Packing Lists,  Nomad Life

Packing List for Perpetual Travel (Solo Female Cozy Budget Style)

This post is for people planning a life of perpetual travel, going on long trips away from their homebase for a longer-than-average amount of time.

Trying to figure out what to bring with you on a long-term travel journey is EXHAUSTING, even more so because everyone does it differently.

There’s the hardcore minimalists who have a 18l backpack and wear the same black t-shirt all week.

There’s the glampers who bring three suitcases and ship furniture to their next destination.

And there’s people in the middle who just want to be comfortable but also not have to drag 50lb of stuff with them to the airport.

I am a cozy budget traveler and not a barebones shoestring, so my packing list is a mix of minimalist and “okay, bring that” if it’ll make me feel cozier aka more comfortable. While I may carry more than some, I definitely carry less than others!

At the moment, for my digital nomad style travel life, I have a US carry-on size suitcase, a daypack and a purse. Together they weigh something like 35lb, but because I’m doing (mostly) long stays in apartments, it doesn’t bother me.

Last year when I was hardcore backpacking I ONLY had the daypack, which also worked fine because of how fast I was traveling between locations. The faster you move between cities, the smaller your luggage should be. If you’re going to an AirBNB and staying for a month, then more luggage is fine.

This packing list is aimed at people using a suitcase, but you can use it for backpacks as well if you’re taking a larger one (40l or so).

I’ll write a post about how to choose luggage for perpetual travel, but for now, here’s some ideas of what to put IN that luggage.

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General Packing Tips

Try to plan your travels so you’re not jumping back and forth between wildly different climates. It’s easiest to pack for warm weather and then layer up when you get somewhere colder.

You can find most things when you need them. You don’t necessarily need to bring a year’s worth of whatever with you when you can bring one month’s and restock when needed.

Exceptions are: clothing and shoes in larger-than-average sizes, some spices, specific brand names for medicine, specific hair products or beauty products. In those situations, I suggest planning a stopover in a location where you CAN get restocked, or negotiating with friends/family to bring replacements to you when they visit.

Woman sitting in front of a messily-packed suitcase with her hands in a "what do I do now?" position.

Clothing

Re: Clothing: YOU WILL HAVE ACCESS TO LAUNDRY. You don’t need to pack for more than a week’s worth of clothes. Do laundry every week. Handwash when you need to. And if you get bored of what you bring: you can buy new stuff when you’re traveling.

5 short-sleeved shirts

These can be whatever you’re comfortable in, either t-shirts or tank tops or 3/4 sleeve shirts or a mix of all of them. One should be a pajama top that can be work outside as a normal top if needed. If you bring a dress, it’ll count as one of these.

1 long-sleeve shirt

For sun coverage and bug deterrent. I like Columbia’s [] but anything will work.

1 lightweight sweater

I’ve only needed mine a few times in SEA but I was glad to have it when I needed it. Get a merino wool sweater or cashmere blend, as they fold down small and are very warm despite being thin.

4 bottoms

Make sure one bottom is long, so you can use it for sun/bug stuff. If you bring a skirt, it counts as a bottom! One of these bottoms will be used for pajamas, so if it can double as an extra outer layer that’d be great.

My current combo is hiking pants, shorter capri/cropped length, and a maxi skirt. I also have another pair of thin lounge pants.

Optional: Leggings and/or thermal layers, tops and bottoms

ONLY if you’re going somewhere cold for the majority of the year. Leggings are comfortable, sure, but they’re miserable in Southeast Asia and I promise you won’t want to wear them even for pajamas.

Thermal layers can get bulky if you don’t spring for the fancy silk ones that fold down small. If you’re going somewhere hot first, just wait to buy them until you get to the cold place.

6 pairs of underwear

Or a couple more, if you have small underwear (like thongs). Plan on doing laundry once a week, and adjust accordingly. You can always hand wash a pair if you’re desperate and it’s not laundry day yet.

3 socks

Even if you’re just going to wear sandals all the time, bring at least one pair of socks in case you need the extra warmth or protection. I really like Darn Tough wool socks— I’ve worn them in SEA heat and been fine, surprisingly.

2 bras

If you’re sweating into your bra you’ll want to hand wash them each night anyway, so you don’t need a ton of them. Merino wool bras are surprisingly comfortable, though they aren’t as supportive as underwire bras. If you have very big boobs, bring 3 bras and do the wear one/wash one/pack one system.

Swimwear

I don’t do water activities so I don’t even bother carrying a swimsuit around, but ideally you’d only have 2 tops and 2 bottoms and you’d use the merino wool bra as an extra one if you needed it as backup. If you’re going to do a LOT of swimming, like every day you’re in the water, then bring 1 extra pair.

Compact and organized suitcase packed with neatly folded clothes and travel accessories.

Shoes

1 pair walking sandals OR sneakers

I prefer sandals in SEA, but if you’re going to big cities all the time then a pair of sneakers will work better. Sneakers are more fashionable than sandals in Europe, if you care about that sort of thing.

1 pair flip flops

Good for schlepping to the laundry, at the beach, or in shared showers.

1 pair “other” shoes

For me, this extra pair of shoes are trail runners so I can go out hiking and not worry about snakes or leeches or other icky things. If you’re going to fancy dinners or doing more city living, put a nicer pair of flats or heels here instead. Hardcore mountain climber? Maybe bring hiking boots.

Outerwear

Rain coat or poncho

A rain coat is good as a light jacket as well. Layer the sweater/fleece jacket/two shirts underneath and you’d be fine for surprise cold weather in, say, South Korea in April. (Speaking from experience.) Ponchos are more breathable but they wear out faster and are no good in the wind.

Fleece jacket

ONLY if you’re going to somewhere other than SEA. I’ve needed it in Japan in February and in Scotland in June, but I’ve never needed it in Malaysia or Vietnam no matter how cold the malls got.

Hat

Sun protection is important! I like a packable sunhat for ultimate sun protection, but a regular baseball cap is fine, too.

Packable backpack

Good for when you go on day tours, walking tours, overnight trips to nearby cities, and so on. Packable means it’s lightweight and can fold down small. I like this Eddie Bauer one.

Purse

I like anti-theft purses (like this Pacsafe one) but they DO tend to be heavy. If you’re not going to Europe or South America right away (notorious locations for purse thievery), then a regular purse should be okay. Uniqlo moon bags are popular all around the world, but be sure to keep the zipper closed and the bag pulled to your front.

Foldable tote bag

For laundry, groceries, extra stuff that you can’t squeeze into your suitcase but you really want to take with you, etc.

Woman placing a straw hat into a neatly packed suitcase.

Bathroom

Body scrub net

This dries faster than a washcloth and folds down super small. You can find them all over, so when one wears out you can get a new one pretty easily.

Shampoo + conditioner + soap

With a caveat: if you’re going to stay in an apartment for a month, and you don’t have special haircare needs, then just wait until you get there and buy a bottle from the store.

Razor, tweezers, nail clippers

Toothbrush + toothpaste + floss

I sometimes have 2 toothpaste tubes because I only use Sensodyne and it’s not available in some countries. If I know I’m going to be out of range for a while, I buy an extra one to take with me.

Bag to put it all in + hook for over the door

I don’t actually use a “dopp kit” bag or whatever as I find them too bulky. Just get a small bag with a loop and then get one of these foldable hooks and hook it over whatever it can hook over.

First aid kit

See this post for more on what I pack in my first aid kit.

Kitchen

1 “spice bag”

I always seem to need salt and pepper no matter where I go, so when I get extras in to-go orders I just put them in a Ziploc bag and carry it with me. If you’re planning to do cooking, then stick in some favorite spice blends as well. I like Mrs. Dash, personally, and Old Bay seasoning.

Tea or coffee packets

Most places have free coffee for guests, but if you get in late to an aparthotel and just want a cup of something the next morning, having an emergency packet of instant coffee is a lifesaver.

1-2 instant oatmeal packets

For when you can find a local place open and you just need a little something to tide you over.

Kitchen towel

AirBNBs never seem to give me any of these and I always need them! I actually carry 4 kitchen towels around but honestly I should cut down…

Mug cover + mug rug

The mug rug (example) is like a little piece of home wherever I go, and the mug cover keeps gnats from dive-bombing my tea before I can drink it.

Ziploc bags

For leftover food, small things you need to pack in your backpack, whatever.

Open suitcase with light pastel colored clothing, a swimsuit top, sunglasses and sandals.

Electronics

All this is pretty standard: if you bring an electronic, you’ll probably need it for something.

Laptop + charger

If you’re not working and don’t use a laptop every day in your non-traveling life, then you won’t need one now. You might want to think about swapping it for a tablet; they’re good for watching movies on, and you can do Zoom meetups a little easier than on a phone.

Power strip + converter plugs

So you can plug in a lot of things into one outlet! Any converter plug will do, but I prefer this lighter one that doesn’t fall out of the wall.

Phone + charger

If you have a decent phone, and you aren’t already a dedicated photographer with a real camera, you don’t need to buy one for your trip. The phone will take good enough photos.

Battery pack

In case your phone battery is dying and you can’t find a plug to charge it in, a portable battery is handy to have.

Optional: Roku stick

I really love having this thing as it just plugs into the TV and then I can get back to watching Midsomer Murders without having to log in on a new device. The stick version is pretty lightweight, too, though the remote is a little bulky.

Hobbies

Travel journal + pens + ephemera

I highly recommend keeping a travel journal, even if you only update it every so often. Everyone I’ve talked to has wished they kept a journal, even the ones blogging about their trip.

Kindle Paperwhite

If you read a lot, it’s much easier to have an ereader and stuff that thing full of ebooks than try to carry a ton of paperbacks around.

Woman placing a bright yellow shirt into a neatly packed suitcase.

Other Stuff

Laundry net bag

To contain your underwear and socks and hopefully keep them from disappearing in the washer.

Passport, extra cash, credit cards, vaccination records, etc.

Hopefully you’d remember to bring all this with you.

Final Thoughts

Having typed all that up, I just realized how much extra stuff I’m carrying around with me! Time to follow my own advice and pare down a bit before my next move.

If you’re just starting out on your new travel lifestyle, don’t worry too much about what to bring and what not to bring. Pack the best you can, and be open to adjusting it during your trip. You can always get rid of things if you bring too much, or you add things if you find you need something. As you travel more and find your own cozy travel style, you’ll figure out what you want with you and what you can leave behind.


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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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