International travel presents the opportunity to explore new environments and foreign cultures. When you’re venturing into the unknown—and especially if you don’t know what to expect—it can be hard to decide what to bring with you. Of course, what to pack for an international vacation also depends on factors like the duration of your trip, the climate and weather forecast of your destination, and the activities you’ve planned. Putting in some research and planning a packing list ahead of time can save you a good deal of stress during the days leading up to your departure. This article provides a comprehensive list of necessities to pack for your international travel experience.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic, make sure to bring and wear a mask whenever you’re in a public area. Carry a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer on your person if you can. Wash your hands frequently, refrain from touching your face, and be sure to comply with all social distancing policies at the airport and at your destination.
Most travel documents are replaceable, but the process takes time and money. We recommend that you find out exactly what you’ll need to travel to and from your destination and keep those documents organized and immediately available.
Some countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months beyond the expected duration of your stay abroad. International travel with an expired passport is not permitted.
Check whether a visa is required to visit a specific country. Acquiring a visa can be a very long and laborious process for some countries (such as the United States). You may need to start the process months in advance.
- Copies of your birth certificate, social security card, or government-issued photo identification. Travelers with an expired photo ID (such as a driver’s license) may still be able to fly within 12 months of the expiration date.
- Proof of travel insurance or travel medical insurance.
- Travel tickets (plane, train, bus; can be paper or electronic copies)
- Boarding passes
- Reservation confirmations (rental car, hotel, pre-paid tickets for events; can be paper or electronic copies)
Credit and debit cards
Make sure to notify your bank and other financial institutions about your plans to travel abroad so they don’t decline legitimate charges for suspicion of fraudulent transactions.
Visit a currency exchange before departing to obtain cash in your destination country’s currency in case you need cash immediately after arrival (i.e., to take a taxi). In addition to your destination country’s currency, make sure to keep some cash in your home country’s currency for use when you return home.
- Emergency contact list
- Important addresses, guides, maps, and directions
Travel document holder (travel wallet)
You can purchase a discreet wallet or bag to wear underneath your shirt that protects important documents like cash and your passport from pickpockets.
Again, the clothing you’ll need to pack depends largely on your destination’s climate and weather conditions, as well as the time of year. Be sure to research the 10-day forecast before you put your bags together. Also, consider the local culture and customs, as people are expected to dress conservatively in some parts of the world. Your specific needs may vary, but consider packing items from the following list as appropriate to you and your destination:
- Bottoms (jeans, dress pants, shorts, skirts, etc.)
- Tops (T-shirts, polo shirts, button-up shirts, blouses, dresses, etc.)
- Sweaters, sweatshirts, and jackets
- Shoes (walking / tennis shoes, dress shoes, sandals)
- Belts (casual and special occasion)
- Formal wear for special occasions (suit jacket, blazer, tie, slacks, cuff links, formal dresses)
- Sweatpants or gym shorts during leisure time
- Workout clothes
- Flip flops
- Cold-weather attire:
- Outer, heavier coat
- Gloves / mittens
- Rain boots or snow boots
If you’re flying to and from your destination, you may only be allowed to bring travel-size toiletries on the airplane. For flights into and out of the U.S., the TSA limits passengers to liquid, gel, aerosol, cream, and paste containers of 100 mL or less, and all containers must fit into one quart-size bag.
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Washcloth or loofah
- Toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, and mouthwash
- Hairbrush or comb
- Shaving razor and shaving cream / electric razor
- Hair styling products
- Contact lenses, case, and saline solution
- Nail manicure kit
- First-aid kit (bandages, pain relievers, antiseptic ointment)
- Perfume or cologne
- Hand sanitizer
- Over-the-counter medication for headache / pain relief, colds, or allergies
- Lip balm
Prescription medication (make sure to bring a sufficient quantity for the duration of your trip)
Make sure to keep prescription medication either on your person or in your carry-on bag rather than in checked luggage. That way, you’ll still have it with you if your baggage gets lost. Prescription medication still needs to meet airport security requirements and restrictions.
- Feminine products for monthly use
- Hair styling tools and accessories
Electronics and leisure items
- Laptop and charger
- Cell phone and charger (your cell phone plan may not work in a foreign country)
- Portable power bank
Power outlet adapter
Different countries use different standards for voltage and shapes of plugs
- Spare memory card
- Batteries or charger
- Headphones (preferably noise-cancelling)
- eReading device (Kindle, Nook, etc.) and charger
- Book, magazine, crossword puzzle book, newspaper, or something similar
In addition to items in the above categories, you might also want to bring:
- Travel guides
There are many destination-specific travel guides that list local attractions, maps, restaurant and lodging suggestions, and more.
- Overnight bag or smaller satchel-type bag for daily use. You can also use this bag to bring back souvenirs if you run out of room in your luggage.
- Hats or headcovers for sun protection and/or modesty if the locale requires
- Lint roller
- Prescription glasses (at least two pairs, if possible)
Planning out your itinerary and packing list in advance will give you time to remember items that may have slipped your mind. You can purchase many basic items on the go, but pay particular attention to all of your personal items and documents that would take time and effort away from your vacation to replace. You don’t want to spend two days of your nine-day vacation at your country’s embassy or consulate trying to get a new passport. Remember to stay safe, and have fun!