I know how it is. Packing can be one of the hardest parts of planning for any trip, especially a long-term (likely multi-destination) adventure! There are so many items that you might need, different climates to consider and so many cute, yet practical outfit options, how do you decide? Here are a few quick packing tips for long term travel that I have learned over several years of experience traversing the globe. Trust me on these.

Packing tips for long term travel

Make sure you have the right luggage!

First thing’s first…the bags you take with you WILL make a difference. To figure out the perfect luggage for your adventure, check out my in-depth article covering everything you need to know to make the right decision.

Now that you know what luggage to pack your life into, lets get into the best packing tips for long term travel & a few tricks I gathered over the years:

Exhibit A of packing too much. This was immediately a burden for the people that packed it.

Don’t over pack! It will be too much weight on your shoulders and will cause stress later on (literally and figuratively). I promise we need less than we think. Things can always be bought, so it’s better to start with less. It’s a good way to get a souvenir t-shirt or pants too!

You don’t need a pillow. Not even a travel pillow. They take up a ton of space and will collect a lot of germs as you go. Compartments from your backpack (see below) wrapped in a shirt will work exactly the same in a pinch.

Guys! Shorts that double as swim trunks are your friends! Kills two birds with one stone, they dry fast, and no need to change before you head straight off the bus to the ocean. We love brands like RVCA, Quicksilver, or Vuori, and most other surf companies carry them.

Ladies! Dresses are your friends! A whole outfit with only one article of clothing, brilliant. They can be made up for a night out, or down for a beachy afternoon. Just make sure you get ones that don’t wrinkle easily.

Clothes that fold up small and/or flat. Examples are leggings, tank tops, sarongs, items with few pockets, articles that don’t have excess fabric, etc. These are perfect for being able to fit all that you need in your bag. Even having extra room is nice.

Mix-n-match articles. Some are less worried about matching, but it is nice to feel like you look good while on the road. The best loophole I have found that avoids packing too many different outfits, is to make the ones you do pack, count. You can do this by bringing bottoms that match several tops and vice versa. Less items, more combinations. Example: This top can be matched with these pants, this skirt, or worn over this dress.

Quick drying fabrics. There will be times on the road that you have to leave when your clothes are still out on the line. No one likes sour clothes in a backpack. My best advice to avoid this is to wash your laundry before bed if you’re leaving the next day. Not an option? Good thing you packed quick drying clothes! Fabrics such as nylon, polyester, silk, microfiber and rayon all dry quickly. Also, try to avoid a lot of pockets, designs, drawstrings, and thick elastic. These take a lot longer to dry. Note: don’t confuse rayon with viscose rayon-that’s dry clean only and aint nobody got time for that.

Scarves and Sarongs! Seriously, these are the best for both guys and gals! They each have so many versatile uses and WILL come in handy in more ways than you think! Plus, they can fold flat and they look good!

Use compartments. Life will be so much easier when there is some organization in your backpack (or suitcase). I take zipping cloth packing cubes of various sizes on every trip to separate my tops, bottoms, and unders and they made a world of difference compared to just tossing all of the laundry into the bag. Check out these recommended packing cubes:

Note: Different countries have different rules about what is and is not acceptable. Please research the culture and don’t pack anything that would be offensive.

Heading to a specific location and need a packing list? Check out these posts:

Southeast Asia Packing List

There's always more to explore: