Here's the ultimate detailed travel packing list to suit every situation. Seriously. We're assuming nothing and cover luggage, visas, medication and what to wear while travelling and I've organised it into a streamlined system so no-one gets overwhelmed.
I've also put links to anything you may need to buy next to the travel tips and gathered them together on a single page in my Amazon Travel Shop (if you buy something that way, it costs exactly the same to you but I may earn a small commission. Hurrah!)
Finally, you can download a free travel printable because paper and pen helps when it comes to making travel checklists useful.
Travel checklists are supposed to make things easier, not harder. So here's how I've arranged things.
I've really tried to make this accessible and useful, while also streamlined.
The ultimate travel packing list works for men and women, international and domestic travel, travel to Europe and beyond. Certain sections link out to more hyper-focused lists, such as the cabin luggage essentials or what to pack for a walking holiday. But don't get too bogged down with this. Get reading the list and get packing!
Health should always come first. If travelling abroad or for any extended period of time, book an appointment with your doctor or nurse to check whether you need any vaccinations, antimalarial medications or a back up plan for your prescription supply.
When it comes to packing:
A good rule of thumb is to have a copy of everything on your phone and stored in the cloud. For really important documents, such as passports, make sure someone has a copy who is staying at home.
Make sure to add to your packing list:
Ooh, travel money deserves an article on its own. Here's the short version:
Cash - take some cash with you in the local currency but no more than you'd need for 1 - 2 days. It's also helpful to have some US dollars in small denominations to help you get out of any scrapes. Avoid changing money at the airport or in large hotels as the rates are usually really high. If possible, book cash in advance by following the advice from Money Saving Expert here.
Credit cards - do take a credit card with you, with maybe one backup, but leave the rest at home. Contact credit card companies in advance so that they don't block your card while you're away. Put one into your checked luggage and one into your personal item. Set up text alerts for unusual spending so that you can cancel them the moment someone starts to use it for something dodgy.
The jury's out on whether you need a money belt. These lightweight fabric holders slip beneath the waistband of your trousers and protect some of your money and important documents from being stolen by pickpockets.
I would say that in most places in the world, you don't need them. However, they are really useful if you will be sleeping anywhere in public (think long coach journeys, train journeys and backpacking) and in high crime areas. I would also suggest you also carry a wallet anyway.
Yes, savvy criminals know that tourists wear them but so what? I've found them useful over the years in the situations I mention above.
These days, though, I rarely need a money belt. Instead, I use a "grown up" document holder that helps to keep everything together. The ideal one should be zippable so that things don't fall out and have space for a pen (for all those immigration forms and luggage labels.) As a bonus, it should have a wrist strap so that you don't lose it at the airport among all the other commotion.
I'm not a fan of passport holders as I don't really see the point. You have to take your passport out at checkpoints and, well, it doesn't really matter if the picture rubs off the outside of the passport ;-)
Yes, plastic has a bad name at the moment but at least these plastic wallets are reusable. Instead of carrying everything in the "nice" document holder, I put the essentials in there I'll need for that day and everything else into an A4 plastic wallet that can be stashed in my cabin luggage or suitcase.
Now we're on to the fun part! Wait, not everyone finds testing out different bags or suitcases fun?! Weird.
Never skimp on having decent luggage. The fallout (quite literally) just isn't worth it from substandard stuff.
But what kind of luggage you need depends on your trip. I've written a guide to the best cabin luggage for all occasions here.
For checked-in bags or when you aren't flying, your options are:
Only for the truly fit and strong. And only useful if you will be squeezing bags into small spaces on trains, small safari planes that won't accept anything else, or if you plan on travelling anywhere where you will need to carry your luggage across sand, cobbles or anything else too uneven.
I used backpacks for years and my back and shoulders have never really forgiven me. Don't feel you need to. Most of the time, a wheelie is fine!
I tried one of these during my transition from backpack to wheelie. They are a useful idea but the zip up wheeled part does add weight and is quite uncomfortable to carry. The best I found was the Osprey Farpoint Travel Backpack.
Yes! Four wheels are better than two. Hard cases are good for travel to countries where you can't be sure how secure your luggage is going to be. Soft cases are good for squeezing into car boots and trunks or trains in Europe. My favourites include the Samonsite wheeled luggage series for hard cases and the Osprey Transporter 120 for more of an adventure wheelie.
This is like the backpack only worse! Unless you are a tall, young, strapping, fit and able adult, avoid this. If you are, the Northface Duffel bags are very popular.
Any trip longer than 10 days is going to need some laundry, so don't try to pack an outfit for every day after that. It sounds so basic but sketch out each day of the trip, with a note on what you will be doing and wearing in the day and evening for each trip. This should jog your memory for any unusual activities that require special gear and help make sure that you neither overpack or underpack.
Think layers and think capsule wardrobe. Here's the list:
Inside tip: always make sure you have at least one outfit that covers your shoulders and ankles and one pair of shoes that aren't flip flops. That covers most dress codes for temples, restaurants and so on.
A capsule wardrobe is just a fancy name for having clothes that you can mix and match and which all go together. This takes a bit of preparation. It's good to choose one neutral colour, one brighter colour and then one accent colour. I tend to wear black, blue and yellow. They go together well and mix and match nicely. I also look out for things which don't crease and which don't need special care on the road. Watch out for the full article in weeks to come, but in the meantime, check out this brilliant wardrobe starter guide from Putting Me Together.
Another fun part! While many travel checklists include all kinds of travel gadgets that you don't actually need, here are the bare essentials. With, well, OK, a few nice things throw in.
Most of these are pretty generic but if you have something that really does the trick then make sure to do it in advance. You can always pour it into smaller bottles if you need to.
Travelling with children requires a section of its own. So I wrote one! Find the family travel tips and advice here. In particular, look out for the best baby travel gear (and the things you don't need) and a handy list of travel toys for toddlers.
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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