Yes, a round the world trip with carry on luggage only is possible. I give you my packing list including feedback on which items were useful and which ones were not. You will also find general tips to pack light and how I managed the clothes as I traveled in different weather conditions.
Yes, it’s possible to do a round the world trip with carry on luggage only.
It might be difficult if you’re traveling to regions with different weather conditions, but with planning and creativity everything is possible.
My round the world trip included:
- Asia: India, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia
- Oceania: Australia, New Zealand
- America: South of Chile, Canada, North of Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay
As you can see, I found all kinds of weather, from the tropical climate in Asia to the cold winter in Patagonia.
In this post I’ll tell you how I traveled for 11 months with a 35L backpack and a small hand bag.
- General tips
- My minimalist packing list
- clothes & shoes
- toilettries & health
- Adapting clothes to changing weather conditions
General tips to travel with carry on luggage only
Below I’ll give you my complete packing list, but first I wanted to highlight some general tips to travel light:
- Take a 35L or maximum 40L backpack.
- Have a pliable day backpack.
- Dress in layers and have multipurpose clothes. Some examples: I used leggings to sleep, as day clothes and I wore them under my pants when it was cold. Instead of long socks I carried normal socks and one pair of leg warmers. I used a sarong to go to the beach but also as a bed sheet when needed.
- Roll your clothes, they take less space. Additionally you can use zip bags or compression bags.
- Buy a thin, quick drying towel.
- Take only the indispensable beauty products (I know, this one is hard). I left behind all the products I use for the hair, perfumes, make up and creams. I only took after sun and lip balm.
- Leave the paper books behind and get an ebook reader.
- Take one charger for the phone, camera and ebook reader (and/ or tablet).
- Unless you need to take professional photographs, carry a compact camera (some of them take really good quality photos).
- Take solid shower soap, solid shampoo and solid laundry soap.
My minimalist packing list
This is my round the world trip complete packing list. The total weight was 11kg: around 9-9.5kg in the backpack, and 1-1.5kg in the hand bag.
For feedback, I’ve added how much I used each item:
- I used it a lot, or all the time: ***
- I used it often: **
- I didn’t use it much, or never: *
I addition I’ve added in green the things I bought on the way and I marked in red the things I left behind. You can see my original packing list here.
- 35 litres backpack + raincover ***
- small hand bag *** (to go around the city)
- 15 litres pliable bag *** (for day trips, and to keep the computer with me when I had to leave the backpack in the luggage compartment in the bus)
- wallet ***
- lock *** (to close the front opening of the backpack, and for the lockers in the dorms)
- money belt ** (in transport or when I stayed in a dorm without locker)
- cable lock * (only used once or twice)
- passport + photocopy ***
- 2 debit cards ***
- some dollars and euros in cash ** (I used dollars to pay visas on arrival, and I exchanged euros for pesos in Argentina)
- identity photos * (for the visas on arrival)
- driving license * (only once to go to the embassy, I didn’t drive).
- international vaccination card * (in some countries you have to show it, even though I never had to)
- computer + charger ***
- camera + charger ***
- smartphone and ebook reader ***
- 1 charger for smartphone and ebook reader *** (in Malaysia I bought an universal adaptor which is also a charger, so I didn’t need this one anymore)
- universal adapter and charger all-in-one *** (I bought it in Malaysia and always used it until the end of the trip)
- portable back up emergency power *** (I used it a lot because I often forget to charge in the night)
- SD card 32Gb *** (I bought it in Chile since my computer was running out of space, to use it as an external disc)
- USB key ** (to take documents to print)
- small tripod * (only a couple of times to shoot stars in the night)
- headphones *
Clothes & shoes
More details on how I adapted the clothes according to the weather in the next section.
- 2 trousers (1 thin, 1 hiking style with zip pockets) ***
- 2 leggings *** (though not always the same ones, sometimes I had normal leggings, sometimes fleece leggings and at the end 1 thermal leggings)
- 1 shorts * (I sent them back after Canada)
- 2-4 short sleeve t-shirts *** (I started with 4 and finished with 2)
- 1-5 long sleeve t-shirts *** (I started with 1 and finished with 5)
- 1 jumper *** (got it in Canada)
- 7 underclothes + 2 bras ***
- 5 pairs of socks ***
- 1 pair of leg warmers **
- alpaca socks ** (I bought them in Bolivia)
- bikini *
- waterproff hiking shoes ***
- flip flops ***
- hiking sandals ** (I sent them back after Canada)
- polar fleece **
- thin waterproof jacket **
- puffer jacket ** (I bought it in Australia)
- hat, gloves ** (I bought them in Chile)
- foulard ***
- sun hat **
- sunglasses **
Toilettries & health
- Shower soap, shampoo and soap for laundry (all solid bars) ***
- tooth brush and paste ***
- comb ***
- deoderant ***
- tampons (difficult to find in some countries in Asia) ***
- depilatory cream ***
- lip balm with sun protection **
- tweezers, nail clippers **
- once a day sunscreen, after sun **
- mosquito repellent/ mosquito repellent ** (Only in Asia. The one I bought it France wasn’t effective so I had to replace it by a local one in Thailand)
- hand sanitiser **
- hair band, hair pins **
- cold depilatory wax * (it didn’t work very well, so I finally throw it away)
- emergency kit (antiseptic wipes, plasters…) * (never used it)
- medicines (antibiotic, for stomach sickness, to make the water drinkable…) * (needed some when I got sick in Bolivia)
- quick drying towel ***
- notebook and pens ***
- zip plastic bags ***
- thread and tape ** (I used the thread sometimes to dry clothes, and the tape to fix the charger to the wall when it fell)
- silk sheet sleeping bag **
- head lamp **
- earplugs and eye mask **
- hot water bottle/ hot water bottle ** (I bought it in Chile right before crossing to Bolivia, and gave it to another traveler when I left Bolivia)
- lunch box/ lunch box ** (I bought it the first day in New Zealand and gave it to another traveler on my last day)
- spork ** (I lost my spork the last day in New Zealand, and couldn’t find another)
- sarong * (only a couple of times to go to the beach, and a couple of times as a bed sheet)
- small sewing kit * (only once to repair my hand bag, but it saved my day)
- whistle * (never used it)
- door block * (only a couple of times)
- inflatable travel pillow * (I don’t find it so comfortable anymore)
- mosquito net * (only in Siem Reap, even though if I had had more money I wouldn’t have stayed in that guesthouse. Whenever necessary it was provided. I sent it back when I left Asia)
Adapting clothes to changing weather conditions
While most of my luggage was useful all over the world, I had to adapt the clothes according to the weather.
For information, this is the climate I encountered in each region:
- India, south east Asia: winter but tropical climate. Very hot and humid, no rain.
- Australia, New Zealand: autumn. Warm or cool during the day, cold at night. Lot of rain.
- Central Chile: autumn. Cool during the day, cold at night. No rain.
- South of Chile: early winter. Very cold and rainy.
- Canada: summer. Warm or hot, occasional rain.
- North of Chile: hot in the day, cold at night, no rain.
- Bolivia: very cold, no rain.
- Argentina, Uruguay: cool or warm in the day, cold at night, bit of rain.
I started the trip with clothes for tropical weather. I knew I would need warmer clothes later on but they take space and I didn’t want to carry them around. I did take leggings and leg warmers (so I could wear them under the pants if it was cold) and one fleece jacket.
When I left Asia (end of tropical weather) I sent home a package with the items I didn’t need anymore, as the mosquito net, the salwar I bought in India and one of the chargers.
In Australia, New Zealand and Chile I bought a few things since it was getting cold (a puffer jacket, a long sleeve t-shirt, a fleece t-shirt, gloves and hat).
To go to Patagonia I borrowed some clothes from a friend who lives in Santiago, and I left part of mine at her place. We exchanged clothes again when I came back from Patagonia and right before flying to Canada.
I met my family in Canada. So I asked my mother to bring me some clothes from Barcelona (thermal t-shirt, thermal leggings and a jumper) and she took back the things I wouldn’t need anymore (the shorts, two short sleeves t-shirts and the hiking sandals).
No need to carry everything from the first day.
- Take the items you’ll need the first months and the ones that take no space.
- Take the items (and medicines) that are not easy to find.
- Clothes are easy to find everywhere in the world, and they will always be adapted to the local weather.
Leave behind the items you no longer need.
- You can give them to other travelers
- or send them home (well, check if the transport price is worth the content!).
Have you done a long term trip with only hand luggage? How was your experience?
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Thangasivam GANDHI says
Thanks. Good summary. Recently I used kitchen foils / vaccum bags also. Was useful with and without vaccum cleaner.
Yes, vacuum bags are also useful for saving space.
Thanks for the tip! 🙂
The truth is over time believe the women we are thinking about needing many beauty products, and it´s not like that…We need to be more simple on our way to live. Great post !
You are the warrior woman !
Haha warrior woman, you made me smile 🙂
It’s true that we are constantly told that we need many beauty products for our skin and hair, daily. During the trip I discovered which ones I really need and how often: liquid shampoo and conditioner for my hair (every few months), after sun the first days I am in hot climate or when I get sunburn, and lip balm and hand cream when it is very cold.
Laia, as the Aussies say, you are truly a legend!!
Thank you, you made my day!
So happy to see you here 🙂
The goal of every traveller, especially with airlines screwing you right, left and center. We don’t travel the same way (we work as we travel) and require a few things many wouldn’t…and we’re probably in the opposite situation than you because we get dinged with extra baggage fees on almost every flight. Amazing that somehow we always seem to be about 3kg over the damn limit.
But the day we stop working is the day we’ll travel a lot lighter.
Yes, I can imagine that traveling light is not possible when you travel and work at the same time, since you need to carry much more things. And airlines keep decreasing both cabin and check in baggage allowances which makes it even more difficult…
I was very lucky during the round the world trip, they never checked the weight (9kg is actually over the limit in some companies). My backpack was weighted for the first time last month when I was flying from Thailand back to Europe – fortunately I had only 8kg and no other bags so I was fine.
Diana Garcés says
I think it’s possible because I have lived it.
I love to travel light and the more minimalist is the case I think better is passed.
Thanks for the tips guapa 🙂
Welcome! Yes, the more minimalist, the better 🙂
Andrea VJ says
The truth, this is too complex for me, I have always said that. So, no matter it is for a short trip I go out with a huge luggage. For that reason, I admire those who can do it or it is a matter of getting used to it.
I think it’s mainly a matter of getting used, though it also depends on you and your way of traveling. Traveling light requires traveling slower (so you have time to do some laundry) and you have to leave behind a lot of clothes and beauty products.
It’s a good idea to start on a short trip – for example a weekend – and keep trying in longer trips.
Congratulations! Good description and tips to travel around the world with carry on luggage only.
After more years traveling, I have been reducing my luggage.
It is more practice and easy to move from one place to another.
Currently, I prefer the minimalism style 😉
Yes, I completely agree that traveling light is more practical and easier to move around.
And as you say with years of traveling it gets easier since you learn which items you need the most, so you can keep reducing your luggage 🙂
Helena Simon says
Quick question: how did you manage airlines restrictions towards nailclips? And was it easy to get around for months without pliers, tweezers, small scissors? This is the main reason I’d go with dispatch, so that’s why I’d love a seasoned opinion.
I always carry nailclips and tweezers in my carry on luggage and I’ve never had any problem.
As for the scissors, at the beginning I had one that was very small with a round tip and it was taken at the airport. After that I bought one whenever I needed it and left it behind before the next flight. Scissors are inexpensive and easy to find (it’s cheaper to buy scissors when you need them than paying to check in luggage when taking a low cost flight).
Hope it helps