Before I left Houston in January, a friend asked me: What will you do about clothes?
I’d already traveled enough to learn how to pack lightly. I also had a routine that worked: Don’t pack too much, and do hand laundry along the way with either hotel shampoo or detergent bought at the destination. I didn’t care about having a variety of cute outfits. Too much trouble! I preferred a “uniform” of jeans and T-shirts, with layers that I could add or subtract to suit the weather.
The same routine still works great for me as I travel long-term … with the exception of doing laundry. Once a week or so, I need to do a small load, and I’m always thinking ahead to figure out where that can happen. That’s why Airbnb apartments (with washing machines) are so handy and why I only stay in hotels (pricey laundry!) sporadically and for short spurts. I’ve also had good luck with bed and breakfast hosts who’ve been happy to do a load whenever I’ve needed it. Aaaaannnnd … I still have the sink or bathtub as a backup, which I use regularly anyway for hand-washing socks and undies.
It’s fun to read other RTW bloggers who post their packing lists, like this one. What you “need” on a trip is so subjective and shaped by weather, tech needs, grooming preferences, and how lightly one wants to travel. It’s also interesting to see how much — or how little — each person packs.
Among serious travelers, there’s a fierce wheels vs. no wheels luggage debate and plenty of advice about packing jeans. Most people say jeans are too heavy, impractical and take too long to dry. All true! But I love my jeans, and it’s what feels comfy. And feeling comfy is VERY important to me.
Here’s my luggage:
- This 22” Ebags carry-on suitcase — it’s expandable, but I’ve never needed that option. Yet.
- A Pacsafe 35L backpack
- 5″ x 8″ Pacsafe crossbody purse.
Note: I’ve had a fantastic experience with my eBags bag. The wheels are sturdy, and eBags does a great job designing their luggage with travelers’ needs in mind. Pacsafe is a line of bags with added security features like slash-proof material and straps that are hard to cut. It may be overkill, but it gives me a little extra peace of mind.
Here’s what I pack:
- Four pairs of jeans — I rarely need the fourth pair.
- Four T-shirts — three long sleeve, one short sleeve
- One lightweight sweater
- One lightweight long-length cardigan
- Four pairs of socks — two pairs of low profile, athletic socks and two pairs of wool blend knee socks
- Four pairs of undies, three bras — ExOfficio’s stuff is easy to hand-wash and dries super fast.
- One sleeveless T that doubles as a PJ top
- One pair of yoga pants that doubles as PJ bottoms
- One pair of boots — My boots!!! I can’t thank Urban Soles in Houston enough for recommending my Teva Delavina boots that I’ve worn every day for four months. They’ve supported me on ruins and cobblestones and kept me steady on slippery slopes and over uneven terrain. They’re waterproof leather, but they also breath. They’re too big to pack, so I’m not sure what I’ll do when the weather turns hot. They feel like a part of me!
- One pair of sport sandals
- One pair of lightweight leather walking shoes
- One pair of rubber flip-flops — for shower shoes and lounge slippers
- Two scarves — one lightweight, one a bit heavier
- Prescription eyeglasses — plus an extra, drugstore pair of reading glasses
- Mirrorless camera
- Cell phone
- Earbud headphones
- Lightweight coat that’s rain repellent and squeezes easily into a suitcase pocket
- Tiny umbrella
- Collapsible Platypus water bottle
- Thin nylon bag for grocery shopping
- Thin nylon laundry bag
- Cords, chargers and adapters for gadgets
- Toiletries — sunscreen, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, cleanser, moisturizer, deodorant, LUSH shampoo bars, conditioner, Bobbi Brown BB cream, body lotion
- Eyeglass cleaning cloth
- Nail scissors (for cutting my bangs), nail clippers, small comb, Tweezermate mirror, q-tips, make-up removal pads
- Hair ties, clips, earplugs
- Various folding maps that I want to keep
- Prescription/allergy/headache meds
Here’s what I’ve never or rarely used:
- GoPro HERO camera — I like the idea of it, but I’m doing fine shooting images and video with my Sony a6000 and iPhone.
- A Kindle Paperwhite — So many travelers recommended having a Kindle, but I just ended up using my phone to read e-books as I could’ve/should’ve predicted.
- A JBL Clip bluetooth speaker — I’ve ended up using headphones much more.
- External hard drive to archive photos — I need to start using this!
- Sunglasses — I ended up just using my prescription glasses with lenses that darken in sunlight.
Here’s what I’ve bought along the way:
- A small camera bag with a rain cover — It’s just big enough for my mirrorless camera, and I use it all the time.
- A sandalwood bracelet that I bought in Kyoto — At roughly $25, I considered it an expensive souvenir, but I use it daily for counting blessings and meditative practice.
- A bottle of Santa Maria perfume — A splurge! But no regrets. I can’t always say that my clothes are clean, but at least I smell “peppery and unisex”.
- A small stuff sack for socks/undies/bras
- A fantastic plastic brush that I bought for cheap in Italy. It brushes dry hair, detangles wet hair and has proven to be nearly indestructible.
- Socks — I should’ve invested in wool socks from the beginning. I bought the toe socks pictured above while in Japan. The only ones that fit were in the men’s section. (Whispers: size large)
- A Swatch — One thing I didn’t anticipate was constantly losing track of the day and date! Rather than using my phone as a reference, I got the cheapest Swatch I could find.
- Two small plastic containers — I filled one with Perfect Whip facial cleanser from Japan and the other with hair clips and ear plugs. I don’t use them very often, but I suggest never traveling without ear plugs. They (almost) muffle the sound of hotel neighbors with screaming babies. 🙂
- Two small Moleskine notebooks with perforated pages — Whenever I go on a day trip or travel to another city, I always write my transport details in a notebook that I keep in my back pocket. It saves me the trouble of digging my phone out of my purse.
- Museum postcards — It’s the one souvenir that I regularly purchase. If I visit a museum, and I’m particularly moved by a piece of art, I’ll buy a postcard copy in the gift shop.
When you travel for weeks or months, you start to learn what you really need/want and what’s a waste of money and suitcase space. Other than a few early splurges on skin care products, I’ve found that I’m only interested in buying things that serve a practical purpose or I’ll use every day. I really hope I can maintain this mindset when my travelin’ days come to an end. I don’t miss having extra stuff or shopping AT ALL, and it’s saved me a ton of money.
Besides, if I’ve gotten by for four months without something … I probably don’t need it anyway. Right?