Let’s be real – packing sucks. Period. Packing for an entire year in only one bag? Really, really sucks. The last time I went on a two week trip I ended up taking an entire suitcase plus a carry-on and now I’m attempting to shove an entire year’s worth of stuff into something I can pack on my back.

The last time I tried this I didn’t do the best – I found myself wishing I hadn’t brought this or that I had brought more of that. This time my packing style will be a bit different as I’ll be volunteering. However, I still wanted to share an updated Central America packing list.

How do I fit my life into a backpack? (image source)

How do I fit my life into a backpack? (image source)

So can you guys help me out? What would you pack for a year in Central America? (You can read details about the trip here.)

Dress (x3) – I’m a dress person but there are people who will argue it’s better to pack skirts because you can switch up more outfits.
Maxi skirt (x1)
Shorts (running/PJs) – I actually took 2 pair of running shorts with me to Central America and was so disappointed when I left one at a hostel in Costa Rica. These are so great so working out and lounging around, as well as sleeping in.
Yoga pants – another versatile clothing piece that can be dressed up when necessary but is also great for casual days
Bathing suit (x2) – if you plan on being near the beach, bring more than one suit so you have one to wear while the other dries. Also take into account where you’ll be traveling – in some places it’s best to wear something besides a bikini.
Bra (x2)
Sports bra
Underwear (x10)
Socks (x5)
Tshirts (x3) – I prefer to take Tshirts that are likely to spark conversation with other travelers, like my Steelers shirt or a band tee.
Tank tops (x3) – bonus points for ones with a built in bra!
Teva sandals – LOVE these
Shower flip-flops – I took two pair because they disappear easily and I just like wearing flip flops.
North Face Rain Jacket/Windbreaker


Travel towel
Sleeping bag liner/sleep sheet
Travel alarm clock
Tiger Balm – aka miracle cream
First Aid Kit
Wysi Wipe Multi-purpose wipe
Shower gel – I am definitely a shower gel girl over bar soap girl and, for some reason, shower gel is impossible to find in Central America. When my friend asked for it in the store she was directed to shampoo. So if you prefer shower gel over soap, stock up before you leave!


Kindle Fire HDX
External hard drive + case
all necessary chargers

3 outlet mini travel charger

Universal wall charger

External battery charger

Waterproof Phone Case’

I’m currently looking at these travel camera reviews to see which camera I want to take with me.

I always use packing cubes when I pack for travel. They help keep everything organized while I’m on the road and allow me to fit even more into my bags.

This Central America packing list is, of course, based on my experience as a slow, low-key budget traveler through Central America. This is my updated list from Nicaragua and Costa Rica and while I expect most of it to stay the same, I haven’t made a final list for my volunteer stint in Honduras.

What are your travel essentials? If you’ve been to Central America, what did you regret bringing or wish you had brought?

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A solo traveler's packing list for Central America