8 Tips How to Pack for Long-Term Travel
Traveling around the world for a couple of months or a year is a different story than a one-week or short-term holiday.
Overall there are some similarities, but long-term travelers often still need different things in their luggage.
When I left on my year-long trip, I had absolutely no clue what to take. It really freaked me out a little.
Bottom line – no matter if you are a minimalist or not, everyone aims to pack light.
Many long-term traveller go for the ‘hand luggage only’ approach to packing.
While this has many advantages (saving on luggage fees for flights, less struggle with carrying), it simply isn’t for me.
As with everything, it’s about balance. I prefer to trade a bit of weight for increased convenience.
Choose The Right Bag
Before we speak about packing, it’s important to think about the bag you’ll use first.
The best way to avoid overpacking is to start with the right size bag. This will remove the temptation to keep adding more things, and forces you to prioritise.
Even though, there are not everyone’s cup of tea, backpacks have a lot of advantages over suitcases.
Backpacks are easier to take along on chicken buses, boat trips and for walking on cobblestone streets or dirt roads.
Personally I prefer a front-loading backpack over a top-loading backpack. It is just so much easier to access your stuff without having to remove everything.
I travel with an Osprey Farpoint 70. This backpack can be split into a 70L main bag and a 13L daypack. The daypack can also clip onto the harness of the main pack, in a ‘kangaroo’ style attachment.
I store all my valuables in the daypack and use it as my hand-luggage. It also has a seperate laptop compartment.
70L is not exactly the minimalist version, but I needed just that bit of extra space for the many electronic devices I use for my travel blogging. I would say say 55L is sufficient for most travellers.
Have A Plan
Understand what sort of activities you’re going to do on your trip and what the likely climate will be. This will help you narrow down the range of items which are necessary.
The question about how long are you travelling for is actually not that important. The things you will need are about the same, no matter if you travel for 3 months or a year.
Only pack enough clothes for 7 days, no matter how long you’re traveling for.
It is easier to find a laundromat once a week than it is to carry all of the extra weight around with you the entire trip.
And no matter where in the world you’re travelling, it doesn’t need to be expensive to get your clothes washed.
Think Plain Clothes And Layers
Before getting stressed out, lay out all the stuff you would LIKE to take. Then think about every single item, and try to eliminate all the things you won’t NEED. This will already reduce your options by a lot.
Try packing only your favourite outfits. Those ones you feel comfortable and confident in and those that you wear over and over again.
If you have never worn a shirt but think now might be the right opportunity to do so, forget about it. It’s not going to happen.
When choosing your clothes, think basics and plain colours. Those things are much easier to combine and will give you more total outfit combinations and require less effort to plan.
For cold weather, don’t pack bulky sweater and pants. Instead, layer up!
Pack a top, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, and a thin cardigan or sweater. Collectively, they’ll take up as much (or less) space as the thick sweater, but you’ll have a much more flexible wardrobe.
As for pants, you can’t go wrong with black leggings. Easy to combine and less weight. In colder weather I tend to layer up two, sometimes even three pairs of leggings.
Don’t even think about taking your jeans. They are heavy and don’t dry that fast.
Last but not least: Be ok with wearing repeat outfits.
Get Some Quick-Dry Fabrics
Quick-dry fabrics can be hand-washed and dry very quicky, meaning you need fewer items since you won’t need to carry enough to get you between 1-2 week laundry cycles.
Cotswoldoutdoor is one of many companies that make moisture-wicking, quick-dry clothes.
When choosing any clothes, consider the following factors: quality, thickness, weight, wrinkles, transparency, and texture.
Your perfect travel clothing is long-lasting, takes up minimal space and weight, is wrinkle-free and matches with the rest of your clothing.
Pick Your Shoes First
Shoes are a real space eater.
Here is my rule: If you go to mild and warm climates only, take two pairs of shoes: flips flops and some sneaker or Converse Ct (leight weight).
For those of you who plan on some outdoor activities and head to colder climates as well, add a pair of solid, waterproof and light weight hiking shoes.
By picking your shoes first, it will be much easier choosing the rest of your outfits and again – it limits your choices and leds to easier planning.
Take Only A Few Toiletries
This might be a real challenge, especially for the ladies. But remember – you can buy almost everything, everywhere in the world!
Travel size cosmetic is one way to go, however I am a big fan of refillable cosmetic containers. They come in many different sizes and designs (bottles, pots, dispenser etc.) and will save you a lot of space and weight.
Most hotels, even the budget places, will provide you with at least shampoo and shower gel so you can easiliy refill your containers every now and then.
Another advise is to look out for comsetics that do multiple jobs. Baby oil is great for removing waterproof mascara and is also really moisturising and can be used as shaving gel.
Pick a foundation that comes with a high SPF like MAC Studio Waterweight Spf 30 Foundation.
Now, before you put everything in your cosmetic bag, I recommend to put any liquids in a small zip-lock bag. Each item in its own bag. This prevents leakage all over your stuff and clothes.
I know what I am taking about because my toothbrush got soaked up by my conditioner so many times…yuck!
Sort Out Your Electronics
Electronis are heavy, often bulky and valueable items. And yet, most of us can’t travel without them.
If you are a travel blogger like me, you would need to bring your laptop on your trip. So, you are looking for a
compact and leight-weight device that yet has a fast processor and a decent screen size.
I have been travelling with my leight-weight HP ENVY for the past months and absolutely love it. Make sure to have a good laptop case.
And of course you would want to take your camera to caputure all of your great adventures. There are plenty of posts out there, helping you to find the perfect camera for your needs.
If image quality, size, and weight is the most important factor, you will want to look at purchasing a mirrorless camera.
I started my trip with a compact digital camera, but later upgraded to the Olympus Mirrorless SLR E-PL6 and am perfectly happy with it.
What else might be important to take? Your phone of course and if you love reading, I strongly recommed to either go for a tablet or a Kindle. They are less bulky than old-style paper books.
Then you will have to sort out the cable and charger for all your devices. Instead of taking one for each advice, it would be a good idea to get a multiple charging cable.
Organize Your Stuff
After you have decided on all the things you NEED to take, it’s time to organize and pack your stuff.
For my clothes (underwear, socks, shirts and shorts), I use packing cubes. They cost don’t cost a fortune, keep your bag organised and help make the most of your space and stop you overpacking. For a long time I just kept my stuff in plastic shopping bags, which was a real mess.
I roll my clothes before putting them in the packing cubes. It’s better to roll clothes instead of folding as this is by far more space efficient.
Try packing and unpacking a few times to see how things fit in best. And don’t leave with a full bag – you will need space as you travel and will naturally want to pick up some things when you’re travelling.
Lastly, make sure to always wear your bulkiest pieces when you travel from one place to the next. Especially when it comes to shoes.
I understand that nervous feeling you get when your are done packing, all zipped up and ready to leave.
As you bite your fingernail you think, “But what if I need that dress I vetoed” or “What if I didn’t pack enough underwear”?
Just relax. You will soon forget about all of this once you are on the road.
And again, there are shops everywhere in the world. You can always buy a new shirt or a new dress if you get really tired of your old clothes.