Long-term travel is different from a quick week away, yet many of the essential things to bring are the same. Regardless of where we are going, we share our secrets and tips for packing light.
For us, the real keys to successful travel are only to take what we need and to be prepared. The difficulty is finding the balance between the two.
For us, we have summarized into a simple list of 10 essential things to bring. We share more details on each of these below.
Tips for packing light: 10 essential things to bring
- Breathable weather-proof jacket
- Health/safety gear
- A first-aid kit
- Toilet paper
- Sleeping bag liners
- A laundry line
Our number one travel tip:
ALWAYS PACK LIGHT
Our tips for packing light have improved over time
We initially wrote this page about 10 years ago, when our girls were young teenagers. Now they are young adults and rarely travel with us.
I don’t believe teens need more, but I do notice that we carry considerably less these days.
Our longest family trip was just shy of a year, and we visited 48 countries on four continents. It was a diverse collection of destinations, yet we still managed to pack light, returning at the end of the time with a collective total of just 55kg, including checked and carry-on luggage, jackets, and all our souvenirs.
This is an average of 13.75kg per person. As a point of reference, airlines typically allow one checked bag up to 23kg and one carry-on up to 7kg, or 30 kg per person. We had less than half of that.
On a more recent long-term trip, we spent nine weeks touring four countries in South America with only carry-on bags.
Importantly, we had everything we needed.
“There are two kinds of travellers in the world: those who packed light and those who wish they had.”
Our tips for packing light include these essential things to bring
This is our generic list for most travel; however, if your travel includes a cruise, this may be the better list for you.
1. A breathable rain jacket
I never travel without my all-weather jacket. It’s useful to help me stay dry in a hot tropical monsoon-type rain or as an outer layer when it’s cold.
Also, be sure your backpack and camera bag have “raincoats.”
2. Health and safety items
Our list here used to include insect repellent, sunscreen, and a Steripen to purify water. However, in today’s world conditions, we have added hand sanitiser and an N95 mask to this list.
3. Fully stocked first aid kit
How stocked it actually is would depend on where you are travelling to. We are always prepared for an emergency in our most remote destination. Our basic first aid kit includes paracetamol, ibuprofen, Imodium, sore throat lozenges, antibiotics, band-aids, first aid ointment, and hydrocortisone cream. We also bring a written prescription for any medications we take.
We always make our own first aid kit, but if you prefer a premade one, this small first aid kit from Amazon.com looks complete for injuries.
We used to have a flashlight on our list, but then we realised we don’t need one if we have our smartphone. And the phone can also be our alarm clock, GPS, timer, camera, internet connection and, of course, phone.
5. A roll of emergency toilet paper
I don’t think this one needs much explaining, except that we also recommend that you keep a single-use supply in your pocket at all times. You can choose to heed our warning or regret your decision one day.
6. Silk sleeping bag liners
Just to clarify, we always stay in hotels or other indoor accommodations, mostly at a 4-star or higher level. However, sometimes they are just not up to my standard, and I don’t want to sleep touching the linens. The silk sleeping bag liner lets me have my own first layer next to my skin for almost no additional weight to my bag.
7. A twisted bungy laundry line
I’ll admit, the downside of packing light is washing more often. However, there isn’t always somewhere to hang it to dry. The twisted bungy-style laundry line doesn’t require clips and is easy to pack. Plus, it can double up if I need to secure a bag shut.
Obvious and essential, we need our passports, immunization cards, insurance cards, tickets and credit cards. Plus, I used to bring an empty book for journaling, but now I just use the notes app on my smartphone.
This includes my camera and laptop, plus all the chargers that we need for them and the phones.
We each bring the following clothing items:
- Shirts – 5 including one tank, three short sleeves and one long sleeve*
- Pants – 2 short, one long (opposite ratio if headed to colder temps)*
- Dress for women, nicer shirt for men
- Multi-use sleepwear
- Fleece jacket that is a bit big for layering
- Sun hat
- Warm hat
- Shoes: 1 athletic/walking, one sandals that can be worn in a shower
- Socks and underwear – a four-day supply
*at least one from quick-dry fabric
Note: I prefer summer to winter and generally make every effort to avoid extreme cold. If your travel plans are different, then a down coat should be added to the essential things to bring list.
One more tip for packing light
Possibly our best tip for packing light is to use. Packing cubes keep everything tidy and reduce the space needed. They allow us to keep organized and find what we need quickly.
I have been hooked on them since the first time I tried them. If you are ready to give them a try, we love these packing cubes.
And if you are shopping for another traveller, don’t miss these lightweight and useful travel gifts.
Bonus Tip: Bring a Sense of humour. Don’t go anywhere in the world without it.
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How does this match your list of essential things to bring? Do you have any additional tips for packing light?
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