Packing for a long term trip can be overwhelming.
After years of travelling for long periods of time, I’ve learned what to pack and what to leave at home.
This post should ease your stress as I share my top tips and tricks in this ultimate packing list for long term travel.
Keep reading until the end for my free printable PDF packing checklist list so you can tick the items off as you pack.
Ultimate Packing List For Long Term Travelers
Having packed and unpacked hundreds of times, I’ve learnt lots over the years about what to pack and what not to pack for a long term trip.
I’ve traveled to various countries with different climates and cultures, such as India, Finland, Thailand, USA, Turkey and Hong Kong, so I’ve done it all. This list includes everything you’ll need when visiting different countries.
In this post I’ll be sharing exactly what I pack for a long term trip including all my top packing tips and favorite travel gear – this includes some handy hacks that will help you fit everything into your bag!
Having traveled with my partner for many years, this packing list is written for both men and women so everyone can use it.
So if you’re thinking to yourself ‘What should I pack for long term travel?’ then this is the post for you.
Finding the right backpack is essential when packing for a trip.
If you’re planning on packing all of your items into a backpack then I’d recommend getting a large 40L – 65L sized backpack. For example, the two Osprey bags above are great choices at 60L and 65L.
These will fit the carry-on size requirements for most airlines and can carry A LOT of stuff!
You should also take a smaller daypack for day-to-day use – 20L to 30L is plenty for this.
Maximise your space with packing cubes. These are great for organizing your things and help save space in your luggage.
I started using these a few years ago and have never looked back.
You can also use vacuum sealed bags which will free up a ton of space in your luggage.
These are great if you tend to overpack as they suck out all of the free air leaving more space for other items.
For shoes, I’d recommend getting shoes bags. You can put each individual pair of shoes into one of these to protect your other items from getting dirty.
These are essential for any backpacking trip!
If you prefer a roller suitcase (like me!), or need more space for packing, then getting the right suitcase is also really important as you’ll be pulling it around a lot.
Make sure to get one with wheels as carrying around a large heavy suitcase without wheels is just the worst (believe me, I know!).
I’d recommend getting a large suitcase between 20” to 28” – this will fit everything you need and more.
You’ll also have extra space so you can bring back a few souvenirs from your trip.
The standard size requirements for a carry-on are 22″ x 14″ x 9″. Make sure your case fits these requirements or you’ll be charged a fee.
This size of case still has plenty of room and by using packing cubes you can maximise the space and stay organized.
This is a life saver that every traveler should have! A portable luggage scale allows you to check how much your luggage weighs before setting off for the airport.
Amazon Basics Portable Luggage Scale
Nobody wants to be hit with those extra weight charges because you bought too many souvenirs.
Use the luggage scale before you leave your hotel and if you’re over you can do a bit of rearranging to avoid extra costs.
Clothes (For Men & Women)
Clothing tends to be where most long-term travelers overpack. If you’re traveling for more than a few weeks then, of course, you’re not going to be able to take enough clothes for your trip so you’ll need to wash clothes.
I’d recommend taking enough clothes for around one week and then doing your laundry weekly.
Depending on where you’re traveling to, you may want to pack slightly different clothes. Below I’ve listed everything you should need for a variety of climates.
Clothes For Women
I’d recommend taking basic tops (no patterns/slogans) because you can pair them with more outfits.
I’d also avoid tight fitting tops, mainly if you’re going to a hot location as these can be clingy and uncomfortable in the heat.
It’s always useful to have a long sleeve top especially if you’re planning on visiting temples or other religious sites as many of these ask you to cover your elbows.
It’s also great for protecting your skin from the sun.
If you’re wanting to go out for an evening meal or if you’re heading out somewhere a bit more fancy, it’s great to have a dress on hand so you can dress up.
If you don’t really wear dresses then swap this out for something else that you’d be happy to wear to a nice restaurant or bar.
This dress is perfect for day wear or for something slightly more casual. For a night out, try this dress!
I hate being cold so it’s good to have a sweater on hand, just in case it gets a bit chilly.
Wherever you are in the world, it can sometimes get cold at night or if you’re on a plane you may also want a sweater when they start blasting the aircon.
If you’re traveling to a cold location then you should pack 3 or 4 of these.
If you regularly go to the gym or are into yoga then you might want to take some sports wear to keep up your routine whilst you’re away. If not, then skip this one.
I never go anywhere without my sweatpants, they’re so comfy and so needed after a long day.
When in hot countries, I wear shorts pretty much every day. They are the best for keeping you cool in the heat.
I’d recommend getting cotton shorts instead of denim as they’re much more comfy and as they’re lightweight, you’ll feel way better in the heat.
A long skirt is useful if you want to dress up a bit more or if you’re visiting a temple or religious site (where you’re often asked to cover up to your knees).
If you don’t really wear skirts then swap this for a pair of long pants/trousers instead.
Jeans are so versatile so it’s always a good idea to bring a pair with you. I wear them in the evenings to go to restaurants/bars or in the daytime in slightly colder locations.
I’d recommend picking something comfy and lightweight.
I prefer bralettes when traveling as they’re super comfy but feel free to swap these for regular bras if you prefer.
If you’re going to a hot country with a beach or pool then this is essential. Also don’t forget this when going to a colder country because you may want to take a dip in a hot spring (like in Iceland).
If you tend to wear sandals or flip flops everyday then you should only need 2 pairs of socks but if you wear sneakers then I’d recommend 7 pairs which should last you a week.
I tend to wear these all day everyday when I travel because they’re super comfy and you can walk long distances everyday and never get blisters.
These are great for everyday wear especially if you’re going to a beachy location.
Pick something comfy and lightweight. If you’re traveling to a colder country then you might want something a bit thicker with long sleeves to keep you warm at night.
A few extra things you may need (depending on location):
If you’re doing a lot of hiking or trekking then these will serve you well. Bear in mind that they carry a lot of weight and take up lots of space so if you’re just doing the odd hike then a pair of sneakers will be fine.
Nobody wants to be caught out in the cold, if you’re heading to a cold location bring some thick wooly socks to keep you warm.
Again, this depends on what location you’re going to. If it’s likely to be cold and rainy then bring one of these along.
Clothes For Men
These are perfect for everyday wear. I’d recommend getting plain colors so you can re-wear them often and go for a loose fitting style for comfort.
You may want to pack 3 or 4 of these if you’re going to a cold location otherwise one should be enough.
If you want to head out to a restaurant or bar in the evening then you’ll want a shirt to dress up a bit.
These are super comfy and great for lounging around in. I love putting on my sweatpants after a long day.
These are perfect for everyday wear, I’d recommend getting a light and comfy material (avoid denim).
Jeans are so versatile, you can wear them out in the evening to a restaurant/bar or in the daytime if you are going to a slightly colder location.
Bring these along if you’re a gym-goer. If you’re not into fitness then skip this one.
It can get a bit cold in the evenings/at night in many places. These are also super handy for long flights/bus rides when you’ll often get cold due to the aircon.
Choose something comfy and light.
If you’re going to a hot country, pick light socks and avoid thick, wooly ones.
These are essential if you’re going to a hot location with a beach/pool but even if you’re going to a colder location I’d recommend bringing some just in case.
Opt for something comfy and lightweight as you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking on your trip.
Pick something lightweight and comfy. If you’re going somewhere cold then you might want a long sleeve and something a little thicker to keep you warm.
A few extra things you may need (depending on location):
If you’re planning on doing lots of hiking or trekking then these will be a valuable item for you.
They will take up lots of space and weight in your luggage so you may want to leave these at home if you’re only doing a few smaller hikes – sneakers will be fine in most cases.
If you’re heading somewhere cold then these will be a welcome friend.
If you’re going to a beachy location then these are perfect for wearing on the beach. These also come in useful for a variety of other situations.
This one depends on what location you’re going to. If it’s likely to be rainy then bring one of these along.
Accessories (For Men & Women)
There’s a range of accessories that you’ll need when traveling that are easy to forget.
Here I’ve listed all the essentials for both men and women.
Accessories For Women
Wherever you’re traveling to, I’d always recommend taking a pair of sunglasses with you.
Nobody wants to be squinting in the bright sun as this can give you headaches.
These are super important especially if you have long hair – there’s nothing worse than having your hair down on a hot day or the wind blowing it all over your face.
I’d recommend getting the spiral, phone coil style ones as these won’t leave any creases in your hair when you take them out.
You might be able to live without these so feel free to leave these at home if you can.
For me, I find they can be so versatile as you can straighten your hair and curl it (YouTube it!) so it’s worth bringing a compact pair with you.
Accessories For Men
These are essential for any trip so don’t forget to bring a pair.
Travel Toiletries (For Men & Women)
It’s always hard to know what toiletries you need to take when traveling abroad – especially when you’re a long term traveler. Below I’ve listed all the essentials that you should take.
Don’t worry about running out of toiletries, if you’re traveling for more than a month then it’s impossible to take enough for the entire trip.
Wherever you go, you’ll be able to get more, especially all your essentials like toothpaste etc.
This is a great way to save space and weight in your luggage and they actually work just as well as regular shampoo & conditioner.
A bonus is that they’re more eco-friendly too.
I never go anywhere without lip balm so make sure you pack this essential item.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
Transporting toothbrushes is always difficult so get yourself some toothbrush covers to keep your toothbrush safe and sanitary.
I’d recommend purchasing a stick deodorant because it saves on space in your luggage. Stick deodorants also won’t count towards any liquid limits if you’re taking a carry-on.
Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag at all times, I’d recommend using it often to avoid catching any unwanted illnesses.
If you want to save on space and weight in your luggage then you can also get hand sanitizer wipes instead.
This is an essential item for all travelers, even if you’re not going to a sunny place it’s always best to wear SPF.
I once got horribly sunburnt on a really cloudy day in Thailand (there was no sun at all!) and I’ve definitely learnt my lesson since then.
Taking a bar of soap instead of a bottle of shower gel will save you space in your luggage and won’t count towards any liquids allowances.
Depending on your location, you may not need to bring this but in most hot countries you will need to watch out for bugs.
Nobody wants to spend their entire trip covered in itchy bites so bring this along to help prevent them.
In the hopefully rare event that you do get sunburnt, aloe vera is the best way to soothe your skin.
I’ve had some pretty horrific sunburn incidents (hopefully never again) and I can tell you that aloe vera gel is the absolute best!
Extra Travel Toiletries For Women
I always keep my makeup and other toiletries in a separate bag to keep them organized and prevent damage whilst traveling.
I’d recommend getting one that’s waterproof and that has different compartments to keep everything in place.
This one is really up to you in terms of how much you need.
For basics, I’d recommend taking a waterproof mascara as you don’t want any smearing in the heat and this will also last if you go swimming.
Another essential is a tinted moisturizer, these feel super light on the skin but also give you some coverage. Get one with SPF as well to protect your skin from sun damage.
These come in so handy especially when traveling around a lot. I’d recommend a small mirror that comes with a stand so you can use it hands free.
I always take makeup remover wipes when traveling as they take up less room in your luggage and are much lighter than taking a heavy bottle.
- Razor for women
I’d recommend taking a folding hairbrush as these will take up less space in your case.
Instead of taking your favorite perfume away with you and risking it smashing in your case, get a mini refillable perfume bottle.
These are great because you can just pour a bit of your fave perfume into it and take it with you. You then never have to worry about glass bottles smashing in your case.
Period cups are the best for traveling light as they don’t take up much space and you don’t have to worry about buying more supplies throughout your trip.
Tampons can be hard to get a hold of in many countries (especially South East Asia) and if you do manage to find them, they are ridiculously expensive.
You can also wear a period cup for up to 12 hours a day without changing it so it is perfect for travelers.
Extra Travel Toiletries For Men
I’d recommend getting a portable refillable bottle so you can take a bit of your favorite cologne with you without having to bring the entire bottle.
Pack a small, lightweight comb to keep your hair (if you have any) in check.
After traveling for many years, I know what to pack and what to leave at home.
The below items are what I consider to be essential travel gear for long term travelers.
Getting yourself a good quality water bottle with a filter is a great way to save money on bottled water whilst traveling.
Whilst water tends to be fairly cheap, it can add up and if you get a water bottle with a filter you can drink straight from the tap as the bottle will remove any bacteria, parasites and even microplastics.
Whilst I wish it didn’t, theft does happen and pickpockets often target tourists. The best way to protect your money, cards, phone and important documents from being stolen is by purchasing a money belt.
I’d recommend getting one with an RFID block. RFID skimming is a new type of theft where pickpockets will hold an RFID reader near your bag which will scan the chips in your credit cards, passport and driving license – they could steal your identity or make a purchase without you even knowing.
This money belt has an RFID block which would prevent the reader from working if you were targeted.
If you wear a bra, you can also get a bra pouch which clips onto the side of your bra and is worn under your clothes. This is also a great place to store your important documents like your passport and some spare cash.
Most people wouldn’t think to bring duct tape with them when traveling but I can guarantee that as a long term traveler, at some point, you will need it.
Things often go wrong when traveling and a bit of duct tape can fix (almost) anything.
I never get on a long haul flight (or any flight for that matter) without my trusty travel pillow. They make flying so much more comfortable as well as long bus and train journeys.
This might sound a bit random but they actually come in handy all the time. I use them to store any liquids that I’m taking with me so that if they happen to leak during travel, they won’t ruin the rest of my belongings.
This is a great idea for backpackers and long term travelers as who wants to spend all their time trying to find places to wash their clothes?
This allows you to do your laundry anywhere – in a hotel, hostel or airbnb. You just put a drop of laundry liquid and some water into the bag, leave it to soak then rinse it out and you’re done.
Fresh, clean clothes on the go. It’s also much cheaper as getting someone to do your laundry every week adds up.
You’ll need a lightweight, microfibre towel just for those hotels and airbnbs that don’t provide them. This can also double up as a blanket on long flights/bus rides so make sure you get a large one.
Electronics are a huge part of our lives but they do take up valuable space when traveling.
You don’t want to overpack so below I’ve listed the essentials that you’ll need.
If you already have a trusty, lightweight laptop then you can bring that along on your trip.
If you’re looking for something new then I’d recommend the Apple MacBook Air as it’s really light and will last you a long time.
I’ve had my MacBook Air for almost 5 years now and it’s still just as good as the day I got it.
Unfortunately when traveling accidents do happen and you wouldn’t want anything to damage your precious laptop.
Get yourself a laptop sleeve or laptop case to protect your laptop and avoid any accidents.
If you’re anything like me then you’ll probably take tons of photos and videos whilst on your trip.
These can take a toll on your laptop if you use it for storage – you may fill your memory and it may slow your laptop down so put them on an external hard drive instead.
One of the best cameras for travel is the GoPro – it’s really compact so won’t take up much room. It also produces good quality video too which is a bonus. If you want any underwater photos or videos then this is a must.
Having a good quality phone is essential when traveling as pretty much everything you do requires a phone these days.
That includes flight/train e-tickets, maps, passes, credit cards…you name it! My trusty iPhone has served me well over the years and is yet to let me down.
When traveling you often spend a lot of time sitting or standing around with nothing to do whether you’re on a long haul flight, waiting for a bus, in a taxi etc, having AirPods will help the time go faster.
Put your favorite playlist on and get lost in your own little world for a while.
This might not be something that you’ve thought of before but it’s worth bearing in mind.
Headphone splitters allow you to plug 2 separate headphones into one phone, for example, maybe you want to share your music with a friend.
Not every country uses the same type of plugs.
If you’re traveling to multiple different countries then you can get a universal adapter that will fit any plug type. This one also comes with USB ports for even easier charging.
There’s nothing worse than your phone running out of charge when you’re out and I can guarantee (because it’s happened to me) that it’s 10 times worse when you’re traveling.
These days we are so reliant on our phones for maps & direction, e-tickets and information. I usually have e-tickets on my phone for flights, buses and trains and I’d be stranded if my phone ran out of charge.
To ensure this never happens to you, get yourself a power bank (this one will be able to fully charge an iPhone 2 – 3 times).
If you have lots of electronics then it is a fantastic idea to to bring a power strip as you only need one universal adaptor and you can charge multiple devices at once.
Your phone is probably one of the most valuable items that you’ll have with you so it’s a good idea to protect it.
The rain can hit at any time so having a waterproof case is a must. It can also be useful in other situations e.g. you can take your phone into the ocean for some cool underwater shots!
Nobody wants to get sick whilst traveling. You don’t need to take your entire medicine cabinet with you but it’s a good idea to bring a few key items.
*Make sure to double check what’s allowed in the destination country as they may have restrictions on certain medications that you might not expect.
Here’s what I usually take:
You can get pre-made first aid kits which include all the key essentials that you’ll need such as band-aids and wipes. It’s a good idea to have one of these with you for any minor injuries.
Whilst I hope you never need these, it’s always good to have some on hand just in case. When traveling to new places and eating new foods this can sometimes mess with our bodies so don’t get caught out.
Getting a random headache, migraine or stomach ache whilst traveling is horrible but what makes it even worse is when you can’t do anything about it. Be prepared and take some acetaminophen with you.
I take these everywhere with me. They’re great for any aches or pains (which you tend to get a lot of when traveling). Ibuprofen is also great at alleviating period pains.
Your travel documents are the most important things that you’ll take with you on any international trip.
Everything else can easily be replaced or purchased when you’re abroad but these can’t so keep them safe.
You can also get a passport holder to keep your passport safe and prevent any accidental damage.
- Passport photos
Some countries require a small, passport sized photo when you enter the country, when you apply for a visa or even when getting a SIM card.
You don’t want to be caught out by extra charges at the airport so bring a few with you just in case.
- Vaccination documents
This depends on which countries you’re visiting. You don’t need proof of vaccination for most countries but some countries do require it (especially South America).
Additionally, following on from the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries may want to see proof of a Covid-19 vaccination on arrival so check their requirements beforehand.
- Copy of travel insurance policy
- Copy of other important documents such as passports and visas
- ID documents such as driving license
- Bank cards
This will keep all your travel documents organized. You don’t want to lose anything.
What Not To Pack For Long Term Travel
You don’t want to waste precious space on items that you just don’t need as this will just weigh you down.
I’ve covered the main items that you shouldn’t pack below.
- Hair dryer
These are super clunky and heavy so take up lots of space and weight in your suitcase. I tend to let my hair air dry and, in hot countries, your hair will dry super quick anyway.
Most hotels and airbnbs also tend to provide hair dryers too (check their listing for this) so you’ll likely have one most of the time anyway.
- Shaving cream
Don’t bother packing this, use some hair conditioner instead. It works just as well and saves you precious space in your case.
- Too many beauty products
I’m definitely guilty of doing this and often try to bring my entire makeup collection away with me. In reality, I don’t use most of it.
I’d recommend just bringing your everyday daily makeup items and maybe a few extra things you might use when dressing up more.
In today’s world you can find all the information you need online and guidebooks are heavy so avoid taking them and get a SIM card with data when you arrive instead.
- Expensive jewellery
If you have expensive jewellery, especially ones which have sentimental value, it’s best to leave them at home. You don’t want to risk it being lost or stolen.
Having jewellery on show may also make you more of a target to thieves.
- Too many shoes
Shoes take up a lot of space in your suitcase so try to pick 1 or 2 really versatile pairs to take with you to keep your suitcase light.
- Portable cups, plates, cutlery etc
Whilst these do sound like a good idea, in reality you just won’t use them. Pretty much anywhere you stay will have these available for you.
Printable PDF Long Term Packing Checklist
To make things super easy for you, I’ve collated all of the above into a super handy PDF checklist.
Just print it out and tick things off as you pack them. Easy, right!?
Thanks for reading this ultimate packing list for long term travelers.
I put this list together to help people who are going traveling for the first time or always have trouble knowing what to take.