As the least enjoyable part of any trip, not many people can say that they love to pack.
However, with a carefully planned suitcase to be checked in and some handy carry-on luggage, you’ll ensure you have the travel essentials that will make any adventure a success.
What are the travel essentials you should never be without?
Regardless of the destination, all travelers should take with them appropriate clothing, toiletries, ID and travel documents, money and bank cards, and electronics like a laptop or smartphone.
Depending on where you’re headed, you might also need to pack for weather conditions, local laws, and the activities on your itinerary.
With some tips on what to bring and knowing how to be prepared for any situation or destination, the once tedious task of packing your luggage will suddenly become less mundane.
This guide covers it all from learning the local laws of a country to organizing your bag efficiently, so read on for everything you need to know on travel essentials.
Choosing the Right Bag
The first step to any successful packing routine is having the right size and style of bag.
To determine what’s best, you’ll want to think about how long you’re traveling for, how easy it is to move around with, and the size allowances of the luggage.
These are some of the more popular traveling bags to fit your essentials into:
Backpack: Nothing beats the practical nature of a backpack and they make the perfect carry-on companion if you get them in the right size. Travel-friendly backpacks also come in larger sizes, often used by backpackers who live out of them, otherwise something large enough to take your carry-on essentials in will be ample sized.
Duffel bag: A duffel bag is another great choice for carry-on luggage for those shorter trips, and light enough to not tip you over any weight limits. Although they’re not as easy to carry as a backpack because you’ll only have one hand free, they can fit a lot in and stow away neatly in the overhead cabin.
Wheeled luggage: Most wheeled luggage options come in either soft or hard styles. The softer style is more lightweight and flexible, but the hard side luggage is durable and protects the contents inside. Whichever option, having spinner wheels is a must, as this will allow you to move freely through the airport even with a heavy load.
Carry-on luggage: A carry on luggage suitcase is like a standard one, just smaller, and made to fit the size requirements that airlines have. Compared to a duffel bag, these usually have compartments and pockets that make it easier to organize your stuff, which some will prefer.
Researching Your Destination
Before heading off abroad or even interstate, it’s essential to research the location you’re heading to.
Spending just a little bit of time online learning about the country will help you pack more efficiently, making sure you understand things like the local laws and culture, typical weather for that time of year, and the activities you have planned on your itinerary, and what’s required for them.
Weather and Climate of the Country
The climate of your chosen destination will dictate most of what you do while you’re there, so it’s crucial to know.
Knowing things like what the temperature will be, whether there’s a chance of rain, and how the conditions could affect things like tour operations and certain modes of transport are all essential.
The climate and local weather will also dictate what you should pack based on these things, and going to one country could require different contents in your suitcase entirely from a visit you took there just a few months prior.
Do your research to look at the average daily temperature, what season it will be when you arrive, and other weather-related anomalies you need to be aware of.
Some countries can differ dramatically from one region to the next, so don’t assume that your destination will have the same weather as the next one over.
Plan for unseasonal weather by packing things like a rain jacket or warm coat, so you can be ready for anything.
Cultural Differences and Local Laws
Traveling to another country is an amazing way to experience other cultures and nationalities firsthand.
However, it also means you have to be mindful of the different laws and traditional customs that the country has, and ensure you’re conducting yourself in line with them, which often includes the clothing you wear.
Even with the best intentions, it’s possible to offend and disrespect people from other countries, and sometimes break the law, if you’re not aware of their culture.
These are just some examples that show how important it is to learn everything you can about the destination you’re traveling to.
In China, some gifts are considered disrespectful or have adverse meanings attached to them. Giving someone an umbrella can mean you want to end your relationship with them, or offering anything that comes in a set of four can signify death.
Many countries have laws and customs around wearing clothing that might be deemed inappropriate or show a lot of skin. Places like Egypt, India, Lebanon, and United Arab Emirates require visitors and citizens to be more covered compare to western countries and ask that shoulders and legs aren’t shown.
During the holy month of Ramadan, Islamic nations observe rules like no eating, chewing gum, or smoking in public. This and other religious holidays are important to research before you go somewhere, as it can affect how you behave, where you go, and what you eat.
Although there are clothing-optional beaches in some parts of the world, always bring along a respectable swimsuit if you plan on swimming. Never assume that it is okay to take your clothing off, as this will lead to arrests and fines in some places.
Always remove your shoes when visiting a home in Japan and make sure your feet are clean. Not doing so is deeply disrespectful and will upset your host greatly. Some countries have rules about wearing closed-in shoes when visiting temples and other holy sites as well.
Cities and towns with higher rates of petty crime and theft may dictate the clothing and jewelry a tourist wears as well. To avoid the advances of pickpockets and other thieves, you should avoid wearing flashy jewelry or designer bags that might make you more of a target.
A carefully packed suitcase should reflect the type of trip you’re about to take, whether it’s an overnight business trip or a three-week holiday seeing the sights of Southeast Asia.
Before you start assembling your list of travel essentials, come up with a rough itinerary of everything you plan on doing.
This itinerary should guide you towards a suitable list, ensuring you have the right stuff to match everything you’ll be doing.
Those spending a lot of time exploring and hiking will want sun protection, comfortable shoes, and a reliable water bottle.
Others will need to pack cocktail dresses and swimsuits if they plan on staying at a luxurious resort.
Availability and Accessibility
With thorough research into your destination and what’s available there, you’ll be able to determine what things you need to pack and those you can get there.
Some locations might not have access to facilities like convenience stores or supermarkets, which might mean packing everyday items that you could usually get elsewhere.
Once you know where your accommodation is or where exactly you plan on traveling to, you can do some research into what’s around there.
A quick Google search should show you businesses close by, otherwise, you can jump onto a discussion board for locals and find out directly from the source.
Another important consideration is what amenities might be available at your accommodation or nearby.
Consider whether you’ll be able to wash clothes in a laundromat so you can repeat outfits, whether there are kitchen facilities available, and the various services available at the hostel or hotel you’re staying at.
The Essential Travel Essentials For Your List
Savvy travelers understand the importance of having a list of their travel essentials, and never forgetting to tick it off before a flight.
If you’re ready to get serious about planning and want to know what essentials to never leave home without, these are worth adding to your list.
Clothing: Think of the everyday basics you’ll want to be covered like t-shirts, shorts, shoes, socks, and underwear. Use these as your base and then build from there based on the activities you plan on doing and the current weather. Where possible, choose items that will do double duty like quick-drying pants to wash on the go or wrinkle-resistant t-shirts that don’t need to be ironed.
Toiletries: Although most accommodations offer some toiletries, you’ll want your toothbrush, hairbrush or comb, sunscreen, and deodorant as absolute basics. If you’re not staying at a hotel, bring along soap, shampoo and conditioner, and face wash.
Medicine: If you take any medicines currently, pack them, along with the prescription given to you by your doctor. You’ll also want to pack items like band-aids, painkillers, and antihistamines if you’re prone to allergies.
Finances and Banking: Whatever you need to finance your trip should come along with you. This could include the dollars you’ve already converted or bank cards that you’ll use at the ATMs while you’re there.
Travel Documents: These items are crucial to any trip and include hotel reservations, local maps, passports, plane tickets, and itineraries. Keep them somewhere separate to ensure nothing gets lost. You might also want to bring a list of emergency contacts back home and abroad.
Electronics: Smartphones, tablets, laptops, cameras, Go-Pros, and chargers should all be on your list when packing for any type of trip. If you’re going overseas, make sure you have an adapter that will allow you to use them in the right country. Before getting on the plane, have everything charged and ready to use.
What to Bring in Your Carry On
On the plane, you’ll want to have some checked luggage that stays close by and allows you to travel comfortably.
Depending on the length of your flight and what you require, these are some popular carry-on items:
Water bottle: You can get thirsty traveling on a plane due to the dry, recirculated air in the cabin. Stay hydrated with regular, small sips of water so that you’re not rushing to the airplane toilet every hour.
Snacks: Choose snacks that are easy to access and won’t be a bother to other passengers. Dried nuts, trail mix, muesli bars, and candy bars are all popular and can keep the hunger away until the flight attendants serve the main meals.
Electronics: The more compact the better when it comes to electronics for a plane trip. Your smartphone or a tablet should be enough for watching movies, or you can utilize the in-flight entertainment if they have it. For traveling abroad, make sure you have an international SIM ready for action when you land.
Headphones: A good pair of headphones will go long way when you’re on-board. Something comfortable and with reasonable volume to use with your electronics or to connect to the plane’s entertainment system.
Books and/or magazines: The old-fashioned form of entertainment suits some travelers better than others, and you can keep reading them even when the rest of the passengers have been asked to turn off their devices.
Toiletries: The length of your trip will determine how many and what kind of toiletries you bring in your carry-on luggage. Shorter flights might only need basics like lip balm and tissues, whereas long haul journeys will require a toothbrush, deodorant, baby wipes, and face wash.
Wallet: A wallet is the home to your most important belongings as a traveler, including your bank cards and government-issued identification. If you need cash when you arrive, visit the currency conversion branch at the airport.
Travel documentation: This can include everything from the plane tickets you’re traveling with to your passport, and it needs to be stored in the most secure compartment of your carry-on luggage.
Sunglasses: Even if it wasn’t sunny when you left, it could be when you arrive. Keep your sunglasses in a protective case so they’re always within reach.
Comfort items: Although not essential, you’re guaranteed a more comfortable flight if you have a pair of compression socks, a neck pillow, earplugs, eye mask, and thick socks. Those traveling on longer flights will especially appreciate having them.
Items You Should Never Travel With
Just as important as knowing what you should bring along is knowing what needs to stay home, and the airline you travel with should have a strict list of what’s prohibited.
There are some items not suitable or forbidden to travel with, so make sure you leave these out of your luggage.
Food and drinks: There are sometimes limits on traveling with powders and liquids, and certain countries have customs officials that ban fruits and vegetables, dried meats, and other foods from entering. Check with the airline you’re traveling with and seek out the official government advice for the country before taking any foods with you in your suitcase or carry-on luggage.
Weapons and sharp items: Anything that is a genuine weapon or could be used as one will not be allowed to travel with you on the plane. These include items in your carry-on and checked luggage, and each airline and country will have its own requirements. Knives, blades, screwdrivers, and firearms are at the top of this list.
Dangerous goods and items: Other items including lithium batteries, explosives, aerosols, flammable liquids, and dangerous chemicals may be prohibited. These items must be declared when you check-in at the airport so they can be disposed of carefully.
7 Tips For Packing Success
With all of the contents of your bags ready to go, you’ll now need to spend some time organizing everything before packing and planning how it’ll all work.
We’ve got some helpful tips you can follow that will ensure you’ve packed meticulously and not wasted an inch of space.
Make use of accessories like vacuum packing rolling bags that allow you to fit more in without taking up space. If you’re traveling on an airline without weight limits for checked luggage, this is especially helpful.
Think about what items might be able to comfortably fit inside other items. You can store small electronics inside of socks or wrap your toiletries bag in a large jacket. It does two jobs in one by protecting the inner contents and saving space in your bag.
Anything that has the potential to leak should go straight into a plastic bag. Bring along some additional bags so you can store anything else you need to on the way home, including wet and dirty clothes.
Rolling garments is a great way to save space and keep your clothes organized. You’ll be able to see what you have without pulling everything out and making a mess.
Always start with a list when planning a trip and edit it as you go, adding or removing whatever you need to. Give yourself a few weeks leading up to the trip to create and manage the list to guarantee you won’t forget anything.
All electronic items can be stored together so that you can keep the cords together. Wrap the cords up and use a zip tie to secure them, so that nothing gets tangled.
Lay all of your clothing out before you leave and be realistic about what you’ll wear. Most people find they can cull half of the garments they originally packed and still have lots of outfits. If you’re able to use a laundromat on your travels, you can easily re-wear most of your clothes.
Be Prepared With Travel Essentials
There are lots of unknowns that occur when traveling, so the best thing you can do to prepare for them is to have all of the fundamentals for a good trip.
Whether a last-minute storm rolls in or your laptop runs out of steam, you’ll know you’ve got the essentials close by thanks to some careful planning and preparation.
Traveling can be an anxious time for even the most experienced wanderer and by having your essentials packed and the right type of luggage, you remove a lot of this worry.
To find out more about preparing your baggage for the journey ahead, we’ve answered some FAQs that can give you a push in the right direction.
What Size Should a Carry On Bag Be?
Each airline has specific measurements that must be adhered to for carry-on and checked luggage, and this can include physical dimensions and overall weight.
The standard measurement in the US for luggage taken on a domestic flight is 22 x 14 x 9 inches, including the top of the handle to the bottom of the wheels.
What Are the Benefits of Hardside Luggage?
Hardshell or hardside luggage is more durable and secure than softer luggage styles, as the tough exterior makes it hard to damage anything inside.
This toughness also makes it easier to keep clean and it can be easily wiped down after each trip, so tends to last longer than softer styles as well.
How Much Should An Empty Suitcase Weigh?
An average medium-sized suitcase weighs between 6.9 and 12.6lbs, but this can vary depending on physical dimensions, materials, and additional compartments and pockets.
If you’re traveling on a flight with requirements for luggage weight, choosing something lighter will enable you to fit more in.
Laura Martinez is passionate about traveling, and when she is not on the road or air-bound, she is researching the best information that will help travelers have the best experiences away from their homes. Whether you are more interested in travel education or you want to get the best advice regarding travel items to make your trip more expedient, Laura is the woman to consult. Do yourself a world of and bookmark her website. This is most likely the only place you need to visit for all your travel-related questions.