Packing for travel can be a challenge — you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip, but you don’t want to carry too much. But packing your bag doesn’t have to be stressful, as long as you follow some simple guidelines.
We’ve been travelling full-time for almost thirteen years, and we still make packing mistakes. We’ve learned a lot over that time, though, and we certainly carry a lot fewer clothes than when we first set out!
Top tips for choosing which clothes to pack
1. Pack light
Our number-one tip for all travellers is to pack light. You really don’t need more than a carry-on sized bag for 95% of trips, including (or perhaps especially for) long-term travel.
It’s true that many airlines these days charge for carry-on bags (sometimes it’s even more expensive to carry on a bag than to check it) so you may choose to check your bag in for some flights. However, even if you’re planning to check your bag, we recommend you stick to carry-on size anyway.
Why carry-on size?
- You’re less likely to lose your stuff or have it stolen if it’s always with you.
- It’s easier to carry.
- You’ll be more flexible, and can walk short distances (such as from your accommodation to the train or bus station) without needing to take a taxi or bus.
- You’ll save money on transport (and perhaps on check-in costs).
- You’ll save time — no waiting for your bag on the baggage carousel.
2. Do laundry on the road
If you’re going away for more than a week, you should plan to wash your clothes.
There are plenty of options for clothes washing on the road:
- Find a local laundromat. Some laundromats are self-service, some require you to leave your clothes and pick them up the next day (or the day after). Do a search on Google maps.
- Plan a stay at an AirBnB or other accommodation with clothes washing facilities. Hostels and couchsurfing tend to be good options, hotels are usually pricy.
- Wash by hand — a great choice if you’re just washing an item or two. After you wash your clothes and squeeze them out, a helpful hack is to roll the items in your towel to wick out the excess water.
3. Pack for your destination
Imagine an ordinary day in your destination — what will you wear? Pack outfits that suit that location, and then add extra clothes to cover warmer or colder weather. If you’ll be travelling through many locations, use the packing list below as a guide.
4. Make sure everything goes with everything else
It’s very frustrating to find that your last clean pair of trousers and your last clean top look absolutely awful together. Make sure that every combination of tops and bottoms is at least acceptable! We find it helpful to carry neutral-coloured trousers/shorts, so any top looks fine. You might choose a colour scheme that all your items fit into.
5. Pack clothes you like to wear
For us, comfort trumps style every time. But you probably have a lot of items in your wardrobe that are both comfortable and stylish — pack those! Also, don’t try to change your style just for this trip, like I did on a trip to Kenya once. Find items that suit both you and the weather.
6. Choose quick drying/lightweight fabrics
Lighter fabric means you’re carrying less, and your clothes will dry faster on laundry days. We have a lot of lightweight cotton, as well as specialist hiking t-shirts that wick sweat away from the body. They’re great for travel days!
Craig swears by Bluffworks trousers, which are stylish travel pants with lots of hidden zip pockets. They’re quick-drying and wrinkle-resistant, and I’m only a little bitter that they don’t yet do women’s clothes!
7. Choose clothes that don’t need to be ironed
Leave that travel iron behind! When selecting which clothes to pack, go with the ones that don’t need to be ironed — wrinkle resistant or designed to look good with a bit of crumple. Hanging items in the bathroom while you shower can help get wrinkles out if needed.
8. Layer up
Rather than packing thick jumpers, go with multiple layers. We find long-sleeve merino wool tops to be a great choice.
Indie Travel Podcast clothes packing list
So what do we actually carry with us? The exact items will vary a little depending on our destination (and on what we buy or throw away), but the list below is a fair representation of what each of us carry in our carry-on-szied backpacks.
- Eight pairs of undies
- Five pairs of socks
- Linda: two bras and a sports bra
- Hiking shoes/boots or sneakers
- Flip flops
- Nicer shoes if necessary (Linda: ballet flats.)
Standard wear: tops
- Four t-shirts
- Two nicer (or collared) shirts
- Lightweight singlet top
- Two long-sleeve tops or lightweight jumpers (e.g. merino)
- Puffer jacket
- Two pairs of lightweight trousers (not jeans)
- Shorts/skirt for beach
- A nice pair of trousers/skirt/dress for evenings
- Optional: exercise gear like leggings/running shorts
- Optional: thermal top and bottoms for cold locations
- Jacket (or poncho)
- Warm hat, scarf, gloves
- Linda: pashmina and light scarf. A sarong could be a good choice
- Glasses and sunglasses.
- Linda: a pair of stockings
Pack light for long trips
Choosing which clothes to pack for trips of any length doesn’t have to be stressful! Just remember: pack enough clothes for a week, pack clothes you like to wear, and choose lighter options whenever possible. And have a great trip!
[box] This episode of the Indie Travel Podcast is sponsored by Kolu.
Kolu is a travel app that connects travellers with locals based on mutual interests and languages in New York City. Think Uber, but for local tour guides.
When you create your profile, select three interests from a collection of 12, which include art, music, and sports to name a few. Then book your favourite local and enjoy.