Bare Minimum Packing

packing list

Some things are packed. Some are worn.

As a solo traveler, I feel it is important to pack light. For this I have a tight and concise packing list.

By packing light I am in control. I face fewer line-ups at airports and I am more mobile. Because I can handle my luggage myself, I can save money by taking buses rather than taxis. And I think I am less of a target than someone who has a large suitcase or multiple bags.

To me, packing light just makes sense. But it seems that it is a challenge for many.

As I travel to conferences to speak about travel blogging, other bloggers wonder at my ability to put it all in one carry-on and a day pack. Last November I went to Los Angeles for four days, then to London for four days, on to Wales for a lot of walking and north to Liverpool and Edinburgh. I traveled for 19 days in total. Needless to say, the weather and activities between LA and Edinburgh were very different. But I had everything I needed in one carry-on and a day pack.

I love my Vaude backpack. packing list

I love my Vaude backpack.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 12.03.29 PM, packing list

This is similar to my SwissGear bag (above) which I’ve had since 2006 – you can imagine, it’s been on a lot of trips.

I only own the two bags shown on this page. I have a carry-on size backpack by Vaude (my model is no longer available but you can find the current Vaude packpacks here) and a very affordable roller bag by Swiss Gear (that could be updated as it is now nine years old but hey, it’s still going strong). I also have a daypack that is made for a hydration system, however, I don’t use it for that. The interior sleeve that’s for the bladder fits and protects my computer or iPad perfectly. This pack is similar, but, as with the Vaude, not exactly the same as mine.

Carry-ons work because, essentially, you don’t need much more for a month than you do for a week. With this in mind, here are the packing lists:

Packing List – The Essentials

  • All paperwork: hotel confirmations, flight information, passport and travel insurance info
  • Global plugin adapter (This one has worked for me around the world and it’s less than $5.00)
  • eReader – Kindle, Kobo, iPad (whatever you use)
  • Journal and pen
  • Computer and ac adapter. I use my iPad and a keyboard that also acts as a cover.
  • Phone and charger
  • Camera and charger (I have the Lumix G)
  • SD card connector. This allows me to back up the photos from my camera onto my iPad.
  • Prescription medication, vitamins, supplements, water bottle
  • Tiny first aid kit
  • Conditioner, hair product, face cream, makeup, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, brush, razor, shave soap
  • A few feet of duct tape
  • A couple of resealable plastic bags

I love my Marmot jacket. This is my new one. packing list

I love this jacket. It is my second Marmot jacket. It took me 12 years to wear out my first one.

Packing List for Women

To be pack-worthy, everything you take must go with many things. To have clothes for a range of activities that work together, choose one color palette. Working with a base color like black or brown, along with a contrasting color such as grey or beige, and an accent color, makes sure that everything you’re carrying works together.

  • Shoes – two pairs total. One pair of street shoes (or sandals: I’m currently loving the ECCO Yucatan sandal for its stability and durability. You can see my ECCO sandals here.) and one pair of dressier shoes. Shoes can make or break an outfit so choose them carefully. It’s preferable to take shoes that have proven themselves comfortable. If you need hiking boots, wear them on the plane. You can tie them onto your carry-on or backpack and wear your street shoes at your destination. I didn’t have hiking boots when I went to the Lake District so I bought them there. I walked out of the store in my new Berghaus boots and started hiking – in the rain!. No blisters. Dry feet. Heaven. As styles change much faster than you will need to replace your boots, mine are no longer available, but you can find the current line of Berghaus hiking boots here.
  • Pants – three pairs total or two pairs and one dress or skirt (wear your most comfortable on the plane)
  • Tops – five tops, one light sweater and one camisole (that works as an under layer for hiking and under a jacket for a dressier look)
  • One cardigan OR light jacket that can dress up or down depending on jeans/pants and accessories
  • Belt, inexpensive jewelery, one scarf to dress up casual clothes
  • Pashmina scarf  – it has so many uses from head cover to beach cover-up to protection from a wind storm
  • Jacket – I have the Marmot Women’s Precip Jacket. I just bought my second Marmot jacket. It took me over 12 years to wear out my first one.
  • Umbrella, scarf, gloves, rain pants, hat, vest, pair of sunglasses (depending on the weather of your destinations, you may not need all of these)
  • Bathing suit
  • Pajamas, underwear, bras, socks

Sounds like a lot but it’s not. Rinse clothes out when necessary. Count what you didn’t use when you get back and don’t pack it again.

Packing List for Men

A man’s packing list is not a lot different from a woman’s except that it’s easier. There is not as much nuance in what a man wears and, throw a blazer onto a guy wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and he looks great. So, here’s the men’s packing list.

  • Shoes – two pairs total. One pair street shoes (or sandals) and one pair of dressier shoes. Like above, if you need hiking boots, wear them on the plane. Only bring shoes that have proven themselves comfortable.
  • Pants / shorts – three pairs total. You know your style but one pair should not be jeans.
  • 4 t-shirts (make sure at least one of them is white to wear under a dress shirt). If you’re going someplace tropical or humid, make sure that they are very light and pack more of them.
  • 1 golf shirt or casual shirt with a collar
  • 1 dress shirt
  • One blazer (This is optional, of course, but really useful. Choose a light fabric.)
  • Belt and tie (if you’re into that look)
  • Umbrella, scarf, gloves, rain pants, hat, vest, pair of sunglasses (again, depending on the weather of your destinations, you may not need all of these)
  • Bathing suit
  • Underwear, pajamas, and socks

Packing Light Tips

  • Don’t pack the bulky things – wear them on the plane.
  • Follow carry-on rules according to your airline. Be really careful about the weight. Just because you can fit it into a carry-on does not mean they will let you on the plane with it.
  • Watch the restrictions on the size of bottle liquids and other items you are allowed to carry on board.
  • Be considerate of other passengers and don’t hog the overhead space.
Free ebook accommodtaion guide

Free Accommodation Guide by the readers of Solo Traveler.

A Couple of Books to Consider

And then, if you want more information on traveling solo, there’s The Solo Traveler’s Handbook.

And there’s the FREE Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide

See more books on the Gear & Books page. 




  • Eka Catarina Elg

    You must always stay at places where they have towels etc. then? That is what takes up a large bit to some of the countries I am travelling to. And another thing that takes loads of space are sanitary pads etc. in countries where they do not exist. Otherwise I actually thought it was a lot of things I could do without. Never have an umbrella – perhaps because I live in a windy city and it is useless here. Do not bring jewelery for the risk of robbery. I do bring small bags of washing powder for hand laundry. Never bring laptop or similar. If necessary can use an internet café.

  • Steph Dyson

    I wish I could be this lightweight! With laptop, camera and camping gear I shudder to think what it weighs…..!

  • Virginia Moving

    I think because men do not like to collect things, instead it is often done by women. Very useful list of things. Good advice thanks! Especially when hasty move, it’s important not to forget anything

  • leelaurino

    am working on a plan to try buying what i need on the road and ONLY taking one combo outfit

  • leelaurino

    washing clothes in the sink ONLY works if they will dry overnight. have found laundries that will wash and dry for you while you are seeing the city….but I alos bring throw away clothes, things I would give to charity here at home. xtra underware i wear and throw away, heavier clothes that i dont need after traveling for 2 or 3 months, i donate ……….lots more room in the suitcase and i can always buy things on the road…… shops often have low cost items

  • Janice Waugh

    I either wash them in the sink in my hotel or, if I’m traveling in a country where it isn’t expensive I use the hotel laundry service.

  • Marie Rose Yabut

    I’m not a backpacker. May I ask, how do you wash your clothes?

  • Ian Reide

    Belt, surely, but a tie! 3 pants, 2 is sufficient. Shirt?

  • carol

    I love packing cubes too. I stay mainly in hostels and i like to use a cube for all of the things I need for night time. Eg ear plugs, night clothes, eye mask, tooth brush ,phone charger etc. That way if i come in later than the other people in my dorm, there’s need to go rummaging in my backpack. Everything is in one place!

    I bring one multiway skirt/dress. Its the only item of dressy clothing I bring. I use 2 coloured ribbons that work as belts and varies the look a little bit.
    I get by on 3 pairs of shoes:Sketchers go walk trainers, a pair of croc Sandles (not the clogs) and a pair of flip flops. The heaviest of the three is always the flip flops!!!

  • hipclothing

    I’m going to Iceland the first 2 weeks of September. This was very helpful. Looking for a Marmot jacket now.

  • Tracey Nesbitt

    I think it’s generally 100 ml per item. Here’s one set of guidelines:

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  • Escape Hunter

    Yet, I still adore to over-pack! Add my favourite gadgets and this and that… to elevate my comfort level.
    (Great tips here, by the way!)

  • Tim Walsh

    I recently read an article about someone having to give up their “liquids” in Ireland due to the amount…anyone know what the amount is that you are allowed to carry on?

  • sunshine84

    Just traveled Italy for 2 weeks in January out of a small Thule backpack and large crossbody purse. Packed: 3 sweaters, 3 camis, 2 fleece tights, 3 cotton tights, one pant, one thermal pjs, 7 pair of socks, and 7 panties, all rolled. Hygiene wise: shampoo/cond, body wash, mouth wash, toothpaste, floss, q-tips, lotion, brush, pins, contact solution, eye makeup, lip balm, and perfume. All liquids were travel size and fit in a zip lock bag. All others in a selerate ziplock. Extra bags for dirty underclothes until laundered. I have tied a towel or thin throw to my carry on as well. I carried on the backpack along with a personal bag (an oversized cross body purse) that held: paperwork, chargers, small point and shoot camera, anti bacterial wipes, tissue, gum, contact case, and additional small brush. I usually put sandals in my purse if needed, when traveling to warm climates, but to Italy, just the black boots I wore on the plane. I wore sweater, tights, cami, and jacket onto the plane. I never went without, and was comfortable and approachable the entire trip. Buon viaggio!

  • sunshine84

    Black or brown flats and boots, that can both be dressed up or down. In colder climates, one pair of black boots that can be dressed up. Comfy ones! If you’re going to hike, wear those shoes on the plane, or buy them there. This works for me :)

  • sunshine84

    Paper work, yes! I was hounded by a UK boarder agent, partly because I did not have the proper itinerary to show her. I didn’t print it because I had all the email confirmations I needed for verification, and a valid US passport! I was only let through after she told me to have a seat and called my friend to confirm that he was expecting me for the week! I know better next time…

  • sunshine84

    I’ve traveled all over with my backpack. I travel with convenience for experience, not vanity or another’s opinion in mind. Also, never had a problem anywhere, day or night, even as a woman traveling alone. You are catty and superficial.

  • Trevor Barre

    Great ideas and tips, thanks

    Trevor Barre

  • Monica Lynn Habib

    I have to make room for my art supplies! I will bring less clothing if it means I can fit my sketch book and drawing pencils in.

  • David Shultz

    The worst thing any long term traveller can do is to overpack. By that I mean bring more than a carryon. One carryon can hold many esential items including warm clothing if you know how to shop. With my one bag I travelled for a month and a half around south east asia and I never felt I missed anything. I when though lines much faster without having to check anything in while other tourists struggled to even get their bags to be weighed. When catching boats the one carry on works perfect and you always end up having to help other over-packed tourists. Your bag is your buddy next to you all the time so you would never lose it! I you want to bring souveniers, at the end of your trip, buy a cheap bag to bring stuff home.

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  • Janelle

    I’ve only travelled with a suitcase. Next trip I am going for a backpack 100%! Roller suitcases just are too difficult for uneven terrain (stairs, rocks, cobblestone, grass etc)

  • Fara Kanwal

    I am a traveler and love to explore world’s different famous regions. Bag packing is one of most irritating task for me. But i don’t like heavier luggage with me.I used to travel with GetBusTours along with my family or friends. I prefer to pack my things simple and necessary. But i never forgot to check my camera, laptop and credit card at last moment…. Thanks for the lovely tips

  • Janice Waugh

    Love all of this. Thanks!

  • Barbara

    I wear cotton knits — thicker for winter. Really comfy.

  • Barbara

    I am using everything “theft proof”. They have stainless mesh and cables, plus locking mechanisms on all zippers. Pacsafe and Travelon are two companies making these.

  • Barbara

    Why not put them on the floor of the shower and stomp around on them?

  • Barbara

    I do that, too, and revise it after every trip. I hate carrying things. And speaking of carrying — I had a 3/4 mile walk to the airport train at 6am with cobblestone streets, so I just carried the roller case on my head. Worked great. No one awake to laugh at me and the bumping didn’t wake anyone.

  • Barbara

    One more thing — because I’m old, I got a dog tag. It has my daughter’s name, number & email, my nationality, drug sensitivities, my language. I wear it ALL the time.

  • Barbara

    I wear a neck bag for sensitive info, extra credit cards, most money, passport. I disguised it as a necklace. I laminate everything in it or seal in a small zip lock. If I have a locking room, I don’t wear it.

  • Barbara

    Yea for the camera. I have a Cannon “coolpics”. It takes fabulous pics, has telephoto, even does movies. they are about $100 new.

  • Barbara

    You can wash your clothes as you go and tie a line to hang them or drape them over chairs. I plan on washing.

  • Barbara

    I pack a tiny knife sharpener as I like to cook. I take no jewelry but the watch on my wrist and the earrings in my ears. I color coordinate my whole wardrobe (what little of it there is.) You can get bar shampoo — lasts longer and doesn’t go in that little quart baggie. I take a length of nylon line to use as a clothesline.
    The above didn’t mention food for airports and planes. Wretched stuff, expensive in the airport. My list is: nuts, those tiny cheeses, jerky, dried fruits, an apple — just enough to get you through the flight. My last flight was 9 hours and the meal they offered was inedible. Glad I brought my own.
    I’m going with a small carryon (15 X 15 X 8) and a daypack.
    Do you know about the expanding washclothes? They come compacted to the size of a silver dollar. You can use them for at least a week. Cheap on eBay. If I buy presents they are tiny and light weight.
    Electrolyte powder, a light plastic nettipot, bug repellent, a flat universal sink stopper, lots of ziplocks in all sizes (good for cooking leftovers), serrated plastic knives for cutting things in flight, magnifying glass, compass, laminate vital information, and liquid bandaid — it’s medicated nail polish. (Good for bug bites, too.)

  • Juno

    Hello, may i know that how do you to check in the backpack ? my backpack has a lot of string, i afraid during the transportation the cargo will damage it.

  • Helder Jean

    Great tips!
    It’s been almost 8 years since I last checked any luggage. I have a couple Tom Bihn bags that are made with long-lasting materials, and I always take one of them as my carry on.

    If I feel like a daypack is gonna be needed, I take a sea to summit daypack (it weights 2oz/60g and packs down to a tennis ball size!).
    I choose clothing that dries faster and is less susceptible to wrinkling (like tencel, merino wool, ex-officio synthetics, etc) and wash them along the way.

  • Patricia Tyrrell

    Janice Waugh….what is the volume of that backpack? I’ve always travelled with a larger backpack that requires checking, but it would be great to travel with only a carry on!

  • Deborah Fortuna

    I like the pants that zip off above the knee to turn into Bermuda shorts. I plan to take a year long journey and will definitely have at least a couple of these

  • lafnbsilly

    Personal/important documents. I scan everything, front and back, and attach to an email I send to myself and someone at home. You can always (usually) find an internet connection, and can look up and/or print anything you need. Don’t forget the back of credit cards because they have important phone numbers in case of any issues. I had my wallet stolen in Paris, and because I had these documents, I have a new American Express (never leave home without it) IN MY HAND within two hours!

  • Waster

    Roll one or two feet of duct tape around a dowel or a pencil. Normally you won’t nee more than this length.

  • Annette

    I agree, I have a pair of Columbia pants that the legs zip off and, voila-they are shorts. I love them! They are lightweight and dry quickly.

  • Janice Waugh

    Thanks for the confirmation Annette. You never know how little you truly need until you take that longer trip.

  • Annette

    I’m a couple months into a 7 month trip and recommend you reconsider that large of a bag if you are going to be taking trains, metro, busses, walking. I see people all the time struggling with their large suitcase up and down stairs and in mass transit. I posted previously what I bring (22″ w/ zip off daypack & camera/laptop backpack) and I think I could have brought less. Doing laundry and rinsing some items out as needed helps. But everyone is different and I hope whatever you decide works for you. Have a great trip!

  • Patricia Coon

    My pet peeve – bathroom stalls not big enough for the carry-on luggage. Hate to use the (bigger) handicap stall, but have. Having a rolling carry-on saves the weight on your back. I like the “older” luggage that had straps to buckle multiple pieces of luggage together. Don’t like the 4-wheel rollers – they seem awkward and harder to put into the overhead bins.

  • Patricia Coon

    I read somewhere that rolling some around the water bottle works. That’s not a disposable water bottle.

  • Luisa Parodi

    Liked the idea about buying a new purse and leaving the old one. Will definitively do it since I will be in Italy in September! I always pack light but this time I will pack even lighter after reading all these tips from you guys. Just a small carry-on and a small backpack just in case I need to check my carry-on on the flight back to USA (some italian wine is inevitable!) Janice I noticed your shoes hanging out do the airlines allow that? I want to do that. Regarding bringing an umbrella, I have had mine confiscated by security twice, once in Dominican Republic, and then in the USA they were considered dangerous! So now when I travel I just buy a cheapo one or borrow from my friends. I have a question, what is best regarding a phone? To buy a SIMs card in Europe (I will spend one week in Germany, two in Italy) or just a calling card? I have done just fine with the calling card in the past, please help. Thanks for wonderful tips and for sharing experiences!

  • seadragon13

    my mom taught me something 25 years ago that i ALWAYS employ when i travel. along with the tips from this article- choosing one colour and accent and all things going together- bring your old undies and socks, even old singlets or shirts that you are fully willing and eager to part with. no sense carrying smelly stuff with you. so throw them away on what would be your last wearing. no smelly clothes, no laundry once home, and extra room in the bag for new items you pick up along the way.

  • tDot

    Back pack or suitcase? That is my current travel question dilemma. I will be travelling through Europe beginning at the end of September. I will be away for anywhere from 1 to 3 months. I am very interested to hear opinions of other travellers.

  • Patricia Coon

    Except, for example, when you have a specific brand of soap (allergic skin) or special toothpaste (dentures). And, sometimes stores are not in close proximity. It all balances out somehow.

  • Patricia Coon

    Agreed. Using the bathroom fan will suck moisture out of damp clothes as well.

  • Patricia Coon

    Yes, everything I have goes into packing cubes. Some now have zippers to squash even more. It’s easy to pack one day in one cube, or all underwear in one cube, for example and airport handlers can see without touching/rummaging through. Lightweight fleece also compacts wonderfully, as do long johns/top and bottom – depending on location, they come in lightweight, medium, and heavy and are a great layering item.

  • Patricia Coon

    Love the Travel Wash tubes for washing clothes – smells great, cleans great. I have a travel towel to wring out clothes before drying on hangers in the bathroom, and sometimes can use the big cotton plush towels in hotels, although bulky to wring. Once I used the ceiling fan to hang clothes, and bras and underwear were flying around and around – but they were dry in the morning.

  • Patricia Coon

    Most of the places I visited in China had at least one “western” toilet. I’m old (haha), and don’t squat that well. I had some of the urinelles (cone shaped paper), but never needed them. In more rural areas, I’m sure I would.

  • Marie

    How do people take the duct tape- do you carry the roll with the cardboard tube or if you take the tape off and roll it around something smaller?

  • Marie

    Actually here in the US there is a brand called “Duck Tape”- usually one that has a printed design on it.

  • Janice Waugh

    Oh I know. Shoes make an outfit. I”m very careful when I buy shoes to make sure they play well across outfits. Good luck and have fun in Europe.

  • PippaCarter

    I’m sure I speak
    for the majority of females out there when I say “how can you fit your closest
    into one backpack?”. The idea of packing only two pairs of shoes is a scary
    thought. Especially when I leave with one suit case and return with two. However,
    this post has shown me how my pour packing abilities has been hindering my
    travel experience without me even knowing. With my upcoming trip solo trip
    through Europe I will definitely be trying some of these tips. Thanks for

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  • Annette

    Thanks for the great article and the comments are very helpful too. I consider packing to be the worst part of traveling. I have learned to pack lighter but I do still check a bag. It’s a 22″ (clothes) with a small zip off daypack (pair of shoes & toiletries). My carry-on is a camera backpack (DSLR camera and an additional lens, computer, chargers, and baggie of small toiletries/pair of undies/make-up (in case my luggage is late in arriving or I have a “next-day” connection). I don’t currently have it as a goal to just travel with carry-ons. I like it once I check that bag and I get to use the toilet without having to somehow find room in the stall for it also. Not having to lug it around from terminal to terminal when switching planes is also appreciated. But if they ever lose my luggage I’m sure my story will change. 😉 I’m not sure I understand the logic of not taking “it” because you can buy it there. You still need room in your luggage after you buy it, unless you are only traveling to one destination. My main reason for wanting to travel light is to make it easier to travel on trains, metros, buses, and walk between them and lodging, when possible. A very important factor is the weather where you are traveling to. If it’s a warm beach destination one needs far less clothing than cold or multiple climates. Still working on fine-tuning the packing process. Thanks for the help!

  • Deborah Fortuna

    A good color scheme like beige, navy blue and white works well. I do bring my own shampoo for white hair. Other than that there are always used clothing stores everywhere. Other toiletries can be bought while traveling.

  • Elaine Beckham

    I love that you’ve posted this information but a carry on won’t work for my 9 to 12 month trip. I’m looking for an about 26″ check in bag thats very lightweight – anyone got any suggestions?

  • Nannette Enriquez

    For underwear, I hit the 99c store and buy a dozen undies and just leave them behind. They are g strings and take NO room in my suitcase.

  • Karen Davis

    I’ve kept a packing list for years. I print one out before every trip, then take it with me to check off things when I leave my destination. It makes traveling so much easier!

  • Janice Waugh

    I’m with you on the showering option. No way! :)

  • Bronte

    I ALWAYS pack too much. Without fail. I feel like I need to pack for every improbable situation, ‘just in case’. I will definitely be taking some tips from this list! I like the idea
    of picking one colour pallet, so that everything matches! However I have noticed people are suggesting only taking 3 pairs of underwear… And showering in your clothes and then going to bed wet? No can do sir, I draw the line here.

  • EPOC

    Love Monaco, and Nice.

  • Mark Northcott

    I started travelling in Dec 2012 and I am still going. I started with two big bags (one backpack and one with wheels) and a smaller carry-on. I am 191cm so it was hard work but manageable when I moved from place to place.
    I have reduced this by quite a bit Now I just have the backpack and carry-on and have left stuff with people as I go or given away to charity. I definitely took more than I needed.
    However, I would say that enough clothes for a week is a must, unless you love washing. Also for long term travelling, clothing for all weather extremes is very important (unless you know you wont be travelling to any places with extreme weather).
    I completely agree that you need something more dressy. You might use them rarely but when you do, you will be glad you packed them.

  • TravelDude

    Did anyone ask you anything or give you the impression that your negativity matters? You’re wrong by the way: if your backpack is light enough, you can give it a good swing and knock out the criminal. If it is very heavy, you can crush him with it. Shows what you know…

  • Carol Anderson

    Actually they do sell a brand of such tape called Duck Tape, comes in colors and patterns. I assume a play on the common mispronunciation. I get it at Michael’s.

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  • Margaret

    Methinks you are a tad jealous or just an angry person

  • Gwen Menz

    Very true about folks not knowing what you wore the day before. Long as you don’t get dirty or smelly (hiking, etc), there’s no sense in NOT reusing your outfit!

  • Gwen Menz

    The Sponge Bob backpack is an excellent idea! If I was a thief looking for a ritzy Prada bag (or something of that nature), Sponge Bob would not be looked at twice —- love it!

  • Janice Waugh

    Oh my goodness, I know better and yet still made the mistake. My sons would be horrified! Thanks so much for letting me know. It’s fixed.


  • John Yohalem

    There is no such thing as duck tape unless you use it to attach ducks to one another. Duct tape.

  • mary

    My backpack has little wheels so I can pull it thru airports and wear it up hills. I’ve travelled for 3 weeks at a time hopping easily on and off motorcycles, buses, and ferries with just the one bag. I swear by the single colour trick and a couple of thrift store throw aways but I take all the underwear I can fit in and throw them away as I go. Fresh knickers make outer clothes go extra days and they’re ridiculously cheap to buy a new pack as needed. If everything is one colour, it all washes as one load if you do hit a laundry mat and I’ve met the most wonderful people for the hour it takes to hang at the laundry. My most versatile item is the light-weight shawl. It’s a pillow on a plane, a skirt in a church, a sun protector scarf, or a keep off the chill evening wrap and when not in use it ties to the pack handles. When I’m travelling to a one-stop destination then I get to take my big case and indulge my sandal collection or bring a little something back.

  • Janice Waugh


  • Limosch

    When I travel I usually go for a month and stay at each destination for about 3 days. Besides packing light I have found that organizing my stuff in Eagle Creek travel packing cubes make it much easier to find clothes and keep them wrinkle free. The other items that helps reduce the amount of clothes but allows you to feel like you have more than you are taking are convertible or reversible clothing. I have bathing suits, pants, shirts and dresses that can be used in different ways. With only a few things I can make at least 20 different outfits. :-)

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  • Claire Taylor

    I love the idea of showering in your sleep wear to keep cool! I’ll remember this for future trips :)

  • Claire Taylor

    When I first started out as a naive traveller on my way to Australia for a working holiday, I couldn’t comprehend the idea of not having a dressing gown (bath robe?) and a top pocket full of… stuff… Yeah, I liked my stuff. As a result I left the UK with an 80 (yes! Actually 80!!) litre backpack which I filled and struggled to keep under the airline’s 20kg limit.
    The more I moved around and realised how stuff is utterly unimportant and no, one really doesn’t need a dressing gown and a big, fluffy towel when staying in backpacker hostels, I’ve gotten my luggage down to a 43 litre backpack plus a smaller, carry on rucksack which doubles as my only luggage when I want to go on a few day tour. Even now, just during my day to day “real life” it only takes me and a mate to move everything I own when I move house in one go. And we take the bus.

  • movers Nebraska

    Thank you for sharing this post. Although I am a gent, it may come as a surprise but I also find packing very stressful. I seem not to be contented with what I put in my bag. I certainly need to learn how to pack light especially that I travel a lot. This list you shared is very helpful!

  • Sandra O’RourkeGlynn

    I only every take carry on luggage and travel a lot for up to 3 months at a time, places have washing machines, very seldom do I take a larger bag and normally that is only to the US as is the case next week Ill be in San Francisco for 12 days to check it out before heading to LA and San Diego and Houston so I need clothing for different climates. Ive been traveling since 1989 for work but solid for myself for the last 3 years and have never wavered on the hand luggage only deal.

  • Queenabbess

    Go Girl is an excellent idea. You would never carry around a “messy, dripping thing for hours”. If unable to rinse it at a sink, you would simply dry it off after usage with the toilet tissue.that I hope you would remember to bring with you. I store mine in a small plastic bag, which is then placed in a small drawstring bag. It takes up no room to speak of, and serves as an ingenious solution to those who don’t like squatting.

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  • sheila

    YOu can dress well and still pack it in a carry on. I traveled alot for my last employer. . It wasn’t unusual to travel to three different cities with 3 vastly different temperatures for one travel stint. I still managed to pack it in a carry on. The trick is to have clothes that don’t wrinkle easily that will layer as necessary. Make the bottoms all black and brown with 2-3 pr of shoes in neutral colors and that way the tops you bring will go with any bottom. I always carry an umbrella and a black cardigan that is long enough to belt and use as a dressy jacket it needed. Yes, I brought 2 stretchy belts, they dress up a basic outfit and make it look different from the last time you wore it. I still manage to pack a travel blow dryer, some jewelry and makeup, face cream, body lotion and hair supplies. Plenty of room! I roll my clothes. I would never ever take a back pack.

  • Janice Waugh

    It sounds like you have packing down to a science. Love the Sponge Bob Square Pants backpack!

  • simplyfantabulous

    I fly Spirit to Central America. I have a child’s backpack that precisely fits their specification for free carry-on. It has an applique for Sponge Bob Square Pants on the back, so I figure it’s high on the list of least-likely-to-be-stolen-as-a-fashion-statement backpacks. This was like getting coal in your Christmas stocking at first, but it’s actually pretty commodious once you realize you need only three days’ change of clothes on pretty much any trip. I don’t wash any clothes myself; the hotel maid always needs the money. On a February trip, the bag weighed 17.6 pounds on the way down and seven pounds was books. Twelve and a half pounds on the return.

  • Stephanie

    I’ve traveled in many countried where you have to use squat toilets and you get used to it. I wouldn’t take up room in a suitcase with a gadget like that. Not to mention you often don’t have access to a sink after going and then you have to carry around a messy, dripping thing for hours. Gross!

  • Anne Arnott

    I think this is a great post … A friend andI are going to Monaco for a week .. in a few weeks time…. I always know what to take ie Essentials,laptop camera , chargers ,etc etc,,,, but here goes …It is my clothes that I cannot decide on .. No matter where I go , .. but I do think I am getting a bit better .. :-) will keep trying,not sure I could be a “carry on ” lady though ..

  • Lisa Viviano

    What type of pants do you bring? My favorites for travel are cotton chinos, but I don’t know if they would dry quickly enough to only bring two pairs….

  • Jennie Dunne

    On my recent 6 week trip my bag weighed 8kg and I’m a woman!! I never bring more than one pair of shoes (two if I’m hiking), 3 pairs of undies, two pants, one skirt and two tops. The only time I would bring extra is if I’m going to a cold country and then I’d wear the warmer clothes on the plane. Shampoo, soap etc can all be bought locally. I travel every year for up to two months and never need to bring more than this. If you do need something extra you can usually pick it up there. I often bring clothes that I am happy to leave behind when coming home and a few times I’ve even traded my clothes at the end of the trip, my favourite being when I swapped my old hiking boots for a Moroccan rug.

  • Chris

    I think you could cut the quantities in half for men if you really want to travel light. Also, do you really NEED paperwork etc these days? Just put everything on your kindle/ipad. I doubt you could fit all of whats listed above in a carry on bag, umbrella, rain pants, tie, vest – really?

  • Adriana Saulo

    I travel cheap & hostel most of the time.Tend to go off the trail.Never bring a cel phone, or laptop or reader. Most hostels have internet & free books. I use skyp to call home. Carry a cheap $100 digital camara. Use a money belt for cash & passport. Carry a back pack with less then 20 lbs & make sure I can carry it comfortably at home for a couple of miles before my trip.Use daypack too.Layer clothes so you can adapt to temps.

  • Roni Faida

    I don’t carry a backpack, I prefer a rollerboard carry-on. But I also pack lightly and never check a bag. It has worked well for me over the years. And our packing lists are almost identical! Great minds…

  • Roni Faida

    How ridiculous that you would be so mean. Good thing your opinion doesn’t matter to her.

  • Leah

    you can definitely dress yourself well from a carry-on bag. You just don’t have as MANY outfits. And you have to learn to mix and match (which a good dresser should be able to do anyway). But you don’t need so many when you are travelling. You won’t see the same person twice so it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing the same thing you wore two days ago.

  • Leah

    if you’re in a different town each day you’re travelling too fast. How do you have time to see anything? Unless of course you’re on a business trip. I took 5 pairs of underwear when I travelled in Europe last year and really underwear takes up such little room that the extra 2 pairs are negligible. But you could definitely survive on 3 – and I’m a woman! If it doesn’t dry overnight, put it in a plastic bag before re-packing it and when you get to your destination hang it up again. We had to do that with some thicker clothing items in Europe but never our underwear.

  • Tina Warner

    I am going to Vietnam and China in a couple of months. I never, ever check a bag and use one carry on and a day pack. The China part of the trip is for Habitat for Humanity. The work you do is very dirty so I take throw-away clothes for that part and discard as I go along making room for anything I want to bring back, which is usually not that much. I love the idea of putting copies of documents on a memory stick…didn’t even think of that. The list you provide is excellent but I would change a couple of things out because of the work we are doing with Habitat. I usually lay out everything I would like to take and then cut it in half. I take three pairs of shoes. One pair of old tennis shoes, to be left there after the Habitat work they are spent anyway, a pair of Teva-type sandals for hiking and sight seeing and a pair of flat shoes for the slight “dressing up” that we might do. Packed, these flat shoes are about 1/2 ” thick. The one thing I would add to the list is a “Go-Girl”. I am trying one out for the first time on this trip as squatting over a hole to pee isn’t very pleasant when the Go-Girl allows you to pee like a guy. It’s kinda weird at first, but it works really well. Also pack some TP for trips like this as in some countries it is not always available . And of course small packets of disinfectant wipes.

  • venkat

    It was one of the
    nicest places that I’ve stayed. Hopefully you’ll find a way to make it happen

  • Caidy Charles

    You look utterly gormless with those backpacks and a great target for criminals. Ridiculous.

  • Sarah Bellum

    I love the purse idea and donating something to make room for new treasures. I find if you choose undies with the right material, they dry faster (exofficio, etc). Also, sometimes you can just put them on. Even if still semi-damp, your body heat will dry them quicker than the air. In Italy, when staying where there was no air conditioning, I would wash my undies, myself, and a T-shirt then hop into bed nice and wet. Kept me cool all night, and everything was dry by the a.m.

  • Sarah Bellum

    Great list. I found to travel even lighter I replaced the kindle, the computer, the phone, the camera, and the journal with just an iphone (and possibly a thin, fold-up, wireless keyboard). I can do all those things quite well on it: photographing, surfing, posting and journaling every day. Less to keep track of, worry about, or carry. You can also substitute a brush with a flat wide-toothed pick, and Castile soap works well as a multi-use soap for body, hair, clothes, shaving, etc. (Some even use it as a toothpaste, but I’m not going that far).

  • B. Berger

    I tend to pack light as I always say no one knows what I wore yesterday. No one knows me so I wear the same thing for several days. Tops and bottoms don’t get dirty in a day. Took a 2 week trip on a motorcycle (not much space there) and managed very well with minimum clothes.

  • Angela

    I can’t see a woman scaling back her packing to fit in her carry-on luggage if she usually dresses herself well.  At least this will never happen with me.

  • Janis

    You are my hero(ine)!


  • Car Rental Services

    while packing we are not able to decide that what should we leave and
    what should we not leave.Reading your article I got some idea on that
    how should we deal with that situation.

  • Kristine

    Super glue (or whatever the generic name is) comes in handy for a lot of things that need emergence fixing (broken glasses, mending shoes, even suturing wounds) and can easily fit in a carry-on or side pock of luggage.

  • subra mani

     I should bookmark this page because when i go travel i should check out this list, so that i would not miss anything to carry

  • Florine Foulon

    … Is that me or the packing list for women is longer than the one for men ;)?

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  • Andrews0110

    Every trip I take, I bring a small 4Gb memory stick containing my travel and emergency info, room for pictures and more.

  • Linda Luah Castle

    I would also recommend to download copies of your passport , tickets paperwork etc onto a USB stick. I also download photos as I go so  I don’t need to buy more SD cards. To cut  down on cloths I don’t bring t-shirts but nice cotton tops that can be worn casually or formally. I only have a pair of trousers,  a couple of cotton leggings , several light tunic dresses again can be worn casually or formally. One pair of high heels, a pair of sandals as well as a pair of trainers. I like to drag my tired body to a nice hotel or restaurant at the end of a holiday hence the smart cloths. Most Airlines in EU and Internationally allow 7-10 kg hand luggage. 5 kg is usually for budget airline. For luggages most airline allow a 2-3 kg over …just smile at the staff it works. PS I never compromise on underwear :) Bring old ones that can be thrown out or buy a set of value ones that can be left or thrown out as you go……

  • Linda Luah Castle

    You can always nip into the shops especially in England to buy a pair if you need any. In Italy my sandals broke and sandals are expensive there…. new sandals lasted 24 hours, my new sandals came apart ( it has a few rhinestones etc) when I was at the airport on the way home ! But England plenty of cheap sandals or shoes from supermarkets or shops like Primark etc etc . You can dispose of them when you leave if you don’t want the weight.  I don’t know about France but will tell you after June when I will be in France!

  • Positiveageing

    This was a timely article for me as I am about to pack for a 34 day stay in England & France.
    Will be hard getting by with just 2 pairs of shoes!!

  • Robin Burks

    I usually get by with a carry-on and one larger checked bag. The checked bag is important if I want to bring souvenirs (generally wine) back with me to the states. I’ve tried packing lighter but then ended up regretting not having space in my luggage to bring things home. And international shipping can end up being very expensive.

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  • OurExtendedStay

    Nice article! As a business traveler, I have not checked a bag in over 15 years.
     If it does not fit in my two bags to carry on it does not go.  I
    color coordinate and take pants that I can get a couple of wears and one pair
    of shoes.  Of course this is harder for women that tend to change shoes
    and bags with each outfit.  


    Ladies can choose to pack designer clothes that are travel friendly; St. John Knits,
    Chico’s Travelers or Exclusively Misook to name a few.  Packing your
    business clothes in dry cleaning plastic will reduce wrinkling.  Not sure
    that there is a solution for the shoe Divas out there other than shipping them
    to your travel destination.    


    What made me work at it was trying to make a connection in Miami and Atlanta with checked


    We encourage our customers to scale back their packing to fit in their carry on
    luggage, as airline bags fees are here to stay.


  • Richard

    Also, I shuld have mentioned
    the “gold standard” resource for light travel

  • Richard

    Check out the light travel blog and forum, One Bag One World at

    Many experienced international travelers there, and much valuable advice/suggestions.

  • solotraveler

    Good question. I would add a steripen for sterilizing water.

  • Diana

    Excellent, Janice! Anything in particular you would add for India?

  • solotraveler

    Hi Roger. Thanks. You’re right. The umbrella definitely belongs on the men’s list as well. Will fix that now. Depending on the style of the light jacket, it could work like a blazer. The blazer was not about warmth but fashion. I envy guys the blazer option.

    Thanks so much for adding to the conversation.

  • Roger

    Why no (compact) umbrella for men? An umbrella is essential in Europe, where it rains often – not so much in the western US. Alas, I left mine in a restaurant in Paris on a rainy night after dining with a fellow hostler in the first week of a 3 week trip abroad. (I probably wouldn’t have forgotten it if I was dining solo. 😉 I was able to buy another one in sidewalk sale, although it was flimsy and fell apart mid-way into my next trip to the UK – luckily I was able to buy one from the gift shop in the train station in a rural town.

    I would also replace all but one of the dress shirts with polo/golf shirts, unless you want to stand out as an American tourist as most other cultures dress more conservatively and a polo is just about as comfortable as a T. Similar to the women’s list, for men, I would suggest a blazer OR a light jacket (which would be more lightweight and less bulky to pack than a blazer.

  • Tara Boyd

    Love this! I always over pack and I never thought to look at what actually gets used on my trip when I return. Next time I travel I’ll be sure to make a note of it and leave it out the next time. I might find it hard however sticking with just two shoes. I’m just curious – why did you start including duct tape as part of bare minimum packing?

  • Janice Waugh

    These are great tips as well. I particularly like the purse idea. I bring 5 pairs of underwear which gives me flexibility as to when I do the rinsing out. I do it on the first night that I am staying in a place a number of nights.

  • Janice Waugh

    I think most of us have a core wardrobe that we wear and stuff that doesn’t get worn often. Go with the core when packing.

  • Janice Waugh

    There are pictures of a backpack as well as a roller bag because, depending on my destination, I’ll use either. My tech gear is limited to the list there.

  • Jkosmac

    Nicely assembled…but what about someone who has back problems and can’t use back packs? Any suggestions?…and could you provide a post on your tech gadgets?  Your phone, your computer, your ebook that you carry? 

  • Laurie

    Very helpful!   I tend to pack at least twice as much as I need (I think to indulge having a choice about what I’m in the mood to wear) but the pluses of packing light I think far outweigh the minuses of all that extra weight!

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  • Hometoitaly

    thanks J.  i read this before my last trip and still had difficuty.   I wrote to Rick Steves to tell him you cant travel with 3 pairs of underwear.  they dont always dry over night and i am often in a different town each day!   But following your list, if I dont carry anything dressy I can fit it in the suitcase.

    the one thing that saves me time washing every week is to bring throw away clothes.  T shirts, sweaters, etc that I can leave in a charity box when i head home.  Leaves me room in my suitcase for a treasure. 

    i make sure if I am going home to italy that I bring an old purse and replace it with something wonderful, leaving the old purse in the hotel.  

    now i make sure i include plastic zip ties.   Had to make a quick belt while at the airport and these worked great!