If you’ve read my article about navigating airports, you know that I rarely (if ever) check a bag. I’ve become a master at maximizing the space in carry-on-sized bags, and I want to share that skill with you. I’m going to lay out everything I carry with me so you can get an idea of how I manage to pack light while traveling the world.
What’s in my Backpack?
My main bag is a big travel backpack that I wear on my back. I went through quite a few bags in the beginning because I couldn’t find one that was quite right, but then I finally found the perfect bag for me. I’ve been using the Osprey 40L Porter Series for about three years now, and I love it! It’s comfortable, I have no problems toting it through airports, and it holds everything I need. What’s inside:
- Dopp Kit
Pro-tip: make sure to get a Dopp kit with a hanger (like this one), so you can open it up and hang it in the bathroom.
- Toothpaste, toothbrush, and dental floss
- Nail clippers
- An electric razor, regular razor, and shaving cream
- Face lotion
- Electric hair clippers
I recently bought these so I can cut my own hair on the go and not have to worry about finding a barber.
- Electronics Bag
- Extra hard drives for all my video footage
- Backup batteries
- Backup cords
- Extra power converters
I’m a minimalist (especially when it comes to clothes!), and I pride myself on it. You don’t need to travel with that much stuff. As I always say, “pack twice the money and half the clothes.” Unless you’re going to a wedding or on a work trip, you don’t need fancy clothes. Also, if you need something on the road, you can always buy it!
Many people overpack because they worry about having enough clean clothes on a trip. When it comes to laundry, I recommend you go to a laundromat about once a week. You will always be able to find one for $2-$5 in any given place, and it’s super easy. I don’t recommend using the laundry service in hotels because they are always overpriced. Here is my clothing packing list, no matter the length of my trip:
- Four different colors of “Just Go” shirts.
You can buy your own “Just Go” shirt HERE!
- A long-sleeved shirt (in case it gets a little cold.)
- One pair of khaki multi-purpose pants
- Two pairs of shorts (one khaki, one dark)
- Four pairs of underwear
- Four pairs of socks
- Four different colors of “Just Go” shirts.
The only other things I might pack are longjohns, jackets, etc, if I’m traveling in someplace cold like Siberia, Greenland, or Antarctica. I prefer to stick to warmer climates, so I rarely have to pack those things with me.
Being a minimalist is one of the biggest reasons I’m able to travel light and never check a bag. I challenge you to try it out on your next trip—pack less than you think you need and see what happens!
- Medicine Pouch
Going to a foreign doctor is never fun, and I prefer to avoid it if at all possible. This is why I recommend bringing your own medicine pouch—you know what medicines are best for you in a given situation! You just stock it with everything you know you might need and throw it in your bag. Then you don’t have to think about it again unless you get sick. Here’s what I carry in mine:
- Extra toothpaste
- Pepto Bismol
Side Pockets of My Bag
I like this one because there’s no metal in it, so you don’t even have to take it off going through security.
Like this one, I keep one on hand in case of blackout, camping, or sleeping outside. It comes in handier than you think!
- Extra filters for my camera
- Extra microphones
- Microfiber towels
I like the ones that pack down really small and come with their own carrying case, like this one. They’re super great when traveling not only for their small size and weight, but they also dry super quickly, so you’re not carrying around a wet towel in your bag.
- Extra accessories
- An “emergency” compressed cotton towel
Top Part of the Bag
This is where I keep all of the stuff I want easily accessible, like:
- Golf ball (I’m addicted to golf 😁)
- Mosquito spray
These are your best friend; you will use them a lot when you travel. I recommend bringing a bunch of locks in multiple sizes! I’ve used them in hostels, when I rent a bike, and for lockers. I also use them to lock the zippers of my bag when I leave a hotel so that I know that no one has been digging around my bag.
I like these three-number combination locks. They’re super durable, and the codes are easy to remember.
Front Portion of the Bag
- Collections from around the world: souvenirs (flags, maps, airplane tickets, currencies.)
- More medicine
- Extra cash (US dollars)
- Ziploc bags
This one is essential! I bring at least 10-15 empty Ziploc bags with me every time I travel. I can’t even tell you how many different ways I’ve used them, from separating food to holding shampoo and other liquids, and they’re also great if I’m in a situation where I’m concerned about my phone getting wet. If I’m hopping on a boat, I just throw my phone in a Ziploc bag so that I know it will stay dry!
- Backup iPhone
Back Part of the Bag
- Important documents (visa requirements, flight tickets, insurance, copies of passports, covid tests.)
- My “Safe.” This is where I keep all the most important stuff safe and secure in a Ziploc bag, like:
- Yellow Fever card (mostly needed in African countries, showing that you have been vaccinated for yellow fever.)
- Covid vaccine card
- All the phone sim cards from around the world
- Backup credit cards
- Business cards
- Passport photos in different sizes
- Scuba diving license
- Backup memory cards
Another thing to keep in mind about packing like a master is using packing cubes. (I like these ones.) I use less than I used to, but they’re a great way to keep your bag organized. They come in all different sizes, and you can use them to separate your clothes, I use one as my medicine pouch, etc. They’re super useful!
My Second Bag
The other bag that I carry with me (this Lowepro) usually goes in the front when I’m walking to balance out my body. It’s a unique bag because it’s actually made for carrying cameras. I use it for that, but also to keep all my important and most valuable stuff.
- Sony A7siii with 2 lenses
- Macbook Pro 13’’ and charger
- Phone & camera chargers
- Little pouch where I store all my extra wires and cords.
- A sneaky pouch to stash extra US dollars.
- Memory cards
- Other chargers
- 2 TB external hard drive
These Sandisk solid state drives are really great because they’re super light and store a ton of data.
- Memory card wallet
- Wall charger/converter
- 1 meter/3ft phone charger cord
I recommend this because the outlet often won’t be right next to the bed, so a long phone cord will make things a lot more convenient for you.
Use a Packing Checklist to Keep You on Track
I recommend having a packing checklist written so that you know exactly what you want to pack. If you keep it saved on your phone, you can just pull it up when you’re packing your bag and ensure that you’ve got everything you need. Eventually, it will become second nature, but it’s always good to use your list just to double-check that you haven’t forgotten anything.
Also, make sure you take photocopies of all your important documents. More often than not, you’ll need extra copies of your passport, your yellow fever vaccine card, or your flight tickets, etc. You want to make sure to have it all printed and organized ahead of time so you don’t get stuck!
Try It Out on Your Next Trip!
I want to challenge you to try to be more minimalist the next time you’re packing for a trip. Do you really need 4 pairs of shoes, or could you get away with just the ones you wear to the airport? Do you need to bring two weeks of clothes on a two-week trip, or could you bring a few days’ worth and just do laundry? Maybe challenge yourself to only pack in a carry-on next trip, and see just how much you can fit! (Plus, you’ll save the money you would’ve spent checking a bag, which will give you just that much more spending money for your destination. That’s one of many ways you can travel on a budget!)
Make sure you come back and let me know how it worked for you! I love hearing how what I’ve shared affects your travel experiences.