Packing for Long-Term Travel

It seems impossible.

But you’ve decided to do it.

You’re going to travel with one carry-on bag.

For a long time.

Whether you’re traveling for a month or a year (or longer), taking all your belongings in only one carry-on bag (plus the extra purse or small backpack you’re allowed on most airlines), can be daunting. I’m fortunate that I learned on my very first overseas trip at nineteen years old that one bag can and does work.

But long-term travel is different from a week or even a month. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you remember all those things you packed before that never saw the outside of the suitcase. This is where you leave the mentality of “just in case” behind (with few exceptions).

First let me explain that I will be buying most of my clothes once I arrive at  my first destiny (Bali). This way my bag is lighter, I have more room for clothes, I will buy weather- and culturally appropriate stuff, and the clothes will be much less expensive than were I to buy them in the States.

So, without further ado, here is everything (almost; a few didn’t make the photo shoot) that is going into my two bags (the carry-on and its companion zip-off day pack):

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Here is the list, then I’ll break it down into how it’s all fitting:


  • Three pairs of leggings
  • One pair of light cargo pants, one pair of yoga pants
  • One multi-wear long-sleeve top (it converts into several looks)
  • One lightweight flowy summer top
  • One backless halter top
  • One camisole-style yoga top
  • One two-piece bathing suit
  • Two versatile skirts, one long, one short. Both can be worn as dresses or skirts.
  • Seven pairs of panties (why are they called pairs when there’s only one?)
  • Ultra-lightweight tennis shoes
  • Ultra-light slip-on shoes (I’ll buy flip-flops there)
  • One versatile scarf
  • Two bras, one cream, one black


  • Two bottles hair gel (all bottles are travel size)
  • Two bottles hairspray
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Face wash
  • Face moisturizer
  • Eye cream
  • Minimal makeup (foundation, mascara, lipstick. What can I say. I am a girl who likes her makeup.)
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Body wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Hairbrush
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Q tips
  • Nail clippers, emery boards
  • Razor
  • Micro towel
  • Blowdryer (not everything is shown in this pic)

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Medicine chest

  • Calamine lotion
  • Pepto-Bismol tablets
  • Two Z-paks (antibiotic)
  • Rehydration packets
  • Mole skin
  • Band-aids, gauze
  • Malaria pills
  • Cipro (antibiotic)
  • Neosporin
  • Face mask
  • Arnica cream
  • Condoms (yep)
  • Ativan (for those times I’m stressed)

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  • Travel laptop, cord, soft envelope-style case Mom made
  • iPad, cord, soft envelope-style case Mom made
  • Cell phone, cord
  • Camera, cord
  • Outlet adapters
  • Outlet expander
  • Mouse and pad
  • AA batteries
  • Screen cloth


  • Eye mask
  • Earplugs
  • Tiny clamps (for hanging laundry)
  • Small notebook & pen
  • Tissues
  • Two pairs of reading glasses
  • Compass/matches/whistle
  • Umbrella
  • Twist ties
  • Small plastic bags
  • Packing cubes and assortment of other bags for sorting stuff neatly
  • Two self-stuffing shopping bags
  • Two tiny bungee cords just because
  • Self-powered flashlight
  • Tiny Swiss knife
  • RFID passport holder, passport
  • RFID wallet, plastic cards, emergency contact info (both local and in the States, copy of passport
  • (Several items are not shown in this pic)

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Holy cow, where does it all go??? Here’s the breakdown.

Clothes go in large and medium packing cubes, electronics cords into small packing cube:

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Toiletries go in strong plastic zip bags:

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Miscellaneous stuff goes in various bags:

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Medicine bag
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Misc stuff

Packing cubes, umbrella, blowdryer, one pair of shoes, some other misc go into the carry-on bag:

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There is still lots of room for the clothes I’ll buy in Bali.

Toiletries, glasses, medicine chest, electronics, laptop, iPad, phone, passport and holder, wallet, other misc go into day pack:

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The day pack zips onto the carry-on bag and is topped by my Vagabond Queen sash. This pic shows only the day pack and sash:

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Voila! Everything in, everything fits, with room to spare for new clothes.

Now here is the miracle: The airline I fly with to Bali (EVA Air, a Vietnam airline) has a carry-on weight limit of FIFTEEN POUNDS!!! My bag alone weights 6.6 pounds. That doesn’t leave me much weight for everything else. But the way I have it packed now, the full bag is a mere 14.6 pounds. I still have room to throw in some snacks, and I have lots of room for new clothes! The full day pack is twelve pounds, so, zipped up and ready to carry, I’m looking at a roughly 29-pound bag. I won’t be carrying it very often, thankfully, which is why I bought a bag that also has wheels.

So that’s it. I still have stuff I will never use, I’m sure, so I will lighten my load as I go. I will also change out clothes along the way as the weather, the culture, and my needs change.

What do you think? What am I missing? What am I taking that I don’t need? What would YOU bring that I don’t have? Please comment, share, and like! I’d love to hear from you!

(My departure date is January 8. See you on the road!)