Julie RTW, Travel Advice, Travel Gear 31 Comments

One of the most common questions we get from people is “how do you pack for a trip around the world?” Prior to our around the world trip, purchasing gear was one of the most time intensive and important things we did. Tim and I made numerous trips to REI and placed many online orders in order to find the perfect backpacks, travel clothing, and travel accessories. Here is our around the world packing list, what we carried on our backs during 396 days of travel.

The general rule of thumb for long term travel is to pack light and be prepared to wash clothing over and over again. The less you bring the less you have to lug around. Buying lightweight clothing made from synthetic materials that can be washed in the hotel sink and hung up to dry is crucial to packing light. Being able to frequently wash our clothing by hand allowed us to bring less stuff.

It can be hard to make the transition from life at home with a closet full of clothes to carrying what you need for a year on your back. We learned that there is something liberating about only having a little bit of stuff…less to worry about, less to carry, less to weigh you down.

Around the World Packing List

Clothing (per person)

  • 5 short sleeve shirts
  • 2 pair of shorts
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 2 pair long pants
  • 7 pair socks
  • 7 pair underwear
  • 1 lightweight fleece
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 pair pajamas
  • 1 pair long underwear
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 visor/hat
  • 1 bra and 1 sports bra (Julie only)
  • 1 scarf (Julie only)

We designed our around the world itinerary for an almost “endless summer.” By staying in warm climates for most of the year, we were able to avoid bringing along winter coats or cold weather gear. If temperatures got chilly, we layered the clothing we had. There were a few times we bought hats and gloves (China in early March and Drakensburg, South Africa in August). Prior to our trek to Everest Base Camp, we purchased winter coats and cold weather gear in Kathmandu. After the trek we donated the clothing to a local orphanage.

When purchasing clothing, chose synthetic fabrics over cotton. Synthetic fabrics dry faster and are more resistant to wrinkling. Our long pants were all synthetic hiking pants that either zipped off at the knee or rolled up to become capris.

There are a lot of travelers that get by with less clothing than this. Personally, I liked having enough clothing to go six to seven days without having to do laundry.

Julies Clothes

Julie’s clothing and a few miscellaneous items.

Shoes

  • Running shoes
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Keen Sandals (Julie only)

On several occasions, we bought flip-flops to go to the beach (along with one or two beach towels).

Toiletries

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • 1 bar of soap
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Dental floss
  • Deodorant
  • Makeup for Julie
  • Sunblock
  • Razor
  • Hair gel
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • 1 bottle of nail polish
  • Brush and comb

Laundry

Our laundry supplies got a lot of use! The clothesline and universal sink stopper made doing laundry super easy. If you really want to save on space and weight, shampoo can also be used as laundry detergent.

Medicine

  • Epi-Pens for Tyler
  • Benadryl
  • Ciprofloxacin (for traveler’s diarrhea)
  • Azithromycin (for traveler’s diarrhea for kids)
  • Pepto Bismol
  • Immodium
  • Medrol Dose Paks (3)
  • Amoxicillin
  • Mobic
  • Aleve PM
  • Oral rehydration solution
  • Malarone (anti-malarial medication)

We carried a lot of medications but rarely needed them. On this list, the ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, Epi-pens, medrol dose paks, oral rehydration solution, and Mobic never got used.

Electronics

Carrying four laptop computers around the world may sound excessive but it was perfect for our family. While we had downtime, Tyler and Kara did their homeschooling on their computers, I wrote articles for this website and edited photos on my computer, and Tim booked hotels and researched future destinations on his computer. It allowed us to be more productive and it also kept Tyler and Kara entertained, during the little bit of free time they had.

Tim tracked just about every mile traveled (by car, airplane, bicycle, horse, camel, you name it) with a small GPS tracker. Since the around the world trip, we started using a Garmin GPS 64S that we highly recommend.

The Eneloop rechargeable batteries are also a great thing to have in your backpack. For the few things that took AA batteries, it was much more cost efficient and environmentally friendly to have a few rechargeable batteries than leave a trail of regular batteries in landfills around the world.

We regularly uploaded photos and videos onto a back up hard drive, so we would have a second copy of everything in case our laptops were lost, stolen, or just stopped functioning. Roughly every 4 months we sent the hard drive home and then started uploading the new data onto another hard drive. The megabytes of data that we amassed while traveling were precious to us and we wanted to keep those memories backed up and protected.

To learn more about our photography gear, we have an in-depth post: Travel Photography Gear Guide

Our Stuff

Miscellaneous

Kara carried a soccer ball with her for most of the trip. It was annoying to carry around and get through airport security on a few occasions, but it gave Tyler and Kara something else to do. Plus, other kids joined in on the fun, so it also opened up Tyler and Kara to the chance to meet other children from around the world.

I first started using packing cubes on our around the world trip and they have totally changed how we pack and organize our things. Now, we never travel without them. Packing cubes are available in all different sizes and are critical in keeping your clothing organized. If you are living out of a backpack long-term, keeping your clothes compartmentalized makes traveling, packing, and unpacking so much easier. Rather than a backpack filled with a jumble of shirts, socks, pants, shoes, and underwear, you can have a cube for each type of clothing. Finding what you need is easier and unpacking when you get to your next hotel is quick and easy. We used lots of cubes, in all different sizes, and I highly recommend them.

The Eagle Creek compression bag (size large) is the perfect place to stash dirty laundry while traveling. Throw your dirty laundry into this bag, compress it flat as a pancake, and toss it in your backpack. These bags separate your dirty, smelly clothes from the rest of the clean clothes, all while taking up less room.

There are several items that were rarely used but really nice to have. The corkscrew, the sewing kit, the Steri-Pen (for sterilizing water while hiking), and the first aid kit fall into this category. However, the emergency toilet paper was used much more than you might expect. This is something you really should consider carrying with you, as toilet paper is not found in all bathrooms around the world.

Documents

  • Passports
  • Copies of passports
  • Passport photos
  • Immunization Book
  • International Driver’s License

Backpacks

We packed our clothing and accessories into Tim’s backpack, my backpack, and Tyler’s backpack. Kara’s backpack became the kids’ daypack, filled with their computers, Kindles, and journals.

While we were out sightseeing, Tim carried food, money, water, and other essentials in his daypack. I carried the camera in the messenger bag.

Homeschool Materials

When we traveled around the world, Tyler was in the 6th grade and Kara was in the 5th grade. To keep them on track with the public school system, they both did homeschooling while we traveled.

We used a company called Calvert Home School, at the advice of our local school system. In 2014, most of their books and lessons were not digitalized. Tim and I digitalized most of the curriculum ourselves (prior to leaving the US) and loaded this onto Tyler and Kara’s computers. There was no way that we could carry boxes of books with us as we traveled.

What about Souvenirs?

As we traveled we purchased souvenirs, although we kept this to a minimum. Anything we bought either had to be carried or shipped home. Shipping a box from Africa or Asia to the US is expensive and there’s always that small chance that it won’t make it to its final destination. All of our boxes made it home, but several got damaged in transit, so not everything we bought made it back in one piece.

In addition to the backpacks listed above, we also had a smaller bag, similar to a cloth grocery bag, for carrying souvenirs, filled journals, or even snack food, while traveling. Once the bag was full, we would ship it home.


Are you planning a trip around the world? Read all of our articles about around the world travel, from planning to what it’s like to be on the road, on our How To Travel Around the World page.

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Around the World Packing List

 

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Comments 31

  1. Avatar for M V
    M V

    Thanks!! and you made it to the future !!! And the wavelength matched what I was thinking Warm places and currently as I write its the countries on Equator which gets good sunshine and than
    The world without borders and national boundaries !!!
    It sounds the things I need to check now are
    1. Did you applied all the visas from home country (some have limitation of 3 months or 6 months in advance from date of travel).
    2. I see you answered the back pack question (40l vs 80l), is there any tough flights where luggage was charged extra due to large back packs ( in case you took budget airlines in Europe or South east Asia)
    3. Where can we check the immunization required for 5 year old. or any minimum things…
    4. Also in case you can talk about internet speed and network ( in jungles and remote vs country by country), prices and local internet plan on phone ( for urgent use when not at hotel or airport)
    5. Did you used Google maps and Google translate, how good they worked.
    6. What mode is good to send goods from Africa, East Asia, Eastern Europe and South America to home country, what about customs and charges like weight, size etc. Did you insured the goods which you send in-between the trips.
    7. Appreciate the blog and thoughtfulness for traveling with family.
    8. Is vegan and Veg food available in African parts of safari
    9. How to save from frauds and how to book guides for local tours (either by hotel recommendation or by blogs !)
    10. Thanks

    Amazing

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      For visas in the middle and end to our trip, we applied for them while traveling, visiting the embassies for that country while in the country we were visiting. For example, we got our Vietnam Visa from the embassy in Yangon, Myanmar. To do this, we added on days in each of these cities to give us enough time to get the visas. Luggage fees depend on the airline so you will have to check them individually. For immunization requirements, you can check the embassy website of the countries you are visiting. Internet speeds and networks depend on the country. Usually in jungles and remote areas there is little to no internet access. Google maps worked very well and we use it all the time while traveling. To mail things home, we either used the post office, FedEx, or a shipping country like FedEx. It is expensive so we only did it when necessary. I don’t know about vegan food while in safari in Africa. We use a company like GetYourGuide to book tours. I’d be hesitant to book a tour from a guide on the street since it might not be reputable. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Spencer
    Spencer

    Love the site! My wife and I, 47, no kids, left The states on August 3rd thinking we were going to move to Costa Rica. Rented out our house, bought a car here and are Airbnbing. After some time, we are rethinking our plans and want to travel to places we never could get enough time off of our jobs to go to. We want to travel Primarily in Asia with a definite stop in Croatia. What kind of immunizations did you need for your Asian travels?

    Thank you for any help!
    Be Well!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      That sounds very exciting!! We had all the standard vaccinations you need in the US, including Hepatitis A and B and we also had a vaccine for Typhoid Fever. We also had Yellow Fever vaccine but this was for Africa and South America. We did not have the rabies vaccine (but had a few instances in Asia where we were almost bitten by dogs so I would consider getting this on a future trip to Asia) or the vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis. We also had malaria prophylaxis for India. Malaria prophylaxis meds aren’t necessary in Southeast Asia in the winter, but outside of this season, it might be a good idea. For more recommendations, you can check the CDC website. Have fun exploring Asia! Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Chi Le
    Chi Le

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and enjoyment of world travel with us. Do you have any packing advise for a couple 72 & 68 yrs who will travel 1 month in Viet Nam?
    Thank you,
    Chi Le

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      For a month in Vietnam, our packing list would be very similar to this one. We tend to bring less clothes for a longer trip (2 weeks or more) than a shorter trip (less than 2 weeks), since we do laundry when we travel (for a shorter trip we bring what we need with no plans to do laundry, so we may have more clothes). For Vietnam, I’d probably bring a 2nd swimsuit (if I was planning to visit the beach) and a nice dress or skirt with sandals for going out to dinner (or in Tim’s case, a nice shirt and pants). Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Oliver Sarmolin
    Oliver Sarmolin

    Thank you for shairing so much info at one place. Although I perfer having bike trips generally, even though found your blog very interesting. you guys have serious good karma building up.
    take care and looking forward to your next post.

  5. Avatar for Matt Law
    Matt Law

    Did you have to check your 80L packs on every flight? Do you think you could have made it in one of the newer carry on sized packs that are around 40L? I’m guessing packing extra pairs of shoes takes up quite a bit of space.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Yes, those 80L backpacks are pretty big (they had to be checked). Each kid carried a smaller backpack and we usually made these carry-on. I’m not sure if a 40L pack is carry-on size. You can check the dimensions with what the airlines qualify as carry on. There is a difference in sizes between both airlines and countries. For example, the European carry-on size is smaller than US carry-on baggage. It can be done, but it would have been almost impossible for us to get by with a 40L pack. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Adelina Addy
  7. Avatar for Crystal
  8. Avatar for Ethan Frank
  9. Avatar for Sarah
    Sarah

    Hi Julie,

    I’m planning a round the world trip, largely inspired by reading your blog! We plan to spend a decent amount of time hiking and camping. I’m curious what you all do with your valuables (in particular, the laptops) when you camp? Do you carry your laptops with you on hikes? Or find lockers somewhere to store them?

    Thanks!
    Sarah

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Sarah. That’s so exciting that you are planning an around the world trip!! We only camped one time on our around the world trip and that was for 2 nights while on safari in Botswana. We left our belongings in our car, if I remember correctly. And for the Everest Base Camp trek, we had our hotel store our things for us. But since we stayed in hotels the rest of the trip, we either left our things in the hotel or in our rental car. Even now, when we are traveling between national parks and hiking, we leave our valuables in the car, since they would be heavy to carry on a hike, but the possibility of theft is always on our minds. Fortunately, that has not happened yet. Cheers, Julie

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