Table of Contents

20 Top International Packing List Items for 2023 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

Santorini during international travel
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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 during your trip, how you prefer to get around, and how long you’ll be away.

That said, there are lots of things I rarely leave home without, so I put together this international travel packing checklist. Below the list, you’ll find a list of things NOT to bring, as well as tips about what to wear while traveling and some FAQs on traveling internationally. Of course, any trip will be better with a healthy dose of patience, humility, and adventure, so consider them part of the ultimate packing list!

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International Packing List – 20 Essentials

  • 1. Packing Cubes

    Packing cubes are high on my list of what to pack when traveling, 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.

    HERO Packing Cubes Set Organizers

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  • 2. Stainless Steel Water Bottle

    Whether it’s at a beach, on a hike, or just walking around town, most people tend to spend a lot of time outside while traveling. 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 – or use your LifeStraw (see #1 in the next section) in places where the tap water isn’t potable. Pro tip: since airplanes are also extremely dehydrating, take the bottle in your carry-on and fill it up after passing through security.

    Stainless Steel Water Bottle

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  • 3. Power Adapter

    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 most countries.

    Power Adaptor

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  • 4. Sarong

    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, they dry quickly, and they can be used for tons of things: scarf, sheet, towel, curtain, picnic blanket, swimsuit cover-up, the list goes on.

    Womens Hibiscus Flower Swimsuit Sarong

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  • 5. Quick-Dry Towel

    In some parts of the world, hostels and guesthouses don’t necessarily provide towels, so you’ll want to bring your own. Regular bath towels are super bulky and take forever to dry, though, so leave them at home, and bring a quick-drying towel instead.

    HERO Travel Towel - Blue

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  • 6. Flip-Flops

    Whether you’re staying at a five-star resort with a pool or a grungy hostel with shared bathrooms, flip-flops are packing essentials for most any trip. And even if you don’t have many occasions to wear a pair, they won’t take up much space in your bag.


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  • 7. Passport Holder

    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 passport holder 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 even a cell phone in this one.

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    Neck Wallet

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  • 8. Walking Shoes

    Most travel plans include lots of walking, and wearing that pair of cute-but-less-than-practical shoes will inevitably leave you miserable by the end of the day. Bring a pair of shoes that are decent-looking but comfortable for walking, and your feet will thank you.

    Walking Shoes

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  • 9. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    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 comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee.

    Windproof Travel Umbrella

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  • 10. Solid Shampoo

    On any flights you take, you’ll have to measure your liquid products and pack them in a littlebag, so bringing solid shampoo instead of the regular kind is more convenient. Even if you’re checking luggage, fewer bottles of liquids means less chance of something leaking and making a mess in your bag.

    Solid Shampoo

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  • 11. Cooling Towel

    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.

    towel pink

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  • 12. Camera

    No matter where in the world you’re traveling or what you’re doing, you’ll almost certainly want to document it. Even if you’re not an avid photographer, you may appreciate having something more than iPhone pictures, and the Canon Powershot is a quality camera that’s relatively compact and affordable.

    canon camera

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  • 13. Kindle

    Whether it’s during long train rides or lazy days at the beach, most people read more on vacation than they do at home, making e-readers a lifesaver. A Kindle is smaller and lighter weight than a single physical book, and you can put unlimited reading material on it. Technically, you could read books on a laptop or smartphone if you’re bringing one, but a Kindle is more convenient and gives your eyes a break from the blue light emitted by computer screens, too.

    kindel img

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  • 14. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    A virtual private network (VPN) keeps all of your digital information secure while using public wifi networks. It keeps your private info safe from hackers so you don’t have to worry about your credit cards, passwords, or other confidential information getting stolen. You’re bound to connect to a hotel or restaurant’s wifi when traveling internationally so keep your digital information safe with a VPN like NordVPN.


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  • 15. Flash Drive

    At some point, you’ll probably want to be able to share photos with your travel companions, or even trade movies and music for long flights or bus rides. Especially in places without consistent Wi-Fi, a flash drive makes transferring documents much easier and faster. And these days, even cheap ones have enough space for lots of large files.

    Flash Drive

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  • 16. Sunscreen

    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.

    Banana Boat Performance Lotion Travel

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  • 17. Travel Insurance For International Travel

    While insurance isn’t terribly exciting, it should be considered a travel necessity. Though it’s unlikely, you don’t want to get stuck shelling out money to replace items that got stolen or struggling to get home in an emergency. Plus, knowing that you’re covered in those situations should give you some peace of mind while you’re traveling. Being able to compare plans from top companies on makes it easy to find the best option for your trip.

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  • 18. First Aid Kit

    Bringing a first-aid kit when you travel is a good way to be prepared forminor problems. If you’re planning on hiking or spending time in the water, it’s especially important be able to care for things like cuts, scrapes, and blisters. This kit is small and lightweight, but will keep you more than covered, with gauze pads, adhesive tape, various bandages, and other basics.

    First Aid Kit

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  • 19. Electrolytes

    If you get sick while traveling, you’ll lose a lot of liquids and couldend 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.


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  • 20. Activated Charcoal

    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. Taking the tablets when you start to feel sick will absorb the toxins in your system and help stop the dreaded diarrhea.

    Natures Way Activated Charcoal Capsules

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What Should I Wear When Traveling Internationally?

international-travelThe 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?

    World traveler

    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?

    Nepal temple

    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?

    Paris travel

    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.