World travel has become as regular to me as ridiculous basketball moves are to the Harlem Globetrotters. During my time traveling, I’ve had the opportunity to pick up some tricks of the trade and I’ve refined my packing list for world travel.
In particular, I’ve learned very valuable lessons when it comes to what to pack for travel. Packing your bag is one of the most important parts pre-trip, in my opinion.
I know my bag has changed a lot since I started, let’s see if yours will as well.
Flying to Thailand in 2017, I remember having a giant suitcase, packed with so much stuff that it was bulging out on the sides. I had a black Herschel backpack that I had stuffed with even more “travel essentials”. I brought multiple weeks worth of clothing, at least four pairs of shoes, and many other unnecessary items.
For me, experimenting with different size baggage has helped me figure out what, I think, is the best way of traveling.
My friends and family have heard me talk endlessly about this, but it’s because it’s something I think everyone can do, and it saves a lot of hassle, time, and, best of all, money!
So, how do you travel then?
Everything I have, I fit into a backpack. This has saved me many headaches and saved me pulling out my wallet numerous times. I’ve found that a pack that just meets the airline requirements for a carry-on, which is usually around a 45-55L backpack.
I use the Osprey Farpoint 55, which is a staple for backpackers and travelers who look to travel light. However, any pack that is in this range will usually work just as well.
Now, you may wonder why I say it has saved me headaches over the years.
The first time I traveled abroad in 2012, my luggage was lost in Paris, and took a fair amount of time arriving to me in Spain. Luckily, I had a change of clothes in my backpack to hold me over.
Again, in 2017 when I came to Thailand with my girlfriend, we began to think our luggage had been lost, but it had only been put on the wrong carousel and, luckily, someone had taken to lost and found.
Regardless, we wasted 45 minutes to an hour searching for it.
Then, one of my friends came to visit us in Thailand the following year.
When he arrived, he couldn’t find his baggage. It turned out that he had a very similar bag to a woman who had arrived to Phuket as well. Luckily, we spotted her on the way out exchanged bags. Again, another 45 minutes or so wasted.
You see where this is headed.
So, what can I possibly pack?
Not much, to be honest. But that’s all that you need to pack for world travel. You’ll see below that pretty much everyone packs too much. Me included. Even after traveling this long, I still find things that I brought that I didn’t need.
But having everything in my backpack and keeping everything with me as a carry-on allows me to keep my eyes on it at all times. There’s less chance of something getting stolen/broken this way, and I have access to everything I need at all times.
Not to mention it allows you to simply get off the plane and head straight out to begin your trip to your destination. Less time spent searching/waiting for luggage is more time exploring.
So, how do you figure out what you need to pack versus what you don’t need? Well, once I get the essentials out of the way (I’ll discuss these more in-depth below), I ask myself two questions: Can I get this where I’m going? and Does this serve more than one purpose?
These two questions will help you eliminate most of the things you bring that you don’t need. Shampoo? Well, I can get that almost anywhere. My 17th pair of socks? Well, if I go through that many socks, I have serious questions about what exactly I’m doing with my socks.
But, besides that, I can buy socks almost anywhere. The places you travel understand this. They know that humans have certain requirements, and they know that some poor sap of a traveler will stumble through their town and need to buy it.
“Can I get this where I’m going?”
So, filter out most things with the question, Can I get this where I’m going? This will save you a lot of packing headaches as you’re trying to decide if you should take another toothbrush/toothpaste combo or if you can just leave the six you packed at your house.
This goes for bigger items as well. If I’m going to be wearing flip-flops, then they’ll likely be sold wherever I’m going. If I happen to ruin some t-shirts, I can always buy simple t-shirts where I go to replace them. Most things will be available where you’re headed.
This will largely be dependent on the person, but this is where I think most people can benefit from saved space. Saved space leads to saved weight, which is huge in world travel.
“Does this serve more than one purpose?”
The second question is going to depend on what you’re doing and will be more complicated. But, what I often do is try to make more than 70% of the items I take with me serve more than one purpose.
For instance, if I’m taking a pair of road running shoes, ideally these will double as a pair of shoes that I can wear when exploring the city or town. This saves me having to have two pairs of shoes and saves space.
Some items will be more difficult. For example, I only run on trails. My trail shoes only have one purpose and there’s not much I can really use them for outside that, other than hiking.
You only need to take about 5-6 days worth of clothing because, by that time, you will just wash the clothes and re-wear them. If you can have your clothes match with multiple outfits, then you can create more combinations and not always be wearing the same outfit in every picture (you will the same clothes in almost all of my pictures on social media).
With this strategy, you can travel for months on end – and when clothes get old, just replace them with something from where you’re traveling.
So use this and make judgment calls on them. But asking yourself this question will save you space.
Climate is another thing that you will have to consider when traveling. Obviously, if you travel to a colder environment, your clothes will take up more space as you have to bring more clothes. If you’re traveling to a warm climate, your bag will be significantly lighter.
Take your destination’s climate into factor when packing. In this post, I am going to focus on destinations where there is a warmer climate.
- 5-6 shirts (try to use shirts that can be worn in more than one situation/setting)
- A long-sleeve shirt or hoodie (depending on the climate)
- 1 pair of jeans/nice pants
- 3-4 pairs of shorts (depending on climate)
- 7-8 pairs of underwear
- 1 pair of swimwear (I usually will just choose a pair of shorts that become my swim trunks, so this is optional)
- 6-7 pairs of socks (if I will mostly be wearing flip-flops, I take less)
- 1 pair of shoes (sneakers, basketball shoes, etc.)
- Hat (great for long travel when your hair becomes a mess/great for sunny destinations)
- If necessary, I will take dressier wear depending on my destination, the culture, customs, etc.
- Micro-fiber towel
- Toothbrush/toothpaste (this is typically small and just in case I get stuck in an airport because of a delay or similar situation)
- Deodorant (same reason as above; plus, no one likes a stinky passenger next to them on a plane)
- Portable Charger (can’t stress this one enough)
- Camera (if applicable)
- Kindle (be sure to check out my top ten travel book list for some good reads before your trip)
- Power adapter (these are becoming less common, but check your destination country for voltage and plug requirements beforehand)
First aid/care kit
Normally, I don’t carry anything major for this but having the following items during travel don’t hurt.
- Hand sanitizer
- A lock for important items (this can be a key or combination lock)
- Lifestraw or something similar (great if traveling to countries where the water is not drinkable)
There are some things that were left off (shampoo, flip-flops, razor, etc.). These are all things that I consider you can buy when you arrive, so there is no point taking up space in your bag. The only exception would be if the item will be significantly more expensive when you arrive.
For instance, it may save you some money to buy sunscreen before traveling to Thailand as it’s significantly more expensive there than in other places.
Tip: Wear your heavier clothing on the plane. This will help you save space/weight, and also can keep you warm on planes if you tend to get cold while traveling.
This list is completely personal and will change for each person. However, I’ve found that if you follow this general template, you’ll have most things you need for traveling and exploring in your destination.
If you declutter your travel gear, you’ll save yourself some hassle that doesn’t need to be there in the first place. This way, you travel lighter, you travel faster, and you travel easier.
- Looking to travel more this year? Well my post, Ways to save to travel more in 2021 and beyond, can help you save up more money so you can achieve that goal.
- Looking for a quiet getaway in Thailand? Khao Sok National Park is an excellent option for you! Be sure to read about it’s lush forests and beautiful lake in my post, Khao Sok National Park: The Hidden Gem of Southern Thailand.
- Have trouble packing? Want to travel lighter? Then check out my post, What I pack when I travel: A packing list for world travel. I’ll explain how you can slim down your packing so you can take less and enjoy your trip more.
- Do you enjoy reading? Then you may like my post, My Favorite Books from 2021. I give my favorite books from 2021 and explain why I enjoy them so much. I’d love to hear your recommendations as well.
- New to The Travel Runner and want to get an idea of what the site is all about? Then look no further than The Best of The Travel Runner in 2021 for a quick dose.