My Long-Term Travel Packing List
Hard to believe but today (as I write this) marks one month since I left my flat in London and embarked on an undetermined amount of time living out of a suitcase. It has FLOWN by. Almost too quickly. I’ve been too busy actually. I’m writing this blog post about my long-term travel packing list today from my new mini-apartment in Shanghai, where I’ve decided to take the rest of the day and maybe even the weekend off. (This was helped by a pointless trip to People’s Square earlier to try to get a SIM card using Google Maps. Tip: Don’t use Google Maps in Shanghai. It’s worthless.)
As I am thinking about all of this, I’m also staring at my 45 kg of luggage. Probably more like 47 kg because I hid some stuff in my jacket when Spring Airlines was weighing my bags at 2:30 am in Krabi this morning. I tried to downsize, really I did. (And I probably left about 3 kg of stuff behind in Ao Nang.) But packing for multiple climates is not easy. And I don’t have the body type that allows me to just pick up a few floaty dresses and some elephant pants at the night market.
In my first month of life on the road, here’s are the items on my long-term travel packing list that have been really useful, somewhat useful, and not at all useful.
The Essential Items on My Long-term Travel Packing List
Pacsafe: As a police officer’s daughter, I am always convinced that someone is going to steal my stuff. I knew that at the hotel price point I was targeting in Thailand, I wasn’t likely to encounter really large safes. And I was right. So I relied on my Pacsafe. I shoved anything I wasn’t carrying on me into the Pacsafe and then locked it to the most immovable item I could find in my room. (The bedframe, usually.) This provided peace of mind. I like peace of mind.
Sarongs: I originally brought sarongs for the beach…very lightweight but durable sarongs. I ended up using them as bathrobes as well. Again at my price point, my hotels don’t come with robes and slippers. Which brings me to my next point…
Havianas: After working in Brazil so much in 2012, I became addicted to Havianas and must have six pairs. However, I am shit at walking in Havianas so I only really use them as shower shoes and for roaming around my hotel room. I’ve been wearing my Havainas practically every day.
Anker Portable Speaker: Gotta have tunes, dude. I like this little speaker and have it cranking pretty much whenever I am in my hotel room.
Kindle Oasis: I’m trying to read a lot of books this year. 50, actually! I’m at 33 right now — I should be at 35 by the end of the week and then I think the pace will increase because my busiest period at work just ended. I upgraded to the Oasis because I killed my last Kindle at the pool at Kamalaya in Koh Samui. The Oasis is waterproof. I read a lot. It’s a good investment and an essential item for any long-term travel packing list.
Headphones: Again, gotta have tunes dude. PLUS…what is with people watching videos on planes without headphones??? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. I am sitting right next to you. Do you think I can’t hear your video??? TURN IT OFF. Or buy headphones. Jesus Christ. Who raised you??? I like these JVC headphones because they are cheap but still have good sound.
Laundry Bag: The item on my long-term travel packing list that I threw in at the last minute that has probably seen the most action is my laundry bag. This was helped by the fact that my hotel in Ao Nang had a washer and dryer that I could use for 100 baht ($3 USD per load) so you can bet my laundry was super super clean while I was there. My hotel in Shanghai has a laundry room with washers and dryers so I think the laundry bag will definitely be seeing some more action soon.
Portable Scale: The problem with long-term travel is that you risk treating it like vacation. I’ve been pretty good about working out most days — even taking private Muay Thai classes in Thailand — and generally trying to be responsible about what I eat and drink. This is a heavy item in my bag, but for now, it is staying.
Lifestraw Water Bottle: If you take one thing from this blog post and long-term travel packing list, let it be Lifestraw. Lifestraw lets you drink the tap water anywhere! It’s amazing. I love it. I use it all the time. I bought like less than 10 bottles of water in Thailand in four weeks because I used Lifestraw for most occasions. The only times I couldn’t use Lifestraw was when I was boating or when I was out to eat. And hey, I’m forgetting to tell you why Lifestraw is awesome! Lifestraw lets you drink tap water in countries that don’t have potable water!! So all through Thailand, I drank the tap water using my Lifestraw. This easily prevented me from purchasing at least one bottle of water per day.
Packing Cubes (compression cubes meh): I have one packing cube that I jokingly call “my office” because it’s full of all my office-y stuff. These just keep my bags organized. Which is necessary given that I have 45 kg of luggage.
Multi-outlet Adapters: At night, I need one for my laptop and one for each iPhone at the very least. You can never have too many of these, in my opinion, so count up your devices and put a few on your long-term travel packing list.
10 ft Long iPhone Cable: Indispensable. Not sure how I would live without it. I may need to buy a 20 ft long iPhone cable.
Unlocked iPhone 6s: Also indispensable. I get a local SIM everywhere I go so I always have access to fast Internet. I keep my UK phone for all the regular family and friends stuff, and I keep the unlocked phone for everything else.
Small Extension Cord: A lot of hotels have a limited number of outlets so I have a small extension cord that I use.
Luggage Locks: This trip has really made me appreciate a good luggage lock. I’ve realized that my old eyes can’t see black text on metal anymore. So I really need white numbers on a colored background. Look for locks that specifically say “easy read dials.”
Hair Conditioner: My first stop in every country is the local drugstore to buy some nice conditioner. Life on the road is hard on your hair! Pureology is my favorite. It’s minty fresh! I’m not linking to this one because I’m not quite convinced that the product on Amazon is the real deal.
Toiletry Bucket Bag: I randomly bought this toiletry bag on Amazon and I use it constantly. It’s especially good for hotels where there isn’t a lot of sink space. I just throw everything in this bag and then rummage through it as needed.
Muslins for washing my face: Not everywhere is into the facecloth, especially some of the more local, better value places I’m staying at so I’m glad I brought some muslins for washing my face.
Pond’s Cold Cream: I slather my face and neck with Pond’s Cold Cream before I go to bed each night. It’s an old habit from when I was a teenager. I’ve tried lots of expensive face creams but I don’t know…nothing feels as good as Pond’s to me!
Waterproof Phone Case: I practically lived with this around my neck for my last two weeks in Thailand as I island-hopped from one location to the next. I didn’t entirely trust it though so never let it fully immerse.
Turkish Towel: I’m kinda obsessed with Turkish towels. Environmentally, they are much better for all of us — they need less water and energy for washing. They also dry quickly and fold up nicely for easy packing. I originally had two Turkish towels but left my higher quality one in London because it was taking up too much space in my suitcase. So glad I brought one along though! It’s an indispensable item for your long-term travel packing list.
Hanging Toiletry Bag: I just haven’t been wearing much makeup. This is great but…it is heavy so I need to dump some things. (I’ve already gotten rid of my bronzer and some mascara.) I brought a lot of makeup with me on this trip. I probably don’t need so much.
Things on My Long-Term Travel Packing List that I’ve Already Discarded
Aqua Shoes: I wore these cheap water shoes nearly every day in Ao Nang because you are constantly getting into and out of longtail boats. They were great BUT they got a little stinky at the end so I threw them out.
Dry Bags: I actually bought these IN Thailand and used it practically every day as I hopped from one island to the next. Sadly, they were too heavy and I knew I didn’t need them in China so I left them behind in Ao Nang.
Indispensable Apps on My Long-term Travel Packing List
NordVPN: I’m on Day 2 of four weeks behind The Great Firewall. A good VPN was a must.
Expert Flyer: I love Expert Flyer!! I booked a one way ticket to Krabi on Eva Air on a good business class deal and wanted one of the single seat window seats. When I first bought my ticket, nothing was available, but I set up an alert on Expert Flyer and a few weeks later, one of my preferred seats had opened up! This is a great service if you fly a lot and are picky about your seat choices.
Groundlink: I don’t like Uber at airports because I want a guy to meet me with a sign with my name on it. I don’t want to be wandering around outside looking for my driver. So I decided to try out Groundlink and booked a car from Shanghai Pudong to my hotel, a ride that took pretty much exactly an hour. My driver, Frank, met me outside of immigration with a sign with my name on it, held my luggage while I popped to the loo, and had COLD PERRIER waiting for me in his Mercedes E-class. I mean, life is good right? Now, I’m sure there are some Judgy McJudgersons out there so let me explain why I do this: my mother is not keen on me traveling alone. So I try to find ways to reassure her and hiring a car and driver from the airport gives her peace of mind. Also, you know what? I like it.
Booking.com: I’ve been using Booking.com for most of my hotel reservations. I book the rooms that you can cancel and then as my travel plans evolve, I make changes accordingly. I’ve also been experimenting with Hotels.com but I don’t like that they charge you upfront. (Although I do like the buy 10 nights get one night free thing.)
TripIt: I LOVE TripIt. Keeps all of my travel reservations together.
You Need a Budget: If you’ve been following me long enough, you know that I am serious about budgeting and money management. I’ve always maintained spreadsheets to monitor my spending but after a recent New York Times article mentioned You Need a Budget, I decided to sign up for a subscription. I only have a few weeks of data but it definitely makes me more conscious of how I use my money. I’m still trying to make my way around the interface and am not totally sold on their approach that if I don’t spend money in Month 1, I have it in Month 2, but it’s still better than nothing.
Spotify: Gotta have tunes, dude. I didn’t get a chance to listen to much music in Thailand, but now that I am commuting to and from Chinese class in Shanghai every day, I’m getting in at least 45 minutes of music per day.
Things I Put on My Long-Term Travel Packing List that I Haven’t Used Yet
Kindle Fire: I brought this because it was lighter than my iPad and still lets me watch movies. I’ve yet to use it.
HDMI Cable: I figured that at some point, I will be somewhere and want to watch a movie on a big TV so I brought an HDMI cable to connect my laptop to the TV. I have yet to use this. I’ve watched ZERO TV in the last month.
Jump Rope: I LOVE jumping rope. So I brought one with me. But in Thailand, I concentrated on Muay Thai and didn’t really need this. I expect to get back into jumping rope shortly. **Update: I actually used this today after writing this post.**
Repel Umbrella: To be fair, I think I did use this once in Koh Lanta but luckily, I haven’t had much need for it and have relied on hotel umbrellas instead.
Priority Pass Membership: I bought a Priority Pass Membership for lounge access given that I am sometimes flying random airlines but I have yet to use this.
Things I Wish I Had Put on My Long-Term Travel Packing List
Good Sunglasses: I have a bunch of cheap pairs from TK/TJ Maxx and I swear the lenses have all melted and colored in the sun and heat. I need to invest in a good pair.
A Hooded Sweatshirt: I need something between a jacket and a cardigan. I will need to pick up a hooded sweatshirt somewhere. Also, I’m noticing that in Shanghai, the uniform is a black hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants with cuffed legs.
OK, I think that’s it! I hope you’ve found this blog post about my long-term travel packing list helpful! I will endeavor to update this post as more things occur to me and as my travels take me to new and different places. Stay tuned!
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