size toiletries.

That said, bathroom essentials are available all around the world, so replacing these items while traveling is not likely an issue. If you are packing for a long trip, it might be better to bring some full size toiletries (but it really depends on where you are going and how much it would cost to replace them at your destination).

Pro Tip: One more thing to consider is that the price of sunscreen and shaving cream is ridiculously inflated in some of the top destinations around the world, so it’s best to pack an ample supply.


Essential Travel Toiletries List

Re-fillable, travel bottles are the way to go for bathroom essentials like lotions and shampoo. Many travelers swear by the GoToob brand. If you don’t have travel size bottles, however, many travel-size items are sold together in a convenient toiletry travel kit

I used to travel with disposable facial cloths (cut into halves or quarters to make the box last longer), but now just use regular soap to wash my face. I have also used soap instead of shaving cream.



Makeup and Travel Essentials for Women

While we do include makeup on this packing list for women, I recommend keeping it simple with just a few makeup travel bag essentials.

Also, ladies, don’t forget to put feminine products on your travel essentials list! In some countries – like many in South America and several in Europe – the choice of feminine products isn’t as liberal as in other parts of the world (like the United States). If you have a preference for tampons, you should pack them, as they may not be available where you are traveling. Some female travelers like to use the Diva Cup


Travel First Aid Bag

My first aid travel bag is one of my must-have travel items. I carry an assortment of medications (both prescription and over the counter) that are within easy reach if I need them.

Medicine bottles can take up a lot of space and it can be tempting to just mix all the medications together, which isn’t ideal. I use small, individual jars with screw caps to store medications – and use a marker to label each bottle. A weekly pill box could also work.

For more of our tips, read our blog post Staying Healthy While Traveling!



All of our odds and ends items may not be necessary for a weekend packing list, but a few of these items are all-star travel accessories…and you might already have them around the house.

Check out our list of Everyday Items for Travel for tips on why you should pack these items!




As digital nomads, carrying all of these electronics are essential. It does, however, complicate travel days, so we only recommend that you pack what you will really use on your trip!




What We Pack In For Travel

What we pack in is just as important as the items on our packing checklist.

We carry backpacks, rather than suitcases, because we think it is a more efficient way to travel. You can read more about the pros and cons of both in our blog post, Backpack vs Suitcase!

Packing Cubes are the top item on our travel accessories list! We splurged on packing cubes and compression bags before we started traveling full-time – and it was, without a doubt, one of the very best pre-travel purchases we made. We cannot imagine traveling without them! For more details, read about the benefits of Packing Cubes in our post, 5 Ways Packing Cubes Make Travel Easier!

I travel with a Messenger Bag – which doubles as my Carry-On and my Day Pack. We feature other styles of day bags in our blog post, Which is the Best Day Pack for Travel?



Start planning your trip! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!


We Want To Know: Is there anything you would add to our Ultimate Travel Packing List? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below! 


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