August 11th, 2015

What to Bring on a Round-the-World Trip

What to Bring on a Round-the-World Trip


One of the hardest parts of preparing for your round-the-world (RTW) trip is packing for it. When you are traveling to many different countries over an extended period of time, figuring out what you might need can feel overwhelming. It’s all too easy to over pack. Doing so, however, will leave you with a heavy bag that'll likely cost you extra when flying. But this list is sure to help you. Learn which five items you don’t need for your trip—as well as two items that you really, really don’t want to forget.

The five things that you don't need to bring with you:

1. An expansive wardrobe

It’s easy to go totally gung-ho when buying new apparel for your RTW trip. There’s a wealth of expensive gear out there, but consider a handful of key items in high performance fabrics. Clothing that wicks sweat away from your skin or prevents UV rays from harming you is great for everything from trekking to sightseeing to beach adventures. Pack versatile items that can mix and match — this tactic frees up space in your bag and ensures you have quality items that will last for your entire adventure.

2. Fashionable shoes

Sure, many people want to look attractive while jetsetting, and traveling RTW doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to completely forfeit your personal style. But to make packing easier and to prevent blisters, forego fancy footwear (read: high heels, stiff men's dress shoes). Unless you have a wedding or business meeting to attend, they're probably not necessary. Instead, bring shoes that function in a wide range of settings. Not only will you save plenty of room in your suitcase, but you are likely to be more comfortable when walking on varied terrain. To express your personal style, pack smaller, lighter items, such as scarves, a watch, or jewelry.

3. Paper guidebooks

Full-sized paper guidebooks are bulky, heavy, and hard to carry. That’s why it doesn’t make much sense to bring them with you on the road. Rip out only the section(s) that you need—or, better yet, download the digital version for your e-reader or tablet.

4. Too many gadgets

Today, it seems like the well-connected traveler trots the globe with lots of electronics: a laptop, a cell phone, an e-reader, a tablet—the list goes on and on. Carrying multiple gadgets can make you a target for theft, however, and the items will certainly bulk up your baggage. Ask yourself which gadgets you trulyneed, since there's a lot of overlap among them. Unless you are doing some very specific types of work on the road, you probably don’t need your laptop. Put your smaller and lighter tablet to work instead. And if you're bringing a tablet, you can read on that, so you probably don’t need an e-reader, as well. Though you're not likely to want to part with your smartphone (which, granted, is a great way to capture photos and videos on your trip), it is possible to pick up a cheap, disposable model with a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination. That way, you don't have to worry about losing your smartphone, having it stolen, breaking it during transit, or racking up huge data charges.

5. A year’s supply of (almost) anything

Don’t drive yourself crazy amassing enough of everything for the full duration of your travel. Toiletries, for instance, can take up a lot of room in your bags. Bring travel-sized portions of whatever you need, and plan on buying more on the road. Remember: You can get shampoo, soap, and any other essentials in almost any location.

Finally, these are two things that you absolutely should bring with you on the road.

1. Your passport

You can replace just about anything on the road—or do without it—but your passport is a #1 priority. Guard it in an RFID Undercover. After all, without it, your trip will come to a very abrupt end.

2. A sense of humor

Traveling the world will expose you to lots of cultures, each with its own ideas about personal space, manners, and timeliness. No matter how excited you are for your travels, there are going to be moments when your patience wears thin. That’s when it’s most important to crack a smile and take it in stride.

Your turn, RTW travelers. What do you consider essential items when you pack? What do you leave behind? Share your thoughts in the comments, below.

Shannon O’Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008; she travels slowly and supports grassroots tourism along the way. She is an acclaimed travel speaker and works with universities and businesses all over the U.S. to talk about supporting developing countries. 

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by Shannon ODonnell

Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008; she travels slowly and supports grassroots tourism along the way. She is an acclaimed travel speaker and works with universities and businesses all over the U.S. to talk about supporting developing countries.