How do you pack for a trip? Do you write out a careful travel packing list first? Or do you stuff everything into your suitcase at the last minute and hope for the best?
Either way, it’s easy to end up packing a bunch of useless items and forgetting travel essentials like your passport.
To avoid these kinds of packing disasters, it helps to have a complete checklist of everything you could ever possibly need when packing for that upcoming vacation getaway. This way, no matter whether you’re about to hit the beach or explore a new city, you’ll know what to bring and what to leave behind.
Ready to find out what’s on the ultimate packing list? Let’s take a look!
Basics & Travel Essentials
From that winter vacation getaway with your family to that solo backpacking adventure, these basics are essential to any trip. Check them out:
- Passport – our top smart travel tip is to also bring a copy of your passport, although you’ll need to keep it in a separate place
- Important documentation – this includes your travel itinerary and any boarding passes or visas
- Mobile devices – a smartphone is more than enough for most trips. But, if you plan on working, bring a laptop or tablet too
- Wallet/Purse – remember to remove any non-essential cards and documents first
- Cards and cash – if you’re heading abroad, change some money into the local currency to avoid the hassle of doing it at the airport
- Emergency cash – should you lose your wallet, this cash (hidden in a money belt) could be a lifesaver
- Chargers and adaptors – you’ll need a charger for every electronic device you pack as well as adaptors in some countries
- Glasses/contact lenses
- Prescription medications
- Reusable water bottle
These travel essentials are all good items to pack in your carry-on. This way you’ll have the basics on hand to ensure that your dream vacation doesn’t turn into a nightmare if anything happens to the rest of your luggage.
Clothing, Footwear & Accessories
Less is more when it comes to packing clothes, shoes, and accessories. Check out the must-have items that you’ll need for almost any trip:
- Underwear – take enough underwear to cover you for up to a week
- Socks – they might be small but they can take up a lot of room if you pack too many. Ball up socks and place them in any shoes you pack to save space
- Pajamas – comfortable sleepwear can make it easier to drift off when you’re miles away from home
- Comfortable pants – sweatpants or leggings are ideal for wearing in transit
- Shorts – if you’re expecting nice weather or you’re heading to the beach, a couple of pairs of shorts will come in handy. Take some denim or cotton shorts for daytime exploring and a dressier pair for evenings
- Jeans – yes, they’re thick and heavy, but they’re also versatile and smarter than sweatpants
- Tops – warm weather travel calls for around five t-shirts or tank tops in a few different colors. If you’re heading somewhere cold, long-sleeve t-shirts are ideal for layering
- Button-down shirt – Unless you’re packing for a business trip, one shirt should suffice. Shirts are great as beach cover-ups, for covering up when visiting religious sites, and for creating a smart evening look
- Dresses – a couple of simple dresses are perfect for easy summer dressing, nights out, and wearing to the beach
- Hoodie/sweater – always pack at least one sweater or hoodie in case of chilly evenings, overnight flights, and excessive aircon. Of course, you’ll need several if you’re going somewhere cooler
- Warm coat or jacket – a warm jacket or coat in a neutral color is a must if you’re traveling in cold weather
- Swimwear – not just for beach vacations, swimwear can come in handy for wearing to the hotel pool, the nearby hot springs, or in the cabin hot tub!
- Sneakers – a comfortable pair of sneakers are ideal for traveling, sightseeing, and more
- Flip flops – wear them to the beach, in the communal showers, or around town – flip flops are definitely one of the best travel accessories for backpackers and tourists alike
- Sandals/shoes – a smarter pair of shoes or sandals will be useful for nights out and exploring
- Bag – whether you prefer a tote, a cross-body bag, or a backpack, you’ll need something to carry around your belongings during your trip
- Jewelry – a few items of costume jewelry can help keep your look interesting when working with a capsule wardrobe
- Travel towel – a quick-drying microfiber towel is a must for travelers
- Sarong/scarf – a large cotton scarf can work as a beach blanket, cover-up, sarong, or to keep you warm
- Laundry bag – a must for keeping your dirty clothes organized and away from your clean items
Yes, it’s a lot. One of the best ways to lighten your load is to stick to a limited color palette before you start packing. Whether you go for a range of earthy tones or mostly monochrome, you’ll be able to create lots of different looks with a few items.
After clothes, toiletries often take up the most space in your suitcase. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss
- Insect repellent
- Body lotion
- Solid shampoo
- Hair-styling products and tools
- Skincare products
- Lip balm
- Nail file and scissors
- Mini first-aid kit
Sticking to miniatures where possible can save some room, while using soap and solid shampoo instead of liquids can cut the chance of spillages.
The Ultimate Travel Packing List
We think you’ll agree that this is a pretty comprehensive travel packing list, covering everything you could possibly need for almost all types of vacations without running the risk of an overflowing suitcase.
Sure, you might need to add specific gear such as a tent for a camping trip or a snorkel mask for a beach vacation. But for the most part, this list has got you covered for any eventuality.
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