Packing for Long-Term Travel

In the days leading up to my Southeast Asia trip, I was a total mess. Clothes were strewn across the room, my bag a disorganized chaos of toiletries, chargers, and plastic bags. There was a never-ending to-do list of things I needed to finish, clothes to pack, and items to buy. My backpack was getting fuller and heavier by the minute and I was constantly worried about overpacking.

Little did I know that no matter how much I packed, I would still end up bringing too much.

After traveling for a few weeks I began to sort out what things I needed and what I was just lugging around for no reason. Of course, I began leaving things behind here and there to save space and to lighten my load. On top of that, a lot of my small items got misplaced or broken, so I ended up having to buy some things along the way as well.  Here is what I learned about packing for long-term travel.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff When Packing for Long-Term Travel

Depending on where you’re going, things like sunscreen and bug spray can often be found at your destination, so why lug them across the world? Most places have pharmacies in case you need any medication as well. Do a few quick Google searches to see what expendable items you can buy wherever you’re going so that you can skip them when packing for long-term travel. This can save you tons of time and space in your bag, and you’ll always know where your necessary toiletries and other items can be bought.

Pack Dry

Pack Dry - Tips for Packing for Long-Term Travel

Most people will tell you to pack light. While that’s true, I think an integral part of packing light is also packing dry. What does this mean, exactly?

For me, I only brought dry shampoo (Lush has a great selection), dry soap, and dry face wash. Liquids are heavy and last less time than dry bars, so I prefer to keep my dry toiletries with me on the go. They’re so practical and easy to use and they last forever!

For my clothing, I also bought a quick-drying towel and some moisture-wicking clothing items. This way, whenever I have to wash my clothes, they dry within a few hours and I can subsequently pack them in my bag, moisture-free. The worst thing in the world is having damp clothes in your suitcase, which end up harboring mold and smelling awful. No one wants to wash their whole wardrobe because one outfit made them all stink! Moisture can also weigh your bag down (a little bit of wet clothing goes a long way), so it’s best to keep heavy-absorbing materials (think: 100% cotton) to a minimum.

Minimalism is Pragmatism

Packing for Long-Term Travel - Minimalism is Key

Do you have a shirt that you can accessorize in 100 different ways? What about a circle scarf that also serves as a beach cover-up? These kinds of items are the perfect for packing for a long-term trip. My items of choice for my trip were a couple of solid-colored v-neck shirts, loose-fitting tank tops, black leggings, and a couple of sarongs and circle scarves. Don’t worry too much about fashion – most other travelers will be in the same boat as you. Bringing clothes that “pack a punch” can help you keep your bag light and easy to navigate.

Find more packing tips here.  Plus, here are the best tips for packing light and embracing the carry on life!


Organization Tools Are A Must

Packing for Long-Term Travel? Stay Organized

Before I left for my trips, packing cubes didn’t even cross my mind. Nor did bringing a few extra zippered bags for my belongings. What a mistake that was…

In Bangkok, I ended up buying a few organization tools because, after a month of travel, my bag was already a complete jungle. It saved me a TON of space, and I knew exactly where all of my clothes were at all times. I created an organization system for my bags where I separated bottoms, tops, and undergarments into different cubes. It worked wonders for my backpack (and my sanity). So, if you want to be able to keep track of your stuff a bit better, I’d recommend packing cubes all the way.

Packing cubes are amazing for keeping your stuff organized!  Why not check out some of these:

Travelwise Weekender Packing Cubes

Shacke Pak Travel Organizers

Eagle Creek Pack It Starter Set


Do you have any other tips for packing for long-term travel?


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Packing for Long-Term Travel

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8 thoughts on “Packing for Long-Term Travel”

  1. We love the “Pack Dry” tip – never really thought about that one, but we guess it’s actually pretty true! Liquids are heavy, not to mention pretty messy. Thanks Kay! We’re gearing up for our third Eurail trip (omg, caaaaan’t wait!) and this post is pretty much exactly what we needed – we’re a complete mess as well! You don’t want to see our apartment.

    No seriously.

  2. Great ideas. I’ve never used the dry shampoos but have heard good things for travelling. I’ve also bought my own packing cells for my upcoming trip.

  3. I agree with you. It’s totally possible to buy a lot of stuff on the road, especially in SE Asia. I brought so much sunscreen and mosquito repellent with my on my year-long trip. And I still had some leftover at the end. It’s ridiculous that I lugged it all around for so long…rookie mistake!

  4. I’ve heard such great things about packing cubes. I really want some because my backpack stresses me out but I’m not sure where I can buy any. I’ll have to keep any eye out when I’m in bangkok

    1. I actually bought mine in Bangkok! They were a little pricey but my bag was a total wreck so I invested. Try the Siam Discovery travel store!

      1. Hi Kay, I have tons of respect for those who save their money to experience what world travel has to offer. I’ve also found that minimalism is the key. REI offers some classes on packing light, an essential way to travel on long ventures.

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