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How to Pack for Travel Abroad


The thought of getting to your destination is usually exciting and filled with all kinds of plans for how you will spend each day, whether you are going for business or pleasure. The thought of how to pack for travel abroad, however, maybe a little more of a challenge.

Will you arrive at a hot, tropical island or a chilly blizzard? Does the country have rules that govern the way the way you can dress when walking around their cities? These things will help you decide what to pack as well as how you can dress on board the plane.

You will also want to keep in mind the weight of your baggage. Is it going to be practical to have a suitcase that weighs 60 pounds when you will have to carry it around during your whole trip? You might need to lift it onto any trains or buses that take you from one city to the next.

If you think it would be no problem or if you are not sure, fill up the suitcase you will take on this trip with 60 pounds of anything, perhaps books. Weigh it to make sure you haven’t gone over the limit or under. Then take this piece of luggage with you to buy some things you need for your trip. Think about having to run to catch your train with that suitcase.

Choosing Your Luggage

No matter where you are going or what you will be doing, before you begin to pack, the first thing you should do is think about the best piece of luggage for this trip. If you will be walking a lot, ask yourself how you will feel by day 5 or day 15 if it is too heavy on day 1.

Pick the most versatile, most lightweight piece of luggage at your disposal. It will have to be big enough to carry what you need as well as any gifts and souvenirs you plan to bring back with you. Check to be sure it is in good condition, too. A zipper won’t work or a wheel that breaks are so frustrating and could force you to buy a new piece of luggage while you’re abroad. That’s not how you want to spend your shopping money.

Of course, you must check the airline size and weight restrictions before you think about buying luggage or packing. Most newer suitcases have wheels, so choosing rolling luggage is easy to find and easy to use. Some backpacks and duffle bags even have wheels so your options are almost endless.

If you are a well-seasoned traveler and quite used to carrying everything on your back, You may want to choose a sturdy, a light-weight duffle bag could be a good option for your main baggage. It will carry everything you need. Likewise, some people have learned to pack like professionals, using only backpacks to carry them through 3 months of travel. Both pieces of luggage are great options if you will be going a lot on foot.

Don’t forget your carry-on luggage. You will want something to hold your travel documents, any toiletry articles you will use, reading materials and so on. You may want to keep your wallet and any valuables or medication you’ll take with you in your carry on. There are so many little things that you will want to keep with you. This is a very important piece of luggage.

Make sure you check with all of the airlines for size and weight restrictions. Whether you decide to use a hard shell suitcase on wheels, or a leather or canvas bag you carry on your shoulders, you want to save yourself from paying over-sized or over-weight baggage fees.

Getting Yourself Organized

Before grabbing that first item to pack, think about where you’ll be going and what you plan to do on this trip. A good idea is to sit down and make a complete list of the different types of activities you will participate in while you are abroad.

Will you be traveling into a cold climate or one that is tropical? Will you be staying in one hotel over the course of several days or weeks, or will you visit several hostels? All of these will help you decide what you should pack.

If you are going on a hiking trip, packing will be relatively easy for you. But if you will be doing several types of activities, you will have to pack for a variety of occasions which your choice of clothing will have to reflect. Always keep in mind, though, that some hotels or hostels could keep the heat up high to compensate for the freezing temperatures outside, or keep their rooms a bit chilly during the hot summer season.

You will need to be very creative in the way you choose which items to pack. Pick clothes that can work in more than one setting. Ladies can, for instance, pack a simple dress that can be enhanced with a cardigan, a scarf and a nice pair of shoes. That dress could also be worn on a long days’ walking expedition with a pair of leggings and casual walking shoes.

To help with deciding what you can take, choose one main color scheme to work around. If you decide to go with blue, you should be able to mix and match everything, from sweaters to shoes, accessories to tank tops. Even though you will need to limit the number of items you take, you can create a lot of outfits by changing your tank top or adding a sweater,

You really want to take the least amount of clothing possible. For one thing, the less you take with you, the more room and weight allowance you will have to buy clothes and gifts to take back home. If you start off with less weight, your suitcase will be easier to manage throughout your trip.

Here is a list of things you should consider when packing. Everyone’s choices will be different, and women will have some different needs than men, but this list is full of good suggestions for everyone.

Now it’s time to start packing.

The Basic Items – Pack Lightly

The Clothing List

If the number of clothes seems too small, don’t forget that you will be wearing one set of clothing. Choose light-weight clothing that can be layered whenever you can.

2 shirts/blouses

2 t-shirts or tank tops – these can be worn under a sweater

2 sweaters

1 fleece jacket

2 pair pants

1-2 pair of shorts

1 belt

3 pair of socks (wool are the best for hiking)

1 pair of comfortable, well broken-in walking shoes

flip flops for the shower, if staying in a hostel

1 pair of dress shoes

pajamas, sleepwear

4-6 pair underwear

Sunglasses and glasses with a case

2 dresses or skirts

1 blazer and tie (for men)

Jewelry – carefully packed in a jewelry roll or cube


2 scarves

swimsuit or trunks

Lightweight rain jacket or windbreaker


At first glance, this might not seem like enough to take. You want to pack smart for this trip and the burden of over-packing may hit you by the time you get to the airport. However, this list is only a suggestion for you.

Pack Your Toiletries Bag

One thing you have to remember is that if you plan to keep your toiletries’ bag in your carry-on, which is a good idea, everything inside must be TSA-compliant. You must keep the following items in a 3.4 ounce or 100ml container: liquids, creams, pastes, aerosols or gels. These must be kept together in a 1-quart clear plastic bag that closes with a zip-top.

Many stores sell sturdy plastic bags with a couple of empty 3.4-ounce containers inside. Only one set is allowed per person. Click here to review the TSA guidelines. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/liquids-rule

Will you be staying abroad for an extended amount of time? Depending on your destination, you may want to purchase many of these products locally. That will help to keep your luggage lighter and you won’t need to consider the possibility that something might leak. If you will be packing larger bottles of anything that could spill out, make sure you pack them well, perhaps in plastic bags, surrounded by soft items in your suitcase.

The Toiletries Packing List

Remember not to over-pack and only bring the things that are essential.

Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash

Comb, hairbrush, hair pins, hair ties


Shampoo, conditioner

Soap/body wash

Sunscreen with SPF

Prescription medications in the original packaging. Bring a copy of the prescription in case you will need to have it refilled.

Makeup, makeup remover and wipes

Body lotion

Lip balm with SPF

Personal hygiene items

Feminine hygiene products

Extra contact lenses, solution and case

Glasses, sunglasses and case

A few other items you might need

Razor, shaving kit, extra razor blades


Small packet of detergent and a portable clothesline

Emergency kit

Hair gel, hairspray, beard oil

Stain remover, sewing kit

Nail clippers, tweezers, scissors (these items must go in your checked in baggage)


Duct tape (You will never know if or when you will need this, but it can be one of the most important things you pack.)

First Aid Kit

Only consider bringing these items if they are truly necessary. Your hotel will have them, or if you’re traveling with others, plan to have one or two people who bring along a first-aid kit for the whole group.

If you were to buy even a small but a fully stocked first-aid kit, that will take care of most of your needs. Again, many countries will have these items, such as cough drops, eye drops or other over-the-counter medications. Before you depart, do a bit of research on your country of destination(s) and check out the type of things you can expect to find in one of their drug stores.

The First-Aid Kit List

First Aid kit with gauze, band-aids, etc.

personal prescriptions

a thermometer


allergy medication

laxatives and diarrhea medicines

Sunburn relief

insect repellent

eye drops

cold medications, cough drops

hand sanitizer

water purification tablets

children’s strength aspirin and other pain relief medication

Utilize Your Carry-on Bag

This may be the most important bag you take with you. Your carry-on bag will contain a lot of things that you really cannot do without. Try your best to create your own system to keep it organized. Every time you pass through customs, you will probably need to produce your travel documents and identification, which will most often be your passport. You will be able to move quickly through the line if you always know where it is located in your bag.

A backpack could be a very good choice for your carry-on for the simple reason that you will be able to move hands-free through the airport or other terminals. If you are concerned about safety, you can wear most models on the front of your body instead of your shoulders. Either way, make sure your most valuable items would be hard for a pick-pocket to find.

The Carry-on List

Passport, visa, airline or travel tickets, boarding pass

Toiletries bag with 3.4ounce sized containers

Cell phone and charger

Laptop, tablet or notebook with their chargers

Kindle, if you have one, instead of heavy books

Magazines or other reading material

Jewelry, especially if it is valuable or sentimental

An extra set of clothing and underwear in case your luggage arrives a day late

A few snacks for the trip

It would be a good idea to use a small luggage lock for any type of carry-on you choose. You can keep all of your important items safe and keep thieves from considering a rummage through your bag.

Don’t wait to pack

Don’t put off packing until the night before your departure. Give yourself plenty of time to go through your lists. You can think and re-think what you want to take with you and what you need to have. Try to be finished one or two days before you leave so you will be able to have a good night of sleep.


There can be so many things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about how to pack for travel abroad. You must know the airline and TSA regulations. Checking on any necessary information about your travel destination before you leave is always important. When you keep these things in mind when you’re organizing your trip and your luggage, it will help to make your trip seamless and full of fun. Plan well, pack well, and we wish you a very pleasant journey!