When going on a round-the-world (RTW) trip or traveling anywhere for several weeks or months, you have to plan your packing checklist totally differently than you do for a weekend or weeklong trip. Factors like the weight of your packing materials really matters because airlines will only allow 50 pounds (and some only 45 pounds) before charging you extra money. And if you are changing lodging frequently, you don’t want to be lugging all that extra weight around. You need to take advantage of every bit of space in your luggage, and you need items that won’t break when you’re in the middle of no where.
This page is a complete checklist of the exact items I personally used for 1.5 years of continuous, ’round the world travel. These items serve necessary functions, are lightweight, fold up small, and had very little signs of wear after my 1.5 years of use. I would not travel without all of these items; I highly recommend them to every long-term traveler!
The easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to buy these items is on Amazon.com, so I included the Amazon links for all the items that are available on Amazon. If you buy them all at once, you can usually get free shipping. The Amazon links may give me a commission, but I hope you find this list so helpful that you are happy to allow me to earn a little bit of money for all the time I spent compiling this list and personally testing these items for you over 1.5 years.
Ful Rolling Duffle Bag 30″
The number one item you absolutely, definitely need is a lightweight, rolling duffle bag or travel backpack— but I don’t recommend carrying 50 pounds/ 23 kilograms on your back. Not only will your back hurt, but people look ridiculous wearing those huge packs. I’ve used this Ful 30″ Rolling Duffle Bag for 1.5 years of continuous travel and wouldn’t travel the world with any other luggage! Here’s why:
- It’s narrow width fits perfectly down every bus and train aisle and through every old, narrow doorway. You cannot roll a regular suitcase through these everyday spaces; you need a rolling duffle bag!
- I’ve rolled this bag over many deep and uneven European cobblestones, dragged it up concrete stairs, and dropped the full weight of everything directly on its wheels going down many steps; and I’ve never had an issue!
- It’s unique shape and colors makes it very easy to find in baggage claim. I’ve only ever seen three other similarly-shaped bags in all my travels, but never this exact bag!
I’ve also seen thousands of other people’s bags and have yet to see another piece of baggage I’d rather own. This is the perfect piece of luggage, and it is also very cheap! Buy it on Amazon here.
Ebags Packing Cubes
Once you have packing cubes you will wonder what you ever did without them! They keep your suitcase from becoming a mixed mess of stuff and makes it easy to rearrange everything in your bag when you need to make space for laundry or souvenirs. Put each type of item in their own cube, for example, all socks in one small bag, all underwear in one slim bag, etc. These shapes fit very well in the Ful bag. Buy all 3 of these sets:
Double-Sided Cable Locks
This is like having 4 locks in only 2 devices. Use it to lock the Ful rolling duffle bag with one lock on the bottom section up to the shoe section, and the other lock on the short side pocket looped around the handle strap and through the zippers to avoid pulling those zippers all around. I also use these to lock my purse and carryon to the Ful bag whenever storing my luggage in a hotel before checkin or after checkout. Buy 2 of these locks on Amazon here.
Toiletry Bag with Hook
You need a toiletry bag that is tall enough to fit the length of a toothbrush, toothpaste tube, and some full-size bottles; and has a hook inside to hang it up in bathrooms and shower stalls that don’t have a clean counter. Buy it on Amazon here.
GoToob Travel Bottles
These are the most amazing travel bottles ever! In 1.5 years of travel, these have never EVER leaked, not even a little drop into the closed lid. It does not matter what kind of liquid or lotion I put in them. They also fit into the toiletry bag I recommend. A movable ring around the neck labels each one as shampoo, lotion, etc. The only problem I’ve ever had with them is if you drop one in the shower and it lands on the lid, a corner of the lid has cracked off twice. But this is covered under their lifetime warranty. All you have to do is email the company a photo and explanation, and they will ship you multiple free replacement lids and a little pill container too! Excellent product and customer service! I use 2 for shampoo, 1 conditioner, 1 face wash, 1 lotion, and 1 sunscreen for a total of 6 GoToobs. Buy 2 sets of 3 GoToobs in the Large 3 fl. oz. size for a total of 6 toobs on Amazon here.
1-3 Clear Plastic Zip Toiletry Bags
These are for storing extra full-size toiletries that you don’t use every day and temporarily storing wet items, such as swimsuits. I found a cheap set with 3 sizes of bags at Boots drug store in the UK, but you can use any plastic toiletry bag with a zipper.
Lewis N. Clark Travel Laundry Kit
The Lewis N. Clark Laundry Kit comes with 8 small, cold water Woolite liquid detergent packets and a universal sink stopper, so you can do small amounts of laundry in a sink wherever you travel or use the packets for spot removal. Buy it on Amazon here.
That kit only comes with 8 detergent packets. If you might do more than 8 loads of sink laundry, or need more than 8 spot treatments, or if you already have a universal sink stopper; then be sure to buy extra Woolite liquid detergent packets in this 20-Pack or 10-Pack.
Tide Pods in Zip Bag
You don’t want to be doing laundry with whatever detergent the change-only vending machine in the laundry mat provides. You need these Tide Pods that come in a ziplock bag. Get a low count number like 14 or 16 pods, so you aren’t carrying too much weight at once. At 2 loads per week (one light, one dark), 16 pods is 8 weeks of laundry. Overseas pods usually come in hard plastic boxes, so save the ziplock bag these Tide Pods come in and refill it with any brand of pods you find in grocery stores on your travels. Buy it on Amazon here.
You need a breathable bag material with two straps, so you can carry it like a backpack to walk to laundromats that may not be in your lodging. I got my bag for free from a tour I took, but this looks like the closest bag you can buy on Amazon here.
Nylon Rope, 20 Feet
Many laundry rooms outside the United States don’t have dryer machines and most hotel rooms don’t have drying racks, so then how are you going to dry your clothes? With 20 feet of nylon rope! I’ve Macguyvered some crazy rope situations around curtain rods and cabinet handles just to create a clothes line in my room. Nylon rope is incredibly lightweight and doesn’t retain moisture to get moldy. You probably won’t need it every week, but when you do, you will be so happy you brought it! This rope is the most savior item that you probably wouldn’t take on a short trip but absolutely need on a RTW trip. Buy it on Amazon here.
Normal towels are heavy, take up a lot of space, and don’t completely hang dry in one day. You need a set of PackTowls. These are lightweight, compact, quick-drying towels that have a corner loop with a snap, so you can securely hang it anywhere. Also comes with a mesh bag that has a loop, so you can hang that to dry, too. Buy all 3 of these sizes of towels in whatever colors you like:
- PackTowl Personal in SMALL size: soft and thick, equivalent size of a small face cloth
- PackTowl Personal in XL size: soft and thick, equivalent size of a regular bath towel that wraps fully around the body
- PackTowl Ultralite in XXL size: soft but thin, equivalent size of the largest beach/pool towel you can buy
External Hard Drive
You need a small, lightweight, but high capacity external hard drive to backup your laptop (in case it dies or gets stolen) and to store all your travel photos and videos that will probably max out your laptop hard drive before your trip is over. Buy it on Amazon here.
If you want to lock a MacBook computer to a desk or other stationary object while you walk away from a cafe table or hotel room, then you need this lock. Buy it on Amazon here.
Laptop Keyboard Cover
Buy a piece of thin scrap fabric to prevent finger oils from getting pressed on your screen. I went to the fabric store and cut my own piece from a cheap remnant fabric.
Dark-Colored Phone Case
You need a dark-colored phone case because light-colored cases or bare, shiny phones create reflections in windows, so you can’t take good photos through bus and train windows as you’re traveling. You also need a case with a rubber rim on the front, so the glass won’t break if you drop it face-down. This is the best cheap case I’ve ever had: Buy it on Amazon here.
Waterproof Phone Case
Only buy this if you’ll be swimming, beaching, or camping— anywhere your phone is likely to get wet, sand, or dirt in it. Buy it on Amazon here.
Battery Charger Phone Case
This will keep you charged all day long. Don’t buy an external battery pack; I had one for my first two long trips and it was a pain to carry it attached to the phone. Buy it on Amazon here.
3 Power Plug Converters
Buy the converter for whatever country you’ll be in. Do some Google research to determine the right plug shape for you. Check if you also need a voltage converter. I recommend buying a 3-pack of plugs: one plug for your laptop, hair dryer, and travel phone charger. Buy 3 plugs on Amazon here.
Dual USB Car Charger
Get the dual version so you can charge 2 devices at once or share the second one with someone else to charge their device while in any car, taxi, or tour van. Buy it on Amazon here.
Travel Power strip with dual voltage
Only buy this if you have more than one big device (ex. laptop, video equipment) to charge. Buy it on Amazon here.
Inside Your Carry-On
Clear Plastic Folding Umbrella
The best umbrella ever because it’s compact, it’s clear so you can see out, it’s plastic so it never leaks through the material or gets moldy, and it rarely flips inside-out but even after a few times of that it still works perfectly. After a few hundred times of opening and closing, the plastic started to wear holes over some metal joints. I put clear celo tape over these joints, and it’s still going without a leak after 6 months! You couldn’t do that with a cloth umbrella. Be sure to select an “auto open/close” model to get the one I had; it is not always in stock. It also takes weeks to ship from China, but it is so worth it to get the right umbrella! Buy it on Amazon here or here.
Flexible & Flat Water Bottle
Foldable water bottle with non-leaking cap and carabiner so you can hook it on the outside of bags when inside your bag is too full for a full water bottle or too much condensation in the heat you don’t want stuff in the bag getting wet. Buy it on Amazon here.
If you like to take far-away landscape photos of yourself on your phone, then you need this tripod. Buy it on Amazon here.
If you like Splenda, most of the world doesn’t have it, so you need these Splenda pills. Buy it on Amazon here.
RFID Passport Holder
I used an Eagle Creek undercover money/ passport holder on a necklace, but it’s up to your personal preference. I like the necklace version because it’s easy to take on an off at the airport, so I always know where my passport is. It has a few zipper pockets where I store spare foreign currency and SIM cards. These are also RFID blocking, so no one can steal your info with a scanner as you walk by. I bought it at REI.
Depending on my situation, I carry either the Sea-to-Summit hand soap leaves bought from REI or individually wrapped antibacterial hand wipes that you can buy in any grocery or drug store.
Travel Pillow with Removable Pillowcase
This is essential to sleeping well on long flights, bus/train rides, or hotels with terrible pillows. It needs to have a removable pillowcase, so it can be washed. I made my own out of shredded memory foam, which allows it to be compressed in my carry-on and rearranged into a thick or thin pillow as needed. Here is a similar pillow you can buy on Amazon here, but I’d recommend putting this one in a zip bag to make sure it doesn’t get dirty when it rubs up against things in your bag or outside your luggage.
Lightweight Backpackers Air Mattress
REI Flash lightweight air mattress in backpacker size – need in case you are sleeping somewhere uncomfortable or at someone’s house with no bed, or camping. Buy at REI stores.
Collapsible Cup or Bowl
If you need a cup or bowl for any reason, then you need a silicone collapsable one. Buy it on Amazon here.