Packing for international travel can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the destination’s climate and culture. Even if you manage to bring everything you need, you could end up overpacking and lugging around a heavy suitcase.
To help make your packing experience easier, we’ve put together a comprehensive international travel packing checklist. Just remember to adjust the items on this list based on any specific requirements for your destination and the length of your stay.
The 9 Essentials That Should Always Be On Your International Travel Packing List
- Identification documents: passport, ID card, driver’s license, documents for your children, etc.
- Country-specific documents: visa, vaccination certificate, health forms
- Travel documents: boarding pass, booking confirmations, travel insurance
- Cash: local currency
- Medication: essential over-the-counter and prescription
- Clothing: enough to cover your whole stay
- Extreme weather gear: sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, rain jacket, cold-weather boots, etc.
- A bag of essential toiletries: shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant
- Electronics gear: country-specific adapters and chargers for your phone, tablet, laptop, etc.
Our Ultimate International Travel Packing Checklist for Men and Women
To download a condensed, free PDF version of our ultimate international travel packing list, click here.
Some Other Items That You Might Need When Traveling With Toddlers and Young Children
When traveling alone or as an adult couple, it’s generally possible to get by with the essentials. However, if you’re traveling with toddlers or young children, there are a few additional items that you should consider bringing.
- Baby food & formula
- Baby monitor
- Diapers and disposable diaper bags
- Toys & books
- Travel crib
Toiletries in Your Hand Luggage Must Follow the 3-1-1 Rule
If you’re bringing your own toiletries in your hand luggage, be sure to follow the 3-1-1 rule. This means your toiletry bag must contain no more than 3.4oz (100ml) containers, must be sealed in a 1-quart (1L) clear, plastic, zip-top bag, and each passenger can only bring one bag. This rule applies to liquids, gels, pastes, creams, and aerosols.
The Rules for Traveling With Electronics
The rules for traveling with electronics depend on the airline, country, and airport that you’re flying to and from.
When traveling to or from the U.S., for example, you should be aware of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) rules for electronics. These rules require that all electronics larger than a smartphone must be taken out of your carry-on bag and placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. This includes laptops, tablets, and e-readers.
It’s also important to note that some countries have restrictions on the type of electronics that you can bring into the country. For example, many countries, including China and Brazil, prohibit the import of certain electronics, like iPhones and iPads, and require you to declare these upon arrival.
Certain countries have restrictions around lithium batteries as well. This means you won‘t be able to bring batteries with more than 100 watt–hours in your carry–on or checked luggage. To check the watt–hours of your batteries, check the label on the battery or the device itself.
Finally, you should be aware that some countries, such as South Africa and India, require you to register your laptop and other electronic devices with customs when you arrive. This is due to the increasing number of laptop thefts and other electronics–related crimes in those countries.
Unfortunately, there is no one–size–fits–all answer when it comes to traveling with electronics, so make sure to do your research before you go.
Don’t Forget the Size and Weight Restrictions for Your Baggage
- Must not be larger than 17 x 10 x 9 inches (43 x 25 x 23 cm)
- Cannot exceed 17 lbs (8kg) when combined with the weight of your carry-on
- Must not be larger than 22 x 14 x 9 inches (55 x 35 x 23 cm)
- Cannot exceed 22 lbs (10kg)
- Must not be larger than 62 linear inches (157 cm)
- Cannot exceed 50 lbs (23kg)
No matter what size or weight restrictions you have, it’s important to make sure you pack smartly and efficiently. To do this, try to use packing cubes and consider rolling your clothes instead of folding them. This will help you maximize the amount of space in your luggage, so you can bring all the essentials without having to worry about the size or weight limits.
Which Items You’ll Need to Remove When Going Through Security
When you’re getting ready to go through security, there are a few items that you’ll need to remove from your carry-on bag and person. These include:
- Laptops and tablets
- All electronics larger than a smartphone
- Metal jewelry
- All liquids, gels, and aerosols
- Belts and other accessories
If you have any food items in your carry-on, you may also be asked to remove them for inspection.
It’s also important to note that some countries, such as the U.S., require you to remove your laptop, tablet, and other electronics from your bag even if you’re not checking them through security.
Which Items You Should Pack In Your Personal Item, Carry-On, and Checked Luggage
When traveling, it’s important to know which items you should pack in each type of luggage, as this will help you stay organized and minimize the amount of time you spend at the security checkpoint. Here is a quick breakdown of what should go in your personal item, carry-on, and checked luggage:
- Travel documents
As a general rule, it’s best to keep all valuables, medications, and important documents with you in your personal item and carry-on. This will ensure that you always have access to these items and that they remain safe.
Which Items You’re Allowed to Take for Free in Addition to Hand Luggage
When traveling, you’re usually allowed to take a few items for free in addition to your hand luggage. This typically includes a personal item, such as a laptop bag, a purse, or a briefcase, as well as a jacket or coat.
However, some airlines may limit the number of items you can bring for free, so it’s best to check your airline’s policy before you travel.
Tips on How to Save Space When Packing for an International Vacation
Packing for an international trip can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to end up overpacking or lugging around a heavy suitcase. To make your packing experience easier, here are a few tips on how to save space when packing for an international vacation:
1. Roll Your Clothes
Rolling your clothes instead of folding them can help you save a lot of space in your suitcase.
2. Pack Lightweight, Versatile Clothes
Bringing lightweight and versatile clothes will help you save space and minimize the amount of clothes you need to pack.
3. Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are a great way to keep your suitcase organized and maximize the amount of space in your luggage.
4. Wear Your Bulkiest Clothes
If you’re traveling to a cold destination, wear your bulkiest clothes, such as your winter coat, on the plane. This will help you save space in your suitcase.
5. Leave Some Space for Souvenirs
Make sure to leave some extra space in your suitcase for souvenirs, as this will help you avoid having to buy an additional bag to bring them home.
6. Pack Multi-Purpose Items
Bringing items that serve multiple purposes, such as a scarf that can also be used as a blanket, will help you save space and avoid having to bring multiple items for the same purpose.
7. Invest in a Lightweight Suitcase
Investing in a lightweight suitcase can help you save space and make it easier to carry your luggage.
Don’t Bring These Prohibited Items
When traveling internationally, you should be aware of the items that are prohibited on planes and in certain countries. These items include:
- Flammable and combustible liquids
- Sharp objects
- Electronic cigarettes
Make sure to check your destination’s customs regulations and the airline’s policy before you pack, as some countries and airlines may have additional restrictions.
Don’t Forget These Long-Haul Essentials for a Comfortable Flight
Taking a long-haul flight can be tiring and uncomfortable, so it’s important to make sure you bring the essentials to ensure a comfortable flight. Here are a few items you should bring on a long-haul flight:
- Neck pillow
- Eye mask
- Water bottle
- Travel blanket
- Compression socks
- Power bank
- Entertainment (books, movies, music, etc.)
- Disinfecting wipes
Many of these will be provided by the airline, but they may not be up to your standards, so it’s always best to bring your own.
What to Look Out for When Shopping for New, Sturdy Luggage
When shopping for new luggage, you should look for a few key features to ensure you get a sturdy and reliable suitcase. Here are a few tips on what to look out for:
While hardside luggage made from ABS is likely to be the cheapest on the market, it’s also the most prone to damage. If you’re looking for a suitcase that will last, opt for a polycarbonate or aluminum piece. If you prefer softside luggage, go for a high-denier nylon or polyester piece.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Luggage Materials
Most hardside luggage is fitted with spinner wheels, which are great for maneuverability. However, take a look at the wheels to make sure they’re durable and have quality bearings. For softside luggage, in-line wheels provide excellent stability and can be rolled along almost any surface.
Make sure the handle is adjustable and sturdy. Ergonomically designed handles place the least strain on your wrists as you wheel your suitcase. You should also ensure that your suitcase has carry handles so it can be lifted with ease when needed.
Zippers & Locks
Opt for a piece with good-quality zippers and an integrated TSA lock. YKK zippers are considered the best on the market.
Many manufacturers offer a limited warranty that covers any defects in the material and workmanship. Make sure you read the warranty carefully and check the length of the coverage before you make your purchase.
The weight of a suitcase is largely dependent on the materials used to make the piece, and generally speaking, hardside suitcases usually weigh more than softside suitcases. If you’re considering a hardside suitcase, opt for one made from polycarbonate or ABS, as these are the lightest materials on the market. For softside luggage, nylon and polyester are the lightest materials.
Packing for an international trip can be daunting, but it’s important to remember that anything you forget will likely be available wherever you’re traveling.
By following this international travel packing checklist and the tips provided, you can make sure you have everything you need for your trip without having to lug around a heavy suitcase.