International jetsetters know more than anyone how much care and strategic planning go into crafting the perfect faraway getaway. From researching destinations to finding bucket list worthy activities at every stop, preparing for an international trip takes diligence. But even the most experienced traveler may forget to optimize the most essential step of the process: packing.
Knowing how to pack for international travel is a crucial, and often underestimated skill. Whether it’s your first time flying over international waters or you hit the tarmac every month, sharpening your skills is an excellent way to develop a packing routine and avoid pre-travel stress. We’ve compiled a list of essential and easy-to-follow steps to help make packing for your next international journey a success.
Research the Airline and Country of Destination
For some international travelers, cultural assimilation begins right at the airport. To ensure there aren’t any surprises, research the regulations, rules and restrictions of your airline and country (or countries) of destination ahead of time. If you’re flying on an international airline, be sure to review their baggage policy and weight restrictions before booking, since there’s a good chance their policy may differ from what you’d expect from a domestic carrier. Once you have a solid understanding of the regulations, you can select the right size luggage to take with you.
In addition, don’t forget to investigate whether or not you’ll need a visa for your upcoming stay. Depending on the destination, you may need a few months to secure proper documentation before your trip. Lastly, make sure to read up on what type of outlets the country so you can purchase and pack the right converters for your phone, laptop, and other electronic devices. If you’re unsure about what to expect when you arrive, this universal charger will keep your devices fully charged in over 160 countries.
Organize Your Documentation
For most travelers, journeying abroad requires more documentation. Whether your trip requires a visa or a complicated itinerary, it’s a smart idea to keep everything secure in a large folder, or if you have a large quantity of documents to carry, this expanding file carrier. Get into the habit of making two copies of each your identification documents, like passports, IDs, or credit cards. Keep one copy with a friend or family member back home, and take the other copy with you in the document sleeve or file carrier. If any of your personal items are stolen during your trip, you’ll have back-ups ready to save the day. Plus, keep electronic copies on hand for extra back-up.
Exchange Local Currency for Cash
Before you hop on the plane, experts agree that it’s a good idea to exchange money for petty cash in the currency of your final destination. First, decide how much petty cash you feel comfortable carrying around. Next, do a little bit of research to find the best exchange rates in your hometown. Know that it’s easier to exchange your money before arriving at your destination (especially if there’s a language barrier upon arrival), and that you’re more likely to find competitive rates in town, rather than at the airport.
Invest in a Travel Wallet
The last thing you want to worry about while on vacation is security. Unfortunately, today’s thieves have better technology than ever before, making it easier to scan and copy vulnerable information without ever touching your belongings. To keep your mind at ease, invest in a travel wallet like this one by Leatherology. Its flexible compartments enable you to organize important items like your ID, credit cards, and petty cash.
Bring a Small, Soft-Sided Carry-On
Packing a larger checked bag for international trips is the easiest way to ensure you have room for everything you need. But when it comes to versatility, the right carry-on is key. Select a small, expandable bag that can serve as a day pack, purse and in-flight necessities carrier. If it’s soft-sided, it will also fold up and pack nicely in your checked bag when you don’t need to carry it around. This soft, but durable over-the-shoulder overnight bag from Cuyana is a great option for carrying your in-flight items and serving as a purse or day bag when you arrive at your destination. For the more serious day-trekkers, try any of the Herschel Travel Backpacks, or the Packable Backpack from Everlane whose travel-friendly nylon material enables it to fold into its own front pocket.
Stay Prepared with a Ready-To-Go First Aid Kit
No one likes thinking about the worst-case scenarios when planning a trip abroad. And while emergencies are rare, you’ll never regret being prepared. When you’re traveling to a new place, especially one that may speak a different language and have unfamiliar customs, it’s a good idea to bring along an emergency first aid kit, just in case. Whether you need a quick bandage or emergency medication, having a pack of resources at-the-go will save you time and stress, if and when you need it. One traveler favorite is the Preppi First-Aid Kit, which comes in a waterproof case and has all of the first aid essentials, from bandages and gauze to iodine wipes and burn cream. A smaller but similarly well-equipped option is the Swiss Safe 2-in-1 Kit, which includes stainless steel trauma shears, an instant ice pack and a CPR mask. Whichever kit you choose, or if you build your own from scratch, just make sure to pack it away in your checked bag, as most first aid kits come with items unsuitable for carry-on travel.
Pack a Dry Bag for Dirty Laundry or Swimsuits
Once you start using a dry bag, you’ll wonder how you ever traveled without it. Perfect for placing dirty laundry, wet clothing, or protecting your valuables from splashes, spills and unruly weather, the dry bag is the number one best kept secret among practiced travelers. If you know you’ll be without a washing machine, sailing, swimming, or going on a particularly messy adventure during your travels, bring a couple of dry bags along for the journey. Our favorite dry bag is made by the Aloha Collection, whose bags come in a variety of sizes, shapes and designs.
Leave Room for Souvenirs and Gifts
It’s easy to forget about your return journey when planning for a big trip, but you don’t want to be caught off-guard and realize that there’s no more room for the gifts, souvenirs and new belongings you’ve acquired along the way. To avoid purchasing the “I just need the extra room” suitcase at the airport, plan to save a third of your checked bag space for new items on the trip back. This will also help you prioritize what’s essential, and what can stay behind.