Yep you read it right. I know, its super hard to believe that I packed everything I needed for 12 months of travel into ONE carry on, but it is completely possible. In fact, halfway through I ditched the carry on and only had a backpack for the remaining 8 months. In this post I will detail out everything that I brought with me when I left the US for 12 months.
Once you have already done the hard work: mentally preparing yourself for travel, minimizing your lifestyle and spending habits and sacrificing things like having your own apartment, not owning a car and putting a hold on all things shopping; packing really becomes the easy part. I mastered the art of packing for trips down to 20 efficient minutes by sticking to only things that I need.
Okay so maybe you aren’t going all extreme: quit my job and travel the world, like me, but either way this packing list should help you when it comes to packing smart and light for almost any trip, because who wants to pay check baggage fees and be struggling through airports and public transportation with unnecessary luggage? The details may vary depending on what type of traveler you are adventurer vs. relaxer etc. and what you will be doing, but these are the things that I found helpful on any trip. The rest you really can buy and replenish anywhere that’s not extremely remote, or my favorite, borrow.
Most of these items can be found in my Amazon shop: here.
Let’s start with the basics. I know we are budgeting our coins but invest in a sturdy reliable bag. The last thing you want to do is suitcase hunting (me in Senegal once I acquired too many gifts) ending up with some cheap and unreliable roller, breaking down by layover 2.
Tip 1: Invest in a sturdy bag that will last and keep you organized.
Tip 2: Bags in bags. Pack smaller bags inside of your one big bag so that when you go on smaller trips or just around town you have something to put your stuff in.
Tip 3: Roll your clothes, use packing cubes and maximize space!
Away suitcase w/ foldable laundry bag (I started with this then ditched it not even half way)
Patagonia Backpack (I carried this for the next 8 months, a little pricy but well worth the investmet)
This is where things can get tricky. Shoes are heavy and can become a burden after a while. When you are packing you think you’ll need so many pairs of shoes, new flash you really don’t.
Tip1 : Wear your heaviest shoe on the plane, that will free up space in your luggage.
Tip 2: Heels, wedges all that fancy stuff I left behind and either borrowed from friends or picked up a pair when I really had an event where I needed them. I know, I know this was hard for me but I got over it.
Shower shoes* / beach flip flops
Winter boat that doubles as a “going out bootie”
Hiking boots (optional)
When it comes to winter climates it is all about layering. No need to bring so much heavy stuff, just be smart in your layer process and you are good to go.
Tip: Wear your heaviest coat/items on the plane.
1 Rollable Uniqlo wind breaker (I clipped this to my backpack, saved room)
1 Parka (if it's cold weather)
2 scarves (I use these as head scarves too)
Okay now for the fun part – outfits. The trick here is mixing and matching as well as layering.
Tip 1 : You can never go wrong with black and neutrals in any country. Avoid white.
Tip 2: For long term travel make sure you bring things that you are okay with throwing away. Somethings may get too worn so don't bring your most valuable or favorite items if you aren't okay with losing them.
2 pair of leggings (one thick, one more comfortable that can double as work out pants)
1 pair of jeans
2 lounge pants that can double as pjs (not the other way around)
2 pairs of shorts
2 tanks (use for layering)
1 denim shirt (can be used as a light jacket)
1 thick turtle neck
1 more form fitting that is easy to dress up or down
1 statement piece - it's fun to have something that makes you feel cute and stand out.
7-10 pair (enough to get through 1 week without laundry, these are small and can be rolled easily)
1 pair of long johns (use for layering)
2 bras (1, regular sports bra) I don’t really wear bras, a little easier for me.
2-3 pair of thin socks
1 pair of thick socks (for planes etc.)
2 mixable 2 piece options
1 one piece for snorkeling / surfing extreme water activities to ensure comfort and support.
As far as toiletries go, do you and bring what you normally bring. Most things can be replaced at local pharmacies but here is what I started with, I think it is a good base. I usually start with the core then replenish along the way.
Shea butter / lotion
Tampons!!! (Maybe tmi but a lot of countries don't sell them, so stock up or invest in a reusable menstrual cup)
1 brow kit (includes tweezers)
4 lipsticks (because, lipstick)
1 small purse spray
1 nail polish color
Any specific meds you may need (sinus spray and pills for me 😫)
With jewelry as a solo traveler I like to stick to basics. Nothing flashy and over the top. I also love to collect jewelry from my travels because it is easy to take back, you just wear it so I started with the bare minimum.
1 low key watch (water resistant)
Simple earnings (long wearing)
Fake / costume jewelry if you want to jazz it up
Mini First aid kit (with nail clippers and file, scissors, ointment, Band-Aids etc.)
Everyone’s travel list will look different but this about covers 95% of the things I brought with me to 20+ countries. Of course I picked up a few things along the way, ditched somethings, and send some items back with friends/family when they visited. The key is to pack light, think about things you truly cannot live without, everything else is really just going to be forgotten about after a while. Over packing is not only stressful but imagine carrying a million things up steep hills in Lisbon, trekking with it to the Sahara dessert or island hopping with 2 suitcases. Not fun. Drop a comment on other things you would include or that I may have forgotten.
Xo – Jakiya