The following is an ultimate packing list by Ali Garland. See all packing lists posts here.
While many round the world travelers spend their time chasing summer, I chose to travel to both hot and cold climates. I spent 2 months in Southeast Asia, 2 months between Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia, and Easter Island, and a month in the US before returning home to Germany. My trip lasted from the end of September to the end of February. To top it off, I also committed myself to traveling carry-on only. I had a 20 liter day pack and a 40 liter REI backpack that you can read about here.
I had huge variations in weather to consider when packing for this trip. Southeast Asia is extremely hot and humid. I was visiting Australia and New Zealand when it was summer there, but parts of New Zealand can be freezing, windy and rainy even in the middle of summer. I ended my trip in the US visiting friends and family for a month during the winter.
4 tank tops – Cheap ones I was willing to throw out along the way.
4 T-shirts – One was for sleeping. Easy to buy on the road too.
3 pairs of shorts – One pair was more of the beach/gym type, also for sleeping.
1 pair of gym pants – Comfy for long flights or bus rides, also for sleeping when it was cold.
1 pair of jeans
2 long sleeve shirts
2 light sweaters
1 pair of travel khakis – The kind that convert into shorts, and they were coated with an anti-mosquito treatment.
1 bathing suit – If you’ll be spending lots of time at the beach, consider bringing 2.
1 fleece pullover – Good for cold transportation and moderate temperatures.
1 rain jacket – The lightweight kind that folds up into its own pocket.
1 winter coat – This never went in my backpack, I carried it.
1 winter scarf
1 pair of gloves
7 pairs of socks
12 pairs of underwear – 7 of these were quick dry Exofficio.
1 sarong – Purchased in Indonesia. Great for the beach, covering up at a temple, and many other situations.
I knew I would do laundry based on my underwear supply, which is why I packed so many pairs. If you are more willing to wash your underwear in the sink, you do not need as much as I packed. Same with socks. A more reasonable number is probably 5 pairs of underwear and 3 pairs of socks.
I regretted those khaki pants that zip into shorts. The fit was awkward, they weren’t comfortable, and they just weren’t me. 99% of the time, if it’s something you wouldn’t wear at home, you won’t want to wear it while you’re traveling.
I am not a dress person, but if you are, I would suggest bringing 1 or 2 light dresses. That way you can also cut back on the number of shirts and shorts you bring along.
It’s not fun lugging around winter gear, especially a winter coat, in warm weather. Depending on how much time you will spend in a cold weather location, consider buying a coat once you get there. If you will be doing any snow activities, you have even more reason to buy when you arrive. Carrying heavy winter boots during months of beach hopping just isn’t worth it.
On the other hand, if you’re starting your trip in cold weather, bring old winter clothes, an old coat and old boots, and donate them once you don’t need them anymore.
Since I was limiting myself to carry-on only and traveling in both warm and cold climates, I could only pack a few cold weather items. When I got to colder places, I layered my shirts and just got used to wearing the same few things over and over again.
1 pair of sneakers
1 pair of flip flops
1 pair of Tevas sandals
Because I didn’t bring any dresses, I didn’t need any nicer shoes. If you bring a dress, try to find one that goes with your flip flops or pack a pair of ballet flats.
Shampoo and conditioner
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Contact solution – A 60ml bottle lasts me about 5 days.
Make-up – I only used the small amount I brought twice, for 2 weddings I attended in the US.
Anti-itch creme – Purchased in New Zealand for some awful sandfly bites.
Nail clipper and nail file
All liquids I had with me were within the carry-on limit. As I bought more items on the road, if I couldn’t find a travel sized container, I just refilled my empty carry-on sized bottles. You don’t need to pack a lot since you can buy just about anything you need on the road.
If you wear contacts and need to buy more solution on the road, look for optical shops.
Prescription drugs – This might not apply to you, but if it does, bring more than enough to get through your trip.
Pain meds – Tylenol or the equivalent.
Anti-diarrhea – You never know when you might need this.
Band-aids – Lots of walking can lead to blisters.
Anti-malaria – Talk to your doctor and decide if you really need to take these.
If you do take prescription drugs, do some research about your medicine with regard to the countries you’re going to. Some drugs that are given as prescription at home are restricted in other countries. Have your doctor write you a letter stating the generic name of the drug you take, the dosage, and why you take it. It’s also a good idea to have a copy of your prescription with the generic name in case you need to get more while you’re on the road. I never needed either of these, but a couple pieces of paper don’t take up any room, and you just never know.
When you get travel vaccines, your doctor should give you something called a yellow book. It’s a record of vaccines you’ve received, and most people get one when they get their yellow fever vaccine. In case you contract something on the road, it’s a good idea to have this with you so medical staff know what vaccines you’ve received. It’s usually small enough to fit inside your passport.
Laptop and external hard drive
Camera and 2 batteries – Always good to have a back-up battery in case one dies in the middle of the day.
Several camera memory cards
Kindle – An e-reader is a wonderful way to save space and still be able to read while you travel.
iPhone – Also used as my alarm clock.
2 electrical outlet adapters – With so many things to charge, having 2 definitely helped.
All applicable chargers and cords
I brought my laptop because I was blogging along the way and my husband was back home in Germany, so we kept in touch on Skype. If you only need to get online to check email, Facebook and occasionally Skype with family back home, consider leaving the laptop behind. It’s extra weight and you can find internet cafes almost anywhere. Another option is to bring a lightweight netbook.
Contacts – I bought 6 months worth for a 5 month trip.
Glasses – Even if you wear contacts, it’s good to have a back-up.
Travel towel – Some hostels don’t provide towels, so I was glad to have this.
Hat – I hate hats. But I was so glad I brought this to protect myself from the scorching sun.
Headlamp – I used this a lot more often than I ever thought I would.
Laundry soap sheets – Perfect for washing clothes in the sink and not needing liquid soap. A friend bought me some from Travelon and they’re environmentally friendly.
Passport – Make sure it’s valid for at least 6 months past the end of your trip and has plenty of empty pages.
Passport sized photos – Often needed for visas.
Eye mask and ear plugs – If you’re a light sleeper, buy good ones. I bought a junky set from an airport, and the ear plugs were worthless.
Padlock – Keep your stuff safe when sharing hostel dorms.
ATM and credit card
Small amount of cash
Tissues – Don’t walk into a public bathroom without these!
Packing for an all seasons round the world trip is tough, especially if you’re traveling carry-on only. They key is to pack the basics you’ll need no matter where you are, plus whatever you need for the first part of your trip. Budget some money to buy clothes on the road so you don’t have to carry stuff you don’t need for a few months. Be willing to wear the same shirt twice and do laundry often. And dress in layers in cold climates. This is definitely doable, you just have to get a little creative.
Let us know what you think of this all season RTW packing list in the comments below. We feel this is a great base point for other traveling females to work off of, easily. What about you?
About the Author: Ali Garland encourages people to travel, shows them how to plan trips, and helps them overcome their travel-related fears on her site Travel Made Simple. She has been traveling for almost 20 years and made it to all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She and her husband are expats in Germany. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Ali writes about her personal travels at Ali’s Adventures.
*All photos except for title photo by Ali Garland.
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This is a great list! I love the tip about buying winter, bulky items when you get there. I ended up doing this when I traveled through Eastern Europe. It is so much easier than lugging it all around the globe.
Great list! I am impressed with the limited amount of items you brought, I would definitely need some accessories to cope with the limited variety
Great list and very similar to my RTW packing list.
I hit the cold areas first and last (guess I could have planned that better) but I started with lots of layers and ditched my old fleece. I always had a windbreaker, and if you have layers and a very lightweight windbreaker – you’ll pretty much be ok wherever you go.
I totally agree about the headlamp – NO idea I would use it that much!
I’m planning a RTW trip. Curious why the headlamp? As I will be a solo female traveler, I’m planning to try to avoid walking about in the evening with my pack. Can you share some examples of when you used the headlamp? Thanks a million!
If you’re staying in hostels, headlamps are great for reading in bed after others in your room have decided to sleep, or for getting up in the morning and finding your clothes in your locker without having to turn on the light and blind everyone.
Ah! That make sense, Brooke. Thanks!
Minus the electronics, this is almost EXACTLY what I brought on my 8 month trip around the world – went to seven different countries and all of these items were a must! Especially the sarong, so many uses. Also the headlamp, particularly if you’re traveling in “developing” countries. I’d also suggest a puffy winter coat that can double as a pillow in a pinch – they also pack down pretty small.
this packing list is REALLY helpful.
I was just looking at backpacks in the shop yesterday.
How in the world do you fit all of this into a backpack less than 45L?? They look SOOOO small!!!
Very useful list!
You can also consider online storage for backup in stead of carrying an external hard drive. I used Google Drive for it.
And I didn’t bring a winter coat on my trip (and I was traveling Siberia, Mongolia and Tibet in October/November). With layers a proper windbreaker will work fine. And thermal leggings (you can ditch them as well).
I always take a 5 socket power board with me. It’s awesome for when you have a phone, a laptop, a kindle and a camera to charge, and if you travel in a group, all of a sudden you’re everybody’s best friend.
I have used my sarong to cover my hair, wore it at temples, been at the beach, worn as a scarf, used as a towel, and folded for a make-shift bag when I didn’t want to carry a backpack around town. There is probably more than what I listed, so def bring with you!
Also, you can buy/donate with any seasonal stuff that you pick up along the way. I went to a hostel in New Zealand where they had a donation pile that you could drop off to or search through if you wanted something new for free. What traveler doesn’t like free?!
If you wish to still keep it light without having to buy-as-you-go, there are down jackets (the puffy ones) that fold down to about the size of a can of coca cola in their own pocket. That’s what I carry with me 🙂
I’m leaving for a 9-month Solo RTW trip in 29 days (yikes…) and this page is saving my life right now.
I’m so nervous and definitely in the “What if I need it?” phase of packing. Having a tough time, but all the ladies at Her Packing List and their advice are getting me through it!
Thanks so much 🙂
You’re welcome Samantha! Best of luck on your journeys. Just remember that many items can be bought in other countries, so don’t sweat the small stuff unless you’re going remote 🙂
Nancy Warren says
What a great list! I just returned from an Alaska to South America trip. I took a very tiny sewing kit ( needles, thread, buttons, safety pins) and an eyeglass repair kit (screws + screwdriver). Both were used and took up almost no space.
I am an avid travel blog reader and this is, by far, the most helpful post I have ever read. THANK YOU SO MUCH to Ali for writing this and Brooke for featuring this post!! This is going to help me so much in the very near future. I will be beginning my all season, 4 month RTW trip on March 1st!!
This is similar to what I packed for my RTW. I brought a bombproof duffle (60L) and a 30L pack. The pack was used for shorter excursions beyond where I was staying and was my “personal Item” the duffel was small enough to slip past carry on restrictions. Most of the type I was going by train or boat, so flying was much less of a concern. If you’re not going to be doing a lot of flying, don’t be afraid to pack bigger bag. Just remember that if you can’t carry it, you shouldn’t bring it.
Did I see ‘razor’ ?? It is not allowed in a carry on !? I am curious about this one…
Disposable razors are ok. It’s the razors that have straight blades that wouldn’t be allowed. See here: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items
Hey!!! This packing list is great!!! I’m planing a trip around Scandinavia finishing in Greece and wanted to take just carry-on luggage so this list is going to be really helpful!!!!
This list was very interesting as I am wanting to travel more carry on only I also always pack my p style while traveling. It is good for out bush where there are no toilets as well as in city where the toilets are just too gross to sit on.