We’ve been asked many times on our travels, “What do you pack for a round the world trip?” so we’ve compiled a list. After tons of research and many months of traveling, these are our tips and tricks for traveling smart and light, categorized by gear, electronics, clothes, toiletries and documents.
Gear & Organisation
Forget your roller suitcase. You need a light, easy to carry backpack. First you need to decide if you want/need a carry-on size or a larger checked bag size. If you’re going for a short time or are traveling in summer, go for the carry-on size (<40L) . If traveling for a longer trip, and through multiple climates get a larger backpack (40-65L).
As we are traveling for 18months we opted for a 65L pack, but if we were going to less we would have got this awesome carry-on backpack from Minaal. See this guide on how to choose a backpack for a RTW (round the world) trip. We also recommend going into a store to get your size before buying online. Ultimately, we chose the Osprey bags for their comfort and array of compartments and we have been VERY happy with them. Osprey also have a great replacement guarantee.
Bag Rain Cover (Osprey)- A waterproof cover that fully covers your backpack so everything is kept dry, and also to keep your bag straps covered when checking in at airports. You may not need this if traveling through Summer or dry climates.
Backpack (15L) – If you have a checked in bag, you will find you will still need a carry on bag to carry your electronics, valuables, passports, medicines etc. A backpack with a few separate compartments will make life easier, especially one with a laptop compartment. Make sure it’s not too big though, and keep it under 7kg when full. Again, go into a store and try them on before buying.
Compressible Day Bag (Duvet) – We use this small super light weight compact bag for our every day adventures, separate from our carry-ons. It folds into a small pouch and weighs next to nothing. It is also water resistant.
Packing Cubes (eBags)- These cubes are a lifesaver as they keep your bag super organized. They come in a variety of separate sizes but we find having 3 different sizes helps a lot, as they are easier to pack. Get a packing cube bag that you can see through, not an opaque bag. We opted for the ‘eBags’ 3 pack and they are perfect.
Mesh Ziploc Organizer Bags (Set of 4) – These sturdy mesh ziploc bags keeps your bag even more organized. Keep your toiletries, documents, glasses, and whatever else in separate bags so you have less clutter and can access things easily.
DryLite Towel (Sea to Summit)- This towel dries very fast & takes up no space in your bag. Super handy as many hostels & beaches charge for towel rental.
Travel Umbrella (Totes)- Keeps you dry, is small and light weight. Perfect.
Filtering Water Bottle (Brita)- In certain countries, the tap water isn’t ok to drink therefore you are forced to buy bottled water but in countries that tap water is a ok, carrying this around all day and refilling it at restaurants saves you a lot of money and the environment.
Shoe Covers – Covers & protects your shoes from rubbing & dirtying other things in your bag.
TSA Padlocks – To lockup your bags. Make sure you get TSA friendly locks so airport officials can open your bags without breaking your locks.
Loop Cable Lock – This cable allows you tie your bags to a secure pole, with the TSA padlock above. This loop is perfect when you need to leave your luggage in hostel room storage as there is usually minimal security monitoring these luggage rooms. You can tie them together and it locks to a pole making for a harder removal!
Travel Wallet – Coins accumulate quick, and often they are thrown into the bottom of your bag or lost so it is very helpful to have them all in one spot without weighing down your actual wallet.
Money Belt (Swede) – A money belt is the perfect money & passport holder to travel with. It fits perfectly underneath your clothes and cannot be seen.
Clothes Line – A rubber line that packs into a small pocket size packet. Very handy when doing laundry on the go.
Silk Sleeping Sack (Sea to Summit) – Perfect for sleeping in places where the sanitary is questionable. And airports.
Exercise Band – To attempt to stay fit & healthy. Access to gyms can be costly and limited, these bands fit easily in any bag and are very light and versatile.
Ziplock Bags – Keeps things dry and organized.
Electronics are essential for any trip, but you need to be smart so you’re not doubling up on adapters, cords and unnecessary items. Here is what works for us:
- 13″ Apple MacBook Pro + Speck Case + Incase Neoprene Pouch (Jacob)
- 11″ Apple MacBook Air + Incase Neoprene Pouch (Emily)
- Corded Mouse (Logitech) + Mousepad – A personal preference as it’s easier on the hands and easier to design with.
We travel with three light weight cameras between us, which may be a bit too many for some but we find it handy for different use case scenarios.
Sony NEX-5TL Camera – A DSLR quality digital camera, at half the weight and size of a regular DSLR. This is what we use most of the time.
Canon Power Shot Camera 340 elph – A very small, lightweight camera with a good flash, perfect for late night photos so you don’t have to carry a large camera out at night.
Canon Powershot D20 Waterproof/Shockproof – We use this for our beach, sports & swimming activities but it falls short for night photos as the images turn out grainy. It’s waterproof & shockproof, yet still small enough to fit in any bag. You could also swap this for a GoPro if you’re into video.
Spare SD Memory Cards (Sandisk) – Instead of deleting photos, we keep our photos on our memory cards and send them home. We also store them on DropBox. You can never be too careful with your travel pics!
USB Drive (Sandisk) – For easy transfer of files between people and computers.
Portable Rechargeable Battery Pack (Mophie) – A backup battery for charging your devices on the road. The 4500mh will charge an iPhone from dead to full 3-3.5 times before it needs to be recharged itself. It is very handy for on the go when you are constantly using your phone for maps, tips & photos!
Kindle – Great for down time and downloading guide books on the go. Much easier than carrying paperbacks though occasionally we do use a paperback too.
Global Converter (Scoss) – Scoss has the most light weight and compact option on the market and is our recommendation. It can charge 2 iPhones at once.
In-Ear Noise Canceling Headphones (Bose) – The best noise canceling headphones out there, packed into a small pouch, perfect for traveling. What baby crying?
Rubber Twist Ties – These will keep your cords from tangling up inside your bags.
1TB External HardDrive (Seagate) – For backing up our computers, storing photos and client files. I also store these on DropBox too.
What clothing you pack depends entirely on the climates you’re traveling through and for how long. As a guide:
- Pack as light as possible
- Use light weight materials
- Invest in good quality gear
- Polyester clothes are preferred as they take much less time to dry
- Roll your clothes into the packing cubes, it takes up less room
- Socks and underwear on the outer of the bag for easier access
- Recommend to have a dirty clothes bag to keep everything separated
As we are traveling for an extended period, through multiple continents & climates (not snow) we do have more than what most need but we’ve found this suitable for our travel needs. Pick and choose what works for you.
- 1 hat
- 2 sunglasses + cases
- 4 t-shirts
- 4 singlets
- 2 polyester collared shirts (very quick to dry)
- 1 dress shirt
- 1 running shirt (polyester)
- 1 warm but light hoody
- 1 wind jacket
- 2 board shorts with pockets (quick dry)
- 1 running shorts (polyester)
- 1 lounging shorts or trackpants
- 1-2 jeans/pants depending on climate
- 1 belt
- 7 undies
- 1 speedos
- 7 small light ankle socks
- 1 pair dress shoes
- 1 pair flip-flops with cushioning
- 1 pair running shoes
- 1 waterproof watch
Emily has packed everything below, using mostly light weight materials, but you can probably get away with less.
- 1 hat
- 2 sunglasses + cases
- 2 pairs of swimmers / bathers
- 13 pairs of underwear (girls underwear takes up way less room!)
- 3 bras
- 1 sports bra
- 5 socks
- 1 Pajamas
- 6 basic colored tank tops, super light and easy to wash
- 4 light dress/casual shirts
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 1 pair of tights
- 2 denim shorts (white and blue)
- 1 pair of dress shorts
- 1 pair of exercise shorts
- 1 skirt
- 2 dresses
- 1 hoodie
- 1 wind jacket
- 1 pair or running shoes
- 1 sandals
- 1 flip flops
- Fake wedding rings
- Waterproof watch
First Aid Kit – You name it, it’s in there. It is very wise to carry a pre-packed first aid kit especially when visiting foreign countries. Bandaids, antiseptic cream, pain relief, bug spray, sunscreen, malaria tablets (if necessary), cold & flu, heartburn, sleeping tablets, motion sickness meds, tiger balm, chapstick.
Hanging toiletries bag – Packed with toothpaste, travel toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, antiperspirant deodorant, contacts, contact solution, razor, shaving cream, prescription drugs, eye refresher.
Travel Bottles – To put shampoo & conditioner in.
Travel Toothbrush – Folds down to avoid germs/fits very well in small toiletry bags.
Padded Eye Mask – Your best friend in any hostel or airplane! Too many times people come in and out of a room and switch on the light. This mask is especially comfortable and blocks out all light. The best out there in our opinion.
Ear Plugs – Your second best friend in any hostel or airport!
Hair straightener – This is obviously a personal choice however hairdryers are available in almost every type of accommodation so no need to pack one of those!
Sunscreen – Our favorite is Hawaiian Silk Hydration 30+. It rubs in easy and is not oily.
Tissues – Many toilets do not have toilet paper so keep these handy.
Documents & Things
- Travel Insurance – If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. This should be your first item to pack. We have coverage from World Nomads but there are a variety of companies such as One Cover you can purchase insurance through. Here is a good travel insurance guide.
- Credit card with no international fees (we use Chase Shapphire & American Express Platinum). See how to choose a credit card for travel here.
- Debit card with low fees. We have Chase ($5 per withdrawal) but we really should have got Charles Schwab, with no withdrawal fees.
- Priority Pass – Get into fancy airport lounges free and eat the food, all the food! This card comes free with American Express Platinum or is $99 a year.
- Vaccinations – Check with your doc with what you need.
- Tickets & Visas – We use a travel agent for cheap flights and the iPhone app SkyScanner. Then we compare prices.
- Passport + Passport Wallet – Keeps your passports safe and your documents all in one place.
- Passport & Document Copies – We store these in our phone and on DropBox
- Pen & Paper
- Travel Guide Book – You could opt for a Kindle version however we sometime prefer being able to page through pages and maps. We also rip out sections we don’t need so we don’t have to lug the whole book everywhere.
- International Drivers License – In Australia, you can get this from NRMA.
More Round the World Packing Lists to Consider
Congrats for making it this far! Here are a few other packing lists for you to consider:
- A man’s RTW packing list
- A couple’s RTW packing list
- A woman’s light packing list
- A couple who packed too much
- A woman who packed WAY too much
- More great advice on packing light
- Travel packing advice
To paraphrase Rick Steves, “There are two kinds of travelers — those who pack light and those who wish they had!”
Now get packing!