Round-the-World Packing List (7 kg)

I found an authoritative-sounding book on round-the-world traveling in my local library before I left on my trip. While it was definitely aimed at a more adventurous crowd (a pejorative “Real Traveler” applies here), it had some good advice (I was thankful for that warm thermal shirt on a few occasions). In addition to some travel tips, here is an exhaustive list of the things I found useful. The total weight of all my gear was seven kilograms (around 15 pounds) and, with rolling some items, my bag met the requirements for airline carry-ons (including Ryanair).

Best Advice

  • Pack lightly! The people who carried huge 100 liter backpacks almost always looked miserable. Also, people on an overcrowded bus (Granada, Spain was particularly miserable in that sense) hate you less if you aren’t taking up too much space. As an aside, hand carry your backpack when on public transport – clueless backpackers (the ones whom everyone hates) who kept them on would invariably smack people with them by accident.
  • Carry as little as you can. A camera, some sort of ID, and a little money were the only things I really needed when walking around for the day. Besides, keeping cards and your passport in a hostel safe is much more secure.
  • You can buy pretty much anything on the road. For instance, I bought more clothes since laundry was expensive and I was dumb enough to believe a travel guide that recommended bringing only one shirt.
  • Don’t take any packing list (including this one) too seriously. I know what worked for me but everyone has different needs and comfort levels.

Most Appreciated Things

  • 32 liter backpack (my Kelty backpack was good quality so I never had to worry about rips or a zipper breaking)
  • Smartphone (I had a flip-phone before my trip, and I’m back to using it now, but it was very helpful for keeping my pictures together and for making reservations for hostels and transport. The Polytron 4G501 that my friend Pink helped me buy in Jakarta, Indonesia after my first one broke worked out well)
  • Universal travel adapter with multiple USB ports (you can plug it in and then place another person’s charger on top to save an outlet)
  • Allergy medication (generic Loratadine was cheap and effective)
  • USB-charged electric razor (one less adapter to carry and it reduced the risk of slitting my throat when startled)
  • Two (2) USB power banks with cables (outlets sometimes just aren’t available and I could charge both my phone and my razor with them)
  • All-purpose wipes (for those endless travel days to freshen up)
  • Sunscreen (being burned instantly tells other people you are not a local)
  • Passport with cover (My homemade cover had a foil lining for extra protection from scammers)
  • An easily-accessible flight itinerary (Immigration likes to see that you have an outbound ticket – you can store this electronically)

Mostly Unused Things

  • Travel/compact roll of toilet paper (useful in English railway stations without toilet paper though)
  • Pack of playing cards (I never used mine and you can buy them anywhere)
  • Luggage scale (nice if you take lots of flights)
  • Utensil set (useful for self-catering on-the-go but hostels typically had silverware)
  • Facemask (Delta gave me one and I used it occasionally)
  • Clothesline (very handy if on the bottom bunk of a bunkbed for drying a travel towel though)
  • Laundry items (a small bag of laundry detergent was nice in Britain since many places required you to have your own though)

Rest of the List

  • Drawstring bag / daypack (it’s better to go without most of the time)
  • European-type USB charger (didn’t fall out of the wall as easily as a universal adapter)
  • Headphones (you’ll be given a pair on a plane or a train eventually if you need them)
  • Spare pair of eyeglasses (I had to wear these to find my normal pair once)
  • Tic Tacs (I really had to use the bathroom in a Budapest train station and these were the cheapest thing I could buy to make change)
  • Toiletries in a small plastic bag (plastic comb, nail clippers, toothpaste, …)
  • Bandaids (people are genuinely appreciative if you can offer one at the right time)
  • Medication (anti-diarrheal, allergy, antacid, Ibuprofen,…place together in a small container to save space)
  • Notebook (can be a diary, scrapbook, and a conversation starter)
  • Clear tape (for taping ticket stubs in your notebook)
  • Ballpoint pens (including one to carry around in your pocket)
  • Combination lock (store inside your backpack so as not to attract attention)
  • Earplugs (it’s a bad omen if a place advertises free earplugs)
  • 100 mL spray bottle of olive oil (for cooking)
  • Paperback book
  • Sandals/shower shoes (the flatter the better for packing in your bag)
  • Athletic shoes
  • “Nicer” shoes (boat shoes were great as travel shoes or when I was trying to dress up a little)
  • Four (4) pairs of underwear (that extra pair I bought in Hong Kong really made laundry less of an issue)
  • Four (4) pairs of socks (two sets of white ankle socks, two sets of normal black socks)
  • Plain white T-shirt (for sleeping in or undershirt on a cold day)
  • Swim trunks / sleeping shorts (Plainly decorated ones can be worn in public as well)
  • Dress/travel pants
  • Button-down/travel shirt
  • V-neck T-shirt (when you are trying to look good without looking fancy)
  • Two (2) polo shirts (I didn’t bring any initially but laundry costs changed my mind)
  • Jeans (I replaced my worn, baggy ones in Hong Kong with a slimmer pair – apparently, that’s the fashion these days)
  • UMBC Swimming and Diving jacket/windbreaker (I treated it with waterproofing liquid so it functioned as a rainjacket as well)
  • Poncho (I bought it on a day in Japan when I got soaked)
  • Compact umbrella (Another thing I bought on a different wet day in Japan)
  • Thermal shirt/sweatshirt (NOT cotton but a quick-dry material)
  • Travel towel (this is a wear item – you can be the most careful person in the world and it will still eventually start smelling bad)
  • Longest Day purple bandanna (can function as a backup travel towel if absolutely necessary)
  • Index cards (for making phrase lists and for keeping notes on-the-go)
  • Coin purse (fun fact: the highest value coin I used on my trip was a Japanese 500 yen coin)
  • Neck pouch or money belt (for storing some emergency cash and an anti-diarrheal pill under your clothes)
  • Extra passport photos (they’ll come in handy on occasion)
  • Wallet (as plain as possible)
  • Debit card
  • Two (2) credit cards (store one as backup separately in your bag)
  • Health Insurance card
  • State driver’s license
  • International Driving Permit (it looks really fake – a fifth-grader could forge one – but it is legitimate)
  • Hostelling International membership card (I just bought one at the first HI hostel I visited and used it for the rest of my trip)
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