It’s almost time to go on your trip and you need help making a packing list, is that right?
Well don’t worry, I GOT YOU! Today we’re talking all things packing, tips, and tricks. And I’m even providing you with a packing list of what I actually bring in my own suitcase!
Download My Packing List!
Before we get started, if you want to skip to the good stuff and download The Road Jess Traveled Packing List straightaway, insert your email below and I’ll have it emailed right to you!
Once it arrives, open the link and go to File > Export as PDF to save it to your computer.
I originally created an entire podcast episode on this topic, and although that particular podcast is no longer streaming you can still read the transcript below in this blog post!
(Did you know I do a lot of podcast work? Check out this page to see all of my podcast projects!)
Creating a Packing List in Real-Time!
It is t-minus three days until we leave for our next journey. That means I’m in full-swing packing mode. I get asked all the time about making an episode specifically about packing and I have been waiting for the opportunity to make this episode in real time while the packing list is actually happening!
I’ll be honest, packing is not my favorite part of the process. It can be really stressful and overwhelming, but I feel like I’ve found a system that works very well for me. And if there’s something in here that resonates with you, you can take that and use that in your own packing list process. Or we may have very, very different packing styles and that’s okay too. This just gives you a little peek into my thought process and my methodology and hopefully, there’s something in here that you find helpful before getting started.
Most Importantly – Bring Your Passport!
The number one thing that you need to remember, especially if you’re going international, is your passport. I love to put my passport in a really nice little passport holder so it not only can hold the passport itself, but also if you have a global entry pass or a vaccine card, it holds those documents you would need at security checkpoints.
And for me at least when something is really colorful and vibrant like that, it just makes it so much easier to remember, which is crucial for this document. So whatever system works for you, I highly recommend adding a little flare to your passport setup. I got one from Amazon!
Want to See My Personal Packing List?
Throughout this episode, if you hear something and you’re like “oh my gosh, that sounds so cool. What’s the exact one that you got?” Don’t worry, I already thought about this. I’m gonna make this really easy for everyone. I am creating a PDF document of my entire packing list. It’ll be a list of everything that I’m bringing in my suitcase.
If you want to Download the FREE packing list, just submit your email below and I will send it over to you 🙂
And this list will specifically be for long-term packing in a warm climate, aka two months in Costa Rica, for a female traveler. But you can translate that to wherever. I’ll have it organized by different sections with links to everything in case you wanna look up specifics.
Some links may be affiliate links, which just means I get a tiny little commission if you purchase through the link. However, it’s the same price for you! I just have to disclose that information.
Hopefully, this is helpful because I know when I’m trying to pack, I’m always looking for packing lists for inspiration.
Next… Travel Credit Cards!
Other important things you want to make sure you have are another form of ID – your driver’s license is good – and a credit card that does not have any foreign transaction fees.
I love the Chase Sapphire card. That is my ride-or-die at the moment.
I also love Delta American Express.
If you are looking to apply for a new travel credit card, you can use my links above. We both get extra points so it’s fun all around! They typically have really good sign-on bonuses.
So I highly recommend those. Especially the Chase Sapphire one. You can use that one everywhere because it’s a Visa. Sometimes American Express is not offered everywhere but you do get the flight bonus with Delta!
Back-Up Your Important Documents!
Another important thing you want to do is to make copies of your documents. Have a copy of your passport, license, etc. and save it somewhere digitally, whether that be in a Google Drive, in an email, leave a copy with a trusted family member, or something like that just in case.
God forbid you lose anything, you still have a copy of it and that is very, very crucial and very, very important.
So those are just some general housekeeping tips for the most important things you’ll need.
Everything else you bring is more so for your comfort, your livability, and your ability to function while you’re out on the road. But again, we’ll start at the baseline and then build up from there.
Packing Cubes are Life!
Let’s talk clothes because that’s usually how I start the packing list process!
I’ve been really into the packing cubes lately. You might have seen my reel about that. And I’m a big, big fan. I got this pack and it came in a few different sizes. I used them all throughout phase one for the entire year and they’re still so good. I’m gonna continue using them for phase two and there’s barely any wear and tear. And we were traveling once a month minimum!
They’re great quality, they’re great sizes and they fit a lot. If you roll your clothes up you can fit a ton in the different crevices. Highly recommend it if you want a little bit more organization in your packing style. I would say this is definitely the way to go.
It’s definitely a personal preference. Some people love them, some people don’t. If you’re packing more for winter, it’s a must for bulkier sweaters and pants. For summer, I can go either way but this time I’m bringing them because it keeps the clothes condensed and organized and you can push them all to the side so it’s not falling everywhere.
And if you organize each cube by type of clothing or by outfit, whatever your preference is, when you go to unpack it, you have all the pieces you need in one packing cube.
Our Phase 1 Packing List Approach (11 months around Europe)
As far as clothes go for this upcoming stretch, I really had to think about the weather. That’s always the determining factor of what you’re going to bring.
For Nomad Life Phase One we were switching climates constantly. Essentially, we had to project forward to think about “okay well, what’s the season we’re going to be experiencing for the next like two to three months?”
How I packed, I knew we were going in the fall and transitioning into winter, so I packed for fall and winter. Then once you’re out there, you’re constantly wearing the same thing and washing the same clothes over and over again. Over time they just get pretty deteriorated or we got sick of wearing them.
So every month or so we would purge a few things that were just getting ratty or we just were not vibing with anymore. We could donate them to local shelters or leave them for our Airbnb hosts, etc.
And that helped our suitcases maintain the required weight they needed to be for air travel and also make space for anything new we were picking up along the way.
Especially when summer came around, we just had to buy new clothes. We couldn’t justify the weight of carrying all four seasons in our suitcase.
Phase 2 Packing List Approach (2 months in Costa Rica)
So this time for Costa Rica it’s for two months only. It is so much simpler. We are just dealing with warm weather and that’s it! As a girl who lived in Florida for seven years, I know how to pack for warm weather and I know how to dress in warm weather.
I am trying to pack things that all go together in a similar color scheme. There are lots of neutrals and I’m choosing pieces that complement each other.
So the color scheme that I ended up going with this time, it wasn’t really intentional but it fell together. There is a lot of black and white just cause that’s super easy to mix and match.
But I had a lot of blue and a lot of yellow, like mustard yellow, which is really fun. I think that’ll be really great for Costa Rica vibes and everything. But those all sort of go together.
I have a few pink pieces that have are thrown in there but they’re not really the staple core pieces, they’re just one-offs but that’s fine cause I can still wear that with black or white or denim.
Functionality vs. Fashion
Now for example, I’m bringing four pairs of shorts, two denim, one white, one black, done. Nothing fancy, no “fashionable” shorts.
Because… I love cute outfits, but when we’re traveling for long stretches of time, fashion just kind of has to take a backseat. You only have so much space so you just really have to go for the basics.
They can still look cute, of course! Like I think I still pull together really nice outfits that I enjoy and that I love. But they’re definitely more focused on comfort and usability and longevity over everything.
Bring Clothes you “Like,” Not Love
One of my other biggest tips that I always tell people – this is like, my number one go-to tip – is to bring clothes that you like and that you feel cute in, but you wouldn’t feel bad getting rid of.
I just went through all of my clothes in my closet to downsize, donate, and sell. But the things that I’m bringing now on this Costa Rica trip are the things that made the cut during that initial purge but they were kind of on the border.
So if I’m out there and you know it gets overworn, I get really sick of an item, or if a piece gets lost in the shuffle, I can leave things behind and just be done with them.
I think it’s good because it gives the clothes like one last really good wear for several weeks or months straight and then you can say thank you and goodbye and let them move on to whatever the next thing is.
Some Other Strategic Clothing Choices!
So just to dip into a few other categories, somethings I am focusing on bringing this time are a few dresses. So I’m gonna bring two solid-color dresses and two patterned or floral dresses. And this decision is made because dresses can be very versatile. You can dress them up or they can be casual. They’re very comfy and it’s only one piece of material! So that is a strategy I really like to focus on, especially in warmer weather climates.
Another thing I’m keeping in mind is that the hostels we’re staying at will most likely have wellness activities for us to do. So that would include going to a gym or yoga or something like that.
Bringing gym attire was something I wanted to focus on this time. I have a few gym shorts, a pair of biker shorts, sneakers, sports bras, tank tops, things like that. So I can participate in those activities straightaway!
And also bathing suits cuz we’re going to a more tropical climate, but I’m keeping this at a bare minimum. One two-piece bathing suit, one one-piece bathing suit, done.
It’s so tempting to wanna bring a bunch of options so you can take pictures in them for different occasions etc. But this is your opportunity to really focus on bringing your number one or number two top pieces and leaving it at that. You just do not need the excess once you’re out there.
Long Term Travel is for Living, Not Looking
Long-term travel is really for living and experiencing rather than looking.
And what I mean by that is it’s more so about functionality than it is about style and fashion and having all the material things.
You’re gonna really hate yourself on those travel days if you are lugging around a ton of suitcases and extra weight when you just don’t need it to have a fulfilling travel experience. You’re moreso going to remember the memories versus what you wore in different places.
People Don’t Care as Much as You Think They Do!
Another bonus with traveling is you’re not going to be seeing the same people very often at all. So you can be an outfit repeater as many times as you want!
And also… people just do not care that much.
Forgot Something? Buy it There!
Another mindset I really like to take on more for my peace of mind rather than to actually take action on it is – if I forgot something I can just buy it there.
So if I brought four pairs of shorts instead of five, but I really needed that fifth one, I can just go to a local store and find a pair, you know what I mean? And this is really big with toiletries specifically. You just do not need to bring huge bottles of shampoo to use up all of your weight in your suitcase while you’re traveling when you can just buy some there.
No, it may not be your product from home but there are a ton of different options so you can most likely find one that will fit your needs and do what you need it to do.
For another category of clothes, like for shoes specifically, I’m planning on bringing one pair of sneakers, one pair of gladiator sandals that have the little strap on the back so you can dress those up a little, and then one pair of slip-on flip flops or sandals.
That is only three pairs of shoes.
Realistically I do not think I’m going to need more than that. However, in the back of my mind, I’m like “okay, if my sneakers get absolutely ruined then I just go to a local store and get another pair there.” There’s just a lot of freedom in knowing that whatever you pack does not have to be the end all be all.
You can always make adjustments and be flexible once you’re there in the moment. Just make sure you have your baseline while you go down and then you can expand from there if needed.
Bring a Rain Jacket/Wind Breaker!
And just one little thing I think is worth mentioning, I think it’s really important to bring some sort of rain jacket/windbreaker, ideally one that does both. I just tend to find that this sort of jacket really comes in handy while traveling. You just never know what the weather’s gonna bring.
So that’s our general overview for clothes. Of course there’s more, I’m going to include a breakdown of everything on the PDF that you can download below:
Let’s Talk Your Makeup Packing List!
The next category we should talk about is makeup. So as a makeup girly for many years, when I traveled I thought I was going to really miss my makeup collection and miss all of the options that I had at home.
However, the longer I was out, the more I realized I do not need that many options.
I basically use a packing strategy of looking at each type of product I would need makeup-wise and picking my top favorite one, whatever that brand may be, from home from Sephora and bringing that with me to start.
Then use it up until the end and then buy something new while I’m out there if I still need it.
Something I learned in Europe is that there are a lot of Sephoras around the world. I don’t know what the deal’s gonna be in Costa Rica. I never assume there are going to be brand-name stores that I know from home anywhere, but there will most likely be drug stores of some sort that have makeup if a refill is ever needed.
One funny side effect about this is sometimes you may get sad that they don’t have your favorite product that you’re used to and then you try something new on location. But then you end up falling in love with that product and going back home and realizing that it’s not accessible in your home country!
For example, I had this chapstick I got in Croatia and it’s in Croatian and I was like wow, it’s just kind of cool to have a chapstick from another country.
Wearing Makeup Just Tends to Feel Less Important
But another thing about traveling, being for experiencing and living rather than looking, the importance of wearing makeup every day just tends to drop off when you’re traveling. And I still wear it, of course, but not as much as I used to by any means.
I feel like when I used to live in Florida it was like an absolute necessity and now I’m just like… whenever it feels right. It might not even be the full face, it’s just reading the room essentially.
And in that method, I don’t use as much product so it lasts so much longer.
Add SPF to Your Packing List!
I think when it comes to skincare specifically, if we’re gonna talk about anything, I think the number one thing to bring is SPF to protect your face from the sun! Whether that be an SPF moisturizer, sunscreen form, whatever it is, whatever works for you.
Do not forget to bring your SPF. My skincare routine is very much down to a minimum. I have eye makeup remover, I double cleanse with the Farmacy Melt-Away Balm and Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which I just put in a little travel container.
And if you’re curious about skincare or makeup products that I use, I will put them all in the PDF with links so you know each one, whether you’re looking to pack or you’re just looking for a new makeup recommendation, I got you! It’s all gonna be in there with links.
And that list is really helpful because that is my number one top product for whatever category it is right now because I don’t have a lot of extra space in my suitcase, therefore not a lot of extra fluff. I may change my mind on these products over time, but right now they’re working really well!
Use Travel Size Containers
I think another tip that’s been really helpful just to keep the suitcase weight down is to get the travel size containers. I know they’re annoying, I know they’re little, but it really does make a difference.
Do not lug big giant bottles of stuff with you in your suitcase, just bring a little travel size and use that up so you have things when you get there and then buy something new like we talked about before!
It’s just, it’s not worth sacrificing all that weight to bring giant products. It’s just not. And they last a lot longer than you think they will! I was very surprised by this but I was very happy about it.
When I went to China to go visit Steven, I brought my favorite hair dryer and I plugged it into one of those adapter things and it literally broke the hair dryer. I was so sad about it because it was a very nice hair dryer. So I am very weary of using appliances in those plug adapters. So that’s just something to keep in mind.
Travel Plug Adaptors!
And on that note, another really important thing to add to your packing list is a travel plug adapter. Give it a Google, see which one you’re gonna need for your country and I would say just order it on Amazon so you have it in your suitcase when you arrive.
You don’t wanna run into an issue where you can’t get your phone charged or you can’t use a plug and then try and figure out where the heck to buy it when you’re already there. This is just one thing I personally would have ready to go so you don’t run into those issues and you’re just kind of taking care of your future self.
So another thing I wanna talk about is for people who experience periods, we need to talk about period hygiene care while traveling!
And I learned this sort of the hard way last year, but personally what my approach is now is to bring number one, my favorite brand of tampons and pads. My favorite brand is HoneyPot. If you haven’t used them and you’re looking for a good one, highly, highly recommend. Their CEO is Beatrice Dixon. She is a black female CEO. She is so awesome and their whole slogan is “made by humans with vaginas for humans, with vaginas.”
So there’s just something about that that makes me feel really understood and like I can trust the company. They are really intentional about the ingredients they use in their products. And this is not sponsored whatsoever. I am just really passionate about this brand. I think everyone should use it, everyone should support HoneyPot and I wish they were available worldwide because I would get them absolutely everywhere. But I am stocking up and bringing as much as I can!
Bring A Variety of Period Care Options!
When I was out last year, of course being out for so long you kind of have to buy things on the go. And depending on where we were and depending on the options that were available, sometimes certain stores only had the fragrance products and those make me really sick. I didn’t realize how sick they made me.
So I was really wanting to switch to a period cup so I wasn’t having to deal with all those chemicals and they just did not have them where we were. I remember, I think it was in Greece specifically, I was looking for them and the woman at the pharmacy told me that the country just is not up to that pace yet. Which is totally fine, but I was feeling pretty desperate for some sort of relief.
So my recommendation would be to bring those three things. (or whatever works for you) Have a couple different options so you’re not totally reliant on the products there and you will ultimately just have a much better experience than I did. So that’s just a tip, that’s from a little life experience. Do with that information what you will.
Take Care of Yourself from All Angles!
Also, if you need Tylenol or anything, definitely pack that as well.
Another really random thing in this space, I got those ThermaCare Disposable Heating Pads instead of bringing a heating pad that you would have to plug into the wall. I thought that was a really good idea too. So you can get those at like a Walgreens or a CVS or Amazon. So just another thing to think about if you need it.
Plan Ahead for Your Medications!
While we’re moreso in the medical space, if you have any prescriptions you need, try to get as big of a prescription filled with your doctor beforehand so you can bring it with you.
I wish I had a little more insight on this, I was not on prescriptions for the whole last year so I’m not exactly sure how it would work to go to an international pharmacy. I know people do it so it would be something you would have to figure out.
If I ever go through that experience I will report back.
Also, make sure to bring your over-the-counter medications or supplements, if you use those.
If you have any specific dental stuff like retainers or something, add those to your suitcase.
These are all very personal things but I think they’re very important to think of. Go through your daily routine and see what you need on a very consistent basis. Make sure you bring enough of whatever it is in your suitcase with you!
While I’m still thinking in the drugstore space, I think it’s really important to bring hair ties and bobby pins and little elastics, whatever you need. It’s good to have a stock of those cause for some reason those tend to just disappear.
I also like to bring a couple scrunchies! I bring two solid ones and then two pattern ones.
Taylor has a lot of really pretty things right now, like lots of florals for spring, lots of tulle, lots of pixie dust. Go check it out! Merry Mondays have new product drops every week!
So I’ll be bringing a few little scrunchies with me. I just think they elevate outfits, especially if I’m having more of a casual day, but I wanna put my hair back and still look pulled together. I feel like a scrunchie does that.
Jess’ Packing List Essentials
Some of my personal go-tos are Listerine Breath Spray and Peppermint Oil. Hands down, those are my anxiety reducers, my nausea calmers, and my coping mechanisms. You’ve heard me talk about them a million times, but I will not go anywhere without my Peppermint Oil and my Listerine Spray.
Let’s Talk Technology!
I think the one other major category we haven’t talked about yet is Technology.
So again, I try to keep this to the bare minimum. Obviously, bringing my MacBook Pro is crucial.
I have my Canon Point and Shoot Camera that I like to use for photography.
Some Tech Tricks!
I have a little Cell Phone Wrist Strap that I put on my phone case so I can put that around my wrist. Just for safety reasons – whether I’m taking a photo over a drop-off or I don’t wanna worry about someone snatching my phone from me. That’s just a little thing that I adapted in Europe and it worked really well.
Another little trick that I have taken on recently is getting the Apple AirTags. I put one in each of my bags and then I can use the Find My Friend’s app to figure out where that tag is to make sure that our luggage made it with us to our destination. That’s just really good for peace of mind.
I also bring an External Hard Drive for any media overflow in case I need to put videos or anything on an external space from my computer or my phone. It’s just helpful when trying to edit reeks, TikToks, videos, whatever.
I don’t really have a tripod, I’m not that fancy. I got a little Flipstik for the back of my phone where you can stick your phone to any flat surface. So I’m gonna see how that works just because sometimes you need to prop your phone up to get that photo or video. But quite frankly putting our backpack down and putting the phone right in there has worked pretty well as a tripod! So I don’t know, I’m pretty casual about it. I’m more of a document rather than create girl.
Tape and Scissors!
One of my favorite random packing list tips is to bring scotch tape. I know it’s so far out of left field, but I brought it with us last year and I always use it to tape down my shampoo bottles so they don’t explode in the suitcase and that worked all year. So highly recommend it. Also, you just never know when you’re gonna need tape. I feel like it’s just a random thing that comes up sometimes! So that was very helpful.
And also to have some little mini scissors. I have some in my checked makeup bag, they’re very tiny, and they’re for like eyebrow hairs or whatever. I’m not doing arts and crafts with them by any means, but if I need to clip off a tag or something small, those are very helpful for that.
Ziploc Bags are my Packing Lifeline
I don’t think I would be able to function in my suitcase without having a ton of Ziploc bags. I separate all of my underwear, socks, toiletries, and everything into different Ziploc bags and I even bring a few extras. The good thing about this method too is you can reuse them so many times until they’re basically worn out. So yeah, I’m a pack-with-Ziploc bag kind of girl and so far so good. I have been using this method for years and I think I’m just gonna keep going with it cuz it works.
Journals & Books
I think one of the trickier things to pack is journals or books because I feel like each one has its own distinguished purpose. So last year I brought my Year of Growth journal from DreamyMoons, which is my all-time favorite journal. It has a space for daily prompts and it has guided questions and all sorts of things. So I think I’m going to bring that again because it’s nice to have something to write in daily.
I also really like having a physical planner. It just really suits how my brain works. I also like to have some blank paper as well, which I usually just bring in a journal so I don’t have free-flowing paper everywhere, but a very small one.
As far as physical books go, I don’t typically bring them with me, which can be really sad because I love reading physical books. But I do have Audible and I just use that to listen to all my books. It saves a ton of space in my suitcase and I get to bring a whole library of books with me. I just pop my little AirPods in and listen on the plane, a walk, cleaning the apartment, etc. This way, I still get to enjoy different books that way without having to sacrifice any space.
I also bring a few pens, a highlighter into Sharpie and all of those tend to come in handy for some reason. So they’re staple items for me.
Don’t Forget Snacks!
I think one of the most important things to pack in a carry-on is snacks because you just do not know what’s gonna happen on a travel day and you do not want to get stuck with no access to food.
Like in case you land in the middle of the night, there isn’t a place open near you, whatever it is. I like to bring granola bars, I like those Lorissa’s kitchen or CHOMPS meat sticks for protein.
I like to bring something more savory, and something more sweet, just to have a few options. You just do not wanna run into that situation where you’re left without food. It is not fun. Again, we’re trying to take care of our future selves, here!
How Many Suitcases Do We Bring?
So I think one main question to wrap this whole thing up that I typically get is how many suitcases and bags do you bring? So for this upcoming trip, my intention is to bring one big suitcase that I check and one backpack. Same with Steven.
That’s exactly what he did in Europe. I did that and also had an additional rolling carry-on. (I used my Away Bigger Carry-On and LOVED IT!)
However, this time I’m trying to downsize to only the suitcase and backpack so we have one less thing to carry. So we’ll see how that goes. But so far I think we’re on a good trajectory.
When you’re traveling full-time or even if you’re just going for like one or two weeks, just think about the reality of lugging around two giant rolling suitcases, a carry-on, and backpacks through an airport.
Guys, it is not fun. I feel very lucky that Steven is so strong and can help with luggage. But if you are not traveling with someone like that, it is not gonna be a good time. So again, less is more.
You don’t need as much as you think you do when you’re out there. Just bring your top favorite products, bring clothes that you like, but you don’t need to keep forever, and just remember that the whole point of this is to go experience and live your best life!
You just need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself so you can go out and enjoy your experience.
That’s it for the Packing List!
So that’s that for the packing list episode. I hope that was very helpful. Again, if you want to download the PDF with all the specifics and the links, here it is:
Thoughts Before Costa Rica…
I am so excited that we’re leaving so soon. It isn’t even fully clicking yet, but I know once we get to the airport, on the plane, and start making the official moves, that’s when it always really settles in. I have had Costa Rica on my bucket list since middle school when we just looked at it online as a potential option of somewhere to go. We never ended up going there, but I’ve always wanted to!
So this is for my younger self, this little segment of nomad life. We are going to experience something that we’ve had in the back of our minds for a very, very long time. I am just over the moon that it’s next week already.
The cool thing about these podcasts is that they’re gonna be recorded today and published and I’ll be able to look back on them in the future. It’s cool that I get to talk to my future self right now and tell her what past me was thinking and all the anticipation that we had going into this phase.
What I’m Looking Forward To Most
I think the things that I’m most looking forward to are all the things that are related to nature. Whether it be the waterfalls, the rainforest, the beaches, the volcanoes, the wildlife, especially the sloths! I can’t wait to see the sloths.
And I’m really looking forward to celebrating my 30th birthday and Steven’s 30th birthday. That is just crazy that that’s already here. I cannot believe I’m 30. That’s wild. Last time I checked I was 23!
I’m really looking forward to it. I hope that I get to do a lot of really awesome wellness activities, like anything with yoga, meditation, or anything like that. I’m really looking forward to just being outside in warm weather, trying new foods, meeting new people, whatever it is. I am just so thankful and excited to show up and go on another one of life’s great adventures.
Download My Packing List!
So thank you guys so much for listening today. I hope you heard a couple tips that you can take away and implement into your own packing list strategy. Again, don’t forget to download the PDF if you want a written version of everything.
Thank You for Being Here!
And that! Thank you so much for being here, sending you tons of love. I will talk to you once we get to Costa Rica. Make sure to follow along on Instagram at Jessica Faye508 for more immediate updates and I will talk to you soon. Happy travels. Bye.
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