Packing Tips for International Travel

packing tips for international travel

There is nothing as exciting as going on an international trip. What’s not so exciting is the thought of having to fit all your cutest outfits into your minimal suitcase space.  Furthermore, the process of creating a packing list that covers all your essentials might be so overwhelming it can dampen your pre-travel excitement. Whether it’s a weekend beach trip or a 2- week Himalayan trek, you must pack your suitcase, and you need to make sure you pack it right. 

There are some factors that you might have to consider when packing: length and type of your trip, the weather, your luggage size and the weight limit and baggage fees imposed by your mode of transport. With so many factors at stake, it’s quite possible to under-pack or over-pack, particularly if you’ve waited till the last minute. This packing guide contains some of the best packing tips and tricks, to help you figure out what you need to pack and when to pack for your trip. Let’s look at them.

How should I pack for international travel?

Bare Essentials

Essential items are those items that you always have to pack, regardless of your travel destinations or travel duration. You can’t leave home without packing these items:

  • Comfortable shoes:  A good and sturdy pair of walking or running shoes will offer you adequate comfort, hold up to use and you can just wear them and not worry about packing other shoes.
  • Comfortable Shirts and Pants:  For shirts pack something that might withstand some use. If you are planning to pack more than one shirt, make sure you’re packing long sleeves because you can always roll their sleeves up.  Jeans are the best traveling pants. They might be rugged or not, but they should stand any challenges you might encounter during your travels.
  • Clothing accessories:  Pack enough underwear, one belt, socks and any other small clothing that you need. Also, carry packing cubes or plastic bags to pack your dirty laundry. This way you can separate your dirty clothes from your clean clothes.
  • Passport:  A passport should always be your number one item on your packing list, especially if you’re planning to use air travel. You can always carry an extra passport photo, in case of an emergency. A passport card will be handy as a form of identification too.
  • Travel Documents: Always pack any extra travel documentation you might have like an international driver’s permit, plane or train tickets or hotel room membership cards.        
  • Backpack: A weatherproof, sturdy backpack will accommodate everything you collect along the way.
  • Wallet: Always carry a Wallet and identification documents. Have at least two forms of identification (university ID, State ID, or Driver’s license) beside your passport.
  • Cash:   Don’t forget your cash! Changing your cash at the airport can be expensive, so change them at a local currency exchange with the best rates.
  • Credit cards:  Visa MasterCard can be used anywhere. However, make sure you contact your credit card provider to inform them of your traveling plans (some provide an email address to make this quick and easy).  So, when you shop for items in Paris, they won’t flag your credit card for fraudulent charges.   
  • Other things like: toiletries and prescribed medicine, a travel journal with a pen/pencil and a good book will come in handy.


Here are some extra clothes that you might want to include. Many of the clothes you’ll pack will depend on the place you’re planning to visit, its weather and what you are planning to do when you arrive at your destination. You will want to make sure that many of your clothes will be versatile and will match with many other items you bring. Of course, if you have converted your wardrobe to a capsule wardrobe this should be easy.

  • Swimsuits and Board shorts:  If you are going to the Himalayas you might not require this, but if you are planning to travel to a place with sun and sandy beaches, a swimsuit is essential. Consider ways you can reuse your swimsuit or swimsuit cover outside of the beach. For men, you can pack board shorts that also work as a pair of dress shorts and for women, you can pack a sundress as your swimsuit cover as well as a nice outfit for dinner.       
  • Scarf: Planes are often a little chilly inside. You can use a scarf to cover yourself if the temperature doesn’t feel right. You can also use a scarf to protect yourself from poor air quality and foreign germs.
  • Sandals and shoes:  An additional specialized pair of shoes will be useful, depending on the terrain of your destination. Comfortable sandals are useful in warm and sandy areas while a pair of hiking boots might be good if you are headed somewhere to explore rugged terrain a bit.
  • Laundry Items:  Depending on how long your trip will last, bringing a little bag of detergent can be useful if you have to wash your clothes on the go.              
  • Other items:  Wide Brim hat, one heavy jacket, business clothing, etc.

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Your health and hygiene are so important. So, don’t forget to pack items relating to this category like medicine, first aid and toiletries. Keep in mind the 3-1-1 liquids rule when packing these items.

  • Towel:  A quality washcloth or towel is always a handy item to include in your suitcase space. You never know if the hotel you’ll stay in will provide you with one.  If it can’t fit on your suitcase, you can always place it in your backpack or you can get a camping towel which will save you a lot of space.
  • Toiletries:  Find a small sturdy toiletry bag to pack a toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, essential makeups, nail clippers, lip balm and shaving items.          
  • Tissues:  Get some travel tissues and pack them in your carry-on bag. They exist for a reason, they can be very helpful if you get stuffed up on the plane.         
  • Sunglasses: Find some quality sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun, even in cold areas.
  • Water Bottle:  Pack a water bottle with purification abilities or filters.
  • Other Items: First aid kits for emergencies, contacts, gender-related products, OTC medication, insect repellent and sunscreens.

Recreation and Gadgets

On most trips, you have to sit for long hours and you can easily get bored if you have nothing to do. If you have a fun gadget like a smart phone, you can entertain yourself. Some gadgets can act like valuable tools that can help you accomplish some specific tasks. Some of these things include:

  • Smart Phone
  • Tablet
  • Laptop    
  • “For fun” books
international travel packing tips

How do I start packing for a trip?

Before you start packing, it is important to plan and consider everything that comes with your trip. Our travel planning resources check off every part of your planning process from some of our favorite travel products to different travel resources to try.

Know the weather of your destination

Check out the weather pattern of the place you’re planning to visit. With this knowledge, you will know the right clothing to pack. You don’t want to get stuck in the rain with no jacket or raincoat while traveling.

How long will you be away?

The total number of days you will spend on your trip determines how many outfits you should carry.  Although this also depends on whether you will have access to laundry or not.

Any special activity you’ll take part in

If you are going to a wedding, don’t forget that present you bought a week earlier. If it’s Hawaii hiking, you need to carry your hiking boots and if it swimming don’t forget your swimsuit and those comfy sandals.

Create a packing list early

You can create your packing list early so you know what you can expect when actually packing. Also, there are some amazing apps that you can use.   Use packing lists to make your packing experience much easier.    Review your list when your mind is fresh, so you can remember the things you forgot to include. Also, if some things you’ve listed on your pack list aren’t relevant to your specific trip, remove them immediately.  Why bring hiking boots to a beach?

Cross Items off that you can get at your journey’s end

If you’re planning to journey with only hand luggage, this tip is very important to you- it will help save lots of space. Some hotels will provide you with conditioner, shampoo, toothpaste, towel, body wash, etc. So why waste time packing them? However, if you’re not staying at a hotel or concerned about your toiletries, you can head to a drugstore and purchase anything you need.

Get the right traveling containers or toiletries

If you want to carry your water bottle or toiletries, make sure they meet the traveling regulations.

Select a bag

When selecting a bag for your trip you should seriously consider its size and weight.  Most airlines have put restrictions on the size of a carry-on bag and checked bag. Make sure you check with the airline to see if your bag fits as a checked or carry-on bag. The bag you choose should handle your trip, whether it’s a shoulder bag, hand luggage or backpack. Select a sturdy, versatile, lightweight bag with enough room to accommodate everything.

How do you pack LIGHT for international travel?

Packing light doesn’t involve sacrificing comfort and style, but it’s about taking a minimalist approach to packing. As a result, you become more mobile and comfortable while traveling. It’s not that easy, but it’s worth your effort! Once you understand how to pack lightly, your life on the road will be smoother. By keeping your items carry-on size, you get to save money by avoiding baggage fees on most airlines. Also, you won’t surpass any weight limits. Sounds nice! Right?  The following best packing tips will help you pack light for any upcoming international travel.

  1. Choose the Right Bag – You can’t pack right if you don’t have the right bag. The first approach to light packing is to get a small bag, so you can reduce the temptation of piling up less important items. Traveling around with a regular suitcase is fine for resorts and stationary holidays. But if you are a free spirit who ventures a lot, a suitcase won’t be so adaptable. They will frustrate you, especially on old winding stairs, sandy beaches or on cobblestone streets. A backpack offers you more freedom. You can easily tuck it under the seat of a bus, easily swing onto the back of a pickup truck or safely store it in a locker. Most backpacks come with unique features not found on suitcases and can make your packing and organizing process much simpler.
  2. Pack only the essentials – Go through your packing list and cross out anything that you don’t need.  If it’s your first time traveling, you’ll be tempted to pack a lot of items because everything might seem important. But you have to resist this temptation.
  3. Carry versatile rather than specific-case items – Pack those important items that have multiple uses. Reflect on those items that you might only use once before you pack them. Just remember you can always rent or purchase a temporary fix, instead of letting them occupy unnecessary space in your bag.
  4. Only pack clothing enough for 1 week – Just carry enough clothing that you can easily wash once they’re dirty.  Select versatile clothes with a simple color palette, so you can mix and match them. This will be much easier if you have a minimalist wardrobe, if you want tips to create a capsule wardrobe, we have you covered.

Now that you have some of the best packing tips for your travels, packing will come much easier to you. If you pack this list and have any advice to create better tips, drop us a line. We are always looking to collaborate with our readers to provide the best possible resources out there.

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