What to Pack in Carry-On

Some would consider me a minimalist.

What to pack in a carry-on

Back when I lived in the United States, I was quite the opposite. I was doing well with a career in real estate in the mid-2000s (that makes me, everyone else, and their mothers), and channeled my bloated income into being a ravenous and unconscious consumer.

I’d buy what can only be described as “stuff,” and so much of it that I rarely had time to actually use most of it.

I bought a house and then filled it with this stuff; then filled the garage, then a bigger house, another garage, and then a storage shed…or two…in the yard.

So, when I made the bold decision to get rid of all my possessions and move abroad, chasing my dream of traveling through the tropics and making a living as a writer, the best part for me was to eliminate all of that stuff. I sold it, donated it, threw it out, and gave it away.

Now, I live in a very humble studio apartment in the Philippines, and guess what? I STILL think I have too much stuff! Of course, I don’t, but it just seems like it.

However, that all gets funneled into a single backpack when I take little overnight and weekend trips, exploring the islands, beaches, cities, and more here in Asia.

Therefore, what I can pack into one single backpack is crucial, and a ton of thought (and packing and repacking) goes into it. That’s also super convenient because you can just throw on a backpack and head to the airport, bus station, ferry terminal, etc., and don’t have to check bags or worry about lugging stuff around.


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I’ve found that if you purchase the right bag (I’ll review what to look for and my favorites in another post), you can fit a shocking amount of stuff in there, and have more than enough gear for your adventures.

Related:  Must have travel accessories in 2019.

I‘ve done this so many times that I take packing my backpack for granted (I flew 67 times last year, and only 2 of them were for business!). So, I wanted to unzip it and start pulling stuff out and tell you what I pack – which may serve as a useful guide when you’re packing!

Hand sanitizer – a MUST while traveling.
A small pack of wet wipes –these are pure gold as you run into bathrooms without toilet paper (it happens a lot! Gross!) or just to wipe down after a long, hot bus ride
Electric adapter – I always get one that offers surge protection, too.
My computer and charging cord – I’m always working.
I also put my computer in a protective case.
Bubblegum – my ears get all jacked up when flying, so I carry gum.
Earplugs – I use these in case of super loud neighbors, blasting music, or sometimes blaring boat engines.
iPhone – I end up taking most of my photos with a simple iPhone.
Bug repellent – mosquitos and bug bites are no joke out here, as they can cause Dengue, Malaria, etc. Instead of an aerosol spray that you can’t bring on a flight, I just bring a crème.
Sunscreen – the sun is also no joke!
Hat – Ball cap or big floppy fishing hat to protect my dome from the sun, the rain, or just for bad hair decades (that’s not a misspelling).
Basketball jerseys (keep you cool, dry quickly, don’t get moldy like cotton)
One normal shorts (I usually wear these)
Two Swim shorts that also double as workout shorts
One pair sneakers (I usually wear these while traveling to save space)
Flip flops (my every day and beachwear!)
Wallet with one bank card.
Handtowel or handkerchief. I always carry one of these around to dry off as I sweat, a towel for the gym, etc.
Small toilet bag – just enough for deo, fold-up toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.
Luggage lock – I throw on a little travel combination padlock on my bag for security.

Believe it or not, that all fits easily into a good normal-sized backpack.

Oops , I forgot my passport!

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Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post, Business.com, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo, Hotels.com, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.

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