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Packing Efficiently for Long Term Travel

Essential Tips: Packing Efficiently for Long Term Travel

Before we get into crafty ways to fit as much as you can into a suitcase efficiently, we are going to look at what you should pack for long term and international travel. Here are some essentials, separated by category:

1. Clothing

  • Synthetic fabrics are often more wrinkle resistant, lighter, and more durable than cotton. As an added bonus, they dry faster.
  • If style is important to you, then pack clothing within the same color pallette, that way you can mix and match in order to have the largest variety of outfits with the least amount of clothing
  • 2 pairs of shoes, max! One pair that is great for daily wear, long walks, hikes, etc. One pair of dressier shoes (that are still comfortable)
  • Pack for 7-10 days regardless of how long your trip is
  • Experts suggest an ideal clothing packing ratio for 7-10 days is 3 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 8 daily shirts, 1 dressier shirt, and daily change of undergarments
  • Pack clothing that is multi-functional; meaning it can serve more than one purpose (Example: Articles of clothing that can be dressed up or down)
  • Sarongs: Considered the most versatile article of clothing you can pack! They can serve as a blanket, a head wrap, a scarf, a towel, a cover up, a skirt, a dress, a clean place to sit, a pillow, a laundry bag and more.
  • Always check the forecast before any trip so you know the kind of weather to expect!

2. Toiletries

Essential toiletries are as follows:

  • Travel size toothpaste
  • Ear plugs
  • Headache and antacid medication
  • Small first aid kit including antibacterial ointment, sterile bandages, eye drops,q tips, gauze, treatment for bug bites, band aids and oral gel (for toothaches), and alcohol wipes
  • Shower caps. They take up minimal space and can be used in a variety of ways
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Hair brush or comb
  • Cotton balls or pads

3. Personal Safe


  • You can pick up a thin personal safe for less than $50
  • Store important documents like passports and extra credit cards or cash inside
  • A written phone number list of your emergency contacts. If you lose your phone, you need to be able to contact people. Who remembers numbers these days? Make sure to have a written record of important phone numbers

4. Pack a Laundry Bag for Dirty Clothes

packing efficiently for long term travel dryver sheets


Bring a cloth or mesh laundry back with you to handle dirty clothes in between visiting a laundry facility


  • Keep your clean clothes smelling clean
  • keep your suitcase organized
  • Makes doing laundry easier

Additionally, Keep some loose dryer sheets in your back to help reduce wrinkled clothes, or bad smells.


How to Efficiently Pack a Suitcase / Travel Bag

These tips will help you use your limited bag space in the most efficient, organized way possible.

1. Make a Packing List

It seems silly, but having a written packing list is going to majorly improve your efficiency, and dramatically decrease your stress levels when packing. Additionally, keep a blank copy in your suitcase so you can do an inventory before you return to ensure you don’t forget anything.

This is a great, free, customizable packing list that we highly suggest!

2. Lay Out Items to be Packed

lay out packing items

Laying out the items you intend to pack works for you in 3 ways.

  1. Makes it easy to verify you have everything on your list
  2. Will give you a good visual representation of  what you are bringing, so you can eliminate anything you don’t need
  3. Keep you organized while packing

3. Some Say Travel Cubes, We Say Ziplock Bags

travel cubes


You ever have that problem where you have everything all very nicely packed into your suitcase, but within an hour of arriving at your destination, it looks like an explosion went off in there?

Travel Cubes are the answer to that problem. These little bags are designed to organize your clothing. You put each type of clothing in its respective cube, and then the cubes are packed

These are great tools, but we think there is a better alternative, and it is much, much less expensive.

Ziplock bagsziplock bags


You can buy the “space bags”, but in all honesty, a large ziplock bag with a slider is just as effective. Roll your shirts tightly and put them in the bag. Leave open a tiny portion and then roll the bag as shown above with the slider seal facing out, allowing the air to escape. When you get to the end of the bag, keep applying firm pressure, and use one hand to slide the bag fully closed.

Voilia! All the function of a space bag without the cost, or need for a vacuum, and all at a fraction of the cost.

4. Roll  ALMOST Everything


This technique originated in the military as a way for soldiers to pack efficiently. It helps to  make clothing more compact by reducing air, and utilizes space that would otherwise be wasted.

Stack your rolls vertically  for best results.

There are some items you don’t want to roll up. These would include items like jackets, parkas, and large sweaters. We’ll show you the best way to pack those next!

5 . Using All Available Space

Use this diagram as a method to efficiently pack for long term travel


6. Organizing Toiletries

Weirdly enough, there is a lot of debate in the travel world about toiletries. Some critics claim that travel sized items actually waste space, others suggest using a rolled up kit (like the one below) is the best option.


My personal opinion is that if you’re going to be packing for long term travel, it makes more sense to avoid having to carry liquids at all by purchasing the full sized versions of that item when you get there.

In either case- what everyone does agree on is that toiletries should always be kept in water tight, separate containers or bags. I think you should always bring toiletries in your carry on, because sometimes the pressure (or lack there of) in the cargo area can cause some liquids to expand and burst open. It is all a matter of preference on that front – just make sure that you bring only what you need.

7. Power Adapter

Don’t forget that most countries do not run their power systems on a completely different voltage than our own. This little box has the ability  to plug  in an appliance from any country to any country. I usually bring 2 of these.



8. Packing in the Right Order

  1. Shoes first, packed toe to heal and placed near the wheels of your luggage (or the bottom). Stuff shoes with socks, chargers, and other small electronics
  2. Lay jeans and jackets over the edges of the suitcase (as shown above)
  3. Always pack the items you need first or use the most often, last
  4. Pack in sections, putting similar items together:

pack in order

Packing Efficiently for Long Term Travel

It all comes down to planning ahead. The worst thing you can possibly do in regards to preparing for a trip is to procrastinate and pack at the last minute. Give yourself time, think it through, make a plan and stick to it. You will find your own methods for packing along the way!

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