common packing mistakes travelers make
Photo credit: Eagle Creek

How to Pack for Your Trip: Essential Travel Checklist

From adventures to a short jaunt across the country, make sure to pack the basics for every trip.

Arguably one of the most stressful parts of any trip is making a packing list and deciding what to bring. Each packing checklist you create will vary depending on location, climate, weather, length of stay, and time of year, but there are a few categories and specific items that should travel with you everywhere.

Download Printable Checklist

GJ 2020 Travel Packing Checklist

Travel Documents

Travel documents are always essential, and some destinations require more foresight than others. Set aside some time to plan what documentation is needed, how to obtain it, and where to store it when traveling.

No matter the destination, travel with a passport, a photocopy of your passport, and an alternate ID.

Worst-case scenario: Your passport gets lost or stolen in another country. Here’s where a copy of the passport and an ID can help expedite the replacement process.

While building an itinerary for foreign travel, double-check the visa requirements for the specific countries. Some countries require you to have a visa upon arrival, while others can be procured at the airport.

Similarly, some countries may require or strongly suggest certain vaccinations, proof of departure, and even travel insurance.

Electronics & Chargers

As early as a couple of decades ago, electronics and chargers likely wouldn’t have made the cut for our ultimate travel packing list. But the times have changed, and the world is more plugged in now than ever.

Fuse Chicken universal international power adapter

It has become essential to bring some electronics and their respective chargers along on a trip of any length. Cellphones can serve as a lifeline while traveling abroad. Additionally, cameras, digital readers, and computers or tablets can allow you to work on the road and record the journey.

Different countries and continents have different electrical outlets. While many hotels will carry chargers that travelers can borrow, it’s nice to have a personal international adapter. And Fuse Chicken makes a convenient, all-in-one power bank and adapter for all sorts of outlets.

Similarly, if you travel in the wilderness, portable power banks or solar chargers can be a great option to keep your electronics alive while on the move.

COVID Travel Kit

Travel has changed remarkably in the last year. If you’re taking a trip by airplane, you now need to prepare a kit of gear to protect yourself and fellow travelers from COVID-19.

This kit is pretty small, but critical. First, you need a face mask. For most travelers, a cloth face mask or surgical mask will suffice for air travel. For those in high-risk groups who must travel, an N-95 or KN-95 mask offers more personal protection against viruses.

However, the CDC recommends not depleting the supply of N-95 masks, which healthcare professionals need for treating COVID patients. So if you’re in a high-risk group, think long and hard before taking a trip.

Next, pack hand sanitizer and use it regularly to keep hands clean when touching objects in the airplane or airport. Also, bring sanitizing wipes to use to clean your armrests and other places you touch in the airplane.

Some people are wearing sunglasses or even goggles or face shields on airplanes. Your level of comfort is up to you, so pack accordingly.

Finally, consider a change of clothes for after your flight to avoid bringing any contamination with you as you continue your journey.

Suggested Apps

Just as phone or tablet applications are useful in everyday life, they can be even more helpful when traveling. As you plan your itinerary, consider what apps may help you along the way.

Language helpers, currency converters, maps, and guidebooks can all be very valuable on the road. Further, things like games, news, books, and photo apps can provide little escapes on long travel days.

Regardless of what you deem most important or helpful in terms of apps, try to download them ahead of time to ensure they operate while offline. Wi-Fi or data can be hard to come by in certain locations, and each service provider will have different payment plans when it comes to foreign countries.

Creative Outlets

It’s always a good idea to pack a creative outlet. Books are still an excellent alternative to staring at a screen when killing time on a plane, bus, or in a tent.

Journals and sketchbooks are unique tools to privately express yourself and reflect on for years after your adventure is complete. Watercolors are similarly easy to pack and a great way to relax and zen out on the road. If you play an instrument, consider purchasing a more compact travel version to express yourself while traveling.

Depending on your itinerary, traveling can be demanding and sometimes stressful. Creative outlets like those listed above are an excellent way to escape.

Personal Hygiene

Personal hygiene is arguably more prominent on the road than in day-to-day life given your exposure to foreign environments, foods, pathogens, stressors, and potential challenges in acquiring any necessary medical assistance.

On top of standard personal hygiene requirements (prescription meds, eyewear, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, razors, etc.), travel with a first-aid kit. Stock it with items you deem most important or items you frequently use.

Again, wherever you’re going, hand sanitizer is a must. You can keep it in your pocket to use at the airport, on a bus, or if a bathroom has run out of soap. If you plan to visit developing countries with food safety standards that you’re not used to, consider bringing a water purification system and antidiarrheal medicine.

Backpack(s)

Cotopaxi Luzon Del Dia backpack

This may seem like a no-brainer on the surface, but there can be a lot that goes into choosing the right backpack for an adventure. Often, it’s worth it to bring multiple packs if you can pull it off.

Plenty of people travel with suitcases, but if you’re planning on being mobile, a reliable backpack is the way to go. Choose one that’s comfortable, light, and fits well, as you may be lugging it around for miles at a time. For daily treks around town or short excursions away from a major city, we love the Cotopaxi Luzon 18L pack. It’s simple, lightweight, durable, and, above all, uniquely stylish.

Additionally, bringing a small daypack and midsize alternative can provide added flexibility when exploring cities or doing short side trips or trails from an already established home base.

Proper Footwear

Comfortable and supportive footwear is essential for any adventure — foreign or domestic, short or long. Consider bringing a durable pair of walking/hiking boots and wearing those through airport security to save room in your pack.

You will also want a comfortable pair of lightweight sandals or slip-on shoes for in your hotel, around camp, or at the beach. Finally, throw in a pair of midrange running or athletic shoes so you can stay healthy on the road.

Swimsuit & Quick-Dry Towel

Always bring a swimsuit. While this may seem counterintuitive depending on your destination, you never know when an opportunity may present itself to soak in a hot spring, jump into a mountain lake, steam in a Finnish sauna, or visit an Italian villa with a swimming pool.

The last thing you want to do is have to turn down a potential adventure because you don’t have the right gear, which is why a swimsuit and quick-dry pack towel always make our packing list. Chances are you’ll have an opportunity to use it and, if not, it won’t take up that much room when packing.

Climate- & Weather-Specific Clothing

This one is a no-brainer, but it’s always good to put serious thought into the clothing you take on an adventure. This category varies depending on destination and season, but it’s always wise to pack some overlapping gear for layering.

Sleep Aids

Last but not least, we find it particularly useful to pack some level of sleep aid to lessen the effects of jetlag or to be ready for the day ahead. If you have long international flights or are traveling to northern latitudes in the summer months, eye covers can darken the world around you for a healthy dose of shuteye.

Earplugs can help block out surrounding noise while traveling in a crowded overnight train or bus. Wireless headphones can be dual purpose, serving as both sleep aids and a way to listen to music and audiobooks or learn a language while traveling.

Finally, if eye masks or earplugs aren’t cutting it, consider over-the-counter helpers such as melatonin or Benadryl to help get ahead of a significant time change or stay well-rested.

Get Packing!

Everyone’s packing list will be different, as each traveler has their own set of items they deem essential for a successful adventure. However, a few items are ubiquitous on every expedition regardless of destination, climate, or length of stay.

One final tip we will leave you with is that once you collect your checklist items, practice packing your bag a few times. This will help you cut back on unnecessary items and find the best packing system.

The GearJunkie Travel Packing Checklist above serves as a guide, and perhaps a little motivation, for when the world opens back up, and we can all return to our wanderlust roots.

Looking for a more in-depth international travel checklist? Check it out here.

Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn more.

Topics: