It’s now been more than eight months since we gave up our home in San Diego for full-time, RTW travel. Our packing essentials list has been scrubbed and updated as we’ve trekked through numerous continents and terrains. This list is now our go-to packing list. We wouldn’t travel – on a RTW trip or a week vacation in Europe – without these items. There are no clothes on this list as it is truly our all-purpose, all-destinations packing essentials list.
This packing list was started months before we left on this adventure. Gearing up for our RTW trip, we started to face a very intimidating question: What do you pack for full-time travel? Living out of a suitcase, not knowing where you’ll be? We would literally wake up in the middle of the night stressing about our packing list. And we didn’t get it right the first time; we continued to make changes over our first several months of traveling. The below packing essentials are taken directly from our suitcases. We explain why each item deserves a spot on our ultimate Packing Essentials list. While you may not need everything here, we know this list will help you prepare for your next adventure!
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RTW Travel: Our Packing Essentials
- Convertible Suitcase/Backpack – Osprey Sojourn 80: Osprey Packs Sojourn Wheeled Luggage, Flash Black, 80 L/28″ We both use the Osprey Sojourn 80 and it has been absolutely perfect for our travels. It is both a duffel bag on wheels – which is how we use it for the majority of time – and quickly converts into a backpack for those days that (1) you need to hike through mud to get to your destination or (2) your guesthouse doesn’t have an elevator for your fourth-floor room. We love the versatility that it provides, and its high wheel chassis means that we can keep it on wheels 9.5 times out of ten. It is plenty large enough to carry everything we need and most importantly, it’s basically bomb proof. Ours have been thrown off busses, packed in wet boats, weathered in rain storms and rolled through things we don’t even want to name. And with one quick cleaning, it looks brand new and continues to work flawlessly! This also comes in a 60L size here: Osprey Packs Sojourn Wheeled Luggage, Hoodoo Red, 60 L/25″. After comparing the two sizes and going back and forth for weeks, we ultimately went with the larger version because the 80L can be cinched down to about the size of the 60L if we want (but we can’t make the 60L bigger). Note: neither one will work as a carry-on.
- Max’s Day Pack – PacSafe VentureSafe X40: Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Multi-Purpose Backpack, Hawaiian Blue. At 40 liters and with security features such as wire mesh lined pockets that can’t be cut and RFID secure-stash pockets, this pack is a traveler’s dream. But note, it is a big pack. Max uses it to carry all his camera equipment, his laptop, iPad, headphones, tripod, passports, and anything else that needs a little extra protection while traveling.
- Kelly’s Day Pack – PacSafe Venturesafe 25: Pacsafe Venturesafe 25L GII Anti-Theft Travel Backpack – Black. Kelly has this 25 liter version of the PacSafe daypack. Again, it comes with the security features of Max’s daypack but in a smaller size and with a waist belt. Unlike Max’s 40L pack, this doesn’t come with a rain cover, so make sure to pick one up. Kelly uses this one: Joy Walker Waterproof Backpack Rain Cover (15-90L) (Acqua, Large (40-55L backpack))
- Collapsible Backpack – Naturehike Ultralight Foldable Backpack: Naturehike Ultralight Foldable Packable Small Hiking Daypack Backpack for Women Men, Lightweight 18L 25L Waterproof for Climbing Camping Backpacking Cycling Bicycle Travel Airplane (Blue – 18L). This pack has become a lifesaver for us and we take it absolutely everywhere we go. Because our daypacks are often packed full of gear, taking everything out each day is just not practical. This pack has become our go-to solution for an everyday pack so that we can leave our other packs at the hotel. It can fit the camera, tripod, waters, sunscreen, beach towel and still have a bit of room left over. It’s also water resistant which is great for rain. We started off with the 18L version of it and traded it in for the 25L version when we passed through the States last. Best part – it takes up almost no space in a suitcase with how small it packs down.
- Women’s convertible backpack/purse: PacSafe Citysafe CX anti-theft convertible backpack Messenger Bag, 34 cm, 8 liters, Black (Black 100). Stylish, secure, and convertible from a backpack during the day to a purse for the eveing, Kelly loves this versatile pack. It’s a backpack with lots of anti-theft technology, such as RFID-blocking pockets, locking zippers, wire-meshing, and straps that can be easily removed to wrap around a table or chair. And when you’re headed out at night, it converts into a stylish black purse that will go with almost any outfit.
- Packing Cubes: PRO Packing Cubes | 5 Piece | Organizers & Space Saver | Travel Cube Value Set (Mixed Colors 1). With as much as we’re on the move, organization is absolutely key for us. Nothing helps us stay organized better than packing cubes. We say it like this: imagine a dresser without drawers…that’s your suitcase without packing cubes. When you get to a hotel, you can take out the cubes in a matter of minutes and know where everything is located. And it makes packing a breeze. We prefer the different colored ones, so that we can easily tell each cube apart.
- Compression Cubes: Gonex Compression Packing Cubes Set, Expandable Packing Organizers 4pcs(Black). These are very similar to packing cubes, but great to use when you are tight on room. They have an extra zipper that squeezes them down to about 1/2 their original size. Great space savers. We use one for our airplane pillows, and another for our winter gear.
- Hanging Toiletry Bag: Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag for Men and Women | Makeup Bag | Cosmetic Bag | Bathroom and Shower Organizer Kit | Leak Proof | Large (34”x11”) | Black. Water resistant, a sealable zipper for anything that might spill, inexpensive and most importantly has a hook to hang as opposed to putting it on the (sometimes nonexistent) bathroom counter. You’ll like it in a fancy hotel, you’ll love it when you’re in a hostel or an overnight train.
- Dry Bag: Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Dry Sack – Pacific Blue 8L. Getting on a boat? Not sure if it’s going to rain? Going to the beach? We use our dry bag whenever we’re just not sure what’s coming next. It takes up next to no space, and it can double as a laundry bag (which is great when we have wet clothes from the beach and need to jump on a train).
- Luggage Locks & Bike Lock: TSA Approved Cable Luggage Locks, Re-settable Combination with Alloy Body … Whether you’re sleeping in a dorm or throwing your bag below a bus for the ride, it’s always a good idea to lock up your pack when it goes out of sight. Max had to learn this lesson the hard way in his younger years when someone took the liberty of swapping $200 cash and a nice camera lens that he had in his pack with a Mickey Mouse T-shirt on a bus in Thailand (maybe they felt it was a fair trade?). We like to carry a few extra because the locks always seem to run off. A bike lock is also a must-have: Amazer Bike Cable Lock, 4-Feet Bike Lock Basic Self Coiling Resettable Combination Cable Bike Locks with Mounting Bracket, 4 Feet x 1/2 Inch. We use this to lock down our things when we’re sleeping on an overnight train, or to lock all of our bags together when we have to leave them unattended at a hotel or hostel.
- Portable Charger – Anker Powercore+: Anker PowerCore+ 26800, Premium Portable Charger, High Capacity 26800mAh External Battery with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (in- and Output), Includes PowerPort+ 1 Wall Charger. If there’s only 1 thing on this list you buy, make it this charger! We absolutely swear by this thing and it’s rare that a day goes by where we don’t use it. From iPhones (with our maps on it) dying, to not having enough plugs in the room, to using all of the juice in our camera batteries (yes, we use it for that too) this charger has saved us more times than we can count. We never leave for the day without one of us double-checking, “did you grab the charger?”
- Smartphone – Apple iPhone X: Apple iPhone X, GSM Unlocked 5.8″, 256 GB – Space Gray. The iPhone is another one of those things we cannot live without while on the road. It’s our translator, guidebook, entertainment system… you get the idea. We also like it because it’s unlocked and we can get a new SIM card in each country. This makes it easy and cheap to stay in touch with friends and family. We went with the X as we really like the camera and it’s great for taking video (which we post everyday to Instagram).
- Computer – Apple Macbook Pro: Apple 13″ MacBook Pro, Retina Display, 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 Dual Core, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, Space Gray, MPXQ2LL/A (Newest Version)This computer has become our go-to home office while we’re on the road. We use it for everything from blog posts, editing pictures and videos, and finding our home each night. We like the 13-inch as it’s compact and light enough to fit almost anywhere, and the Pro version based on the power of the processor (which we love for our photos and video!)
- Tablets – Kelly and I both use different tablets and both of us swear by our choice. So…
- Max’s Tablet – Apple iPad – 128 GB: Apple iPad 9.7″ (2017) 128GB Wi-Fi – Space Grey. Max loads this up with movies, TV shows, books and anything else he needs to keep himself entertained for hours on end. The perfect way to survive an overseas flight or an overnight train.
- Kelly’s Tablet – Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader: Kindle Paperwhite E-reader – Black, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers. Kelly loves the Kindle Paperwhite. She can load it up with her books and take it anywhere – specifically to the beach. A single charge lasts several months, which is always helpful on the road. She went with the “Special Offers” version to save some cash money, and doesn’t feel like the upgrade is worth the additional cost.
- Noise Canceling Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, Apple Devices, Black. Have you ever sat next to a crying baby on a flight? Tried to sleep on a noisy train? That’s why noise-canceling headphones are the ultimate. Noise-canceling headphones can put you in your own private world on otherwise horrendously long and loud travel day. Max loves the Bose ones, but Kelly uses a much less expensive version that work incredibly well for the money here: TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, Wired Earbuds in Ear Stereo Awareness Monitor Earphones with Microphone and Remote (15 Hours Playtime, 3.5mm Jack, Premium Aluminum Matte Black).
- Travel Adaptor/Expanded Outlets & USB ports:
- Inexpensive Option: Ceptics World Travel Adapter Kit – 2 USB + 2 US Outlets, Surge Protection, Plug for Europe, UK, China, Australia, Japan – Perfect for Laptop, Cell Phones (Does Not Convert Voltage) (WPS-2B+). As you can see from above, we have a LOT of electronic equipment. As such, the World Travel Adaptor is one of the most important items we carry with us. It comes with adaptors for most major areas in the world and include a surge protector. Additionally, it provides 2 outlets, 2 USB outlets and a mini USB cord – giving the ability to charge up to 5 things at once. Since places never seem to have enough outlets, this device is a life saver! Before you use this, make sure that all of your items are dual voltage (otherwise, you’ll need to bring a bulky converter as well, which we don’t recommend).
- Slightly More Expensive Option: BESTEK USB Travel Power Strip with 8 International Adapters,5-Port 40W USB Charging Station with 2-Outlet Surge Protector. While essentially the same idea as the Ceptics world traveler adapter, the BESTEK USB Travel Power Strip has a cord to plug it into an outlet – very helpful when a hotel plug is in an awkward place (like behind the bed or counter – why!?). Additionally, it has space for 3 extra USB ports and 3 additional plug adapters for remote locations in the world. Personally, we like this one better, but you can decide if it’s worth the extra $18.
- Camera – Sony A6300: Sony Alpha a6300 Mirrorless Digital Camera – Black (ILCE6300/B). It’s rare that Kelly and I agree on such a big ticket item so easily. But after doing a lot of separate research, we both landed on the Sony A6300 with no exception. Perfect for both amateurs and serious photographers, this camera can be used well in auto mode for beginners, while impressing even the most experienced photographer looking to up their pictures with its wide-ranging features. It’s our first switch into the mirrorless camera and we will not be going back. When compared to a DSLR, this mirrorless camera performs just as well, but is smaller, lighter and more travel-friendly. Finally, for any aspiring YouTubers out there, the camera has great 4K video capabilities… one day we’ll start using those too. If you have some spare cash to burn, the 6500 has a better camera stabilizer, but otherwise, the 6300 is a better value. The 6500 is listed here: Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/ 2.95″ LCD (Body Only).
- Camera Lens – Sony DT 18mm -200mm: Sony DT 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Aspherical ED High Magnification Zoom Lens for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Camera. This lens is great for every day shooting. The 200mm zoom is adaptable enough for shooting surf photography or wild animals while on safari. The 18mm wide angle is perfect when shooting close range or the inside of a building. Our one complaint would be the higher F stop on the lease. But for the price, it’s an amazing lens that we find on our camera most of the time.
- Drone – DJI Mavic Pro: DJI Mavic Pro Drone Quadcopter Fly More Combo with 3 Batteries, 4K Professional Camera Gimbal Bundle Kit with Must Have Accessories. You know those cool overhead shots that look like we hired a helicoptor to take us up and shoot? Well those are actually done with our drone. We love the DJI Mavic Pro. It’s flight and photo/video capability are incredibly and it’s very small and light weight. wThis starter pack will give you everything you need to take flight – including the all important an extra battery. Pro tip: always make sure to check drone laws before taking flight!
- GoPro – Hero6: GoPro HERO6 Black 4K Action Camera. Honestly, we don’t use our Go Pro all that often. But when we do, we’re always SO grateful to have it. We have some of our best videos from scuba diving/snorkeling with manta rays, whale sharks, sea lions, and more. We also love it for snow sports. If we weren’t as into photography, we’d use this as a main camera to save the cash and the space. While we have the 4, we love the 6 because the casing is waterproof.
- Tripod – Ranngers 57 Ultra Compact/Lightweight: Rangers 57” Ultra Compact and Lightweight Aluminum Tripod with 360° Panorama Ball head, ideal for travel and work. The tripod is one of our most important pieces of photography equipment. We are always asked “who takes your pictures?” The answer is – we do! The two things that we look for in a good tripod – stability and weight. Stability is imperative when you are resting thousands of dollars worth of equipment on here. Weight is just as important as we are constantly trying to lighten our load. Most tripods weigh about 4+ pounds – this one is much lighter. The less weight we have to carry, the better. This tripod is our next (very near future) purchase. We’re hard on our tripods and the super glue holding our current one together is just about to die.
- Extra Camera Batteries/Charger for Sony Camera: NP-FW50 RAVPower Camera Battery Charger Set for Sony A6000, A6500, A6300, A7, A7II, A7SII, A7S, A7S2, A7R, A7R2, A7RII, A55, A5100, RX10, RX10II (2-Pack, Versatile Charging Option, 1100mAh). Always, always, always carry extra batteries for your camera. Always! Trust us, there is nothing worse than driving 3 hours to the most amazing sunset, or hiking to the top of a mountain to perfect panoramic views, only to realize that your camera battery is dead.
- Every Day Memory Card: SanDisk 128GB Ultra UHS-I Class 10 SDXC Memory Card, Black, Standard Packaging (SDSDUNC-128G-GN6IN) We shoot our pictures in RAW format (making them MUCH better for editing). The downside – it takes up a lot of memory. With this 128 GB memory card, it has enough space to hold thousands of our RAW photos. It also has a fast enough processing speed to work on the High+ 11/frames per second auto shoot setting. These cards are our go-to every day memory cards for photography.
- High Speed Memory Card (For Video & shooting continuous frames/second (sports/cars): Sony SF-G64/T1 High Performance 64GB SDXC UHS-II Class 10 U3 Memory Card with blazing fast read speed up to 300MB/s. If you’re looking to do more videography on your camera or plan on using the High+ setting for an extended period of time, you need to get a memory card with a much higher processing speed. This 300GB/s card is more than enough to get you through whatever you’re filming. We have the 64GB on here as these cards start getting expensive pretty quickly. But make sure it’s enough storage for your usage.
- LED Torch Light: LitraTorch Waterproof Dimmable 8-LED Digital Camera / Camcorder Video Light For DSLR and Action Cameras w/ Ivation On-Camera Hotshoe Mounting Solution. This light is one of our hidden secrets for great photographs. You cannot believe how powerful this little light is. It’s made some of our low light shots – especially those taken indoors – look incredible! It also helps in a pinch when the lights go out. True story: we used this light to help more than 40 people climb down Table Mountain in Cape Town in the dark. Everyone assumed the full moon would light the way down. It did not. Fortunately this light is insanely powerful.
- Microfiber Camera Lens Cloth: Nikon 8072 Microfiber Cleaning Cloth. Before you buy this, note that lots of camera shops will give these away for free. You can also look for an inexpensive microfiber cloth or towel on Amazon. Just cut the towel it into smaller pieces to save money. But we like this one as it’s large and comes in an easy to use carry bag. It’s great for us when we are on the go and in sandy/dusty locations.
- Air Blaster Camera & Lenses Cleaner: Giottos AA1903 Rocket Air Blaster Large-Red. The best way to clean your lenses and camera (both inside & out). We didn’t start out trip with one of these, and after having to travel for months with dirt all over our camera sensor when there was no place to get it cleaned, we won’t ever travel without it again. It also works great for cleaning your laptop keyboard, annoying your girlfriend, and practical jokes.
- Multitool – Leatherman Wave+: Leatherman – Wave Plus Multitool, Black. This little godsend has all the tools we need to fix the strange things that break on the road. From bending a zipper back into place, to opening a can of tuna. It’s been a chef’s knife on a hike and we regularly use the eye glass screwdriver. It’s the perfect combination of tools, size and weight for a packable multi-tool. Just remember to keep it in your checked bag!
- Travel Duct Tape: Best Glide ASE Mini Survival Repair Tape. A small (light weight) roll of Duct Tape, used probably hundreds of times on our travels. It can fix anything. You likely already know this. We just like this one because it’s a small roll. Travel hack: you can also take an old roll and wrap some around a pencil, or simply use the end of a roll and smash it down like we have done.
- Turkish Bath & Beach Towel: 100% Natural Turkish Cotton Bath Beach Spa Sauna Hammam Yoga Gym Towel Fouta Peshtemal Easy Care Absorbent Pestemal Navy. We switched from a sarong to our Turkish towels and wish we had made the change years ago. The Turkish towels are more durable and absorbent. They still dry incredibly quick, and as a bonus, you can use them as a blanket when it’s cold or shall/skirt if you need to cover up for a temple. We store ours in compression cubes and they take up very little space.
- Carabiner: Nite Ize CSL4-01-R6 Carabiner Slide Lock, Black. We are always clipping stuff onto our packs (hats, water bottles, etc.). A carabiner is light weight, and makes it a breeze to attach a hat, shoes or anything else. In a pinch, it also works to clip two bags together as an improved security device.
- Travel Pillow: Everlasting Comfort 100% Pure Memory Foam Neck Pillow Airplane Travel Kit With Ultra Plush Velour Cover, Sleep Mask and Earplugs. If you type in “travel pillow” on Amazon, it’s safe to say we have tried out the first 2 full pages of gimmicky offerings. And yet, the only pillow we both use is a traditional memory foam one. This pillow also comes with a face mask and ear plugs to help you forget you’re even on a plane. The face mask also comes in handy when rooms don’t have good curtains to block light. Travel hack: wear the pillow backwards. It won’t push your head forward in the seat, and it will keep your head from falling forward when you’re snoozing (but sorry, there is no way to go around looking like a fool).
- LED Flashlight: J5 Tactical V1-PRO Flashlight – The Original 300 Lumen Ultra Bright, LED Mini 3 Mode Flashlight (Black). When the power went out every few hours in the Seychelles, we were grateful to have a bright LED flashlight. You never know when you’re going to need it. For safety and security (and to create great night photography) it’s always in our packs.
- Silk Sleeping Bag Liner: Browint Silk Sleeping Bag Liner, Silk Sleep Sack, Extra Wide 87″x43″, Lightweight Travel Sheet for Hotels, More Colors for Option, Reinforced Gussets. Admittedly, we don’t carry this one with us all the time. But, when we’re traveling through Asia (especially India), or taking night trains, we are never happier to have it. We like the silk one as it’s lighter, easier to clean and more breathable. When you need it, you really need it. When you don’t, it takes up way too much space in your pack. A travel sometimes-essential, if you will.
We hope this list helps to make your packing one of the easier parts of the trip. Safe travels, and let us know if you have any questions!