What to pack for a trip around the world (and still feel human)

I’ve dreamed since I was a child that “someday” I would take a multi-month trip around the world. That day is finally today, and I’m sorely tempted to pinch myself for reassurance that it’s really happening. The story of how this trip became possible is for another blog post (seriously, it’s a great story). Today, I’ll share with you how to pack 3 months of living into two carry-ons and still feel like a civilized human.

This is not a packing list for a backpacking trip. My goal is to not to look like a tourist, so zip-off canvas pants are out of the picture. Surprisingly, it was easier than expected to reduce my everyday wardrobe to carry-on size.

Your luggage

There are many areas to save money while traveling. Your luggage should not be one of them. Your luggage needs to be durable, water-resistant (since we had the brilliant idea of traveling during monsoon season) and above all – comfortable.

These are my two primary pieces of luggage:

Duffel + day pack

Duffel + day pack

The day pack on the left is the North Face Pinyon daypack. At 1 lb 4 oz, it’s super lightweight but roomy enough to hold your laptop and several tablets. The women’s version of the pack has especially comfortable straps for – ahem – feminine figures. Other things I love about it include a side zipper for easy access to your laptop and a chest strap for better load balance.

The primary pack on the right is the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 60L. As it’s name indicates, this pack is a bottomless pit. It expands and conforms to fit anything you may want to stuff inside. Rather than a single shoulder strap for carrying (which always leaves me feeling super imbalanced), this duffel comes with two backpack straps that you can either carry in your hand for brief periods or throw on like a backpack for sprinting through airports to make your transfer. The material is also utterly indestructible.

Your stuff

2014-08-03 02.01.05

This is everything that went into my luggage

Your clothes

While women tend to own more clothes per person than men, our wonderful little secret is that we can create many more outfits per piece of clothing. Your destination also makes a big difference. We’re saving loads of space by the fact that we won’t need any cold weather clothing. What you see above is enough clothing for a full month’s worth of outfits.

I went overboard, you should be able to get away with just two week’s worth. I justify the decision by the fact that I’m so small that my clothing is nearly weightless.

  • 2 T-shirts
  • 3 nice blouses
  • 3 tank tops
  • 1 long-sleeve layering shirt
  • 1 nice sweater
  • 1 rain jacket (Also my primary jacket)
  • 2 skirts
  • 1 sundress
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • Sleep shirt + pants
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 2 strapless-convertible bras
  • 1 bikini
  • 3 pairs of socks (WrightSock CoolMesh II Double-Layer Lo Socks)
  • 1 pair of Nike Frees
  • 1 pair of dress flats
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • Two lightweight packing cubes
  • 1 sari (We’re going to an Indian wedding!)

In addition to the sari, I fully expect that I’ll end up shipping up to half of my stuff back. I’ll follow up with a post halfway through the trip with an update on how much of my clothing I actually needed.

Your electronics

  • Samsung Chromebook (Same weight as 11-inch Macbook Air at 1/4th of the price. Offline access and Google Drive sync work like a charm.)
  • Nexus 5 with T-Mobile Simple Choice International Plan (The best Android phone out there with the best mobile plan I’ve ever heard of. Unlimited talk, text and data worldwide for $50/month.)
  • iPad (I never upgraded from my iPad 2 and it still works as smoothly as the day I bought it. This will be my primary reading device on long plane and train rides.)
  • Worldwide adapter (I’m a fan of the I/OMagic one that includes USB ports.)
  • Airport Express (To get free wifi in hotels)

Your toiletries

  • Sunscreen (Listen to Baz Luhrmann)
  • Lotions and soaps of choice in no-leak Nalgene bottles (I like this small-mouth and this dropper)
  • Sonicare toothbrush
  • Floss
  • 60 pairs of 1-day contact lenses (Wish I’d gotten Lasik when I had decent health insurance)
  • Drugs of choice (Ours include Advil, Tylenol, Dulcolax and Cipro)
  • Band Aids
  • Brush
  • Tweezers (Had to use this yesterday to remove a stubborn ethernet cable from the Airport Express)

Your money and documents


  • Sturdy water bottle
  • Headlamp
  • Purse
  • Earplugs + eyemask (Essential for a good night’s sleep)
  • Jump rope (Post on staying fit while traveling coming soon)
  • Tennis ball (Better than a deep tissue massage for recovering from long plane rides and cramped bus seats)

That’s it. Faced with the reality of needing to carry all of your belongings on your back for months, it’s easier than you think to reduce your needs to the basic essentials and still have room for indulgences.

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