Whenever I go abroad, I always refer to my ultimate packing list for international travel.
Otherwise I forget some stuff, or bring unnecessary stuff, or all of the above.
So rather than forgetting a cardigan for the cold, cold plane (guilty as charged), or taking up unnecessary room with bulky wedges (also guilty as charged), you can instead refer to this list and enjoy a stress-less start to your trip!
NOTE: Keep in mind that my travels usually last 14-17 days. You will want to adjust a few of the sections (i.e. clothing) depending on your own timeline.
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The Ultimate Packing Checklist for International Travel
If you’ve already read How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro, you know that I don’t exactly like suitcases. In fact, I hate them.
They’re hard to carry, you have wait for them for FOREVER at baggage claim, and they give you a reason to pack more (unnecessary, heavy) stuff.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that this list lacks a suitcase (yeah, not even a carry-on sized one).
I talk more in depth about my Tortuga backpack in How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro, but the long story short is that this bag is durable and efficient.
I’ve been using it since 2015, and although my specific model is outdated, Tortuga is still selling high-quality, carry-on friendly bags.
For my first year or so of traveling overseas, I only used a small crossbody bag as my personal item, because I thought that was the only size that was allowed.
It wasn’t until I came back from Argentina with a huge garbage bag full of books as my personal item, that I realized the personal item can be much, much bigger than a crossbody purse.
You should check your airline(s) to see what the requirements are, but I always bring a large tote bag.
This is where I put anything that I can’t fit into my backpack, or anything I want to have easy access to while in flight.
(For some ideas on what items you might want to have in reaching distance while in the air, head over to 15 Essentials to Survive Long Flights.)
Preferably one with a zipper.
While in transit, this is where my most important items go. This is because the crossbody bag is always attached to me, and I can easily conceal it under a cardigan.
It’s also very useful for when I leave the hostel to go sightseeing, and more secure than my un-zipper-able tote bag.
This will obviously depend on where you’re going, and for how long. You will want to take into account the season, the average daily temperature, and any cultural norms that will alter the way you dress.
But at the end of the day, you will always want to go minimalist.
(I explain how to recycle outfits in How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro.)
The following wardrobe is my go-to list for a trip that will last 14-17 days (which is usually how much time I can snag off of work/school).
4 basic tees (likely black, white, gray, and a wildcard color)
Even if it’s going to be hot, one cardigan (or even a sweatshirt) will be a godsend on the (very cold) plane.
2 Pairs of jeans/shorts depending on the weather (1 black, 1 blue)
17-20 Pairs of Underwear
This is the only place where you don’t want to be minimalist.
Trust me, clean undies is insanely gratifying while traveling for two weeks.
I always bring 3 pairs more than the number of days that I’m there, unless I know I’ll have access to a washing machine.
This reusable period underwear is much cheaper than buying pads and tampons (which are often even more expensive abroad).
SheThinx (an incredible company, btw) has produced different types of underwear depending on how heavy your cycle is.
So if I were to have my period during my trip, I would probably only bring the pairs of underwear that are best equipped for a heavy flow.
One black, and one nude or white.
14-17 Pairs of Socks
Trust me, your feet are going to be sweating A LOT.
Only if applicable.
2 scarves (for some more versatility)
Other than scarves, I don’t really travel with any accessories.
I find that bringing around jewelry is more of a hassle, because things get tangled and lost and sometimes stolen.
1 Pair of Durable Walking Shoes
For me, this usually means a pair of Converse or black combat boots
1 Pair of Flip Flops
Mostly for the hostel showers. You’re welcome.
(Feel free to leave these behind at the end of your trip.)
Clear TSA-Approved Plastic Bag
First thing’s first, you will need this bag to avoid getting held up at security.
(Otherwise, you’ll have to check your baggage…which we’re not doing.)
You will want to put all your toiletries (especially the liquids) in this bag, and place it in a separate bin while going through security.
(travel-sized versions work best)
Since you can’t bring full bottles of your shampoo/conditioner/body wash, you will also want to invest in some smaller TSA-approved bottles, and simply pour your products into them.
To make the process simpler, you can buy a TSA-approved plastic bag that already comes with these bottles, rather than buying them separately.
Face Wash/Make-Up Remover
Unless you have a tiny tube of face wash, do the same as above.
Only if you need it.
Bring a towel that you’re not particularly attached to, and leave it behind on your way back.
Trust me, souvenirs will take up that space quicker than you think.
(For ideas on cheap souvenirs, head over to The Ultimate Guide to Traveling for Free.)
Chances are you’re going to be taking lots of public transportation.
Do yourself a favor and have some hand sani on reserve for when you get off the bus and want to buy some food.
Or when you get out of the bathroom and realize there’s no soap.
Or when you realize you forgot your deodorant and your pits start to stink (yes, hand sani really works just as well).
(Speaking of which, I want to point out that deodorant is NOT on my list, so heed the hand sani.)
Febreze-To-Go Fabric Refresher
I explain more in How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro, but suffice it to say that your clothes will start to stink.
At this point in time, a bottle of Febreze To Go Fabric Refresher will be a godsend.
(This is also something you’ll want to throw in your toiletries bag.)
Tide To Go Stain Remover Pen
And when you stain your clothes, this Tide To Go Stain Remover Pen will also be a godsend.
(More on this as well in How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro.)
For when you don’t want your dirty clothes to touch your clean clothes.
(This especially comes in handy if you’re using the above listed period underwear.)
This will, of course, depend on your routine.
(And don’t forget your eyeglasses case either!)
I have to take medicine every night.
And I take lots of overnight transportation.
So, I always make sure to go prepared with enough of my meds to last me a few days longer than the trip, just in case.
I also bring Dramamine to knock me out on the overnight hauls.
Tailor this one to your own needs.
If you’d like to find out more about what to bring for overnight transportation, head over to 15 Essential Items to Survive Long Flights (they are just as good for bus and train overnights).
Outlets in foreign countries will be different from the outlet you’re used to.
Accordingly, some of your plugs are not going to fit into said outlets.
To fix this issue, you will want to invest in an adapter, which is a very simple device that allows you to plug your charger (or whatever, really) into the adapter.
Then, you simply plug the adapter into the outlet.
If you want to take the guesswork out of the different outlets, you can go with this universal adapter, which has plugs for Europe, the UK (yes, this one’s different from the rest of Europe), China, Australia, and Japan.
NOTE: If you are bringing other electronics, like your laptop, you will also want to invest in a converter.
This is because different countries use different amounts of voltage, and not every device can handle this switch.
So, if you wanted to charger your laptop, you would have to first plug it into a converter, which is a little box that…well…converts the voltage, thus making it compatible with your device.
(If your converter doesn’t fit the foreign outlet, you can always plug it into the adapter first.)
And if you’re in need of a converter, here’s another universal option.
(NOTE: If you want to make the process even simpler, you can always invest in a converter and adapter bundle.)
This one’s obvious.
Color Copies of Passport
Keep one copy in your carry-on, and leave one copy at home.
This way, if someone steals your passport, these documents will make your life much easier when applying for a new one.
Directions/Contact Info for Each Accommodation and/or Host
Getting lost while traveling is always a possibility (for me, it’s usually a given).
It becomes much easier to get un-lost when you have an actual address you can refer to.
This will come in handy in the hostels.
You will often be given a locker or a box or something to put your stuff in while you’re out and about, but you’re not always guaranteed a lock.
Rather than leaving your items unattended or buying a lock from the hostel, invest in your own.
This TSA-approved lock makes me feel TONS better about leaving my passport in a room with 12 other people.
Neck Pouch and/or Money Belt
Both of these are meant to conceal the important stuff (aka money and credit cards).
And both have worked just fine.
The neck pouch is a bit more obvious, but since they are both touching your skin at all times, you know that no one else is going to take them.
Definitely some relieving investments!
RFID Blocking Credit Card Holder
Unfortunately, thieves are smart.
Like, really smart.
And instead of physically taking your wallet from you, they can now get all your information through RFID.
I don’t pretend to know exactly how this works, as it involves wireless technology and electromagnetic frequencies.
But I do know that I want to prevent it.
To do so, I invested in one of these schnazzy RFID blocking wallets (and so should you!).
Again, not sure exactly how it works, but the wallet’s case blocks these frequencies, and keeps your info safe.
9. Overnight Transportation
This section gets its own heading, because I already wrote a whole other article on it.
If you want to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for long flights and overnight buses/trains, check out 15 Essentials for Overnight Flights.
And when you have everything ready to go, don’t forget to head over to How to Pack a Carry-On Like a Pro to be able to fit all of this into your carry-on!
International travel doesn’t have to be stressful!
Take the guesswork out of traveling abroad with this ultimate checklist for international travel:
- Carry-On Backpack
- Personal Item
- Crossbody Purse
- Bathing Suit
- Walking Shoes
- Flip Flops
- Clear TSA-Approved Plastic Bag
- Clear TSA-Approved Plastic Bottles
- Shampoo/Conditioner/Body Wash
- Face Wash/Makeup Remover
- Hand Sani
- Febreze-To-Go Fabric Refresher
- Tide-To-Go Stain Remover Pen
- Plasic Bag
- Glasses/Contacts and Case
- Color Copies of Passport
- Directions/Contact Info for Accommodations/Hosts
- TSA-Approved Lock
- Neck Pouch and/or Money Belt
- RFID Blocking Credit Card Holder
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