My husband and I are on a 6 month traveling sabbatical through South America, UK and Europe. We’re coming up to the end of our South America leg, so this post has been a long time coming! I promised a fellow Spanish class member and friend I’d share our travel packing list.
We hadn’t travelled for more than a few weeks in 8 years (UK and Europe for 3 1/2 months). So much has changed by the way of travel since that time. We now have smart phones, there are countless travel blogs and other new travel resources and apps, new bag designs, etc. True to form, I put in hours of research into what we needed to pack – what is useful, wardrobe tips and what was reasonable to take for the 6 months. I mostly looked at travel guide publishers and blogs and I couldn’t find an exact fit, so I created my own that suited our style and needs.
Striking a balance
I believe we’ve struck a balance between bare minimum and taking the kitchen sink. We needed to cater for various climates, from the near and below zero degrees, to summertime in Spain and Portugal. I will be ‘conferencing’ in the UK, so I needed to bring suitable clothing for that too. I also wanted to take a few supplies with me, such as enough facial cleanser, cotton buds and BB cream, mostly because I like to spend my days seeing and experiencing stuff, not hunting down the nearest pharmacy. And I suppose to lesser extent, I like a few, basic self-care rituals in my daily routine uninterrupted. I’m sure we break a number of ‘travel packing rules’ but I don’t care. I’ve taken advice on board and this is what I’ve come up with.
I’ll start with our luggage bags. We set a limit – one check-in bag, one carry on and a small cross-body bag. I bought myself a new bag, the Osprey Meridan 75. This bag has so far copped an absolute flogging and is still going strong. There is the main, 55L convertible duffle, then the 20L detachable day pack. When I say ‘convertible’, this means that the bag has both wheels and shoulder straps for whenever I need to put the bag on my back. (So far, I’ve only had to use the straps once in the Amazon jungle.)
I’m so in love with this Osprey bag and I’m so glad I spent the $350 or so on the quality. My lightweight Antler suitcase is seriously running the risk of being replaced!
What I love most about this bag, particularly the main one, is the inside compartments so I can easily separate packing items, the sturdy wheel frame and the padding down the sides.
I’m comforted by these features as my bag is hurled into the luggage compartment of a bus or flown around by baggage handlers in airports. As you can’t lock down the day pack to the main bag, I check-in the main bag and use the day pack as my carry on.
My husband has a slightly bigger bag combination. On the morning we flew out, he swapped out his backpack for his Ripcurl wheelie duffle bag. Not something you’d see me doing! The switch has paid off, as rarely does he need to carry it, though I’m sure it will need replacing once we arrive home. I couldn’t tell you the volume of this bag, but I know it’s bigger than my generous 55L Osprey, possibly 80L (similar to this one). His carry on is an Osprey 26L hiking rucksack (black).
Now, the packing list!
- (my) DSLR camera, plus a couple of polarising filters and basic cleaning products.
- 18-55mm lens
- 70-200mm lens
- (his) GoPro
- Kindle x 2
- Mobile phones
- Polaroid camera (for my journal), plus film
- Noise cancelling headphones x 2
- Portable charger/battery
- Mini tripod
- SD cards x 2
- External hard drive
- Universal adapter (we ended up buying in Lima, Peru, because our old ones weren’t sufficient)
We agreed that we weren’t the kind of travellers who’d bring only 2-3 pairs of socks or underwear. We’re all for a minimal packing list but this advice was taking it a bit too far for us. How does anyone survive on that small number and not 1) do laundry every night, or 2) smell a bit…off?? Plus, socks and underwear don’t take up a lot of room and can go a long way in making you feel fresh. Other than that, don’t ask me what my husband brought, but here’s my list. I’ve included some of the brand names, as oftentimes travel blogs link to brands we can’t get here in Australia.
- 1 x jeans
- 2 x hiking pants (one pair converts to shorts)
- 1 x trackies (Bonds)
- 1 x denim shorts (Just Jeans)
- 1 x skort (Kathmandu)
- 2 x dresses (both can easily be worn with or without tights)
- 1 x floor length skirt (Betty Basics from Birdsnest)
- 1 x board shorts
- 1 x sleep/ workout shorts (Bonds)
- 1 x pair of swimmers
- 4 x pairs of tights (Bonds and Voodoo)
- 1 x knee length socks
- 4 x thin socks (Bonds)
- 4 x woollen/ hiking socks (Kathmandu)
- 12 x underwear (Bonds and Under Armour – fabulous quick dry ones)
- 1 x thermal long sleeve
- 1 x thermal short sleeve
- 5 x short sleeve shirts (Just Jeans, Under Armour and Bonds)
- 2 x long sleeve shirts (1 x Country Road basic; 1 x Just Jeans lightweight print shirt)
- 3 x tank tops (Miss Shop)
- 2 x sports crop tops (Under Armour)
- 1 x sports bra (Under Armour)
- 2 x t-shirt bra
- 2 x belts
- North Face fleece jumper
- JAG zip up hoodie
- North Face waterproof warm jacket
- black cardigan
- lightweight, black blazer (for ‘conferencing’)
- 2 x (lightweight, cotton) scarves
- hiking boots (Merrell)
- ballet flats
- runners (Rocksport)
- a few pairs of earrings
We’re not the kind of people who can survive on three pairs of underwear.
Toiletries and first aid
- the usual – facial cleanser, tone and moisturiser, BB cream, deodorant, body lotion, toothbrush, toothpaste, dry shampoo, shampoo and conditioner, hair product, hair bands and bobby pins, razor, tweezers and nail clippers, blush, eye liner, concealer, eyebrow brush, mascara, cotton pads and buds.
- contact lenses and solution
- menstrual cup, cleaner and sanitary supplies for one period (buy more on the road)
- water purification tablets
- Deet/ insect repellent
- assorted band aids
- gastro medication and antibiotics
- Hydralite tablets
- Ural sachets
- Vicks inhaler
Also, I packed a ‘carry on’ version of a toiletry bag in case my luggage got lost (which it did on the way to Quito, Ecuador). I have facial wipes, feminine wipes, roll on deodorant, a few bobby pins and spare hair band, contact lens solution and case, mini hair product and BB cream.
Other travel gear
- collapsible water bottle
- water bladder (for hubby’s hiking pack)
- pencil case with a stamp set
- Moleskine journal
- Lonely Planet ‘South America on a shoestring’ (which is going home after this leg)
- a few carabiners
- mini sewing kit
- duct tape (don’t laugh, surprisingly handy!)
- door stopper
- pillow case (I put my clothes-filled packing cube inside it on the Lares Trek to use as a pillow)
- micro fibre towel
- laundry bag and line
- exercise band and tennis ball (for trigger pointing)
- dry bag (13L)
- sleeping eye mask
- headlamp (Anaconda)
- ziploc bags
- travel documents(!)
- sleeping bag x 2
Wow! That seems like a big list! But surprisingly, fits. Well, at least into mine, with a few things put into my husband’s bags. 🙂 The first aid kit is packed in his, while I pack our spare toiletries. I carry the laptop and he carries my DSLR.
I think what people ultimately bring comes down to priorities and what they want out of the trip. For me, I wanted to document the trip, particularly with a nice journal to write and paste things in. Also as mentioned earlier, I didn’t want to be doing laundry every few days. Other items are just plain common sense for where we’re going, such as a headlamp and dry bag for the Amazon jungle, medications and water bottle.
I have much more to say about the topic of travel packing and would love to share my tips soon on what we’ve found most useful, not so useful, my beauty products and maintenance, and wardrobe tips.