As we've been constantly roaming around the world for the past 3.5 years now, we have finally gotten our travel pack list down to a science. It's not always easy to know what to pack, whether for a long term trip or a short vacation. But after much trial & error, we've finally developed the best travel packing checklist for us. We now hope you can use these travel gear recommendations, packing tips, and product reviews while preparing for your next trip.
A critical component to packing for travel is versatility, which you'll find is a theme throughout this article. But we're also keen on functionality and on value in our travel gear recommendations. Many of the items in this travel packing checklist have been carefully selected because of the value they bring in combination with the practicality they deliver. We never pick the most expensive gear available. Instead this packing list suggests items that provide best usage for the money spent.
This travel pack list contains all of the items that we are currently roaming around the world with, and personally recommend. We own every single one of these items, unless it's otherwise stated that we have a similar item. Most of these items can be easily purchased on Amazon, which is an affiliate of ours and it's actually where we do most of our travel gear shopping. Whenever we're back home in the US, we always stock up using the free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime. (Use this link to get a 30-Day Free Trial to Amazon Prime!)
We hope you find this travel pack list and packing suggestions helpful whether gearing up for a round the world trip or a quick weekend jaunt!
What Outdoor & Adventure Gear to Pack for a Trip
Although we're constantly adventuring around the world, we don't travel around with a huge assortment outdoor gear. We leave behind all the bulky items, as we find that you can typically rent them in most destinations. Unless you're camping for the majority of your trip, it makes more sense to rent gear such as tents, camp stoves, and climbing harnesses along the way. Instead we recommend limiting your adventure gear only to the items that you will use regularly. Here's the outdoor gear we're traveling with.
We're always getting wet on adventures, so towels are key. You don't want anything heavy or bulky, so having something lightweight is a must for a travel towel. "Quick-drying" is likewise an important feature, so it's not damp when you repack it. We like this lightweight, quick-dry travel towel.
As seen on the TV show Shark Tank, these Monkey Mats always gives you a clean & dry place to sit anywhere in the world. It's waterproof, sand proof, and has weighted corners which makes it great for beaches. But we like it because it's super small and compact, so it never takes up much space.
You never know what situations you may wind up in where you can't drink the water. This is great to have on hand for backcountry trekking. But it's not just for using in an emergency in some remote destination. We first used our Lifestraw when arriving to our apartment in the middle of the night in Quito and hence all the stores were closed. You can't drink the tap water, but our Lifestraw allowed us to do so. Travel with a Lifestraw and nearly all water around the world will be drinkable!
We couldn't travel without a headlamp. It's not just for caving. This can serve as an everyday flashlight, allow you to read at night when your partner wants the lights out, and gives you the ability to do anything at night handsfree. This was critical for us when we had to cook in the night while touring Africa. Here's a great basic headlamp for under $10 or go for this heavier-duty version.
Waterproof Your Phone
We almost never go outside without our phone, but it often becomes susceptible to rain, the ocean, the mist of a raging waterfall, and even water gun fights. Whenever in one of those situations, we're always armed with a waterproof case to keep it dry. This Submariner Phone Dry Pouch was voted top pick by Android Central and is waterproof all the way down to 100 feet! For only about $10 bucks, it's a very wise investment.
Powerful LED Pocket Flashlight
This is an indispensable piece of gear for any traveler to find your way back on dark streets, find something under the bed, or to use while camping in the middle of nowhere. We think this LE Adjustable Focus Mini LED Flashlight is the best and most powerful small flashlight you can buy for under $10.
Mask & Snorkel
We always travel with our masks. Many beaches around the world have reefs right off shore, providing for hours of a free activity if you have a mask. Otherwise you'll constantly have to rent one or miss out altogether. It's not just reefs either, we've found unique snorkeling spots like Lake Malawi in Africa to snorkeling in the high Andes mountains of Patagonia. We use some older masks that we've owned forever, but we like and recommend this US Divers Mask & Snorkel for its good reviews and fantastic value.
A Dry Bag
If you're ever traveling over water by ferries or taking day trips on a boat in which you need your camera or a towel, than you absolutely need a dry bag to keep your belongings from getting wet. Dry bags are also great to throw in your backpack if you're roaming around town on a rainy day with a camera or other electronics. We like this SAFEBET 20L Waterproof Bag/Backpack for its price and consistent track record of good reviews.
A Good Multitool & Pocket Knife
These are invaluable on the road. The knife, scissors, saw, corkscrew, and bottle opener always seems to come in handy. Be sure to pack this in your stowed luggage though, as it will be confiscated if you carry-on. The non-branded multi-tool we currently use isn't listed online but the ubiquitous Swiss Army Knife is always a trusted favorite. Yet for a less expensive alternative, try this SWITCHEDGE 14-in-1 Pocket Knife.
A Handy Way To Carry Your Water
This is a must for anyone who takes day hikes, but can also be useful even just for long days touring around a new city. For full-day or half-day hikes, we always bring at least a 1.5 liter bottle of water. That's a pain to hold in your hand for a long trek. Alternatively you can wear a sweaty backpack. But a better solution to either of those is a water bottle carrier like this. It keeps your hands free and your back sweat-free! We don't trek without it.
What Electronics to Pack for Travel
There are so many great travel gadgets out there. Here's what's in our packs and what we recommend. Note: because we're bloggers and work remotely, we tend to carry way more electronics than the average traveler may need, so we've appropriately split this up into a few sections.
Tablets are great for the road to watch movies, play games, read, and stay connected. There's no need to lug around a bunch of heavy books with you. Just load them onto your tablet. Even guidebooks such as Lonely Planet now have electronic versions that can load onto tablets. iPads are nice, but expensive; hence we don't recommend carrying that liability on the road. We love our Kindle Fire, which is an incredible value for a tablet, under $100.
Tablet Protective Case
If you're bringing a tablet, don't forget to protect it during those bumpy rides. This case not only keeps your tablet safe but also acts as a stand for your tray table.
A Flash Drive
You'd never guess how handy a flash drive has been while traveling. We've used it to swap movies in exchange for electronic guide books with other travelers while on a bus in Cuba. In Zimbabwe it was needed to exchange our white water rafting video for photos that other travelers had snapped. These tiny pieces don't take up much space, so just pack one like this 64 GB SanDisk Flash Drive.
Unless you're a real audiophile, leave the expensive earphones at home. They'll just draw attention and become a liability. Pack an inexpensive but decent pair like these so you can listen to music or watch movies during long journeys.
An Unlocked Smartphone with Data
We can't imagine going back to traveling without a smartphone. It allows us to navigate a new city, translate menus, take photos, discover restaurants, call an Uber, stay connected, and be entertained. We currently use an unlocked Samsung Galaxy 6 and have been happy with it. We use it in combination with a $50 T-Mobile plan that gives us free unlimited texting and data in over 100 countries, and calls to North America for $0.20 per minute (although we Skype instead for calling). If we're in the odd country, that isn't covered by T-Mobile, we swap in a local SIM card.
Protect Your SmartPhone
We swear by using an OtterBox to protect your phone from fatal drops. They're available for nearly all phone models. Also be sure to apply a screen protector to help prevent cracks.
A Must for Couple Travelers: Headphone Splitter
This is a necessary cord for couples traveling together. On those long bus rides and flights, this headphone splitter gives two people the ability to watch & listen to the same movie from a single laptop or tablet. Just bring two pairs of headphones to go along with this splitter. At a mere $3 it's a well-worthy investment.
An Extra Long 10-Foot USB Cable
It seems that electrical outlets are always in the most inconvenient places in hotels. When you turn in at night, of course you want your phone charging at the bedside, but there's never an outlet. This 10-Foot Long USB Cable gives you the ability to plug in way across your room and use your mobile phone from the comfort of your hotel bed. This was a long-overdue purchase for us and we now can't imagine not traveling with it. It's actually been one of our favorite purchases the year and we highly recommend! We'll never go back to a short, standard length cable again.
There's no need to carry a different travel adapter for each country. This universal travel adapter with USB ports will cover you in over 150 countries. Those extra USB ports are important, giving us the ability to charge a phone, a camera, and a computer from the same single plug. We've found that many hotels and hostels around only have one outlet per room. Yet this will give you the ability to charge three devices.
Extra USB Cables
USB cords charge your tablets, phones, cameras, and so many more electronics. But they always seem to go missing and often ware down. We recommend bringing an entire pack of USB cables to replace those that go missing and get worn. We like this Rankie 5-pack of USB cables because they've constantly worked for us and you get 5 cables for only $8 bucks!
Portable Power Bank (BackUp Battery Charger)
Phones and camera batteries seem to get drained at the most inopportune times while traveling. GPS, photos, and videos can all eat your mobile phone battery within a few hours of heavy usage. That's why we always carry a portable power bank to ensure our phone stays charged. We recommend a 10,000 mAh external battery which will recharge your devices several times over. We had formerly used this Kmashi Power Bank which worked very well (and great price!) but we found it to be a bit heavy and bulky. We have since upgraded to this Anker PowerCore Backup Battery, which is one of the smallest and lightest backup batteries that has 10,000 mAh power. We now recommend this Anker model as it is much more portable, fitting well in a pocket, at only about $10 more.
There's never enough outlets. This Belkin 3-Outlet SurgePlus Charger turns one outlet into three plus two additional USB ports, allowing three items to charge at the same time. It's great. Note: this model is only for North America (and parts of South America).
The Decision To Bring a Laptop or Not?
Unless you absolutely need it for work while traveling, we advocate leaving the laptop at home. It just becomes a liability and you can now do just about everything from your smartphone. Obviously, we need our laptops. I love my lightweight and durable MacBook Air 13". Heather prefers PCs, so she's currently using an HP that happened to be on sale during Black Friday.
I need a headset for conference calls and Skyping. This Logitech Clearchat Comfort headset is inexpensive and does the job.
Portable External Hard Drive
We travel with a bunch of external hard drives to back up important work, video, and photos that simply won't all fit onto our computers. Sure, cloud storage could be a good solution, but we're often without a solid Internet connection, so an external hard drive becomes the best answer. Be careful with these though, as they as susceptible to damage. We dropped one of ours last year which rendered it useless. Now, we instead recommend this shock proof hard drive that's perfect for travel.
Photography Gear to Pack
We're not the greatest photographers, so we shopped carefully for photography gear that is easy-to-use, has good auto-functions, and is of good value. Obviously, as bloggers, we travel with a bit more photography gear than most. Camera phones these days are getting really good, so may suffice for many. Yet if you really want to take some killer shots, and particularly if you need to zoom or go underwater, then you'll need some additional gear. Here's what we use and recommend.
Our Camera Recommendation
When we started traveling in Dec 2013, we carefully researched and chose to travel with a Sony Nex-6. The current equivalent of this camera is now the Sony Alpha a6000. It's a mirrorless camera that many photographers are beginning to gravitate to over true-dSLR cameras, due to it being more compact yet offering an equivalent (arguably better) level of photo of dSLRs at similar price points. We love its auto features, as we're not experts with aperture and shutter speed. We're quite happy with it and think it's one of the best cameras for an amateur photographer who wants to up their game. Here's a more expert review from CNET:
"The Sony Alpha 6000 is a great overall camera for photographers who want something smaller than a dSLR, especially if they need the continuous- shooting speed."
Action Cam - A GoPro Alternative
If you want to document any sort of adventure activities while traveling, you need an action cam like a GoPro. These shoot great wide angle videos and are perfect for kayaking, surfing, skiing, snorkeling, Scuba diving, mountain biking, etc. We loved our GoPro Hero 3 that we used for the first three years of travel but it finally broke in South Africa. We debated about getting another, but they're so expensive. Instead of spending $400 on the new Hero 5, we bought this off-brand DBPOWER action cam for a fraction of the price - only $40 and it includes two batteries plus a bunch of accessories! We were very skeptical, given the price, but we now like it even better than the old GoPro we were using, and at $40 bucks, we absolutely love the value. If you want to get an idea of for the video quality, check out the videos found throughout our Galapagos Budget Travel Guide.
There are actually many GoPro alternatives to consider. At the time of writing this AKASO 4K WIFI Action Cam is the #1 seller for underwater photography cameras on Amazon, receives rave reviews, and is still under $100. Yes, GoPros are great. But knock-offs like these provide way better value.
We've learned the hard way that GoPros and action cams don't float. If you're taking your GoPro (or other action cam) in the water, you absolutely need to have a floating attachment. We use this GoPole Floating Hand Grip to ensure our action cam floats to the surface if dropped in the water. It also comes with a carabineer that I keep attached to a belt loop or harness during extreme sports. We also travel with a head strap attachment for hands-free use.
We finally decided to buy a drone to capture aerial shots of some of the amazing places we travel to. Of course we were looking for quality + value and we have found that in the Phantom 3 Standard. The price of this particular model has recently dropped and most tech experts agree that this is the best drone you can now buy for under $500. This quad copter has a range of nearly a kilometer, a battery life of 25 minutes, and the included camera takes 2.7K HD video. If money was not a factor, we would recommend the DJI Mavic Pro as it offers greater portability that is more conducive to travel, but it's double the cost. For examples of what we've shot using our Phantom 3 Standard, you can check out these Youtube videos:
A Travel Tripod
If you want to capture that perfect steady shot, you absolutely need a tripod. The downside is they can be clunky to travel with. But this 42-inch Travel Tripod has extendable legs that fold up nicely to make it very compact to travel with.
A Camera Cleaning Kit
A camera is bound to get dirty while traveling across dusty roads, sailing across salty ocean breezes, and hiking over rugged terrain. We constantly get smudges and dirt in our lens that we wouldn't be able to remove without a simple camera cleaning kit like this.
A Selfie Stick?
I'm very hesitant to recommend this because I'm growing to hate seeing these things everywhere while traveling around the world. But this is the age we live in and if you want to get that perfect selfie shot and have no one else to take your picture, you gotta have a selfie stick. We rarely use ours but there's been a few times when we've been glad we've had it.
Extra SD Cards
On a big trip, you may be snapping away and your SD Cards may be full before you can back it up to a hard drive or the cloud. They're tiny and relatively inexpensive, so bring extra. I always keep an extra in my wallet just in case we left a SD Card behind or if one fills up before we realized.
A Camera Strap That Doesn't Weigh You Down
Of course you need a camera strap to go around your neck. But if you have a big, bulky camera it's annoying as it pulls on your neck during a full day of sightseeing. This leather camera-lift strap connects to your backpack, which puts the weight on it instead of your neck. We actually happened to meet the inventor of this great product when we were in a jam, as he gave us a ride from Croatia to Slovenia, as the borders were closed to public transportation. He later sent of a sample of his product and we've been loving it ever since. So we're now very happy to recommend this novel invention as a great way to relieve pressure from your neck during a full day of touring. Check it out here!
Choosing the Right Backpack
I use a backpack for my main bag because I find it easy to travel with in many different situations. I don't mind carrying the weight on my back and it really comes in use when we do overnight trekking trips. I've been using this bag for more than 5 years now and it's held up great. It's an Osprey backpack which is the most common brand we see travelers using around the world. Osprey bags tend to be lightweight, very durable, and comfortable. When choosing a backpack, my biggest recommendation is to use one that completely zips open around the bag. Some backpacks open solely from the top which is a total pain-in-the-butt to get things in and out of. As for size, get a pack that's right for the amount of gear you travel with. For most people, this will fall somewhere between 40-70 liters.
A Rain Cover for Your Pack
Often travel occurs during downpours. A rain cover is an essential item to keep all your belongings dry whether you're trekking across town or through the jungle. When traveling around the world sometimes bags are placed atop buses or get splashed on the side of a ferry. I use this Deuter rain cover for my pack. I also put this rain cover on whenever I check my bag in order to keep all the straps from getting caught in the airport luggage handling conveyer belts.
A Personal Item - Backpack
We both also carry smaller sized backpacks that we use as a carryon item. I use a nondescript backpack I picked up in Croatia. Heather uses this North Face Yavapai backpack, which has multiple compartments to hold all sorts of stuff including slits where we keep our laptops.
A Must: Here's Why You Need an Empty Backpack
We strongly advocate traveling with a completely empty backpack. We learned a hard lesson during our first year of traveling. Every time we would go on a day excursion, we would have to empty out one of our carry-on backpacks and repack it with the bottled water, cameras, snacks, and whatever else we wanted for the day. This hassle can be completely avoided by bringing a small collapsible backpack. We use this High Sierra Sport Backpack that compresses small enough to fit inside a water bottle but expands to an 18 liter backpack for day trips! Having an empty bag also comes in handy towards the end of a journey, as it gives room for souvenirs you may have picked up.
Some Prefer Roller Bags
More and more people are beginning to ditch the backpacks in favor of roller bags. Heather is one of those people, and it makes sense. That's a lot of weight to carry around and it can be way easier to roll it instead. Sure, you'll encounter some uneven sidewalks every once in a while, but they're otherwise a breeze to travel with. If you're not sure if you're ready to make the jump from backpack to roller bag, they also make roller bags with backpack straps. That's what Heather has. She hasn't once used the backpack straps, but still likes having that option. Heather uses an Eagle Creek rolling bag that she found on sale and she's been happy with it. This versatile pack is big enough to hold all her belongings but small enough fit in the overhead bins, so it can be a carry-on.
When traveling around the world with so many different clothes and items, packing cubes become critical to not only keep you organized but to help compress the many items you're bringing along. Packing your bags can be a giant game of Tetris and these packing cubes are your hack to beating that game. These also really come in handy for couples on shorter trips. With these, we can check one bag, but still separate each of our clothing.
Mesh Laundry Bag
This is an essential piece of luggage that's often forgotten. But you need to do something to separate all your dirty laundry during your trip. A simple mesh laundry bag is the solution.
A Cross Body Bag (for women)
A midsize cross body bag is great for women to carry around town when touring cities and want to look a little more sheek than wearing a backpack. Heather got her canvas bag from Old Navy, but it's similar to this one.
An RFID Blocking Wallet
Chip technology on most modern credit cards is great and now widely used around the world. But it is susceptible to theft as people have scanning devices can pick up your card information by simply walking by your pocket. It may have happened to us, as our ATM card was compromised in Argentina during our 2015 travels and someone was able to steal over $1,000 from our bank account by somehow cloning our card! Thankfully the bank reimbursed us for the fraudulent activity, but we now use this RFID Blocking Wallet to ensure it doesn't happen again.
We recently added this welcomed accessory to our gear. A Demi Hugger allows you to securely attach your carry-on (or virtually anything) to the top of your roller bag, to give you free hands and no weight on your back when you're on the move. Love it!
Eye masks have proved critical on long journeys and in accommodation that doesn't have the best blinds. We're currently carrying around some eye masks that were given to us on one of our last flights. But you can try this Bedtime Bliss Eye Mask, which is a best seller on Amazon and has great reviews.
This is another essential item for sleep whether on a long haul flight or on staying on the first floor of a busy city. The eye mask recommended above, comes with a pair.
We always travel with a deck of cards. It's a great way to pass time and make friends. We don't personally own this exact deck (yet) but this pack of Waterproof, Non-tear Playing Cards seems like they would be perfect for traveling!
Inflatable Neck Pillow
This is an important item to have to get sleep on long bus, train, or plane journeys. But it also serves a dual purpose for us to act as a pillow during camping trips. Foam neck pillows are great, but we recommend an inflatable neck pillow since it doesn't take up much space in your pack when not in use. This inflatable pillow receives high marks on Amazon, is inexpensive, and comes with an eye mask and ear plugs.
Luggage and Travel Locks
Luggage locks help to keep your belongings safe while in transit. But just be sure to use a TSA-approved lock like this or else your locked may be clipped while in flight. But bags aren't the only use to carry around a few locks with you. There's often situations where you need to store your bags. Thankfully lots of accommodation around the world will have lockers for you to do so but you'll need your own lock. And sometimes when we leave valuables in our hotel room without a safe, we like to have the security of having our valuables secured with a lock in one of our bags. We've never had anything stolen from us yet (knock on wood), and taking this extra precaution has likely helped.
A luggage scale is a great little item to pack so you know how to adjust your luggage accordingly to comply with airline weight limits. We also use it to estimate laundry costs for places that charge by the kilo.
Beer in most countries around the world is not twist-off. So beer drinkers must come prepared with a small bottle opener.
Pen & Pad of Paper
You never want to be that person on the flight that doesn't have a pen to complete the customs form, so be sure to bring one. And you wouldn't believe how hard it is in some countries to find something as simple as a pen and a pad of paper. There's always something to write down, so we recommend packing a small pad of paper and a few pens.
Travel Gear & Clothing Recommendations for What to Pack
When packing for a round the world trip, we're often packing for multiple climates and multiple occasions. We constantly shift from warm sunny beaches to snowy mountain peaks. We also need to pack for many occasions. We tend to need attire for formal dinners on luxury cruises in addition to gear for rugged camping trips across Africa. The key to this is versatile clothing that can be used for many occasions. You'll find that versatility to be a theme in my travel wardrobe recommendations.
How much clothing you pack will be based on your travel style, the destinations you're visiting, and your personal preference. While it may seem that we pack a bit more than is needed, we do find it necessary since our travel style is so multifaceted. Our recommendation is to pack as little as you can get away with, except for underwear - pack lots!
For the Legs
Jeans or No Jeans?
It's a contentious debate among travelers, but we strongly advocate bringing jeans. Sure, they are heavy and can weigh down your pack, but jeans also have a big upside. They can be very versatile as you can dress them up for a night out on the town or wear them hiking across mountains. But perhaps the greatest benefit to jeans is that they can sustain many usages without the need to be washed. And jeans tend to hold up extremely well while traveling and can be downright comfy. We recommend dark washes that tend to hold up better against dirt.
A Good Pair of Travel Slacks
This is another great versatile piece of clothing for guys. You can dress them up and wear them as you would a pair of khakis but they also make for perfect hiking pants while on the trail. I use these (appropriately named) Men's Global Adventure Pants made by Columbia and am a big fan. A lightweight pair of pants like this is also great in hot climates to protect from sun and mosquitos, yet still keep you cool.
1 Pair Cargo Shorts
Yes, cargo shorts. Sure, they're not the most fashionable thing to wear and I'm pretty sure they went out of style in the 90's. But, hey, they're functional! I'm always trekking around with a bizillion things in my pockets, so I'm glad to have the pocket space that cargo shorts offer to carry around all my crap in. I recommend a pair of cargo shorts that is quick dry that can be used for hiking.
1 Pair Regular Shorts
Be sure to pack another pair of shorts, so you can be more fashionable in the city. I recommend a pair with deep pockets to help thwart pickpocketing and prevent your belongings from falling out.
1 Bathing Suit
If you're gonna get wet, this is a must. I like board shorts with side pockets that can potentially be used as a shorts too - like these Billabong boardshorts.
Many Breathable Dry-Wicking Underwear
Underwear is the one item I recommend bringing more of than necessary. You may be able to get away with wearing shirts, shorts, and pants multiple times between laundry days - but not underwear. Bring extra. They don't take up much space. I strongly recommend dry wicking underwear for any long travel day. I absolutely love these quick-dry, odor-preventing ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxers and have converted many of my friends. They can be pricey but are so worth it. They're super comfy and even after some lengthy usage, they never smell!
This is another item that I err on bringing a bit more since you don't want to wear stinky socks. I travel with about a half-dozen regular socks and two pairs of wool socks which are great for hiking and/or just keeping your feet warm in colder climates.
I picked up a pair of rain pants while in New Zealand before trekking through some downpours. These have proved invaluable ever since and I've used them to keep dry in many rainy locations. The pair I have are similar to these rain pants.
Make sure your pants don't fall down. I find that a brown leather belt is the most practical and versatile.
Hat & Sunglasses
I'm a weird dude and hate accessories, so I actually don't travel with a hat or sunglasses. But this is essential travel gear for most guys and helpful to protect you from the sun. So I'm including them on this travel pack list so you don't forget them.
1 Dry Wick Long Sleeve Collared Shirt
This is a great versatile piece to the travel wardrobe. It's lightweight, breathable, and non-iron. It's great to wear on outdoor adventures to protect from sun and mosquitos but you can most definitely dress up a shirt like this to wear out at night. I've been traveling around with a Van Heusen Traveler Shirt since Day-1 and it's still with me now 3.5 years later.
1 Nice Long Sleeve Dress Shirt
Forget the dry-wicking and functionality for a minute and just pack at least one nice dress shirt that you look good in. This will be your go-to for any nicer dinners or special occasions. A non-iron shirt is highly recommended.
1 Flannel Shirt
This is another versatile piece for the traveler that can help to keep you warm & cozy but can also act as a nicer shirt for night out. The one I travel with isn't online but is something like this. Find a flannel to fit your style.
2 Dry-Wicking Short Sleeved Collared Shirts
These can be great to wear out at night to keep cool in open air-restaurants or during the day while touring a new city. I use this Columbia Super Tamiami Short Sleeved Shirt that boasts sun protection, odor protection, and advanced evaporation. These collared, buttoned shirts are important because in many places around the world men do NOT wear t-shirts. Have a few of these instead so you don't stand out but still keep cool.
Your Home Team Sports Shirt (controversial!)
Many travelers profess leaving this at home, as it makes you standout and look like a tourist. I partially agree. You'll look like an idiot in your giant football jersey in most places around the world. Leave it at home. But DO bring something subtle to represent your hometown, whether sports or otherwise. I always travel with a polo that has a small Miami Dolphins logo. Wearing this has led me to find fellow travelers from my home area in the most surprising of places. But unlike a giant jersey, the small logo is understated enough so you don't standout and look foolish.
1 Fleece, Sweatshirt, or Hoodie
Bring something to keep you warm in colder climates. I'm currently using this North Face fleece.
A Waterproof Jacket
This is an important piece of gear that serves the double purpose of acting as an outer-layer in cold climates but can also be used as a rain jacket to keep you dry. The jacket I use now is a nondescript one I picked up along the way but it's similar to this Columbia Men's Pouration Jacket which is water proof yet breathable.
A Few Undershirts
I advocate bringing a few pairs of undershirts to allow them to get stinky during a single use, while protecting your outer layer to allow you to potentially wear a second time in between laundry stops.
Yes, I travel with 2 pairs of jeans. How many you pack is up to you. Most people would prefer to travel with one pair or none at all, but for me, I live in jeans. They can be fashionable yet also durable enough for adventure activities. I travel with one denim and one black pair. I don't recommend designer jeans. Rather use old jeans from home where you don't mind if they get destroyed or lost. I've been traveling with some Gap jeans and find them to hold up well.
This is staple for your packing list if you're always cold like me. Instead of a hat to keep my ears warm, I prefer this fleece headband because I can put my hair up in a pony tail and keep my ears warm for chilly outdoor actives.
I use a Nike quick dry hat for sunny days when I'll be spending a lot of time outdoors. Mine is a knock-off I purchased in Malaysia for a few bucks but this hat is the legit version.
You need sunglasses. I love my Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses. They have held um remarkably well and I've had them for over four years.
A 3-in-1 Jacket
If traveling in cooler climates, a 3-in-1 jacket is a must. You can use just the outer shell as a breathable rain jacket, or just the inner layer for chilly days. Combine the two layers to keep warm during really frigid weather. I love my North Face 3-in-1 jacket that has kept me warm for the past four years. This North Face Thermoball Triclimate Jacket is the successor of my jacket that's currently on the market.
A compressible vest is perfect with a sweater, or as extra insulation with a jacket on those below freezing days. I like this Lightweight Down Puffer Vest because it's perfect for travel as it comes with a packable pouch and it's great for the price.
5 Tank Tops: 2 Regular + 2 Quick-Dry + 1 Dressy Tank
I like to bring a few tank tops to use for athletic activities and to use as a base layer for other outfits. Try to stick with tones that will match well with the bottoms you're traveling with. I have a few tanks like this, but for more active days I wear moisture-wicking tank tops to keep cool and dry in hot climates. I also pack this reversible cami from Express for times that I want to dress up a bit. Bonus: it's reversible, so it's like having two tanks in one!
2 T-Shirts + 2 Dry-Wicking T-Shirts
You've gotta pack a few t-shirts for everyday use. In many destinations around the world, tank tops are inappropriate. Instead, you'll need to keep your shoulders covered. These quick dry t-shirts do the trick and also help to keep the sun off your shoulders. I also pack a few regular t-shirts like these.
2 Moisture Wicking Long Sleeve Shirts
These long sleeve shirts are nice to have during athletic activities on chilly days because they pull away the moisture and keep you warm. They're also nice to use for water activities because they protect your skin from the sun and dry quickly. These Under Armour Long Sleeve Shirts are work great in either instance.
2 Long Sleeve Collared Shirts
These are good for dressing up and while traveling through countries with more modest cultural norms. I pack a basic chambray shirt, which is good on its own or layering. I also have a lightweight portofino shirt from Express that's nice to have for going out.
Of course a few sweaters are great to have for cooler climates, but take one even if you're traveling through warmer regions. It's these hot climates that I find that buses and shuttles tend to blast the air conditioner, so I'm always thankful to have a sweater.
A Must: This may be one of the most practical and adaptable clothing pieces I travel with. It can be used as a scarf or to cover shoulders while entering a historic church. A pashmina like this has been invaluable to help blend in when traveling through Islamic countries and also great to use as a light blanket during long flights.
1 Bathing Suit
I recommend a suit that can pull double duty where you're constantly not adjusting it during active activities, but still stylish enough to hang by the pool or beach. I use a Victoria Secret bathing suit that I've had forever and they no longer make, but I like this Halter Racerback Bikini, which is similar.
1 Bathing Suit Cover-Up
A bathing suit cover-up is nice to have to throw over your bathing suit when hanging out at the pool or the beach, and when not wanting to receive unwanted attention when walking back to your accommodation.
Of course you need to bring a bra or two. I highly recommend one of them to be a nude convertible bra.
Shoes for Him
Trail Running Shoes
Although we do lots of hiking, we do NOT travel with proper hiking boots due to space constraints in our luggage. Instead, we use trail running shoes. They provide excellent grip, are lightweight, and very comfortable. The biggest downside is the lack of ankle support, but that's never been a problem for us. I've tried three different trail running show brands (one for each year) and found New Balance trail running shoes to be my favorite, which is what I'm currently using for our fourth year. They're also a great everyday sneaker to walk around in.
Boat Shoes or Fashion Sneakers
It's great to have a versatile shoe that you can dress up or wear to walk around town. Boat shoes are great since the soles usually provide good traction. But I've recently converted to a pair of fashion sneakers which I love. I'm currently walking around in these boat-shoe inspired Clarks that can be worn in so many occasions.
The Best Sandals Ever
A pair of flip flops are essential for the beach, short jaunts around town, and questionable showers around the world. I live in my flip-flops, so I take it a step further (pun intended) and even occasionally go on hikes in my flip-flops (not recommended for most). That's why I now travel with (and am in love with) these Columbia flip-flops. Reef-brand sandals seem to be the most popular around the world and I used to wear them. But I find that they tend to blow very easily. (I once blew three pairs of Reefs in the same year). I'm now a huge fan of these Columbia sandals because they're super durable, has soft cushioning, and has great grip that I even use for short hikes.
Shoes For Her
A versatile pair of sneakers is needed for walking around the city as well as more intense treks. I also advocate for trail running shoes instead of boots for the same reasons (see left). I've tried a few different pairs over the years but John has finally turned me on to New Balance Trail Running Shoes which have been working great so far while trekking over the Andes. They're lightweight and have great grip and support.
A pair of flats is another versatile shoe that works for many occasions. I love my Puma Ballet Flats. They've held up extremely well over the past few years, which vouches for their durability. And they are super comfy! But perhaps the best asset is their adaptability. I use these ballet flats to dress up an outfit and to walk around town. They are sporty yet chic. Highly recommend.
You gotta have a pair of flip flops. I'm not as crazy about flip flops as John and would never go hiking in them. But a pair of sandals are still certainly a necessity for your travel pack list. In fact, I pack two. I have a these basic Reef flip flops which are great for the beach. I also bring a sturdier pair of leather sandals that I use for walking around on hot days but want more support than what flip-flops can provide.
- Sunscreen - For sunny destinations, don't forget to pack the sunscreen. For some reason, this tends to be really expensive around the world ($30+), so bring it from home. Anything above 30 SPF is usually good. We like this Banana Boat Sport which is sweat and waterproof.
- Extra-Strong Mosquito Repellent with DEET - When traveling in areas with Zika, Malaria, or Dengue, your first line of defense is to ensure you don't get bit by mosquitos. Repellent with DEET seems to prove most effective.
- Natural Mosquito Repellent - While DEET repellent works great, it can also be very harmful to environment. It not only kills mosquitos but also kills fish if you're going in the water with it applied. Instead consider a natural mosquito repellent if going in the water.
- Deodorant - We can never find our preferred style of deodorant around the world. Asia only has the liquid roll-ons while Africa tends to only use spray deodorant. So be sure to pack your preferred brand and maybe a few extra.
- Disposable Travel Toothbrushes - These disposable mini-brushes are great for when you're on-the-go and can't get to a sink.
- Dental Floss or Flosser Picks
- Hand sanitizer - You'd be surprised how difficult it can be to find hand sanitizer in some countries. So be sure to pack a few travel-sized bottles of Purell.
- Chapstick or Lip Balm - Protect your lips with lip balm that contains SPF.
- Ziplock bags - Bring a few. You'll find a use for them.
- Compact travel hair brush or comb
- Nail clippers
- Travel scissors - to trim bangs and many other uses.
- A toiletry bag - to keep all this stuff in.
- Travel shampoo, conditioner, & body wash - We usually hoard the ones from hotels. For longer stays, we buy these items on the ground which have always been easy to find decent brands except for shampoo/conditioner in Africa.
- Hair gel (for him)
- Make-up (for her)
- Cold medicine
- Pain reliever - we use ibuprofen
- Sea sickness medicine - We find Bonine to be the most effective and least drowsy. We also use ginger pills as a natural remedy.
- Anti-acid - very necessary when trying new local foods
- Pepto-Bismo tablets - This liquid can be an absolute lifesaver but can also be a pink nightmare if it explodes in your bag. Pack Pepto-Bismol tablets instead.
- Roll of toilet paper or tissues - In some parts of the world not all restrooms have toilet paper. Depending on where you're traveling, it may be a good idea to pack a roll.
- Baby wipes - These always seem to come in handy weather to freshen up after a long flight or to clean up an unexpected mess. Pack a small tub of baby wipes.
- Small sewing kit - This has been invaluable for minor repairs on the road. This Embroidex Travel Sewing Kit is a best seller on Amazon.
Things Not to Pack
Water bottles - While useful, water bottles are space hogs. Instead we just buy a bottled water when we land and use it over and over again.
Wedding rings or expensive jewelry - Heather never travels with her engagement ring. Instead, we both wear simple wedding bands. This helps not draw attention to ourselves and prevents what could be a heartbreaking theft. Additionally, when traveling to countries where haggling is the norm, it helps to not have flashy jewelry.
Hiking Boots - Although we're avid hikers, we find hiking boots to be too heavy and bulky to lug around the world. Trail running shoes work well for us instead.
Heels (women) - Unless you're taking a luxury trip with many formal occasions, leave the heels at home. They're impractical, take up too much space, and hell to walk in over all those uneven sidewalks around the world.
Passport Covers - I say no to passport covers. Heather says yes. The problem with passport covers is that you almost always have to remove them when going through customs and immigration, so it's just an added unnecessary hassle. But they look nice and do serve an actual purpose. My passport is bruised and beaten, while Heather's still looks new since she keeps a cover on hers. So, you decide!
What To Pack For a Trip? What Do You Think?
These are all the things we pack and travel with and recommend. But we always come across people who have their own unique travel gear and preferences. What's yours? What do you pack for a trip? We're always changing around our travel pack list.
Also, we'd love to hear if you've used any of our gear recommendations. Be sure to let us know in the comments below.
And what do you think about passport covers? Yay or nay?
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