How to Pack for Long Term Travel

how to pack for long term travel
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Here it is… you’ve planned for months for your long vacation.  You’ve booked everything down to the free walking tour that you’ll be going on (or maybe you haven’t booked anything and you’re just going to wing it).  You are, ready.  But… you still have to figure out how to pack for long term travel.  The last daunting task ahead of you.  You’re worried about packing too little, after all, nobody wants to be continuously sitting in a laundromat doing laundry when there is so much world to explore.  But you also don’t want to pack too much, you don’t want to be the person who can’t manage their own luggage.  You want to pack just right.  And after many packing mistakes, I’ve finally mastered the art of packing and realized that there is a smart way to pack for a long vacation.


How to Pack for Long Term Travel


Begin With the Basics…

When packing for long-term travel you always want to start by packing basics because you can wear these items over and over with different accessories to switch up your looks.  You’ll want to pack your most classic jeans, white t-shirts, black t-shirts, etc.  Don’t let this deter you from bringing a fun, printed piece though.  I usually pack plain t-shirts and jeans along with one fun piece to liven up my wardrobe.

Expert tip:  I packed multiple pieces of basics when I spent 8-weeks in Europe solo.  However, without realizing it I seemed to have packed all basics with some form of black and white stripes.  I didn’t even realize it until my friend pointed it out to me… “Um did you bring any other clothes besides the same stripes that I keep seeing in your pictures?”  Make sure to pack a variety of basics!


Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Jumpsuit, Romper, or Dress…

All of these things – a jumpsuit, romper, and a dress – are incredibly easy and light items to pack.  You have an entire outfit in one piece of clothing, which saves an enormous amount of room in your suitcase.  When I travel during the summer, I tend to only pack these things because I can fit so much more than if I were to be packing jeans and shirts.


It’s All About the Accessories…

When thinking about packing accessories, you may think, “But doesn’t that take up valuable room?”  To which I would say, if you do it correctly, packing accessories have the power to change your entire wardrobe without taking up much room.  And in fact, it makes my list of “long-term travel essentials”.  All of those simple and basic t-shirts you’ve packed suddenly cant be turned into two or three different outfits paired with a different scarf, headbands/scrunchies, sunglasses, etc.

Accessories that are great to pack include scarves, scrunchies, sunglasses, and belts.  Accessories that aren’t as good to pack are shoes, purses, chunky jewelry, etc.

Hats can also change up an outfit.  And although they are annoying to carry around with you, they don’t take up room in your suitcase because you’re usually carrying them with you.  While it isn’t glamorous I tend to bring two hats with me while I travel.


How to Pack for Long a Long Trip When You’re Packing for Different Seasons…

If you choose to travel during the summer, you’re going to have more room and will probably be able to pack more clothes.  You won’t be carting around heavy coats, jeans, and boots.  On the other hand, however, if you’re packing for winter things can get tricky.  You’ll be required to pack boots and heavy coats that weigh more and take up more room.  One tip I always follow is to wear my heaviest items on the airplane to make my room in my bag and to ensure that my bag isn’t overweight.  However, I don’t tend to over-pack these things.  You will more than likely only need one coat and one pair of boots no matter what you might convince yourself.  And if you’re worried about getting a variety of pictures, you can always take off your coat and cut your boots out of the photo.

If you’re planning on being gone for two different seasons or going to different parts of the world where you’ll experience both hot and cold, things can get tricky!  When I took a five-month hiatus off of work and spent 17-weeks traveling through Europe and Asia, I had to get creative so that I didn’t overpack.  I started in cold weather and moved to warm weather so I only packed cold weather items in my bag (along with a summer romper that didn’t take up much room).  I made sure that all of these items were cheap and I was okay leaving them behind in Europe when I moved onto Asia.  Once I arrived in Asia I went shopping to buy cheap summer clothes.  You may think it’s sad to leave stuff behind but remember these are all materialistic things that can be re-bought.  You do not want to overpack and bring more than one suitcase.


More Packing Insight…

1. H&M and Forever21 (both affordable stores) can be found in almost every single country.  If you’re bored with your clothes or want new accessories you can always find one of these stores and buy something cheap.


2. Always remember to leave room in your suitcase for that, “ONE THING YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IN THAT QUAINT TOWN IN ITALY THAT MAKES YOU THINK OF VINO AND PASTA AND THE BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE”.  But really, there’s always one souvenir that you’re going to end up wanting to take home with you.


Long-term travel is fun and exciting and learning how to pack for your trip is an art form that can definitely be learned.  Don’t let the fear of packing keep you from booking that trip.  I’m curious, what other tips do you have for packing long-term?  Sound off in the comments below!


(p.s. don’t forget your reusable water bottle for the airplane and long days out!)


For more insight into packing for long term travel, read:  My 10-Week Packing List for Europe in Winter


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Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no cost to you.


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Kylee is a NICU nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee has been a NICU nurse for 9 years and a travel nurse for 7 years. Since starting her career in travel nursing, she’s worked in six different states, 10 different hospitals, volunteered as a nurse in North Macedonia, worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, and has traveled to 45+ countries. Her favorite travel nurse assignment was in Seattle and her favorite destination is Georgia (the country). Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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  1. Sandra
    August 14, 2018 / 1:24 pm

    Great advice and article!! Now if I could just get away for three months I could try it out??

  2. Sandy
    August 24, 2018 / 10:49 pm

    I need to come with you now that I know how to pack!!

  3. Amy
    September 23, 2021 / 2:39 pm

    I have two trips coming up – one shorter, one longer. I’m student teaching abroad in Ireland for 5 weeks in November-December 2021, coming home for Christmas, then flying out to Spain in January 2022 for 10 weeks to study abroad. I’m staying longer in Europe after I’m done in Spain, so it’ll be more like 15 weeks in Europe – whew!
    Your packing blogs are so helpful! I’ve been stressing big time about what to pack because I’ve never been to Europe, but your blogs helped calm my mind and give me some direction, so muchas gracias! Please write more!

    • September 25, 2021 / 11:48 pm

      Hi Amy! Ummm can I come with you?! Pack me in your Ireland bag ;). These both sound like incredible adventures. I’m so happy that you found this post and you’ve found it helpful! Your comment made my day :). Please let me know if you ever need anything else!

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