Maybe you’re heading for a year-long trip around the world or maybe just for a short weekend gateway, a packing list can help you keep track of everything you need to take (and also the things to avoid). As someone who lives out of a backpack, I don’t really use much of a list now, it’s just everything I own in a single backpack.
However, in this article, I’m going to share the key items YOU need for your next trip! Keep in mind I said, need and not want ;)!
I believe you should travel with only a carry-on backpack, I’ve been traveling with a single one for the past 1 and a half year and for most people that should be sufficient. (I said *most* because I can already hear my business buddies and travel photographers yelling their heading off at the scruffy backpacker ie. me)
Here’s what my packing list would look like if I had to pack the ideal bag!
Carry On Packing List
Well, before you fill your backpack with all the things you need to start with the right backpack. Picking the right backpack is normally the hardest decision you’re going to make.
Well, if you don’t have a backpack yet, here’re my top 2 picks for your carry on travel backpack that will fit everyone needs. If you already got a backpack I’ll recommend giving the 2 below a look *it may be time to upgrade to a more modern backpack ;)* else click here to skip and go right straight to the packing list.
Carry on Backpack Pick #1: Nomatic Travel Bag
Nomatic is a new guy on the block and just had the most funded backpack on Kickstarter of all time raising over $3m to produce what people are calling “the most functional travel bag”, sounds like a pretentious title eh?
Well, the Nomatic travel bag does kinda deserve it as it’s geared to the functional traveler like me (and judging by the fact that you are reading about my packing list, YOU too!who wants to be as efficient with their space and items.
Packing for a trip shouldn’t be something you dread, it should be something you get excited by!
Here are just a few of the many features you get with the Nomatic Travel bag:
- Laundry Bag
- Can be used as a duffle bag or a backpack
- Laptop/tablet pockets
- Shoe compartment
- Water bottle pocket
- RFID secured pocket
- Underwear compartment
- Waist strap
- and SOO much more
I could talk about the features of the Nomatic bag for hours, but I’ll let them tell you guys themselves. Watch the video of the Nomatic backpack below.
Also, check out this video by a buddy of mine (He blogs at NomadTravelHacker.com) who’s been traveling for months like me, and uses the Nomatic travel bag.
Carry on Backpack Pick #2: Tortuga Setout Backpack
Tortuga was started when 2 friends were backpacking Europe in 2009 and didn’t like how the luggage industry was incredibly ill-suited for daily city life. Tortuga was started to solve this problem, by building bags that they would be proud to use!
The Tortuga Setout backpack is the latest from Tortuga and was released at the end of 2017 and it’s an amazing update to the already great travel backpack lineup by Tortuga. It comes with a capacity of 45L and is the maximum carry-on backpack size so you can fit everything from this packing list into it, a lot more!
It can fit a 15″ Laptop as well as a 9.7″ Tablet. It’s made of polyester that has a water-resistant coating so that you can carry on even during the slight drizzle you might experience.
Other worth mentioning features include Front loading, padded and removable hip belt, hideaway shoulder straps and weather resistance.
Now that you’ve got your new carry on backpack, let’s get into what you are really here for, here’s your packing list checklist.
Travel Packing List For A Carry On
Nothing worse than arriving to check in and realizing that you forget your papers at home, even worse if you left your passport.
Passport: Unless you plan on traveling domestically you are going to need your passport (DUH!). Make sure your passport is valid and is not nearing its expiry date. Most countries need a passport to have a validity of 6 months but it’s better to be on the safer side and renew your passport when it has a validity of 9 months.
Boarding Pass: Based on your airline you might need to have a print out of your ticket if you don’t have access to mobile check-in and boarding passes.
Outbound flight: Based on your destination/airline/visa situation etc, you might be required to show an outbound/return flight. They are possibilities that you might have to book a ticket at the check-in counter if you don’t have this or even be denied boarding.
ID/Drivers License: Carry additional ID can use many items as you don’t necessarily want to carry your passport on a night out with your buddies in a bar. Similarly, if you have a student ID it can be useful for getting discounts at attractions at times.
Extra $$ bills: It’s good to have a little cash somewhere in your bag in a “worst case scenario” situation. US Dollars are accepted almost everywhere in the world so it’s best to have a couple bucks hidden in a secret pocket.
Copies of all docs: Having multiple copies of all your documents like passports/credit cards etc can save you a lot of trouble and time in the worse case scenarios that they go missing
Atm card w/ lowest fees: If you’re American your best bet is to get the Charles Schwab checking account as their atm card refunds all atm fees. For non-American citizens like me, the options are limited but make sure that you have an atm card that enabled internationally and has the lowest fees as it might always be easy to get an atm card with no fees.
Credit Card w/ best reward system: If you have a little exposure to travel hacking you will know about airlines points/ miles and know how valuable the right credit card is. If you don’t here’s a good read about the best travel rewards credit cards for Americans.
The electronics you need are going to vary a lot based on the type of trip you take, if you are a digital nomad like me who works while traveling or a full-time photographer, your electronic section will look a whole lot different from mine, however, let’s break down the basic necessities.
Unlocked Smartphone: Get an unlocked phone (Top picks: iPhone X or Pixel 2 XL) and get a local sim for the country you arrive in. You can probably get a sim cheaper out of the airport but it’s usually not worth the hassle unless you are sticking to a strict budget, so just get a local sim in the airport. If you go for the Pixel 2XL and are American, Google Fi might be a better option than a local sim.
Charger w/ extra cable: Nothing is worse than being in a random hostel in remote Laos and no one has a goddamn USB type c cable. Don’t forget your charger and take along an extra cable.
Camera: Based on your preference, you might just decide to use your phone as your camera. However, if you want a small portable camera without sacrificing quality the Sony RX100M III is your best bet. Here are a few other options:
- Best Compact Travel Camera: Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II
- Best Action Camera: GoPro Hero 6 Black
- Cheap GoPro Alternative: YI 4k Action Camera
- Best DSLR Body: Canon EOS Rebel T6i
- Best Mirrorless Camera: Sony Alpha a6300 (Quality of a DSLR without the size)
Headphones: Investing in a pair of noise-canceling is going to be the best things you can do for your mental peace, especially if you are going to be taking a lot of flights. Don’t be the tourist complaining about the crying baby, instead be the #woke traveler celebrating that there is more life in the world and being smart enough to put on their headphones haha! The Bose QuietComfort 35 is the best wireless noise-canceling headphone on the market right now, the older QuietComfort 25 version is pretty great too but is wired. Check out the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B if you are looking for a more budget option.
Read More: Best Noise Cancelling Headphones 2018
Travel Adapter: Invest in one of these, unless you are sure of the countries you are going to, it’s best to just get an adapter that can work all around the world. Never worry about the plug ever again.
That’s pretty much it for the necessities, a great add-on would be a kindle. But unless you are working and traveling like me, I don’t think you need to have any more electronics with you. Here are the remaining electronics you might take along based on your needs.
Laptop + Charger: Unless you are working online, I don’t really believe you need to travel with a laptop. You can so many things on your phone nowadays that your laptop should be obsolete. Also, don’t you want to spend your entire day climbing mountains or swimming with turtles instead of staring at your screen?
Don’t take a laptop, but if you must here are my top picks based on your needs:
- Lightweight tasks: Asus C202 Chromebook or MacBook Air (Netflix & chill/writing/YouTube etc)
- Work requires high processing power: MacBook Pro or Dell XPS (Video editing/developing etc)
Read More: Best Travel Laptop 2018
Tablet: If you just want to take a device to watch some Netflix on, maybe get a tablet like the iPad instead.
Drone: Well, Drones are all the rage nowadays and it’s not a necessity unless you are a YouTuber/Instagrammer. In case you are one, well the new DJI Mavic Air is your go-to drone as it’s the size of a bottle but has all the power of the DJI Mavic Pro.
Read More: Best Travel Drone 2018
Powerbank: This may be a need based on your style of travel. I tend to bike around countries so they’re times when I may not have easy access to power or may be taking a lot of flights and listening to podcasts for hours drains my phone’s battery, so a power bank is a necessity for me. Check this one on Amazon if you don’t have a power back yet.
Misc: Don’t forget the little things, ie memory cards, extra cables etc. Sometimes the little things make all the difference: For eg, I used to travel with this tiny USB fan and it makes a ton of difference as I sometimes ended up spending hours in buses and need a breath of fresh air.
Toiletries are a weird thing to pack, the needs vary a lot based on your gender and personality. I remember one day when I was traveling Ex-girlfriend and we checked into a new Airbnb. I had a shower and just unpacked my shower gel and shampoo. Later after she was done with her shower I went in and it looked like she moved half of CVS into our place.
Anyways, I believe you should trim down your toiletries only to the necessities that you really need. You can always buy your things in the local supermarkets. People from every country in the world use toothpaste uk :P!
So what are the basic necessities that I would still take along? Well, A toothbrush, toothpaste, and maybe a face wash so I don’t look exactly like my horrible passport picture the moment I get off the plane. Everything else can be bought at a local store, also I don’t have to worry about the liquid limits on the plane.
If you are adamant about taking all Toiletries, try and get the travel sized version. I personally raid my hotel rooms and store those tiny bottles for scenarios like these.
This is a touchy subject haha, mainly because I am friends with a lot of fashion bloggers and if I skip the mention of a type of scarf, I’ll never hear the end of it. Obviously, everyone has their own idea of what type of clothing is enough and what isn’t. So in this section of this packing list, I’m just going to talk about the bare necessities that you need in your carry on.
Clothing Packing List Guidelines:
- Clothes take are less place if you fold them versus just having them wadded. Folded and rolled is still even better.
- It’s a good idea to invest in wrinkle-free clothes.
- If your clothes take up more than 33% of your bag then you’ve probably over packed.
- Lay out all of your things on a bed or a living room floor and filter down to the absolute necessities. Be extremely picky in choosing.
- Get someone else’s opinion too as you pick what to pack. As Stephen King would say, “Kill your darlings.”
- Never pack clothes for more than a single week as you rarely need that much! You can do your laundry on the go.
- Summer: light. Winter: heavy. Shorts or a bikini are always lighter and easier to pack than a down jacket!
- Go for darker shades and pick combinations that will match with each other.
- Take one fancy shirt/dress for a special night out with a special someone you might meet on the road 😉
Waterbottle: Don’t use single-use plastic bottles, get yourself a water bottle. I personally use the LifeStraw Go bottle and would definitely recommend it.
Packing cubes: Packing cubes make organizing all your things in your backpack so much easier. Thanks to packing cubes I’m able to instantly remove all of my clothes from my backpack and then just walk around town as my bag is half empty.
Towel: I would recommend getting a microfiber towel like this one.
Sunglasses: Get a pair of polarised glasses! It’s the best fashion accessory and also reduce the number of wrinkles you get from squinting.
Security Lock: Get one for your backpack and one for lockers just in case.
Condoms: Don’t be stupid, stay safe. What happens in your gap year, shows up on your medical records!
Ready With Your Carry On Packing List for your next trip?
Truth be told, this packing list doesn’t have to be something you follow to the dot. Each person reading this is unique and has their own needs and wants. Use this article as a basic guide and not an exact checklist to help you pack right for your next trip.