Summer International Travel Series: Part 2

Welcome to part two of our four part summer travel series. Yesterday we focused on safety while traveling abroad. Today we’re going to talk about one thing that you can do before your trip to make sure your travels are a whole lot more pleasant – packing.

When you’re traveling abroad, make sure to pack light, and pack right. Here are some key tips that can help you make your trip less of a hassle by packing the right suitcase filled with everything you need, and avoiding the things you don’t.

What to Bring With You

Clothes and Accessories

  • If you are backpacking, it’s nice to have two backpacks – a smaller one for day trips and a larger one that you can leave behind in the hostel
  • A smaller purse, bag, knapsack or fanny pack to take out when you don’t want to carry all of your luggage
  • Non-wrinkling, easy to roll clothes (cotton and microblend shirts, jeans, jersery material dresses are a good place to start). Rather than packing bulky items, focus on clothes that lend themselves easily to layering
  • Enough underwear and socks to last the trip – if you are traveling in a hot climate, you’ll want to change these items often
  • Comfortable walking shoes – to avoid looking like a tourist, choose something sleek as most other countries don’t wear sneakers in public
  • Rain gear – jacket, umbrella, etc.
  • Swimsuit
  • Flip-flops – some hostel showers may be less than pristine, so it’s always a good idea to have a pair of these in your suitcase
  • Sunglasses – make sure to pack these, they’re easy to forget
  • Toothbrush
  • Sunscreen – this can be very expensive in European pharmacies, so if you burn easily, plan ahead

Electronics and Books

  • Watch or travel alarm clock – your cell phone may not work abroad, so it’s good to have another time piece to make sure you don’t miss your flight to Prague or your train to Chang Mai
  • Camera
  • Guide books for your destination – Lonely Planet, Let’s Go and Frommer’s are some of our favorites because of their focus on budget and off-the-beaten-path travel
  • iPod – you might want to consider buying a case or wall charger to keep the music flowing during your trip. We like this SuperCharger.
  • A good book to keep you occupied on train rides or during layovers

Hostel Necesscities

  • Combination locks to secure suitcase zippers and lockers in hostels
  • Electrical plug adaptors – each region has their own style of plugs, so research ahead of time to see what you will need
  • Toilet paper – some countries prefer bidets to toilet paper, so if you’re partial to this western amenity, pack your own
  • Towel – most hostels will rent you a towel, but they are usually very worn and could be all rented out. Check out this backpacker’s review of a travel-friendly PackTowel.
  • Pillowcase – this is very lightweight and can help you sleep easier in a foreign hostel room
  • Gallon-size, sealable Ziploc bags – if your clothes get wet and you have to pack them while they are still damp, they can make everything in your bag smell like mildew. Sealing the wet clothes in the Ziploc bag will save the rest of your luggage.

Don’t Leave Home Without These!


Credit Card

  • You can get the best exchange rates by using your credit card
  • Before you leave, make sure your credit card company operates overseas
  • Make sure your credit card company knows that you will be using your credit card overseas, otherwise they may shut off your card, thinking that the charges are fraudulent

ATM Card

  • Notify your bank that you will be traveling
  • Make sure that your card will work oversees – not all banks provide this service
  • Ask your bank about your PIN number – if your code begins with a zero, it may not work in some countries

General Packing Tips

  • Depending on your length of stay, it may be cheaper and easier to buy your toiletries abroad. Unless you are very picky about brand, most countries offer a selection of shampoos, toothpastes and other necessities.
  • Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your checked luggage is misplaced by the airline
  • Keep your valuables, identification, and itinerary information in your carry-on bag
  • Many backpacks or suitcases look the same, so be sure to identify your luggage with name tags, ribbons, blue tape, or any other distinctive mark you can devise
  • After packing your suitcase, go outside and walk around a couple of blocks with it. You might decide to ditch some of your gear after feeling the weight of your bag.
  • Pack light – you will be able to find laundry services abroad that will make it easy to live on a small amount of clothing. (Or you can always opt for washing clothes in the sink.) Check out these packing tips from people who literally travel for a living.
  • Pack a snack bag in your carry-on. Planes and trains can get delayed, so it’s always good to have a little snack in tow.

Tomorrow we’ll bring you the next installment in our four part travel series, tips on transit and accomodation.

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