This packing list is for the around the world trip that we did, but you can certainly adapt it for any length of travel. The bottom line really is whether you are traveling for two weeks or two years, it’s surprising how there is little difference in what you need to pack!
The best advice we can give about packing. Don’t worry about it so much. We fell victim to the usual stresses of it. What do we bring? What do we edit out? Do we have enough of that? Are we taking too much of this? What clothing and footwear do we bring? If you are doing several different continents in varying temperatures and climates, do not try to pack for each one. Don’t try and pack for an entire year if that is how long you are going for.
Pack what you absolutely can’t survive with out and then leave half of that at home. Okay just kidding, but seriously unless you are traveling to some extremely remote parts of the world you will be amazed at what is available that is the same as in North America. We ended up giving away many things within the first few weeks of travel, mostly clothing. When speaking to other travelers, many of them said they did the same thing.
First Aid Items
This first aid list may sound like a lot, but it was all tiny packs of stuff that fit into a couple of small ziplock bags. Everything was used during the trip at one time or another. Many times we found ourselves helping out other travelers in situations. We found it amazing how unprepared some travelers were. Perhaps because I worked in a pharmacy it just comes naturally to me to have everything on hand. The more common items on the list could be found in many places we traveled to, but sometimes you might have to do a lot of searching depending on where you are. If you’re on foot this can take quite a bit of time. The language barrier can create difficulties as well. I think it is best to bring some first aid and medication products with you. You don’t want to have to be trekking around to find something when you need it.
Here is a list of the stuff we took on our trip. I have given a brief description of what some of the items are and what they are used for. Where available there is a link to find out further information about the product.
- Sudafed (decongestant tablet)
- Ibuprofen (pain relief, anti-inflammatory)
- antiseptic wipes
- electrolyte powder (this is for when you have become dehydrated either through heat exhaustion or from having travelers diarrhea or vomiting)
- acidophilus tablets (to be taken after having travelers diarrhea to put your intestinal and digestive system bacteria back in order)
- nutribiotic (pure grapefruit seed extract) antibiotic, antiseptic (we took this orally by putting the recommended amount of drops in an empty gel capsule daily, to help fight of any parasites we might get from food, etc. )
- Oil of Oregano (this and the above item are you’re two best friends to use for so many things. again put the drops into an empty gel cap if taking internally)
- Tea tree oil
- Two N-95 masks (They are only a few dollars and don’t take up much space. Don’t laugh, who knows if the next big Sars outbreak was going to happen when we were in Asia. They ran out of masks last time.)
- first aid tape
- gauze bandages
- small instant icepack
- tensor bandage
- mole skin for blisters
- pepto bismal chewable tablets
- hydrocortisone cream
- gravol or dramamine (nausea and travel sickness tablets)
- small pair of fold up scissors
- Reactine antihistamine
- Benadryl antihistamine (in case of bad reaction to something)
- Malarone pills (for malaria)
- Acetazolimide (for altitude sickness)
- zithromax antibiotic prescription pills
- 2 bottles of strong mosquito spray
- Purell, purell and more purell. (hand sanitizer) I can’t tell you how much of this stuff we went through. We bought a larger bottle and took several of the small pocket size bottles and kept refilling them.
Clothing and footwear
We each had a pair of Keen brand hiking sandals. I think these are only available in North America. We can’t say enough about these shoes, they are awesome. Get the ones that can get wet, they dry super fast and are very comfortable. We did have a pair of proper hiking shoes as well for more serious outings, I think the Keens could have handled most everything we did. We like to run for exercise and actually left with a pair of runners each. These were one of the first things to be ditched. We soon realized not only were we carrying too many shoes with us, it was going to be too hot to run through Africa and Asia. I don’t know what we were thinking!
We started out with more clothing than listed below, but it was soon given away. It takes up a lot of space. It ended up being much easier to just buy items along the way. If you’re t-shirts have gotten too grungy, buy some new ones when you need them. Take note that nothing white or very light in colour is going to look good for very long. Also worth noting for the ladies. Your bras will get grungy really quickly. Bring a few extra if you are at all larger in size. They don’t take up that much space and it can be very difficult to find ones that will fit you.
Most of the places we traveled to were hot to very hot. If the few situations where we needed warmth we put on our micro fleece pullovers and our rain jackets over top of them. It kept us warm enough. We did have to buy some scarfs, mitts and toques in Ireland while we were there in November, it was very cold.
This is a list of what we each brought:
- Hiking shoes
- Hiking sandals (keens)
- a couple pairs of socks (one pair of the two layer ones that prevent blisters)
- a couple pair of the microfiber underwear that dry almost instantly
- 3 bras (not for Jack!)
- one pair of light weight pants
- two pairs of shorts
- bathing suit
- Teva flip flops
- suncoat for Audrey (special weave coat with 99% UV protection, it’s super light and works great for those with fair skin that burn easily)
- capri pants for Audrey
- one pair of light weight jeans (We loved bringing our jeans, even though tons of people tell you not to bring them. We brought light weight, comfortable ones. They didn’t take that long to dry and they actually stay cleaner looking for longer than other pants.)
- dollar store flip flops ( for wearing in the shower, you will definitely want these, I can’t imagine putting my bare feet into some of the shower stalls we encountered)
- A couple of t-shirts each
- a long sleeved cotton shirt for the safari and mosquito infested places, or cooler evening
- One pair of light weight cargo style pants
- long sleeve fuzzy micro fiber pullover (these are super light and thin, but really warm and dry in an instant)
- rainproof thin jackets that fold up into their own pocket
Luggage, Backpacks Or Not?
We started out with a large backpack and a small day pack each. Jack lasted for a while with his large backpack, but I ditched mine within the first week. My back couldn’t take it. Jack finally caved too and we both bought some light wheeled suitcases. We were almost embarrassed to do so at first. Can we no longer call ourselves backpackers, have we gone mainstream? As we got into our trip we saw more and more young travelers who were doing the same. Unless you are going to be doing a lot of hiking where you need all your stuff with you on your back, why do you need a backpack? We were worried about wheeling the suitcases through crowded places like Asia, but it was never a problem. The backpacks are difficult to get stuff in and out of and they’re horrible for your back too. We kept the small day packs. They are good for going out for the day with whatever stuff you need like cameras, umbrellas, snacks, etc.
Documents And Paperwork
Any literature you need to take with you, shrink the text down as small as you can read. You’ll be surprised how small a page of writing can become. Anything of real importance I would laminate so it would last through the year. Go to a stationary store and buy a pack of self laminating sheets. You just peel off the back and stick a piece of laminating plastic onto the front and back of the paper and voila, it’s laminated. The information below was printed out from our computer and then taken to a photo copier and shrunk into tiny sized cards of paper and then laminated. All of it took up the space of a tiny ziplock bag.
- Name and number of people back home to contact in case of an emergency
- List of emails for family and friends
- List of addresses to send postcards
- Numbers to call in case of loss or theft of credit cards
- Bank phone numbers
- Travel insurance documents
- International drivers licence
- A visa and mastercard (some places only accept one or the other)
- bank debit cards
- hostel international card
- some Canadian cash
- some U.S. cash
- some U.S. travelers checks
- membership for IAMAT (can call one number worldwide and get recommendation of where to go for medical treatment with where someone will speak English and provide an international standard of care)
- photocopies of our passports and any other important documents to be kept separately
- List of countries that have an air ambulance program in case of severe emergency or in an area far from hospitals
- Info on malaria symptoms and treatment
- Info on altitude sickness symptoms and treatment
- Consular assistance numbers for each country
- list of best times to visit certain countries, according to weather etc. (Since our trip was done on the fly)
- small picture of each other (in case one of us goes missing)
Take what you need to get by for a few weeks, and bring items that might be hard to find. Otherwise don’t worry about it too much, basic toiletries can be purchased almost anywhere. Ziplock bags are a lifesaver. This has got to be the most useful thing we packed. Get the thicker freezer type ones with the pull close zipper at the top. We took a bunch of the small and medium sized ones. They are great for organizing all kinds of things into. They are needed more than ever now that the restrictions are in place for taking liquids on the plane. You don’t want stuff exploding inside your luggage. Stick everything liquid inside a ziplock.
- Small travel mirror
- Nail file and cutters
- Dental floss
- Toothbrushes and paste
- Body wash
- Shave gel and razors
- Small travel hair dryer
- Face moisturizer
- a bunch of small tissue packs and a few rolls of toilet paper, and we had to keep buying new rolls as we traveled.
- NEVER ASSUME THAT TOILET PAPER WILL BE PROVIDED FOR YOU!
- Travel size bottles of shampoo and conditioner
- Hair brush
- Hair gel/mousse
- (part way through trip I purchased a curling iron, I couldn’t stand it anymore!)
- bandanna to wear on head for those days you just don’t care
- feminine sanitary products, some places have weird stuff compared to home
- couple of face cloths
- tiny flashlight
- two compacting umbrellas
- two sleepsacks for those places with questionable linens? (buy high quality super high thread count flat bed sheets and sew them into a sleeping sack, it works just as well as the expensive silk ones you buy in travel shops) Keep an eye out for the ugly coloured ones that no one wants to come on sale super cheap!
- A money belt each as well as a leg stash money holder
- Small purse size calendar,
- notepad and pen
- tiny calculator (used this so many times to figure out money conversions)
- earplanes (special earplugs that you wear during take off and landing of flights, they really help to stop any pain and the annoying popping as you take off and land)
- regular earplugs for sound during flights and noisy sleeping accommodations
- Decoy wallet to carry, put $10 or $20 in it and a few fake credit cards to give to robber on the street so he takes off with it instead of your stash of real cash and cards (thank goodness we never had to use it)
- Sunglasses each and hard case, they won’t survive without them
- two backpacks (later switched to wheeled suitcases)
- two daypacks
- black out eye covers for sleeping on the plane
- two backpacking pillows that compact really small when not in use (available at camping stores)
- baseball cap each
- Small locks for backpacks, etc
- Electrical plug adapters (We took two small adapters that each had about 4 different prong types that you could pop out to fit various outlets. These covered all the areas we went to in Africa, Southeast Asia, China, Europe and Mexico)
Camera Equipment And Laptop
This would be some of the heaviest stuff we had to carry. See the page on Camera Equipment for the detailed list of what we brought and how we managed our digital photo storage, etc.