In 2017, American travelers spent $135 billion abroad. It’s a massive change from a couple of decades ago when less than five percent of the population had a passport.
One reason is Millennials and Gen Z are traveling more. Boomers aren’t to be forgotten, though. As they retire, many of them are jetting off on their dream vacations.
If this is your first trip overseas, you may feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry if you’ve procrastinated about packing. This last-minute packing list will help you prepare for your big adventure.
Table of Contents
Get Your Documents in Order
When packing for international travel, look to your paperwork. Do you have the right documents to get to your destination?
You definitely shouldn’t leave documentation until the last minute. If your passport is set to expire, it could mean you’re staying grounded instead of saying bon voyage.
Likewise, some countries require visitors’ visas. These can take weeks or even months to get.
As you begin packing, it’s a good idea to make sure you have all the documentation you’ll need. Some places will ask to see your itinerary, while others need you to present a letter of invitation. It’s a good idea to carry hard copies of these documents, just in case you end up without an Internet connection.
Finally, be sure you have copies of other important documents, such as insurance slips. You should also carry ID and your emergency contact information.
Last Minute Packing List Power-ups
We mentioned you want to have hard copies of your travel documents in case you can’t connect to the Internet. There’s another preparation you’ll want to make.
It’s a good idea to charge your electronics beforehand. Whether you’re bringing a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone, take a few minutes and plug them in before you jet off.
Many airports and airplanes have charging stations and outlets you can use as well. Just be sure to pack your cords and chargers so you can take advantage.
Depending on where you’re traveling, it’s also a good idea to bring an outlet adapter. Some countries use different voltages, so an adapter is crucial.
If you’re backpacking in the mountains or staying in the countryside, international travel essentials include extra batteries or power banks. Just make sure they’re charged before you go.
Another device you’ll want to look after is your camera. Camera batteries often have special chargers, so charge batteries before you go. If you’ll be away for a while or plan to take lots of pictures, it’s a good idea to bring your charger and extra batteries.
Your Traveling Pharmacy
Next up on your international packing list is any prescription medications or devices. Some medications aren’t available in all countries, so you may not be able to access your prescription. You may not be able to get contacts delivered to the middle of the Outback either.
If you take any prescription medications, you’ll want to be sure to bring them with you. If you’re running low, get a refill before you go.
If you wear contacts or prescription glasses, you’ll want to bring these items. It’s a good idea to have a back-up pair of glasses or spare contacts as well.
Be sure to keep your prescription medications in their original containers. You should keep them close at hand for inspection at the airport if you’re asked.
Scope out the Weather Forecast
One reason you might have left packing to the last minute was because the weather can be difficult to predict. Are you going to need your swimsuit and flip-flops, or should you be packing a parka?
While you might know it’s summer in Europe or winter in Australia, it’s a good idea to check the local forecast. Knowing if Europe’s having a heat wave or Australia’s experiencing a cold snap will help you pack.
Even if the forecast is predicting record highs, things to bring when traveling abroad include:
- A sweater is always a good idea, especially if you’re in a desert area that gets cold after sundown
- A raincoat can help if you encounter pop-up showers
You may also want to bring a sturdy pair of shoes, even if you plan to spend most of your time on the beach. You never know where you’ll end up walking.
Another good idea is to bring a hat. A sunhat will keep you in the shade on the beach, while a warm, cozy hat will be most appreciated in wintry weather.
Finally, don’t forget to bring your sunglasses! The sun’s UV rays can damage your eyes winter or summer. Protect your vision with a good pair of polarized lenses.
Carry-on vs. Checked Luggage
This is probably one of the most common questions about how to pack for international travel. What should go in your checked luggage, and what should go in your carry-on?
Anything you don’t want or need immediately should go in your checked luggage. This would include extra clothes, shoes, and large bottles of liquids. If you’re going to be away for a while, you may decide to bring a full tube of toothpaste versus a small travel one.
The TSA allows liquids in containers smaller than 3.4 oz to travel in carry-on luggage. Anything larger should be in a checked bag. You should also keep prescription medications and important documents with you.
Electronics should usually be placed in your carry-on luggage. One, you wouldn’t want them to be broken if the airline happened to handle your checked luggage roughly. Two, you’ll probably want them with you in case the airline happens to lose your luggage.
Some larger items may not fit in your carry-on luggage. “Can I take my camera on the plane?” and, “Can I bring my laptop?” are common questions.
The answer is usually yes, even if they’re in a separate bag. Most airlines allow passengers one piece of carry-on luggage and a “personal item.” This can be a camera, a laptop, or even another bag.
Take to the Skies
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the last-minute packing list. With some luck, your bags are now packed with your travel essentials, and you’re ready for adventure.
Ready for a sneak peek at your destination? Our travel guides have you covered, no matter where you land.