With international borders opening up for travelers once again, you’re probably daydreaming of your next adventure, whether that be to Southeast Asia, South America, or some magical European city. Or maybe you’ve already bought a ticket, planned an itinerary, and booked your lodging. Whether your adventure is next week or next year, it’s never too early to start working on a packing list.
The difference between a good trip and a great adventure is a well-packed bag. Somebody smart said that. And if they didn’t, they should have, because it’s 100% true.
Whether you're heading to a faraway beach, distant mountains, or a cosmopolitan city, there are essential items you can pack to help ensure your international travel experience is seamless and stress-free. Read on for our ultimate packing list to discover the travel essentials you didn’t know you needed.
The Baggage Triumvirate
We’ve all heard of those guys and gals who head out for continent-crossing adventures with nothing more than a teeny backpack and a book of poetry.
But we’re not those people.
While we do admire a smartly curated backpack, when it comes to international traveling, we like the leeway of:
- Checked luggage
- A carry-on suitcase
- A personal item
These are our baggage triumvirate. When utilized correctly, each piece has a specific purpose for keeping you safe, organized, and tidy on your travels. So, let’s explore what you should pack in each bag.
What Goes in Your Checked Luggage?
Your checked bag is the workhorse of your luggage stable, capable of carrying your bulkiest and heaviest necessities. It’s also the place for any liquids larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml). But before you start stuffing your checked luggage with bricks (or lug-soled boots), visit your airline’s website to make sure you know their size and weight limits.
While there isn’t a standard size limit for international travel, the most common checked luggage size limit is 62 linear inches (height + width + depth). Commonly, international carriers also cap the weight of a single piece of luggage at 50 pounds, although some allow up to 70 pounds for international travel.
That seems like a lot, right? But you’ll be surprised by how fast the weight of all your belongings adds up, so let’s take a look at the items that should be at the top of your travel packing list.
Clothing and Shoes
Before you start packing your clothes and shoes, think a little about the logistics of your adventure:
- Will you move from place to place or stay in one location?
- What is the climate?
- Will you have access to laundry facilities?
- Do you need any special clothing (say, for a wedding or a conference)?
- Will you be utilizing public transportation while carrying your luggage?
What (and how much) you pack depends in large part on those answers. If you’ll have access to laundry facilities, for instance, you probably don’t have to pack your entire wardrobe. However, there are certain clothing essentials that you should always pack in your checked luggage.
- Sweater, sweatshirt, wrap, or light jacket to protect you from unexpected weather
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Casual jeans, pants, shorts, or skirts
- Casual tops in both short and long-sleeved styles
- A multi-purpose outfit for dinners or dressier events
- Socks and undergarments
- Pajamas or loungewear
Toiletries are essential for traveling, and everybody has an item they just can’t vacation without—a favorite serum, sunscreen, or shampoo. We get it.
Fortunately, there are no size restrictions to the toiletries you pack in your checked luggage, so if you’re traveling for several weeks, you can go ahead and pack the full-sized versions of these items (along with your must-haves):
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body wash or soap
- Face wash or scrub
- Moisturizer and sunscreen
- Razor and shaving cream
- Dry shampoo or hairspray
- Makeup and makeup remover
Additionally, knowing how to pack toiletries can make the difference between crisp, clean vacation outfits and shampoo-splattered ensembles. Our packing pro tip? Double-check that lids are secured in place and keep everything in spill-proof containers or a resealable bag.
What Goes in Your Carry-on Luggage?
Purchasing a high-quality carry-on bag that you can trust to contain your immediate and important items is an investment worth making before you embark on your next international adventure.
But what you pack in that carry-on depends on whether it’s your primary piece of luggage or not. For some travelers, the convenience of a single piece of luggage within their control outweighs its size constraints. For others, having plenty of room to pack outweighs the extra steps of checking a bag and hunting it down at the checked baggage claim. Whichever way you choose to pack, there are certain items that should remain close to your side throughout your travels.
Items that should be packed in your carry-on regardless of whether you checked baggage are:
- Important official documents, including:
- Passport and ID
- Visas (if needed)
- Proof of vaccination status
- Paper copies of travel documents (you never know where the internet will be spotty), including:
- Event Tickets
- Money and credit cards
- Daily medicines
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Warm jacket or wrap
- Laptop and charger
- Cellphone and charger
- Entertainment that isn’t internet-based (you know, those old things called “books”)
- Travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs
- Empty water bottle (to fill up once you’ve passed through security)
- Mask (ideally, medical grade), backup mask, hand sanitizer
Packing for Covid-19 Safety
In this era of pandemic travel, Covid-19 safety is an essential part of any international travel checklist. Along with your masks, backup mask, and hand sanitizer, your carry-on should also contain:
- Rapid tests
- A thermometer
- A pulse oximeter
- Fever medicine
If you’re planning an international trip, you should also be cognizant of the Covid-19 rules and restrictions in all your destinations (including your stopovers).1
Before leaving your house, make sure you’ve thought through the following:
- Are masks required at the final destination of your international trip? Where, when, and what kind?
- Will you need to show proof of a negative test to travel or attend an event?
- If tests are required, what kind do they need (rapid, antigen, PCR)? What timing?
- Are vaccines mandated? What kind of proof is acceptable?
- What is your plan if you contract the virus while traveling?
- Do you have preferred medicines that you want to bring in case you test positive?
Three Important Restrictions to Know for Carry-ons
Domestic and international airlines restrict what size travel gear can be carried on board the aircraft. Additionally, the TSA has specific rules for what can and cannot be carried through the airport security checkpoint.
Understanding specific carry-on bag rules before you arrive at the airport will save you time and prevent any of your belongings from being taken away by the TSA:
- The 3-1-1 Rule – Also known as the Liquids Rule, this requires that all liquids, gels, creams, aerosols, and lotions larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) be packed in your checked luggage only. The rule can be broken down into three, easy-to-remember parts:
- Nothing holding more than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) of liquid can be carried onboard the aircraft.
- All carry-on liquids must be contained in a 1-quart resealable bag.
- Each passenger may only carry 1 bag of liquids.
- TSA’s Prohibited Items List – As well as prohibiting all liquids larger than 3.4 ounces, the TSA maintains a comprehensive list of prohibited carry-on items. While some of these items seem common-sense (guns, weapons, and flammables), others are less explicable (Segways, bowling pins, and lacrosse sticks). If you think you may be traveling with an item that might pique the interest of the TSA, check their list before packing your travel gear.2
- Your Airline’s Carry-on Restrictions – While your airline won’t weigh your carry-on, they will ensure that it conforms to their size restrictions prior to allowing you to board with it. Commonly, carry-on luggage measures 9” x 14” x 22” thereby allowing it to fit into the overhead bin. However, this is a restriction that varies by airline, so you should check your airline’s website prior to packing.3
What Goes in Your Personal Item?
Depending on the length, purpose, and distance of your adventure, you might choose to forego carry-on luggage and keep all your immediately-needed items in your “personal item.” A duffle or backpack is a good choice for this kind of double-duty packing.
On the other hand, you might find this isn’t sufficient space for an international adventure. In fact, many international travelers will pack both a carry-on bag and a personal item. And yes, before you ask, there is in fact a difference between a carry-on vs personal item.
Regardless of how you choose to travel, make sure your personal item can fit under the seat in front of you. This area is usually 16” x 12” x 6”, but keep in mind you’ll also need space for your feet and legs, especially if your flight is a long one.
At a minimum, your personal item should contain:
- Warm jacket or wrap
- Travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs
- Mask and hand sanitizer
- Water bottle
BÉIS: For Your Ultimate International Adventure
When it comes to international travel, there isn’t one-size-fits-all advice on how to pack. Much of your luggage choices will depend on where you’re going and what you'll be doing. However, using a list and organizing yourself by luggage type will go a long way to helping you stay organized both before and while you travel.
At BÉIS, we pride ourselves on crafting and manufacturing the best travel luggage in the industry. Whether you prefer to travel with check-in luggage, a carry-on luggage, or different versions of carry-on bags, we have exactly what you need. All of our travel luggage is thoughtfully designed, like our grey luggage collection, offering helpful features such as TSA-approved locks and weight-indicating handles.
Wherever your next adventure, BÉIS can make sure you get there with everything you need.
- Salcedo, A. and Yar, S. “Travel and the Coronavirus: Answers to Your Top Questions.” The New York Times. 08 October 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-travel-questions-advice.html
- “What Can I Bring?” Transportation Security Administration. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/all
- Sautulet, Darcey. “Baggage Requirements for International Airline Travel.” USA Today. 05 March 2018. https://traveltips.usatoday.com/baggage-requirements-international-airline-travel-12505.html