Travelling somewhere nice and looking to create the ultimate travel packing list? Let's be honest, preparing for your travels can be overwhelming. It's never as simple as throwing a few items in a bag and heading to the airport with your passport in hand. This is where the ultimate travel packing list comes to the rescue. Thinking about baggage weight, adapters, currency, immunisations? We got you covered.
With ample time and a few simple strategies, the process of preparing for your travels can be pain-free. In fact, according to a series of studies, planning a holiday can deliver a dose of happiness. We can maximise this pre-trip glee by fully immersing ourselves in the excitement of planning. Which is what I'm here to help you do.
I've created this travel packing list to help you pack well, every time. Instead of creating a conclusive travel packing list, I've suggested a framework that can be adapted to your travel style.
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Our ultimate travel packing list for beginner and advanced travellers - Contents
Ultimate Travel Packing List
It all begins with a solid travel packing checklist. A good travel checklist should be broken down into sublists and include a 7 day packing timeline. While 7 days sounds a little excessive, it will give you plenty of time to make sure your holiday gear is in good shape and stock up on any missing toiletries. Let's start by breaking our checklist into the following categories…
- Pick the perfect luggage
- Clothing & shoes (daywear, evening, swimwear and underwear)
- Bags & Accessories
- Pack your toiletries bag
- Organise your electronics
- Organise your travel Documents
- Travel Immunisations and other health considerations
- Prepare your home for travel
- Prepare your carry-on luggage
Pick the perfect luggage
The first thing you need to tick off your travel packing list is finding the perfect luggage. Anyone who has lugged a wheeled suitcase down a dirt track to a hostel, or arrived at an uber-luxury resort with a scruffy backpack in tow, knows that choosing the right luggage is essential to enjoying a hassle-free vacation. Here's how to choose luggage that's right for you.
- Traditional Suitcases win for their ease, sturdiness and security, and are usually the preferred option for those travelling to just one destination as opposed to moving between different accommodations. Suitcases will not only keep your clothes organised and (almost) wrinkle-free, but opt for an expandable suitcase and you'll have no excuse not to shop for souvenirs (guilty!).
Best for: Resort-based holidays, road trip adventures and formal affairs such as weddings or business trips.
Our recommendation: Stylish yet large Samsonite Winfield Luggage
- Carry-on luggage is small, trusty and always in sight. If you want to avoid being weighed down by heavy bags and dealing with expensive baggage fees, this might be the right option for you. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a bag no larger than 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches and carry max. 100 ml bottles to avoid your favourite toiletries being confiscated by security.
Best for: Long weekenders or business trips
Our recommendation: Rockland Carry-on Luggage
- A Duffel is the kind of bag you need on standby for one of those out-of-the-blue weekend getaways. The pliability of a duffel bag makes it big enough to fit all your travel essentials, yet compact enough to squeeze into small spaces. Many modern duffels have handy features including wheels, back straps or a retractable handle for easy transportation.
Best for: Travelling short distances or enjoying a long weekend away.
Our recommendation: CAMTOP Weekend Travel Bag
- Backpacks are trusted travel companions for the adventurous traveller. Lightweight and less conspicuous than a clattering suitcase, - backpacks are designed to withstand the most demanding travel days, allowing hands-free travel and ease of movement, without sacrificing space.
Best for: Outdoor enthusiasts or adventure travellers.
Our recommendation: TETON Sports Explorer 65 L
Organise Your Belongings
Having your luggage organised eases the stress of travelling and saves you the hassle of rummaging through every corner of your case to track down the items you need. A good travel packing list and some nifty space-saving tips will keep you and your travel items organised.
- Cube your clothes. Gone are the days of desperately rifling through your chaotic case to find your favourite bikini before the sun goes down. On arrival to your hotel, you can simply move the cubes directly into the drawers of your hotel's dresser and you're all set. When shopping for a set of packing cubes, there are a few things to consider. Most cubes are made from lightweight nylon, making them durable and easy to wash. Some have mesh pouches, too, perfect for separating dirty laundry with clean clothes (which means we can finally lose the plastic bag!). I recently purchased Gonex Compression packing cubes, which do a great job of keeping wrinkles to a minimum.
- Roll, don't fold. To maximise your space and stop creasing, roll your clothes before placing them in compression packs.
- Prevent Stains. Pack your light coloured clothes inside out. Covering your footwear with shoe bags or shower caps will keep your smelly shoes from touching your clean clothes.
- Stay fresh. Tuck some dryer sheets into the top and bottom of your luggage to keep your clothes smelling laundry-fresh throughout your trip.
- Separate your toiletries. Imagine arriving at your travel destination ready to rock your brand new holiday wardrobe, only to discover a gooey pile of clothes. It's not fun, trust me. A good toiletry bag, with separate compartments, will protect your items from spills and make accessing your items easier. Read more about organising your travel toiletries in the following section.
- Separate your tech. Techy items and accessories are our most expensive travel items, yet they often get buried at the bottom of our bags, making them inaccessible and vulnerable to damage. A good electronics bag, with padded compartments and a waterproof exterior, is the most effective way to ensure your tech survives the trip.
Organise your travel toiletry bag
Let's be honest, organising your travel toiletry bag can feel a bit like trying to solve the Rubik's Cube. The perfect toiletry bag should be spacious, practical, durable and thoughtfully designed to fit all of your toiletry essentials.
If you're an organised traveller like me, the hanging toiletry bag with multiple compartments and pockets is your new best friend. And with a built-in hook, you can simply hang it the bathroom door for easy access. Hanging toiletry bags come in all different sizes. If you're a heavy packer or travelling with your partner, this extra large hanging bag is a great option. Or for something smaller, this stylish bag offers a simple, yet smart design.
Now, toiletries are personal. Some are happy to travel with just a toothbrush, while others wouldn't dare to hit the road without a full supply of moisturisers, mud scrubs and makeup for every occasion. My rule of thumb is to pack toiletries that I use daily. Nothing else. My basic toiletry packing list includes:
- Refillable travel bottles (Shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash)
- Dry Shampoo
- Facial moisturiser
- Face wipes
- A razor and refills
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
- Birth control (if you take it)
- Daily Contact lenses (no need to pack solution)
Top Tip: Instead of forking out a small fortune on mini toiletries, purchase a pack of travel-size bottles online and fill them with your favourite products. It will save you standing in the travel aisle trying to find an alternative for your go-to shampoo!
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Pick your Travel Tech
I know the drill: you love the idea of disconnecting on your travels, yet the pressure of work emails and social media are just too much to bear. The good news is, tech doesn't have to be a distraction. Adding the right travel gadgets to your packing list will only enhance your experiences, helping you travel smarter, safer and farther.
- Camera + Memory Card: Whether you're a budding pro or an amateur photographer, you'll want a camera that matches your level of experience and budget. If you are new to the photography game, perhaps opt for a lightweight and pocket-friendly Compact Digital Camera. For more advanced photographers, a Mirrorless Camera boasts an interchangeable lens without the weight of a DSLR.
- Smartphone. Large enough to binge watch your favourite TV shows, yet small enough to slide into the pocket of your chinos, smartphones are a great space-saving alternative to travelling with an iPad. We recommend the iPhone XS for its great camera.
- Headphones. Whether it's the snoring passenger on your right or the screaming (but cute) baby on your left, high-quality headphones are key to enjoying a peaceful journey. Bose's QuietComfort headphones don't come cheap, but if you really want to enjoy uninterrupted music and entertainment - these beauties are worth their price tag.
- Universal travel adapter. Forget spending a small fortune on a single adapter at the airport or carrying a different travel adapter for each country you visit. Universal travel adapters are the way to go.
- Travel Speakers. Relaxing by the pool, listening to your summer soundtrack is one of life's greatest pleasures, and in this wireless age of Bluetooth speakers, it's easy to take your tunes on the road. The first thing to consider when purchasing travel speakers is solid sound quality, but they should also be portable, waterproof and have healthy battery life.
- Power bank. Okay, so it's not sexy, but the portable power bank has become an essential accessory in my life, especially when I'm on the road. With a full power bank, you can travel safely in the knowledge that your phone will be ready to assist you on arrival. Larger packs can recharge your phone 4-6 times and your iPad 1-2 times. While there are a number of affordable power banks on the market, the Anker PowerCore is my top pick.
- Drone. What, a drone isn't a travel essential? Sure, it might not be for everyone, but if you're hot on your Instagram game, a travel drone will take your photography to new heights. You can pick up a decent travel drone on Amazon, but if you are after outstanding image quality, I recommend the DJI Mavic Air fly more pack to get extras for your money.
- Backpack for all your tech. It is a good idea to have a separate backpack for your tech. Nicely padded pockets for your camera, drone, phone, iPad, cables, batteries, etc. This bag can also contain your travel documents and other essentials as it will be with you on the plane.
Our recommendation: Thule Aspect Backpack
Quick Tip: Remember to always pack batteries and battery pack in your carry-on as most airlines do not allow them in your checked in luggage.
Tips for Healthy Travels
You've spent months gearing up for this exotic getaway. Now's not the time to let a stomach gripe, sleep deprivation or dehydration get between you and that beachside mojito. Yes, exotic foods, new climates and jet lag can play havoc with your health. So, the next time you prepare for a trip, keep these tips in mind for staying healthy on the go.
- Stay hydrated. Travelling by airplane can leave you feeling dehydrated before you've even arrived at your sun-soaked destination. Drinking more water means frequent bathroom stops, but it will also help your body beat jet lag and muscle fatigue. For me, Pocari Sweat is a great way to stay hydrated and recover from a long flight.
- Protect yourself against the sun. Sunburn and more severe sunstroke can have serious effects on your health and your holiday. Slather up before you expose yourself to the sun, retreat to the shade regularly throughout the day, and pack a hat and shades for day trips and hikes.
Tip: Pack a bottle of after sun cream in case you get burnt.
- Workout when you can. Healthy habits don't have to die on holiday. Make your workouts work for you and be resourceful. Hike or bike a mountain trail, rise early for beach yoga or complete a quick floor session in your hotel room. Remember, if you get to a location early, you can also avoid the crowds and take that perfect picture before anyone else.
- Pack a first aid kit. A basic travel health kit should include plasters, bandage tape, scissors, antiseptic and painkillers (to soothe your head after too many of those beachside mojitos).
- Stomach Settlers. We're all familiar with this one. Yep, stomach gripes are one of the most common health issues when travelling. Plenty of water, fibre-rich fruits and vegetables and exercise can all help relieve symptoms. If all else fails, pack a good stash of Settlers for the road.
I hear you - no one likes having a needle jabbed in their arm. But a 30-minute trip to your doctor could help protect you from serious diseases. Take proper precautions and you'll feel better about saying "yes” to adventurous activities while travelling.
Some vaccinations can take up to a month to complete so start thinking about your travel health 3-6 months prior to your departure date. Some countries require proof of vaccination for yellow fever or polio. You can visit the UK's "NHS Fit For Travel” website to learn which travel vaccinations are required for each country, and the "Malaria Hotspots” site to see if malaria protection is required in the countries you're travelling to.
While these sites are a great starting point, I highly recommend checking in with your doctor for expert medical advice. If there's one thing you don't want to neglect in the midst of preparing for your travels, it's your health.
It is often overlooked, travel insurance can literally save your life while abroad. Accidents happen and you don't want to be unprepared. For a 1 week holiday, depending on your destination, you can expect to pay around $20-$50 which is nothing compared to the thousands of health care fees you could pay if you have no insurance.
Check with your bank or Credit Card company if you are already covered. Alternatively, take out comprehensive cover via World Nomads, our preferred insurance partner.
Research your travel destination
Researching your travel destination not only helps you maximise your trip, but it also gives you important insight into the country that you're travelling to. And in today's digital world, we have instant access to research tools including Google Maps, Google Street View, YouTube, Facebook and insightful travel blogs (ahem, You Could Travel) - all at the push of a button.
So, what are the key things to research before you travel?
- Holiday Activities. Much of my travel inspiration comes from Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest or travel blogs, but it's also helpful to search Google for "Top 10 things to do in X” or "One week in X.” Check out forums like travel/r on Reddit where you can ask like-minded travellers questions about your destination, or for reviews on the top hotels, restaurants and activities, TripAdvisor is also a great tool.
- Ease of travel. Have you checked out the public transport system or downloaded Uber? It's a good idea to check how to get from the airport to your hotel in advance.
- Climate. Checking the weather forecast can guide your packing strategy and your itinerary. Don't let a rainy day dampen your excitement. Instead, book into the spa or plan a visit to your favourite museum.
- Currency. You'll want to have some local currency in your pocket when you arrive at your destination, but it's also wise to research exchange rates and ATM availability near your hotel.
- Visa Requirements. While not every country requires a visa, those that do vary in process and price, with some visas requiring an in-person appointment. So, when should you start researching visa requirements? Honestly. As soon as a destination is on your radar.
- Local customs. As a responsible traveller, I make it my mission to respect the local customs and laws of the destinations I travel to. Researching the local customs allows me to travel confidently and avoid offending anyone.
- Local Lingo. Attempting the local language can be daunting (and in my case, often embarrassing), yet it's common courtesy to at least learn the basics of the country you are visiting.
How to organise your travel documents
Sure, there are a number of nifty travel apps that promise to replace paper documents. But what happens when your phone battery runs flat or there's limited signal? Relying solely on digitised documents can wreak havoc with your travel plans. You can even get a fabulous travel organiser to keep everything neatly together.
Here are a few tips for organising your travel docs for a stress-free getaway:
- Passport & Visas. Your first task: check the expiration date on your passport. Remember, you'll need at least 6 months to travel. Once you're happy you're covered, print out several copies. And since passports and visas are your most important travel documents, they deserve their own sleeve in your travel wallet.
- Travel & Hotel Documents. Next, organise your printed docs in the order in which you'll need them, starting with printed boarding passes followed by train tickets, car hire vouchers, hotel confirmations and ground transportation.
- Special Docs. Recently married? Don't forget a copy of your marriage certificate - you might need this for those all important upgrades and special touches! Other special documents may include copies of birth certificates (if your child has a different surname) and driving licence certificates (if you're hiring a car overseas).
- Non-essential docs. Contact numbers for airlines, tour operators, credit card companies, and any coupons or restaurant reservations should be filed away at the back of your travel wallet.
Packing tips for your carry-on luggage
The big question: How do you pack a carry-on to meet the requirements of airport security and the airlines, make sure important items are easily accessible, and remember to pack all the accessories for a comfortable flight? The list below will help you organise your carry-on better.
- Luggage size. Let's start with the basics. Does your carry-on luggage meet the size restrictions of the airline? There is no TSA carry-on size. Instead, each airline has its own rules about carry-on baggage size which is detailed on each carrier's website.
- Gels & Liquids. Make sure gels and liquids are 100ml or less. I travel frequently, yet I still find myself surrendering my favourite face wash at airport security. It's an expensive mistake to make and it is usually the result of throwing items into your carry on luggage at an ungodly hour of the morning. Prepare your toiletries the night before you travel, placing them in a single clear ziplock bag and slotting them into an easily accessible pocket. And don't forget the refillable bottles at home!
- Prohibited items. It sounds obvious, but avoid packing your favourite swiss knife in your carry-on. Other prohibited items include firearms, explosives, baseball bats or any other sharp items that could be considered a weapon. Be sure to check the security restrictions of the country you're travelling to and from before you leave for the airport.
- Batteries & battery packs. Most airlines prohibit batteries in checked-in luggage. Always ensure that all batteries are places in your carry-on to avoid delays at the airport.
- Comfort and wellness essentials. An Inflatable pillow, earplugs (noise cancelling headphones) and a trusty eye mask are all items that I never travel without. Other essentials, like a refillable water bottle, travel moisturiser, face wipes and eye drop solution help minimize the effects of flying and leave you feeling refreshed on arrival.
- Entertainment. I like to keep it old school and travel with a real book (yes, I'm a dinosaur). That said, headphones are a must for when the lights go dim and the disgruntled baby next to you Just. Won't. Stop. Crying.
- Helpful items. A power bank will help you stay charged from departure to destination. And pack a pen to avoid scrambling around at the arrivals desk.
How to prepare your home before you travel
Nothing ruins a relaxing holiday like returning to a smelly fridge, a huge electricity bill, or worse, a burst pipe. Here are a few simple hacks that will prepare and protect your home, so you can rest easy while you're away.
- Unplug electronics. Unplug anything that doesn't need power while you're away, including TVs, laptop chargers and lamps. It will save energy and reduce the risk of fire. And while you're at it, check the batteries in your smoke detector.
- Adjust your thermostat. Turning down the heating to a low temperature can help saving the planet and your bank account.
- Set your lights on timers. Remember the scene from Home Alone when Kevin creates a party scene in the window? Ok, you don't need to go that far, but you can make your home less conspicuous by investing in a timer for your lights.
- Clean the house. I know - an arduous task when you're already in holiday mode. But there's nothing like coming home to a tidy house. Clean out the refrigerator, take out the rubbish, run the dishwasher and put away any laundry.
- Give your plants some TLC. Now's the time to befriend your neighbour with a freshly baked cake in exchange for the watering of your plants while you're out of town.
- Lock up. As you leave, make sure ALL the doors and windows are locked. If you're anything like me, you'll check, and then check again.
My final advice?
One final piece of advice: pack a positive attitude. Preparing for your travels can be pain-free, and dare I say, fun! Revel in the anticipation and the FOMO you're about to cause on social media. Happy packing!