Vacation Packing List: The Ultimate What to Pack For Vacation Guide

One of the most popular questions on any travel forum – what should  I take? What should I take it in?  A long time ago, before the Internet even and before my first long solo strip a friend persuaded me to leave half my  proposed pile of gear behind. Two weeks later I had to mail back a further large parcel at  huge cost.

These days the travel blogging world is full of packing lists. Most of them are pretty much as silly as mine was, too many clothes, too little of stuff that matters.  Most of them seem to be published before the writer has done much travel. When working out what to pack for vacation though really does become easier with practice!

So how does the beginner start with developing their own packing list?

Start with the important stuff: ID and access to cash (cards) and cash.

Pretty much everything else you can buy on the road.

But if you insist, basically my personal packing list for vacation is something like this:

  • essential medical perscriptions
  • shampoo (doubles as soap and laundry soap), traveler’s clothes line,  universal sink plug
  • toothpaste, brush, hair brush, deodorant, nail scissors, tweezers, a few plasters, aspirin, anti-inflammatories, insect repellent, suntan lotion (you might want tampons or condoms too)
  • 3 tops, 3 bottoms, 3 pairs of underwear (socks if talking shoes)
  • swim gear (can double as underwear or a dressy top (ladies only))
  • travel sandals (Chacos, Tevas or similar), shoes (if its going to be cold)
  • thermal underwear, lightweight merino jumper, waterproof jacked (cold weather only)
  • sarong (can be a skirt, dress, shawl, beach cover up, towel, top sheet, picnic cloth, bag)
  • hat (sun or warm) gloves – almost always buy and discard as required
  • travel alarm clock (or a reliable phone that does the same without being switched on)
  • camera and battery charger, plug adaptor
The clothing all mixes and matches with each other, whether the tops are long-sleeved or short, and whether I have a skirt or trousers or shorts-  varies based on the climate and the culture of the place I’m going. I don’t have speciliast sleep gear with me – if I need to wear clothes (dorms, shared bathrooms) – I’ll wear thermals in a cold climate and a light T in warmer climates, or just the sarong if its tropical.
That’s all most people need – its about the same whether you are traveling for a week or a year – though you will have to replace items on a longer trip. Oddly the entire world has shops, and you don’t need a year’s supply of anything with you.

Here’s out bags packed and departing for a two month trip which included Thailand beaches and snow in Europe in December. The two larger bags are 45 liter packs which are carry on sized and weighed about 8kg. The red day pack was a day to day day-pack – it folds into a pocket when not required. The grey bag was a travel on sized thing – which expanded into a cargo bag. We left it in storage in Asia with all our warm gear so we didn’t have to carry shoes etc with us for weeks.

Packing Light - the Only Way to Go - Two People's luggage for 2 months including winter in Europe and the tropics

As I also work while traveling I carry some extra stuff:

  • 10″ netbook, charger, USB card, plug adaptor, and skin, external hard drive for backup
  • notebook, pens
  • cell phone (useful if you buy cards as you go – Thailand pre-paid SIM cards are particularly cheap)

Yes that all fitted in the pack as well!  On this trip we were still packing books – now I travel with a Kindle so the weight has gone down substantially, I can now get my bag down  to 7kg which is light enough for every airline’s carry-on rules that I am aware of.

I’ve honed my packing skills over the years. If in doubt, leave it out, really does work..  I don’t find packing stressful or difficult – but I guess I’ve had a lot of practice. If you’d like to check out more of my vacation packing tips –  check out the book!

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