Taking an international trip requires packing a few extra items in your suitcase that you may not remember or even consider if you’re used to domestic travel.
I’ve compiled this guide to help you not forget anything for your next big trip abroad!
International travel can be stressful, even for the most well-traveled of people. But don’t stress too much – there are VERY few things that you can’t buy in your destination if you happen to forget something.
Remember all you REALLY need to bring is:
- Your Passport – This should be a given, but clearly if you forget this, then forget about boarding your plane! Remember to always check the entry requirements for your destination country to see if a visa is required. I also recommend uploading a copy of your passport to a site like Dropbox or Google Drive in case you need it while abroad.
- ATM Card – I highly recommend opening a Charles Schwab account because they reimburse you for all ATM fees at the end of each month. It is a lifesaver for frequent international travelers or even those that have a small bank with minimal/no ATMs outside your local area.
- Credit Card – Be sure to pack a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. A lot of credit cards don’t have these pesky 3% fees anymore, but be sure to check because 3% on every charge adds up very quickly!
- Medications – Aside from medications you may need on a regular basis at home, the country you’re going to may warrant medications like malaria pills or proof of specific vaccinations. Check the CDC recommendations for your destination.
I like to bring a backup credit card and ATM card from a different bank account in case a card gets stolen or you have any issues with the card. For example, it could get eaten by the ATM machine or your account could get frozen due to suspected fraudulent activity – always let your bank/credit card know you are traveling to avoid this possible nightmare!
Long Haul Flight
For long haul and especially red-eye flights, I always recommend bringing the following items:
- Ear Plugs – Ear plugs alone make a HUGE difference in being able to sleep on planes. They are by far the cheapest and most effective travel hack. They come in handy if you are sleeping in a loud hotel as well.
- Eye Mask -You may feel a little ridiculous wearing an eye mask on a flight, but trust me it is needed when it is “nighttime” in your destination and you need to sleep to start adjusting to the new time zone, but the sun is still shining outside.
- Neck Pillow – I have an inflatable neck pillow which packs very small so it doesn’t take up a huge amount of room in my carry on. If I don’t have the neck pillow, my head flails around and I wake up with a really sore neck, so it’s necessary for me.
- Reusable Water Bottle – Don’t get stuck paying airport prices for water. Bring your own bottle to refill after you pass through security to stay hydrated, which is really important on a long flight. Airlines usually fill up your water bottle for you if you ask on the plane.
- Healthy Snacks – Ideally bring ones that don’t crush or melt easily! My go-to travel snacks are Lara Bars in Cherry Pie and Apple Pie flavors.
You can check seat guru to see if you’ll have seat back entertainment or if you have to bring your own device. It’ll also tell you if the plane has wifi and if the seats have power, but I’ve found power to be hit or miss on planes, so be sure to fully charge any devices you plan on using on the plane.
You can’t go wrong with bringing magazines or other reading materials…a long flight is a perfect opportunity to brush up on the destination you’re heading to!
One thing that is very easy to forget if you don’t travel internationally frequently is that different countries have different outlets and voltage than the US. Be sure to check what kind of electrical outlets the country you are going to uses so you can bring the appropriate adapter and voltage converter. The voltage converter is especially important if you’re bringing hair appliances!
I recommend bringing a travel sized power strip to plug multiple things into one outlet. I have this one which also has USB chargers. This is helpful because a lot of hotels around the world don’t have many outlets in them and then you can charge multiple devices at once with only one adapter!
Of course, don’t forget the chargers/cords for your cell phone, camera, and other electronics you may want to bring. I recommend bringing an external battery for your cell phone just in case because you’ll likely be out and about all day with minimal chances to charge your phone.
The clothes you pack will obviously be dependent on the weather in your destination. Be sure to check the weather before you leave…just because some place should be warm doesn’t mean it WILL be warm! And don’t just check the high temperature – some places cool down significantly at night and you don’t want to be left freezing without a jacket.
I also recommend checking how conservative the dress is in your destination. For example, in a lot of countries you need to wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees (and ankles for temples and also headscarves for mosques) when visiting religious sites. In some countries you will want to bring than at home to respect the local culture.
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to clothing is don’t overpack! Remember you have to haul your luggage all over your destination, which could likely include stairs, cobblestone streets, etc. Be sure you can lift your luggage on your own without huge effort otherwise you’ll be miserable anytime you need to get from point A to point B with your bags.
If Jan and I traveled around the world for a year with just a (big) backpack each – you can keep your clothes to a carry on size for a week or two trip!
Here is what I pack:
- Shoes – My rule is pack three pairs of shoes or less. Be sure one of those pairs is comfortable walking shoes that have been broken in because you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking in your destination (even for a beach vacation you may want to do something active). I usually bring a pair of nice flats that I can dress up or down. Heels take up a lot of room so I only bring those if I’m going to a wedding or a very dressy event. If I’m going to a warm weather destination or one with a pool then sandals/flip flops are my third.
- Tops – I like to pack thin tops that don’t wrinkle easily and pack really small then layer that with cardigans or jackets. If you’re going to a place with in between weather then it’s all about layers and bringing a mix of long and short sleeved options.
- Bottoms – Bring bottoms that you can mix and match the most tops with. That usually means jeans and pants/shorts/skirts that are solid colors. I like traveling with dresses that you can accessorize differently when traveling to warm weather destinations.
- Underwear – I’m a big fan of quick dry underwear and bras that you can easily wash in the sink or shower. Even for a long trip you don’t have to pack underwear and socks for every single day.
- Outerwear – This depends on the weather, but is also what will take up the most room in your bag. Try as much as you can to bring a versatile coat and don’t forget an umbrella!
- Accessories – Aside from jewelry, a nice scarf can always jazz up a basic top or create a different look and it can double as a blanket on a cold plane. When I travel abroad, I just wear a basic wedding band that I don’t have to take off and I leave my wedding and engagement rings at home. A crossbody purse you can fit your camera and small water bottle in is always handy and is less susceptible to theft in cities that are prone to pickpockets.
Ever since our round the world trip, I have been a HUGE fan of packing cubes. They keep things organized and can compress your clothes to fit into smaller spaces. They are totally worth the investment – trust me.
Rick Steves has a great Packing List PDF you can print out if you like checking things off your list before you depart.