What is the common theme? Less is easier to carry and less expensive to transport. There are LOTS of recommendations on how to pack and I read through them periodically for new ideas as I constantly refine my own list. If you desperately need something, you can buy it. And it’s fun to leave room for a few country specific additions.
So, how do I pack less when I need to plan for EVERY situation? Layering is a common strategy. Just think - t-shirt, sweater or fleece and jacket which will get you through three seasons.
I base my packing on these common scenarios:
-Activities such as hiking, biking, or water based sports
-Nice dinner or cultural event requiring something beyond backpacker basic
I usually break my items into 3 groups: Clothing, Toiletries, and Gear (a rather nebulous yet essential group).
Luggage: Let's start with luggage. Before you leave, check the airlines you will be using for their carry-on and checked bag policies. These policies are inconsistent from country to country and airline to airline. In the U.S., you are usually allowed 40 lbs (about 18 kg) for a carry-on bag while other countries only allow about 15 lbs (7 kg). In fact, if you are flying on some carriers from the U.S. to an international destination, this policy will apply if you have to connect and you may have to reweigh your bags in the connecting city and pay a fee if your carry-on is overweight.
I try to check one bag and bring a small backpack on the plane. And I always bring a smaller bag that can be used on the return trip as a carry-on for any goodies I buy while traveling.
For my 5 month journey, I had a wheeled carry-on (for my camera, medication, change of clothes, 3 oz. toiletries), a very slim backpack (for my computer, Kindle and a few necessities on the plane) and a medium size backpack that I could fit inside a duffel bag for my checked bag. The duffel bag allowed me to also add items from the wheeled carry-on to the checked bag to meet the weight requirements for my wheeled carry-on overseas.
Below is my list for my 5 month trip which can actually take you from 1 week to several months. The thing to remember is that you pack basics that can apply in most situations. Don’t bring lots of things for "just in case". For women, bring one dress or skirt in case you need something dressy. Men only need a pair of khakis (not cargo pants) to serve as something dressy.
Optional: Thermals for colder climates which double as pajamas; scarf (may be more fun to buy one along the way); hat and gloves.
Toiletries: A word about travel sizes. Regulations for carry-on allow for 3.4 oz (100 ml). A container of shampoo that size will last 2+ weeks (and I have shoulder length hair). If you are not sure how much to take, then do a test run before your trip. Fill the container with your normal shampoo at home and keep track of how many days it will last you. Then you know exactly how long it will last and how much to take. I was surprised to find that my little travel bottle of shampoo lasted 17 days!! And that only applies if you need to wash your hair every day. Bottom line, there is no need to take an entire bottle of shampoo, conditioner, or lotion. Many hotels provide these items and even if you have to use hotel shampoo for a couple of days, it will not destroy your hair.
Containers - I prefer containers with a twist off cap as a flip-top cap can sometimes open and ooze contents.
For the plane: