The Essential Guide to Packing Like a Pro
Every experienced traveler knows that traveling by its very nature demands simplicity.
Can you pack your entire apartment into your backpack or suitcase? Of course not!
You have to keep it simple and stick to your essentials. Save yourself the stress of dragging a suitcase full of unnecessary stuff around places you are trying to freely explore.
Everyone has different needs and this list is my attempt to provide you with a general guideline on what to pack and stick to the essentials. Ultimately, you can tailor this list to suit your travels.
Here’s my suggested packing list for a one-week trip...
The inevitable packing question...
“But what about X?”
You know this question will run through your mind as you start packing and it’s ok. We all have to deal with it.
But chances are you won’t need “X” and if you do, you can likely buy it overseas...probably for cheaper.
As you get more experienced in your travels, you will realize that people around the world have the same day-to-day needs as you do and you can find pretty much whatever you need in every major city.
What to Pack for an International Trip
The first step to packing effectively (and the most important) is to buy a small backpack so you aren't tempted to fill empty space and overpack.
Backpacks are also more comfortable and give you greater mobility when traveling. I recently got the Osprey Farpoint 80 and I love it, especially because it has a detachable day pack that I can take with me for a day trip and leave the rest of my stuff at the hotel.
After you get your backpack, it’s time to start putting your stuff in it.
As a general rule for clothing, always go for quick dry, wicking, and cool fabrics from brands like Columbia, Patagonia, Exofficio or similar.
This allows you to do laundry by hand in the sink as needed to reduce the amount of clothes you need to carry.
Clothing for Tropical Climates
- 3 t-shirts
- 4 shirts
- 5 pairs of underwear: My favorite brand is ExOfficio. They are ergonomic, odor-resistant, and quick dry.
- 3 pairs of socks
- 1 pair of compression pants/yoga pants
- 1 bathing suit
- 1 dress shirt (in case you have to go somewhere "nice" or having an important meeting overseas)
- 1 pair of running shorts. You can even use them as your bathing suit and save some space :)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 long sleeve t-shirt
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 pair of sandals/flip-flops: I love my Chaco sandals. They are not the sexiest, but they are comfortable and can wear them to go hiking or swimming.
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 1 microfiber towel
These are great suggestions for our trips to Costa Rica, Belize and Bali. Keep in mind that areas in tropical climates are hot, humid, rainy (depending on season), and you will be sweating a lot!
Clothing for Cold Climates
- 3 long-sleeved shirts
- 1 pair of rain pants
- 1 pair of compression pants
- 5 pairs of wool socks
- 5 pairs of underwear
- 1 waterproof winter coat
- 1 pair of gloves
- 1 beanie
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 1 pair of hiking/snow boots
Layering is key to keep warm in cold weather.
Layering basically means just what it sounds like: wearing multiple layers of garments, one on top of the other. For a more in-depth explanation on layering, check out this article by REI on layering basics.
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 pack of disposable razors
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 bar of soap
- 1 deodorant stick
- 1 small bottle of sunscreen
2. Small Medical Kit
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Neosporin cream
- Doctor-prescribed medicine
- Antiseptic hand-wipes
3. Travel Tech
- iPhone (yeah I'm an iPhone guy)
- Selfie stick
- Universal power adapter
- Phone camera lenses: Turn your phone into a professional camera with these pair of lenses.
- Portable phone charger
4. Miscellaneous Items
- Packing cubes: Packing cubes have changed my life forever. They are like individual drawers. All your underwear and socks in one container, all your shirts in another, and another for toiletries. They make packing and re-packing stupid simple.
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Combination lock
Like I mentioned at the beginning, everybody has different needs and you can always tailor this list to suit your style of travel.
What suggestions do you have when sticking to the essentials?