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’re going for business or pleasure, but the thought of how to pack may be a little more of a challenge.
Will you arrive at a hot, tropical island or straight into a chilly blizzard? Does the country have rules that govern 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’ll 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’ll 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 aren’t sure, fill up your suitcase with 60 pounds of anything – perhaps books. Weigh it to make sure you haven’t gone over or under the limit, 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. Are you reconsidering?
Choosing Your Luggage
No matter where you’re going or what you’ll 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, 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. Make sure it’s in good condition too. A zipper that won’t work or a wheel that breaks are 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 need to 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, light-weight duffle bag, which will carry everything you need. 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 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 day’s 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.
The Basic Items
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 is 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. Keep in mind this is only a suggestion!
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 lock.
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 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, and 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!