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The 7 Things You MUST Pack for Long-Term Travel

The 7 things you must pack for long-term travel (opinion piece).


There are only a few things you need for long-term travel, and if you're smart and selective about what you bring, those few things can be ALL you need, for any trip, and any destination.


My goal in this article is to convince you that you can pack everything you need for long-term travel in a small backpack or carry-on suitcase; guy or girl, for any destination - it's a tall order, and it will require some supporting arguments, but hear me out, and save yourself some bag space.


First, it's worth checking out 16 Things You Should NEVER Pack for a list of commonly packed items that aren't necessary.


Second, please note that this article is focused exclusively on seven things you shouldn't leave home without, because they're either necessary, personal or hard to replace while traveling.


Now for the good stuff...


Here are the ONLY seven things you need for long-term travel.


  1. Passport, bank and credit cards

  2. Phone and burner phone

  3. Laptop and accessories (or not)

  4. Headphones, sleep mask and sleep buds

  5. Travel adapter and cables

  6. Toiletry bag and toiletries

  7. One week's worth of clothes


Okay, there are more than seven physical items here, but let's dive into the details of each for tips and pointers to help minimize your pack.


Passports, Bank and Credit Cards


Your passport is required, so let's skip that one. Bank and credit cards? These are surprisingly less and less necessary, but still required, and I wouldn't recommend leaving the country without them; bank cards for obvious reasons and credit cards for convenience.


It's worth noting that most places use chip readers, so you could use your phone for payments everywhere you go (you would just have to check with each vendor before making a purchase); and if you have your bank and credit cards tied to your phone, you could travel the world without physical cards, it's just very, very risky.


In short, these things are still necessities.


Primary and Burner Phone


A phone is pretty much mandatory, nothing to discuss there, but a burner phone gets an honorable mention in the must-have list, for reasons I'll explain in a moment.


If you're not familiar with the concept or usefulness of a burner phone, here's the short version: many long-term travelers pack a cheap, unlocked backup phone for peace of mind; you can pop in a local SIM card for international service, you can use it as your "going out" phone if you're worried about pick-pocketing, and you can use it as backup access to email/files/numbers in case anything happens to your primary phone. Burner phones aren't required, but they're a cheap and easy insurance policy.


I mention burner phones in the "don't leave home without it" category because, , 1) you might have an old phone lying around the house you can use, 2) it's nice to have a burner phone right when you land, in case you need to pop in a SIM card for connectivity, and 3) it's just easier to buy, setup and unlock phones in your home country - so do it before you leave.


STOP


I'd like to pause here and take a moment to reflect; a passport, bank card and phone are arguably the only things you need to leave the country; everything else could be, if needed, purchased on the road. I mention this (as ridiculous as it sounds), because people have a tendency to overcomplicate, overthink and overpack; people forget that if you're going to a place where other people live, you're going to find everything you need to live. It really is that simple, not cost effective, but simple. #endrant


Laptop and Accessories


This is where things get interesting, I assume most long-term travelers will want their laptop, but if you can get away without it, all the power to you! It makes the "don't leave home without it" list because, like phones, you probably already have one, it's nice to have, and you definitely don't want to be buying and setting one up while traveling.


I would, however, argue that you leave all your laptop accessories at home; the portable external monitor, the fold-out keyboard, the accessory pouch, etc. - if it doesn't power your laptop, you don't need it. The only exception to this rule is if your extras take up minimal space, like a portable mouse or an ultrathin, collapsible laptop stand.


Where are we at.. 7 things? Passport, bank card, credit card, phone, burner phone, laptop, mouse...


a kid counting on fingers

Okay, I lied, you'll want more than 7 things.


Headphones, Ear Plugs, Sleep Masks and Sleep Ear Buds


You'll want them, you'll want them on your flight, and you probably already have them.


Headphones and ear plugs are in every convenience store (in every country, in every city in the world), but sleep masks and side-sleeper ear buds may be harder to find, so you may want to invest in these before you leave town.


Travel Adapters and Cables


This may sound hard to believe, but I only pack two cables when I travel, one for my laptop, and a single 6-in-1 split cable for my phone, burner phone, headphones, and sleep mask.


a split cable charging the essentials


A few cables will always be required, but you can easily minimize here by giving it a little thought.


A simple packing trick is to assume you'll only ever have ONE outlet that works; what kind of adapters, charging stations or cables would you need to charge all your electronics through that single outlet? The answer to that question will tell you what to pack.


None of these are necessary prior to travel, as they can all be purchased at any airport or corner convenience store, but they make the "don't leave home without it" list because you'll probably want them for your flight, and it's easier to minimize if you plan ahead.


Honorable mention: Anker 6-in-1 Power Station - because I know you won't listen when I say to leave the rest of your gadgets at home.


Toiletries and Toiletry Bags


I've seen toiletry bags bigger than my backpack, and I wish I was joking.


Let's be real, I can't tell you what to pack and what not to pack when it comes to toiletries, all I can tell you is that excessive toiletry kits will destroy your ambition. Here are a few simple tips to help minimize:


  1. Almost all hotels and most hostels provide soap and shampoo, you don't need to pack it.

  2. If they don't provide it, you can easily buy what you need once you land at your destination.

  3. All hotels and most hostels provide hair dryers, or you can borrow one from your travel pals.

  4. All hotels and most hostels sell basic hygiene items because people forget toiletries all the time; you will never be at a loss for soap, toothpaste, lotion, sunscreen, cosmetic items, or anything else you could possibly need to feel pretty.


For guys, this is probably a non-issue, for women, remember this - if the city you're about to visit has any other women, rest assured, you can find whatever you need, so don't pack the bathroom.


Honorable mention: a hanging toiletry bag if you don't already have one.


hanging toiletry bag

A Week's Worth of Clothes


Lastly and most difficult - packing just one week's worth of clothes. This topic could fill a book.


Check out 9 Tips for Packing Fewer Clothes for a baseline on how to pack effectively.


Since I know you didn't click that link, I'll summarize the key points here: 1) start with the right clothes, i.e. travel-specific shorts and pants, anti-bacterial/quicky-dry underwear, Merino wool shirts and socks, etc., 2) accept that you're going to look like a tourist, 3) stick to neutral colors, 4) stretch your outfits, 5) pack one or two pairs of shoes (at most), and 6) don't pack for every imaginable situation/climate/season.


If your destination is hot, you'll probably be wearing a swimsuit and sandals most days; if your destination is cold, you can wear the same outer layers every day and just switch out your socks, underwear and undershirts, and if your destination is moderate, you can wear the same clothes over and over; in any case, one week's worth of clothes is all you need.


Clothes will always be the hardest thing to pack, but with proper planning and the right clothes, you can keep your pack to a minimum - some people even advocate for no bag travel.


They earn a spot on the "don't leave home without it" list because, well, you probably shouldn't travel naked, and clothes are best tried on at home.


minimalist woman

Conclusion


Let's see... passport, bank card, credit card, phone, burner phone, laptop, portable mouse, headphones, sleep mask, travel adapter, split cable, toiletry bag and.... clothes.


So 12 things, plus clothes, not bad!


Of course, there are other things you'll probably want (check out 8 Things You SHOULD Pack for Long-Term Travel for more ideas) - but the point is, packing for long-term travel doesn't have to be hard, and with a little planning and some foresight, you too can fit your life into a 24L backpack.


For more tips and trick on how to pack as light as possible, check out our monthly newsletter below!


Read Next: 16 Things You Should NEVER Pack for Long-Term Travel


Basic necessities for long-term minimalist travel

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