Packing for Long-Term Travel… My Original Bag Revisited

About a year ago I posted on my blog everything I would be taking with me on my trip.  (Click here to read the original post.)  Without knowing where I was going or how long I would be gone, I was clueless.  I poured over other online bloggers’ packing lists and “must haves” trying to be fully prepared, and at the same time keeping the bag weight to a mínimum.  As I look back over my old list, I laugh at some of the crap I brought.  I think the number one lesson I learned, is that yes, you can buy just about anything anywhere, but the quality is not the same.  Unavailable are the silky-soft-moisture-wicking-quick-drying Lululemon t-shirts, high-quality-wrinkle-defying face cream, or sturdy-leak-proof water bottles.  I just had to learn to live with lower quality stuff and adjust my spoiled nature or wait for friends to bring me things from the U.S.  So, here’s a review of what I originally packed and what I needed and what I didn’t (updates in bold).



  • Flip Flops (x2) – HavaianasI wore (and wore-out) both pair within 6 months.  I didn’t really need two though.  You can buy flip flops anywhere, but I do like the durability of the Havianas, so I bought a replacement pair in Nicaragua.
  • Flats (1) – TieksI did wear these quite a bit, as my “fancy/night out” shoes, but ha, let’s be honest, they really aren’t that fancy.  I ended up ditching them in Peru, and I don’t think I will buy another pair.
  • Sneakers (2) – A light walking pair and a heavier hiking/running pair.  I know.  Too many.:  I wore the walking shoes a bit, and the running sneakers almost never.  I ended up ditching both pair in Costa Rica and buying a pair of Merrell hiking shoes.  These have been awesome, and maybe my best purchase of the trip.
  • Socks (4):  For some reason, I never had enough socks.  Luckily these can be bought anywhere for cheap. 
  • Slipper/Socks (1):  I don’t know what happened to them, but in each place where I was spending more than a month (Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua), I bought cheap slippers for around the house.


  • Jeans (1) – Joes JeansI cannot say enough wonderful things about these jeans.  So durable and practical, and I used them everywhere.  I will maybe get a fresh pair before I head out again, but only one pair of jeans is needed.  Apparently,  you can wear jeans many times before washing.
  • Skirts (1):  I ditched this after Colombia.  I just didn’t wear it very much.
  • Long Yoga Pants (1) – Lululemon Studio PantThese pants are phenomenal and held up after many washings.  Perfect for yoga, work outs, plane and bus rides, pajamas, etc.
  • Cropped Yoga Pants (2) – Lululemon Step LivelyI really liked these as well.  I don’t think I used them as much as the other yoga pants, but still a great thing to have
  • Shorts (1) – Old Navy:  Used these a bunch and still have them.
  • Workout Shorts/PJ Bottoms (1):  I ditched these after Nicaragua, but I bought a couple of other cheap shorts to replace.
  • Dresses (2) – Peacock dress!:  I sent the peacock dress back to the States with my friend Nicole.  I just didn’t wear it enough, and it was too heavy.  The second dress I wore quite a bit, until it fell apart after too many washings.  I will probably buy that dress again.


  • Tank Tops/Sleeveless Shirts (5) – Also for working out, cause that’s gonna happen.:  Actually, working out DID happen occasionally.  I did Zumba in Colombia and yoga in Nicaragua. 
  • Short Sleeved Shirts (3):  I think I will get some more high quality t-shirts for the next leg of my trip, instead of constantly replacing with cheap, “disposable” shirts.
  • Long Sleeved Shirts (2):  Didn’t start using these until I got to Guatemala, but I was glad to have them then.  Also, in Peru and Bolivia.


  • Black Windbreaker Jacket (1) – LululemonExcellent, practical, lightweight jacket.
  • Black Light Jacket (1):  I used this hoodie quite a bit too.
  • Rain Poncho (1) – It’s raining in Cartegena!:  Never used it and ditched it in Colombia.
  • Bathing Suits (2):  I used these a bunch and eventually bought two new ones in Colombia and Nicaragua.  I think 2 is a good number for bathing suits, although at one point in Nicaragua I had 4.


  • Thongs (14):  Wore these and had my friend Sabeena bring me some new ones from the states when she came to visit.
  • Boy Shorts (6):  Wore these a bunch too.
  • Regular Bras (3):  The most difficult thing to find for me in South/Central America were high-quality, well-fitting bras.  Almost impossible.
  • Sports Bras (2):  Used these often.


  • Sunglasses (2) – Ray Bans and Maui JimsReplaced the beat up Ray Bans in Lima, Peru, but overall I was glad to have these.  At times I bought fun, cheap, disposable shades along the way.
  • Sarong/Scarf (1) – Thanks Iris!:  I actually took two scarves and used both of them all the time.  When I was in Guatemala, I bought a few more cheap ones, but ended up ditching them because they were falling apart.
  • Buff “Hat” – Thanks Ruby!:  I used this more than I thought I would, and I will continue to bring it on my travels.
  • Jewelry – a couple pairs of hoop earrings, a few necklaces, nothing expensive or valuable:  I used these, and I also bought more cheap stuff along the way.
  • Watch (1) – Swatch: Love my swatch, but the strap holder thing broke, so I will probably get a new one.
  • Hiking hat (1) – Patagonia Never used this, so I ditched it, but I did buy some cheap, fun hats along the way.


  • Acetaminophen PM:  Used it up and had my friend Nicole bring me a replacement.
  • Excedrine Migraine:  Barely used it.
  • Prescription Levothyrox:  Used it daily, and was able to buy more as needed.
  • Anti-Diarrheal:  Used rarely.
  • Sinus Decongestant:  Used never.
  • Benadryl:  Used never.
  • Fluconazole:  Used it up, will replace.
  • Cipro – Antibiotic:  Used it up, once for myself, but mostly gave away to other fellow travelers.
  • Doxycycline – Anti-Malaria:  Never used, will not replace.
  • Anti-Itch Cream:  USED!  For terrible mosquito bites.  Will bring again.
  • Antibiotic Ointment:  Used for occasional cuts and scrapes, will bring again.
  • First Aid Kit:  Mostly only used Band-Aids. 

Safety-Security-MacGyver Stuff-Comforts-Fun

  • Headlamp:  Used occasionally, will bring again.
  • Doorstop:  Used rarely, but glad to have it when I did.  Will bring again.
  • Travel Cable & Lock:  Never used the cable, so will probably ditch it, but the luggage locks were critical.
  • Duct Tape:  I don’t think I ever used this, but I might keep it with me just in case.
  • Super Glue:  I used it once, and it dried up, so I chucked it.  Won’t replace.
  • Pepper Spray:  Thankfully I never had to use this, but glad to have it.  I have a love-hate with this pepper spray, and I could (and might) write an entire blog post on how much trouble and anxiety this has caused me.  But either way, I think I am going to keep it.
  • Small Sewing KitThis was taken away from me at an airport in Guatemala, but I have since replaced it.
  • Swiss Army Knife:  The mini scissors on this were used all the time.  I will take this again.
  • Dreamsack – I’ve never used this, and not really sure if I ever will?:  I used and loved this thing!  And I will bring again.
  • Ear Plugs:  Used a bunch, and will bring again.
  • Eye Pillow – My favorite “luxury” item, so good for jet lag-induced headaches.:  Used daily, will bring again.
  • Cable Ties:  Never used and ditched in Guatemala.
  • Water BottleUsed until it broke and couldn’t find a decent replacement anywhere.  I will take again.
  • Carabiners – This is apparently a “must have”, but I have no idea when I will use these.:  Used once to clip my sleeping bag on my backpack.  Gave one away to a friend.  Not sure I need this.
  • Corkscrew:  Used it a bunch.
  • Umbrella (Small):  Used it rarely, but glad to have it when I needed it.
  • Antibacterial Wipes:  Used rarely, will not replace.
  • Quick dry towel:  Used rarely so I ditched it, but ended up buying a cheap towel in Peru.  Not sure if I will replace.
  • Plastic Ziplock Bags:  Used these for everything.
  • Thank You Cards:  Used rarely, will probably ditch em.
  • Pens & Sharpie:  Used the pens, but never the sharpie.
  • Traveling Translator Guide with Pictures to Point At – Thanks Sabeena!:  Didn’t use this once, but I think will come in handy for Asia.
  • Journal Books – Thanks Karen!:  Used these to record expenses mostly, but now I have an app for that, so I might not bring more.
  • Moo Cards – to give out my contact info when I make friends on the road:  I used these a bunch.
  • Dive Card/Dive Book – hoping to get more use from this:  Only used it once in Colombia!  But I will continue to bring it.
  • Exercise Band – Ha!  I’m so sure I’ll use this daily.:  Never used this and ditched it in Guatemala.
  • Playing Cards:  I never used them, ditched them in Guatemala, and then bought a deck in Nicaragua.  I will bring these again.


  • Sunscreen:  Good sunscreen is impossible to find and is very expensive in South/Central America.  Will bring again.
  • Tissues:  Used daily.  Available everywhere for cheap.
  • Bug Spray:  Used frequently.   Found that it is better to buy this where you are, as the formulas can be different for the region.  I bought some great repellent in Colombia, that was made for the awful mosquitos they have there.
  • Toothbrush:  Used daily.  But when I needed to replace it I couldn’t find “soft” head. 
  • Toothpaste:  Used daily.  Cheap and available everywhere.
  • Soap:  Used daily.  Cheap and available everywhere.
  • Eyes Cream:  Used daily.  Cried when I ran out and had friends bring me from the US. 
  • Face Cream:  Used daily.  Could not find any decent to replace.
  • Face Wash:  Used daily.  Found decent replacements when needed.
  • Pocket Mirror:  Used daily.  Half of it broke, so I will replace.
  • Dental Floss:  Used rarely.  Sorry Mr. Dentist.  I just never think about it.
  • Shampoo:  Used daily.  Found decent replacements when needed.
  • Conditioner:  Used daily. Found decent replacements when needed.
  • Deep Conditioner:  Used weekly.  Could not find good replacements.
  • Dry shampoo:  Never used and ditched.
  • Headbands:  Used daily to hold my hair when washing my face.  That’s it really.
  • Hair Ties:  Used frequently until I got a terrible haircut in Peru and my hair was too short.  😦
  • Hair Clip:  Used daily until they broke.  Will bring again.
  • Comb:  Used daily.
  • Brush:  Used daily.
  • Chap Stick (x2):  Used daily.
  • Tweezers:  Used frequently until they were confiscated getting on a flight in Guatemala.  Impossible to find a decent replacement.
  • Nail Clippers:  Used frequently.
  • Nail File:  Used rarely.
  • Razor:  Used frequently.
  • Deodorant:  Used daily.
  • Mascara:  Used daily.
  • Eyelash Curler:  Used daily.
  • Eye Shadow:  Used daily until it broke and made a mess everywhere.
  • Face Powder:  Used daily.
  • Eye Liner:  Used occasionally.


  • Kindle & Charger:  Used daily.
  • iPhone 4S & Charger:  Used daily.
  • Halo Pocket Power – Back-Up Charger for iPhone – Thanks Linda!:  Used often.  A lifesaver.
  • ASUS Laptop & Charger – I mentally debated taking this, but ultimately decided that I want it.:  Used occasionally until it broke in Colombia, and I bought a replacement laptop.  Ultimately I am glad to have this.
  • International Converter:  Never used it, because everywhere I went had US outlets, but I will bring this again.
  • Grid-It Organizer – This thing is pretty cool.:  Never used it and ditched it in Colombia.

Important Stuff

  • Passport with Kate Spade Cover – Thanks Lisa!:  Used frequently.
  • Health Insurance Card – Blue Shield says they’ll cover me on the road!:  Never used it and ditched it after the rates doubled.
  • Real Wallet & Dummy Wallet – One to give to theives?  I have read a lot about this “dummy wallet”, but I don’t know anyone who actually had to use this tactic.  I just plan on not carrying much with me.:  Never used the dummy wallet.
  • 500 US Dollars:  Spent it.
  • 600,000 Colombian Pesos:  Spent it.
  • Chase Sapphire Visa Credit Card – Primary credit card with no international fees:  Used frequently.
  • Edward Jones Master Card – Back-up credit card:  Never used it.
  • Charles Schwab Debit Card – Primary ATM card with no fees:  Used frequently.
  • Edward Jones Debit Card – Back-up ATM card.  Never used it.
  • Bank of America Debit Card – Back-up to the back-up ATM – I really don’t want to keep this account open, but it has my business account on it and all of my automatic bill pay, so…  Never used it.
  • Old Student ID – For student discounts?  I am not sure if I can still pass as a student?:  Never used it.  Will ditch it.


  • Primary Suitcase – Eagle Creek Twist 65L – a rolling bag/backpack hybrid.:  This bag was excellent, but I only once used the backpack straps, and I hated them.  I’m not going to ever use them again, if I can help it.  I *might* try to downsize to a smaller bag, but I am still researching.
  • Carry-On Bag – Timbuk2I ditched this in Guatemala and replaced with an excellent, small North Face backpack that I can use for weekend trips, hiking, and as a carry-on.
  • Purse – Baggallini Amsterdam Crossbody:  I ditched this, but not sure when.  I just buy a small, cheap local purse wherever I am. 

I am still trying to downsize even more.  Clothes and toiletries take up the majority of space and weight in my bag.  With clothes, it is a constant balance of having less clothes, vanity/boredom with these few clothes, how “dirty” clothes need to be to warrant washing, and how often I get laundry done.  For toiletries, I grapple with expensive, tiny bottles of products versus larger (heavier) bottles, that cost less and last longer.  I’m not sure if I will ever get the balance perfect, but I am going to keep trying.  Any questions or comments, write them in below….

Categories: Packing, Recap, RTW | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Packing for Long-Term Travel… My Original Bag Revisited

  1. Julie Carvill

    You forgot. They took away your Tweezerman tweezers. I’m glad the peacock dress still exists! My dream dress!

    • Oh I didn’t forget that these were taken. I also lost my replacement pair in Peru. I bought a third pair in the airport in Bogota!

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