How to Travel the World with a Backpack

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While I was packing for my recent trip to Southeast Asia (you can check out pictures from my travels here!), I decided it would be fun to teach you how to live out of a backpack for 10 days.

For many years, I thought the only way to travel was out of a suitcase, I never thought it was possible to travel the world with a backpack. That was until I went on my first trip to Europe. Since we were traveling to England, France, and The Netherlands, I knew I didn’t want to lug a huge suitcase around on my adventures. Jacob and I decided the best and easiest option for us would be to purchase some backpacking packs for our trip.

Let me just say, it is life-changing to travel the world with a backpack. Not only do you save money on checking a bag as you can take the backpack as carry-on (YES!), but you don’t have to worry about the airline losing your luggage (I’ve heard way too many horror stories of this happening and I don’t want to take any chances!). Plus, you can just head off into the city as soon as you land without having to wait at baggage claim for your bag. Sounds pretty great, right?

Before your next trip, you may want to consider these questions to decide whether or not you should try backpacking.

  • Will you be staying in one city or traveling to multiple cities?
  • Are you up to carrying a heavy bag on your shoulders through airports, train stations, metro stations, etc.?

If you are traveling to multiple cities and you don’t mind lugging around a backpack, then I HIGHLY recommend taking the backpacking route.

Now I’m guessing you are probably wondering how in the world you can live out of a small backpack for 10+ days. Lucky for you, it’s not as hard as it sounds and I have the perfect packing list to help you survive it.

So, let’s get started on this packing adventure!

1. Backpacking Pack

Green backpacking bag to travel the world with a backpack.

You can’t backpack without the proper bag. I recommend finding one with an internal frame and a padded waist belt. These two features will guarantee your comfort, well as comfortable as you can get with a 30-pound bag on your shoulders, while you are out and about. I found my backpack at Walmart, but Amazon also has a great selection of backpacks.

2. Passport, Wallet, Journal, Travel Documents

Travel documents.

This, in my opinion, is one of the most important parts of your packing list. Your passport, wallet and travel documents such as confirmations, train and metro passes, etc. are crucial for you to have a good experience while you are traveling. No one wants to arrive at the airport without their passport on hand. I also include a journal as I use it to keep track of my itinerary, but you can give this awesome travel app a try if you prefer!

3. Camera Equipment

Camera equipment.

Whether you like a DSLR, point-and-shoot or your smartphone, you shouldn’t embark on your next journey without your camera equipment. Make sure everything is fully charged, memory cards are wiped and everything is ready to go so that you can take that perfect Eiffel Tower picture as soon as you get off the plane.

4. Chargers and Headphones

Chargers and headphones.

Don’t forget to pack all the necessary chargers for your gadgets. This includes camera chargers, phone chargers, laptop and tablet chargers, etc. I also threw headphones into this section, as they are something you seriously don’t want to forget. Especially for a 12-hour plane ride. Trust me.

5. Toiletries

Toiletries to travel the world with a backpack.

One of the main differences between traveling with a carry-on and traveling with a checked bag is the size of liquids you are allowed to bring. When traveling with a carry-on you must make sure your bottles comply with the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule (this applies when you are traveling from the USA, but I’m not positive what the rules are in other countries). This means your liquids must be placed in bottles or containers that are 3.4 ounces or less, and these bottles have to be able to fit in a quart sized bag.

I’ll admit, this can be difficult as a girl when you need to pack hair spray, shampoo, and conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, etc. I had a hard time with this at first, but I’ve since learned to just pack the bare essentials (so my foundation and hand sanitizer often get left behind). If there is something extra that I just HAVE to have, I pack it with Jacob’s toiletries as he always seems to have more room than I do (lucky…). But if that isn’t an option for you, just take the bare essentials.

My recommendations:

  • Toothpaste
  • Sunscreen
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Contact solution (if necessary)
  • Shower gel
  • Face wash
  • Hair spray/gel
  • Tooth Brush and Floss

6. Beauty Products

(Guys, I know this section doesn’t exactly apply to you, so feel free to skip it.)

Beauty products

When I am traveling with my backpack I leave all hair tools, such as my blow dryer and flat iron, at home. I feel like they take up extra space and add extra weight that I don’t want to lug around, plus I don’t want to worry about frying the appliances when I’m traveling abroad. Instead, to tame my wild mane, I like to use mousse and gel for that au naturel look. As for makeup, I stick to the minimum. In my case, this consists of mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, blush, and foundation. Don’t forget to pack a hairbrush, bobby pins, and hair ties.

7. Additional Personal Hygiene Items

Personal hygiene items to travel the world with a backpack.

These are a couple of other items that I like to include.

  • Q-tips
  • Glasses
  • Contacts case and an extra set of contacts
  • Ibuprofen
  • Bandaids
  • Razors
  • Nail clippers and tweezers
  • Prescription medications
  • Feminine hygiene products (for you ladies)

8. Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories

Clothing, shoes and accessories.

Packing enough clothes for 10 days sounds like quite the feat, but it isn’t too bad if you know what to pack.

My recommendations:

  • 3-4 cardigans
  • 3-4 basic tops
  • 3 pairs of leggings
  • pajamas
  • jacket
  • underwear and socks for the extent of your trip
  • comfortable walking shoes with inserts
  • accessories (scarf, earrings, necklace)

I love traveling with cardigans as they are very versatile. They allow you to travel the world with a backpack with less clothing pieces as you can mix and match them. Leggings are also great as they don’t take up nearly as much room as jeans do, plus they are oh so comfortable. A fantastic option for the plane ride or a long train journey! I think having a few accessories on hand is an easy way to spice up any outfit. Perfect for those nights out on the town.

9. Electronic Gadgets

Laptop, phone and ipad.

My iPhone is one of the first things that I pack, as I know I would be completely lost without it. My phone has come in so handy when I’m traveling abroad, especially when I need access to Maps or travel confirmations.

For me, traveling with my laptop is a must. I am obsessed with taking photos while I’m traveling, which means I tend to fill up my memory cards way too fast. My laptop allows me to wipe my memory cards so I can start fresh the next day. A laptop is also great during long layovers as I can watch movies and TV shows (hello Netflix downloads!) to pass the time. While it may seem like overkill, I bring my iPad along as well. Simply so that Jacob and I can each use a device at the same time without us having to lug around both of our laptops.

10. Snacks

Snacks to travel the world with a backpack.

I never leave for a trip until I have a few snacks packed away. I love to take along some dried fruit, granola bars, fruit snacks, and trail mix. Having these snacks on hand prevents us from paying for over-priced airport food or that airplane food that we all just love so much. We also enjoy having these snacks with us when we need breakfast in a pinch and don’t have the time or desire to grab something. This is a great way to save money while traveling.

11. Day Pack

Day pack

In addition to my backpacking pack, I also like to pack a small day pack. Once you check in to your hotel or hostel you aren’t going to want to lug around your backpack anymore, this is when your day pack will come in handy. Use your day pack to carry your camera, phone, snacks, wallet and anything else you will need while you are out sight-seeing.

12. Other Items You Can Include

While I didn’t include photos of these items, you are welcome to pack them if you feel they would be useful on your next adventure (and if you have room for them). Just make sure you don’t go overboard with packing, as you’ll want to leave room for some neat souvenirs!

  • Converter and adapter – A converter is only necessary if your appliances or electronics don’t accept dual voltage 110V/220V. While most hair tools or razors DO NOT accept dual voltage, most modern electronics such as laptops and cellphones can be charged without the use of a converter. An adapter, on the other hand, is necessary for almost any country that you travel to as it will allow you to plug in your gadgets to outlets that are different shapes.
  • Power Strip – This is great if you are planning on staying in a hostel, or otherwise need access to more power outlets.
  • Portable Phone Charger – This comes in so handy if you are out walking around and your phone is running low on battery. My iPhone is a lifesaver when I need to pull up my maps or travel documents, so being able to keep it fully charged at all times is a must.
  • Water Bottle – You’ll want to bring this empty when you’re going through security, but a water bottle is nice to have when you need a drink and don’t want to bother buying one. I usually fill mine up at my hotel before I leave for the day.

Wow, that was quite the journey in itself! Amiright? Thanks for bearing with me! Hopefully, you now feel more prepared for your next amazing adventure. I know there are certainly plenty of more things that you could pack for your next trip, but I feel that these are the essentials that you won’t want to leave home without. Now, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get packing (or planning that next trip!).

Before you head out on your trip, make sure you check out my tips for traveling the world on a budget!

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