Lessons In Packing — What to Bring On Your Trip

When I created my original list of items to pack, it was at the beginning of my exchange and included items I had either packed or wish I had packed at that time. Now, with 4 months in Europe and a handful of countries visited, I can vouch for how useful a list like this can be. This is particularly true when you get in the habit of packing and unpacking week after week. This blog entry is a modification of a previous list many have come to love. The modifications are based on extensive personal travel experience and suggestions from my readers. I hope this refreshed list will be even more applicable to travellers of all types.

In navigating this list, items of importance are grouped together alphabetically under a tier system. Thus, for individuals who are travelling for a few days to a week, Tier 1 is sufficient. If you are planning for a trip that’ll last you a few weeks, I suggest items from both Tier 1 & Tier 2. For those who are planning to live in a country for a long period of time (for reasons such as an exchange or internship), items from all three tiers will be most useful. Regardless of your length of stay, I encourage all travellers to go through the entire list, as different items will be useful for different situations and may be prioritized differently for that specific trip. A checklist like this the one below will relieve an indescribable amount of stress from your planning.

Tier 1: Highest Importance (The must-haves for short travel):

Addresses of important locations (hotel, schools, airport, etc.) in both paper and electronic format
Allergy medication / eye-drops
Band-aids
Camera with memory card
Clothes (socks, undergarments, shirts, pants, shorts)
Cords / chargers for the electronics you bring
Electronic device that’s Wi-Fi enabled (either a laptop, tablet or smartphone)
Footwear (shoes, sandals, flip-flops)
Google Maps area downloaded to your phone (for offline navigation)
Gum (if your ears are sensitive to pressure changes)
Hand sanitizer
Hygiene bag (toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, etc.)
Money (a variety of denominations in foreign currency)
Passport (and photocopies)
Pillow (consider a neck pillow, too!)
Power cord converter / outlet adapters (if the host country’s outlets are different than your own)
Prescription drugs / medication
Print out of flight confirmation or online check-in receipt
Shaver / razor
Snacks (granola bars, cookies, etc.)
Sunglasses
Sunscreen
Towel
Water bottle

Tier 2: High Importance (If living elsewhere for a few weeks):

Bed sheets
Bug spray
Combination lock for valuables
Cutlery
Electric power bar
Extension cord
Facial tissues
Headphones 
Large camera case for multi-purpose use (storing snacks, holding phone, wallet, etc. in addition to camera)
Music
Nail clippers
Notebook of common phrases / requests (if host country speaks a foreign language)
Photographs of people you love
Protein powder or bars
Slippers
Smartphone applications (translation, point of interest, currency exchange apps)
Sticky notes
Translation dictionary (if host country speaks a foreign language)
Writing utensils (pens, pencils, highlighters)
Your childhood toy

Tier 3: Medium Importance (For long durations of 3 months or more):

Books
Bar soap
Car charger
Clothes hangers
Dryer sheets
Fold up laundry basket
Frisbee (always fun)
Giant flag of your country (be proud, and have others sign it at the end of your trip!)
Goggles (excursions, foam parties)
Inflatable mattress
Lip balm
Moisturizer
Notebook
Print out syllabus of classes with binders (if studying abroad)
Reusable shopping bags (and some plastic bags)
Sanitizer wipes/ hand sanitizer
Q-tips
Post-it notes
Screwdriver
Shower shoes
SIM card opener (for certain phones)
Sleep mask
Sleeping bag
Sunglasses
Tape
Toilet paper (seriously though, you’d be surprised how handy it will be)
Waterproof tote bag (to carry items to shower with)
Ziploc ® bags

Be Prepared To Buy Once You Arrive:

Cell phone plan (if Wi-Fi is scarce)
Fan (if your hotel does not provide air conditioning)
Food and beverages (more than you’d believe)
Laundry detergent
Pots and pans
Souvenirs

Prepare Your Body:

Lots of rest the night before your trip
Healthy breakfast
Go through a check-list of items (like this one) to alleviate stress
Keep a positive attitude
Get excited!

These are the guidelines I recommend, but by no means is it an exhaustive list, especially given the wide variety of travel available. However, this list did me wonders during my travels and will be especially valuable to you in preventing needless running around in search for these items and paying outrageous prices as punishment for forgetting.

Other tips I have for you include not packing your bags fully on the trip there. I always pack my bags ¾ full to make room for souvenirs, clothes and other items bought while abroad (and it avoids paying embarrassing overage fees or being forced to remove items). I also find that most luggage tends to look very similar so spend two minutes and mark your bag with something easy to catch your eye such as a polka dotted ribbon or bows. Pants or shorts with lots of front pockets are an excellent choice when at the airport because you will be expected to carry lots of items (boarding passes, plane ticket confirmation, passport, wallet, etc.) that need to be easily accessible, but at the same time organized. Furthermore as a word of caution, refrain from using back pockets to reduce your chance of being pickpocketed or having contents slip out when sitting down. For those travelling for long periods of time, keep in mind that just because you are primarily living in one location doesn’t mean spur-of-the-moment travel cannot occur so prepare for any type of weather conditions. I love your feedback so leave me a comment if you wish to further expand this list and be sure to bookmark this page if you plan on travelling soon!


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This blog entry is part of the publication Robert Cekan Travels & was originally written on February 14, 2013


Robert Cekan is a young entrepreneur and proud Hamiltonian. He is the founder of the Hamilton discovery website True Resident, as well as Cekan Group, a property management group. He is also a Hamilton REALTOR® with Ambitious Realty Advisors Inc., Brokerage and an active blogger.

For all of Robert’s projects, please visit robertcekan.com