A gap year (or two) is one of the best life experiences that you can have. It takes you out of your comfort zone and allows you to explore a new place. For those just starting out in life it is a great way to set the course for your life and help you evaluate what you really want to do. Conversely if you’re taking a mid career / mid life gap year, it’s a chance to reevaluate, redirect and rediscover who you really are and set your life on course to where you really want to be. Gap year packing can seem overwhelming, however it is the first step to having a fantastic experience.
Gap year packing vs holiday packing
Unlike a vacation, a gap year is a year or more long, so all of the things that might seem ‘essential’ on a short break may just not fit into the amount of luggage you’re allowed on the plane. A gap year is also about new experiences and not ‘stuff’. Don’t be tempted to take extra luggage. It’s just more for you to carry around and worry about whilst you’re away.
Gap year packing requires you to cater for a range of seasons, size and weight restrictions and most of all use. Items that have more than one function are like packing gold. When it comes to gap year packing, you also want to look for quality items that last. You want bang for your buck and you want it to make your life that little bit easier whilst you’re travelling abroad.
These are our Top 5 must haves for your carry on bag. You’ll love them for long haul, short haul and even road trip travel!
Clear Wet Bags
First up on our gap year packing list is a little essential that will have you breezing through security like a pro. Travelling and exploring new places is an essential part of a gap year, so chances are you’re going to become pretty familiar with airline travel whilst you’re away. Us Aussies can carry liquids on domestic flights without any worries, but internationally you’ll need to have your liquids and aerosoles in a clear plastic bag.
Cheap ziplock sandwich bags will do the trick for the odd flight, but if you’re going to be busy exploring, you’ll need something more robust. I mean, who wants to risk a leakage fail and open their bag to discover shampoo throughout their luggage?…ugh not me.
20cm x 20cm is the general rule in terms of size and you’ll need to make sure the bag is clear and not tinted. We recommend a sturdy reusable silicone bag. It’ll see you safely through your year abroad and keep your toiletries well sealed, so no risk of leakages!
There’s many options to pick from and at around $20 they are a great investment for your carry on bag. Crucially you can store your travel minis in them when you’re not travelling and then toss them back into your bag when you’re ready to go. Eco friendly options that save on packing time are a win in our eyes!
A gap year packing list would be incomplete without a passport wallet. Frivolous you might think but we disagree. Every long term travel packing list needs to include high usage items that go the distance and your passport will be getting a bit of a work out during your time away.
A high quality leather passport cover will make your passport easy to spot and protect it from damage. There’s nothing worse than a dog eared passport or the fear of clearing customs with a damaged passport. This is a real risk for entry at some ports. A high quality cover will allow you to be organised and have all of your essentials at hand.
Additionally, we also recommend a small zip wallet to place your passport in. Particularly so you can keep a pen handy for filling out arrival cards. It’s also a nice spot to keep a sentimental momento or two. I keep photos of my husband and I.
We love Galen leather passport wallets. They’re hand crafted in Turkey, so they’re well stitched and made from the finest leather. Of course there’s a range of colours and you can even have your initials embossed on the front. This carry on essential makes for a great gift too.
Paw Paw Ointment
Lucas’ paw paw ointment is a cult product in Australia and there’s good reason why. Most commonly use as a lip balm (dry lips whilst flying be gone). This little red container is multitalented. You’ll soon see why it is one of your gap year essentials.
Paw Paw when fermented has excellent antibacterial properties, so as well as being excellent as a lip balm it can also be used on dry skin, itchy skin, cuts, burns and bites. It is an excellent all purpose balm and has so many uses. I find flying really dries my skin out, so I like to use it as a hand cream to provide a barrier on my skin.
Paw Paw ointment can be used sparingly, so a small container will last a long time. Additionally its small size means it can easily pass carry on liquid restrictions. Paw Paw ointment is one of those essential items that is useful whilst flying and also in any climate. It is classed as a liquid or gel, so don’t forget to put it in your clear mesh bag. When you’re not flying, keep it in your handbag or pack. You’ll be using this product every day.
Silicone Squeeze Bottles
Gap year finances are usually tight and prioritised towards travelling. Your gap year planning is not just for a week or two. You’re in it for the long haul and you need to be able to reuse the products you buy, not just throw them away after one use. Here is the genius of the silicone squeezy bottle.
Travel minis are cute but expensive. Moreover they also put a lot of plastic into the environment. Furthermore it can be difficult to find your favourite products in mini size. If you’re staying in hotels you can’t always rely on good quality toiletries and if you’re hostelling it then it’s definitely BYO.
Whilst travelling your hand luggage essentials need to make your journey easier and allow you to feel more comfortable. There is nothing better than freshening up by washing your face between flights and silicone squeezy bottles make this so much easier.
Designed to be carry on friendly, silicone squeezy bottles come in a range of carry on friendly sizes and colours allowing you to discern which product is in which container. They are perfect for filling with your favourite shampoo, conditioner, facewash and bodywash.
Save money and refill
When you are initially moving overseas, the squeezy bottles will allow you to have enough product for the first week or so until you get to the shops to stock up with regular sized bottles for home. They also allow you to keep your toiletries bag packed even when you’re not travelling so you can easily just throw it in your bag without having to pack half your bathroom.
Full sized toiletries take up far too much space, so these small squeezy bottles make for a great weight saving. An essential consideration when creating a long term packing list. You’ll save money by refilling too.
Because they’re made of silicone, they’re sturdy and can be used over and over again without the risk of breaking. They’re very easy to squeeze the last bit of product out of and are easily washed if you would like to change the brand or product you’re storing inside. Whether you’re in transit or staying in a hostel, you’ll regularly be reaching for this essential.
Gap Year Essentials
A gap year packing list has to stand the test of time. Every inch of your bag needs to be well utilised and you need to be able to use every item you pack. You must discern carry on essentials vs nice to have items.
We have used our own experience of living overseas and travelling every 5-6 weeks as a basis of our selections and we have also used the criteria of:
x Will it last the whole time I’m away?
x Will I use it regularly?
x Can I use it for more than one purpose?
x Is it easy to store or pack away when I’m not using it?
x Will it make travelling easier for me?
x Will it save me money?
If the answer is yes to most of those questions – then along with our top 5 hand luggage essentials it should make the cut on to your long term travel packing list!