The ultimate carry on packing list for every trip

It pays to travel light, but do you know what to pack in your carry on luggage? Here is the ultimate carry on packing list whether you are hiking in Bolivia or going to a beach in Bali. From a couple of weeks to a year, this is what to pack in a carry on backpack for any vacation or long term trip. Of course you can usually get extra things on the road but with these essential packing tips, you will be off to a pretty good start.

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What to pack in your carry on luggage

Must Pack Clothing

Never take nice clothes travelling, the laundries aren’t always perfect and stuff gets ruined easily. I never wear white or anything that needs ironing on the road. Comfort is number one.

1 pair of stretchy jeans or comfy trousers

1 pair of leggings (I like sports leggings with lycra for hiking as they protect against leaches too!)

A few favourite tops (what you wear all the time at home)

3 viscose shirts (lightweight and non crease) some long sleeved for mosquito filled nights

Plain vest tops x3

Swimsuit

Sarong or Scarf

A fleece or jumper

One waterproof or warm coat

Travel towel

Two pairs of shorts; one beach one dressy

Two light summer dresses

Two big shirts to sleep in/ wear on laundry day

14 undies and 5 socks (walking and light)

Walking boots (Cats) breathable trainers (can also be used as wet shoes) sandals for walking, and Havaiana’s for the beach and showers.

2 pairs of good UV40+ sunglasses (Your eyes are important, look after them!)

What is the best lightweight luggage for international travel

People often ask what is the best kind of luggage to buy. Really the question is what is the easiest luggage to carry? Particularly if you are travelling long term with luggage. The answer is undoubtedly a backpack. Airports, stairs, uneven ground and boat landings are all better with a cabin sized rucksack. The trick with luggage is to keep it small and light. If possible try to buy one with multiple pockets and lockable compartments. My favourite is a hand luggage sized backpack called the Osprey Fairview (Farpoint for men) 40 litre. It has a wide suitcase style opening, unlike regular backpacks so you can easily access all of your belongings. It’s tough, easy to carry and has loads of added extras. It’s been with me for three intense years of travelling with no damage. More than can be said for any suitcase!

It’s best to have a day-pack to bust out when you are exploring your destination. I absolutely love the fold away backpacks that can be put away when not in use. But if you are looking for something a bit more substantial check out this list of the best smart backpacks to buy, I have the Herschel Little America, it’s a great smart looking bag for exploring cities in style.

What documents do I need to travel?

Bus/ hotel/ tour vouchers

Flight tickets/ Proof of exit for the country or basic Itinerary if visa isn’t required.

Printed insurance

Passport and a copy to keep in main luggage

200 USD for emergencies

Travel credit card and ID to keep with you (lock passport away or keep in money belt)

Luggage tags for all bags

Great travel gadgets

USB chargers, worldwide adaptor (can be used in any country), solar powered battery pack for charging.

Noise cancelling headphones

Camera or Phone

I use a Sony DSCHX90 camera for all of my nature photography and it has never let me down in 5+ years of hiking through mountains, jungles and deserts. I’d highly recommend it for a compact hard wearing camera that gets as good close ups as the chunky DSLR’s.

Of course the best camera you have is the one in your hand. Which is usually not a camera at all but a phone. I always go for a good camera first, then memory size then a big screen to read books and watch Netflix on (the important things when you travel full time!). If you are in the market I can highly recommend the Google Pixel.

How to pack toiletries for flying

One of the hardest parts of choosing what to pack as a female traveller is toiletries. They can be heavy, bulky and limited by airline restrictions for carry on luggage.  So what’s the best way to pack toiletries when flying? Focus on the essentials.

Moisturiser. Shea butter is great as after sun, anti itch cream, conditioner and a general moisturiser. I use a face moisturiser with factor 15 for the days I don’t apply sun cream. It can also be used as lip balm.

Mascara, foundation and any make up you normally use.

Hairbrush and ties.

Toothbrush and toothpaste.

Nail polish, tweezers and scissors for long trips.

Check out this list of the best eco friendly toiletries

Essential travel first aid kit


Sun cream (Reef Safe if swimming in the ocean)
Insect repellent containing Deet,
Savlon,
Hydro-cortisone cream for bites or rashes,
Pills for pain or inflammation,
Plasters,
Loperamide (look it up),
Alcohol hand gel,
Compression bandage

Travel essentials

Moneybelt

Backpack/ day bag and reusable shopping bags and ziplock bags

Filtered drink bottle (Check out Lifestraw and look after the environment here)

Locks (coded TSA locks are better as you can’t loose the key!)

Fold up umbrella

ultimate carry on packing list

So there we have the ultimate list of what to pack in a carry on backpack. In Japanese culture it’s said you must spend over 10,000 hours practising something before you are a true master. Of course there are always extra things you may need on the road, but armed with this ultimate carry on packing list you will be prepared for anything the world has to throw at you. And remember, less is more especially when packing! Don’t forget to get your travel insurance (see below):

ultimate carry on packing list 2020

How to travel better for less

Skyscanner – For flights at the best prices this is my go to site. I have also started using them for car hire and they can’t be beat!

Booking.com – I always book with this site if looking for cheap accommodation as the filters are so easy to use. Become a genius member after five bookings and get great discounts too!

Air BnB – Sometimes you can find great local places to stay on Air BnB. In some countries, like Cuba, it’s the only way to book!

Transferwise – A debit card you can use all over the world and get great exchange rates with no hidden fees. This bank has saved me £100’s in bank fees!

Monzo – A similar travel card to the above with additional features like joint accounts and bill splitting.

World Nomads – Travel insurance is one of the most important things you can have while travelling. Don’t leave home without it! World Nomads provide the very best cover.

Ethical Superstore – My go to site for cleaning products, eco clothing and even groceries. All ethically tagged and delivered free from plastic packaging. Plus eco friendly alternatives to your toiletries.

Omio – The place to go for all of your public transport needs in Europe. Save a bundle!

G Adventures – A sustainable, fun, responsible travel company. I’ve travelled with them many times and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of their amazing trips.

Contiki – The day job. Group travel for 18/35 year olds and memories to last a lifetime.

Hey, some links in this post are to affiliate sites. If you purchase something through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

A note on Amazon Affiliates – LW no longer uses this program, instead focusing on eco friendly alternatives. Read the reasons why here. LW will not profit from any links that may remain on this site. Please advise us if you spot any. Thanks!

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Lost Wanders

A Brit that got fed up of the 9 to 5 corporate life, I sold everything to become a full time wanderer. Having travelled to over 70 countries so far, I share my money-saving tips and secrets from inside the travel industry. Hoping to inspire you to work less and travel more.