Day 260 was supposed to be a three hour bus ride from Pamukkale to Selçuk. It turned into five (maybe six?) and it was late afternoon by the time we checked into our guesthouse just down the street (more like a trail over a couple of hills away) from Ephesus. Not having enough time to take in the ancient city, we lounged around the pool and I started working on this epic “What to pack for a trip around the world” list. The bag below? That’s just my day-pack, and everything I *try* to squeeze in it on a daily basis. I’ve been sketching out the perfect bag (for travelers like me) since this trip started. I’ve dragged Andrew into nearly every bag shop in the last several countries looking for a replacement. When you don’t have the luxury of changing your bag up for what you’ll be doing everyday you want, you need, an amazing bag. Mine is not. Furthermore, my bag- and what’s in it (them) have become something of a portable apartment if you will. If you’re interested in what I’ve (somethings – we’ve) packed for this trip, please read on. Otherwise, save yourself from the seemingly massive list of what I think you need for a year of living out of a backpack.
What to pack for a trip around the world is almost as important as where you’re going to GO on your trip around the world. There are so many (many many many) packing lists out there from other bloggers, from the beginning of their trip… But not so many lists whittled down or edited DURING their trip. As I was preparing for our trip, I didn’t know if some of the items on other lists were really useful or just useful to that specific person, or if after the first month of travel they even used some of the things they packed! Having recently received an email asking what I packed, I decided to go back and revise my list at the (current) nine month mark. I know, it’s a little long and maybe with a little too much explanation- but I would have really appreciated this before we started, so hopefully (especially if you’re trying to prepare for your own adventure around the world) you find this list and my bajillion comments helpful! If you’re interested in seeing my original (pre-trip) packing list, it includes notes from after our six month mark on the trip. Obviously my list isn’t going to be exactly what every other traveler will want/need to carry along- but hopefully it provides a good starting point for you! I tried to include links for nearly everything as well, I found this helpful when I was trying to decide what I needed before we left.
A few notes before you dive into the list: I’m a photographer. Take my camera gear list with a grain of salt. If photography isn’t your jam- get a sweet point and shoot and knock yourself out. Sometimes I wish I only had one camera that fit into my pocket, unfortunately, I like to make things difficult for myself. Some items (especially of the electronic variety) are in Andrew’s bag- not mine, but I put all of our must-haves on the list. If you’re traveling solo, I’m sure you can pick and choose what you think will be important for your trip! Also- despite what this list conveys… less is more. I originally wanted a 30 Liter bag. I couldn’t fit everything in, so went ahead and got the 55 Liter. I wish I would have just edited down. For a previous two month trip, I started packing way in advance and would take something out every time I assessed the pile/bag. This time around, we were both quitting our jobs, moving out of our apartment in Seoul, leaving the country, and beginning this trip all in the same week. It was a mess. I learned the hard way that you really should pack your bags ahead of time. Walk around with them for a day to see if they will work for you! Also- like I have said in previous posts- sending things to myself along the way was an immense help. Opening a box of your own clothes, replacement sandals in your size, and some of your favorite snacks is like Christmas in the UAE in January!
- Main backpack or backpack alternative + rain cover (I would not recommend the Osprey Farpoint 55 (with daypack +daypack rain cover) Just say NO! to this bag combination. You can read about my reasons here, and here. I don’t mean to be such a hater- but it has simply not worked out for me. at all. If you’re a backpack on the front/backpack on the back kinda girl, then go for it. Otherwise get a different backpack with more pockets and openings and such and get a different kind of daypack- one that has a messenger strap or shoulder straps so you have more control and easier access to both bags at the same time. I wish I had a shoulder style structured duffle with lots of pockets instead of a backpack. Generally I’m not walking far with this bag, so I don’t need it to be perfectly contoured to my back or with just the right shoulder fit…)
- Osprey Farpoint daypack – Here’s the thing: if you’re going to have to fit everything you don’t want stolen from your hotel room in, let’s say in Stonetown, Tanzania into your daypack, this is the wrong daypack to try to do that in. If I don’t want to leave something behind, I have to fit my MacBook Air, DSLR camera, an extra lens, and Kindle alongside my mini-first aid kit, i-pod, journal, etc. It. doesn’t. work. Traveling through Burma with the Ari Marcopoulos Camera bag worked. A regular Jansport backpack worked. (A lot of times I wish I had either of these bags now!) Find something that works to comfortably carry all of the things you don’t want to check in at the airport and then you’ll be set. Ideally you’ll find something with multiple strap styles, like this one (but you know that’s not going to hold up for a trip like the one you’re planning). Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to design and produce the bag of my (and your future) dreams and that will be on my final “What to pack” list!
- Zippered tote bag –for souvenirs that you amass before you ship home. for food to take on the 12 hour bus ride with you. for a quick walk around town when you want to leave your normal day-pack behind in the trustworthy guesthouse…
- Small cross body purse -for nights (and days) you go out and you want to take the least amount possible. Bonus if the strap can be taken off and it can turn into a clutch or wallet in your usual day pack!
- 13’’ Macbook Air (or smaller) + outlet
- Mac outlet world converters
- extra padded Macbook air neoprene case
- 2 x WD Passport 2TB external hard drive (or larger depending on your file sizes)
- Kindle touch + USB cord charger -If you get a Fire, keep in mind it will lose it’s charge so much faster than a less advanced version.
- unlocked i-phone + USB cord and charger
- Mobile External Battery Pack (Charger) -We have the Mophie Powerstation, but it doesn’t hold a charge super well after several months of use… Just in case you decide to go with this kind… Regardless, having an i-phone, now an i-pod, and two Kindles, we use this a. Lot. We used to have the Mophie Juice Pack Air Cases for our iphones, but we’ve gone through FOUR of them because they kept breaking.
- Portable mini-speakers (Andrew got the X-minis and they are awesome. I highly recommend them!)
- All in one travel adapter-We also have this one, but it’s loose and doesn’t always stay in the outlet.
- Belkin Mini Travel Charger/Surge Protector with Dual USB Ports(You’ll thank me in that hostel room with only one outlet)
- Earphone splitter –Even if I were traveling alone, I would carry one with me! Listen to the same music with your seat-mate on the bus, watch a movie in a dorm room together… It’s tiny and SO. useful, especially for us traveling together (and when my iphone stopped working).
- WD TV Live Streaming Media Player– ok, this is a HUGE “if you really want it” Because I should preface that we had it in our apartment in Korea, and Andrew is a big cinephile, so he decided at the last minute to bring it with. It basically allows us to watch our movies/tv shows on tvs in hotel rooms/dorm livingrooms/etc. We’ve used it a lot to watch movies with new friends after volunteer days or rainy days or just when we need a break from travel. I always tell people we’re cheating at this whole round the world trip, but I’ve been glad we’ve had it.
- Nikon D7000 with 3 (yep, THREE) batteries and charger
- Double Bubble Level Spirit Mount
- 4 32 GB memory cards
- Nikon 17-35 mm lens –So beautiful. My favorite lens ever.
- Nikon 28-300 mm lens-Heavy, but man it’s come in handy and I’m so glad I have it. Sometimes I wish I had something like the Nikon 18-300 mm lens instead and then only have ONE lens for my DSLR, but that kinda can defeat the purpose of HAVING a DSLR… Sooo it’s up to you!
- Sirui travel tri-pod (UNBELIEVABLY LIGHT!) I actually use this all. the. time. It’s awesome.
- Lens cloth (I also have a lens pen and cleaning kit, but I use the cloth the most…)
- Polaroid Z2300 Instant Digital Camera –It’s SUPER fun handing out pictures to people while I’m traveling. It has become an experience all of it’s own. I really recommend taking any kind of polaroid or fuji camera with you. This one saves a digital copy which is great! The camera isn’t THE best, but I’m glad I have it.
- Polaroid 90 Pack ZINK Photo Paper (Paper is cheaper the more you order. I split this up and put some in the pkgs I mailed to myself along the trip)
- Polaroid case -The camera isn’t the most sturdy, so if you do get this camera get a case for it. I have something like this to really protect it.
First Aid Kit:
- Neosporin (or any kind of anti-bacterial ointment)
- Hydrocortizone cream (anti-itch)
- Bandaids & Individually wrapped gauze
- Ibuprofin & Asprin (Probably don’t need both. I like having the Asprin to take before long trips to thin out my blood a bit I guess)
- Immodium –I only use this if I’m getting on a bus or a train though. Otherwise you want to get that bacteria OUT of you!
- Charcoal tablets -AMAZING for food poisoning. We picked these up in New Delhi and are SO GLAD to have these in our first aid kit.
- Electrolyte mixes -We also picked some up in New Delhi and Andrew’s mom sent us some Pedialyte mixes that have come in handy. If not for food poisoning, for hangovers in airports.
- Pepto tablets
- Melatonin -If you want a sleeping aid, this works for me. It’s natural and it has less of a drowsy morning after effect on me.
- Individually wrapped iodine swabs
- Individually wrapped alcohol rubbing pads
*I took practically the entire box of each item above. This was dumb. Just take one sheet of pills of each- you don’t need more than that! Your First Aid kit shouldn’t be bigger than a sandwich style Ziplock bag. (I started with maybe the size of two of these and it was just toooo much. I sent half of it home!)
- Ciprofloxacin (an anti-biotic for bacterial respiratory, urinary tract, gastrointestinal, and abdominal infections)
- Doxycycline (or your Malaria meds of choice if you want to take some during your travels. We bought ours upon arrival in Uganda. SUPER cheap. Much cheaper than they would be in America.)
- Feminine hygiene products (4- 1 month’s supply in a ziplock bag (1 month’s supply =1 ziplock), then mail more months to your future self in a different location on your trip) Also, pack extra panty-liners. These come in handy for long flights or days of travel. Just change the liner and you’ll feel a lot fresher!
- Individually wrapped wet wipes -You can get specific “for women” ones, but I don’t think that’s necessary. These are easier to tuck into your pocket or keep handier than a bigger pack of wet-wipes (which I also encourage to keep in your day-pack).
- Cranberry pills (SO Helpful for women to prevent UTIs while traveling.
- Azo Standard -Over the counter UTI medicine. Has been really helpful for me. Especially when I don’t want to use my prescription meds.
- Individually wrapped Monistat suppositories -The trick is that you want to have everything individually wrapped so you can keep it in different, easy access places. The last thing you want to do when you’re not feeling well is ask the bus driver to pull over so you can get into the bottom of your bag under the bus for your stash of female meds. I keep one of everything in a mini kit I made in my day-pack to avoid the hassle.
- make-up (if you want it) -I have cover-up, powder,eye-liner, pot rouge (for lips and cheeks), and mascara for the occasional night out or day I don’t want to feel like I’m schlepping around the world in the same clothes. I’m on the low-maintenance side, and have only worn it a handful of times on the trip. If you do want it- pack light so you don’t feel bad about not using it/wearing it all the time!
- earrings -If you have your ears pierced, take a pair of posts with you. I’m a big earrings kinda gal, so I haven’t been wearing a lot of earrings on this trip… and then I basically had to re-pierce my ears every time I went to wear some dangly earrings. Not. fun.
- Perfume samples -Shop around for samples at some department stores and/or tell them you’re traveling to see if they’ll give you extra! These also make good gifts for local women you meet along the way.
- Bar of soap in plastic hard case
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Travel shampoo & conditioner
- Travel bottle of face lotion with SPF
- 1 thick cotton headband
- 2 thin elastic headbands
- pony-tail holders and bobby pins
- travel pack of wet wipes and travel pack of tissues (or an extra roll of toilet paper in some countries)
- tweezers and nail clippers
- lip balm
- Tiger Balm -for mosquito bites to sore muscles, Seriously stock up when you get to Thailand. The white stuff, not the red. (The red will stain your clothes.)
- 2 jersey-knit scarves -I purchased these from Zara, but maybe these are easy to make? They are versatile enough for beach cover-up, blanket, towel, etc. and have possibly been the most useful items in my bag!
- 10 pairs of underwear
- 1 sports bra
- 1 or 2 bra(s) –I recommend a light colored wireless bra so you can wear it with light or dark clothes. I actually have a spaghetti strap, lightly padded pull-over kinda like a sports bra that picked up at Forever 21 in Dubai that I wear the most now.
- 2 pairs of athletic socks – I also wish I had 1 pair of warm wool socks for surprise cold days/nights.
- 1 bathing suit
- 1 pair of black long black yoga pants –I’m sick of these, & now wear newly purchased, trendier loose cotton pants from H&M more often.
- 1 pair of black cropped running pants –My favorite thing to wear for adventure days (rock-climbing, repelling, trekking, etc.)
- 1 pair of black leggings –I wear these ALL. the. TIME. Perfect for long bus-rides regardless of the weather.
- 1 pair of nice shorts
- 1 pair of sleep/lounge shorts
- 1 pair of jeans –Mine are bright blue stretch skinnies to mix it up and have at least one outfit I would wear “going out” back home.
- 4 cotton spaghetti strap tank tops
- 1 silk blend (nice) tank top
- 1 t-shirt –I wish I had 2 or 3 if I had room.
- 2 nicer shirts –again, I wish I had more if I had room.
- 2 dresses
- 1 long sleeve shirt
- 1 thin sweater –Perfect for sunny days when you don’t want to get sun-burned and more coverage in the Middle East.
- fleece jacket –I wish this was a warm zippered sweater or sweatshirt instead so I wasn’t always so sporty/American looking.
- rain jacket –I use my mini-umbrella more than this jacket.
- knitted hat -Even if you’re traveling to warm spots. I’ve used this way more often than I thought I would.
- Running Shoes
- Trekking (water) shoes-No. Just say no. Either make room for hiking boots/shoes if that’s your jam or stick with your favorite gym shoes instead.
- Sports ballet flats -Make SURE they have enough support in them. I recommend a pair of Toms over any kind of super thin ballet flat. They are worth making extra room for and your feet will thank you.
- 1 pair of comfortable walking sandals or flip flops -A simple pair of Reefs are my favorite, and they will last for awhile.
- Eye mask (for sleeping)
- Carabiners -To keep your backpack zippers closed. Slows down a pickpocket. But don’t leave on your checked bags when flying, they will get stolen.
- TSA approved luggage lock
- Journal (notebook), post-it notes, and pens
- Water bottle -My Nalgene is my bottle of choice.
- Sleeping bag liner –I’m not the biggest fan (would prefer a lightweight sheet) but it has come in handy and I’m glad to have it in sketchy guesthouses or when a couchsurfer host lit’rally only supplies a couch for you- no blankets included. Andrew wants me to mention that he LOVES his.
- Tent light -Most amazing thing ever. We can hang it up easily and it turns into a flashlight as well. We also have a Mini maglight and headlamps that come in handy. I know it sounds like a lot, but really they have ALL come in handy.
- Door stop
- Sewing kit
- Sunglasses (and in my case, eye-glasses) both in hard cases. -They’ll break in soft cases. Trust me.
- Business cards –Even if it’s just your name and your email address.
- Tide stick pen and Laundry bar soap. We found laundry bar soaps in Africa and LOVED them. They wash more, last longer, and are usually cheaper! Don’t bother with Tide Sink Packets (you need three packets for one sink of laundry!) OR Shout individually wrapped wipes -These dry up and don’t work as well as the Tide stick.
- Earplugs -Make sure you get a brand that works. Mine suck. I threw them all out because they didn’t stay in my ear! (Thanks, Target.)
- Sink- stopper -For laundry in your guesthouse sink.
- Thank-you cards -For couch-surfing or wonderful friends hosting you in their apartment abroad.
- Duct tape (and maybe even clear packing tape) -comes in handy. I didn’t start the trip with clear packing tape, but had to buy it at a post office which didn’t provide it to ship things home. I’ve held onto it just in case ever since. Also makes for a good lint roller.
- Extra zip-lock bags of all sizes. –I have small ones in case of a leaky bottle, bigger ones for snacks, and even larger ones for copies of documents. I started with 3-5 of each size. After nine months, I think I have one left.
- Mini umbrella. -Like I said, I use this way more than my raincoat and it fits in a little outside backpack pocket easily.
- Playing cards
- Travel safe – We’re traveling with two computers, accessories, and I’m traveling with a few thousand dollars worth of lenses. We’ve used this numerous times for a little added protection when we wanted/needed to leave things behind (especially when there’s only a skeleton key to lock your door… Or you have to leave things in a guesthouse shared luggage area. What’s great is that you can lock this up to something big and stationary. So even if someone were to just grab the whole thing- it would not be something done quickly.
- laundry bag – doesn’t have to be fancy, but unless you want your clothes simmering in a plastic bag getting even more grody, get a mesh bag so things can breathe!
- travel pillow – We ordered this one mostly because one reviewer “complained” that the pillow did not come with the goose featured in the picture. Hilarious. Luckily it has turned out to be an awesome little pillow. It smooshes up in your bag while you’re not using it but then expands easily and isn’t too firm/too soft when you are using it. Only downside- it doesn’t come with a pillowcase. I ended up using a shoebox cloth cover (from Anthropologie) and it fit perfectly. So you may have to get creative, or make your own case before you go! (You will want a case too, because I drop the pillow a lot) I recommend it!
- Passport photos
- A4 copies of Passport -Hand this over at random stops in African countries instead of your passport at first. It’s easier for the local authorities to scan over (as most domestic travelers won’t have a passport). If you let go of your passport, you might be letting go of a little control over the situation (letting them use it as leverage for a bribe). You will also need copies when you get SIM cards for your phone in some countries.
- 2 ATM Cards -I suggest traveling with one Visa and one Mastercard ATM card as we’ve had trouble in some countries withdrawing using one vs. the other. I also suggest traveling with an ATM card that is linked up to an emergency contact. I have an ATM card linked up to an account from childhood that is still linked to one of my parents’ accounts in case I get in trouble. It’s easier/cheaper for them to transfer money into the account than it is to wire money to a foreign location.
- 2-3 Credit Cards –I only use one. Citi with Thank You Rewards. I keep the others for Emergencies and I always make sure I have at least one Mastercard and one Visa. I get the most rewards through my Citi card and its Thank You program. We got Capital One Signature with Travel Rewards cards specifically for this trip and they NEVER work when we’re booking tickets in foreign countries online or attempting to buy things abroad. We’ve had to call Capital One MULTIPLE times over this issue. My Citibank card always works as long as you notify them every three months which countries you’re going to be in.
- Immunization certificate (Yellow Fever)
- Drivers License and International Drivers License
- PADI Dive card
- US Currency (at least $1500 in various bills – You need some crisp Benjamins for Burma, but will need smaller bills for other countries… So take a variety!)
- Scanned (Electronic copies) of immunization record, credit cards, bank documents, receipts of valuables you’ll be traveling with (for insurance purposes) and phone numbers for banks, credit card companies, insurance company, etc. super handy. If these are not handy- it will delay reports to companies necessary and cause more of a headache than simply dealing with a lost card or filing an insurance claim.
What I wish I had on this trip:
- a better day bag with multiple strap possibilities. Sometimes backpack straps are absolutely necessary- but other times you want your bag under your arm for safety (on a crowded subway train) or across your body for comfort in a city. Seriously, I’m designing one. Let’s just hope I can get it into production for us all!
- a different luggage bag. Again, my personal preference- but I don’t think you NEED a backpack style for a trip around the world. Unless you’re doing a lot of long treks, it’s not necessary. Whenever I do a trek (so far my longest has been 4 days) I use a small backpack. I don’t want to carry around anything more! Whenever we carry our big backpacks around, it’s just to get from the bus to the metro to the airport… We’re picking them up and putting them down. You don’t need a fancy backpack for this. Multiple straps would be great for this kind of bag as well, but I’d be happy with a structured shoulder luggage bag.
- Point and shoot camera with high megapixel count (In addition to all of the camera gear I already have. I know, I’m cray.)
- Zippered mesh tote for shower things (right now, we share all of our shampoo and soap and it’s all in a janky plastic bag. boo.)
- pillow case (I know, this might sound strange, but sometimes pillows are gross looking and I would feel better having my own pillow case to slip over it, also to make it feel more like my own bed in a way when we’re moving around so often)
- Thin jersey knit sheet (I personally would rather this than the sleeping bag liner, but that’s just me. It would be awesome if I could magically have room for two thin sheets that could zip together if I wanted them to- but again, it’s hard squeezing everything into one bag…)
- i-phone waterproof case (had I had one, my i-phone probably wouldn’t have died after being submerged in water in the middle of Tanzania…)
- Iodine and Alcohol swabs- individually wrapped (I only had 2 of each. Wish I had a few more, or sent a few more to myself along the trip)
- Gym shoes. (I sent my gym shoes off to a friend to get a few months later and kept my water shoes. Bad. idea. I wish I kept my gym shoes the entire time!)
- Different rain jacket – I have one of Andrew’s old Eddy Bauer jackets. It’s for camping. Not for sightseeing in the rain. Also, it doesn’t even keep the rain out. I wish I had a lightweight NorthFace black waterproof jacket or not bother with one at all.
- NorthFace Fleece alternative – Like I said in a previous post, this is too sporty/”American” for me. I wish I had a warm sweater or hooded zip up sweatshirt instead and then layer it with a nice waterproof (or fancy Goretex or whatever is good right now) jacket that is versatile and durable yet cute enough to wear over and over and over again for 15 months.
- more ziplock bags
- a watch (I know, who travels without this? Answer: me.)
- a compass (either on a necklace or a keychain to put on the outside of my bag. I have one on my phone, but why bother digging it out of a bag to press a bunch of buttons to find it when you could have a solid and reliable old fashioned one that is super easy to access when you have no clue where you are)
- hand towel –I had this packed originally, but had to say no to fit something else in that I thought was more important. If it fits, that would be great. It would totally come in handy. No fast-drying/micro-weave/travel bullshit either. Those smell gross and I don’t like them. at. all.
- sleeping bag/tent This is what Andrew wishes we had. It really would have come in handy quite a few times throughout Asia and India. It would have saved us money as well. Now, you just have to decide if it’s worth carrying around for all of the times you aren’t going to be using it!
- cute, thin sandals. Sometimes my Reefs are simply too casual and I’d like to dress things up a bit! Should have picked up a pair in India. duh.