The Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist (With Printable)

Best Travel Tips

Aug 08

The Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist

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!)

FOR A FREE PRINTABLE, JOIN OUR EMAIL GANG:

The Ultimate Travel Checklist and Packing List with downloadable free printable
The Ultimate Travel Checklist

The Ultimate Travel Checklist

How to Use the Ultimate Travel Packing List

Travel checklists are supposed to make things easier, not harder. So here's how I've arranged things. 

  • The essential sections come first. You need these for all trips. 
  • They are organised in time order: ultimately, you can buy toiletries at most final destinations. You cannot fix missing medication or visas. 
  • Specialist travel checklists come at the end. These cover road trips, flying with babies, hiking holidays and so on.
Sunrise over fields in the ultimate travel checklist

Who is this Travel Packing List for?

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!

Travel Checklist Sections

1 – Medical Supplies

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:

  • Prescription medication - include a copy of the prescription, contact details, sharps box for any needles, plastic airtight container to keep tablets from getting crushed.
  • Paracetamol
  • Travel First Aid Kit - compeed blister protection, sticking plasters, antihistamines, antiseptic wipes, gaviscon, loperamide, sterile gauze and tape.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Prescription glasses, sunglasses or contact lenses
  • Travel sickness pills
Travel guide organiser as part of a travel checklist

2 – Travel Documents & Holders

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:

  • Passport and visas
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Car documents if required (see this road trip essentials checklist.)
  • Contact numbers
  • Flight details, hotel details, phrases for your destination
  • Paperwork for any medication
  • Paperwork for a child travelling with you who does not share the same family name.
  • Loyalty cards and frequent flyer numbers.
  • Travel money.

Travel Money Tips

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.

Document Holders

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.

Chic Document Holder

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 ;-)

Plastic Document Holder

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.

Travel checklist luggage wicker basket

3 – Luggage

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:

Backpacks

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!

Backpack and Wheelie Combo

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.

Wheeled Luggage

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.

Duffel Bag

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.

Minimalist wardrobe when packing to travel - clothes hanging on wall

4 – Travel Wardrobe: Clothes to Pack

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:

  • Underwear - one per day up to 10 days
  • Socks - one pair per day up to 10 days
  • Tops/T shirts/shirts- one per day up to 10 days
  • Trousers - 2-3 per 10 days. One pair if hot weather destination.
  • Shorts and skirts - 1 per 10 days. 2-3 if hot weather destination.
  • Pullover/cardigan/jumper/jersey - one per five days
  • Shoes - one snazzy pair, one casual pair. Both suitable for walking in.
  • Dress - take out one top for each dress you pack.
  • Do you need a blazer/jacket/ suit for this trip?
  • Do you need any special sports clothes or beach wear?
  • Do you need ties, jewellery, hats or hair accessories? If the answer isn't a definite yes, it's a no...
  • Sleepwear if you wear it ;-) Or if you're staying at your in-laws...
  • Coat - ideally lightweight and low maintenance.

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.

Travel Checklist Essential: A Capsule Wardrobe

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.

Travel gadgets include a camera

5 – Travel Gadgets

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. 

  • Travel adapter. 
  • Multi plug port to help charge things from one adapter
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Headphones
  • Laptop or tablet and case (if required)
  • Charging cables for all gadgets
  • Travel camera
  • Spare batteries or hard drives to store photos
  • Torch or head lamp
  • Power bank
  • Cable organiser
Pills on a hand

6 - Travel Toiletries

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.

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Hairbrush and any gel, mousse, brush, what have you
  • Moisturiser
  • Sunscreen (in case you missed it higher up!)
  • Deodorant
  • Mouthwash, dental floss, any other dental things
  • Shower gel (ditch this if you're staying in hotels)
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Tweezers, nail scissors or clippers
  • Ear buds and ear plugs
  • Make up and make up remover
  • Tampons and sanitary pads if required
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Eye drops
  • Hairbrush, hairbands, other hair accessories
Travel packing tips and hacks

7 - Travel Hack Stuff

  • Swiss army knife
  • Head torch
  • Food - dried packets of couscous, nut grain bars and rice cakes help out in emergencies.
  • Tissues and toilet paper
  • Packing cubes
  • Travel pillow
  • Book or magazine
  • Safari vest for tight carry on situations. Fill the pockets with heavy items to extend your allowance. 
  • Eye mask and ear plugs to help you sleep on a plane.
  • Scarf. Doubles up as a pillow, covers shoulders or hair if needed and ties your luggage together if things break.
  • A spare bag (folding, to fit in extra luggage or serve as a daypack while you are away.)
  • Glasses case if you plan on using contacts on the ground.
  • Travel umbrella

Travel Packing Checklists for Special Situations

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.

Barbados beach scene

Travel Checklist for Beach Holidays and Vacations


Travel Checklist for Sports

  • Footwear - specialist shoes and boots or socks
  • Sports bag
  • Sports bra
  • Layered sports clothes

Business Travel Checklist

  • Business cards
  • Pass or ID
  • Workout clothes - inc swimwear and goggles if hotel has pool
  • Lint roller if appearance matters
  • Suit holder

Off the Beaten Path Checklist

  • Toilet paper
  • Small bottle of laundry detergent
  • More advanced first aid kit: antibiotics, sterile needles, sterile syringes.
  • Water bottle
  • Wet wipes and hand santizer
  • Travel alarm
The ultimate travel checklist

Download Free Travel Checklist and Packing Printable

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!)

FOR A FREE PRINTABLE, JOIN OUR EMAIL GANG:

The Ultimate Travel Checklist and Packing List with downloadable free printable
Follow

About the Author

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.

  • Tash M says:

    I usually forget to pack something, but I’m going to keep this checklist for the next time I travel. Cheers!

  • >