Ready to pack for travel? Our ultimate travel packing list gives a detailed packing list that includes tips for traveling in both hot and cold climates.
Even better, this article provides you with key tips to pack for long-term travel in a carry-on. Yes, a carry-on. You can do it!
Long-term travel is a wonderful way to experience the world. But hauling a lot of luggage around the world and back again? Not so fun.
I travel for three months at a time, often through both hot and cold climates.
During my travels, I travel with just a carry-on bag and personal item.
This method of travel means that I have less stuff to haul through jungles and cobblestone streets. And I usually do not need to check a bag and risk having the airline lose it.
~I want to share what I have learned with you.~
Below, you will find the ultimate travel packing list that I use for my travels.
To help with your own packing, I have also included notes on why I pack what I do and adjustments I have made to my packing list over time.
The ultimate travel packing list and tips I share below will help to make sure that you pack just the key essentials. With these tips, you can also travel long-term in just a carry-on.
Bags & Luggage
I find that having the right bags, along with a little packing organization, really helps me to pack for long-term travel in a carry-on.
- Carry-on luggage: Starting with just a carry-on bag (instead of a larger bag) helps me to be thoughtful about what I pack. I love my Delsey luggage. It has been around the world twice and still looks new. While some people swear by backpack-only travel, I just cannot lug around that much stuff on my back.
- Duffel bag: I use a big duffel bag as my personal item. It is on the heavier side but works for me. I did start with a much bigger-sized duffel bag and downgraded to a smaller-sized duffel bag. The bigger size was too heavy to carry.
- Luggage tags: I always have bright luggage tags on both my carry-on and personal item. You never know when you will be required to check your bag or leave it at the hotel.
- Belt Bag: I use a belt bag as my day pack. Using a smaller bag helps me to minimize what I carry with me during the day. You can read about what I pack in my day pack in this article.
- Backpack: On days when I need to carry some extra things with me (like an umbrella or sun screen), I use a packable backpack. On these days, I still wear my belt bag so that my more valuable items (like my phone and credit card) are closer to my body in the belt bag. That makes these items less vulnerable to theft.
- Packable shopping bags: Since I often travel through both hot and cold climates in the same trip, I travel with a winter coat and boots that I might not need in every country. Packable shopping bags are great for storing my winter gear when I am in hot climates. I also use packable shopping bags as beach bags. They came in really handy.
- Tech organizer: I love having all my small electronics and cords stored in one bag.
- Toiletry bags: I travel with two toiletry bags. One toiletry bag has my daily toiletries. The second toiletry bag has the items I use less frequently, like nail clippers, band aids, etc.
- Cosmetic bags: When I first started traveling long-term, I used cosmetic bags to separately organize a lot of my small electronics and toiletries that did not fit in my toiletry bag. On subsequent trips, I consolidated a lot and packed fewer toiletries. As a result, I reduced my count of 7 cosmetic bags to just 2 cosmetic bags.
- Packing cube: I love to stuff my suitcase full. Packing cubes are good for organization but take up valuable space. I just use one packing cube in my luggage. I use it to store my undergarments and socks.
- Leather cross body purse: I packed a big, leather crossbody purse when I first started traveling. I thought it would be a good transition bag from day to night. But I didn’t use it once. I didn’t bring this on subsequent trips. It might be good for someone who travels to more urban locations than I do.
Cash, cards, & paper (oh my)
When packing for long-term travel, I always pack the items below with me. These are items that I carry in my belt bag/day pack when I am traveling:
- Cash: I always carry a little bit of cash with me, even when traveling in countries where credit cards are widely accepted. There is always some amazing little shop that only takes cash. When I arrive in a country, I get some local currency from an ATM at the airport or train station.
- ATM card: To extract the cash from ATM machines, I travel with an ATM card that does not have any withdrawal fees, no matter where I am in the world. I use Charles Schwab’s no-fee ATM card.
- Credit card: I also make sure that my credit card does not charge any foreign currency conversion fees. I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.
- Passport: On days when I am changing locations, I carry my passport in my belt bag/day pack. I leave my passport at the hotel otherwise (unless I know a passport is required to show identification somewhere I am going that day).
- Driver’s license: I always have my U.S. driver’s license with me to show identification when I am not carrying my passport.
- COVID vaccination card: Some areas require a COVID vaccination card, so I have my card with me when I travel. Many places accept a picture of your COVID vaccination card, so you can also store a photo of your card on your phone.
- Yellow Book vaccination card (for non-COVID vaccines): Some countries require certain vaccinations to enter their country. For example, some countries may require Yellow Fever vaccination. The Yellow Book documents these vaccinations. You can learn more about what vaccines each country requires on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel website.
- Passport holder: I keep the items above in a passport holder. I use this as my wallet when traveling.
- Wallet: When I first started my long-term travels, I carried both a wallet and a passport holder. Now I just use a passport holder. If you need to travel with more cards than me, a wallet may come in handy.
Electronics & electronics accessories
My ultimate travel packing list has included each of the electronics and electronics accessories below at one time. To assist in your packing, I have identified items I no longer travel with:
- Power strip: One of my favorite travel items is a portable power strip that has both USB and regular plugs. I can charge everything at once.
- Travel adaptors/plug converters: When I travel, I only bring the travel adaptors; I do not bring the voltage converter. I make sure all the electronics I travel with are dual voltage. This means I do not have the added weight of the voltage converter in my bag.
- Portable power bank: I take a lot of pictures and video on my phone, which drains the battery. I travel with a portable power bank to recharge my phone.
- Laptop and laptop charger: Because I work while I travel, I travel with a laptop and my laptop charger. But it means I usually have to go through extra screening at airports. If you can avoid traveling with a laptop, I would leave it at home.
- Phone and phone charger: I use my cell phone as my primary camera. I prefer Samsung’s camera features, so I travel with a Samsung Galaxy phone.
- Gimbal: To help stabilize my phone’s video, I sometimes use a gimbal. I do not always travel with this, but it is a fun toy.
- Phone wrist strap: To avoid dropping my phone or have it stolen out of my hands, I always secure my phone to my wrist with a wrist strap.
- Flexible tripod: I have a tiny, flexible tripod. In theory, it sounds great. But I do not use it that much in practice. I only occasionally travel with this but it might work out great for someone else.
- Selfie stick/tripod combo: Since I travel solo, a selfie stick with a tripod helps me to take pictures of myself.
- Waterproof phone case: When I’m traveling to places where my phone will likely be near water, I pack a waterproof phone case.
- Wireless earbuds: To save room in my luggage, I do not pack the big over-the-ear headphones. Instead, I bring wireless earbuds with noise cancellation.
- SmartTags: Although I do not usually check a bag, I still put a SmartTag tracker in my carry-on bag, just in case I am traveling on a smaller plane that requires me to check my carry-on bag.
- Electronic watch and watch charger: I like traveling with an electronic watch, since I can recharge it every night and not worry about a non-rechargeable battery going dead.
- Hair dryer (dual-voltage): To make sure I do not fry my hair dryer, I travel with a dual voltage dryer that works both in the U.S. (my home country) and in other countries.
- Revlon drying brush (220-240 volts): I have not been able to find a dual-voltage version of the drying brush, so I bought one from Germany that has the Euro plug and is 220-240 volts.
- Tablet and tablet charging cord: I use a Samsung tablet as my eReader. I avoid traveling with any physical books since they take up so much room and weigh so much.
- GoPro MAX and charging cord: When I am planning on something active that involves water (like going to a water park or snorkeling), I will pack my GoPro MAX to get some action shots.
- Mirrorless camera (plus mirrorless camera charger, mirrorless camera cord, and mirrorless camera cleaning brush): Because phone cameras have become so advanced, I usually rely on my phone for my pictures and video. I rarely pack my big mirrorless camera.
- Fan/portable charger combo: I loved the idea of this item but never really used it. I do not travel with it any longer but it might be great for someone else.
- Extra charging cords and plugs: I used to pack extra charging cords and plugs, but never used them. I cut the extra out to save room in my luggage.
My toiletry packing list has changed over time, as I have adjusted to what I really need on the road.
Two key things that I have learned:
- You do not need nearly as many toiletry supplies as you think you need. Bring one travel-size version of your product and buy refills during your travels.
- Toiletry companies are experts in getting their product to the most far-reaching, rural destinations. You will be able to find what you need on the road.
Without further ado, here is my ultimate travel packing list for toiletries:
- Electric toothbrush and charger: Traveling with an electric toothbrush feels like a luxury but it is a nice way to keep the comforts of home without taking up too much room in my suitcase.
- Toothbrush cover: To keep my toothbrush clean, I use a toothbrush cover when I put my toothbrush into my toiletry bag.
- Toothpaste: Airport security agents around the world will confiscate your toothpaste if it is over 3.4 oz/100 mL, so I make sure to pack travel-size toothpaste.
- Floss: I keep my gums healthy by packing some floss.
- Mouthwash: I have seen Listerine mouthwash at the most rural destinations around the world. I pack a travel-size version and refill as I go.
- Contact lens solution and contact case: Contact lens solution is an item I thought I would have a hard time finding while traveling. But I have found my exact contact lens solution brand just about everywhere around the world.
- Extra contacts: Prescription contacts are something you cannot really find on the road, so make sure you have plenty of extras with you.
- Face wash: The face wash I travel with is a complete splurge. But it feels like a wonderful luxury at the end of a long travel day.
- Headband for washing face: I have long hair, so use a headband to pull back my hair for washing my face.
- Hair ties: I have 3-5 hair ties with me to pull back my hair to wash my face and also to pull back my hair on hot days.
- Face moisturizer: The face moisturizer I use comes in a bottle that is more than 3.4oz/100mL, so I transfer it into a reusable bottle that is within the size limits.
- Hand lotion: I am constantly washing my hands while traveling, which dries out my skin. I use Aveeno hand lotion to moisturize my hands.
- Razor: I travel with one razor for legs and underarms.
- Wax strips: Since I travel for multiple months at a time, wax strips come in handy for the face and bikini area.
- Nail clippers and tweezers: Nail clippers and tweezers always come in handy – and not just for personal grooming. I use the nail clippers as scissors. And the tweezers have come in handy for removing splinters.
- Shampoo: I do not travel with shampoo anymore. Every place I stay at has had shampoo, so I do not bring my own.
- Conditioner: Unlike shampoo, it is rare to find conditioner in hotels on the road. Or the conditioner is really bad. I travel with more conditioner than any other product. I use reusable bottles to refill on the road.
- Body wash: I also do not travel with body wash. Most hotels and Airbnbs have body wash readily available. If there is not body wash, I just use shampoo.
- Loofah: I travel with a loofah to get extra clean on the road. Make sure you regularly switch out your loofah – they can be breeding grounds for bacteria.
- Deodorant: I love Native deodorant. Keeps me fresh all day!
- Sunscreen: I travel with a travel-size sunscreen. When I get to my destination, I buy a bigger bottle. But having the smaller bottle with me means I can go straight to the beach without worrying about where I am going to buy sunscreen on the way.
- Makeup: I travel with a very small amount of makeup. I travel with eye shadow, an eye shadow brush, eye liner, mascara, and concealer.
- Small hair brush: I love my mini Aveda brush and travel everywhere with it.
- Feminine products (period underwear or tampons): If you are on the road for an extended period, you may need feminine products.
- Mini first aid kit: I used to travel with a full first aid kit but now only travel with band-aids and alcohol wipes. I would carry more first aid items with me if I was doing more adventurous stuff on my own but I always have a guide with me.
- Prescription medication: If you require any prescription medication, make sure to pack it in your personal item.
Day pack essentials
I use a belt bag (formerly known as a fanny pack) for my day pack. I have included some of the key items that I pack in my day back below.
For a full list of the items in my day pack, read this article.
- Hand Sanitizer: You touch a lot of public surfaces while traveling. I carry a tiny hand sanitizer bottle in my day bag.
- Headache/pain medicine: It is a real bummer to get a headache or muscle ache while traveling and not have a way to relieve the pain. I have a small container of headache/pain medicine with me at all times.
- Motion sickness medicine: I get pretty bad motion sickness, so I always have motion sickness medicine with me.
- Kleenex tissues: Rather than pack an entire travel pack of tissues, I pull out 2-3 tissues and put them in a separate compartment in my travel pack. That way I still have access to tissues, but they are not taking up a lot of room in my bag.
- Combo hairbrush and mirror: The ever practical brush/mirror combo is a must-pack.
- Chapstick: I am rarely without this chapstick. My mom keeps me stocked up because she knows I like it so much!
- Gum: The onions from that Greek salad have a way of lingering. I bring along some peppermint gum for fresh breath throughout the day.
- Floss: Having food stuck in your teeth is no way to spend your vacation! I save the tiny floss packets that my dentist gives me and always carry one in my travel pack.
- Pen: I am amazed at how often I need to use a pen or am asked by someone else if they can use my pen. It is a great item to include in your day pack.
When selecting clothing for travel, I ask myself the following questions:
- Is it easy to wash?
- Is it wrinkle-resistant?
- Is it versatile? I.e., can it be worn with multiple other clothing items I packed? Or is it a “one-hit-wonder”?
- Does it pack down small?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then I do not pack the item.
When selecting my clothing for trips, I tend to stick to these brands:
Each of these stores carries clothing that meets the four criteria noted above.
Here are the clothing tops I typically pack:
- 3 long-sleeved blouses
- 2 long-sleeved (light) sweaters
- 3 short-sleeve tops
Even when traveling in hot climates, I pack more long-sleeved tops in my luggage. I do this for several reasons:
- It protects me from the sun.
- There are many places where short-sleeves are not considered acceptable.
- I feel more “put-together” in long-sleeved shirts. They seem to look just a little more sophisticated than short-sleeved shirts.
Just like tops, my bottoms need to meet the four criteria of being washable, wrinkle-resistant, versatile, and packable. Here are the types of pants I typically pack:
When packing my pants, I want each item to be fairly different than the other, so that I have some variety in my clothing.
For cold climates, I also pack 1 pair of fleece leggings.
For hot climates where shorts are acceptable, I also pack 1 pair of jean shorts.
For dresses, I travel with one fancier dress and one more casual dress:
Clothing: Athletic attire
Even if I am not working out while traveling, I find that athletic attire is great for hikes and sleepwear. Here are is the athletic attire I include in my ultimate travel packing list:
- 2 yoga pants: I use these pants for more adventurous activities (like zip lining) and also for sleeping.
- 2 athletic shorts: I used to travel with athletic shorts but tend not to pack these anymore. There are a lot of places where shorts are not appropriate, especially when I am traveling as a solo female.
- 2 short-sleeve workout tops: These tops also double as my pajama tops.
- 2 long-sleeve workout tops: For cooler days, long-sleeve tops come in handy.
The various shoes I pack are:
- Thin sandals: These are one of the best things in my luggage. At the end of the day, it is so nice to slip off your walking shoes and put on breathable sandals to walk around the hotel.
- Athletic sandals: I only pack athletic/hiking sandals when I am at a tropical location that does not have a lot of sand. Otherwise, I find my feet get too dusty. Generally, I am not a big fan of wearing sandals during the day because they just do not have enough support.
- Leather walking shoes: If I am going to any place other than a tropical island, I pack leather walking shoes. They are comfortable and do not immediately shout “tourist” (even though everyone knows that I am a tourist).
- Combat boots: When traveling to cold climates, I pack combat boots. They are essential for keeping my feet warm. When I am at a location where I do not need them, I store them in one of my packable shopping bags.
- Athletic shoes: You are rarely going to see me exercise while on travel. So I only pack athletic shoes when going to locations where I specifically plan to do an athletic activity. I try to bring mesh athletic shoes to double as water shoes.
- Hiking shoes: I have found that hiking shoes are pretty beneficial in a lot of places I visit. If I want to go on a hike or explore an ancient site that has uneven terrain, hiking shoes are a necessity.
Depending on the places I plan to travel, I will pack the coats below. During trips when I am traveling through multiple climates, I may pack all of these items:
- Heavy winter coat: I never put my winter coat in my luggage itself. When I am traveling through an airport, I secure it within the straps of my duffel bag. When I am traveling within a country where I do not need it, I put it into one of my packable shopping bags.
- Packable down jacket: No matter where I am going, I always pack a packable down jacket. Even tropical climates can have high altitude places that are very cold. A packable down jacket takes up very little room in my luggage.
- Light fall/spring jacket: A light jacket is great for chilly airports and chilly nights.
- Light rain coat: I only travel with a rain coat if I am in tropical climates where it rains on a regular basis.
- Blazer: I used to travel with a blazer. I had dreams of closing business deals in random locations around the world, ha. But I never wore it, so I do not travel with a blazer anymore.
Even if I am traveling to the coldest of climates, I travel with a swimsuit. You never know when the hotel will have a nice indoor pool! Here are the swim items on my ultimate travel packing list:
- 1-piece swimsuit: There are many places in the world where a 2-piece swimsuit is not appropriate. Rather than try to go back and forth between a 1-piece and 2-piece swimsuit, I just travel with a 1-piece swimsuit.
- Long-sleeved swimsuit: I am very careful about my sun exposure, so I like having a swimsuit with long-sleeves for the days when I am doing some type of water activity (like snorkeling).
- Cover-up: As noted in the dress section above, I wear a casual dress as a cover-up.
- Rash guards: I bring along rash guards to wear over both swimsuits and over tank tops on sunny days.
My ultimate travel packing list for undergarments includes the following:
- 3 regular bras: I make sure my bras are easy to wash, since I regularly do my laundry on the road.
- 2 sports bras: Sports bras are great for more athletic activities.
- All the underwear: I pack as much underwear as will fit in my packing cube when I travel. I never want to be without a fresh pair!
- 1 pair of compression socks: For long flights, I always make sure I wear compression socks. They make a huge difference in reducing ankle swelling.
- 3 pairs of no-show socks: These are the absolute best no-show socks. I wear them with my leather walking shoes.
- 3 pairs of athletic socks: I love these socks, as well. Perfect for wearing with hiking shoes.
When packing, I always include these accessories:
- Scarf: A scarf is great for dressing up an outfit, keeping warm on chilly nights, and covering shoulders in conservative settings.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are a must for any destination. I like Warby Parker because of their home try-on option.
- Prescription glasses: Like my sunglasses, I use Warby Parker for my prescription glasses.
- Foldable hat: I think packable hats look a little too floppy. But foldable hats? Definitely the way to go.
- Jewelry: I used to bring jewelry with me when I traveled but do not pack it any more. I had some jewelry stolen out of my luggage in the past. So no jewelry when traveling.
Cold weather accessories:
The following items fall into a “miscellaneous” category on my ultimate travel packing list:
- Mini umbrella: I am always surprised at how many tourists do not plan for the weather. A mini umbrella packs up small and prevents you from getting soaked.
- Reusable water bottle: A lot of countries either have drinkable tap water or have filtered water available for use at hotels.
- Blow-up neck pillow: This is one of my most prized possessions. Because it deflates, it takes up very little room in my luggage.
- Bug repellent bracelets: A friend once gave me these bracelets and they are the absolute best thing. I bring them to any climate that has a chance of having biting insects.
- Dirty laundry bag: I use a dirty laundry bag to separate my dirty clothes from my clean clothes. It also makes it easier to get my clothes laundered, since my dirty clothes are all organized in one bag.
- Laundry detergent packets and plastic bag for soaking laundry: I used to bring laundry detergent and a plastic wash bag in the past. But I never used them. I either washed my clothes with shampoo or found an inexpensive laundry service. So I no longer pack these items.
- N95 face mask: Some countries require face masks on public transportation, so it is good to have one handy.
- Small combination lock: I used to travel with a small combination lock, but never used it. I do not travel with one anymore.
- Deck of cards: I also used to travel with a deck of cards, but eventually took it out of my luggage. I am more likely to play electronic games with friends than play with physical cards.
And that brings us to the end of the ultimate travel packing list! I hope my list and tips will help you to pack your own bags – hopefully in just a carry-on!