Meeting Locals on a One Year Trip Around the World

What to Pack for a Gap Year Around the World? – 80+ Items on My Gap Year Packing List

August 9, 2018|Lena
What to pack for a gap year around the world? Here is my packing list with more than 80 items! Including an Excel sheet. #packinglist #packingtip

Hi, future world explores,

My own gap year is now only days away, and I finally started packing my new backpack the Osprey Sirrus 50 liter for real. A couple of weeks ago I did a packing trial run, to see if everything fits and whether the designated gap year backpack is too heavy or not. I am delighted with the result. The backpack is full to the brim, it weighs 10 kg, and there is almost nothing left to buy or pack so it should be fine for the whole year.

A packing trial run and of course the actual packing are two points of over 50 from my Gap Year Planning Tasks Check List. If you want to gain access for free sign up to my mailing list!

In this post today I would like to introduce to you what to pack for a gap year around the world, by showing you my gap year packing list.

Post Contents

Get My Free Gap Year Packing List Printable

I love to organize everything I do on Excel spreadsheets and so my gap year packing list is also on a spreadsheet. If you want to get it, you can by gaining access to my free content library (with many other useful resources for your gap year planning). All you have to do is sign up with your name and email address. It’s simple.

Gain access to the exclusive
Social Travel Experiment Library

And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List


Once you have access to the gap year packing list Excel sheet, feel free to change it for your own needs by adding or deleting items, changing quantities and of course checking everything off the list once you have bought it and packed it.

Packing and Organizing

packing and organizing on my gap year packing list

In this first category, I input all the items that will be used to pack all the other things and help keep them organized.

  • Backpack
  • Handbag
  • Daypack
  • Toiletries Bag
  • Packing Cubes
  • Shoe Bags
  • Zip-Lock Bags
  • Laundry Bag

Backpack – Osprey Sirrus 50 Liter

I love my new backpack so much. After multiple trips to stores, trying on different brands, models and sizes I finally decided on the Osprey Sirrus 50 Liter. I actually asked around other people who travel around the world, and many of them use Osprey backpacks. After I have moved around with it for a bit I will write a review post, so you know about the pros and cons of the backpack, as I discover them. At the moment all I can say is that everything I wanted to bring for the year fits and that it sits comfortably on my hips, and that it looks nice.

Handbag for essentials

I did some research to find a handbag I would use for the whole year. There are just some items you want to have close to you all the time, like your wallet, phone, and passport, but maybe even sunglasses and in my case a different camera lens or two.
In the end, I bought a regular handbag from a shop around the corner from our house in Tokyo. But I was seriously considering purchasing this PacSafe travel handbag on Amazon.

Daypack – Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack

Once you have arrived at a destination you don’t want to carry around all your stuff all day every day, am I right. For this reason, I actually bought two kinds of bags. My trusty bag for essentials which I mentioned above, and a daypack, basically a small backpack.

In my case, the small backpack is really super small. It can all be stuffed in on itself, and once you are done, it will fit in your hand. And as such it will also fit into your backpack easily when you don’t use it.

If you do need to use the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack, it is big enough to accommodate camera equipment, a rain jacket and or umbrella, s bottle of water and any other small item you can’t live without.

I have used my Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack on multiple trips in Japan, and so far there are no signs of wear and tear. It is a little bit wrinkled because it is stored all balled up all the time, but if that doesn’t concern you, you should be fine. I am in the process of writing a review post for this gap year backpack as well, but with all the other blog posts that are currently in the making, it might take a couple more weeks. Sorry to keep you waiting.

Toiletries Bag

I bought a bag for my toiletries at the 100 Yen shop close to my house. It is square, see-through material (which is perfect if I ever should decide to fly carry-on only), super light and has a zipper. It is big enough to fit all my toiletries (we will get to the list a bit further down this post).

You can buy similar toiletry bags on, for example, this one.

Packing Cubes

Another item I bought at the 100 Yen shop. It is amazing how cheaply things are sold here in Japan for which you have to pay so much more online. I guess the quality is better when you buy packing cubes on Amazon. But really a couple of packing cubes are only going to hold clothes, so I think the 100 Yen ones will do fine.

I bought three packing cubes of different sizes. One cube is for all my jackets, another one for my underwear and the third one is for the rest of my clothing.

Shoe Bags

I am bringing three pairs of shoes, for which I need two shoe bags because obviously, I am going to wear one pair on my feet. You can use anything as a shoe bag really. A big zip-lock bag will do or a bag with a drawstring. I bought some designated shoe bags at my 100 Yen shop. To my surprise they sell exactly the same shoe bags at

Zip-Lock Bags

If you want to organize all your small belongings, there is nothing better than having a couple of zip-lock bags of different sizes to keep everything tidy in your backpack really. I use my zip-lock bags for things that will get wet, like shampoo and towels, another one for medicine and so on.

Laundry Bag

This bag will be empty when you start out, but over the days it will slowly fill up with dirty laundry. I am planning on washing about once every 10 days. Let’s see how that goes once we are really getting started.


essentials on my gap year packing list

These are the things you can’t go without. Don’t forget them or else you will be in trouble.

  • Wallet
  • Passport
  • Health Insurance Info
  • Yellow Fever Proof
  • Credit Cards
  • Driver’s License & International Driver’s License


Bring a wallet, maybe even two (so you have something to hand over if you should ever get robbed). There are travel wallets with RFID security making it impossible to read your credit card information. I just bought a very cheap small purse at the store next door. Nothing fancy, so it is okay if it ever gets stolen, dirty or lost.


Don’t forget your passport. Make sure it is valid for at least half a year longer than you are planning on traveling. Or else you might have problems when applying for a visa in individual countries.

Health Insurance Info

Yes, I recommend you get some form of travel health insurance while you do your gap year around the world. Keep the contact details somewhere where you can always find them. Maybe store the number in your phone and also keep a copy in your wallet just in case you are ever out of battery.

Yellow Fever Proof

Some countries want to see proof that you have the yellow fever vaccination, so keep it together with your passport so you can show the evidence whenever you try to enter a country.

Gain access to the exclusive
Social Travel Experiment Library

And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List

Credit Cards

My recommendation is to have at least 2 credit cards from different companies (Visa, Master or American Express) and to keep them in different places, just in case one is stolen or lost. Also, note down the number of your credit card institute to be able to lock the card in case it gets taken.

Driver’s License & International Driver’s License

If you are planning on driving during your gap year around the world make sure you have your driver’s license and international driver’s license handy. Best keep it with your passport because if you ever get into a control, they are likely to want to check those three items together.


packing and organizing on my gap year packing list

Don’t bring too much clothing, or else your luggage will be unnecessary heavy, but if you carry too little, you will have to wash all the time. I think balance is critical here. Some people are very minimalist travelers, but I am not one of them. Here is what I pack for a gap year around the world.

  • Underwear
  • Bra
  • Socks
  • T-Shirts
  • Long Sleeve Shirts
  • Light Jacket
  • Ultra Light Down Jacket
  • Rain Jacket
  • Pants
  • Warm Tights
  • Rain Trousers
  • Dress
  • Bikini
  • Pajama
  • Scarf
  • Hat
  • Sneakers
  • Rain Shoes
  • Flip-flops


I am packing 10 pairs of underwear. I don’t know about you, but I change my panties once a day. Some people replace them twice a day (in that case maybe bring more, or you will be washings more than once a week).


4 bras should be enough to last me the 10 days my underwear will last. If you are a guy, you are lucky and can just ignore this part.


Same as the underwear I pack 10 pairs of socks for my gap year around the world. I am mainly planning on wearing sneakers, so I pack short socks. If you are planning on wearing boots, then a bit higher socks might be useful. I guess if you are mainly going to wear sandals then you don’t need as many socks.


The trick with the t-shirts is to bring only a couple and to buy quality t-shirts that won’t start smelling even if you wear them a couple of days in a row. I purchased some Merion Wool shirts from Icebreaker, and I love them. They don’t smell at all of the sweat even after wearing them two days. So I am judging that 3 shirts will be enough for 9 days.

Long Sleeve Shirts

I am traveling mainly in warm or hot regions where a t-shirt will be enough. For this reason, I am only planning on bringing one long sleeve shirt that I can wear if it should ever get cold.

Light Jacket

In addition to the long sleeve shirt, I am also bringing a cardigan as a light jacket to wear indoors where air conditioning is powerful or on colder days.

Ultra Light Down Jacket

The warmest kind of jacket I am bringing is an Ultra Light Down Jacket. Filled with fluffy down feathers, it is nice and warm at around 10 to 15 degrees but can be folded super small, so it won’t take up any space while it is not in use.

Rain Jacket

Even in warm climates (or especially in warm climates), there is always a chance of rain and walking around in wet clothes is not fun. So I am bringing a very thin, light rain jacket. Make sure to buy a waterproof one, not a water repellent one to stay dry all day.


I recommend comfortable pants, either cloth pants or yoga pants for girls. I only bring one pair of shorts, because in most climates that are hot it is still recommended to wear long trousers to prevent mosquito bites.

Warm Tights

When hiking it can get cold, even if you start out in a hot climate. For this reason, I am planning on bringing one pair of warm tights to wear under my trousers if it ever gets cold.

Rain Trousers

If you visit places that are prone for rain, like Asia with its monsoon season or even Scotland a pair of rain trousers will help keep you dry. You can buy some very cheaply on Amazon. Bring them just in case, you will thank me later.


Having one simple dress that is light and easy t put on will be perfect during your gap year around the world. I like to throw a dress over my swimwear when I leave the beach, for example, to head into town for lunch, or when walking from my room to a shared bathroom when staying with a host (using Couchsurfing or Servas).


We will visit some fantastic beaches on our trip around the world, and I for one don’t just want to see them on land. I want to take a swim in the waves, and therefore I am bringing my bikini!


If you are planning on sharing your sleeping quarters, no matter if you are planning to stay in hostels, or with Couchsurfing hosts, it would do you well to have some designated clothing for when you sleep, you don’t want to be half naked in front of strangers.

Gain access to the exclusive
Social Travel Experiment Library

And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List


Even when you travel in warm climates (or maybe especially then), it is advisable to bring a scarf. Airplanes, public transport, and shops, all crank up their air conditioning to the fullest, and the difference between outside and inside temperature is what makes most people who aren’t used to it sick. So I always bring a jacket and a scarf to keep warm while inside.


It’s not fun having a heat stroke while traveling. One of the most natural things to prevent this is by keeping the sun off your head (and drinking lots of water). So, bring a hat, preferably one that will provide a bit of protection for your head, shoulders, and neck as well.


My 3 pairs of shoes consist of comfortable shoes only. A couple of sneakers for everyday use. I have some light sneakers from Underarmor, and I love them so much. The sole is thick and comfortable, and I can walk in them for hours.

Rain Shoes

If it’s raining my sneakers and feet inside them will be wet in seconds, that’s why I am also bringing some shoes that are waterproof. I bought the Salomon Women’s X Ultra 2 GTX W Hiking Shoe, and so far I am pleased with them.


For the beach or dirty showers, there is nothing better than having a pair of flip-flops. I was actually doing some research lately and bought some very cute Crocs that I will use instead of my Puma flip-flops. The Crocs design is charming and colorful and they will even look cute with a dress and will get me into restaurants where flip-flops are forbidden. Perfect!


toiletries on my gap year packing list

I am not a girl that uses lot’s of makeup and therefore my toiletries bag is not as full as that of other girls. Here is my list of things I am going to bring.

  • Tampons
  • Hand Disinfectant
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Contact Lenses
  • Shampoo
  • Body Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Nail Scissors
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Mascara & Other Makeup
  • Makeup Remover
  • Reusable Pads
  • Lipbalm
  • Q-Tips


As girls, we can’t get around having our periods even while traveling the world. I rely on tampons if you are using napkins bring those, and if you are looking for an entirely different alternative have a look at Menstrual Cups such as the DivaCup. I haven’t tried it yet, but I am seriously thinking about it.

Hand Sanitizer

Don’t upset your stomach just because your hands are dirty. Before you eat, wash your hands and disinfect them afterward with some Purell.

Bug Spray

Some mosquitos can get you far worse than an itching red spot on your skin. To avoid dangerous diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes use bug spray generously and wear long sleeves and closed shoes at all times.


I am as white as one get, and if I am in the sun for more than 10 minutes, I will be red. Therefore I can’t leave the house without sunscreen in summer, I recently learned that lesson again in Japan. I dutifully protected my face shoulders and arms, but guess what, I forgot my feet. At night I had bright red patterns on the top of my feet and the back of my legs. Unpleasant and so avoidable.

Contact Lenses

I can’t go anywhere without my glasses, but sometimes it just isn’t practical to wear glasses. For example when swimming in the ocean, or watching a 3D movie. While I do believe there will be much more swimming than 3D movies during my gap year around the world, I am bringing a supply of contact lenses for the year.


I did some research about what kind of shampoo to buy, and of course, you can bring a travel sized shampoo and buy a new one every time your bottle is empty. But I have a much nicer option that will save you a lot of space and is even good for the environment: Lush Shampoo Bar.

This is a bar of soap for your hair. It comes with a uniquely designed metal case and is suitable for 80 hair washes.

Body Soap

I bought another bar of my body soap also at Lush. The shampoo and soap are both in separate metal boxes, and I put both into a small zip-lock bag so they can get wet without getting everything in my backpack wet.


While traveling to more off the beaten path destinations a daily shower might be impossible. Still, your body odor shouldn’t be the reason no one wants to sit next to you on a bus. Bring some deodorant to keep from smelling too ripe.

Nail Scissors

I am bringing some nail scissors, they can be used for cutting other things besides nails and are very handy for that reason.

Toothbrush & Toothpaste

Don’t forget your toothbrush and remember to use it even if you are traveling through different time zones, or on dirty buses.

Bring a travel size toothpaste, you can pick up a new one on the way.

Mascara & Other Makeup

As I said, I am not using much makeup but if you are making a detailed list and only bring what you really think you will need.

Makeup Remover

Don’t forget to bring something to remove your makeup correctly.

Reusable Pads

Here is a super secret tip for you. Bringing cotton pads seems kind of bothersome doesn’t it. You can buy reusable pads made of bamboo. They are washable and super cheap and additionally good for the environment. I haven’t bought mine yet, because for some reason they are not available in Japan so I will get them in Germany next month.


Dry air in airplanes is nasty for my lips, so I always have some lip balm handy.


If you use q-tips at home for your makeup or anything else, don’t forget to bring some on your trip around the world.


electronics on my gap year packing list

I have to admit something. I am carrying way too many electronic devices, but I really can’t help myself. If you can go with less, that’s always better because things break, get stolen or even if everything goes well, they are super heavy.

  • Smartphone & Charger
  • Power Bank
  • Adapter
  • USB Multi Plug
  • Laptop & Charger
  • External Hard Drive
  • Camera
  • iPad & Charger
  • Smart Watch
  • Headphones

Smartphone & Charger

I can’t live without my phone. I try to update you all about my travels in real time. If you are interested in what I am up to on a day to day basis check out my Instagram and Twitter and follow along.

For this reason, I always try to have internet access everywhere I go. Currently, I am using an international SIM sticker from FLEXIROAM. You just stick the sticker on your home countries SIM card, and you are able to switch between the two networks whenever you want. If you want 100 MB of free data feel free to use my FLEXIROAM referal link. Also if you purchase from within the FLEXIROAM app you might get 50% off any starter plan so have a look (FLEXIROAM iPhone App & FLEXIROAM Android App).

I am also going to buy portable WIFI routers or local SIM cards where possible since they are much cheaper than the international ones. The mobile WIFI router I use in Hong Kong is from and can be picked up at the airport. Super useful, I did the same in Taiwan. Have a look at if you are planning on traveling in Asia.

Power Bank

If you run out of battery while you are away from civilization (it happens), you will be happy to have a power bank with you to recharge your phone. The newer and better power banks can charge your phone fully around 5 times. I recommend you invest the money rather than buying a cheap one.


The shape of power plugs differs worldwide. For simplicity, I have one adapter that can be used basically everywhere. If you believe one adapter won’t be enough, it makes a lot of sense to buy an extension cord with multiple outlets from your home country rather than more adapters.

USB Multi Plug

Another thing you can do is buy a little USB multi plug. You can use multiple USB cables but only need to plug it in once. This is especially useful for all the charging wires of your various devices like phone, power bank and whatever else you have.

Laptop and Charger

I need my computer to work on my blog, to send out emails to my followers or other interested parties and also to store the pictures and videos I have taken on my external hard drive.

External Hard Drive

Some people store their pictures on SD cards and just buy new ones once the old one is full. I heard this is not a right way to store data as it might get lost over time. To be entirely sure you should save your data in multiple places. An external hard drive is just one of these places. It is safest to store data on a cloud somewhere, but depending on the amount of data you want to save this can get expensive.


We are traveling with two cameras. One for pictures and one for videos, or if I wanted to put it differently, one for me and one for Taka. We now own an Olympus OM-D E Mark II and a LUMIX G85. They can use the same lenses, and we have 4 lenses at the moment. Don’t forget to bring enough batteries and your camera charger, and everything else you might need for additional equipment. We, for example, use an external microphone.

iPad and Charger

If you have an iPad or tablet and you are planning on taking it with you don’t forget to pack it including a charging cable. I use my iPad to write, play games or watch movies I have previously downloaded on Netflix. Great to kill time on a long plane or train ride.

Smart Watch

I am a first generation Apple Watch user, but I don’t want to take it with me. First, it was expensive, and it isn’t dust or waterproof and second, I need to charge the watch every day. That is just way too much of a bother, so I bought a super cheap smart watch for 20 USD. It does basically everything I used to do with my Apple Watch, but only needs to be charged once in two weeks or so because it doesn’t have a fancy color display. Perfect for traveling.


I finally invested in proper headphones. The cheap ones always break, and I used to buy new ones for about 10 USD every year. I invested in BOSE quiet comfort recently, and I love them. They are really good at canceling out noise such as the droning noise on a train. I haven’t used them on a plane yet, but I will get that chance all the time from now on. I hope they are as good as I think they will be.

First Aid & Other Emergancies

Items on my gap year packing list

Don’t forget to create a little first aid kit, even if you have a travel health insurance. You don’t want to go to a doctor for every kind of pain and especially if you are traveling to more remote places it will be good if you have the necessities with you. There are other emergencies besides sickness. Ripped clothing and broken equipment are something that can’t really be avoided.

  • Backpack
  • Handbag
  • Daypack
  • Toiletries Bag
  • Packing Cubes
  • Shoe Bags
  • Zip-Lock Bags
  • Laundry Bag


I get headaches and traveling is no fun at all with a pounding head. So I always have painkillers with me. They can be used for other kinds of pains as well.


Cuts, bruises, and blisters are something you probably have to calculate with for a trip around the world so pack some band-aids for your gap year.

Cold Medicine

Even in hot climates, you can get a cold, and bringing some good cold medicine to fight the symptoms is the right thing to do.

Gain access to the exclusive
Social Travel Experiment Library

And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List

Stomach Medicine

Not everyone has an iron stomach. I am usually okay with foreign food, but many people aren’t. Bring some medicine for stomach pain and diarrhea.

Motion Sickness Medicine

I am terrible on ships and boats, and so I want to have something that will stop me from vomiting while traveling from island to island.

Other Medicine

If you have any other conditions you know about, bring a supply of medicine for that as well.


Tape is great to protect your feet from blisters but also to tape something together when it’s broken.

Safety Pins

If you lose a button on your pant but don’t want to hold up your pants all the time use a safety pin. There are other uses for safety pins so bring a couple.

Rubber Bands

Rubber bands keep together your stuff like cables. Bring a couple.

Sewing Kit

When your clothing rips but you can’t replace it right away a travel sewing kit will be a great help.


other items on my gap year packing list

Here are some other things to pack for a gap year around the world that didn’t really go in any of the different categories.

  • Backpack
  • Handbag
  • Daypack
  • Toiletries Bag
  • Packing Cubes
  • Shoe Bags
  • Zip-Lock Bags
  • Laundry Bag


I have my sunglasses handy in my daypack always, so I can switch whenever I am outside and back when I go inside.


Bring a small towel or handkerchief to dry your hands or to wipe your sweat. It’s super useful.


A pack of tissues easily reached in your daypack.

Sleeping Bag

If you don’t know 100% where you will stay yet than a sleeping bag might be something you should bring with you. If you plan on only staying in hotels, you won’t need it, but if you want to stay with locals or in a tent having your own sleeping bag will be great. There are super small ones available also.

Sleep Mask

If you are a light sleeper, a sleep mask might do the trick. Maybe in addition to earplugs. Try it out.

I have a sleeping mask with me just in case, but I have never needed one before, I am a very deep sleeper no matter where.

Travel Pillow

I bought a travel pillow that is great for sleeping in trains or plains or every time you can’t lay down. The TRTL travel pillow supports your head like no other pillow can. I love it so much.

Travel Towel

We recently bought super small travel towels from mont-bell. They fold to the size of a small bag of tissues, are super absorbent and quick drying. Perfect for travel.


You never know when you want to note something down. Bring a small notebook.


I always bring a pen or two, mainly because you need to fill out forms in airplanes and other places. A pen should always be somewhere where it is easy to get to at all times.

In Conclusion

Over the course of my travels, I will update this post by telling you whether it was necessary to buy any other items on the way or if there were any items that I didn’t need at all. Once I do some updates, I will let you know in my weekly email newsletter. If you sign up to receive my gap year packing list, you will also instantly receive my weekly newsletters so you will stay up to date with my adventures and of course helpful resources.

If you are still in the gap year planning process have a look at my 50 gap year planning tasks post.

Pin this post for your gap year packing.

What to pack for a gap year around the world? Here is my packing list with more than 80 items! Including an Excel sheet. #packinglist #packingtip
What to pack for a gap year around the world? Here is my packing list with more than 80 items! Including an Excel sheet. #packinglist #packingtip


Authors Note:
None of the experiences in this post are in any way sponsored and have all been payed for by myself. The opinions stated are all my own and have not been influenced in any way.
This posts contains affiliate links. I receive a commission if a product is purchased through one of these links, at no extra cost to you. Please support me by purchasing products through my links!

Gain access to the exclusive
Social Travel Experiment Library

And start planning your unforgettable gap year around the world
using the Gap Year Prep Check List

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About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to teach about Social Travel, the art of exploring destinations from the viewpoint of locals while learning about Culture, History, Food, and Traditions.

Find out more About Me and The Social Travel Experiment

If you are a business we might be able to work together so check out the Work With Me page for more details

About Lena

Hi, I'm Lena the founder of The Social Travel Experiment. My mission is to teach about Social Travel, the art of exploring destinations from the viewpoint of locals while learning about Culture, History, Food, and Traditions.

Find out more About Me and The Social Travel Experiment

If you are a business we might be able to work together so check out the Work With Me page for more details