Before leaving on our trip around the world I remember stressing out over what to pack. How the heck were we going to pack our lives into a carry-on backpack to travel for months!? How many outfits and shoes would we take? What would we have to leave behind? It was perhaps the most difficult part about planning a trip around the world.
With anxiety building up, I started reading different recommendations from blog posts and eventually started to purchase items on Amazon.
Since most people recommended staying under a 50 liter backpack, we ordered the Osprey Farpoint 40 to avoid any issues. Our goal was to save money by only taking a carry-on and we didn’t want to pay more or run into problems, such as a lost bag with checked-in luggage. Now the issue would be fitting everything into it when most airlines only allow 7 kilos.
Once the backpack and gear started to arrive, we quickly realized the amount of space for our clothes would be quite small. I thought I would never be able to do this! I was sure I’d have a crying session while complaining to Juan I need an extra backpack.
Fast forward a few months and we’re so glad to have brought a carry-on and less things. Actually, there are times we want to have even less. Yes, this girl who was worried about shoes and outfits (although I’m not too into fashion) has learned to live with very little.
We no longer have to plan outfits and it feels really good! We repeat our clothes over and over and no one cares! Not the people working at the hotels, not the travelers you run into over and over again, nor the people following your social media accounts. If you are worried about what clothes to pack, don’t. Worry instead about the important items that will help you most as you travel the world.
Below is what we packed in our carry-on for our trip around the world (Asia for now). All these item have been extremely useful. I can say we did pretty well. We only sent one thing back home which wasn’t useful, but purchased 3 items we wish we had purchased back home. One tip? Try to get the most lightweight products and clothes you can! Every ounce counts!
Hope this list helps you plan your next big trip! The item pictures are clickable in case you want more information on them.
What to Pack for a Trip Around the World in One Carry-On
The benefit of traveling as a couple is that we can split our gear between two backpacks. Those traveling solo may have to go with less clothes or less gear, so pick and choose your items more carefully. The majority of the items listed here though should fit into one backpack. Here are the essential items to pack:
With so many options out there, this was probably the hardest decision, picking the right backpack. I watched many YouTube reviews, read many blog posts, and finally invested in a 40L Osprey. This back pack has been incredibly useful while traveling through the islands of Thailand and other parts of Asia.
The price was high, but we needed a sturdy backpack with comfort for our backs. Best decision we made! The backpack has a life time warranty, opens up like a suitcase, is sturdy, and comfortable. The size is perfect for a carry-on, therefore we never pay extra to check in our luggage. Also, we’re glad we opted for a backpack instead of a luggage piece. It’s much easier to move around with it.
We didn’t understand why people needed these until we purchased them! Happy we decided to buy them. They help us avoid messy backpacks and everything is much easier to find! We keep clothes in two of them, and use the small ones for electronics and toiletries. They also help compress everything! Do yourself a favor and get these!
We forgot to pack ours and we were so bummed about it. We had one large enough to hold our laptop and it came with us on all our trips we took before. It was small, lightweight, and rolled up nicely if not in use. We haven’t found a good quality one we like, just a simple one from Thailand. So we recommend this one below instead or even smaller one that can be used as a hand piece for flights.
TSA Lock Cable
A thief will steal and break these off your backpack if they want to, but it’s an extra step and bigger effort than if you didn’t have one. We always use it to lock up our backpacks when we leave them behind in the hotel. This prevented a hotel staff member we caught in action from easily stealing something from it. And funny enough, it prevented a monkey from stealing things from our friend’s backpack when it broke into their room!
Converter & Adapter
This is our most used item! The electric outlets are different in every country and this converter comes with three different plugs. The station also comes with 3 electric outlets on its surface and 4 USB outlets on the side. Many guesthouses and hotels we have stayed at lack outlets, and this has been a life saver everywhere! It does add weight to our backpack, but this is the best purchase we made for this trip. Perhaps you can find a smaller one, but this one has been great for us as a couple carrying lots of technology and other gear.
Another item we use a lot! The worst thing that can happen to you is run out of battery on your phone when you need your hotel’s name and address when arriving at an airport!
Although I love books, there’s simply no space for them in our backpack. Instead we brought our kindle along. We download books from Amazon, listen to music, use apps, and watch movies on Netflix. Very handy indeed!
Splitter & Earphones
Music and movies will keep you entertained on those long bus, boat, and air plane rides. Most people recommend noise cancelling ones, but we’ve been okay with regular cheap ones. You will especially need them when your hotel is next to a busy street or next to a bar playing loud music all night. We also recommend a splitter in case you want to watch movies with your partner.
Phone & Chargers
This is obvious. I’m sure most of you reading this will take a phone but I still wanted to list it. I have a and Samsung Galaxy S7 and Juan the Galaxy S6. Many of our pictures are from our phone since we don’t always whip out our camera. The S7 takes great pictures! One of the most annoying parts of packing for us, is the bunch of cords that come along with all our electronics. It’s space we hate giving up, but you must plan accordingly.
We’re not expert photographers, but wanted a quality camera without the weight and easy to use. We have the Olympus Pen E PL 7. It’s a mirrorless camera that functions like a DSLR, but smaller and quality almost as good. It has the ability to change lenses depending on your photography needs. I carry 2 extra batteries for it. What I like in particular is it has integrated Wi-Fi that connects to your phone so you can quickly transfer pictures through the Olympus App. It also allows us to use it as a control when we set up the tripod.
GoPro Hero 6
We left home without a GoPro and it was our biggest regret. Do yourself a favor and buy one. In Asia you’ll spend a lot of time at the beach swimming and snorkeling. We ended up purchasing one in Thailand on Phi Phi Island, for a higher price. Although Thailand is a great place to purchase electronics, we would have preferred to buy one for an even lower price in the U.S and with a longer warranty. The quality of the 6 is incredible and there is no need for a waterproof case like before.
A laptop is not necessary if you don’t plan to blog, a tablet will work fine. However, if you are hoping to start a blog, a lightweight laptop is your best choice. Ours is quite heavy but we couldn’t invest in a new one before leaving, so we won’t recommend ours to you. But a popular choice for bloggers is the Mac Book Air because of how lightweight it is.
External Hard Drive
This is a must! You’ll be taking a lot of pictures. Actually, we have two of them with us. A 2TB and a 1TB. We protect ours with a hard case cover. They are very sensitive, so do guard them with extreme caution. One of ours suffered a fall and we lost all our pictures from the last 8 countries. That was a sad day! We had made the mistake of not backing up our pictures on another method too.
So, we recommend investing in a program like Dropbox or something similar as a 2nd way to back up. As a third way to back up, you can open a private Facebook group and upload them all there (a friend who was traveling shared this tip with us). They’ll lose quality, but if you happen to lose, damage, or get it stolen, you’ll be happy your pictures still exist somewhere! You can also save them on your computer, but do save them elsewhere in case something ever goes wrong!
AmazonBasics External Hard Drive Case
Get the largest SD cards possible. This way you avoid them getting full in the middle of a cool activity. Carry extras just in case. Carry at least one USB for cases of printing and data transfers.
We didn’t have space in our luggage for this, but we bought a cheap one at a beach in Boracay. It weighs almost nothing, and we use it occasionally to take pictures together. This isn’t the biggest necessity, so if you are worried about space, opt for the gorilla pod instead. If you are into photography, it’s best you take a good quality one.
If you don’t have a water camera, these will work well for taking underwater pictures. You don’t get the best quality pictures, but you do get to keep the memories. We kept ours around after purchasing our GoPro in case it’s a rainy day and we want to have our phones out.
Other Gear and Necessities
The following gear are all items we use and love. We listed them here because they aren’t necessities for everyone and you can definitely do without them. For us, these items have served us well and they’ll be staying with us for a long time!
Mini Hair Straightener
For all you ladies out there who have wild hair, or simply want your hair to look good and stylish, this mini straighter is a saver! It doesn’t have the quality of the Chi I have back home, nor does it straighten as quick as I’d like it to, but it does the job. It’s compact, lightweight, and converts to the correct electricity which is super important with this item.
We’ve actually pulled this dry bag out quite a lot during our trip. We swam through a cave in Khao Sak National Park and carried our cameras, phones, and money in it. We have used it to go island hopping in many places in Thailand, protects our things from rain, and more. Sometimes, we haven’t trusted leaving our things on the beach while swimming, so we take our stuff into the ocean with this. Ours is small, only a 5L. But it fits enough things inside and packs flat in our backpack.
This has come in handy before flying! When we are over the limit in our carry-on, we’ll take some stuff out and put it in our hand bag since they’re most likely to check the carry-on and not the hand luggage. We’ve also used it to know when we need to get rid of stuff.
Though not the most necessary item, they help protect our passport from wear and tear. Opt for one with a button, it’ll protect it better. These are some cute travel themed passport you could get.
We bought this sarong I’m wearing in Thailand and it worked great for three things: beach blanket, cover up for the beach and temples, and as a blanket at cold airports and planes.
You can get this cute sarong before leaving if you prefer.
We originally left home without a towel. We figured it’d be a hassle to dry when switching hotels. And it’s true, it’s not always convenient. If you don’t feel great about shared towels definitely purchase your own before, or buy cheap ones in each country. We now keep one for Juan and I to share and use it when a hotel has questionable towels or when we go to the beach. Microfiber towels dry much faster than cotton ones.
Super handy to have. The power went out at a hotel once and we went on some cave adventures and dark roads.
We’ll be honest, we are a bit over-packed in this department. Thankfully our carry on backpack’s weight has only been checked once and they let us through a few kilos over. We truly do try to be at weight-limit but it’s a bit hard sometimes.
That said, most of your kilos will be your electronics. Once you weigh your electronics, you’ll know how much space you have for clothes. You’ll find out it’s not a lot!
It’s difficult to plan long-term outfits that mix and match. The truth is, we didn’t really plan this whole mix and match thing well but we do recommend you aim for that.
Many of our purchases include cheap shorts and cheap dresses purchased in the markets of Asia. When we have over used it, we get rid of it and buy new cheap clothes. We don’t have all your answers on what to pack because it also depends on your taste and travel style, but we will share what we recommend you carry from our travel experience.
We each have 3 lightweight pairs and that’s already a lot of shoes for a round the world trip. We had the hardest time deciding which ones to take and in the end had to leave our stylish ones behind and opted for comfort. Today we each carry lightweight sandals, lightweight sneakers, and the must have flip-flips. When boarding an airplane or bus, we wear our sneakers and pack the sandals and flip-flops.
- Walking/Sandals: I got myself black Skechers Sandals that I love and have endured tons of walking. They are comfortable, a little bit stylish, and have great quality. Juan has hiking sandals too. Both are lightweight and good quality.
- Lightweight Sneakers: We both have a pair of NIKE shoes to use for those workouts or long days of exploring. I absolutely love mine, so I linked them.
- Flip-flops: A must for the beach or for those showers you don’t want to step barefoot in.
*Substitute hiking sandals for hiking boots for cold weather.
- 1 Light Jacket (ladies you can add a light cardigan)
- At least 3-4 neutral colored shirts
- 1 tank top
- Ladies: 2-3 dresses (different lengths)
*Substitute light jacket for thick warm jacket for cold weather, and dresses for thermal clothes)
- 1 pair of skinny jeans
- 1 light pants (could be leggings)
- 2-3 shorts
- ladies 1-2 long skirts
- 1 workout pants/shorts
Most posts you read will tell you not to pack jeans because of their weight, but if jeans have always been part of your style don’t hold back. Take them! Make sure the rest of your clothes is light weight and wrinkle-free material though. We wore our jeans a lot throughout Beijing and Singapore.
*Substitute shorts and skirts for warm pants/leggings)
- 1-2 socks (they can be hand washed if needed)
- 1-2 bras (ladies)
- 1 sports bra (ladies)
- 5-7 underwear/briefs/boxers
- 1-2 bikinis (so one can dry while use the other one)
The amount of underwear might sound excessive but we like to have one for each day in case we don’t get around to doing laundry or to hand-washing them-which will happen a lot! Oh, and in case you didn’t know, laundry is very cheap everywhere!
- Small scarf: Beardown Arizona Haven’t used it much, but we carry our college pride everywhere!
- baseball cap: Wildcat For Life Maybe you can show your college pride too?
Toiletries & More
We didn’t leave with toiletries. They are easily accessible everywhere. We purchase shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, gel, deodorant, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent at our destination. Many hotels give you cotton swabs, combs, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
However, we did pack the following:
- razors and 2 extra blades: hard to find good ones
- mini emergency kit few band-aids and cream
- Eyebrow pluck, nail cutter, nail file, tiny scissors (The scissors were only confiscated in Singapore, but we bought a new one because most countries won’t care)
- hair ties and bobby pins
- Make up-Ladies, you’ll most likely stop using it. I now mostly wear mascara and eyeliner.
- Earplugs: for those noisy accommodations
- Eye Mask: For sleeping on the bus or plane
- safety pins
We weren’t planning on taking any medication with us but decided to leave prepared instead. Here’s what we brought and has been useful for us. Make sure you only take medication and vitamins that are appropriate for you.
- Tylenol: Headaches, Migraines and other pain might arise suddenly. We only use them if the pain is intolerable.
- Anti-Diarrheal Pills: Food poisoning can happen at any time.
- Daily Vitamins: We were taking them before leaving so decided to bring our huge 3 month supply bottle from Costco to finish them.
- Magnesium: These pills help a ton with constipation and has tons of other benefits. We had a big supply and brought it with us.
- Prescribed medication: Juan used to have issues with flying and in the past with anxiety. He was prescribed some before leaving in case he needs it and hasn’t. He made sure to bring the prescription. If you have any type of prescribed medication, bring the prescription with you.
The less you have, the better. Throughout Asia you’ll find very cheap jewelry to wear. We do however have our FitBit Trackers and track our daily steps, brought my Jord Watch in case I want to dress up, and we have our weddings rings which we don’t always wear.
The Most Random Things We Packed
Couldn’t have done this list without sharing two of the most random and possibly unnecessary things we packed depending on how you see it.
- Whistle: Juan thinks I’m silly for this but hey, it might save us from getting lost in the middle of the jungle!
- Vitamin E: Had a bottle and brought it along. We use it for our wrinkles. Gotta look young as long as we can. Haha! Just kidding, we’ve probably used it 4 times yet it’s been everywhere with us.
What We Wished We Packed
We left our DJI Phantom 4 back home because it wouldn’t fit in our carry-on. This whole time though, we’ve been wishing for a DJI Mavic PRO for its small size and good quality. We can’t make that investment now, but if you are able to, do get one. Your photography will be much more fun and it’s so small to carry. Just make sure to check country restrictions when using one.
We ended up buying one on the road as mentioned earlier. Take one if you can!
So, what will you pack?
It isn’t easy to decide what to pack for a trip around the world in one carry-on. It’s impossible to have the perfect list. No matter how long you’re on the road, you’ll need different things along the way and you’ll want to get rid of others. Weather plays a major role and so does your personality and needs.
The great thing is that everything is easily available everywhere. We do recommend getting big electronic purchases from your home. If you forget or need something, it’s easy to find it almost anywhere you go. So pack what you think you’ll need and try not to over stress like I once did. Don’t over pack either, or at least try not to!
Are you planning a trip around the world? Or have you before? Share with us what else you packed or want to pack.
Have fun and enjoy the beautiful journey around the world!