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 (Or instead, pack versatile items that work as bathing suits in a pinch).
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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