Thinking of travelling abroad, either for a short trip or for a lengthier holiday? I put together an International Travel Packing Checklist to make it all easier for you. There are many things to consider when choosing to travel internationally and the first of those is, of course, your destination and why you are going there!
What is the climate like where you are going, will you be warm or cold? Are you travelling for business or leisure, or a bit of both? Does your destination have laws that are significantly different from those of your country?
What will you be doing at your destination? Skiing down breathtaking white slopes? Swimming with marine wildlife? Relaxing with a good book on a sandy beach? Exploring cities, or traversing natural habitats?
Whatever it is that you have planned, we have a comprehensive checklist here to make sure you're set to skip off into the sunset, stress-free.
Table of Contents
Picking your destination
There are a few things to consider when picking your destination. The most important one is safety. While most places are generally quite welcoming toward tourists, others might require you to take extra care when visiting or avoid visiting them altogether.
Usually, government pages offer comprehensive and concise information on what to expect when visiting a new country, and they include travel tips for safety and any events that you may want to look out for, such as local strikes.
In the UK, there is an entire section of the government website dedicated to foreign travel advice and it lists all the world's countries. These pages are updated regularly with practical travel information, and you can sign up to receive notifications about any status changes through your email. In these pages, you will find information about medical safety, for example, whether or not you should be getting any vaccines before you travel.
You should note that sometimes it can take months before you are up to date with all your vaccines, and as such if you are planning on travelling to exotic destinations, you should look into this sooner rather than later.
Getting your Visa
Additionally, here you will also find information on whether or not you need a visa to travel to your chosen destination. Again, it can take a long time for a visa to be processed and accepted so allow enough time to organise this.
When travelling abroad, it's always a good idea to take out comprehensive travel insurance. If you are an EU citizen, travelling within the EU, you are automatically covered for medical emergencies, however, lost luggage or delayed flights can also be covered by insurance.
If you are travelling overseas, especially to countries where accessing medical care can be difficult, always make sure to take out Travel Insurance. Good insurance can cover you for any unforeseen events and emergencies, potentially saving you from paying tens of thousands in medical bills.
Tickets & Accommodation
Once you have checked that it is safe to travel to your chosen destination and organised any potential vaccines and visas, the fun bit of organising commences. This includes booking your tickets, your accommodation, researching all the things that you would like to visit and see, starting your packing list and getting increasingly excited as the days roll by and your holiday approaches.
When booking your flights make sure you do so early on in order to avoid price hikes and disappointment. Sometimes, it is worth noting, that travelling with a stop, especially on long-haul flights, is cheaper, though this will add a few hours to your journey. The easiest way to search for flights is to look at comparative flight websites such as Skyscanner or Expedia, as they give you multiple flight options depending on your budget and the duration of your holiday.
Whilst you are organising your flight arrangements it is a good idea to begin your search for accommodation, as check-in times and availabilities for hotels and Airbnbs may influence what days you decide to travel on. As much of an adventurer as you may be, it is always a good idea to have your accommodation organised for at least the first few days of your time away.
Another aspect to consider when organising your flights and accommodation is any local holidays or traditions you should be aware of. Travelling during Christmas, Easter or the high season of your chosen destination, for example, will usually mean more expensive flights and accommodation. If, for example, you decide to travel to a country that observes Ramadan - an important Islamic tradition during which most Muslims undergo a period of fasting food and drink for the majority of the day - you may find that you are restricted in some of the things you may want to experience.
Researching local culture is not only important for your own planning but it is also an integral part of learning about the place you will be visiting. Travel is very much an activity that opens the mind, and to be respectful of a new country and its traditions is a vital component of the process and the fun of exploring a new place.
Safety, flights, accommodation, local events, vaccines and visas considered it is time to start thinking about what you will pack with you.
Picking your luggage
Depending on the duration of your holiday you might want to take different luggage with you. If you are travelling for anything up to a week, usually you will need a suitcase to check in alongside your carry-on. If you are travelling for less than a week, usually you will be okay with just a small cabin bag alongside your carry-on. Anything longer than a week and you might need a larger suitcase to check in or two suitcases. This is very much personal to you but here is a suitcase size guide for you.
There are many luggage options that you can pick from, and they all have their own sort of charm, some options you may want to consider:
- Suitcase with wheels, either 2 wheels or 4. If you opt for the 2 wheeled suitcases be prepared to have to wheel your suitcase behind you. If your suitcase is particularly heavy this may be a less suitable option. The 4 wheeled suitcase is a better option if your suitcase will be heavy as it will alleviate stress from your wrist and allow you to glide your bag more effortlessly.
- Duffel bags are the easy and effortless way to travel if you are travelling for a relatively short period of time. These are great for weekend getaways as you don't need to pack too much and you can sling them over your shoulder. One thing to watch with this is their weight when you overpack them as they can become uncomfortable to carry. More often than not, depending on the size, duffle bags can come on board the plane with you.
- Backpack, wheeled or otherwise. A wheeled backpack is particularly useful if you will be going through various types of terrain. A regular backpack is similar to the duffel bag, though maybe smaller in its capacity for packing.
- Cabin suitcases are the perfect option if you are travelling for anything up to 4 days. The cabin suitcase allows you to pack well but still take your luggage on board.
- Carry-on, the essentials bag. Everything you will need with you during your flight should be in here. Our suggestion is that you always have a carry-on, whether it is the only thing you have with you or you decide to couple it with another luggage option is a whole other story.
|Luggage Type||Length of Holiday|
|Large Suitcase||10+ days|
|Medium Suitcase||5-10 days|
|Duffel bag||3-5 days|
|Cabin suitcases||2-4 days|
Once you have picked the type of luggage that you want to use for all your things, it is time to start planning what you will pack! In this scenario, lists become your best friend. When packing several things it makes sense to create lists. Below we give you an idea of how you can do this.
International Travel Packing Checklist
Here is the perfect place to consider what kind of activities you will be undertaking whilst you are on holiday. For instance, if you plan on hiking then you should add hiking boots and a reusable water bottle to your list. If you plan on going out to nice restaurants with a dress code then you should add a nice suit or a dress to your list. If your holiday plan is to sit by the beach soaking up all the sunshine you can get, then you should add a swimsuit, sun cream and a great book to your list.
Clothes & Accessories
Our advice is to ‘pack for the occasion'. Similarly, check the weather in advance and pack accordingly. Ensure that you pack enough of each item and if you are low on space, consider if you really need that extra top or pair of jeans.
- Socks - if you are hiking wool socks are usually the better option
- Jewellery - depending on how valuable your jewellery is you may want to pack this in your carry-on bag
- Comfortable clothes such as tracksuits to relax in
- Rain jacket, windbreaker, umbrella
- Shoes comfortable for walking, heels, suit shoes, flip flops
- Scarf, bandana
- Clothes you can layer easily
- Towels - if you will be camping or you know your accommodation will not be providing any
Toiletries & Miscellaneous
Once your clothing and accessories checklist is ready, it is time to consider all the toiletries you may need, in this checklist we also included some medical products that you may want to consider taking with you depending on your travel destination:
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
- Perfume, cologne
- Face cream, eye cream
- Makeup remover
- Hairbrush, hair bands, bobby pins
- Shampoo and conditioner - sometimes your hotel will provide these too
- Soap - your hotel should have some also
- Shaving kit with extra razors
- Scissors, nail clippers, nail file, tweezers - these all have to be in your checked luggage for security reasons. If you want a nail file in your carry-on, make sure it is a paper one
- Hair products
- Sewing kit - sometimes your hotel will provide this
- Contact lenses and solution, prescription glasses - always a good idea to have some spare contact lenses with you in your carry-on
- Feminine hygiene products - opt for more eco-friendly options, such as organic cotton tampons/pads, a menstrual cup and/or reusable underwear, they are better for your body and less plastic waste for the planet to drown in
- Personal hygiene items
- Prescribed medication
- Copy of your prescription - some medicines are regulated differently in different countries
- First aid kit - it's always a good idea to have a small First Aid Kit on you
- Over the counter pain relief, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen - remember to take children's strength if you are travelling with children
- Allergy medicines
- Laxative, diarrhoea, stomach cramp medicines - particularly if you are travelling to places where you might be more sensitive to the spices used in the local cuisine
- Insect repellent
- Sunburn relief - aloe vera gel is an excellent and natural product
Essentials for your carry-on
Finally, with everything set for your checked luggage, it is time to consider all the essential items you may need in your carry-on. Note that we have included some toiletries here that we also mentioned above.
Often it is a good idea to have all the very essentials with you in case your suitcase takes a detour or gets lost. Whilst we hope this doesn't happen to anyone, it is sadly one of the perils that travellers do indeed face. A well-packed carry-on is important, especially during long-haul flights as it is your source of comfort and knowledge that no matter what, you are prepared for at least a night without the rest of your things.
- Documents - tickets, accommodation details, visa
- Cash (your currency & the currency of travel destination), cards
- iPad, Tablet
- Kindle or book
- Headphones - noise cancelling are usually better as flights can be quite loud
- Portable charger & cables - a good battery pack always comes handy
- Snacks and water
- Travel pillow - my memory foam travel pillow fits comfortably around my neck but is still firm enough to support it
- Sleeping mask
- Warm jumper
- Scarf - doubles up as a blanket
- Comfortable shoes and socks
- Compression socks or tights
- Toothbrush, toothpaste
- Sun cream, moisturiser
- Lip balm
- Vitamin C
- Spare contact lenses, prescription glasses
- Prescription medicines you may need + copy of your prescription
- Spare underwear
- A change of clothes
There are certain things you should organise before leaving in order to avoid having to deal with any issues or stress during your travels. After all, the entire point of travelling to a new destination whether for work or for leisure is to be present in that destination.
Firstly, how are you getting yourself to the airport? Have you planned a taxi, Uber, or car to pick you up and drop you off, or will you be using public transport? Either way, make sure you look ahead for any travel disruptions that may lead to you missing your flight, and plan for them in your travelling schedule.
Children & Pets
Making care arrangements for loved ones, such as your children (provided they are not travelling with you) or your pets is an important task as you want them to be safe and happy whilst you are away. If you are travelling without your children, where are they staying? Are they staying with their grandparents, are they sleeping over at their friend's house whose parents you know very well, or are they in boarding school? Either way, you want to make sure that your children know that you will be travelling for a while and that they are in a safe place. Make sure they know where you are staying, provide them with the hotel numbers and if you will be buying a local sim card at your destination make sure you have a way of sending them your direct number.
If on the other hand, it is your pet that you need to make arrangements for those arrangements will largely depend on the type of pet you have. For lower maintenance creatures such as fish and reptiles, you may just need to ask your neighbour to pop in daily to check on them, feed them and make sure they have enough water. If you have someone coming over to your house to check on your pets you can also ask them to water your plants!
If you have a cat, a dog or rodents such as hamsters, guinea pigs or bunnies then you may need to look into getting a sitter that can stay in your house whilst you are away. Alternatively, if you have a dog you could check him/her into a kennel whilst you are away, in other words, "doggie hotel". Make sure you do your homework about the kennel you are thinking of leaving your dog at, as sadly sometimes their conditions are not what you would hope them to be. It is wise to visit the kennel before committing to leaving your dog there. Occasionally another option includes asking friends or family to drop your pet(s) off with them. Try to pick someone that your pet already knows quite well so as to reduce the stress of moving them from your home (an environment they know well) to their carer's home (an environment they are not so familiar with).
Final Checklist before you go
Remember to set an out of office response for your work emails, that provides details of whether or not you can be contacted in the event of an emergency. If you cannot be contacted, then provide the details of someone who will be covering for you.
Prior to travelling it is important to tell your bank, especially if you are planning to use your debit and credit cards whilst travelling. If you make a purchase that the bank deems unusual they have the right to block your card in order to protect you from fraud, which while a great security measure is incredibly frustrating if you then have to spend a whole load of time and potentially money getting in touch with your bank from overseas to verify that, yes, it is actually you who is trying to make a purchase.
Finally, if you are leaving for longer than 4-7 days make sure that you have emptied your fridge of all the things that might potentially go off in your absence. If you are worried about wasting food you can always give it to your neighbour, drop it off at a food bank for the homeless, or depending on the type of food, you can also pop it in the freezer for later consumption.
With everything set and ready to go, all you need to do is enjoy your holiday that you have been looking forward to oh so much.