Are you thinking about trying the digital nomad life or taking an extended vacation? Traveling long-term is one of the best ways to see the world and slow down to enjoy your travels, but it does come with challenges. Packing for long-term travel can be one of the biggest hurdles you’ll encounter before you take off! Learn what to pack and how to pack light with this helpful article.
Know What You’re Packing
Knowing what kind of clothes you like to wear before you start packing is the key to packing light. Pack clothes that you love to wear, are appropriate for the destination, and make you feel and look good. The goal is to pack as many pieces of clothing that will match well with other items you’re bringing in order to create multiple outfit combinations.
Clothes that are neutral colors like black, white, grey, tan, and navy blue are excellent choices and will ensure that you look timeless and put together on the road. A good rule of thumb is to pick shirts that will match at least 3 of the bottoms you are bringing or vice versa for maximum outfit combinations.
Pick Your Bag
Traveling light is the best way to go if you plan to travel long-term. This avoids lugging suitcases through cobblestone streets or trying to find a place for them on a crowded bus. The bag you choose should be based on your destination and how you plan on getting around.
If you are planning to go by car or tour bus to a popular destination like the UK, Australia, Canada, the US, or some European countries, a small hard-top carry-on suitcase might be the best option for you. Be sure that your suitcase has zipper holes to fit a travel lock, the wheels are working, and the plastic shell is undamaged.
If you are planning a more rugged trip to destinations like India, South East Asia, Africa, or Latin America, it’s best to pack your clothes in a hiking backpack. A backpack is easy to wear or store on crowded trains or scooters, a popular method of transportation in these destinations.
Ensure the backpack has hip straps that can be stored away when traveling. The hip straps ensure the weight is evenly placed and help avoid a sore back. The backpack should meet the carry-on dimensions of the airline you’re taking, but a good rule of thumb is to stay under 44L.
Research Your Destinations
Knowing where you’re going is also super important! If your destination is hot, cold, wet, or dry, packing the proper clothing and fabrics to match the destination is a must. Pack waterproof layers and fabrics like Merino wool for cold and wet climates. In hot and dry climates, fabrics like linen will help you feel cool and stay protected from the sun.
Another thing to be aware of is the culture and religions of the countries you’re visiting. If you are visiting a country where Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, or Judaism is prominent, or the country is more conservative overall, it’s best to wear modest clothing. Women may be required to cover their heads, so bringing a versatile scarf or sarong might benefit you.
Excellent packing starts with great organization. The best way to keep your suitcase or backpack organized on the go is to have a place for everything. Having packing cubes can help keep similar clothes together, and having vacuum seal bags can help maximize space. Cases to organize cords and chargers are a must. Waterproof bags for shampoo and conditioner can help avoid a potential travel disaster!
You probably didn’t need to consider laundry day on a shorter trip like 3 or 5 days. However, planning your laundry days is essential in a long-term trip.
Keep your bag light by carrying a portable washing bag and paper laundry detergent for hand-washing clothing on the go. It’s also possible to have your clothes done by a laundry service or at a laundry mat, but you may risk something happening to your clothes. The Scrubba wash bag and Tru Earth laundry strips are two of the best lightweight options for travel.
The Long-Term Packing List
This comprehensive packing list for long-term travel will help keep you organized and looking good while seeing the world! Remember that depending on your destination, each item on the list might not apply to you. If you’re new to traveling, consider bringing some of the items on our travel essentials list to ensure you’re fully prepared!
When packing clothes, make sure to pack durable items that are easy to wash to ensure they are long-lasting throughout your whole trip!
- 6 pairs of underwear
- 5 pairs of socks
- 4 neutral-colored bottoms
- 5 tops (can be neutral or colored depending on how they match)
- 1 dress (doesn’t need to be a neutral color)
- 1 light jacket
- 1 pair of pajamas
For the dress, here’s our take on whether to roll it or fold it. Check it out.
Having accessories can pull an outfit together, but they can also make you the target for petty crime. If you bring jewelry, be sure to leave the expensive pieces at home and opt for costume jewelry, as it can go missing in crowded places or in hostels.
- Necklaces, earrings, or other jewelry
- Neutral colored belt
- Hat/ Gloves depending on the weather
- Travel purse
Your jewelries need special care during the trip to keep them in good condition and safe from damage. Read on how to do this in this article: how to travel with jewelry.
Check out our list of more travel accessories ideas here, see if you miss anything.
Having two pairs of shoes is the best way to go when trying to travel light. One pair is for adventurous activities and walking, and one pair is for dressing up or other occasions.
- Running shoes
- Classic shoes that can be dressed up on occasion. Flats, Oxford shoes, streetwear-style shoes
- Cheap flip-flops for the beach or in hostel showers
- Bag to keep shoes separate from your clothing
Wearing makeup can help make all your outfit hard work really come together. Ensure you research your destination and match your makeup style accordingly, as it might make you stick out when traveling to some countries.
- Eyebrow pencil
- Makeup remover
It’s a good idea to watch the amount of liquids you are traveling with to meet the carry-on restrictions, and you’re packing them in a waterproof bag to avoid spills. If you don’t have sensitive skin, you can forgo bringing liquids altogether and buy toiletries at your destination.
- Quick-drying travel towel
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Soap (bar soap will help keep the number of liquids to a minimum)
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hairbrush and elastics
- Tweezers and nail clippers
- Feminine hygiene products
- Small first aid kit
Keeping all electronics in a separate case with their charging cords will help keep your bag organized so you know where each item is when you want it!
- Power bank
- Case and cords for all devices
- Laundry bag
- Laundry detergent
- Bank card
- Travel lock
- Sleeping bag liner
What is the 6,5,4,3,2,1 packing method?
This packing method is an excellent rule of thumb to avoid overpacking. Essentially you would pack 6 underwear, 5 socks, 4 tops, 3 pants, 2 pairs of shoes, and 1 hat.
Is it better to fold or roll clothing in your suitcase?
This is a long debated topic, but it’s generally known that rolling your clothes will help squeeze the air out, making them more compact. Using a vacuum seal bag will help maximize space, whether rolling or folding.
What is not allowed in a carry-on?
Not everything can come with you when traveling with a carry-on. Liquids that are over 3.4 oz will be rejected by TSA, so it’s best to put them in a clearly labeled bottle and in a plastic bag. Nail clippers or files are generally allowed, but some countries may reject them. Any blades longer than a few inches or items that can be used as a weapon are a general no-go.
Can deodorant go in a carry-on?
Stick deodorants are fine to go in your carry-on. If it’s a roll, gel, or spray deodorant, it will count towards your liquid allowance and must go in a 3.4 oz container in your plastic liquids bag.