What to pack for long term travel
Packing for a year on the road was quite daunting. It’s not uncommon for me to step up to the airport desk and find my case is over the weight allowance, resulting in me paying a heavy fine or putting on the heaviest items and boarding the plane like the Michelin man. Now that’s fine if you’re heading off for a week in Magaluf or a fortnight in Turkey but when you’re going to be carrying that weight on your back you need to be frugal with your packing.
Before we left the UK I read a lot of travel blogs and listened to various podcasts for packing tips and advice on what to pack for long term travel. One of the best podcasts I listened to was IndieTravel’s “15 essential items for world travel”. IndieTravel actually have lots of great podcasts on various topics that I’d recommend to anyone thinking about travelling, you can listen to all their podcasts here http://indietravelpodcast.com/travelpodcasts/.
I’ve decided to write this blog a little differently from the usual “Top ten things to pack for a round the world trip”. Instead I’ve created four lists; What we packed and use a lot, what we forgot to pack and had to buy, what we packed and haven’t used and what we didn’t pack and haven’t missed. Hopefully these will provide you with tips for what to include in your luggage and what not to include. Where possible I’ve added a link to the item so that you can see the exact item we bought and buy it if you like!
What we packed and use a lot
1. Zip lock bags – You can pick up a packet of 20 from The pound shop and they are great for keeping things water proof, locking away open toiletries and organising different items while you’re travelling.
2. Microfibre travel towel – We bought ours in the sale for about £10. They are light weight and dry really quickly. We’ve used ours when the hotel has charged for towels saving us a few £’s and as a replacement for a bulky and slow drying beach towel.
3. Rock salt deodorant – Jake purchased two Incognito deodorants and they were a god send. We bought ours on Amazon and they were a bargain at less than £4! Asia is so humid and I was often sweating within minutes of leaving the hotel. This deodorant was great for keeping me dry and smelling sweet! We got one with insect repellent built in, whether that worked is questionable but the deodorant itself was very good. We are still using the sticks 3 months on. I’ve definitely been converted from aerosols!
4. A card reader for iPad – Being addicted to my SLR I needed a way to upload photos from my SD memory card to the internet while on the road. We didn’t pack a laptop so I needed a something that worked with iPad. Jake did some research and found a little SD card to lightning port adaptor and it was great. Without this reader we would have had to find an internet cafe to upload photos so this saved us time and money.
5. A travel plug with several ports – A good travel plug was a tip I got from IndieTravel. While a basic travel plug is fine our multi plug covered us for all the countries we visited and had two USB ports so 3 items could be plugged in at once. Since some of the hotel rooms we visited only had one plug this came in very handy when we both needed to charge our phone!
What we forgot to pack and had to buy
1. Socks! – Rookie but I didn’t pack any socks! I thought I’d be in sandals most of the time which was the case but once we started HelpX I started to wear trainers and I needed socks! We picked some up fairly cheap in Asia and restocked at Target in Australia!
2. A hat – The sun is pretty strong in Asia and a hat was necessary for keeping our noses and scalps from burning. We got a cap at a local market in Georgetown and it was less than £3. A bargain!
3. Enough Dioralyte – We packed 6… boy did we need more than that! When I was sick in Asia these really helped me feel better and avoid dehydration and I quickly finished our supply. We had to restock on Koh Tao and ended up paying double the price. I’d recommend taking two packets especially if you’re a solo traveller who might become room bound when ill.
4. Tiger Balm – While we packed an insect repellant we didn’t pack anything for soothing bites. Luckily we picked up a pot of Tiger Balm within the first few days of our trip and it was amazing. We are now on our second pot. I hadn’t seen this in the UK but Jake assures me you can get it from Savers or Boots on the high street or Amazon online.
5. Flip flops – So I packed three pairs of sandals but no flip flops! My mum did offer to buy me Havanas in the UK but they were out of my size and I forgot to get a pair. Luckily Bangkok has a huge supply of fake Havanas that cost less than a fifth of the price of the real deal. I bought one pair at the night market on Khao San Road and I wish I’d bought two!
What we packed and don’t use
1. Makeup that exceeds the basics – I have problem skin so I did pack a small makeup bag. In the end I didn’t use any makeup until our first night out four weeks into our travels and even then I used the bare minimum. It hardly seems worth spending 30 minutes on makeup that is going to melt off instantly. I’d recommend only packing a mascara, lip balm and translucent powder.
2. Laundry detergent for hand washes – Ours broke in Cambodia and we haven’t missed it so far. Soap is a good replacement for giving undies a quick clean and cheap launderettes in Asia meant we didn’t wash much by hand!
3. Insect repellant bands – We bought two cheap bands in the UK. Jake wore his on his ankle and his feet got bitten really badly so I don’t think ours worked! To be fair we didn’t spend a lot on them but I think a good insecticide is a better way to repel mosquitos.
4. Foldable cups – I read somewhere a whole folding picnic set would be useful. We only half committed and got matching folding cups. So far we haven’t needed to use them…
5. A sports bra – I packed this thinking I might exercise… enough said.
What we didn’t pack and haven’t missed
1. A hair dryer – This is a pretty heavy item so I really didn’t want to bring it. I’ve been letting my hair dry naturally and rocking the wavy traveller look. Why waste time drying your hair when you could be sight seeing? I did bring my GHDs and I’ve used them half a dozen times. I thinking bringing one or the other is probably a good compromise.
2. Shower gel – We actually did pack this but lost it, luckily most hotels and hostels have complimentary toiletries that have saved us space and money! I always collect the hotel toiletries. My top tip is if you collect the toiletries each day they will be restocked by the cleaner so over your stay you’ll collect more!
3. High heels – I missed wearing high heels once in Kuala Lumpur when we were in a cool club and I felt underdressed dancing in my flats however I was soon grateful to be wearing flats on the walk back to the hotel! A lot of Asia doesn’t have sidewalks and what they do have is often not well maintained. Bad pavements mixed with high heels spells skint knee to me!
4. Malaria tablets – I tried to buy Malaria tablets for Borneo but the pharmacy messed up and then I couldn’t get them in time. At the time I was mad but actually it was £50 saved. We weren’t in Borneo very long and we took other measures to avoid bites like wearing light coloured clothing and covering up our arms and legs in the evening or when we visited the jungle.
5. A mosquito net – We thought about buying a mosquito net treated with insecticide but they were expensive and we were being stingy. Luckily when we were in a hotel in a high risk area they provided a large net that covered the bed!
I hope reading about what we used and what we didn’t use will help you decide what to include in your luggage. Also don’t forget you can always buy things if they become necessary!
Fellow travellers, what advice would you give regarding what to pack for long term travel? What items do you use most and what could you have left at home?