It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling to a tropical beach or to the mountains, some items are essentials for any vacation. We’ve put together the essential vacation packing check list to make your preparation as easy as possible.
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Travel essentials come in two varieties: the items you need to take with you, and the things to prepare before you leave. Below, we’ve listed the top essentials to prepare before you even think about packing a suitcase.
- Passport – It’s obvious, I know, but if you’re traveling overseas you need a valid passport. Check now that your passport is valid for at least 12 months – some countries won’t let you in with a passport that’s due to expire. And make sure there are enough blank pages to cover your entire trip. Bear in mind that a visa will usually take up an entire page.
- Keep your passport in a passport cover to protect it from damage while you travel.
- Visas – Do you need a visa for any of your destinations? Some countries won’t let you in without a visa, while others offer visa-free travel to specific nationalities. Check whether you need a visa before you book your flight and apply as early as possible to avoid any issues when you arrive. If you’re not sure, use VisaHQ to check if you need a visa for your chosen destination.
- Flights – Make sure you’ve booked all your flights. Print copies of all tickets, as you may be required to display a return ticket when you first arrive at your destination. Ticket prices increase closer to departure dates, so it’s best compare flights online and book early using a site like Skyscanner.
- Bus, Train and Boat Tickets – If you’re traveling by bus, train or boat, print these tickets out as well and keep them in a safe place. This provides a printed record of your transfers, this also gives you something useful to show to cab drivers if you’re in a country where English isn’t the local language.
- Hotel Bookings – Book ahead of time and print your booking details. This makes checking into any hotel easier, as well as giving you a printed copy of the hotel’s address to show to cab drivers. You can compare prices for hotels in 99% of destinations using a booking service like Agoda.
- Digital Copies Of Your Documents – Scan or photograph your passport, visas, driving license, credit and debit cards, insurance information and other relevant documents before your vacation. Then save them somewhere secure online, such as in your email account. Then, if you lose any of your documents overseas, you’ll have a secure digital copy that only you can access. Also, prepare a list of important phone numbers for your credit card issuer, bank and other essential contacts that you can call if you run into any money issues overseas.
- Vaccinations – Check early if you need any injections to visit your destination and leave enough time to have all the necessary jabs. Talk to a travel doctor well in advance, so you don’t face any serious health risks during your vacation.
- Face mask – COVID is still very active in many countries and you may be required to wear an SFP2 facemask on the plane and in some indoor spaces. It’s also a good idea to carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser when you travel.
- Allergy Card – If you have any serious food allergies or can’t eat certain foods due to your religion, make sure you have a translated statement that you can show to food vendors and restaurants. Select Wisely sells downloadable allergy cards for most major food and drug allergies in a huge variety of languages.
- Prescriptions – Make sure you’ve got an up-to-date copy of any prescription medication before you leave. You should also check the laws regarding prescription drugs in all of the countries you plan to visit to ensure you won’t face any issues bringing your medicine thru customs.
- Itinerary – If you’ve prepared an itinerary for your trip, print it out so that you’ve got a copy wherever you go.
- Credit and Debit Cards – Check that your credit cards are up to date and won’t expire during your trip. Before you leave, call your bank and credit card issuer to inform them that you’ll be traveling overseas. Provide a list of the countries you’ll visit and the date of your trip so that your cards aren’t automatically flagged as a fraud risk.
- Considering travel insurance for your trip? World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
Essential Luggage and Travel Items
- Suitcase or Backpack – If you’re going backpacking, make sure you’ve got high-quality luggage from a brand like Osprey. Check that the bag transfers weight to your hips, rather than your back.
- If a suitcase is more appropriate to your destination, get high-quality luggage that’s large enough to fit all your gear with some extra space for anything you buy while you’re away.
- Travel Cubes – Travel cubes make packing and unpacking much easier by keeping items in separate, easy-to-find categories. This way, you don’t have to unpack your entire bag just to access your favorite shirt or pair of shoes. We recommend getting four or more travel cubes and using them to sort your clothes and other items.
- Wash Bag – Make sure you have a decent wash bag before you leave, since it will make packing and accessing your toiletries much easier, as well as protecting the other items in your bag from unfortunate leakage. We recommend the Magictodoor Travel Kit, which is affordable and offers more than enough space for toiletries and other health items.
- Travel Billfold – Even if you’re traveling to a safe destination, it’s worth investing in a secure travel billfold to keep cash, cards, and other important items out of danger. We recommend the Lewis N. Clark RFID Security Wallet, which is big enough to fit your passport and other essentials, but still small enough to wear comfortably beneath your shirt while out and about.
- Guidebooks – Although smartphones and travel websites have made guidebooks less essential than they used to be, it’s still worth getting one for your destination, to use for dining and sightseeing recommendations. The Lonely Planet guides are the best on the market, with great recommendations for just about every country you can visit.
- Basic Outfits – There’s no need to pack your entire closet but, if you’re traveling for a week or longer, make sure you bring at least four of five day’s worth of clothing. You’ll be able to do laundry twice a week and always have a spare outfit in reserve. Obviously the clothes you pack will depend on your destination, but we recommend taking a variety that let you stay comfortable while following local customs.
- Comfortable Shoes – Any vacation inevitably means a lot of walking, so be sure to pack a pair of comfortable shoes you don’t mind wearing for several days in a row. Add a pair of more fashionable shoes for going out to dinner or other events. If you need to squeeze several pairs of shoes into your suitcase, a good tip is to use travel shoe trees, so they retain their shape and aren’t too squashed when you reach your destination. Johnston and Murphy sell great cedar shoe trees that fit the vast majority of men’s shoes and prevent creases and other marks from forming.
- Pajamas – Many hotels will provide a bathrobe, but you’ll need your own pajamas for your trip. Pack a set to suit the weather – breathable and thin for hot countries and warm and comfortable for cooler destinations.
- Swimsuit – If you’re visiting the beach or staying at a hotel with a pool, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit and avoid buying an overpriced one at your destination.
Essential Health and Personal Items
- Feminine Hygiene – Many countries only stock a limited range of feminine hygiene products. Tampons, for example, are difficult to find in most of Asia. If your vacation coincides with your period, make sure you’re prepared ahead of time.
- Toiletries – Pack your toiletry bag with essentials like a toothbrush, toothpaste, moisturizer, shampoo and anything else you use as part of your morning/nightly routine.
- Since most airlines have a 100 mL limit on liquids, pack large bottles and containers into your checked luggage or transfer them into smaller containers before you pack your day bag.
- Deodorant – It might sound surprising, but Western deodorant isn’t easy to find in every country. Pack a spare stick or can of your usual deodorant if you’re going to be traveling for two weeks or longer, as you might not be able to find your brand in another country.
- Face and Hair Products – Skin and hair care products aren’t always easy to find in other countries, so make sure you pack your usual items before you leave. To avoid having to hand anything over to customs, use containers of 100 mL or less or pack larger items in your checked baggage.
- Glasses or Contact Lens Case – If you wear glasses, make sure you pack a durable eyeglass case for your vacation. Or, if you wear contact lenses, pack your contact lens case and a spare bottle of sterile saline solution.
- Razors and Shaving Gel – Pack your razor, with enough fresh blades for your trip, and a can of shaving gel to avoid buying a disposable razor later. As always, avoid packing a 100+ mL shaving gel container into your carry-on luggage.
- Medicine – Pack aspirin / paracetamol, as well as any other essential medicines. If you take prescription medicine, check that you can carry it legally overseas and ensure it’s packaged correctly to avoid any problems passing thru customs.
- Microfiber Towel – Microfiber towels take up very little space and dry in minutes, making them ideal for backpacking trips and adventure vacations. Sunland sells great towels that are priced fairly and small enough to fit into any suitcase or backpack.
- Chargers – Remember to pack any cell phone or tablet chargers to avoid having to buy one after you arrive. You may not be as close to a power outlet as usual, so consider getting a power bank to use while you’re traveling.
- Headphones – A good pair of headphones let you zone out and enjoy yourself during long flights and other journeys. Noise-canceling headphones, which remove ambient sound from your surroundings, are your best bet for clear audio in any environment.
- Electrical Converters – If you’re traveling to a country that uses a different type of electrical plug, make sure you pack at least one electrical converter so that you can charge your cell phone and other gadgets. WorldStandards.eu has a great guide to electrical plugs and sockets that covers most countries.
- Camera – Even with a cell phone, you may want to invest in a good point and shoot camera before you go. Nikon’s Coolpix cameras and Canon’s PowerShot range are both easy to use, cheap and well made.