Packing for an extended trip? Packing for long term travel? Don’t know where to start?
Got an extended trip coming up but not sure how to pack? Finding yourself standing in front of your closet, staring at your belongings, not knowing where to start? Trying to rack your brain to see if you’ve forgotten anything?
I’m here to help. Welcome to the only extended travel packing guide you’ll need. I’ve recently come home from a 3-month trip abroad and have gained so many learnings about how to pack to max efficiency. Read on to see exactly what you need to bring with you and pack like a pro!
*Please note: All of the products listed in this post are my personal tried and true recommendations and may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running. Thanks!
THE ULTIMATE PACKING CHECKLIST FOR 3+ MONTHS OF TRAVEL
Before you pack anything, it’s important to start with the skin and bones of packing. Having the right bags to put your belongings in is extremely important. The last thing you want is to toss everything for your trip into a bag with no method of organization.
Why? Because you’ll find yourself spending a lot of extra time later on packing and repacking once you’re actually on your trip. Trust me, your life will be so much easier when you actually apply a strategy to how you pack.
ESSENTIAL PACKING GEAR
First, let’s tackle the question of what you’re going to be carrying all your belongings in. You’ve got two options here. Do you want to go with a wheeled suitcase or a travel backpack?
Wheeled suitcases are great because they are pretty much weightless for your body, you just roll and go. They’re also great because once you open them up, you can see exactly what’s inside without very much digging. However, if you’re going to places like Europe or Asia where cobblestoned streets, uneven pavement, and stairs are abundant, they might not be the best option.
If you’re opting for the wheeled suitcase, you’ll also need to consider whether you’re going to be checking your bag each time you fly or taking it along with you as a carry-on. This boils down to cost/potential savings.
- If you don’t mind paying the checked luggage fees, you can opt for a larger bag.
- If you want to save on luggage fees, a carry-on size makes a ton more sense.
Your other option is a travel backpack. They can get heavy since they’ll be holding all the gear for your long-term trip, but with adequate hip belts attached, they really aren’t bad at all.
Travel backpacks are really convenient when it comes to hands-free, hassle-free commuting. It’s easier to go up and down flights of stairs with them, it’s easier to transport them along uneven streets, and it’s easier to maneuver when you’re walking through crowds. And because of these little conveniences, I actually prefer a travel backpack over wheeled luggage when I know I’m going to be commuting a lot on a 3+ month-long trip!
Once you decide which one you plan on traveling with, continue down the list for more extended travel packing essentials:
1. Wheeled suitcase
I use my Samsonite Omni hard shell luggage whenever I want something sturdier. It’s roomy and super sleek-looking. The built-in TSA locks help to deter theft, ensuring that only you or a TSA agent have easy access to your belongings when traveling.
2. Travel backpack
Personally, I’m a travel backpack kind of person; I love my Osprey Aura 65 so much. It’s extremely comfortable because of its super intense hip belt (if you get it, you’ll see what I mean) and perfect for those warm travel days due to the ventilation technology.
I actually went backpacking with this pack and can attest to its greatness. Totally worth the investment. If you’re looking for a new travel bag or backpacking bag, GET THIS BAG! You won’t regret it.
3. Packing cubes
You need to get these packing cubes, they are amazing at creating space in your luggage that you never thought you had. However you want to organize your clothes— by day, by outfit, by type—these will be the most useful thing you have in your packing artillery. You’ll no longer need to dig through the entire suitcase for that one thing you’re looking for, because you’ll know exactly where it’s at.
4. Everyday bag
A mini backpack that can fit a water bottle, phone, camera, sunglasses and sunscreen is a great option. Another good option for days where you’re not feeling the backpack look is a medium-sized, cross-body bag. If you’re able to find a bag that folds flat so that you’re able to stow it in your carry-on, even better!
I like the Fjallraven Kanken Mini Classic Backpack for something simple and compressible, so when I’m not using it, I can flatten it and store it in my luggage. For something more elegant, I go with a simple leather backpack.
If you’re trying to pack light, you really don’t need that many shirts. Choosing simple colors allows them to be multifunctional. I’d go with 5-7 shirts. I had a few plain workout tops that weren’t branded, so I was able to wear them out as regular shirts as well.
You can go with a mix of sleeveless and sleeved, as there may be instances where you need to cover up your shoulders (such as when entering cathedrals and temples).
Bring 2-3 pairs at most, depending on the season. In the spring, fall, or winter, you can bring 2 pairs of jeans (a blue and black one). Wool leggings or baselayers will keep you warm and comfortable when sightseeing outdoors.
For summers, in the face of humidity, go with something loose and light and a pair of shorts. Jeans will likely be way too hot for summer travel. When I went to Europe last summer, my legs would almost immediately start sweating once I began walking. It’s pretty uncomfortable, to say the least.
I’ve seen a lot of blogs out there mentioning the taboo of shorts abroad. To be frank, I think that’s pretty outdated, namely with regards to Europe. I’ve asked a lot of locals in many countries about this shorts controversy and they see no problem with it—I went to Europe with zero shorts and a few long dresses because of this notion.
Once I got there, I saw SO many locals rocking shorts. So I bought some. Because it was really hot and I was miserable in my sticky jeans. Just don’t wear booty shorts and you won’t have a problem.
Leggings are very useful if you plan on working out, hiking, or want something to lounge in on the plane. I love leggings and can’t really go on any trip without at least 1 pair.
A pair of lightweight leggings like the pair by 90 Degree By Reflex is a great option if you’re looking for breathability while getting that protection from bugs and the sun’s UV rays. If you want something with pockets that’ll fit your phone, go with this pair here.
2 long dresses for the summer season. Long or flowy dresses/skirts are really good for days when you plan on visiting places like cathedrals (no bare shoulders or exposed knees, so be prepared). If your knees are showing slightly, it’s usually not as big of a deal as those bare shoulders.
If you plan on going out at night, aim for one of the dresses to be appropriate for both daytime and evening looks. Add a nice cardigan (or even a shawl), swap out the flip-flops for your nicer sandals, and be on your merry way! It’s all about versatility!
10. Underwear and socks
Bring 5-7 sets and just find a washing machine whenever you can. Or save water and wash them while you’re showering!
The Scrubba Portable Wash Bag also works wonders if you don’t want to head to the laundromat every time.
Depending on your activity level, 2-3 will do. Because I’m pretty active and tend to do a lot of tropical hiking, I typically bring more sports bras than regular bras. (Plus, your swimming suit tops can function as bras too.)
In order to save on luggage space, bring less and just throw them in the wash as needed.
12. Comfortable Walking Shoes
With all the walking that you’ll be doing, make sure to wear a good pair of walking shoes. Bring one or two pairs of comfortable walking shoes with good support and traction. I usually go with one pair of sneakers (gives you the ability to go for a run in the morning and then walk all day in them) and another pair of cuter shoes when I want to dress up a bit more.
My all-time favorite travel shoes these days are the tried and true Ecco Soft 7 (they’re stylish, comfortable, and have been raved about for decades since they were first created)! The best part is that they have them for both men and women.
For your second pair, consider sandals in summer. Birkenstock Mayari’s are my go-to because they allow you to walk miles and miles without any pain. Yes, they may seem expensive, but considering they’ll last you at least a decade and provide you with the best foot support out there, they’re so worth every penny.
When I was in Europe this summer, I was averaging 8-9 miles in both of these with zero pain or blistering! You only have one set of feet, so please take care of them and give them the support they need. A pair of light flip-flops are also handy to bring with you if you’ll be using communal bathrooms at hostels or plan on visiting beaches on your trip.
13. Lightweight Rain Jacket
Ideally, the one jacket you bring with you will be a packable, lightweight, water-resistant windbreaker. You’ll be walking around a lot, the last thing you want is to be lugging around a jacket that you may or may not wear. It’s best to bring something compact that you can easily pack away in your travel bag when you’re not wearing it.
The North Face Venture 2 Rain Jacket does it all–keeps you dry, warm, and doesn’t weigh a thing. Traveling light is key!
14. Shawl / scarf
One of my travel must-haves! I’ll always have a medium-sized thin scarf in my bag.
Not only can you use them for warmth or style, but you can also use them as a coverup in churches, as a towel, as a mat on grass/sand/dirt, as a quick rain shield, or as an emergency skirt if your bottoms get stained or soaked somehow.
Swimwear is usually only useful in the summer. As I knew I was going to be beaching a lot, I brought 2 pairs.
They don’t weigh a lot, and for women, can double as a bra/pair of panties when you’re in a pinch. For men, swim trunks can double as shorts!
16. Sleepwear / loungewear
Yoga pants and a t-shirt or workout clothes are all you need here. Save luggage space; these items can be used as pajamas, loungewear, and airplane/road trip outfits.
17. Sweater or lightweight fleece
Preferably you should bring a dark-colored one so it can be worn on multiple occasions. You can plan on bringing more if you’re traveling in the fall/winter.
I love, love, love my trusty North Face Thermoball puffy. Not only is it super warm, but it’s also extremely light and folds up into virtually nothing when you pack it away!
For something more affordable, I’d go with this one by Columbia.
Because it can get really bright during sunny European afternoons.
19. Hat / Baseball Cap
Hats are so necessary for sun protection, don’t forget it! You most definitely should have one if you’re going to be spending any prolonged time outdoors.
Very optional. I tend to skip jewelry on most days (even if I’ve packed some) because either it’s too hot/humid to want to deal with something sticking all over my neck, or I just forget to wear it.
If you have fancy jewelry, it’s better to leave it at home. I’ve read that many pick-pocketers abroad will either go for the wallet or even yank chains off of people’s necks on public transportation.
21. Wearable technology / activity trackers
We always travel with our Apple Watches because we love data, technology, and convenience. Not to mention, tracking all those steps you get while exploring feels good!
22. Squeeze bottles
GoToob travel bottles are my favorite thing ever. Made of high-quality silicone, they are extremely durable, have never leaked on me, and are super easy to squeeze. They have different TSA-approved sizes, but I found the large GoToobs to be the best for the duration of my trip. I put face wash in one of the large ones and it lasted me all 3.5 months without a need for a refill!
23. Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
24. Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes
Feeling a bit gross after a hike but don’t have the time to shower right in that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
25. Hand cream, body lotion, face masks
Highly recommended, learn from my mistake. I didn’t bring any with me because I didn’t want to carry ‘luxury’ items and I ended up being pretty annoyingly dry. Halfway through the trip, I just had to buy some. If you get dry while traveling, bring something to combat dry skin.
26. Moisturizer with SPF
You’ll be out in the sun all day. Save yourself face from premature aging and sunburns.
Sunscreen is absolutely necessary if you’re going to be spending time outdoors. Even if it’s overcast or cloudy, the UV index can be very high, so be sure to apply it whenever you’re outdoors. No matter where I go, I always opt for a coral reef-safe brand, as traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that damage our environment. For the face, I am absolutely obsessed with Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen. It goes on completely matte and doesn’t add any extra sheen or white film on your face.
28. Shower supplies
Buy in your destination country and only as you need them. Don’t stock up or else you’ll end up carrying too much extra weight.
29. Dental supplies
Same as above. This includes toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, retainers, etc.
If necessary. I don’t really have odor in my armpits so I didn’t need this– less weight to carry if this is you too!
Some girls have a huge collection of makeup. Bring only what you need because you’re going to have to carry it around with you for months. Makeup can get heavy to carry.
You probably won’t be needing that green eyeshadow, glitter eyeliner, or those multiple tubes of foundation. And remember, you can buy more when you’re at your destination!
32. Dry shampoo
I tried not to wash my hair every day, but at the same time, Europe was really hot and muggy. Dry shampoo came in handy very frequently.
33. DIY survival kit
Make a little bag of the following: ibuprofen, allergy pills, Immodium, ciprofloxacin (or whatever your doctor prescribes for traveler’s diarrhea), bandaids, floss, hand sanitizer, eye drops, lip balm, a sharpie, tape, and extra contact lenses (if applicable).
Think about the ailments you typically suffer from and have to deal with on a regular basis and adjust the contents of the bag as needed.
34. Extra plastic baggies
Because you never know, but they always come in handy.
Sometimes, your hands get dirty. Sometimes, there’s no toilet paper in the public bathrooms.
36. Laundry soap
Bring a super-concentrated laundry soap so you can do your own laundry. A travel clothesline may also come in handy if you want to air-dry your clothes. If you’d rather do laundry at a nearby laundromat, bring small amounts of laundry detergent with you, or buy some at your destination.
37. Travel towel
Travel towels are useful if you plan on having beach, lake, or river floating days but don’t have access to a beach towel.
And if you’re staying at hostels, pay attention! Some hostels don’t provide towels, or they’ll have them available for rent. Save yourself the trouble and just bring one with you.
Travel towels are not only light and quick-drying, but they’re also very packable and take up little space. I highly recommend this one.
38. Travel Clothesline
A travel clothesline is a small and portable clothesline that allows you to hang up your wet clothes almost anywhere. I’ve found that it’s really handy whenever I have wet bathing suits or towels that need to be air-dried. I love it for its multi-purpose functionality!
39. Ear plugs
Very much necessary if you plan on sleeping on planes, in hostels, or anywhere where other people could disturb your sleep.
Remember to bring multiple pairs with you because it’s so easy to lose these bad boys in your sleep! Mack’s Dreamgirl Soft Foam Earplugs are my favorite, they are very well-rated, and are even doctor-recommended.
40. Eye mask
Eye masks are amazing for airplane rides or shared rooms where the beds aren’t separated by curtains, or if you’re sharing your hotel room with an early riser.
People being able to see your sleepy little eyes? A bit awkward. But with this, the awkwardness is gone! I find eye masks to be awesome for plane or train travel too.
Using advanced ergonomics, the Nidra Deep Rest Sleep Mask uniquely contours to your face and eyelids for maximum sleeping comfort. Its deep eyecups allow your eyes to flutter during sleep and the technology used here is even patent pending!
Make sure you have everything right with your phone before you go. Get the battery changed, free up some memory space. My phone was operating on 79% battery efficiency so it wasn’t really holding a charge. I pretty much had to go through Europe with an external battery by my side always. Not the most convenient.
You’re going on a huge trip, some higher-quality pictures wouldn’t hurt. I brought my Nikon D5500, which I found to be a bit too heavy but produced great photos that I’ll cherish forever.
You could go with a more convenient point and shoot or a GoPro as well.
43. Portable Power Bank
Crucial, especially if you’re going to be out all day exploring and using your phone for Google Maps and such.
A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of exploration without it.
44. Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger
Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should!
Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
45. Noise-canceling headphones
Always good to be able to get into the zone and tune people out. Not to mention, you can use them to watch Netflix all night in your hostel room without disturbing anyone!
46. Travel adapter
Necessary for many countries. This one here is tried and trusted. It allows for a normal plug and has two additional USB ports.
Bring multiple phone cords since they are light (and easy to misplace).
48. Laptop (Optional)
Depending on what you plan to do on your trip, because it is a heavier item to carry around. Regardless the MacBook Pro is such a great investment.
For longer trips, I’ll definitely bring my computer. There are just some things I’d rather do on a full screen rather than my teensy phone screen. (I’m old school in that sense.)
Not to mention, having an actual keyboard and multiple tabs visible allows me to be so much more efficient in responding to emails, having meaningful conversations with my friends/family, and keeping up with news/social media.
The iPad mini is a much lighter option that I tend to go with on shorter trips where I might not need to do as much typing.
Go with the Kindle Paperwhite over books if you plan to read a lot– it eliminates a lot of potential weight from actually carrying books.
This was one item that I didn’t have during my last few months of travel. I dealt with heavy, bulky books and they were such a hassle that I ended up leaving them all at my hotel on purpose.
50. Travel belt/money belt
A travel belt is a smart traveler’s best friend. They are the best thief-proof tool for airplane travel, public transportation travel, walking around abroad, and just about everything else in between.
I always, always use a Flip Belt to carry around identification, important documents, and money that I want to keep safe and right by my side.
Another benefit of the Flip Belt? It’s supposed to be a running belt. I swear, this thing doesn’t budge or jiggle at all when I run, plus it’s super comfortable!
A mix of local currency and your home currency for emergencies.
52. Tickets and travel documents
Passport, student ID, medical card, proof of travel insurance, printed documents of your flight/hotel bookings, visas if you need them
53. Travel-related cards
Credit cards, debit cards, airport lounge access cards, visas, Global Entry card, vaccination card, etc.
54. Journal or book
‘Cause everyone could use a little alone time. I love reading my journal entries from years ago; they bring back memories that I may have forgotten. Oh, the sweet nostalgia.
OTHER TRAVEL GEAR FOR EXTENDED TRAVEL
55. Travel pillow
This one by trtl is THE one! It comes highly rated because it has so much support, almost like a neck brace (there’s a chunk of flexible plastic in there to prop your head up). It’s warm and super packable too.
They’ve recently come out with the trtl Pillow Plus, which costs a bit more but comes with a bunch of new and improved features (scientifically engineered with ergonomic design, height adjustability, and in-built breathability). The fact that it is fully adjustable means maximum comfort for any type of traveler regardless of their sleep style.
56. Water bottle
57. Reusable tote bag
Great for doing groceries or carrying your belongings in a pinch. Since reusable shopping bags are pretty much weightless and take up no room, I will usually bring a few with me and leave them in different places so I’ll always have one handy.
58. Laundry bag
Keep your worn clothes separate from your clean ones, especially when traveling to high humidity climates. Summer and/or long days of exploring = lots of sweaty, smelly, dirty, and worn clothes. Don’t soil your entire travel bag by mixing worn clothes with your unworn clothes!
Definitely bring a laundry bag to separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes to maintain the utmost freshness.
59. Small lock
If you’re staying in hostels, you may need to provide your own lock for the lockers. Otherwise, this can be used on your luggage bag when you’re traveling and checking your luggage.
60. Massage Ball
One of the best things in my bag, hands down. Roll your legs, upper back, and under your feet whenever you have downtime to undo that tension and soreness you’ve built up over the course of the day. Check out this one.
61. Emergen-C packets
Emergen-C packets or Liquid I.V. Hydration Packets are a must for travel. These are a great way to support your immune system and overall health on a trip. They are light, take up no space, and are very easy to pack!
62. Cooling towel
For something simpler than a neck fan, you can consider a Chill Pal cooling towel to stay cool. Trust me, it will save your life from the heat and make exploring the outdoors more bearable.
THE ULTIMATE PACKING LIST FOR EXTENDED TRAVEL
To wrap up, let’s review the ultimate packing checklist for extended travel:
- Wheeled Suitcase / Travel Backpack
- Packing Cubes
- Laundry Travel Bag
- Everyday bag
- 5 Tops
- 2-3 pairs of pants
- 1 pair of shorts if applicable
- 1 pair of wool leggings if applicable
- 1-2 pairs of leggings
- 1-2 dresses
- 5 pairs of undies
- 5 pairs of socks
- 3 bras
- 2 pairs of shoes
- 1 pair of sandals / flip flops
- 1 sweater or lightweight fleece
- 1 jacket
- 1 shawl or scarf
- 1 swimsuit if applicable
- Hand sanitizer
- Travel body wipes
- DIY survival kit
- Extra plastic baggies
- Laundry soap
- Travel towel
- Travel clothesline
- Ear plugs
- Eye mask
- UV Sanitizer for phone
- External battery
- Travel adapter
- Wearable technology / activity tracker
- Travel belt / money belt
- Tickets and travel documents
- Credit /debit cards
- Journal or book
- Travel pillow
- Collapsible water bottle
- Reusable tote bag
- Small lock
- Massage ball
- Emergen-C packets
- Cooling towel
Now you’re ready!
If you get nothing else out of this post, at least take this with you… pack light! Everyone has the urge to pack a lot of things. I get it, there’s a scenario for everything you own to have a purpose on your trip.
But what usually happens is that we either wear them once or not at all. Remember to mix and match clothes and evaluate each item, only bringing it if you think you’ll use it more than 3-5 times.
Oh yeah, and pack early. You’ve got a lot to look forward to and a lot of trip to pack for!
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