Saturday, November 3, 2012

What to Pack For Traveling Around the World

Packing for a long trip can be daunting. Sometimes you want to take everything that you use on a daily basis, but remember everything is on your back, you also have to lift it into trains, taxis, buses, and planes. So before packing your hair drier, straightener, muscle milk powder, and plasma screen TV, read this. I recommend packing small, light and smart for your long journey. Only the necessities.

Things to take:

Most important is a comfortable backpack, I recommend one with multiple entry openings; this will prevent you from taking out everything to get to the bottom. Also remember to label you pack with a travel tag, its good if the airline loses your bag (happened to me twice) or if your bag gets lost or stolen.


One of those Monday-Sunday organizers are good to keep them organized, just make sure to label each compartment with sharpie. I bought a child’s one which has locks on it; this prevents the compartments from spontaneously opening and all the pills from pouring out. Also most of these are available in other countries over the counter and much cheaper. Read my Travel medicine blog to learn more about travel medicine.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for head aches
  • Ibuprofen (Advil) for muscle cramps and hang-overs
  • Imodium for travelers diarrhea
  • Vitamins and Probiotics to keep you healthy
  • Antibiotic (like ciprofloxacin) for intestinal bacterial infections
  • Dramamine if you get motion sickness and you plan to travel in bus or jeep
  • Tums for spicy food
  • Anti-malaria medication if you are planning to go to a malaria prone area, see map here
  • Altitude medication (Diamox) if you plan to go over 10,000ft or 3,000 meters
  • ORS- Oral Rehydration salts in case you get nauseous, these rebalance your electrolytes, they taste like shit, but they can save your life, no joke.
  • Cough drops if you are going to a cold weather place
  • Iodine tablets if you are going rural or remote
Me in Indian Shalwar Kamee suit


Remember if you are going to some place that is cold you might want to take more warm clothes vs if you are going somewhere hot you might want more shorts and T-shirts. Make sure to think about the culture before you pack. Many places like the Middle East, Africa, and India have cultural restrictions especially when it comes to women’s cloths.  If you are going to a more conservative place take shorts that end bellow your knees and shirts that cover your shoulders and don’t reveal too much cleavage. Head covering is needed to go into many temples and places of worship so it’s good to buy or take a scarf, this can also serve to keep you warm or as a sarong for the beach. I also highly recommend dressing in cultural cloths. In India I bought Indian style suits, this shows that you are respectful of the culture.

Cold Weather:

  • Warm jacket
  • Wool thermals
  • Warm Hat
  • Gloves
  • Scarf

All the Time: 

  • Sweater
  • Compact windbreaker/ rain coat
  • Running shorts or board shorts
  • Short sleeve
  • Tank top or sleeve-less
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Flexible jeans or pants
  • Yoga pants – Can be used as jammies and regular pants
  • Underwear that dry quick
  • Wool socks or sport socks
  • Walking shoes or  hiking boots 
  • Flip-flops for the beach and shower
  • Swim suite and sarong (remember, certain places like India women wear full cloths to swim)
  • Hat if you are going somewhere sunny (the large ones can often be smashed and lose their shape if you cram it into a backpack so wear them on the plane)
  • Summer dress or maxi dress if its a more conservative country 
  • Convertible sports bra - these are great no matter what outfit you wear


  • Unlocked phone with camera and waterproof case 
  • Multiple SD cards for your camera or phone
  • Small travel laptop, ipad, or netbook if you blog, although a smart phone is a small alternative that can do almost everything you need
  • Thumb drive – to steal pic’s from others and to save copies of all important documents (passport, passport photos, ID, insurance, tickets)
  • Travel outlet converter
  • Headlamp for reading at night or trekking
  • If you need to purify water take a UV pen or iodine tablets


  • Travel toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
  • Travel Towel – It takes some time to get use to the size a feeling but they dry so quickly and weigh almost nothing
  • Laundry detergent (powder in a ziplock bag)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sun screen  - At least SPF 30
  • Small first aid kit for blisters, small cuts and scrapes
  • Lip-balm on a keychain
  • Girls: basic make-up, what can't you live without?
  • Girls: tampons (the small ones) and pads (the ultra-thin ones) or a Diva Cup
Wear your money belt to sleep on the trains in India

Money and Identification

  • Passport - I recommend leaving this at the hostel in your locker, unless you know you are going to need it. Carry a copy instead. 
  • Alternate ID place somewhere hidden in your pack in case you lose your passport
  • Health and travel insurance cards or information if you have it
  • Bank Cards (I would bring two a debit to take out money and a credit for emergencies and keep it hidden in your pack) Either ally bank or Charles Schwab are the best for debit since they don't charge ATM fees or have international fees, otherwise you will be paying up to 5% of what you spend in fees. 
  • ISIC or Student ID card to get some discounts while traveling
  • Copy of your passport (I would take 2-5 copies, you often need them to apply for visa's and trekking permits)
  • Extra passport photos for visa's, trekking permits, and entry permits. (I would take at least 5 if you are planning to travel to many different countries, or if you are going to be traveling for a while) Some places ask for two copies so its a good idea to save a copy on your thumb drive in case you need to print more.
  • Travel/ money belt - some places its safe enough to carry a purse but its good to have one just in case you are planning to sleep in public transportation. I would recommend it at all times just for your valuables.


  • Book - just take one, most hostels have a library where you can exchange books or take a kindle
  • Sleeping bag liner – the best for dirty beds
  • Combination lock (I hate keys because they get lost) for lockers in the hostel
  • Bike lock if you plan to be taking public transportation (I used it for the trains in india)
  • Extra ziplock bags of all sizes (for snacks, or to keep souvenirs like ticket stubs and post cards dry and clean) trash bags for wet cloths, or to cover you backpack in case you get caught in a storm or if you want to send your laundry to the cleaners.
  • Journal to write down memories, peoples names and contact information, new words learned, lists of foods and places you want to experience.
  • Snacks for the plane ride if you don't want to spend on over-priced airport food. 


If you are planning to travel for a while I would recommend not bringing any hiking or trekking gear. You can usually buy or rent gear where you go, and it will often be cheaper than buying it from home. In Patagonia I rented a stove, pots and pans, tent, sleeping mats and even a waterproof windbreaker I think it was less than $10 a day for everything since I was sharing with my trekking partner.

In Nepal for the Annapurna Circuit I bought gear in Kathmandu and Pokhara. A “down” jacket cost only $20, hiking pants were only $10 and trekking polls for $8. Beware that some of the gear is made cheaply so it might not function the way you want it. I have heard horror stories of peoples gear falling apart on the trek. The only thing I recommend taking is a sleeping bag and hiking shoes because who knows if the one you’re renting is going to keep you warm and not fall apart on you.

Wool socks are the best, Patagonia "W" Hike

Tips and Tricks: 

Tip #1: Save shopping till the end of your travels, you don’t want to carry around pounds of souvenirs for months. Buys small souvenirs (keychains, postcards, magnets)

Tip #2: Don't bring items that you will only use once.

Tip #3: Bring clothes that dry fast. You will be on the move but you still want to have clean clothes. You will be washing cloths by hand and hang drying them.

Tip #4: Take a debit card that does not charge you ATM fees, this will allow you to take out as little money as you want each transaction, just in case it gets stolen you wont lose your whole weeks allowance.

Tip #5: Buy when you arrive. Things like medications, shampoo, conditioner, shavers, etc can be bought abroad.

Tip #6: Bring sunscreen. I have traveled to countries where finding sunscreen is very difficult to do, some countries have sun screen but with added whitening and bleaching agents. Countries that do have sunscreen sell it for outrageous amounts.

Tip #7: Keep digital copies of passport, insurance documents, tickets, etc in your email, google drive, drop-box or other cloud storing app. If your documents get lost or stollen you can always have a backup to print at the embassy.

Tip #8: Hide an emergency $20 bill and copy of your passport under your shoe insert.

Let me know if you have something to add.

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