How to Pack for a RTW Trip

There are many ways to pack for a year of traveling the world. They all give “pack light” a new, deeper meaning. We had to be a little clever and ruthlessly frugal in our packing list, lest we end up like Cheryl Strayed in Wild with packs weighing as much as our bodies.

A couple of strategies informed our packing. We are chasing summer, so no heavy or bulking cold-weather clothing or gear to pack. Also, we picked items with multiple uses or purposes, such as pants that convert to shorts. We also try to avoid obtaining something consumable, like shampoo, until we arrive at our destination.


black sneakers and black ballet flats on a black packing cube black flip flops on a black packing cube

Three. Pairs. Of. Shoes. Ooh, my chest just tightened up a bit. I happen to LOVE the three pairs I brought, although I wish I had another pair - some cute strappy sandals, perhaps? On travel days and other heavy walking days, I wear my minimalist Merrells. I’ve been wearing minimalist sneaks for a couple of years; they make my feet happy. For the beach, pool, or icky bathrooms, I have my Teva flip-flops. The foldable black ballet flats by Tieks are for dressier outfits. They are a little spendy, so I hope they last the whole year, but you should know they are seriously the most comfortable flats I’ve ever owned. They feel gorgeous and delicious. (That’s right: these shoes cause synesthesia!) I’ve done some decent walking-around in them and had no blisters.


clothes folded on a bed

I packed 5 shirts, 2 sweaters, 1 skirt, 4 pants. If you’re looking closely, you’ll count 5 pairs of pants in the picture. That’s ‘cuz I forgot how much I hate to sweat and hate to feel sweaty and that heat is hot and I sweat when I’m hot and I don’t like sweating even a little bit it is the absolute worst. So. I needed another pair of pants to wear in the hot environs of Istanbul and Athens and so forth because of the four I packed, only two were good for such weather. Those are the brown hiking pants that convert to shorts with their snazzy zip-off legs and the grey hiking pants that roll-up to capris. Both pants are pretreated with permethrin for mosquito repellant, so bonus points for us. Triple bonus points for me because I already owned these pants and didn’t have to buy them new for the trip. The other pants are a pair of black straight-leg pants that work like a dressier, lighter pair of jeans and a pair of black leggings with faux-leather panels. When we get to a place that allows women to wear tight clothes AND isn’t above 80-degrees then I’ll wear them.

For tops I brought two sweaters (a light flowy brown cardigan and MY FAVORITE blue cashmere pullover) three short-sleeve shirts (green cotton, black silk, pink linen), a long-sleeve hiking shirt (pretreated, natch) and a floral tank from 3Clothing.

Let me tell you about 3Clothing. Their items are handmade in Baltimore with super comfortable fabrics. You know how when you travel you want to feel comfortable, like you’re wearing pajamas, but you want to look cute and stylish, too. The answer is 3Clothing. I’ve worn my floral top on both of our big travel days (US to Turkey, Turkey to Greece), adjusted the ruching according to the bottoms I paired with the top (with drawstrings! so clever!) and just felt great the whole time.

And here’s a funny story about the blue sweater. I like to think I’m not much of a clothes horse. I like to look cute, but I don’t like to do laundry and I hate clothes-shopping so I don’t have a lot of clothes. Theo had put a guideline in our planning spreadsheet about numbers of tops, bottoms, undies, etc. As I went about my first round of packing, I forgot about the number. I set about 10 shirts and three sweaters out on the bed. Since that looked like too much, I went to the spreadsheet for guidance. It said something ridiculous like FOUR tops. Hahahanotfunny. I edited my pile of clothes down, then Theo came in. He tossed like THREE MORE TOPS from the bed but I grabbed my blue sweater before he could touch it. “I NEEEED this one. It’s my favorite. It makes me happy,” I explained.

So make sure your RTW clothes make you happy, because you’re gonna spend a lot of time with them.

Undies and Accessories

undergarments folded on a bed

This is where I bought special things: merino wool undies and bras. Crop tops from 3Clothing. Merino wool ankle and crew socks. Smartwool thermal underwear. All of these items are made for multiple wears between washings. (Except maybe the crop tops, but I bought them for comfort; oh, and the cotton boxer briefs which definitely need to be washed after wearing but I only wear them with my skirt because, well, chafing. It happens.)

I packed two scarves - a long, very lightweight printed scarf and a black infinity scarf with a hidden zippered pocket. I quickly learned how sweaty-hot that scarf is when worn doubled-over, so I use it as a purse instead, which is great because I didn’t pack a purse. (More on that later.) My friend gave us all buffs as a going away gift, and I’ve used it as a headband, cap, scarf, and tube top. AWESOME GIFT!

Completing the Undies and Accessories pack (it’s the black packing cube under the flip-flops) are my gold braided belt, a black convertible bra, and a swim suit. In another pocket of the backpack I keep a floppy sun had and a rain jacket in a dry bag.

Health and Beauty

first aid supplies and medications

I have a first-aid kit, kinesiotape, assorted medications (antimalarials, antibiotics, antihistamines, antifeelingshitties, etc.), an exercise band, ear plugs, travel toilet tissue, laundry soap sheets, a silk sleep sack for when we camp in the Sahara with the Berbers (or when the bed sheets are shady), a mylar blanket, a headlamp, and an empty dry bag for use as a laundry bag.

toiletries spread out on a bed

My toiletries include deodorant, hand lotion, GoTubes for shampoo and conditioner, sunblock, antibiotic cream, razor and extra blade, toothbrush in travel case with a snazzy UV light to sanitize the brush, toothpaste, floss, nail clippers, tweezers, sunblock, Lunette, and my jewelry pouch. (What’s a Lunette? It’s a menstrual cup.)

I also packed make-up: eyeliner, eyeshadow, eye color stick, mascara, concealer, tinted SPF moisturizer, eye makeup brush.

Electronics and Unplugged Entertainment

electronics and journals arranged on a bed

Laptop. Kindle. Grid-it with lots of chargers and cables and such. Portable battery for phone-charging on-the-go. Outlet adapters. Screen cloth. Dry sack for the electronics.

Writing journal. Sketch journal. Two 8x11” sketch pads to share with the kids. Pencil case of Prismacolor dual-tip markers, a few pens, a pencil, an eraser, and a sharpener.


My day pack is a small messenger-style bag from REI (shown in the electronics pic). It has inside pockets and outside pockets. It fits into my backpack, but I have kept it out since departure. I didn’t think I’d like wearing two bags at once, but I actually don’t mind and find the easy access to Important Things That People Keep Asking For Such As Passports very handy. On one flight, Michelle and I were told by a completely gobsmacked flight attendant that we’d have to gate-check our packs because there was “simply no way your large bags could fit overhead and I can’t believe they let you board like this.” So, I quickly had to grab my electronics and medications from my backpack and stuff them into my day pack along with aforementioned Important Things. Guess what? It all fit! Guess what else? There was totally enough room for our packs in the overhead bin. Whatevs. It also carries some assorted medications and toiletry items (Urinelles, anyone) for when we’re out and about.

It all fits in an Osprey Porter 65L pack, which weighed 30 pounds when fully packed the day of our U.S. departure.


So far, so good. There’s nothing I wish I didn’t bring and only a few things I wish I did. I like the mental approach of chewing over whether to add weight to my pack versus hemming and hawing over saying goodbye to an item with all the “but I might need it somedays” and “what if something happenses” floating in my mind. Said more succinctly, it's easier to buy something to fill a need than to discard something that we're carrying just in case. The important thing is that we can all carry our own packs with relative ease.

General Information

Where we were.

{{ }} starting {{last_loc.whence | date:'yyyy-MM-dd'}}

Where we are.

{{ }} since {{current_loc.whence | date:'yyyy-MM-dd'}}

Where we're going.

{{ }} on {{next_loc.whence | date:'yyyy-MM-dd'}}