To tell you the truth, packing for 1 year of travel was very, VERY difficult. Because I was trying to fit everything into 1 carry-on suitcase and 1 personal bag, I had to downsize like crazy and only bring my essentials. I was trying to find the perfect balance between ‘pretty’ and ‘minimal’, but because of this I kept wanting to bring more than I could carry.
As a recap, I quit my full-time job to become a digital nomad. This year, I’ll be traveling around Europe until October and Asia until possibly May (we shall see)! I’m trying to stay in warmer weather areas so I don’t have to bring as much clothing.
After months of research and purchasing items, I totaled around $2,800 of spend to make my list what it is. I already had some of these items, but most of them I did not. I tried to buy items of good value that were durable/efficient yet affordable, and I believe my list below is quite solid so I hope this helps!
How to Pack for 1 Year of Travel Around the World
For US citizens, you have to pay a penalty fee if you don’t have health insurance (because of Obamacare). However, there is an exception stating that if you are outside of the U.S. for over 330 days, you can be exempt from penalties. Because of this and the fact that most US insurance plans don’t cover you internationally, I recommend getting travel insurance instead.
People recommend World Nomads Insurance – but this would cost me over $1000 for the year. From a friend’s recommendation, I ended up purchasing the Patriot Plan Travel Medical Insurance with IMG plan for 1 year with $250 deductibles and a $500k max limit at $396!
Visa Information – Europe
Europe has a Schengen visa, which is a 90-day tourist visa you don’t need to apply for. But you can only stay in Europe for a max of 90 days (within a 180-day period) in countries within the Schengen area. I’m going past the 90 day limit because I’m staying in Bucharest, Romania for over a month, which is a country outside the Schengen area. This post by Nomadic Matt has quite an extensive explanation of how to stay in Europe longer than 90 days.
I’m still unsure about visas in Asia so I might update this post later with more information.
Bags / Organizers
- Carry-on suitcase – Leisure Bayside Luggage 21″
RyanAir allows 1 personal bag (max 35 x 20 x 20 cm) and 1 carry-on suitcase (max 55cm x 40cm x 20cm at 10 kg). After deliberating for months, I decided to just use my old suitcase because I knew it met regulations. I decided not to get a suitcase with spinner wheels because it seems like it stores less due to the largeness of the wheels.
I have the magenta Leisure Bayside Luggage at 21″. I love that it is pink because it is easy to identify in case I check-in bags at the airport. The site I linked might not have my particular model but just make sure that if you get the same one, get the 21″ version as you want it to meet requirements when traveling through Europe.
- Personal Bag – High Sierra Loop Backpack
However to be honest (and I know this will sound weird), the best backpack to carry a bunch of stuff would probably be this Jansport Big Student Backpack. I didn’t use mine cause it was breaking inside, but it is EXTREMELY light weight and can carry more than the High Sierra backpack due to its free form nature.
- Purse – Kate Spade tote bag
Since I wanted to bring a purse for daytime activities, I brought my Kate Spade tote bag which is very lightweight and completely free form.
- Wristlet – Guess wristlet
I brought a wristlet as well for night-time activities :).
- Packing Cubes – TravelWise
I bought the 3-pack TravelWise packing cubes as it is good for fitting a lot of clothes in a small container. I also think it is a good means of organizing your wardrobe. However, I realized that the more I fit in the cubes, the more spaces it left in the suitcase (if that makes sense). Because of this, I ended up bringing only the medium-size packing cube and filling the holes with rolled up clothes.
- Toiletry Organizer – LYCEEM
I love this LYCEEM toiletry organizer I bought. The reason I wanted a toiletry bag was that it comes with a tiny hanger inside, allowing you to hang all your stuff wherever you go. I also wanted something that can separately hold my makeup brushes, and this organizer solves all of these problems. As an added bonus, I just absolutely adore the Tiffany Green color of the bag.
- Laptop – Macbook Pro 13.3″
I literally spent MONTHS looking for a new laptop. I even went to Fry’s to hold a few laptops to determine what I would deem as too heavy or not. At first, I was extremely adamant about buying a Windows laptop because I needed certain Windows music production software. I purchased the Toshiba Satellite 12 Radius – a 2-in-1 laptop to tablet convertible with touch screen. It was really cool but the screen was a bit small and the trackpad ended up breaking!
So, I returned the device and bought a 13.3″ Macbook Pro with a 256 GB SSD and i5 processor. Always get a laptop with a solid state drive (SSD)! I think the 13.3″ size is good for travel, and of course Macbook Pros are so powerful & sturdy that you just can’t go wrong with them. I ended up switching to a Mac music production software so it was okay for me to move away from Windows.
With this laptop, I also got the following software: Microsoft Office, Adobe Premiere, Adobe Photoshop, and Logic Pro for my music. I must say that the Macbook has been handling Logic and Premiere extremely well so I’m quite happy.
- Protective Laptop Case – CaseLogic
I bought a CaseLogic laptop case. It isn’t as soft as I thought it would be but it definitely does the job!
- GoPro Hero 4 Silver
I knew I needed a GoPro to document my travels. After a bit of research, I found the GoPro Hero 4 Silver would do just what I needed. The Hero 5 may come out in a few months, but I wanted to be able to have everything prepared before I left for my trip.
- Canon T3i
I am bringing my DSLR as I want to be able to review activities, tours, hotels, etc. while abroad and provide pretty pictures! I use a Canon T3i and it works great.
- Camera Case – CaseLogic
This CaseLogic camera case is small, lightweight, and fits my T3i with Sigma lens.
- Sigma Lens 30mm f/1.4
People recommended that I get the Sigma lens 30mm f/1.4. I learned that f/1.4 accounts for the cool blurry background people strive for, and 30mm denotes how close the subject is from the camera (20-30mm is closer to human eye level).
- Portable Mic – Samson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone
I’m a musician. So in case I wanted to record draft vocals or podcast on the road, I bought this Samson Go Mic Portable USB Condenser Microphone to keep with me. It’s ridiculously small (and cute), but it packs a mean punch. It’s a little densely weighted though so be careful.
- Tablet – ASUS Nexus 7
I figured the ASUS Nexus 7 would be useful for listening to music and browsing on the go.
- Phone & Phone Plan – Nexus 6 / Project Fi
I needed a phone that could work internationally, and I decided to go with Project Fi because it lets you use your phone internationally at an affordable rate. In order to use the plan, you have to use one of the Nexus phones they specify. Because of this, I got the Nexus 6. So far I’ve been loving it, but beware that the Nexus 6 is quite large.
The international data has been pretty good. Project Fi charges a minimum of $30/month – $20/month for unlimited texts & cheap calls (usually $0.20/minute) and another $10/month for data. Data is calculated by $10/GB, and it’s pay as you go. For example, if you used 1.5 GB of data, it would cost you $35 for the month ($20 for texts/calls and $15 for data). If you used less than 1 GB, the remaining amount would roll over as credit for the following month. Their data/texts/calls work are covered in 120 countries around the world.
- Travel Adapter – Crucial!
You’re going to need a travel adapter as outlets will be different in each country. This allows you to plug in your devices and keep them charged – and most adapters will have USB pockets on the side as well which is nice.
Make sure you have all the chargers you need for your electronics! I brought two Android chargers in case.
- Headphones – Over the Ear and Ear Buds
- Portable Speakers – BOHM
I love music, and I thought there could be a chance that I would need wireless speakers so I purchased these BOHM speakers. They work great!
- Bath Towel
Bring 1 bath towel in case certain accommodations don’t provide them. Try to bring a thinner one as to not take up as much space in your suitcase. If you’re staying in hostels you should definitely bring one because they have fees for towels.
Earplugs are lifesavers for me because I have terrible insomnia.
- Water Filter – LifeStraw Go Water Bottle
Wow the LifeStraw Go water bottle is amazing. I was almost not going to bring it, but it has been handy not having to buy water bottles all the time while abroad. It is especially great if you’re traveling to underdeveloped countries where they might not have fresh water.
- 5 basic tanks and camis
- 7 tops
- 3 dresses
- 1 hat
- 3 pairs of shorts
- 3 pairs of jeans
- 18 pairs of underwear
- 6 bras
- 4 pairs of shoes – sneakers, flip flops, sandals, heels
- LENA Cup
Make sure to get products with containers under 3 ounces, and put them all in a ziplock bag.
- Shampoo (I recommend this shampoo bar)
- Body soap
- Nail Clipper
- Let your credit card companies know you will be traveling
- Print: boarding passes, travel insurance info, itineraries
- Track spend
- Bring some US currency
- Put different cards and paper money in different places so if you lose one you will still have some elsewhere as backup
Super excited that you’re about to embark on an around the world journey! My advice is to lean towards the minimal side. During my trip, I’ve been removing more and more stuff from my suitcase to make traveling easier.
Whew that was long. Let me know if you have additions to this list, and I hope that you find it useful!