How to create the perfect packing list!
(Is there even such a thing?)
The day of my departure I was feeling great. I created the “Perfect Backpack” for my RTW trip and, excuse me, It couldn’t be otherwise!
I bought all the necessary items and pushed them into my 2 shining new backpacks: 15 kg in the big Berghaus and 6 kg in the small one. I did my homework and I did a hell of a job, I was ready! ..Or so I thought…
FAST FORWARD 3 DAYS INTO MY TRIP
After more than 1 year on the road, it’s now time to disclose the ugly truth: My backpack was far from being perfect! but hey, you need to make mistakes to learn the lesson. This is why I decided to write this article: so that you can benefit from my mistakes.
That’s how it went: This picture is before my “spring cleaning”. After a few hours of panic, yelling at my travel mate disconnected sentences like: “Please DO SOMETHING. I don’t know where to start!”. We started by taking a picture.
For the records: I wasn’t really crying. I was laughing so hard that it took my friend 1 hour to take that shot 🙂
TIPS TO CREATE THE PERFECT PACKING LIST
This post to is not a rant about the in-utility of taking too much stuff with you. I will take my original packing list and tell you in which category every item fell after 1 year of travels and why.
I DIVIDED THE ITEMS INTO CATEGORIES
Click on the category to go straight to that chapter and skip the rest!
1 | CLOTHES – The ones I can’t live without.
2| TOILETRIES/BEAUTY– Essential items I use very often on the road (I’m a beauty freak!)
3 | USEFUL ITEMS – The ones that make my trip more comfortable.
4 | ELECTRONICS– Necessary tech for the road
Just a note before I get into details: Everyone is different so the list and preferences may vary depending on your attitude/personality. What I noticed is that the “must have items” are the same for every traveler I met during my journey.
WHAT ITEMS SURVIVED AFTER 1YEAR?
Tips on clothes: Taste is obviously personal but I strongly suggest you to buy resistant, transpiring and durable items. Especially when it comes to Jackets and shirts. Also, when packing them, I’m a fan of the “rolling method”, the clothes don’t get wrinkly and take less space and less time to fold them.
Note: I bought everything online mostly online on Amazon. I know, I’m a lazy girl right?! but they are much cheaper and since I was working like crazy to save for my trip I honestly didn’t even had the time to go shopping.
Plus if I didn’t like something I could return the item (it just happened with my shoes, as they were too heavy for hot climates).
I had them delivered at my work place and I remember my colleagues suspicious looks, as they didn’t know about my travel plans.. yet! 🙂
If you want to know more about certain items click on the highlighted links.
My 4 Top clothing Items | And why I couldn’t live without them!
I need to thank my mother for this. If there is ONE lifesaver, this is IT. Invaluable when they try to kill you with the A/C on buses and trains. I always keep it in the external pocket of my day backpack. And I didn’t even want to buy it, now I love it.
The most versatile item I have in my backpack. I use it for everything. As a head cover, scarf, beach towel, beach dress, bed sheet, stole, long skirt (the list could go on forever). I even used to create a “tent” on a bus ride to separate my seat from the others for more privacy. Imagination is your only limit!
Ahh, the dilemma. People either love them or hate them. They are heavy and take space in your backpack. My Opinion? I love them and I used them to feel less of a tourist, to walk around the city, to get a better protection for the motorbike and much more.
I would die if I didn’t have this!! I can use it for the day and for the evenings with a nice belt and a necklace to look pretty. I now have 3 of them in different colors, so that I always have one clean!
Note: I envy guys that can just pack a small beauty case with just soap and shampoo. Not me. I’m a beauty freak, and even on the road, I need to bring some unusual beauty items with me.
My skin and hair are far from being perfect, and I don’t really want to look like a witch all the time. If you have beautiful features, skin, and hair, or you simply don’t give a damn, well you can probably skip this section.You Lucky girl!
Important note: NEW BEAUTY SECTION IN HERE
Are you a beauty freak like me? Stay tuned! I am about to open a dedicated “ beauty” section: I want to give you useful tips on treatments and specific products that you can only find in certain countries (personally tested of course!). The page is still work in progress as I’m still adding more products!
If you are a woman, you know what I mean. Even as a hardcore travelers, we still need to feel good about ourselves and there is nothing wrong with that! If you want to know more, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter here!
Below is a list of my Beauty Essentials!
4| TINTED SUNSCREEN TOTAL BLOCK
6| BASIC MAKE UP
My Top Beauty Items | And why I can’t live without them!
Definitely my top product! I can’t stand the sun on my face anymore (at 36 I’d rather be white than full of wrinkles 🙂 This product is amazing! I had to order it from Amazon Us but now I found it on the Uk site as well. It covers imperfections and protect from sun damage. Perfect!
Mask for Impure skin
If you have impure skin,look no further! this is it. Mint Julep Mask- Queen Helene is a miracle mask, and it’s dirt cheap, only 2$ for a free oil skin. I LOVE IT.
3| PRACTICAL ITEMS
I got 3 sets of different sizes and colors. Totally necessary. I love them and now I couldn’t think of anything more useful than this item. I am able to organize my bag in minutes only because of them. Life-saving. TIP: Buy different colors and shapes to better separate your items and remember where did you put your stuff.
Travel Toiletries Bag:
I have 2, a small one for the emergencies to put toilet paper, tissues, painkillers, tampons (so difficult to find them especially in Asia) soap, hand sanitizer, and a few makeup items.
Small Microfiber Towel:
Necessary for train trips, or when the hotel doesn’t provide them. They dry quickly and are super light taking zero space in your backpack.
Pocket notepad with pencil
Don’t forget the pen! It’s annoying to always ask for one when filling the visa papers on the plane, or to collect addresses, sketch something to communicate with the locals..so many functions, you name it! bring it always with you.
Pocket Size Umbrella:
It looks like not necessary, right? well, I wouldn’t live without it. Small, light and it fit everywhere. Not only for the rain. I also use it for the burning sun during the hottest hours of the day. At first, my friends mocked me, but after a while, they asked me if they could join me in the shadow. Hah!
It was a last minute purchase, but so glad I bought it! I just remember my relief on the boat to Phi Phi Island. Everything was wet and I had my DSLR with me (inside the bag obviously) It saved my day and so much money! Always take it with you during boat trips and kayaking.
Make sure you buy good quality ones, to protect your eyes from the sun damage. I honestly disregarded this advice until recently. They are a good investment in the long run. Make sure to take good care of them!
It kills EVERYTHING and probably saved me in Cambodia where mosquitos were eating me alive day and night. There are different strengths, 50 and 100%. I suggest the 50% unless you are going to the jungle for an “Indiana Jones” expedition. They also sell mosquito repellents in loco but they are not as strong as Deet.
Medicine Travel Bag :
Ok I’m a freak control I know, but for me, this is an essential item, as I want to be covered for any possible discomfort.
You might want to carry less than me, but at least a first aid kit and a few painkillers are necessary, even for the bravest of you. Don’t forget to bring with you any special prescription as in some countries they might not sell the medicine without it.
Travel Sewing Kit :
Very useful to last-minute repairs, fixing clothes and holes in your socks and worn out underwear you don’t want to throw away, I used it to stick the flags patches on my backpack!
Multipurpose Pocket Knife :
Useful for everything, from opening bottles, to cut wires, peel fruits and much more! Always choose a good quality one, otherwise, it is completely useless.
This is a life saver. I strongly suggest you buy more than one and different sizes. Good to close the backpacks during night buses/train rides, to close doors and safety boxes in the hostels. I learned my lesson very well: I got robbed on a night bus in Thailand just because it wasn’t secured with a padlock. You should also buy one with a metal wire, to secure your backpack under your seat or in the compartments above your seat on trains. Highly recommended.
I learned my lesson very well: I got robbed on a night bus in Thailand just because it wasn’t secured with a padlock. You should also buy one with a metal wire, to secure your backpack under your seat or in the compartments above your seat on trains. Highly recommended.
I have 3 with me: one to store all the vital info like passwords, accounts, insurance contacts, other important contacts, embassy numbers etc. The second one is my travel diary for my private memories and the last one is for work, to collect ideas, notes and everything related to my website.
Waterproof documents Bag
The waterproof bag is necessary to protect your documents and the electronic. There are different sizes so you can choose the best one for your items. Advice: test them on your sink before leaving, to be 100% sure they are reliable!
Sleeping Bag Liner :
I used it in hostels where not clean, to avoid insects and bed bugs but also during long night trips on buses and trains to feel more comfortable. I prefer the silk version, but the cotton one is cheaper. They are both very light and take no space on the backpack.
Multi-purpose headband/scarf/snood. I love it so much that I bought 2 in different colors. It comes with the instructions to use it as a bandana, head hat, to cover your mouth and so much more!
Head torch :
Very useful in so many occasions! Sometimes you will find yourself in hostels with the bathroom outside, or maybe deserted islands (we used it in Carabao, where the lights were switched off at 11 pm in the island).
Or if you are in very dark roads, inside the forest or along the beach. There are many versions, smaller, only torches with no head application. Whatever you use, it’s always handy to have one with you.
Depending on your travel style it might be very useful, especially in Asia in Malaria red areas to have extra protection against the bites. Some people also spray a chemical agent on the net, and some of the mosquito nets are already impregnated with it. They are usually fully equipped to be hanged on the roof or the wall.
Waterproof Backpack Cover
Totally necessary during the monsoon season in Asia, or just to cover your backpack before the check-in at the airport. Make sure you choose the right size for your backpack, as it needs to fit perfectly. My model has elastic straps to adjust and seal the cover very well.
This might be obvious but I put it in the list anyway. Passport, debit-credit cards, driving license, scuba diving license, international driving license, vaccination list, small wallet for coins, 30 passport size pictures for the visas application forms. I always put them in folders to avoid losing them.
Universal Adapter :
Essential if you are planning an extended trip through different countries. Buy one which is good quality and has all the possible combinations. A plus is the USB port so that you can plug-in your devices to charge them directly in there.
USB Pen Drive :
I actually have more than one (4 in total) and I’m so glad I did! I store all the important documents and bring it always with me. Very useful to back up the plane tickets receipt, passport pictures and more.
Memory cards :
I have 3 (4GB, 8 GB and 16 GB). As a semi-professional photographer, I take many shots in 1 day and sometimes I need to bring more than 1 memory card with me if I use all the space available. It is always useful to have more than one. Store them in a waterproof case to avoid damages.
My baby! I couldn’t live without it. The model I’ve linked to is actually the cheaper version of mine (a Canon Rebel T1, which is the same as the 550 in Europe). I bought it in NY with 2 separate lenses. One fixed 55 mm and one zoom 18/200 mm for landscapes and a good quality zoom.
What can I add? If you want your trip pictures to be memorable you need one of these babies. It’s heavy and takes space, but I’ve never regretted the decision to take it with me.
Smart Phone :
I think it is essential for surviving these days. I know, back in the old good times we didn’t need them, but honestly, it saved my life and most importantly my time on many occasions. Money converter, calculator, map, quick notes, instant pictures, and videos. It’s the perfect tool for travelers.
Being a travel blogger for me it is essential. It is also useful to avoid stressful research for internet cafe in the middle of nowhere to book accommodations and flights online.
Some people prefer the tablet version and if you are not an avid photographer it might be the perfect solution for you. It’s lighter and similar to a computer. The only downside for me is that it doesn’t have USB ports and it’s slower for picture editing.The choice is yours 🙂
Together with the mp3 reader, it saved me more than once on long bus/train ride. It is not what I consider a necessity, but now I couldn’t live without it. There are so many books you can download for free on the Kindle store (I now have more than 50 with me).
I-pod /Mp3 reader :
I love music and I don’t know how could I survive without it. I tried different types of Mp3 readers but the best one is definitely this. The battery lasts for up to 8/10 hours straight and it saved me when my mobile was not charged as it has most of the functions and apps of a normal smartphone. It’s an investment but totally worth it!
External Hard drive :
Essential to back up your pictures and documents, make sure you get at least 20 GB space. For photography lovers, this is a must, especially the one with 1 terabyte capacity. I also use it to store music and movies for when I like to feel like having a night in watching some of my favorite films.
Mini Tripod :
I have a confession to make. I made a HUGE mistake by buying a big professional tripod before my trip. It was awesome but heavy and took too much space in my backpack. I was so exhausted to carry it around that I had to give it away and buy a small one. Necessary if you love sunset or night shots. I just love it. Your photos will never look the same after getting used to it.
Point and Shoot Camera :
Ok you guessed already, I’m crazy about travel photography, and I also brought the point and shoot camera. Why? there are places where I don’t feel safe to go with my expensive DSLR and a good point and shoot camera is all I need to take very good shots.
Make sure it also has manual settings. If you are not that into Photography, this is a perfect compromise to take quality pictures without break your bank account!
WHAT I LEARNED AFTER 5 MONTHS:
1|You will find almost everything you need on the road:
Don’t stress out too much over medicines and not necessary items. Make sure you have all your medical prescriptions with you and keep them separate from the bag of medicines. I got mine stolen (how nice!) together with the prescriptions. It is not the end of the world but you need to pay for them.
I know, I know, I told you that this wasn’t a rant about packing light, but is so important! There is nothing like the feeling of freedom to catch a train or a bus without losing your breath, or break your back!. Sometimes with the heat, it was almost impossible for me to walk for 5 meters straight. Think about it when you pack!
When I was preparing for my trip, I bought a lot more than I actually needed, but is understandable as it was a big step for me and I wanted to feel “safe”. Now I appreciate more the freedom of carrying less. I am not traveling these months but once back on the road I’ll make sure to ditch all the items I know I don’t need.
Great post! You have mentioned all the essential things. Well, I mostly use a Ziploc bag for carrying medication.
Thanks! Everyone has his/her own method, I use a simple beauty case for the medications and I’m done 🙂
Such a useful post, take only the essentials, the rest you can get on the travel.
Definitely a wise advice!
This is a great post! Love the way you broke it down by category 🙂 I have my own RTW travel packing list but will definitely be organizing it in a better way thanks to you, keep up the good work. Cheers!
Thanks Kira! Glad you found this useful! I’m in the process of edit the layout to make it even more useful and easy to read 🙂
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Great article, I am about to leave for an extensive trip and this certainly helped. The packing cubes are a must for me too!
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Everywhere you look when it comes to packing tips, the packing light advice is what is seen most often. And for the long trip where you will move around a lot, that’s definitely the best advice you can get. If it makes you feel anxious and worried to not be able to pack all the “that would be handy to have if…”-items, remember that you can find almost everything you need to survive almost everywhere on the planet. It’s true!
And it’s such a great feeling of freedom to travel light 🙂
Hi Katrin, thanks for your comment! Yes, traveling light is the ultimate goal… I can achieve it only partially but just because I have a full backpack with all my photo equipment. If it weren’t for that, I would be able to put everything in a much smaller backpack 🙂
But that (the camera) makes it possible for you to live the life you love, so it’s worth I guess 🙂 Thanks for your beautiful pictures!
Only to a certain extent… I’m not a professional photographer so it’s more of a passion, but still well worth it 🙂
Hello I was thinking about a rtw trip and was wondering what your budget was or how much you spent?
Hey Eddie…mmmhh quite a broad question, it really depends on so many factors, like where you want to go, if you want to buy the RTW tickets beforehand or not, for how long you want to stay and what’s your travel style (meaning, are you flexible to sleep in very basic accommodations, eat street food etc).
In my case for 1 year of travel (including living like a local in a remote area of Thailand for a while), I spent around 9000$ but staying out helped a lot in saving money and I had a part time job as a ballet teacher as well, so as you can see, there is no straight answer here.
The best advice I can give anyone is to pack light (“pack what you want and then get rid of half of it.”) Totally agree.
On the electronics front, I have two more suggestions: Bluetooth speaker (for listening to music louder than just your phone) and an HDMI Cable that connects your main device to any TV with hdmi. This has been one of the most fun parts of my traveling. I wrote a review of both, as well as some other stuff on my “don’t forget” list..
Matt, don’t add other stuff to my list! Temptations are around the corner and I need to reduce the amount of things I carry, not add some more 😀 (One of my travel mates had the speakers, so much fun as we improvised a beach party in the Philippines!)
Hello. My girlfriend and I have set out on a 12-18 month long RTW trip and I spent quite some time looking at your packing list (along with others) and have created one of my own. I have pictures that go along with the items.
Thanks Scott!, I will be creating a more updated packing list shortly. Sorry, I had to remove your link from the comment due to a strict non-self-promotion policy. People who are interested in checking out your blog can do so by clicking on your name anyway 🙂
Thanks I understand, we have the same policy on our site. Cheers!
Great tips. I always pack mine as light as I can. It makes me move faster than my travel mate.
You’re wise Karin, packing light is the key to truly enjoy your trips as it means more freedom!
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We’re not so much a RTW traveller, as a round-the-island one. But your advice is good for when we next hike one of GC’s caminos reales. We’re minimalist packers, only taking the bare essentials.
Whatever type of trip you’re into, i think you can apply the same principles of packing light and be sure you’ll find almost everything you need on the road 🙂
Great to see how you evolved into what was really necessary. I’m wondering what you used the padlock for? Lockers?
Hey Laurel, the padlock was a very useful item. I actually had 2, one wired and one not. The wired one was useful on night bus/train rides. I attached one end to my backpack and the other to a piece of metal to secure them while i was asleep, the not wired one i used to close doors, lockers, my backpack during flights and whenever i had to carry it on my back in the crowd..
I have halved your 5 month revision bag 🙂 now I need to know what products you use on your hair! I have a terrible time with humidity
I feel for you Natasha 🙂 hair and humidity are not a good combination! I just bought an anti fizz spray in a supermarket, nothing expensive, but it works. Plus it protects the hair from the heat of the hair straightener…for me is a must have but many people would object as they find it unnecessary 🙂
Divertenti le foto, ah ah!! Sembri me prima di ogni partenza: desperate traveller 🙂 Il giorno prima di partire NESSUNO mi deve rivolgere la parola, nè chiamarmi al telefono e distrarmi: ci sono solo io, la valigia e il milione di cose disposte sul letto pronte per essere spinte dentro alla suddetta valigia. E ogni volta che devo escludere qualcosa mi sembra di abbandonare un cagnolino per strada 😀 Pack light è sempre stato il mio cruccio. Comunque, i miei must have sono un paio di jeans, ciabatte infradito, il mio pigiama preferito 🙂 macchina fotografica, mp3 player e computer, taccuino, un paio di libri ispiratori. Bella l’idea delle lenzuola di (finta) seta: le avessi avute in Myanmar…
Eh! le foto che vedi sono frutto di circa 40 minuti di risate prima di riuscire a fare la seria :)) ero in un momento di PURA isteria! Ma ti capisco, anche io prima di un viaggio sono intrattabile. Ho bisogno di concentrarmi per non dimenticare nulla! Sono contenta di vedere che anche tu porti i Jeans! non sai quante review ho letto prima di partire che sconsigliavano di portarli. Sono strafelice di non aver dato retta, li uso tantissimo e non mi danno l’aria da turista perenne.Il sacco a pelo e’ stata una buona scelta, e se vedessi quanto e’ piccolo e leggero! sta in una mano e ti protegge dallo schifo (sai bene di cosa parlo visto che giri anche tu in zone non esattamente pulite)…ti consiglio di prendertene uno. Io non sono schizzinosa ma certi posti erano abbastanza improponibili, e con quello mi sono sentita piu tranquilla!