My Packing List
Lots of people have asked me a number of things when they are getting ready to take a trip to a country they have never visited before. Rather than tell each person each time some things that I bring, I decided to put together my most comprehensive packing list to help other travelers bring the most useful items without overpacking.
If you would like a short version of this list, I am working on making a Google Doc so you can easily read and print this list off. That list can be found here >Link to Google Doc<
What you pack for a trip can mean the difference between having a good time and having to spend a bunch of your time to find basic living amenities. Some things listed below are obviously best to travel with while others are best to get at your destination. I personally like to have a few simple objectives when I land and I often enjoy trying to buy shampoo in a foreign country because it can prove to be quite an adventure. Whatever you decide to pack is different based on where you are going and what your needs are but this is a list of things that I have found serve my needs pretty well while traveling both here in the US and abroad.
My Personal Backpack
This is where I keep all of the things I need on a more basic level to travel from an origin to a destination. Once I arrive, I usually drop some things off in my room and use this backpack for daily use like going to the beach, etc.
1 locking carabiner – I like to have a locking carabiner attached to my gear simply for making it easier to attach my gear to things. Sometimes to a park bench or a clothes line or just to make it easier to hang up in my hostel. The locking mechanism is just a little theft deterrent by making it more difficult to remove.
6 inch paracord loop – This is just a little paracord loop that should cost less than $1 but this is just to be able to attach my carabiner where there isn’t anywhere for me to attach to. It just gives me a little more functionality with my gear.
*Leatherman Keychain Pocket Knife – I like to have basic tools when I travel and a simple pair of scissors and small blade have proven to be a great little utility while abroad. Sometimes simply being able to cut something in a precise and straight line can be a huge help. This doesn’t carry-on so I have it marked with an * so I know to put it into any checked bag I may have or to leave it at home. I’ve lost 2 of these so far to the TSA.
*Cigarette lighter – I’m not a smoker but the ability to create fire instantly has been one of the many things that allows humans to advance as far as we have. From cauterizing frayed gear to lighting a camp fire or starting a conversation with someone who needs a lighter, this has proven to be quite a useful utility in every country I have ever been to. These don’t always fly as a carry-on so you might need to buy at your destination.
Flashlight – I personally use the Streamlight MicroStream LED because it only uses 1 single AAA battery. The reason I like a single AAA battery is because I only need 1 single battery in order for my flashlight to be able to work and I like that irreducible complexity. There’s also a 2 AAA battery version of my flashlight but that would require me to have twice as many batteries in order to work. This might seem stupid but I travel with gear that (hopefully) offers more utility in any sort of emergency situations.
2 New AAA batteries – Just to keep a few spares for the flashlight.
Lip Balm – Nobody likes chapped lips. Not to have them. Not to kiss them. Keep em moisturized.
Mini “Squeeze” Flashlight – Until a trip to New Zealand, I always thought that those little squeeze flashlights were kind of stupid. Then a Canadian guy I met at my hostel had one of them attached to the drawstring of his backpack so he didn’t have to go looking for one when he needed to find something in his bag in the middle of the night. It was just right there for him whenever he needed it.
Headphones – Cause music is awesome and sometimes I like to listen to it all by myself.
Kero Charge Cable – This is a sweet little tool I helped to fund through Kickstarter but it’s a key sized Apple lightning cable so I always have a charge cable for my iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone. The same things exists for Android too with a Micro USB cable. I travel with both.
Moleskine Pen – It doesn’t need to be any sort of special pen but I like the Moleskine pen because of the weighty-ness of it. I like things that last a long time and so far this pen has been my longest lasting writing utensil and has replaceable ink cartridges. Any pen will obviously work.
Mechanical Pencil – Sharpening pencils is a hassle and often very difficult to do any more because of how rare pencil sharpeners are. I keep 1 mechanical pencil in my backpack in the event that I need/want to write something less permanent than ink.
3 Color travel pen – I also travel with a three color pen because sometimes certain government forms require you to fill out forms using only certain colors of pen. What’s even dumber than that, is that they don’t always offer those colored pens. Filling out an exit form in New Zealand, I was required to fill it out with a certain color pen and they didnt supply that color pen. I’ve had this problem twice now so I travel with a multi colored pen to stay ahead of bureaucracy.
1 Sharpie – Cause sometimes you need to mark things with a big marker. This can be for making a sign to help you hitchhike or maybe you just want to write your name on your bag with bold letters. Having a Sharpie or similar marker can be more useful that I thought.
One Book – I usually try to begin a journey with just one book and then try to find books in the local culture if I finish reading my first one. This can also be an adventure in itself if the local language isn’t English.
Sunglasses – I personally like my Knockaround sunglasses because I can get a stylish pair of shades in all sorts of colors for just $20.
GearPod (for sunglasses and other personal effects) – I think a lot of us have probably smashed or broken a pair of sunglasses before so I have actually opted to travel with a GearPod for keeping my sunglasses from getting destroyed by baggage handlers or roadtripping with my friends. Gear Pods float and keep things like sand and other debris away from your phone or whatever you decide to keep in a GearPod. This also happens to be the perfect diameter to store my UE Boom speaker to protect it from water or getting damaged.
(Cash, Debit Cards, Airline Rewards Credit Cards, PreLoaded Cash Card, BTC) – Sadly, lack of money is the single thing that holds most people back from traveling more but I am constantly working on systems that make it easier to travel more with less money. I am especially interested to see what happens with new FinTech like Bitcoin
since funds can never be frozen, they can be spent at select businesses all around the world and it can be converted to local currency through certain exchanges. Only time will tell.
Backup Wallet – Some sort of emergency money stash or backup funds. Once I had my bank account frozen in Spain the day before an international flight and I needed some money to take a cab to the airport. For this reason and a number of other similar reasons that I keep a little extra cash at the ready.
Journal (for personal writing) – I only travel with a journal when I am traveling alone – which is most of the time – because I like to have a place to write down thoughts and maybe do some reflecting on what I have learned on my travels. It’s also really nice to read entries from past travels and have memories come rushing back.
Notepad (for anything like to do lists, errands etc.) – Grocery lists, notes, phone numbers, etc. Sometimes old-fashioned paper is better than a smart phone or tablet. This is also really good at getting locals to help you learn their language since they are usually very willing to write down a few words for you.
Tickets (Plane, Train, Bus, Boat, Car) – This seems like a no-brainer but I have traveled a couple times now where I was required to actually carry a physical copy of my tickets – LAME, I know – but E-ticketing, will-call and print outs are not a thing everywhere so make sure that you have those train tickets from Prague to Budapest cause there’s no recourse if you leave them at home.
Passport + Color photocopy of passport + Color photocopy of any VISAs – You can’t even travel to Canada or Mexico without this anymore so make sure that you always have it and even a couple copies of it backed up somewhere in case you passport is ever lost or stolen. Digital and hard copies might not help you get a new passport any quicker or easier but I’ve used a photocopy of mine to gain entrance to clubs and bars before. I’ve even used this to verify I was the owner of my credit card so it has already proven its usefulness. I usually keep a paper photocopy on my person, a digital copy on a thumb drive with my bag and a copy on the cloud in Evernote or something similar.
My Travel Pack
This pack consists of smaller bags each with a designated purpose like my Clothing, my shower kit, my GoPro case and a few others. These smaller modules or often called “cubes” by some help me to stay organized as well as keep my most relevant and necessary items easily accessible without having to go diving into my entire pack. These smaller packs also to allow to me venture away for a weekend or a short several day trip without having to bring my entire pack along for the journey.
I usually keep all of my clothing in a smaller bag within my Travel Pack so I can keep things a bit more organized.
Underwear – duh. Unless you are a hippie, nudist, surfer or just have disgusting hygiene, you will need this every single day.
Socks – Keep your feet warm in winter months with some heavy duty wool socks. They cost about $20 but are totally worth it if you ever spend New Years Eve in the northern hemisphere.
Pants – I typically travel with 2+ pairs of jeans. Blue + black/grey so I can match most color combinations for a more dressed up look or dressed down casual.
Swim trunks – Because cliff jumping in Portugal in jeans will severely restrict your cliff jumping abilities and get you lots of weird looks from locals when you get back to shore.
Gym Shorts that BREATHE – If you ever go on a 13,000 mile road trip across the US in a van with no air conditioning, these will prove to be more valuable than you realize.
Pajama pants or shorts that also BREATHE. The last thing you want is to be sticky while you sleep.
Dirty Laundry Sack – Keeping my dirty clothes in a nice and organized bag separate from the rest of my clothes is actually one of the better decisions I’ve made at making my life more organized while traveling.
Health & Hygiene
Health and Hygiene are probably one of the most important parts of travel. You don’t have to take these with you when you leave since most places have them easily available when you arrive but some of these things are priceless in foreign countries
From toothpaste to floss guitars. These items are some of the most important things you will use on your travels.
This is what I use to take to the shower itself. I don’t need any electronics like my beard trimmer in the shower so that is in a separate bag.
Dry Shampoo – I personally use Playa powder but some sort of dry shampoo can go a long way if you don’t always have access to a shower.
Wet Shampoo -purchase abroad
Conditioner – purchase abroad
Facial Scrub – purchase abroad
Body Wash – purchase abroad
Bar of soap – Call me old fashioned but this is an easy way to stay clean sometimes.
Loofah – I personally use the AXE scrubber because I like the 2 different abrasives on either side.
Fingernail Scrub Brush – If you ever date a Brazilian, you will understand how obsessive they can be about things like this.
Large Travel Towel – Those micro fiber towels are terrible for actually drying yourself off but are great for laying out on the beach or something.
Small Travel Towel – mostly for drying myself after a shower.
Sonicare Toothbrush – because a months worth of brush strokes in 1 day is the cleanest mouth I’ve ever had.
Charger for Sonicare Toothbrush – Unfortunately this is a massive pain to travel with since it is big, bulky and doesn’t charge via a USB port but it’s a necessary evil if you want to keep your mouth super clean.
Toothpaste – purchase abroad
Floss – I like minty floss.
Mouthwash – purchase abroad
Q-tips in a small case – keep your ears clean.
Deodorant – If you share a hostel room with other travelers, be courteous and wear deodorant.
Cologne – Makes you smell sexy but DO NOT apply this in your hostel dorm room if you can avoid it. Put it on in the bathroom so you don’t make the entire room smell like Armani.
Nail Clippers – I personally hate having long fingernails and
Thermometer – If you get a fever in a foreign country, you might want to know if you need to go to the hospital or not.
EpiPen – I had a bad experience after some Lebanese food in NYC and have traveled with this ever since.
Organic Insect repellent – because organic insects are the worst and I hate mosquitoes.
Organic sunscreen – Sunburn sucks. Sunburn sucks more where you are trying to enjoy your travels.
Anti-itch cream – I hate mosquitoes
Neosporin – This seems to be one of the best things to treat small abrasions you might get while hiking, camping or basic traveling.
Cortisone cream – Cause sometimes sitting for hours on end in a bus in Central America can create rashes
Nitrile Gloves – These aren’t a necessity but if you ever travel to lesser developed parts of the world you might want some extra protection for your hands. I also try to keep a few of these in my first aid kit.
Flesh colored earplugs – Cause you don’t want to look like an idiot at the dance club with hot pink earplugs in your ears and there’s also nothing sexy about being deaf. These can also help you get a good night sleep if there’s someone in your hostel who snores like a banshee.
Eye mask – I never used to use these but I got a free one for flying with JetBlue and Ive kept it ever since. It’s actually proven to be quite a nice little travel accessory a few times.
Dramamine – I prefer some wine for a better night sleep but Dramamine can also help.
Motion sickness “ear tab” – I’ve never actually had to use these but I’ve been told by several friends that they are totally worth it.
Travel plug-in mosquito repeller – Travel to South or Central America and then you will understand. Did I mention that I hate mosquitoes?
Travel Tech + Electronics
After making several trips abroad and not having the proper international electronics, I decided to do a little research and add these to my Travel Packing List
International Travel Adapter (even when traveling within the US) – Most of my electronics can be charged via USB but a couple still require me to plug into an actual wall outlet.
iPhone (Domestic travel) – This is pretty obvious but having a mobile device with me in the US makes for much easier travel for flight info, looking up things to do, UBER, capturing pic and video, Duolingo, Trip Advisor reviews, booking hostels, car rentals, checking bank balances, the list goes on and on.
iPod Touch (International Travel) – No monthly fees and it does everything that an iPhone does abroad (unless you pay extra for your phone to have international calls or data). I have pretty much all the same apps on my iPod that I have on my iPhone.
iPad Mini (all travel) – Much smaller and lighter than the full-sized iPad, this is how I often draft blog posts from the road. I also use it from time to time for watching Netflix movies or even playing games while waiting for a plane or train.
Charge cable for iPhone/iPad/iPod – This is just the Apple lightning connector cable but like I already listed above, I also travel with a Kero cable as a backup.
MacBook Air – I don’t like to travel with expensive electronics but after I left my computer at home on a couple trips, I became stir crazy and then really regretted not having any means of getting anything done from the road. I can’t not work on something while I’m traveling on longer trips. Blogging or writing or brainstorming my next project etc are best done via my computer
Charge cable for MacBook – I also use the international converter pieces so I always have power abroad.
UE Boom speaker – I love music and traveling with a simple bluetooth speaker has proven to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I can’t recommend it enough. It turns anywhere into a party.
Charge cable for UE Boom – This is just a Micro USB cord but it might also really help an Android user out when they are in a bind too.
T-Mobile wireless hotspot – I only travel with this within the US but being able to supply super slow wi-fi to up to 8 devices can have some benefits.
Charge cable for T mobile hotspot – Again this is just a micro USB cable.
Cameras + accessories
Every good travel packing list needs to have at least one camera on there. How else are you gonna record all of those awesome new memories that you are about to create.
GoPro charge/data cable
GoPro Battery Charger
GoPro floaty backdoor
GoPro wrist mount
GoPro Surfboard mount
GoPro Head mount
GoPro Pole mount
GoPro suction cup mount
GoPro tripod mount
SLR – I don’t travel with this unless I need to do some long exposure shots or have more manual control over the aperture. It’s also very big and bulky so I don’t like to travel with this abroad very much.
Thumb Drive w/ Encrypted Passport Photo page + any Visas
Lewis & Clark 2-Cable Combination Lock – Is a simple combination lock that has 2 different sized loops
Locks – My Lewi & Clark lock has made these locks pretty redundant but I often carry these two because they offer more robust security than the cable or the L&C.
Keys for locks – Duh. Don’t get locked out of your own locker. Hostel owners don’t like to have to break into lockers so make sure you have your keys.
Penny Deck – This is my trusty mini skateboard that REALLY helps me get around a lot faster than just putting one foot in front of the other. It’s always a good idea to find ways to reduce the friction of getting around while traveling and I have found that my Penny deck fits inside of carry-on sized luggage here in the US. I learned the hard way that these are not allowed to carry-on in Australia so be warned if you ever have any plans to travel to the land of Oz.
White low-top Chuck Taylors with neon laces – This is more of a personal choice signature shoe but I really like the White low-top Chuck Taylor shoes from Converse with some brightly colored custom laces for extra swag.
Shoe bag – I used to think that a shoe bag was a little redundant but then I tried to pack some shoes after a rain storm and I didn’t want mud and dirt all over the inside of my bag. I’ve learned to keep anything wet as far away as possible from the rest of my gear.
Havianas Slippers – These are a great no-sock solution for a simple “shoe” that goes well with a number of social occasions and they are really easy to put on and take off in a hurry. I’ve also found that these work really well in shallow water as basic protection from abrasive and sharp objects.
A pair of dress shoes/boots – Some places may have a certain dress code or require a certain attire which is why it’s a nice idea to pack a single pair of dress type shoes or “smart” shoes as they are often called in England.
Flip Flops – just a little something to wear to the beach or an open-toed footwear solution.
Every good travel packing list needs some items that are for testing on your next trip. Here’s just some of what I have in the works for my next travels.
Paracord – Straps, loops, hangers, clotheslines, tent support lines and even a makeshift belt. Paracord has countless uses while traveling.
Misc waterproof bags – Your shoes got all muddy while walking back to your hostel and you don’t want to pack them like that. Put them in some sort of bag to keep the dirt, mud and filth segregated.
Travel Umbrella – It rains all over the world and having a reliable travel umbrella can have some great friend-making abilities along with keeping you dry
1-2 full size trash bags – I started traveling with a couple trash bags after a bunch of my stuff got all wet while waiting for a bus stop in Costa Rica. I simple solution for keeping everything nice and dry. These can also be used as an emergency rain poncho.
Suction cup with hook – This is just an experiment to see if there’s a better way to keep my things off of the ground in some showers around the world.
Two-sided tape measure SAE + Metric – Carry-on bag sizes vary from airline to airline and so does the unit of measure. Knowing if you are within the size limits ahead of time can prove to be quite valuable.
Wine bottle opener/corkscrew – You don’t think about it until you want to open a bottle of wine on the other side of the world.
Can opener – because not enough hostels have these
Salt & Pepper
3-6 basic spices in individually wrapped packages