July 14th, 2017

What to Pack: The Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist

Whether this is your first trip or you’re a seasoned globetrotter, it’s always helpful to have a rundown of what items you may want to pack – you know, a comprehensive international travel checklist.

Bookmark this travel packing list because you’ll want to refer to it as your trip gets closer. It’ll serve as a tool to tell you what to pack, but also will help you make sure you've thought of everything else you might want to pack. 

Step 1: Choose Your Main Luggage

Wherever you're planning to go, pick luggage that is versatile, lightweight and big enough to hold all your essentials. The most important decision you'll make is (as far as luggage is concerned) is buying a bag that has an awesome warranty. Traveling with a piece of luggage with broken wheel, handle or zipper is the absolute worst! Brands that back their gear with stand-up warranties build that promised durability into their gear. It’s also important to finding a travel bag that's as versatile as you need it to be, while also fitting all your stuff and being easy to carry. 

  • Rolling Luggage – Let’s face it. Wheels are nice. There’s no need to carry all your gear on your back or via a duffle bag if you know you’re going to be traveling in a city where there are paved roads and sidewalks.
  • 4-Wheels – As you fill up your wheeled luggage, weight can become a bit restrictive – especially if you have to walk long distances. Consider 4-wheels to keep the weight off your wrist and effortlessly roll your bag by your side.
  • Duffel Bag – These are simple, lightweight, and Eagle Creek’s duffel bags are crazy durable. Sling it over your shoulder, or put some wheels on it and get on your way.
  • Wheeled Backpack – If you’ll be going through different types of terrain, or switching from airports to cobblestones, having a bag with the option to roll it or carry it like a backpack or duffel is really handy.
  • Travel Backpack – If you know you don’t want the extra weight of wheels, traveling with a travel pack is going to mean hands-free mobility and ultimate versatility.
  • Carry-On – Whenever possible, travel with a carry on luggage. It’ll just mean you can save time at the airport, save on check-in fees, guarantee the airlines won’t lose your bag… the list goes on and on.

For more information about how to pick the right travel luggage, read Eagle Creek’s Buying Guide for luggage, travel packs, carry-ons and duffel bags.

Step 2: Organize Your Stuff 

If you have lots of different types of activities you plan to do, that means you have a fair amount of gear you need to pack into your suitcase. Keeping everything organized can be a challenge. One of the best things you can do when you're packing for any trip, especially one that requires you to pack lots of layers, is to make sure you use packing organizers.

Keeping your suitcase organized with packing organizers means not only will you know exactly where everything is, but your clothing can be arranged and compressed so you can fit more in your bag. Why spend your time packing and unpacking when you can quickly unpack by sliding your organizers directly into hotel drawers, and pack up quick, getting seamlessly from one place to the next without having to rearrange your entire bag every time?

Keep your clothing organized in compartments based on outfit type or activity type by using packing cubes. These zippered organizers make it easy to keep your bag neat and provide quick access to all the different things you'll need during your trip. You can use compression sacs or cubes to reduce the volume of your clothes by up to 80%. This is especially convenient for bulky items such as sweaters and jackets. And folders are great for keeping dress clothing nice, neat and folded.

Start with this clothing packing list: 

The Basics 

  • Lightweight clothing that can be layered
  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • Sweaters or fleece jacket
  • T-shirts and tank tops (be respectful of the culture you are visiting)
  • Pants and/or shorts
  • Belt – Check out this one for a ingenuitive money protection option
  • Socks – wool socks are best for hiking
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Rain jacket, windbreaker or umbrella
  • Pajamas/sleepwear
  • Underwear
  • Sunglasses and glasses case
  • Dresses and/or skirts
  • Jewelry – organize in a mini cube or circlet
  • Hat or sun visor
  • Scarf or bandana
  • Swimsuit or swim trunks – consider a wet/dry organizer
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Travel speakers
  • Travel pillow, eye mask and ear plugs
  • Electric converters and adapters
  • Travel apps that will help with language, directions, and money conversion

You’ll want to pack smart (not lots of) clothing options if your trip will take you to a variety of places, or transversely if you will be navigating off the beaten path. Having options doesn’t mean you’ll need to over-pack. (And in fact, you shouldn’t.) Just pack smart. Include clothing that can be worn on your daily adventures and then dressed up slightly with a different pair of shoes and a scarf. Maybe a dress that becomes a skirt or comfortable travel pants that can be dressed up for a day at the market. Also consider clothing with SPF or mosquito repellency if you’ll be in environments where that would be beneficial.

Learn more about choosing the right packing organizers to pack the variety of everyday basics you’ll want to pack.

Step 3: Pack Your Toiletry Bag

If you’re carrying on, keep your toiletry bag light and TSA-compliant. The TSA’s 3-1-1 rule makes it easy to remember: liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container and they must be in a 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag. To make this as easy as possible for you, we have a set that includes four 3-ounce silicone bottles in a quart-sized clear pouch that’s wipeable and has a water resistant zipper. Click here for more info about TSA rules regarding what you can pack.

Don’t forget the following travel essentials for your toiletry case: 

The Toiletry Bag Basics 

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash
  • Hair brush or comb, hair ties, barrettes/bobby pins
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo and conditioner - Dr. Bronners is a good option all-in-one option for hair care, face wash, laundry and more
  • Sunscreen and face lotion with SPF
  • Make up packed in a wipeable wristlet
  • Face wash and/or makeup remover wipes and q-tips
  • Night time Moisturizer/Lotion
  • Lip balm with SPF and lipstick or lip gloss
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Extra contacts, solution, and contact case
  • Glasses and prescription sunglasses
  • Prescription medication with the label/script so that you can refill if needed and not be questioned by TSA.

Toiletry Bag Extras

  • Cologne/perfume
  • Personal mini mirror
  • Hair products like hairspray, hair gel and beard oil
  • Clothesline and detergent
  • Shaving kit and extra razors
  • Sewing kit/clothing care kit, stain remover
  • Facial tissues and/or toilet paper
  • Travel Towel
  • Scissors, nail clippers, and tweezers (must be in checked luggage)

Travel Health 

As soon as you decide to travel internationally, check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for comprehensive travel vaccines, medicines, and travel advice information. Whether you decide to get vaccinated or not is your decision, but many vaccinations require administration 2 months before travel begins. So get informed!

  • First aid kit (bandages, gauze, adhesives, etc.)
  • Personal prescriptions (copies of scripts)
  • Pain and fever relievers (also children’s strength if you are traveling with kids)
  • Thermometer
  • Cold medicines and throat lozenges
  • Diarrhea/laxative medicines
  • Allergy medicines
  • Hydrocortisone cream/antibacterial ointment
  • Multivitamins
  • Sunburn relief
  • Insect repellent/mosquito net/sting reliever
  • Motion sickness pills or bands
  • Altitude sickness pills (if you are planning to hike in higher altitudes)
  • Eye drops
  • Moleskin
  • Medicines and vaccinations specific to the region/activity

Additional Health Items

  • Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
  • Prescriptions in original packaging (you’ll want to make sure you have these in your carry-on bag just in case something were to happen to your checked luggage)
  • Sleeping medicines
  • Glasses and glasses case

For more inspiration about what travel essentials to bring with you in your airplane personal item, read this post from travel writer Kelly O’Reilly.

Step 4: Prepare Your Personal Item Carry-On Bag 

The next thing you’ll want to do is prepare your personal item carry-on bag with anything you’ll want with you on the flight. It’s always a good idea to make sure you have an outfit (or two) and a few essential toiletries in your personal item just in case your luggage is lost. If you’ll be traveling around to multiple destinations, make sure this bag has items to keep you cozy on any train, boat or bus rides. It's always nice to have a bag that's easy to access so you don't have to get into your luggage each time you need your eye mask. But remember, you’ll be carrying all of this, so keep it light.

We recommend you consider using a small daypack or backpack as your personal carry-on item. Here are some good things to include in your carry-on bag packing list: 

Technology 

  • Mobile device and charger
  • Laptop, iPad, or E-reader and charger(s)
  • Headphones (consider noise-reducing headphones if you're sensitive to sound) 
  • Camera and Go Pro/video camera, memory card, and chargers
  • Electrical converters and adapters

Travel Comfort, Entertainment, and Information 

  • Travel pillow, blanket, eye mask, and ear plugs
  • Travel journal and pen (it’s awful when you forget your pen!)
  • Books and magazines
  • Deck of cards and travel games
  • Chapstick and lotion – it’s dry up there
  • Water bottle – you’ll need to fill it up once you get through TSA
  • Guide books, travel guides, maps, language guides, etc. (if you will need any of these upon arrival at your destination, put it in your carry-on)

Step 5: Collect Important Travel Documents, Cash, and Credit Cards

Start by collecting all of your important documents in a travel document organizer. (This travel organizer holds a passport, ID, credit cards, coins, documents, a boarding pass, and a pen!) By bringing all your important information together, this will help ensure you have everything you need to get from one place to the next. Not sure what you need? Here’s your international travel checklist, document-wise:

  • Passport/visa(s) – Not sure if you need a travel visa? Check here.
  • Personal ID/Student ID card – If you’re a student, some companies, like Sta Travel, offer discount cards to ensure you get good deals while on the road
  • Frequent flyer card(s) and other loyalty program card numbers (ex: hotel chains and AAA)
  • Cash and credit card(s) – Call your credit card companies before you travel to inform them of your travel (otherwise they might turn them off to prevent perceived fraud)
  • Health insurance cards/document(s)
  • Travel insurance information
  • Reservations and itineraries – print them and save them electronically for easy access
  • Hotel and/or tour contact information
  • Transportation tickets (plane, train, bus, car, etc.)
  • Emergency contacts and important addresses
  • Copies of all these things in case you lose your wallet
  • Guide books and maps

As soon as you book a trip, it’s a good idea to double-check that your passports and IDs aren’t expired, and that they will not expire while you are traveling internationally. If you need to get a Passport for your kids, learn more here. You’ll also want to inform your bank if you’re traveling abroad so they don’t assume fraudulent activity and freeze your credit card. Also consider emailing yourself a copy of your passport, driver’s license, medical cards and itinerary, so if anything happens to them you’ll be able to access them online. 

Step 6: Consider Travel Security 

In most large cities, travelers should always be on the lookout for pickpockets. The easiest way to keep your belongings safe is to keep them hidden and close to you. One way to do this is to stash your valuables underneath your clothing. Another way is by locking your bags closed and using reflective accents to help folks see you at nighttime. Consider these safety travel essentials:

Wearing a money belt or neck wallet lets you keep your valuables close to your body and away from prying hands. Review all the different styles here to choose what works best for you and the type of travel you’ll be doing. You may also want to choose an option with RFID protection. RFID protection keeps all passports with an RFID chip (issued after 2006) and credit cards/debit cards safe while travelling. How? It’s simple. Identity theft can occur when someone is able to “read” through your purse or pocket via the microchip, which has personal information stored on it. By using an RFID blocking technology, your personal information is protected. You can learn more about RFID safety from Scott Shelter, freelance journalist and frequent traveler.

Step 7: Prepare Your Home 

If you’re going an extended trip, it’s essential to get your home in order before you go. Here are some simply tasks to think through before you head to the airport. (And yes, this travel checklist also includes thinking through home care.)

  • Have the post office hold your mail
  • Stop newspaper delivery
  • Set up an email autoresponder (unless you plan to be connected)
  • Arrange for care of pets, lawn, and plants
  • Pre-pay your bills
  • Prearrange school absences for children and get any home study assignments required
  • Empty refrigerator of this that will expire
  • Unplug appliances
  • Turn off heater/air conditioner
  • Turn down water heater
  • Turn off washing machine taps
  • Lock all doors and windows
  • Set up timed light system
  • Store valuables in a safe place
  • Leave house key and trip itinerary with a trusted friend
  • Leave flight and hotel itineraries with a relative
  • Reconfirm/check-in online with airline before you Uber, train, or shuttle to the airport

If you will be gone for more than 30 days, it’s a good idea to check with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance for specific instructions.

Wherever you are headed, you’re going to have great time! Just make sure you think through your list of activities beforehand so that you’re able to bring everything you need and pick the right luggage. And pack light if you can using this ultimate packing checlist. It always helps with mobility. And remember, you are a traveler. Respect the people and places you go to visit. Respect their customs, tip accordingly, try and learn their language, and truly immerse yourself in the culture. Travel changes us to be better than we were by opening our eyes and giving us newfound respect.

Best of luck! Travel well.

If you’d like a downloadable travel packing list, click here.

Read more tips on international travel.

GET MORE PACKING ADVICE!

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The Eagle Creek Travel System

Main Travel Bag (rolling luggage, travel backpack, or duffel bag)

Packing Organizers (packing folders, packing cubes, packing sacs, etc.)

Comfort and Security Items (travel pillow, money belt, travel lock)

Day Bag and Travel Wallet (backpack, shoulder bag, or tote and a travel organizer)

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