This isn’t going to be a packing list, but instead a step-by-step, stress-free method to building your own personal list. The guide on how to pack for long term travel will help you work out exactly what you’ll need and how to get everything together and sorted without leaving it all until the night before and panic packing everything single thing you own. There will be no panic packing.
Time for some quick blunt-but-optimistic talk. Does packing stress you out? Why?
– “Because I might forget something” – this is why we write lists.
– “Because I might over-pack and regret it later” – well, don’t. That was easy.
– “Because what if I need something and I don’t pack it because YOU told me not to” – hey, don’t blame me – you can just buy it when you’re out there. I’m so sorry you had to buy an extra shirt that you absolutely love for $5. How many times have you packed something you’ve never used?
STEP 1: Select your Luggage
Ideally yet realistically, what do you want to travel with? 30L backpack? 50L backpack? Suitcase? Which bag will you use as carry on?
TOP TIP : Plan to only pack your luggage 80% full – read why in my post about organising your backpack.
STEP 2: Create your Ideal Packing List
Write down every single thing you know you will (not might, don’t worry we can add stuff later) need during the first three months of your trip using these categories:
– Toiletries/Make up
– Electronics + cables
– First Aid Kit/Medication
– ‘Other’ e.g. laundry bag, padlock, towel
That includes every little thing plus number of those things e.g. hair ties x 5, hair pins x 5, hair brush. Do not write ‘hair stuff,’ lists are fun, go with it.
STEP 2: Add in some Extras
I lied. You can’t add stuff. Ha. Why would you want to lug around things you don’t need? And why do you need 5 bandages? If you ever need 5 bandages, you probably need to go to the hospital.
Remember – everywhere has shops.
Really think about everything you’ve written down. Can you use one cable for two devices? Do you actually need luggage scales? Are you really going to use all of those GoPro mounts? Can you keep any of your documents online? Will you really need hair smoothing serum in the middle of Asia when it’s just going to be stuck to your face with sweat anyways? No. Cross it out.
STEP 3: Build your Capsule Wardrobe
This is the hard bit where everyone over-packs. Again, stick to climates you will only be in for the first three months. As I mentioned in my minimalist backpack post, I like to pack around seven days worth of everyday ‘pub’ clothes. This then gets altered, swapped out and grown to about ten days worth of pub clothes. So why not take ten days worth? Because I never know what I’m actually going to end up wearing – I don’t want to pack an extra dress if I end up wearing shorts all the time.
The key here is to pack multi-functional, versatile items – if you want more tips on choosing travel clothing (no strict khaki and monochromes, promise) check out my post on building a capsule wardrobe.
STEP 4: Organising Your Stuff
Consider how you want to organise and pack your stuff to be as convenient as possible. For example, small bag to store all of your cables. Consider the situation in which you will be using each item – for me it’s practical to store all of my toiletries / cosmetics / hair items together as I use them at the same time and it means I only have to pull a single bag out of my backpack every morning before sleepily walking to the showers.
If you’re interested, check out this step-by-step, simple method I use to organise my backpack.
STEP 5: Whip out the Highlighters
a) Mark everything on your list that you need to buy before you trip – this means things like shampoo, razor blades, a padlock. Make plans to buy these things. If you’re marking things such as ‘a fourth pair of shorts,’ consider leaving it until you’re out there – you may end up only needing three.
b) Now mark everything that you can’t pack until the very last minute e.g. phone, phone charger, hairbrush etc. Include in this what you will wear to the airport.
c) Now mark everything that will go as carry on if you’re planning on checking a bag.
STEP 6: Make a Box
Take out your notebook and start gathering everything from your first list that you won’t be needing before your trip e.g. padlock and first-aid kit and keep them together – pop them into a box or a drawer so you’re not leaving it until the last minute and realising you can’t find your travel towel.
Launder any clothing that you want to pack that you won’t be wearing before the trip and pop them there too.
STEP 7: Laundry
Launder the rest of your clothes that you’ll be packing and pop them with the other items you have collected.
This is packing day! Don’t leave this until the evening so get out your list and go find your box.
STEP 8: Group your Items
Gather everything you are packing, consider how you’ve decided to organise your items and group them accordingly.
STEP 9: Pack!
Now it’s time to pack! This should take you no time at all as there are no decisions to make because you’ve already made them. Pop each group of items into their corresponding packing cube or bag and tick off as you go. If you feel yourself reaching for something that isn’t on your list, did it slip your mind or are you panic packing?
When you’re done, pop your bag in the corner and gather everything together that you will be packing or wearing in the morning.
Day of Travel
Step 10: Go!
Travel day! Just put on the clothes you’ve already laid out, gather the few items you’ve marked as ‘last minute,’ pop them into your bag and voila! Triple check you’ve got your passport and go!
Want to be a packing pro?