Heading out on a trip soon? Exciting! Packing is both equally exciting and stressful. We thought we'd put together a short list of the bare essentials.
If you're busy getting started, download the packing checklist here that coincides with the information in the article!
International Travel Checklist
- PASSPORT -
Let's just dust that off and throw it on the bed now so it is not forgotten. You may want to figure out a set place you are storing this in your bag. Don't be that guy spilling his underwear all over the airport terminal floor looking for his passport. Also, make sure that you're passport has plenty of blank pages and that it won't expire within 6 months of the end of your trip. Some countries will not permit you entry if your passport expires in 6 months.
- VISA INFO -
Have you triple checked the visa information for the country you are entering? Check the internets and be specific regarding your nationality and your intended destination. Then, double check your government's Visa website. You might just be stamped on the way in, need to purchase a visa when you arrive at customs or need to set something up in your home country before you even board your flight. It all depends on what country you are from and which country you are entering.
- PROOF OF ONWARD TRAVEL -
Read up on regulations regarding the need to show proof you have a ticket out of the country. Unfortunately, in my experience this is an incredibly grey area. Countries that say the require it typically never check and occasionally out of the blue you may be stopped before you can even check in to your flight. If it's possible, its best to have it but if not, just be mentally prepared for a quick flight purchase in the airport line. Purchasing proof of onward travel while trying to catch a flight is a stressful and expensive experience.
how to pack?
Instead of listing items in order of category... toiletries, undies, casual wear, formal wear, shoes, etc., let's organize by importance. That way you'll be sure not to overpack and once your bag is getting full it will be easier to make tough decisions about what stays home.
step 1: start with essential itmes
- UNDIES -
Never more than 5. If you'll be gone for longer than 5 days... laundry day!
- PERSONAL ESSENTIALS -
Contacts/Glasses, Medication, Make-up, Deoderant, Toothbrush
- ONE QUINTESSENTIAL OUTFIT -
Are you backpacking Europe? On vacation in Bali? Heading to a business conference? Take the time and make your ideal outfit from the bottom up. This is your base. Plan on wearing this on days you "don't know what to wear". It's your default and your go-to; something you'd be happy to wear in a picture. This outfit includes
- Shoes (and possibly socks)
- ELECTRONICS -
Cell Phone, Charger, Laptop, Kindle, iPad, whatever is coming with you, pull it aside. Match up a charging cord with each device.
- WALLET -
- Drivers License, Money, Credit Card, Charles Schwab Debit Card (Because you literally should only have that debit card)
- Leave them at home: Library Cards, Gift Cards, Rewards Cards, receipts from two years ago...
- International Drivers Permit
STEP 2: ADD 2ND TIER ESSENTIALS
Great! Now you have the essentials. You can officially "survive" at your destination. If you want to do a little experiment, pop your essentials into your luggage and carry on bag and see where you're at. It's incredible how quickly your essentials start to fill up your bag.
- CLOTHING -
You have one outfit already (above). Are you planning on wearing this on the plane? If not:
- ADD TRAVEL OUTFIT HERE - Maybe you're adding a different shirt/pants/shoes? All three?
Add this to your growing luggage/backpack/carry on to see how you're doing on space. Extra space points if you're planning on wearing your "Essentials" outfit on the plane!
- SHOES -
I always recommend wearing your biggest/heaviest shoes on the plane so that you don't have to carry them with you or make room for them in your luggage. Are you bringing tennis shoes to exercise in? A big pair of leather boots? Since shoes take up so much space it's best to add these early.
- ADD ADDITIONAL SHOES IF NEEDED HERE -
STEP 3: PRIORITIZE
Most definitely you do not feel like you're ready to board the plane yet - I hear you. But if you look at the items in your bag so far: essential toiletries, undies, 1 solid outfit, something to wear as you arrive, essential shoes and required items in your handbag: passport, wallet, etc. Now it will be that much easier to "begin to pack".
With your remaining space you can now prioritize items to help create full outfits. Typically tops (men & women) are smaller than bottoms and are quicker to be stinkier!
- THROW IN ANOTHER SHIRT -
Always always leave space in your bag. I don't like when I read advice that says "leave space for souvenirs". That always makes me picture a big luggage bag full of key chains and mickey mouse hats BUT you'd be surprised how inclined you'll be to buy when you arrive because you inevitable forgot something or the weather was different than you expected.
Extra space IS GOOD, however, because 1. it always seems like you acquire more things when you're packing to leave (even if you have the same amount of items) and 2. you don't want to limit yourself with your own space! You might see a shirt you want to buy, a scarf, a cheap pair of sunglasses from Thailand.... no matter whether you're a "shopper" or not, being in a new destination always opens up more window-shopping time than you get-in at home.
Enjoy your trip and continue planning with these other resources: