International travel opens up doors to entirely new worlds. The ideal packing list for travel abroad will obviously depend on factors like where you’re going, what season you’re traveling in, what you plan to do, and how long you’ll be away.
That said, there are lots of things I rarely go abroad without regardless of the destination! So I put together this international packing checklist to encompass the world. Below, you’ll find a list of things NOT to bring, as well as tips about what to wear, and common FAQs to make your trip a success.
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International Packing List – 31 Essentials
1. Neck Wallet
You’ll obviously need your passport no matter where you’re going, and it’s one thing you really don’t want to lose. A neck wallet like this one will protect it, and keep other valuables organized, too. They’re much less likely to get stolen than a regular wallet, and you can also carry cash, credit cards, and a cell phone in one place. I wear mine under my shirt when we’re going through crowded areas so pickpockets have zero chance getting my valuables, plus it has RFID-blocking material to stop e-thieves from scanning your credit card numbers.
Any drawn-out flights or layovers can leave your circadian rhythm out of whack! Jet lag reliefs are a brilliant supplement that I discovered a few years back and now can’t live without. Using chamomile and other botanicals, it’s a much more natural method for regulating your exhaustion than with caffeine or other stimulants.
After having items stolen out of our checked luggage, we can say first-hand that you can never be too safe. Luggage locks are very multi-purposeful and we use them on suitcases, backpacks for crowded areas, city lockers, and more. This set is TSA-approved so you won’t have any trouble with security or have to watch them get cut off.
You’re bound to connect to a hotel or restaurant’s wifi when traveling overseas, so keep your digital information safe with a VPN like NordVPN. Most people don’t know that you should always be using a virtual private network (VPN) to keep all of your digital information secure while using public wifi networks. It keeps your private info safe and encrypted from hackers so you don’t have to worry about your credit cards, passwords, or other confidential information getting stolen. After being hacked at our Airbnb in Paris, I’ll never travel abroad without it.
Especially if you’re coming from North America, you’ll need a power adapter almost anywhere in the world. You should still check the exact type of outlets used in the places you’ll be visiting, but this one covers 100+ popular countries and the quality can be relied upon since it has a lifetime replacement guarantee.
Omitting insurance is one of the biggest mistakes I see travelers make. Since your at-home provider will not cover you once you’re overseas. We unfortunately had a friend break her leg while hiking abroad. Luckily she didn’t have to pay the $27,000 airlift or $8,000 in medical bills because she had insured her trip for peace of mind.
Travel insurance also covers you for common travel issues like theft, lost baggage, flight delays, vacation rentals, and even the ability to “cancel for any reason.” We use Faye because they are setting a new standard for the industry with same-day claims and reimbursements through their mobile app (instead of jumping through hoops or dealing with piles of daunting paperwork and months of back and forth like you would with most providers!). Faye has blown us away with their live chat customer service and affordable prices.
You might be surprised to see charcoal on a packing list for vacation, but it’s great to have on hand in case you get sick (especially since anything from fine dining to tap water can give you food poisoning). Taking the tablets when you start to feel an upset stomach will absorb the toxins in your system and help stop the dreaded diarrhea. This way you can spend more time enjoying your vacation rather than dealing with distress in the bathroom.
In some parts of the world – hostels and guesthouses don’t necessarily provide towels free of charge, so you’ll want to bring your own. Plus, regular bath towels are super bulky and take forever to dry, so leave them at home and bring this travel towel that dries 10x faster than cotton. It’s light as a feather and can double as a sweat rag, packing cushion, seat cover, and much more.
Most travel plans include lots of walking and international towns can range from gravel to cement to cobblestone. Wearing that pair of cute-but-less-than-practical shoes will inevitably leave you miserable by the end of the day. So bring a pair of shoes that are decent-looking but comfortable for walking, and your feet will thank you.
No matter where you plan on traveling, you’ll want to protect your phone from the elements or maybe even take it underwater with you! Let me tell you first-hand that being in a foreign country without a working phone is no fun. I once lost an iPhone to water damage on a rainy day in Bogota, even though my phone was in my raincoat pocket the whole time. Since then, I never travel without one of these waterproof pouches. They’re so good at protecting phones from water damage that you can bring your phone with you up to 75ft underwater on a snorkeling or diving trip!
Don’t forget to attach a flotation strap to your phone, keys, or devices. It is durable and vivid so you won’t risk losing your items or being unable to spot them. I once was photographing a flower on a lake and dropped my phone right in! If it were the Caribbean, I might’ve been able to find it… But the water was foggy and my waterproof case didn’t matter because it sunk right to the bottom. Learn from my mistake and know that buoyant is best!
Especially in warmer climates, staying hydrated can be a challenge for travelers. While bottled water is available almost everywhere, relying on it gets pricey and creates a ton of plastic waste. Instead, bring a water bottle to refill with tap water. Pro tip: since airplanes are also extremely dehydrating, take the bottle in your carry-on and fill it up after passing through security.
13. Discounted Activities on Worldwide Attractions
We use Get Your Guide to book our global excursions because they have flexible cancelation and the reservations actually support the local tourism industry, which means you get more authentic experiences that really magnify your visit.
See the Pyramids of Egypt, the romantic Eiffel Tower of France, the famous Machu Picchu of Peru and other iconic landmarks. From the tropical cenotes of Mexico to the frigid light shows of Iceland – there is an adventure in almost every nook of this planet – you just have to know where to look!
No international packing list is complete without a travel umbrella. You want to be prepared for all types of weather and if it happens to rain you still want to be able to get out and explore while staying dry. A good travel umbrella is compact, sturdy, and keeps you dry. This one checks all the boxes and is replaceable in case of damage.
Once youve been lost without a charged phone, you’ll understand the value of a backup power bank. Whether you need GPS or to call for a backup car ride, this charger is lipstick-sized and can fully charge a dead phone. It has two USB ports so you can re-up your camera, phones, and other electronics on the go .
Even if most of your nights end up casual, it’s nice to have a few gorgeous looks in your suitcase. This jumper is a power look and my wife has it in multiple colors. It’s very flattering on many body types and will suit a variety of occasions around the world.
Mosquitos and sand gnats can be a huge problem in destinations with water. Especially in rainforests, tropical areas, or places with still fresh water, you will find these little vampires coming out in packs at dusk and dawn! Mosquito-borne illnesses still exist, so it’s advised to protect yourself with mosquito repellent. This brand is natural and we love that it can be worn as a bracelet so we don’t have to respray toxic fumes all day. They are safe for kids but you can double up with a spray if you prefer, just ensure it’s deet-free.
Packing cubes are high on my list of what to pack for even exploring domestically because they really help with staying organized on the road. Instead of constantly digging to the bottom of your bag in search of that missing sock or the one clean shirt you have left, you can just pull out the appropriate cube since they’re all labeled and color-coordinated for each family member.
It’s nice to have a backpack with you that’s made of a duffle-like material that can fold down compactly. This travel backpack is super lightweight and takes up virtually no space when empty, but can hold your essentials during day-to-day excursions. A tote or a purse may not cut it, so you’ll appreciate the extra storage.
In some parts of the world, sunscreen is notoriously hard to come by and extremely expensive when it’s available. But it’s really not something you want to skimp on, so make sure to bring some with you, regardless of where you’re going. This brand is octinoxate & oxybenzone-free, meaning it’s safer for both you and marine life. In some countries, it’s actually mandated to use reef-safe sunscreen, so making the switch is worthwhile.
A cooling towel can be a lifesaver on trips where you’re spending a lot of time in the heat and exposed to the sun. They’re small and easy to fit into any bag and can cool you down instantly. All you do is wet the towel, wring it out, and it becomes 20-30 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature for up to an hour. A scientific anomaly, but you won’t want to travel anywhere warm without it!
With all the Italian Chianti or South-of-the-boarder Margaritas – your international travel could lead to a headache the next morning. Even if you only have one or two drinks, hot areas can increase dehydration and you don’t want to find yourself dragging on a day meant for exploring. These supplements use vitamins and liver-detoxing herbs like milk thistle to remove alcohol from the body more quickly. Lyric and I aren’t big drinkers but we’ve heard they really work, making pub tours and vineyard stops a whole lot easier!
A sarong might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about what to pack on a trip, but they’re actually a great travel item. Sarongs are lightweight, dry quickly, and can be used for tons of things: a scarf, sheet, towel, curtain, picnic blanket, swimsuit cover-up, the list goes on!
Many parts of the world (including cruise ships on the high seas) will not come with tons of storage space or large countertops. If you have nowhere to put your stuff, like in European water closets or camping sites, I recommend using this hanging toiletry bag. It will give you an instant shelf that hangs from any door, hook, or branch. Don’t forget the TSA-approved-sized bottles so you don’t have to throw out your favorite self-care products at the security check.
If you’re prone to motion sickness or seasickness, I recommend using these motion sickness relief patches. My wife field-tested a variety of brands and this was by far the most effective product! Stick one or two behind your ear and you’ll keep nausea and dizziness at bay.
Bringing a first-aid kit when you travel is a good way to be prepared for minor problems. If you’re planning on hiking or spending time in the water, it’s especially important to be able to care for things like cuts, scrapes, and blisters to prevent infection. This kit is small and lightweight but will keep you more than covered with gauze pads, adhesive tape, various bandages, and other basics.
Most areas of the world receive rain fairly frequently. A stylish raincoat is nice to have in locations like Paris, London, NYC, Canada, etc. where the fashion styles might be more sophisticated. This look gives off major elegance but still feels casual. It serves as a hooded windbreaker and trench coat, overall combining practicality with quality.
In French, the word ‘souvenirs’ literally translates to ‘memories.’ And you’ll want to bring home plenty of souvenirs from your global travels! This “just in case” bag is for those treats, liquors, handcrafted goods, spices, and authentic items you may pick up along the way. It’s super lightweight and will count as your personal item on the flight home.
Jetsetting, island hopping, and wanderlusting your way through the world can get tiring… and lead to sweat! You don’t want to feel stinky on long plane days or while sightseeing in new places. I carry these deodorant wipes for the family because they come in single packets that fit in a wallet or pocket. They’re all-natural, refreshing, and simply delightful on a hot day! This brand uses prebiotics to mitigate odor and calm the skin.
If you get sick while traveling, you’ll lose a lot of liquids and could end up at risk of dehydration, so mix these tablets with (clean!) water to replenish your electrolytes. In tropical environments, it can be hard to stay hydrated even if you’re not sick, so using them on a regular basis isn’t a bad idea. Electrolyte tablets are available in many places, but unless you enjoy the flavor of chalk, this kind tastes much better than most and will be cheaper.
International flights can mean 10+ hours in the sky. Between the cabin pressure, high altitudes, and lack of physical movement – compression socks are a wise choice. They will increase your circulation and prevent blood clots while in the sky (which is much more likely on flights longer than 4 hours). This is why flight attendants wear stockings or tights. You’ll be happy to have them and they’re very surprisingly comfy!
What Should I Wear When Traveling Internationally?
The best things to wear while traveling will obviously vary based on where and when you’re going. But there are a few good rules of thumb to keep in mind for any trip. Regardless of your destination, a pair of good walking shoes will make your trip much more comfortable. Bringing clothes you can easily layer is another good idea, and fabrics that dry quickly are best.
For any tropical climate, you’ll definitely be more comfortable in lightweight fabrics but might need a light sweater or jacket for evenings and chilly A/C. In environments that are dusty or muddy, avoid wearing white since it’s next-to-impossible to keep clean.
If you’re visiting conservative countries – especially in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia – it’s important to dress modestly. Appropriate dress for women usually means covering the shoulders, cleavage, thighs, and knees. In the most conservative areas, women should also avoid tight-fitting fabrics and choose tops that fall below the hips. Foreign women are really only expected to wear a headscarf in a few countries, although wearing one may help you feel more comfortable.
What NOT to Bring on Your International Trip
1.DON’T TAKE unnecessary electronics:
Beyond the things you know you’ll be using, like a camera or Kindle, it’s a good idea to leave expensive electronics at home. Things can get lost or stolen on the road, and there’s no reason to risk it.
2.DON’T BRING lots of cash:
You’ll find ATMs almost everywhere, so there’s no need to bring a ton of cash with you. You don’t want to have to carry it around all the time, and you’ll likely get a better exchange rate by using an ATM anyway.
3.DON’T PACK heavy books:
Books are one of the heaviest things you could pack, and even just one or two will take up significant space in your bag. Instead of bringing physical books, invest in a Kindle – your back will thank you.
4.DON’T BRING too many clothes:
Most people tend to overestimate the amount of clothes they need for a trip (and end up with heavy bags to lug around). Try to limit yourself to a few outfits, and know that you can always do laundry if you need to.
5.DON’T TAKE a sleeping bag:
Sleeping bags are huge and heavy, and there’s rarely a real need for them. Unless you’re planning on doing extensive camping and know that you’ll need your own gear, a travel sheet is probably a better option.
6.DON’T PACK a mosquito net:
Some travel packing lists fordeveloping countries include mosquito nets, but it’s really not worth bringing one. Most accommodations provide nets if they’re needed, and it’s generally not feasible to hang up your own anyway.
7.DON’T BRING expensive jewelry:
Wearing flashy jewelry, especially in places where you stick out as a foreigner, can make you a target for thievery. If you have jewelry that’s expensive or sentimental, it’s not worth the risk of it getting stolen or lost on the road.
8.DON’T TAKE a bath towel:
Regular towels are bulky and slow to dry, which makes them less than ideal for travel. Leave them at home, and bring a quick-dry towel on your trip instead.
FAQs About International Travel
1. Is it safe for women to travel alone?
Yes! The idea that “women shouldn’t travel alone” is nothing but an old myth. Plenty of women travel solo all over the world with no problems – and many even say it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. Of course, both men and women inevitably encounter risks on the road (and at home, for that matter), and you should always use common sense and be aware of your surroundings. Research travel warnings while planning your trip and heed the advice of travelers who’ve been to your destination recently.
2. How can I contact friends and family at home while I’m abroad?
In most places, Wi-Fi is increasingly available in hotels and cafes, giving travelers regular access to email, social media, and Skype. Travelers can often purchase a local SIM card and pre-paid phone credit upon arrival, allowing for phone calls, texting, and smartphone apps as well. Friends and family who want to call your local phone number should use Skype or purchase an international calling card for your destination.
3. Can I travel abroad if I only speak English?
Absolutely. Many people who travel abroad only speak English; in fact, except in countries that use romance languages, very few people speak the local language in places they visit. In most countries, at least some people working in the tourism and hospitality industry speak English, and gesturing will get you further than you might think otherwise. That said, learning at least a few basic phrases in the language will earn you favor with local people in most places.
4. How can I avoid getting sick while traveling?
Make sure you get any vaccines that are needed for the countries you’ll be visiting and pick up malaria prophylaxis if it’s recommended. If you’re traveling in places where mosquito-borne illnesses are prevalent, you’ll want to use insect repellent and sleep under a mosquito net whenever possible. You’ll also need to check to see if the tap water in your destination is potable; if not, be careful to drink only treated water and avoid other drinks made with tap water (or ice made from tap water), as well as raw fruits and vegetables that can’t be peeled.
5. What are the cheapest places to travel?
The cost of different countries depends on your travel style and what kinds of activities you plan to do while traveling. For the most part, though, developing countries are cheaper than developed ones, andSouth and Southeast Asia are generally the cheapest regions, followed by Central America and Eastern Europe.
6. How can I save money when traveling?
In addition to frequenting budget-friendly destinations, a good way to save money on the road is to live at the typical local standard – use public transportation instead of taxis or car rentals, stay in guesthouses instead of resorts or international hotels, and eat at local restaurants instead of touristy ones. To save more on accommodations, you can also look into alternative options, like CouchSurfing, Airbnb, homestays, hostels, and camping. And to further cut down on food expenses, one option is to purchase groceries for some of your meals instead of eating out three times a day. If you’re going to be traveling extensively, it’s also worth opening an account at a bank that doesn’t charge ATM or currency conversion fees, like Charles Schwab or Capital One.
7. What should I tell my parents who are worried about me traveling?
What aspiring traveler hasn’t dealt with a worried parent, convinced their child will be afflicted by disease, terrorism, or murder if they dare to cross the border? It’s true that some parents will grasp onto this belief no matter what, but others may be consoled by some facts and precautions. For example, over 70 million Americans travel abroad every year –about a quarter of the country’s population. Announcing your travel plans is also a good time to remind your parents that most places are very different in reality than they appear in the media. It might help to direct them to first-hand accounts of travel in the countries you’re planning to visit, especially if they do not have a great reputation at home. Taking precautions like purchasing travel insurance, sharing a copy of your itinerary, and showing that you’ve done some research on your destination might allay their concerns as well.
8. How can I meet people on the road?
Fortunately, in most cases, it’s not nearly as hard to meet people while traveling as you might think. One of the easiest ways to meet people is to stay at a hostel, which are social by nature. Even if a bunk in a shared dorm doesn’t appeal to you, most hostels also have private rooms, which still allow you to take advantage of the common spaces where people hang out. Participating in activities – like hikes, walking tours, day trips, classes, or pub crawls – is another very easy way to meet fellow travelers. There is also an increasing number of apps that exist to connect travelers with each other and with locals: MeetUp, Couchsurfing, WithLocals, EatWith, TravBuddy, and Bumble BFF, just to name a few. And don’t forget the power of social media. Joining travel-focused Facebook groups, asking your own network if they have friends in the places you’re visiting, and searching hashtags on Twitter and Instagram can all lead to new connections on the road.
9. Will my cell phone work abroad?
Depending on your company and plan, as well as where you’re from, your cell phone from home may work in other countries, but will likely charge huge fees for calls, texts, and data use. A better option is to put a local SIM card in your phone when you arrive, or keep your smartphone on airplane mode and only use it on Wi-Fi.
10. How can I find cheap flights?
The One of the most common pieces of advice is to set your browser to private or incognito mode before searching for tickets. If you repeatedly search the same route in your browser’s regular mode, you’ll likely see the price go up. It’s also a good idea to check multiple search engines and compare their prices; Skyscanner, Google Flights, Kayak, Momondo, and CheapOair are good places to start. If your travel dates aren’t set in stone, use the “flexible dates” feature to compare prices for a week’s worth of flights. Many search engines don’t include budget carriers, though, so if they’re not showing up, check their websites separately. Low-cost airlines to keep in mind include JetBlue, Frontier, and Spirit in the U.S.; Ryanair, EasyJet, and Wizz Air in Europe; and Air Asia, Tiger Air, and Spice Jet in Asia. For long-haul trips, check before you book to see if it’s cheaper to buy separate legs of the trip individually (but do be aware that you’re unlikely to receive assistance from the airline in the event of a missed connection). Similarly, always check to see if buying two one-way tickets is cheaper than a round trip. Finally, if you’re not pressed to book right away, set up a fare alert on Skyscanner or Airfare Watchdog to keep you up-to-date on the price of flights you’re interested in.