Traveling abroad is the best. I mean, sure, those lazy weekends at the spa and the excursions to the country might keep you satisfied for a while, but you can’t feel the real thrill of traveling until you cross a border.
Don’t get me wrong – being just a couple of hours away from home has its own perks, one of them being that packing is the least of your worries.
Packing for international travel, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.
Going overseas is a logistically complicated and tiresome task. With all the things you have to take care of before you leave – the house, pets, plants, insurance, reservations, tickets, documents, etc. – you’re always left too tired and frustrated to put much thought into packing.
I’d hate to admit it, but I’m all too familiar with said situation. That’s why I’ve come up with a (reasonably) comprehensive guide to packing for international travel you can follow. Print it out, write it down, tattoo it on your arm – just keep it close to you, and you’ve got yourself a fail-proof packing manual.
I know traveling without your favorite shampoo is a definitive no-go, but you’ll never be able to get your bag checked in if you pack 15 pounds of products in it. There’s a solution to smart toiletry packing, and it’s travel sized bottles. They’re small, refillable and carry-on friendly, making them a perfect choice for international travel. Get a few of them and fill them with all the products you use – even contact lens solution. Once you’re done with filling the bottles, make sure you check everything off the list, including:
- Shower gel
- Body lotion
- Face moisturizer
- Cleansing wipes
- Hair brush
- Extra pair of contacts
- Contact lens solution
- Prescription drugs
The chance of you running into someone you know while traveling abroad is close to zero, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to look neat and presentable. Choose a small makeup bag or a pouch – it will fit a few essential products you need to keep a fresh face throughout the day.
- Hair ties
- Bobby pins
- Foldable detangling brush
When it comes to taking electronics abroad, my advice is to keep your gear as limited as possible. If you absolutely must bring both your laptop and your tablet and your camera – keep them in protective casings and always pack them in your carry-on.
Pro tip: Do a bit of research before you leave and find out what kind of outlets you’ll be looking at, and get an appropriate outlet adapter you can plug all your chargers into.
- E-reader or a tablet
- Phone charger
- Laptop charger
- Camera battery
- Outlet adapter
Most people leave shoes for last, but I think packing them first will make choosing your wardrobe much easier.
The key to packing shoes for international travel is to have a general idea about the places you’ll be going to. If your trip involves trekking through New Zealand, you won’t have much use for a pair of stilettos. And your suede loafers probably aren’t that smart of a choice for a ski trip on the Alpes.
However, there’s a general formula you can apply no matter the season and the place you’ll be going to:
- Comfortable sneakers
- Dressy flats (oxford’s, ballet flats, loafers, or Chelsea boots)
Once you’ve chosen the shoes, it’s time to get started on the clothes. Packing for international travel is a bit different than packing for a more nearby getaway – you’ll have to consider the culture of the country you’ll be going to, as well as activities you’ll be participating in.
Choose a neutral color scheme – black, navy, tan and gray – so you can dress the outfits up or down with accessories. Remember that you can get two wears out of a shirt, and at least three from pants or jeans, so pack accordingly.
Pro tip: if you’re weary of the weather, bring a coat or a jacket and wear it while you travel.
You can go away for at least a week or so with these items in your bag:
- 2 Casual T-shirts
- A shirt
- A dressy blouse or tunic
- A light sweater
- A dress
- A pair of jeans
- A pair of capris
- A flowy skirt
- A pair of leggings or pajama pants
- A cardigan
- A leather jacket
- A coat or a down jacket
- A shawl
- A colorful silk or satin scarf
- Statement jewelry
- Small cross-body bag for nights out
When packing for international travel, we always tend to forget that handbags require a little bit of prep work, too.
Find a roomy tote bag that can be closed with a zipper and has comfortable wide shoulder straps. Empty out all the crinkled bills, empty gum wrappers, and eye pencil caps I know you have in there, and make sure you get everything from this list in there before you leave.
- ID card
- Student or discount cards
- Driver’s license
- Credit cards
- The aforementioned makeup bag
- Wet wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Lip balm
- Chewing gum
- Reservations, tickets and other travel itineraries