The Ultimate Packing Checklist: Fun & Functional Pieces for Long-Term Travel
Written by Jessica Moore
Your flights are booked. You’ve done your research. You’ve drawn your itinerary. Your bags are pa–wait–no, they’re not packed and ready to go.
A year abroad is a dream that many traveling babes are now making a reality–two-thirds of travelers today are women (yaaas)! Whether you’re taking a gap year or you’ve meticulously saved for a long-term getaway, what may be the most daunting task in preparing for such wanderlust is packing for it. How does a girl with an extensive wardrobe plan to pack for a yearlong trip without sacrificing her style? It can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t sweat it–we’ve got a check list curated just for you so you can focus more on your trip of a lifetime and not on your suitcase.
Before You Pack
Think about what makes you feel confident and comfortable. Think light and functional. You are going to wear your clothes a thousand times over, so much so that you’re probably going to want to toss out your clothes after your journey!
Keep the weather in mind. Are you packing for a tropical vacay, a colder climate, or are you changing with the seasons? Be prepared for anything, but know that you don’t have to overdo it. Wherever you’re going, you can probably find whatever you’re missing there.
Know that less is more. Packing is all about strategy, and a minimalist approach is best. Every item you’re thinking about bringing should equal at least 5 different outfits. If you have a piece that you can only imagine wearing once in awhile, leave it at home! That goes for your most valuable pieces–you don’t want to be absolutely shattered if your bottle of conditioner suddenly explodes in your suitcase.
Here’s a packing mantra to get you through the process: Layers, layers, layers–layers not only can add stylish depth and versatility to your outfits, but also give you a little warmth, because no matter where you’re headed, it’s bound to get chilly.
Finally, consider a backpacking backpack over a suitcase. They’re more compact, more likely to fit the luggage restrictions for small airlines across the globe, they make traveling generally easier up flights of stairs and on public transit, and they’re less stressful to deal with when you get lost (it’s going to happen–embrace it). Our backpacking essentials list has non-clothing items you need that will make your life easier! If you’re not country-hopping and have an international home base, or can’t possibly fathom parting from your suitcase, that’s okay too–there are ways that you can still pack smart!
How to Pack
Organize your clothes with packing cubes! Think of them as portable shelves in your wardrobe that maximize space for more of what you love. One packing cube can be for blouses, bodysuits, and tanks; one can be for jeans, pants, and leggings; and the other for dresses and skirts.
Roll your clothes in your packing cubes! This minimizes wrinkles and makes everything even more compact.
Speaking of wrinkles: skip the stress of ironing (or even bringing a portable iron) and spray your creases and folds with a wrinkle releaser. Wrinkles wither away and the spray perfumes your clothes with a fresh laundry scent.
When in doubt, wear black. Black hides most wear, tear, and dirt that you’re bound to accumulate for such a long period of time. Black staples allow for versatility day or night and can be paired with countless bolder statement pieces, so make sure to include a lot of black in your packing list.
We’re all for showing some skin, but depending on where your wanderlust leads you, it’s a good idea to bring something to cover up. If you’re sightseeing cathedrals in Europe or riding camels in the Sahara Desert, it’s important to have either an oversized scarf or a chic cardigan to go along with what’s culturally and socially appropriate. In some places, showing some shoulder can draw unwanted attention to yourself, or even keep you from visiting sacred spaces.
Leave extra space in your bag. This can be quite challenging but think of packing light as a future investment in your wardrobe. Finding your new favorite outfits abroad are inevitable (thank goodness!), and you might shop more than you originally planned.
Let’s be real for a sec–when you’re traveling, it’s okay to re-wear jeans, outerwear, and other durable items a couple of times before a wash, but not underwear (duh)! Bring 20 pairs at least–they’re tiny when they’re rolled up, and will get you through times in between washes!
Pick tops that pop to accent your basic bottoms and skirts and add dimension. Don’t forget a couple of basic comfortable tees, too, for those laid-back days.
Black skinny jeans go with everything. High waisted jeans highlight your curves in sexy bodysuits and crop tops. A pair of boxy pants can add some flow to any outfit; pair with a bikini top for a beachy, lazy-chic look, or with a sleek button up top for a more mature feel. You’ll need a few loungewear bottoms, too: comfy shorts that can double as workout shorts, a pair of joggers, and you’re set.
Mixing sass with class, bodysuits will go with any of your bottoms. Backless bodysuits will let your back breathe during hot days touring your new favorite city, and at night, their edgy straps will make all the locals do a double take. If you’re feeling extra adventurous and decide YOLO, they can even double as bathing suits!
There’s nothing more freeing than skipping around in a new city in a dress, romper or skirt. These are essential. T-shirt dresses, in particular, are your triple threats: wear alone for a casual look in the city, tuck in some high waisted jeans or pair with leggings, or wear for a cute bedtime look.
A blazer with a draped lapel exudes a masculine edge with cute feminine touch. A neutral modern trench coat goes well with everything, especially damp days. You can never go wrong with an oversized sweater and a loose fitting denim shirt if there’s a breeze.
Bring comfortable sandals, stylish sneakers, and booties. Consider the terrain: will you be traipsing on antiquated cobblestone streets, hiking ancient ruins, or sauntering the day away on an island paradise? If you’re dying to have heels for a night out abroad, leave the ones you have at home and buy them abroad; what’s better than buying a pair in a foreign country?
They may not be the most stylish pieces, but these body-hugging thermals are tremendously functional, especially if you’re traveling to places with unpredictable weather. Buying a scoop neck thermal top that you can slip under any outfit when it unexpectedly gets cold is better than lugging around a thick jacket. Fleece-lined leggings can add that necessary extra layer under your pants, skirts, and dresses, and are small enough to roll and keep in your purse when a cool breeze hits you.
Now that we’ve got your clothes covered, here’s a minimalist checklist to keep your other travel necessities organized:
Two-piece sets: 5
Toothbrush / toothpaste
Eyeglasses/Contacts + Contact Solution
Well what are you waiting for? Live out of a suitcase–or backpack, and go see the world!