November 10 2021
Because the web needs another blog post about what to bring while traveling.
I’m going to keep this as short as possible so as to not read like a web recipe.
My least favorite aircraft to fly on, the Q400. At least there is a great copypasta.
This list is highly variable based on your destinations and preferences.
I aim for a pretty minimal, layered approach that lets you adapt to any conditions. I only take what I can fit into my carry-on sized bag (although I do use my daypack as well during flights, to hold my electronics and help reduce the main bag’s weight for check-in).
- Documents & Money
- Debit Card
- Credit Card
- Copies of Passport & Insurance
- <= 40L Travel Bag
- Packable Daypack
- Optional: Packing Cubes, Laundry Bag, etc.
- 2+ Pairs Pants (Including Shorts)
- 4 Pairs Underwear
- 4 Pairs Socks (All Sizes)
- 3 T-Shirts
- Mid Layer(s)
- I like to have a fleece and a packable down jacket.
- Optional: Button Down
- Optional: Swim Trunks
- Optional: Sun Gear (e.g. Hat, Buff)
- Dr. Bronner’s
- This acts as my body wash and toothpaste, but is good for general cleaning as well. It does take some getting used to, though.
- Nail Clippers
- Shaving Cream
- Packable Microfiber Towel
- Quart-sized Plastic Bag (for Airport Security)
- Toiletry Bag
- Universal Adapter
- Optional: Kindle, iPad, Laptop, etc.
- Optional: Camera
- This includes SD cards, strap, filter(s), hood(s) and cleaning supplies.
- Ear Plugs
- Sleep Mask
Pack overly light rather than overly heavy. The only things you absolutely need are your documents and money. It’s easy to pick up the things you actually need on the road.
Documents & Money
- Get credit and debit cards with no foreign transaction fees.
- Some countries will need you to withdraw cash.
- Exchanging remaining currency before leaving a country is a good idea so you’re not stuck with it.
- Look up tipping etiquette when you arrive. It’s always different and always confusing.
- I keep my original documents with my main pack, and carry the copies with me instead (as well as scans on my phones). This way I don’t have to worry as much about critical documents being lost or stolen.
- Go for a one-bag setup, with a packable daypack. Your main bag must be less than 40L to fit in airplane overhead bins, and you’ll use the daypack as your personal item.
- Make sure your daypack has some support. My first one didn’t and hurt my back when overloaded.
- I love packing cubes.
- You can wear items multiple times without a wash, and laundry is generally cheap at hostels. Sinks are also an option.
- Wool items can be worn longer than other fabrics without smelling. Getting a synthetic and wool blend gives smell resistance and durability.
- Wear all-purpose, understated sneakers. Alongside a button-up, this’ll let you dress up for dinner or clubs. I regret wearing minimalist trail runners my first trip as it resulted in bad back pain that lasted for months after.
- Dr. Bronner’s is amazing for its compactness and many uses; I use it as body wash and toothpaste. I wouldn’t say I love it, but its compactness outweighs any unpleasantness to me. A travel bottle will last ages and frees up a lot of room.
- Be wary of bleaching sunscreens.
- I would recommend against a dedicated camera if you have to ask about it.
- Phone cameras are always with you, and seriously simplify your life while traveling (e.g. less space and risk of theft).
- I’ve settled on a mirrorless full frame with a compact 50mm lens.
- This setup is super compact and takes great portraits and low-light shots.
- I felt like a majority of my favorite photos from traveling last time were taken at this focal distance, so not having multiple lenses cuts down on weight and space.
- Don’t buy a new, cheap laptop to travel like I did.
I bought a Surface Go with accessories, and it ended up being unpleasant and unnecessary.
- Instead, I’d reconsider whether you need to bring a laptop at all; they are heavy and bulky, and ideally you don’t want to be at your computer do you?
- If you’re like me and can’t get away from technology, just bring your normal laptop.
- In the future, I’d probably switch to an iPad Pro and SSH into my home computer to do real work.
- I love Google Fi while traveling. It’s much more expensive than getting a SIM card in each country, but the convenience of having high-speed data as soon as you touch down is well worth it.
- You should pretty much be able to find high-speed internet anywhere you go.
- Don’t bring a UV water filter like I did. Just buy water instead. It was an absolute waste of space I never used in two months.
- Stay at hostels.
They’re all different, but usually a ton of fun.
You’ll get to meet a huge diversity of people, and save a lot of money over a hotel.
- Hostelworld is great for seeing reviews and booking things ahead of time.
- It’s also fun to just walk in the door and ask for a room.
- I like to give myself plenty of time in each place.
This let’s me see some of the main attractions, while still having time to wander wherever looks or sounds cool.
I’ve ended up seeing a lot of awesome stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise this way.
- I’d also recommend taking days off, where you don’t do anything “valuable”. It’s a great way to recharge, and will make things more fun long term.
- Don’t eat out for every meal.
Grocery stores are their own experience in each place.
Hostels usually have cooking facilities you can use, including cookware and dishes.
- Bread and hummus is a great, cheap option for food.