Packing for a Trip Around the World – 5 things you must pack

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Even if you’re planning to carry-on your luggage, the airline may require you to check it in for various reasons. Now, suppose you luggage gets lost. What are the most important items you must have with you?

Money/ATM/credit card
Prescription medications/Glasses or contacts
A change of clothes

I’m sure you have your own longer list, but these are the minimum you’ll want to have with you whenever you travel.

International Airline Baggage Allowances
Check in or Carry on?

Airline rules keep changing. And the rules that apply on flights to/from the US, aren’t always the same in other parts of the world, even on the same airline. Verify the rules with the different airlines you’ll be flying with BEFORE you depart.

We had planned on carrying on all the way. That changed. It became a hassle verifying rules, and lugging our stuff around. Especially now that the airlines are charging extra for each carry on luggage, the best advice we can give you is to check in your luggage.

I know it takes longer to get out of the airport when you check in your luggage, but getting to the airport in time for you fight, is more important than leaving the airport quickly. Besides, you will be more comfortable and relaxed not having to keep an eye on it.

  • Start by finding out the baggage rules with the airlines you’ll be flying with
  • Plan on checking in your luggage
  • Carry with you a small backpack or tote bag with a change of clothes, and the stuff you absolutely must have such as medications, prescription glasses, etc. Do this even if you plan on carrying on your luggage, just in case.
  • Carry your documents, tickets and money in a money belt ON you.

I don’t like wearing belts, so I got a small and very slim secure travel pouch with lots of dividers and a long strap that I could either hang across my chest, or hook around my waist. Either way was hidden under my clothes. There are lots of money belt and pouch styles.

Packing for a Trip Around the World   5 things you must pack


Never carry a pouch outside your clothes. The strap can be cut and snatched. If you get a pouch with straps strong enough not to break or cut, DO NOT wear it around your neck. If it’s strong enough not to break, it’s strong enough to strangle you if snatched. Wear it across your chest instead.

What to Pack for a Trip Around the World

We’ve heard of people who plan their itinerary around the world to only cold places, or hot places, so they don’t have to pack too much.

Now, why on earth would you want to limit yourself to only places where you can wear the same clothes?! If you didn’t bring enough clothes or the right clothes, you can always find what you need locally.

Even in expensive places like London, I was able to find warm clothes and boots for reasonable prices at Camden Market, a fun, weekly flea market, which is also great for food and people watching.

If you decide to go only to countries where the weather is hot, remember that not all hot weather is the same. We went to Australia where it was hot and dry. None of my California clothes were cool enough. I ended up buying a silk dress at a thrift shop that was light and delicious in that heat. But when we got to Thailand, it was so humid outside that within 10 minutes, that same delicious dress had stuck completely to my body. Yep, like a wet-t-shirt contest.

So, I bought a couple of gauzy cotton dresses at a stand by the beach. These clothes were inexpensive and fit in with the locals. After traveling for a while you end up wearing the same thing over and over anyway.


Don’t take anything on the trip that you can’t live without. That goes for clothes, jewelry…anything can get lost or ruined.

Spread out everything you plan to take. Then, leave out 1/3. When in doubt, leave it out.

Don’t worry about forgetting or leaving something out you might need later. Traveling from one region to another you will need different stuff. You can always find what you need locally.

Before the Trip, Invest in:


This will depend on your physical condition, and where you plan to travel. In the First World an upright rollaboard with a study frame handle is great. But in Third and Fourth World countries there may not be many smooth surfaces, and you’ll need a backpack, And that’s a bit more personal.

Go to a luggage store and try out different styles, walk around in it a bit. Make sure it’s comfortable. Once you have a brand and style you like, then you can shop for the best price.

Buy the best quality you can afford, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of hard travel. Unless you’re planning on getting around in limos, you’ll be glad you did.

Choose luggage that does not call attention to itself. Anything with crazy colors, or an expensive look will attract thieves and the attention of customs officers. You can mark plain luggage with tape or a marker so you can spot it easily.

Get combination locks for your main luggage and daypack.

Good shoes.

Buy these before your trip. Make sure you wear them and ‘break them in’ before you go. Quality, comfortable shoes are more difficult to find locally than clothes. Bring a pair of sturdy walking shoes and a pair of sandals.


Unless you’re into professional photography, bring the lightest, smallest, simplest camera you can find. Digital cameras have many advantages, they are lighter, smaller, last longer, and you keep your pictures on memory chips that take up less space than film. Pack enough memory chips. You can also transfer your pictures to a CD on the road, at a cyber café for about US$5. Emailing pictures is slow, and internet fees can get expensive.

Audio and Video players.

During long trips or waits, you can now watch any video you want! Unbox Videos, is a video download service from Amazon. You can buy or rent any video or TV show. And, you can transfer your videos to a compatible portable device so that you can watch your videos while you are on the go.

I like to read. I know, you don’t want to carry a bulky book. But I found a new wireless books device to which you can download any book or magazine you want, instantly.

To Pack or Not to Pack

Video cameras. We went on a helicopter ride over Hawaii’s live volcano. We hovered right over the caldera overflowing with bright red lava and spilling down the side. It was incredibly beautiful, and thrilling. Sitting next to me was a Japanese tourist with a video camera. She watched the whole spectacle on a 2×2 inch screen. She never even glanced out the window. She could have just bought a video and watched it at home.

Laptop computers. The only reason to bring a laptop is if you MUST access secure or private information. You can stay in touch by email, search the web, and look at your photos at a cyber café. With most banks, you can access your account over the phone. Weigh the pros and cons of how much will you use it vs. carrying it around, worrying about its safety, and the consequences if it’s damaged, lost or stolen. The Blackberry is a great alternative to a laptop and cell phone.

Basic packing list for a trip around the world


Scan them and email them to yourself. That way if you loose anything, you can always recover it.

Immunization card
US & Int’l driver’s license
Airline/train tickets
Medical and optical prescriptions
Emergency contact info
Proof of ownership for laptops, etc.


Main luggage
Money belt or pouch
Combination locks


Credit card & ATM card
Foreign currency (arrive with at least $50)
Prepaid phone card
Blank check for emergencies


Choose quick drying materials.
You can rinse them out in the sink and dry them overnight. Merino wool is the newest favorite fabric for travel. It is soft, light, low bulk and quick drying. It moves moisture away from skin and is odor resistant. You can hand or machine wash it.

Long sleeved t-shirt
Pants/skirts/dresses 2
Shirts/tops 4
Socks 5
Sturdy walking shoes & sandals
Swimming suit


Favorite cosmetics
Travel towel
Shaving cream/razors
Moisturizing lotion
Insect repellent
Sewing kit


Prescription medications (enough to last the whole trip)
Contact lens spares and solution
Pain reliever
Stomach medicine
First aid kit


Guide books
Phrase books
Travel journal
Ziplock bags
Watch with alarm
Mini blowdryer/ adapter
Bungee cord
Sunglasses with UV protection
Hand sanitizer
Inflatable pillow/neck rest
Safety pins

Odds and Ends.
These are things you’ll find useful during your trip:

Ziplock plastic bags are the best when going through customs. They are also great to sort items and keep them dry.

Universal sink stopper. You can rinse out your clothes in the sink.

Door Stopper. Specially if you’ll be staying in hostels.

Shipping Your Stuff

We figured we would ship stuff home as we went along. What we found out was that it’s expensive and not worth it to us. So this depends on you, what you’re shipping and how much you want to spend. Shipping stuff home is pretty much slow, but you’re not in a hurry to get it. Shipping stuff to you while you travel, is not so predictable or reliable.