Whether you’re taking a long overseas trip or you’re just heading on a short getaway, we hope this guide to packing for travel will help you out. Read on to find out what we normally take, and our tips on packing for short or long term travel.
First Things First. Bag Or Backpack?
Whether you take a suitcase or a backpack depends a fair bit on where you’re going and how long you’re going for. For shorter trips and city getaways, small suitcases can be quite good. They’re easy to pack and access, have lots of room, and if you get a small suitcase you can take it as carry on.
For longer trips (more than a couple of weeks), you might need something a bit bigger. And while there are plenty of larger suitcases available, we almost always opt to take a backpack for longer term travel. We think there is one main advantage to taking a backpack over a suitcase:
They’re easier to handle. Depending on where you travel, you never know what you’ll come across. Cobbled streets, multiple flights of stairs and walking long distances to your hotel or hostel are the norm for many places throughout the world. Most of Europe, South America and Asia that we’ve seen seems to be that way. Lugging a suitcase up and down stairs or over uneven ground is much more difficult that simply walking along with a backpack on your back.
Tips for backpacks:
Make sure it’s properly fitted and supportive. Most places will do this when you buy them, but it’s pretty simple. Make sure the bag is tight on your back, and sitting well over your hips. Tighten the belt strap slightly more than the shoulders, and this should transfer the weight of the bag more onto your hips than your shoulders and back.
As far as specific bags and brands go, Osprey seems to be the most popular among regular travellers. The Osprey Farpoint 55L is frequently rated as a top travel backpack. Matt has one and finds it a perfect size and easy to handle.
Next Things Next: What To Put In Your Backpack
This is going to be quite variable, depending on who you are and how you travel. Here’s a sample of what we would normally take on a trip lasting anywhere between 2 weeks and 6 months.
1. The Absolute Essentials
The things that you can’t go without. Passport. Wallet. Phone. Don’t leave home without them.
2. Clothes. Obviously.
But not a lot, just enough to get through 6-7 days. You can always wash after that.
We’d usually take
5-6 t-shirts / singlets
6-7 pairs of underwear and socks
a few pairs of shorts.
If it’s summer, one pair of jeans and one warm jumper is more than enough.
A couple of pairs of shoes (at least one good walking pair) and a pair of flip flops.
Avoid bulky jackets if you can, they take up too much space.
On a long trip, we’d normally take normal size toiletries, rather than the little travel size ones. They’re a bit small and you’ll just run out. Remember that you can always buy what you forget or don’t take, so don’t stress too much.
Essentials that we’d normally take are:
toothbrush and toothpaste
any medications you might need
shower gel and/or shampoo (a 2 in 1 bottle is great)
nurofen or panadol
A small amount of laundry detergent so you can hand wash if you need to
sleeping tablets if you need them for the plane
4. A towel
You’ll definitely need a towel if you’re going to be staying in hostels, airbnb’s or doing things like couchsurfing.
Lots of people travel with microfibre towels. They’re small, supposedly quick drying, and easy to pack. We think that they’re pretty horrible to use though. So up to you if you opt for one of those or just a normal towel.
5. A camera
Lots of people actually travel without a camera now, and just take photos on their phone. If you want to get photos that are just a little bit higher quality though, it can be worth getting yourself a camera.
We won’t pretend to be absolute experts in cameras, but we’ve used a few different types, and here’s what we’ve picked up:
For high quality, more professional photos, get an SLR camera. The downside to this is the size, and that they take a bit of getting used to.
For a lot of action shots, get a go-pro. They are great for swimming, snow sports and extreme activities. The picture quality is not quite as good as a DSLR though
For ease and practicality, get a compact travel zoom camera. This is what we’ve used the most. Panasonic has a great TZ series (we’ve used the Tz70), and sony has a great RX series (we’ve used the RX 100). Most of these now have wifi too, so you can transfer your photos straight to your phone or tablet.
6. Other Electronics
These aren’t really essential, but we’d highly recommend taking them, both to help you organise your trip and to help you pass time.
Things we’d normally take:
A kindle, or the kindle app on your phone. Lots of long train and bus trips, it’s always handy to have something to read
A tablet or a laptop. Up to you, but if you’re booking an organising things on the go, this can be easier than trying to do it on your phone or on a hostel / hotel computer.
A portable charger so you can charge your phone and other devices on the road.
**Don’t forget all of your chargers and headphones!**
7. Other Odds And Ends
As well as everything else, the other little things that you don’t want to forget.
Here’s a list of the other things that we pretty much always take with us when we go.
Travel adaptors. These are essential for wherever you’re going. We’d usually get single plug adaptors. The double plug ones can be hard to fit into some hotel or hostel power sockets and take up a bit too much room.
Some sort of knife with a corkscrew. The knife is for making lunches (a good budgeting tip). The corkscrew because a lot of wine bottles are corked, particularly in Europe.
Combination padlocks to lock your bag and locker.
A travel pillow (one that turns inside out is great, and you can clip it to the outside of your bag to save on space)
Tips for packing
There’s a fair bit to think about when you’re packing for a trip. Here’s a few tips and things to think about when you’re packing.
Take a couple of little travel bags that you can put your electronics and chargers in. It helps a lot with organization
Pack as light as you can. You can always wash on the road. It makes life a lot easier. Don’t take more than you’d need for a week, and wash after that.
Roll your clothes. It saves space and will hopefully keep them crinkle-free.
Take a day pack as well. You can put the essentials in it every day, and a spare pair of clothes and some toiletries if you’re taking the plane.
You’re not limited by the space in your bag. You can always strap things to the outside of it as well. It’s quite common to see people with hiking shoes and other bits and pieces tied to their bags.
If you’re on the move and your towel is still wet, tie it to the outside of your bag to let it dry.
Hopefully we’ve covered everything and made your task of packing a little easier. Let me know how you go!