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By Jason Jourdan

Getting ready to travel abroad? Congratulations! Fast, simple and affordable international travel (relatively simple and affordable, anyway) is one of the very best perks to living in this era. As recently as 150 years ago, unless you were royalty or a baron of industry, you’d be looking at months of grueling transit, extreme mortal peril and possibly a couple years of indentured servitude thrown into the bargain on the back end to pay for your passage.

Today, travel abroad is a fantastic opportunity to step out of your everyday reality, visit places you’ve only seen pictures of, and broaden your worldview, all with a gratifyingly low risk of scurvy or servitude (of course, with all travel there’s still an element of risk, that’s why there’s Triptime travel insurance).

But what to pack for your global jaunt? Ah, that’s a question as old as travel itself. Where is that mythical sweet spot where comfort, weight, convenience and utility meet? Drawing on personal experience and exhaustive online research, we created our own master list of items to pack for an international trip, combining some old chestnuts with veteran travelers’ go-to packing hacks.

First, a little disclaiming.

Disclaimer 1: We tried to make this list as universal as possible, but let’s face it – some trips are different from others.  If you’re traveling to The Riviera with four steamer trunks to summer at the Rothschilds’ sprawling ancestral villa, this is probably not the list for you. But: if you’re going abroad and keeping an eye on the budget, don’t want a luggage-related hernia, or just don’t feel like spending an hour in a Croatian pharmacy trying to tell the antacids from the laxatives, this just might be the list for you.

Disclaimer 2: This post started out as a list of 10 things. That number could easily have swelled to 50, but we decided to keep the number relatively sane and settled on a reasonable 15. However, to be perfectly frank, we cheated. Some of the entries in this list are “kits,” combining several items in one thematic package (Electronics kit, Sundries kit, etc…). It was the only way to keep the number reasonable and actually a kits-based method of packing forces you to compartmentalize a bit, which makes it a little easier to find things when you’re rooting around in your bags at 3 a.m. in the Caracas airport luggage area (you’re welcome). Anyway, it’s more than 15 items, OK? Please don’t turn us in to the List Police.

Disclaimer 3: There are several items that don’t appear on this list that are so obvious and essential that it just didn’t make sense to put them in there. Of course you’ll bring your passport. Of course you’ll bring some source of money. Of course you’ll bring some sort of communications device, be it a smartphone, cell phone, tablet, laptop, or some combination of them. The very obviousness of items like these made us feel like we didn’t need to include them on a list of clever travel-hacking doodads.

One quick additional word about cameras: if you’re a professional photographer on assignment, or just a really keen photo buff, of course you’re going to want to bring your supersweet digital SLR camera with interchangeable lenses and flashes, etc… but if you’re not one of those, consider: most smartphones these days have really nice cameras, presenting a great opportunity to spare yourself from lugging a bulky camera bag all over hell and back.


15(ish) things you should pack for your international trip

  1. Electronics kit: The essential accessories for your electronic gear.
    1. Voltage converter/plug adaptor: Beware ‑ different countries have different voltages and electronic outlets. Many a traveler has checked into their hotel room and gone to charge their devices only to realize they have no means to get the electricity from the wall into their gadget – bummer! There are several converter kits that combine every possible international outlet plug configuration into the same tool you can buy online for under $30 (U.S.).
    2. All charge/power/patch cords
    3. A digital storage device: A flash drive or thumb drive to load your photos and videos onto, so you don’t run out of storage in the middle of the trip.
  2. Sundries kit: Everything you need to take care of your physical self on your trip.
    1. Toiletries/grooming supplies: including toilet paper.
    2. All medications, vitamins/supplements
    3. Antacid: You’re going to eat some weird stuff over there – arm yourself.
    4. Earplugs: If you’re a light sleeper, these are a godsend, especially in a hostel or any dormitory-type sleeping situation.
    5. Eyewear backups: Just presume you’ll lose your glasses/contacts at some point on the trip, prepare, and you’ll never be caught flatfooted & blurry-eyed.
    6. Tiger balm: The topical ointment that does it all – can help with muscle aches, joint pain, back aches, headaches, colds & congestion and more.
    7. Condoms: Even if you’re not looking for action on your trip, sometimes action comes looking for you (hey, who let Yakov Smirnof in here?!). And sometimes what happens in Bangkok stubbornly refuses to stay in Bangkok, unless you’ve taken precautions.
  3. Security kit: You don’t have to be totally paranoid when you go abroad, but thieves (and worse) certainly do exist out there; a couple simple items can go a long way toward keeping you and your stuff safe.
    1. Combination lock: Sometimes you’ll have a chance to secure your things in a locker, here’s how you take full advantage of it.
    2. Doorstop: It’s just a little rubber wedge, but when a lockless door is the only thing between you and the world, it can make all the difference.
  4. Waterproof cache of critical doc printouts: When traveling, so much depends on your documents, and so much can happen to them: water, loss, theft, open shampoo bottle …having printed copies of all your most important documents (passport, driver’s license, all travel confirmations/reservations) in a waterproof pouch just makes too much sense not to do it.
  5. Foldable empty daypack: Use it for daytrips & hikes …then use it to carry your trip souvenirs on the voyage home. Aren’t you a clever one?!
  6. Flashlight: But only if you like the ability to see things at night in far-flung parts of the world you’ve never set foot in before. Otherwise, disregard.
  7. Ziploc bags: Keeps the wet stuff wet and the dry stuff dry. In the holy trinity of handy travel items, Ziploc bags occupies a spot of honor next to superglue and duct tape… and hey, look what’s next on the list…
  8. Duct tape: Too many uses to list here. It’s duct tape, for cryin’ out loud.
  9. Superglue: The miracle substance that can mend items, wounds, hearts and nations. Forget about American Express, don’t leave home without this.
  10. Swiss army knife/multitool: With a swiss army knife and a Leatherman-type multitool, who can stand against you? Nobody! Well …nobody except the airport security guard that confiscates them if you forget to stow them in your checked luggage.
  11. A hat: That ozone layer ain’t getting any thicker, pal. Keep the sun off your head and out of your eyes with a billed or brimmed chapeau.
  12. eReader/Kindle: Or, you could cart five or six cumbersome books around in your bag, your choice.
  13. Area Maps: Between spotty coverage patterns and ungodly international data rates, your smartphone is going to be nothing but a cool camera for long stretches. Get hard-copy (preferably laminated) maps of the places you’re visiting and rediscover the lost art of cartography …and of not getting lost.
  14. Travel towel: For the beach, for the shower, for a picnic blanket, for a pillow. Plus, they used them in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… what more do you need to know?
  15. Region/season-specific weather-defeating item: Depending on where you’re going, you’ll be screwed if you don’t bring either a jacket, poncho or sunscreen.

To sum up…

It’s great to go well-prepared into a trip; it enhances your enjoyment and affords you a deliciously smug, superior air as you watch your companions fumble around in a hapless, ill-provisioned funk. And you can’t put a pricetag on that. Seriously, though, no matter what you pack, the main thing is to get out there and experience the amazingly wide and diverse world that exists beyond your own borders. As your world expands, you will, too.

And on our way out the door, let’s not forget another crucial bit of prep for your international trips: travel health insurance. Should anything unexpected happen to you while abroad, your primary policy may cover only part – or none – of your healthcare expenses. The pennies-per-day a policy costs will be the smartest investment you’ve ever made. And you know who issues the most affordable, flexible and easy-to-buy travel insurance policies around? Why it’s us, of course: Triptime travel insurance. Check us out on the web today and get a quick quote: Travel safe, and travel well!