30 Things To Pack For A Long Trip – From “The Best Packing List” Series
I confess, given my packing allotment (pieces of luggage), I inevitably stuff them full. That’s why I rely on packing lists to keep me on track and organized when I travel. It’s really about how luxurious my packing list can be, and whether I’m taking a longer trip. If I’m planning a longer trip AND flying, my packing list must be spot on to assure enough space for self-declared “necessities” and room to bring back a few, well-chosen souvenirs.
Flying or Riding?
The logistics of when, where, and how I’m traveling are my main considerations when choosing between my smallest two pieces of luggage or one large piece—and a shoulder tote, book bag, or handbag, of course. On a longer trip, I will pack one large and one smaller piece of luggage, and then, take a tote or book bag large enough to drop my purse in if I need my hands free. Always have a “hands-free” plan!
Warm or Cold Weather Destination?
It also matters if I’m traveling to a warm weather destination or a cold weather destination. I love comfy sweaters and boots; however, they take up a great deal of room in my luggage! For the sake of organization, I prefer two smaller bags that can stack atop one other for rolling through an airport or in and out of my accommodations. This is especially true if I’m changing locations more than once.
National or International Destination?
This works if I’m heading to a warm weather, US location. However, in Winter or when traveling to an international destination, I’m rarely satisfied with my available space for souvenirs on the trip back. My solution is to plan to unpack a third of what you’d LIKE to take along BEFORE I leave, or choose a larger suitcase. I would like to tell you to commit to one bag, one backpack/cross body/belt pack, and a purse/wallet. In fact, I will tell you that because it’s the ideal, and I’ll try it (again) myself when I travel next weekend to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
My Dad is a mathematician, and while I didn’t inherit the genius gene, my mind likes visualizes challenges as equations…
- Short Trip + Warm Weather Destination = 1-2 Smaller pieces of Rolling Luggage + Foldable Tote
- Long Trip + Warm Weather Destination = 1-2 Smaller pieces of Rolling Luggage + Tote or Book Bag
- Short Trip + Cold or Variable Weather Destination = 1 Large + 1 Small piece of Rolling Luggage + Tote or Book Bag
- Long Trip + Cold Weather Destination = 1 Large + 1 Smaller piece of Rolling Luggage + Tote or Book Bag + A Savvy Packing List like this one!
Whatever your equation turns out to be, less is more. Choose clothing and shoes that ALL coordinate. If you don’t have room for souvenirs, you have two choices: 1.) Remove 1/3 of your items, anything unnecessary and bulky or redundant, like two black skirts. 2.) Determine to choose very small souvenirs you can tuck into the luggage pockets. Another advantage to packing lighter? Less time to unpack!
Imagine a few scenarios for your upcoming trip and then be strategic about what you’ll really NEED. Once your basic packing list is started, consider a few tips from this list. Some of the ideas were born out of hard lessons, and some gathered from other road warriors.
Here are 30 Things to Pack for Long Trip:
Invest in lightweight, durable suitcases, one large, one carryon size, with 360 degree wheels (rotating) and a sturdy handle, preferably with inside pockets to help organize your travel gear.
A friend of mine who’s traveled the world gave me this little trick the other day. Duck Tape. Yes, we love it, but why take it when we travel? Because things break while traveling, and truly, Duck Tape fixes almost everything. Once, I saw a car frame held together by Duck Tape. I was impressed! You don’t need the whole roll—you shouldn’t be fixing a car. Simply tear off a few pieces or one long piece of Duck Tape and wrap it around a pen. Throw the pen in your book bag, and voila! You’ll have just enough of this miracle-worker on hand to mend a broken luggage handle, or a bag, heel, packing cube, and who knows what else. Tell me you won’t feel ready for almost anything with Duck Tape in your bag!
3. iPhone Fan
This little gadget idea is from the same friend who offered the Duck-Tape-on-a-Pen. She swears it’s a life saver for cooling off while standing in long line. In fact, she pulled one out of her bag, popped it in her iPhone jack, and fanned us. We all exclaimed. It is pretty nifty. Where to find one? At an outdoor store or amazon.com or novelty store like Five Below.
4. Belt Bag
Yes, they’re back! The “Belt Bag” is the new fanny pack. A cross-body bag is also a favorite because it keeps valuables secure while hands are free. This is a must-have for traveling. TJ Maxx has inexpensive belt packs.
5. Back Pack
A backpack is a wonderful travel companion: it’s hands-free, fits under the seat in front of you, and usually sports little organizing sections. This is great for small items like pens, lip balm, moisturizer, Kleenex, wipes, reading materials, earphones, and any electronics you want within reach.
6. Large Tote (Or, foldable tote)
Large or foldable totes are great for bringing back fragile souvenirs, last minute purchases, and stowing your purse so you’ve got only one shoulder or hand involved with your luggage. It can double as a beach or pool bag, and a shopping bag. If you don’t want to carry a large tote unless you need it, bring a foldable one. I always keep one of these in a small section of my toiletry bag. I often use it to separate my dirty laundry. This doesn’t work for a laptop. It doesn’t not enough protection, and the shoulder strap is uncomfortable if the tote is loaded with hard, heavy items. Test it first, whether it’s a standard tote or foldable tote, to determine if the tote is comfortable on your shoulder when it’s filled.
7. Packing Cubes
I’ve included packing cubes on previous Packing Lists because I’m such a believer. They are great organizers. Make sure to buy packing cubes constructed with strong, FLEXIBLE materials and a handle. The handle is perfect for carrying a lot of small toiletries to the bathroom. If you’re sharing a bathroom, your toiletries stay organized or you can take them back to your suitcase. They also make repacking a snap. If you’re in one spot for awhile, they’re convenient enough to get in and out of that you’ll find it easier to stay packed. Who wants to spend the last day repacking when you can simply zip up the cubes and toss them in your suitcase? I personally keep one filled with my travel size items, an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, a mini size of my favorite perfume, and a packet of towelettes.
8. Ear plugs
Ear plugs cancel out noisy seat neighbors, help with a little shut-eye while flying, and blocking out city sounds when staying downtown. Of course, you could also pop them in while four-wheeling on the beach, exploring at sea in a loud boat, or jumping out of a plane.
9. Head Scarf
Along with Belt Bags, head scarves are back in style and perfect for saving your hair style on windy days.
10. Shorts/Swimsuit & Flip Flops
Always pack a swimsuit unless you’re absolutely certain you won’t be getting wet. Shorts can double as swim trunks. I like to throw in a cheap pair of flip flops I can throw away if I need more room for souvenirs. If you’re in a beach area, flip flops are as easy to buy as an umbrella in the U.K.!
11. Walking Shoes
Comfortable shoes you can walk in for days are worth a little investment and a little extra room in your luggage. If you haven’t discovered your favorite brand of walking shoes, I’ve loved my European shoes. If you live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, visit R. B. Shapp. Last year I bought two pairs of leather boots, one from Greece and another from Israel. I’ve walked (and even jogged when I was late for a plane) for miles and miles. The shoes are either hand-made or well-made from high-end materials, attractive, and incredibly comfortable. With their large selection, you should be able find a comfortable pair of walking shoes that can be dressed up or down.
12. Simple Power Adapter
A power adapter is a must if you’re traveling with electronics. Most devices are simplifying their power cords connection. When I pack a power adapter, it must be small, sturdy, and multi-functional. Look for a wall adapter with two USB ports, rather than one, then pack the cords needed to charge devices. If you are going out of the country, look for one that has the country’s standard plug.
13. Portable Water Purifier & Empty Water Bottle
I can do without abundant food when I travel, but not without water. If you pack a collapsible water bottle and small drop-in purifier, all you need is a water source. If you want to pack your favorite water bottle in your book bag, and stuff it with your electronic charging adapter and cords. Any outdoors store like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cabella’s, or REI will carry collapsible water bottles and purifiers. Or, you can find these items online.
14. Quick Dry Towel
Quick Dry towels are highly absorbent and small. They dry quickly and can be rolled to fit neatly in your luggage or stowed in your book bag or tote and used as a pillow when you’re traveling between locations.
15. Body or Facial Towelettes
Body and facial towelettes are extremely convenient when traveling. In a pinch, they’ll get or keep you feeling clean. You can find small throw-away packets of about 25 towelettes at the grocery store, drugstore, or on the TJ Maxx cosmetic shelves. Most towelette packets cost less than five dollars.
16. Micro Hair Gadgets
If you have a hair style that requires more than a hair band or a comb, micro versions of your curling iron, straightener or hair dryer are a must. They work almost as well as the full-size version and take up minimal space in your luggage. If you’re traveling outside of the country, check the required wattage or you might blow out your gadget the first time you plug it in. That’s not fun. This is where a power adapter that recognizes different wattages comes in handy.
Lifestyle Suggestion: if you wash your hair every day (and then need to style it), consider “training” your hair to go a few extra days. I didn’t believe this would work for me, but my daughter convinced me to give it a try. Within a week or two, my “hair” adjusted. Now, I spend less time washing and styling my hair—and I save on hair products. Win-win!
17. A List of Addresses
My Mom loves sending and receiving post cards—even if they arrive after I get home! It’s a small, thoughtful gesture to send a postcard from the places you’re visiting just to say, “I’m thinking of you (while I’m having fun exploring).” Sometimes it requires a little effort to find postage when you’re out of the country, but it’s worth it to mark your travel journey. Otherwise, when traveling nationally, simply slip a book of stamps into your purse.
18. Portable Clothes Washing Tabs
These little strips dissolve in a sink full of water and allow for hand washing, which translates to packing less for longer trips. You’ll find these online or at larger outdoor stores.
19. Cellular Phone
Most people now have a cellular phone that will work internationally—at least where wifi is available. When traveling internationally, check with your cell provider about a daily international rate. Most have plans now that are not too expensive. That way you are a quick call or text away from family and friends at home, you can check the weather and time zone, and take a ton of photos. I love to take pictures of food, the menu, and funny signs. It’s like a visual travel journal.
20. Packable Coat & Hat
Choose a down coat if your destination is cold. Down is lightweight and easy to roll so that it takes up only a small amount of space in your luggage. I often take mine on the plan and use it as a pillow. If it’s going to be very cold, pack a pair of silk long underwear. They are ultra thin, warming, and comfortable. If your destination is warm with a possibility of wet weather, opt for a waterproof rain jacket that rolls up into a pouch. You can also fold it to fit into a Ziplock bag, and then, roll all of the air out to minimize packing space. When I pack a hat, I either fill it with sock so as not to waste any space, fold it around a piece of clothing, or wear it. Most baseball, wool, or sun hats are packable and provide relief from sun, wind, and rain. Plus, they’ll keep your head both warmer or cooler.
21. Wet/Dry Bag (or very large Ziplock)
Throw in a wet/dry bag or a few Ziplocks for dirty or wet laundry while traveling between locations. I also use my packable tote to separate my dirty laundry from clean clothes.
22. Hiking Pants
This one is debatable. I feel about hiking pants like I do khakis: they can be worn WAY past their laundry due date (and, should not be). If you make sure your hiking pants stay fresh, I can’t deny the many benefits: neutral color, lots of zipper pockets, breathable, fairly wrinkle-free fabric, minimal packing space. Some versions even zip off into shorts. Go for black or dark colors so you can dress them up with a neat shirt or sweater.
23. Long-sleeved Shirt
Look for a long-sleeved shirt that rolls up the arms, preferably with button tabs to hold it secure.
24. Neutral, Long-sleeved, Lightweight Sweater
A neutral, long-sleeved but lightweight sweater is a three-season favorite for versatile, layered outfits. I’ve got a light gray sweater that I’m wearing out. It matches most of the shirts I own and goes with blue jeans, khakis, or black bottoms. It’s the ultimate layering option over a sleeveless shirt, so you can handle temperature fluctuations—the destination’s or your own!
25. Compression Socks
Anytime your feet will be hanging down or you will be immobile for hours at a time (flying in a plane, riding in a bus, on a long road trip, or a songtow, depending on the country), AND no matter your age, it’s important to make sure your blood keeps flowing. Compression socks are much easier to find than they used to be, and they’re kind of cute now. You can find them online, at a medical supply store, and sometimes in an outdoor store. You can also find compression knee-highs or hose that don’t require a prescription. Why should you wear compression socks while traveling? To reduce the risk of DVT, Deep Vein Thrombosis, or blood clots from forming. If you’ve never heard of it, here’s an article from the CDC. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/dvt It’s no joke.
26. Pashmina Style Scarf**
If you are going to a very warm weather destination, a Pashmina-style scarf packs efficiently and can act as shoulder shrug, bolero, neck warmer, head covering, or travel pillow. If you choose a big enough scarf, you can tie it in such a way that creates a beach dress cover-up. Another space saver! Often, I tie it onto my book bag or tote so that it’s handy when I need it. Here’s a link to different ways to tie your scarf depending on your need: https://youtu.be/LLKHPtJGo8c. I try to limit myself to one neutral and one bright color. And, if you’re wondering about the **, I’ve starred this one because packing a large rectangular scarf to serve in place of several pieces of clothing is a big travel hack of mine.
27. Important Papers
Make a list of your medications, ICE (In Case of Emergency) Phone Numbers, and two copies of Your Passport (leave one at home with an itinerary of your travel plans!). I usually put mine in a large ziplock bag. It’s an easy way to have an extra ziplock if you need it. Be kind to your loved ones and make a copy of your itinerary to leave behind. They often like following along!
28. Small Wallet
I’ve also got an overfilling problem with my wallet, so when I travel, I downsize my wallet to include only the necessities. That’s less to lose if the unthinkable happens. The last time I returned from a trip, I continued to use my smaller wallet.
29. Nail Clipper
I don’t know how many times I’ve left home without this and regretted it. It acts as a mini-scissors if necessary and passes through security with no trouble.
30. Space Bags
One year while packing for a three week tour of Europe—one in which I’d find all kinds of weather and situations—I packed heavy. A friend mentioned using “space bags,” which allow for compressing clothing so they take up the minimum amount of space in your luggage. I thought I’d try it and found it useful. Basically, the space bags allowed some space for souvenirs despite the numerous pieces of clothing I packed. I will warn you, though, this is not convenient when moving between many locations because you must repack the space bags each time you want to close your luggage. If you will need more clothing than your luggage would normally fit, and you don’t plan to repack more than once or twice, then space bags can be a great problem solver.
What’s Missing from this “30 Things to Pack For A Long Trip?”
You might think this packing list is missing a few obvious things, like a compact umbrella. Unless I’m heading to the U.K. where I can expect rain or damp weather the majority of the time, I don’t pack one. My Mom does. I will, though, throw in a packable, water-proof jacket sometimes, and then, buy an umbrella at my destination if I’m really missing one. If I love the umbrella, I bring it home. If I don’t, I donate or give it away when my trip is over.
That’s the beauty of creating your own reusable packing lists. What’s obviously missing might simply be assumed on this list, and vice versa. Use this 30 Things to Pack for A Longer Trip packing list as a jumping off point while taking into consideration your luggage allowances, how much you’ll be moving from place to place, the length of your trip, and the weather forecast at your destination.
Be sure to check out our other Best Packing Lists Series on Bobnefftours.com. We’ll Take You There!
How I Organize All of This “Stuff” in My Luggage
How I pack is dependent on how accessible my luggage will be and how quickly I will be moving from point to point. Unless I have a valet at every location, I never know whether it will be raining or not, so less is better. And, if I do have a valet, I count my blessings and bring cash for tips!
Suitcase(s) – For all clothing, shoes, packing cubes. When I travel with a suitcases, I organize it with packing cubes and ziplocks. I also roll my clothing for less wrinkles and more space.
Book bag – I tend to want all of my electronics close by because then I know they are safe and won’t be thrown around. I keep pens and pencils, a magazine (throw away, recycle, pass it on, or leave it in the hotel lobby when you’re finished), phone/computer cord and adapter, earphones, set of underwear, packet of towelettes, passport, lightweight jacket if there’s a chance it will be cold or wet where I’m heading, hair tie or packable hat, sunscreen, medications, and a protein bar. Yes, they all fit. I also have my important papers, a collapsible water bottle and purifier, painkillers, travel size moisturizer and lip balm, and a few bandages (for blisters). Treat this bag like you would your purse or wallet. Don’t stuff it full. You can also collect little flexible bags to organize the smaller items. Leave some “air space” in the bag so you can tuck it under the seat and out of your way. For safe measure, I wrap the strap around one foot in case I take a nap. Remember your packable coat can double as a pillow.
Toiletry Cubes – Three ounces or less travel sizes of shampoo, disposable soap (most hotel rooms have soap, but I always carry a throw-away, travel-size cake of soap with me just in case), toothpaste, nail clipper, etc. I take several sizes of packing cubes and prefer the ones with carrying handles. That way I can carry my toiletries to the bathroom without any embarrassment and leave it zipped on the counter without bothering (most) roommates!
Mom’s Bonus Tip – Keep your handwritten or typed packing lists IN your suitcase for the next time you travel. That may seem like a no-brainer to you, but I thought it was brilliant. Plus, I love my Mom.
Remember, you’re a Traveler not a Tourist!