Long Term Travel Packing Guide

Are you ready to start a life of travel? Check out the ultimate long term travel packing guide, so you'll have everything you need, without the extra baggage.

You’re finally ready to start on your long-term travel adventure, exploring the world with everything you need on your back. But quickly, you get overwhelmed by downsizing your life into a single bag (or 2)! Here you will find the ultimate long term packing guide with some of my essential must-haves!

You don’t have to have everything figured out perfectly before leaving. Inevitably, there will be things you lose, donate, or give away, and other things that you want to pick up along the way. 

Start your packing with this complete packing list downloadable PDF!

An open suitcase that is being prepared for long term travel packing

Table of Contents

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Know Your Traveler Self

Before stuffing socks into sandals, let’s personalize your packing. Are you a sun-seeking beach bum or a mountain-climbing thrill-seeker? A culture vulture or a digital nomad with a laptop glued to your hip? Maybe a little bit of all of the above, open to whatever adventure is in front of you?

Understanding your travel style will be essential to making decisions on what to bring and what to leave behind. At the end of the day, you have to be selective about what you pack. Knowing the type of traveler you are will help you pack lighter, smarter, and not feel weighed down by what you travel with.

I’m a bit of all of the above – so I optimize for versatility & style, no matter if I’m behind my laptop, soaking up the sun with my feet in the sand, or hiking a mountain in the dead of winter. 

Backpacks are Best

Let’s start right off with what you’re packing your things into. This may not be for everyone – but, if you’re a long-term traveler, being able to travel easily makes life on the move so much easier. 

I couldn’t imagine trying to get on a motorbike with a big rolling suitcase, or just facing the cost and constantly having to rent a car! Traveling with 2 backpacks has been ideal for me, and most other long-term travelers I’ve met along the way. A large trekking bag for most of my things, and a smaller day bag for my camera gear, wallet, etc.

I can hop onto a bike with no problem, walk across European cities for miles, fit everything in the overhead compartment on planes, and have more than enough of what I need! The external pockets are great for any extra additions like a yoga mat or towel, or to strap on some dirty shoes after a long adventure.


Girl sitting on a motorbike with 2 backpacks on, an efficient way to travel in Asia

Master the Mix-n-Match

Having a limited amount of clothes with you makes picking your daily outfits pretty easy. That is if they work well together. 

My rule of thumb is every shirt must match 80% of my pants or shorts, and vice-versa. If an article of clothing is limited in what it matches, it doesn’t come. I’ve found I simply won’t wear it as much because it actually takes some thought! And let’s be honest, it’s nice not having to think about the combinations and just simply wear what I want. 

  1. Pick a color scheme and stick to it – mine is pretty neutral earth tones, with a few articles that are a bit more lively
  2. Black, grey, beige, and white go with everything
  3. Go for clothes that don’t get wrinkly, and are easy to wash

Versatility is Everything

While you probably have an idea where your travels will start, who knows where they will take you! Or, what you’ll find yourself doing along the way.

Having versatile clothes is essential to doing more and feeling comfortable doing it! I love that all of my pants can be used for a workout, hiking, sleeping, or being dressed up for a night out. My lightweight sarong is essential in Asian temples, and quadruples as a mini-skirt, a blanket on chilly nights, a scarf, or even a head wrap!

Put preference towards things that can be layered, worn in different ways, and used in many of the activities you want for yourself! If it doesn’t work for much, you won’t use it much. And that’s just wasted space!

Items packed for long term travel, laid out on the floor

Comfortable Footwear

No matter where you’re going, you’ll be on your feet. Maybe less if you’re a digital nomad headed to a beach destination, but don’t over-estimate comfortable shoes.

Having shoes that are lightweight, comfortable, quality, versatile, and stylish… that’s a unicorn. But stay on the lookout for your perfect shoe! The last thing you want is uncomfortable shoes that hold you back from adventuring the way you want. 

I travel with 2 pairs of shoes; sandals and trainers. My waterproof sandals (like teva’s or chacos) are stylish enough to be worn with a cute dress out, but also durable enough to climb. mountain in them! My trainers are red Altra’s, that I could walk for days in. They are a fun pop of color (although they often don’t match), and necessary for some physical training!

Toiletries - Less is More

Toiletries are the toughest thing to slim down because most of them are nice to have but not essential. So, how do you decide which ones to leave behind?

Especially for women, we have a lot more to consider in what we bring. We have menstrual cycles, hair care regimens, skin-care needs, makeup, and who doesn’t love good self-care pampering?

Although you won’t have a 10-step self-care routine with a steamer, jade roller, tonics, and oils, you will find that massages, manicures, and facials are pretty dang affordable in other places, so you can still treat yourself!

You will find that the more you travel the less makeup you’ll wear. Personal maintenance becomes natural and minimal, and it feels so good to release all the pressures of maintaining the ‘perfect’ look. Opt for low-waste and reusable toiletries that you never have to worry about re-stocking or being too bulky. 

These are my favorite travel essentials for my health and wellness that are low-waste, reusable, and affordable.

Travel Technology

Everyone’s level of connection to the digital world is different, but chances are, you have some tech that you want to bring along on the journey. Unlike clothes and basic toiletries which exist everywhere, technology isn’t as easy to find in more rural locations or developing nations. 

Whether you’re a digital nomad, a traveling photographer, or a wanderlust explorer, be sure you have these technology basics!

Pack Your Personal Wants

While things like clothes, shoes, and technology are up to the individual, there are some things that I couldn’t imagine traveling without. These are the things that are personal to me, a homebody at heart who loves a long-term adventure.

I’m a creative, artistic person. And since I can’t bring a canvas and oil paints abroad, I need to have a creative outlet. The first few months of travel, I didn’t have this, I went as minimalist as possible, and I felt like a part of me was missing. Now, I always travel with a journal, watercolor paint, and an engraver tool! Now, I can create with my hands from anywhere, and all of these things fit into a small purse. 

Maybe you’re a musician – leave the guitar at home and opt for a harmonica or a local maraca-style instrument. Or if you’re a cozy queen, make some space for fuzzy socks to feel at home. If you’re a gamer, get yourself a Nintendo Switch to play on the go, or some reusable utensils to eat everywhere you are for the foodies of the group.

Nobody talks about our hobbies and interests enough. While it is enlightening to rely on less material things, don’t lose yourself in the process.

Packing Tips

1. Avoid Overpacking

Save yourself some space in your bag, and try to limit your packing to the bare essentials of what you’ll need! I guarantee there will be things you don’t really need that are taking up precious space, and things you wish you had room for that you want to pick up along the journey.

2. Everything Should Have a Place

When life is constantly in and out of bags, having a place for everything is crucial to staying organized. And no, that doesn’t include the clothing haphazardly clipped to the outside of your bag.

3. Packing Cubes are Life-Savers

Packing cubes are crucial to keep your clothes organized, wrinkle-free, and easy to find when you’re constantly on the go. Use things you already have like a scarf, cloth produce bags, or an old bag that’s been sitting in your closet!

4. Roll Your Clothes

Tried and tested – rolling your clothes saves a lot more space than folding them. That’s all.

5. Bring Clothes you 'Like', not 'Love'

If it comes down to making space for souvenirs, or if you’re not using something, would you be able to donate it or gift it? Or will you feel like you have to keep carrying it to bring it back home? Avoid traveling with things that you love, unless you are 100% sure you will use them while traveling!

6. Leave Space for Memories!

You’ll want to pick up some memorable things along the way. Be sure to leave some extra space for the unknowns – like unique shells from a Thai island, a hand-woven scarf from Morocco, or a traditional Japanese Kimono (they’re cheap second-hand)!

Summary - Long Term Travel Packing Guide

It took me some trial and error, and more money spent than what was necessary to nail down the perfect packing structure to ensure I have everything I need while saving space for the things I want.

Don’t forget to minimize what you bring, making sure everything has a place in the bag that is right for you! Don’t overestimate some of the packing essentials, and less is always more.

The goal of long-term travel is to take it slow, don’t overthink too much, and experience as much of the world and yourself as you can, so don’t let what and how you pack make your life harder than it needs to be!

Posted by Taylor Mallaber

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