Updated February 2018

It’s true that we’ve only been traveling around the world for six weeks now, so the list below might change a little bit in a few months or the near year. But before we left, my husband and I did months of research getting ready for our trip.

We found a lot of useful advice! And a lot of advice that wasn’t useful at all, either because the packing list was by an early-twenties backpacker who is content to run around in jean shorts and polyester tank top, or because it was from a male digital nomad who wears pretty much the same thing every day. Still, we carefully conferred and cobbled together a Frankenstein of a packing list between us, for two style-conscious digital nomads who aren’t interested in hostels and like to go to festivals and parties when they travel.

We’ve already been in climates ranging from a Mexico City winter (arid, high elevation, down to 35 degrees Fahrenheit at night), to the beach and jungle in Panama (hot and humid.) Some friends who are also embarking on a long-term trip soon wanted to crib some tips, now. And finally, when I took a poll on Instagram on what I should write next, our around-the-world packing list handily won. So, I’m putting this out there a wee prematurely.

We managed to fit all of our stuff in two rolling carry-ons (mine with the expander zipper undone; we’ve been checking them for flights), two backpacks, and two personal items (my little crossbody purse and his DJ production Push Controller.) This list does not include all of his DJ production gear, by the way–that’s a whole other post.

But yes, I’m quite impressed with ourselves!

Some General Guidelines

  1. Choose a simple color palette. As with any Capsule Wardrobe, you want to make sure you can mix and match. I went with white, black, navy blue, and mustard. He went with black, white, and grey, plus denim. It also helps to choose between pure white and off-white, too, since you might find yourself failing to match a bright white tank to an off-white pair of pants, for example. I have a large caftan dress that is none of these things, but it’s its own outfit, so it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t really match anything else. My accessories match too: They’re either camel-brown leather, grey, or or gold.
  2. Flat pack and stuff sack. Everything should either lay flat in your suitcase, or come with a stuff sack. That includes your purse, your clothing, your hat, your puffy coat, your jewelry, your underwear collection, etc. I even stuffed my shower cap into a little cotton pouch. Everyone’s so about packing cubes – I bought a few and actually don’t find mine that handy, because then I have to pack around these two big rectangular things in my suitcase. Instead, I’m on the lookout for a stuff sack for my underwear, bathing suits, and socks.
  3. Natural materials. Especially if you’re headed to hot areas or taking long plane rides, you don’t want to be wearing polyester (itchy and bad for your girl parts), rayon viscose (attracts and retains B.O.), acrylic (same), or pleather (sticks to skin, falls apart quickly). Merino wool wicks away moisture and let’s go of odor (more on why I love wool), cotton is healthy for your skin for a whole day on planes, silk is lightweight and healthy for your skin, hemp is strong and long-lasting, as is linen, and artisan-made leather accessories will last you all year. (Why real leather for artisan-made items is better.)
  4. Washable and dryable. You’re going to find yourself handing your laundry over at some point to someone who does not understand the concept of “lay flat to dry,” I guarantee it. So pack items that will survive a trip through the dryer. And no “dry clean only,” for obvious reasons. Unless you’re staying exclusively in Four Seasons Hotels. In which case, why are you even reading this?
  5. Leave room for one new fashion item per country. Or try, anyway. I didn’t leave much room, but I’m so glad I bought a cashmere serape and the Oaxacan woven cotton vest in the lead picture in this post. You might have to get rid of some things to make room. But one item per country is more than enough.

So here it is: What a couple (a guy and girl) packs for a year-long trip around the world! I’ll be updating it as I change things out, learn, and get wiser. so check back later.

My Traveling Outfit

This was for leaving New York City in December and arriving to Mexico City. You might be different, obviously.

  • Ably Apparel Sweatpants – You will love, love, love having sweatpants, even if you’re going someplace warm, for chilly nights or the airplane. I like these because they’re fitted, so they look pretty put-together, plus they are cotton (so comfy for wearing for long periods of time) and stain and odor resistant. Perfect for traveling!
  • Ably white t-shirt – Again, has stain-resistant technology, which is crucial if you’re traveling!
  • Merino wool hoodie – I used this constantly. A dark grey color ensures if you layer it under a scarf or poncho, no one will know it’s for hiking.
  • Uniqlo ultra light down jacket –  This comes with a stuff sack, so I could actually fit it inside my mid-sized purse if the temperature fluctuates a lot. When it’s on, however, it’s pretty warm. If you don’t want to buy Uniqlo, Ecoalf makes an alternative, but I can’t vouch for how small it gets for packing purposes.
  • Sports bra with zippered pocket – My sports bra makes me feel even more safe from pickpocketing than a safety belt!
  • Comfortable cotton, Modal, or bamboo undies – check out PACT, Base Range, Me Undies, Pansy, Boody, or Hara.
  • Wool socks – I love merino wool because it wicks away moisture and odor.
  • Trail running shoes – They’re not cute city shoes, but I didn’t have room for my Veja’s, plus shoes for hiking. In black, these aren’t super dork-y looking, and are smaller and lighter than hiking boots. Just add wool socks to make them warm in cold weather and dry quickly if you have to tramp through a stream, like we did in Hawaii.
  • Baseball cap – I got my simple American Apparel one secondhand.
  • Mini crossbody purse – I’ve started carrying a mini crossbody purse when I travel, because it gives me quick and secure access to my passport, wallet, and tickets, without me having to take off my backpack. O My Bag has a ton to choose from, and Marlow Goods has some great ones as well.
  • Passport and Passport case – I’m so glad I brought this case by Nisolo, because I stuck my Mexican visa in here, and still had it when I found out that you need to present your copy to leave Mexico, or else pay for a new one at the airport. I also have my yellow fever vaccination card, extra visa photos, and my international drivers license in here.
  • Phone
  • Charging cord
  • Mini wallet – There’s lots to choose from at O My Bag.
  • Sunglasses – I like this city-appropriate ones from Ellison. They’re made from biodegradable acetate, and you can replace them at a discount if you break or lose them!

Backpack

This backpack stylistically can can go from the city to a hike, which is crucial for a year of travel.

  • Portable phone charging battery
  • Earbuds – traditional jack for laptop/airplane console, and a dongle if you have the newest iPhone
  • Camera and lenses, extra battery, battery charger, extra memory cards – I love my compact but powerful Fuji x-t10, with a wide angle lens for landscape, architecture, and room shots; and a 50 mm lens for portraits and food.
  • Macbook Pro and charger 
  • Laptop hardcover – I feel like my Macbook is too shiny to have peeking out of my bag or on an outdoor table at a cafe in a developing country. So I bought a case for it and slapped a black sticker over the light-up Apple logo. You could get one of these pretty (but not eye-catching) wood covers. My laptop is so old they don’t make my size anymore, so I ended up getting a cheap one off of Amazon. It’s already peeling, but I don’t mind that my laptop looks worthless now. That’s the point.
  • Matador lens bag and camera bag
  • Moleskine
  • Chico reusable bag with stuff sack
  • Wide mouth insulated bottle – It’s not often you’ll be able to refill a water bottle in some counries, but this one is also great for porting hot tea or coffee around, or even taking your pina colada to go!
  • SPF chapstick
  • Hand sanitizer – So far it’s been common that the public bathroom wherever doesn’t have any soap available. Or, if you’re like me, that you’ll want to pet a friendly stray cat or dog!
  • Portable spork – so you don’t have to use disposable one. Make sure it’s plastic or wood (not metal) so it doesn’t get confiscated by airport security (whoops). Or get a bamboo travel set from Life Without Plastic.
  • Reusable straw – Most drinks don’t need straws, but mojitos do!
  • Pack of tissues – this isn’t for your nose, so don’t think I’m advocating this over a reusable handkerchief. It’s for bathroom emergencies.
  • Reusable handkerchief – Yup, this one is for your nose.
  • Wifi booster – so you can pick up the weak hotel wifi from your hotel room, or sit at the cafe next door to the one with the wifi.
  • Travel pen with carabiner – so handy!
  • Tin mug – we each bought one in Mexico. We hang them off our backpacks with carabiners.
  • Portable pillow – always bring this, even on a side trip if your plane ride is an hour. You never know when it will be delayed by five hours until 2 am, as happened to us in Zihuatenejo. I bought mine in Singapore – it converts from a neck pillow to a square pillow.
  • Matador droplet wet bag

In My Suitcase

  • Black-and-white striped long-sleeved tee – Long-sleeved striped tees ca go from high summer to winter. I got my Gap one used, but I wish I had gone with a higher quality, since mine already has holes in it. Try Saint James for a quality one that will last for years.
  • Elizabeth Suzanne reversible washable silk tie top – I’ve worn this to the beach and out on New Year’s Eve. Tie it in the back and it’s a lovely top that goes with any bottom, from jeans to a skirt. Tie it in the front and it’s super sexy.
  • White cotton bandeau crop top – I love this thing, originally from Swords-Smith, with high waisted anything at the beach. You could probably use the Elizabeth Suzanne crop top for the same purpose. But here is another option for you.
  • Par en Par mustard robe/dress – I can wear this as a beach cover up, a dress, or a robe. Having a robe on hand is so helpful!
  • Par en Par culottes – modest, fashionable, and comfortable, they’re super versatile, from the beach to a restaurant to a temple.
  • Linen long-sleeved button down – I got my J. Crew one secondhand. It’s versatile and can be worn from daytime, to nighttime to guard against mosquitoes. But I ended up replacing it with a linen shirt I got off a friend who I was hanging out with in Nicaragua. Tradland has some great new versions.
  • Long wrap dress that doubles as a beach coverup – Mine is by Vaute, but it’s not available anymore. Luckily, Pondicherie makes a beautiful one.
  • Black Outland jean– Crucial for when you’re in a city
  • Black high-waisted shorts – Mine are from Animal Behavior, which seems to be defunk now, sadly. However, you can find some at Yoox.
  • American Two-Shot floral shorts – I brought these to Hawaii with me, and I love them so much I’m packing them again.
  • Casual, easy summer dress – I have a cotton one by Grassroots by Anita Dongre. Leave it to an Indian brand to create an easy, light dress that won’t stick to you in hot weather.
  • Caftan dress – modest yet flattering, I got my sustainably-made dress in India at Anokhi. Great for everywhere from Panama beaches to Bali temples. I love this one at Accompany.
  • Midi skirt – I’ll admit, this is not in my suitcase. I couldn’t find one I really liked in time, but I really wish I had one. I’m keeping my eyes open for a good one that is lightweight while we travel. Meanwhile, Ethica has a bunch!
  • Wool or cashmere poncho/scarf – So I actually didn’t pack this, and I missed having a yummy sweater in Mexico City. I bought a fringed cashmere serape in San Miguel de Allende from Recreo, and it became the most beloved thing in my suitcase! It can be draped around you in cold weather, is appropriate for the city or the resort, and you’re essentially wearing a blanket, but stylishly. If that price tag is too high for you (understandable), try this from Victoria Road, and these from VOZ.
  • MATTER pants – A must for traveling!
  • Hobes shoes – They flat pack and look super cute on.
  • 2 tanks in black and white – For layering under your day outfit or for a hot hike. I like the scoop necks from Groceries Apparel
  • Pons Avarcas walking sandals in camel brown – These last forever and are super comfortable and versitile.
  • Fancier sandals – I’m bringing my cork and gold Jack Rogers, which aren’t sustainable or ethical, but I’ve had for at least nine years now and they are still going strong. #30wears, y’all is a sustainable way to go.
  • Chila Bag from Noa Trade – You can flat pack this in your suitcase but it holds a lot! I got the camel brown one, which goes with my Pons Avarcas.
  • Organic cotton yoga leggings – I brought Buddha pants, but I wish I had these instead. They’re more versatile and just as comfy. (You can buy elephant pants for cheap when you get to Asia.)
  • Rain jacket with hood by Marmot – Folds up tiny. I was so glad we both had one when it was pouring in Bocas the day we had to leave.
  • 2 Patagonia athletic shorts – for hiking. I found in Hawaii that it was good to have two pairs so you could wash and dry one while you wear the other, if you go hiking two days in a row.
  • Wool socks – Merino wool keeps your feet cool or warm, and wicks away odor and sweat.
  • Silk long-sleeved tee – Technically this is a base layer for hiking, but it’s cute enough to wear in the city or at night against mosquitos.
  • Sarong – Great as a cover up, towel, or beach blanket. I got mine in India from Anokhi, but of course you can get these anywhere!
  • Pajamas from People Tree – I chose this set because I could wear the t-shirt separately out in public (and did!), and the shorts to the beach.
  • Jewelry? I’ve been having so much fun jewelry shopping, that I actually wish I hadn’t packed anything except my ear studs. I’ve been adding to my collection and it’s getting a little unwieldy. So, you might want to just pack the very basics: studs, a ring, one favorite necklace.
  • Lightweight scarf – I love my Slow Factory BANNED scarf, especially for a year of travel!
  • Small off-white cotton scarf – I use this for wrapping my hair a lot. It came free with my Par en Par purchase, but you can easily find a similar one!
  • 2 bathing suits – 1 one-piece and one bikini. Though I have all one-pieces with me, I’m realizing. I have a Black Vitamin A one-piece, a Palm-print Underprotection suit from Azura Bay, and a brazil-cut bathing suit from Fauna. Here’s my list of favorite sustainable swimwear brands.
  • 2 Pairs quick-drying shorts – for hiking or sports
  • Brimmed hat – This one was hard, since I definitely didn’t have room for a stiff brimmed hat. This one from Accompany actually folds up, so I can slip it in my suitcase’s front pocket.
  • Sports bra 
  • Teva’s or other watershoes that strap on – Not just for hiking or waterfalls, also helpful with it’s raining buckets!
  • Extra sunglasses – Beyond the city-style ones, you’ll want beach-y, festival style ones, too. I’m packing my Topheads and Vasuma‘s, which can be nestled in a sunglasses case together.
  • Casual watch
  • A hand fan – A must for festivals or dancing on the beach to music.
  • PurSteam traveling iron/steamer – this thing is tiny, but crucial!
  • Solar lamp by Luci – When the electricity went off in India, this thing saved the day. It’s more of a lamp than a flashlight, so you can eat by it or read by it without getting light into your companion’s eyes. The new one has a USB charger so you can charge it up or charge your phone.
  • Head lamp – You’ll be staying in places where you’ll need this to navigate around the property at night. I’m not totally sure I need this and the Luci lamp. Check back later.
  • Travel yoga mat – So you can get a good long stretch in every morning, regardless of where you are. I fold mine up and pack it inside the suitcase
  • Travel towel – I’m torn on this, because so far my sarong has been all I need. I brought my travel towel on my Sian Ka’an tour, and it felt sad and small compared to my sarong. I might ditch mine later on, but I’m not ready to yet!
  • Heating coil – plug this in and it boils your water within a minute. Great for purifying water on the go so you can avoid buying plastic bottled water, or just making tea when you’re in a room without a teapot and no access to a kitchen. (Just make sure to verify that the local water isn’t contaminated with heavy metals or arsenic, as it is in San Miguel de Allende, for example. That doesn’t boil away.)
  • Rubber door stop – just in case we end up somewhere where our door doesn’t have a proper lock, we can wedge this under the door while we sleep. I hope that doesn’t happen, but you never know!
  • Underwear and bras – I would avoid synthetics. In hot, sweaty climates they’ll make your skin itch and they’re not good for you down there. Look through all my favorite eco brands here.
  • Universal sink plug – So you can wash your clothing in the sink
  • Travel dry line – Drying something on a line as opposed to over the railing or on the floor makes a huge difference in time spent. (I lost my bikini top in Hawaii drying it on the railing!) I like this one because it comes with a stuff sack.
  • Waterproof reusable laundry bag – I forgot to bring this and I regretted it! I ended up taking one of the (ineffectual) compression bags Illich was leaving behind. Things will get wet and you’ll want to put them in something waterproof…so synthetics wins out on this one.
  • Travel sewing kit – Forgot to bring this and regretted it – I already have a button that needs sewing back on!
  • Reusable sealable bags – I got these on recommendation from a digital nomad blog, and I’m so glad I did. We’ve been using various sizes already for things that come up, but they take up no room in my suitcase side interior pocket.
  • Luggage locks – Bring two! When we’re in a glamping situation with no safe, I put one on my suitcase and one on the tent zippers when we step out.
  • Travel first aid kitGet a basic one, then add in medications you’ll need, like malaria pills, altitude medication, ibuprofen, imodium, etc. You can always get more medicine where you’re going, most likely, for cheaper than in the U.S.

In My Toiletry Bag

  • Travel toiletry bag – So, I ditched my eco-friendly but not very organized travel toiletry bag. Illich ordered two sizes of this nylon one, and gave me the larger one and I love it. It has a travel mirror, so many pockets, and isn’t stiff so it takes up less room.
  • Argan oil – I can’t live without argan oil for making my hair shiny and smooth, plus sealing in moisture on my face after a shower.
  • Coola Tinted SPF BB cream – This is my absolute favorite tinted SPF moisturizer. It’s not too thick and makes your face glow!
  • Micellar water – I love traveling with Micellar water, because you don’t need to use water for it. I like Yes to Cucumbers, which you can find in the travel size in your local CVS or Walgreens.
  • Reusable cotton rounds
  • Ultra moisturizing night face cream – For when you’re in arid, mountainous regions. My night regenerative balm from Apoterra was a lifesaver in Mexico.
  • Body lotionthis one from Osea comes in the travel size.
  • Balm – for moisturizing your lips, cuticles, or cracked heels. After a month in Central Mexico, my feet were wrecked.
  • Travel toothbrush and toothpaste – I have to admit, mine is plastic, because I wanted a compact toothbrush with a protective cap.
  • Deodoranthere’s my roundup of my favorites.
  • Mini hair iron and/or hairdryer – I did not have room to bring both, though I wish I did! I went with the hair iron.
  • Mini hair brush
  • Tweezers
  • Hair elastics
  • Reusable metal nail file – great for both filing and digging crud out from under your nails. I’ve lost mine and I’m desperately searching for another.
  • 1 matte lipstick – I like Jane Iredale lipstick in red
  • 1 lip tint – Something more subtle and beach appropriate
  • Mascara
  • Eyeliner
  • Shower bag – Having all my shower stuff in a separate bag is crucial to ensure I don’t leave things behind in the shower. I consolidated everything for a side trip to an eco village, and guess what: I left several things behind in the shower.
  • Shampoo and conditioner – Here’s where it gets more difficult. I didn’t want to bring travel-sizes of my products, because I knew they would run out within two months and I would be someplace where the only things available are conventional, cheap, toxic brands. So I brought full-sized of both, knowing I was checking my luggage anyway. I did leave the conditioner somewhere accidentally, and bought o locally-made organic brand in Tulum at the beauty store in front of Co Con Amor. (My guide to Tulum here.) But I can’t be sure that will happen again.
  • Multipurpose soapThis one by Akamai is amazing for shaving as well as cleansing.
  • Soap box by Life Without Plastic  – They have a whole travel set if you’re a DIY beauty type of gal!
  • Shower cap – I got one from Shhhowercap that wouldn’t be thrown away by the cleaning people the way small plastic ones are, but it came in over-the-top, wasteful packaging, so I don’t recommend it. But once I had it, I stuffed it in a little cotton bag.
  • Safety razor and razor blades – I switched to this because it’s easier to find razor blade replacements abroad then the fancy heads that come with whatever fancy razor blade you can get from your drugstore in the U.S. It’s also less wasteful and less expensive, and the replacements take up no room. I thought Illich and I would share, but then he went and got his own!
  • Sunscreen – Here’s my guide to non-toxic sunscreen
  • Dr. Bronner travel sized – Great for if the place you are staying doesn’t provide hand soap, or if you need to wash your clothes in the sink.
  • Ear plugs – Get them on a string so you don’t lose them when they fall out
  • Coconut filter face mask – you don’t have to bring this. I brought mine and never wore it, though there were times when I thought, “Damn, it would be good to have it right now! Wish I hadn’t left it at home!” Mexico City has really poor air quality, and a lot of people smoke. The people I saw using face masks were usually of retirement age. But if you are sensitive, it can’t hurt to bring one!
  • Safety pins
  • 1 bottle nail polish and 1 bottle top coatread my reviews of the best non-toxic brands
  • NCLA soy-based nail polish remover packets – I know this creates more waste, but I couldn’t find a travel-sized, non-toxic nail polish remover bottle. I brought 12 of these, one for each month.
  • 1 mini bottle LURK perfume
  • BugsprayMy absolute favorite

Box for Europe Summer

Yeah, we cheated. We packed a small box labeled “EUROPE” and we are going to ask our renter to ship it to us so it’s waiting for us in Portugal, because dressing for Europe is way different than dressing for South America or Asia. It has:

  • Converse sneakers – I got mine secondhand, and you can too!
  • Leather jacket – From Sway upcycled leather jackets
  • Long sweater
  • White midi-skirt – I felt like this was too nice to bring through South America with us, but I love it for Europe!
  • Fresh white and grey t-shirts
  • Black sandals – from Kaight
  • Illich’s leather tennis shoes from an eco-friendly store in Berlin

(I’m basically just recreating this Europe capsule wardrobe.)

Illich’s Men’s Travel Packing List

I’ll start this by saying Illich is not a sustainability freak like me, so not everything in this list is eco-friendly. I’ve snuck a lot of things in there over the past four years though that are. So you’ll find a split between items that are just plain useful and items that are also sustainable.

On the Airplane:

In His Suitcase

In His Backpack:

  • Smartphone
  • Phone charging cord
  • Laptop and charger
  • Laptop heat lap pad
  • Screen cleaner spray and cloth
  • Cable pouch/organizer
  • Duct tape
  • Portable phone charger battery
  • Moleskine sketchbook
  • Short extension cord with multiple plugs  – So we can share an outlet when working
  • Passport and passport wallet
  • International vaccination certificate
  • International driver’s licence
  • Extra photos for visas
  • Fold up reusable bag
  • Travel pen with carabiner
  • Inflatable travel pillow
  • Earbuds
  • Ear plugs
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Portable spork – So we don’t have to use disposable ones
  • Pack of tissues  – For bathrooms without toilet paper
  • Tin mug – we each bought one in Mexico and use it in lieu of disposable cups
  • Wifi booster – so he ca pick up the weak hotel wifi from our hotel room, or sit at the cafe next door to the one with the wifi.

His Toiletries:

  • Small nylon travel toiletry bag – He liked it so much that when it got a hole in it in Mexico from an unprotected razor, he took it to get it repaired.
  • Electric toothbrush by Quip – It’s really compact
  • Travel toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Safety razor and razor blades  – I think we could have shared this but he got his own!
  • Mini hair brush
  • 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner
  • Tweezers
  • Dental floss
  • Nail clippers
  • Soap
  • Soap box
  • Chapstick
  • Akamai skin and hair oil – Because he has long hair
  • Swiss Army Knife