No matter if this is your first time traveling, or if you’ve done big trips a dozen times before, a checklist of essential travel gear is a must-have. It’s always a good idea to plan out what you’re going to need so you head off on your trip feeling confident and excited.
While this list is applicable for any kind of travel, this travel abroad checklist is most suited for anyone going on 1-2 month trips or longer. If you’re a Flashpacker, this is the perfect backpacking checklist to help you plan for your long-term trip so you can make the absolute most of your experience.
Step 1: Choose the Right Travel Bag for Your Trip
A travel backpack is the most convenient bag to carry around, especially if you’re traveling to developing nations or traveling between many different destinations. Ideally, you’ll have one that is carry-on size since checked luggage will almost always cause delays leaving the airport and can save you on checked baggage fees (always check this in advance if you are checking a bag). And you want to maximize your time as much as possible.
You don’t need those monster, 85-liter bags. Somewhere within the 40-60 range is a good ballpark, plus your daypack, which you should be able to fit into the backpack while traveling.
If you are traveling somewhere with guaranteed paved roads and smooth modes of transport (or can’t use a backpack for physical reasons), you can opt for rolling luggage. But again, you’ll want to try and have one that’s carry-on size and four-wheeled ones are always better than two in terms of ease of rolling and weight distribution.
Step 2: Travel Essentials
When packing and preparing your travel checklist, it’s important to ask yourself whether each item serves a specific purpose or whether it could potentially be more of a burden. Don’t stress yourself too much though, because if you do forget something, you can always buy it while abroad. That being said, you do want to try and save yourself time and money while there, and packing smart from the outset is the best way to do that.
If you’re traveling to Southeast Asia, you can check out our article, Southeast Asia Packing List. But a general rule of thumb when packing for that type of environment is to bring dry fit everything. You definitely won’t be needing jeans in those climates.
If you’re going to be in Europe, you may want to opt for some more city-wear clothes, especially if you do plan on going out to any nightclubs, some of them do have dress codes in order to get in.
Clothing Packing List
You’ll want to invest in packing cubes to maximize your space and keep things organized. The how of packing is just as important as the what. When packing clothes, try to pack as if you were traveling just for one week. And within that week, you’ll be doing a variety of things like dinners, exploring, adventuring, working, and sight-seeing.
For Exploring and Adventuring:
- You’ll want a few regular T-shirts for everyday use
- 1-2 long sleeve shirts (linen highly recommended)
- 1 long pair of (hiking) pants
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 1 hat and 1 pair of sunglasses
- 1 pair of running shoes
- 1 swimsuit
- Women: 2-3 sports bras
- 1 pair of pants or skirt for women (depending on the environment you’ll be working in. Some co-working spaces, for example, can have high AC and it can get on the chillier side)
- 1-2 extra T-shirt since you may want something fresh for working versus what you’re spending your exploring days in.
- Make sure to bring one nice outfit for a nice dinner or casual meeting 1 pair of comfortable sandals or nicer sneakers (again, for a nicer meal or meet up)
- Don’t bring more than 4-5 pairs of socks and 5-7 pairs of underwear, since you can wash your clothes as needed in most hostels and Airbnbs.
You’ll want to bring all your basic toiletries like deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc., plus:
- Face cleanser and moisturizer. Pro-tip for female travelers (and applicable to men too): if you bring a small jar of coconut oil it’s multi-use as a moisturizer, makeup remover, and hair serum. It can also get rid of stains so no need to bring that Tide to-go Portable clothesline
- One or two cycles’ worth of feminine products (you can purchase more once there and will have more space once you use up the first round)
- Women: dry shampoo
- Men: beard trimmer
- If you choose to bring make up, you’ll want to fit it into a compact toiletry bag to save space, like the Kilo Toiletry Bag shown above.
If you have specific prescription medication, you’ll want to get them in advance from your doctor for at least the amount of time you’ll be away (say, three month’s worth). Some insurance plans allow you to do this if you file a traveling abroad claim, so check out your provider beforehand. While you don’t want to be carrying too many bottles of pills around with you, you also don’t want to be stuck in a foreign country without the proper medicine you need should you get sick. Many pharmacies do carry regular, over the counter drugs, but it’s still a good idea to have at least a few on you at all times.
You should bring:
- A few pain relievers in a Ziploc bag or all into one bottle (you can write down what color each medication is in a notepad on your phone so you remember)
- Anti-nausea/diarrhea medication (it is really common to get an upset stomach while traveling, so this is a must-have)
- Motion sickness pills (Gravol is great for airplanes when you need to crash quick)
- Insect repellent (small, spray bottles are most convenient)
- Bandages (small and compact, super easy to bring without taking up much space)
- Lotion with SPF (apply daily)
Step 3: Prepare Electronics and Gadgets
- Laptop: if you’re planning on working while traveling, of course, you will need it. If not, leave it at home to save space Alternatively, get a lighter weight iPad or tablet for a few hundred dollars since they are much easier to carry around and you can still do some work on them (also great to have for longer flights that may not have personal TVs)
- Unlocked cellphone
- Power adapter/converter (universal adapters are best so you only need to bring one with you, like the Travel Smart All-In-One Travel Adapter below)
- Camera plus waterproof (or Ziploc) bags to keep it and other electronics dry
- Kindle/E-reader (way lighter than a book and you’ll want something to read/do in your downtime)
- 2 pairs of headphones (if you have Apple headphones with the lightning cable, you’ll want to bring another pair with a normal audio cable to use on the plane since those ones tend to be pretty low quality)
- External power bank like the HyperGear 10,000 mAh Power bank below (a life-saver to have in case your phone battery dies)
- Extension cord (not all accommodations have easy-to-access outlet points)
Step 4: Personal Items/Carry On Bag
You should have in your personal carry-on whatever you know you will 100% need on your flight or on train rides where your bag might not be super accessible. Ideally, you’d have your E-reader, phone and charger, power adapter, and headphones with you at all times. Along with important personal items such as passport, copies of your passport, driver’s license, credit cards, debit cards, boarding pass and something to hold it all together like a passport holder or travel organizer.
- Deck of cards (great for both solo travelers and groups to have something to do)
- Travel journal/pens (journal-writing is a great way to document your experience — it’s harder to remember details than you’d think)
- Leak-proof & light weight water bottle (so you don’t have to constantly purchase water)
- Credit cards associated with a different bank account in case something happens to your main one
- Travel wallet (to organize everything)
Step 5: Travel Security Essentials
- Money belt (with emergency cash)
- Lock for luggage and hostel lockers
- Extra passport photos
- It’s always a good idea to divide some of your cash up into a money belt, in your wallet, and some in your backpack just in case any items get separated or you do encounter pick-pocketers, you haven’t lost everything. That’s why copies of your passport photo and having different credit cards are important too.
Step 6: Prepare Your Home for Your Leave
- If you are leaving for longer than a month, you’ll want to get some things around your home in order before leaving.
- Have a neighbor collect your mail or pause your mailing service while away You can also switch your bills to pay for everything online. That way, you don’t need to try to prepay everything before you head off or mail in your bills from abroad
- Empty fridge of anything that will go bad while you’re away
- Turn off heat/water/AC
- Unplug all appliances
- Store valuables away
- Lock all doors/windows
- Leave your itinerary with family or friends so someone knows where you’ll be and when
At the end of the day, no matter where you are or how long you’re going for, you are going to have an amazing experience. What’s most important is that you feel comfortable and confident while traveling, and with this international travel checklist, you’ll have all the right travel gear to help with just that. On top of that, by being prepared ahead of time, you’re saving money while traveling and even for when you get back home. And the more you save in these areas, the more you have to spend on other, exciting opportunities. If you have pack smart and right, your experience will be all the better for it.