How to Pack for a Long-Term Trip

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From a semester-long study abroad program, to a summer backpacking around Europe before entering the workforce, to taking a year-long sabbatical as you contemplate a career change, the concept of long-term travel is gradually gaining traction in the United States. One of the biggest challenges of such an adventure, however, is how to pack for it. Far more than packing for the average vacation, you must scale down your everyday life to a mere one or two bags. If you’re traveling among varied climates, that just adds to the complication. Read on for the best long-term packing tips on the market.

Take half the clothes and twice the money

This adage is as deeply ingrained in the travel community as the proverb “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” is in Southern culture. At least one month before your departure, lay out everything you want to pack, and then take half the clothes off your list. Between inexpensive hostel laundry services and the potential to wash your own items in the sink, long-term travelers rarely, if ever, need more than one week’s worth of clothing. Some minimalist packers find it easy to get by with just three outfits. Make sure every item you pack is versatile, so you can mix and match outfits as desired.

Condense your technology

The number of multi-functional gadgets on the market these days is astounding, so unless you’re a professional writer or photographer looking to work on the road, you likely don’t need to pack anything more than an unlocked smartphone for your trip. Remember that anything you bring with you could be lost, broken, or stolen, so only pack expensive gadgets if you truly need to, and make sure your travel insurance includes gear coverage. Remember to include a plug adapter kit on your packing list.

If you can make it smaller, do

Even if you plan on packing both a checked bag and a carry-on, your luggage real estate should come at a premium. Before putting anything on your packing list, consider how versatile and space saving it is. Instead of high heels for going out, invest in a quality pair of folding ballet flats. Toiletries, like toothpaste, deodorant, and contact solution, all come in travel size options, and can be restocked on the road without too much trouble. Inflatable pillows and collapsible water bottles are other common space savers you’ll find on many sample packing lists.

Choose the right bag

Of course, all this advice is moot if you don’t have the perfect bag for you. Most long-term travelers prefer backpacks to suitcases, as they offer greater mobility. Ever tried dragging a wheeled suitcase along a cobblestone street in Old World Europe? You might be willing to suffer through one such commute on vacation, but doing it every few days for several months will drive you to the brink of sanity. There are many quality travel backpacks on the market, with special features like stowaway straps and front loading panels distinguishing them from hiking packs and making them more attractive to city slickers. Try out a few weighted versions at your local outdoors store and find the perfect fit for you.