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Chances are you'll find some invaluable ideas for your next trip here.

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How Best to Pack for Your Travels 2

A compilation of the best packing tips from ourselves and our readers

Use this information not to fill your suitcase with unnecessary things, but to be sure you have what you need and not what you don't need.



There's nothing worse than the sick feeling you get, seconds after it has become too late, as you remember something vital you forgot to pack in your luggage.

Following these strategies and checklists will reduce the otherwise ever present stress as you prepare for your future travels.

Travel Tip Topics

Click any of the hot linked topics below to immediately jump to that section of this series.

Topics that aren't yet hot linked are due to be added but haven't yet been published.

If you have tips of your own, please pass them on.


Vacation Planning Strategies in General

Packing and luggage (on two pages)



Traveling Methods






In unfamiliar places

In Case of Emergency

When things go wrong



Security, Immigration, Customs and Duties

General and Miscellaneous


Unusual things to consider packing

A word of warning before you read through this section.  As you see all sorts of great ideas listed here, be careful you don't end up overpacking too many things, few of which you ever use.

Use these ideas to improve the way you resolve current problems, but don't use them to solve problems you don't even have.

And consider creating kits with themed collections of these items as a good way of keeping them together and easily found in your bags.

Electronic and Electrical Things

If you're traveling with a laptop computer, make sure you have a Cat-5 network cable.  It seems most hotels with ethernet broadband don't supply the patch cable to run from their wall outlet to your laptop.

Get as long a cable as possible so as to give you most flexibility about where in the room you work.  Not all hotel rooms have their network outlets sensibly located (a room remodel may mean the network outlet is no longer next to the desk).

A two or preferably three way electrical outlet tap can come in handy if you're traveling with lots of electrical devices.

If traveling overseas, make sure you have the necessary phone and power plug adapters, and also voltage converters for both low current and high current devices.

Don't forget chargers and/or batteries for all the electronic items you take with you.

Some people find it easier to simply travel with a second (and sometimes third or fourth) fully charged battery for each electronic item they have rather than to take the extra bulk (and sometimes weight) of rechargers.

Our phone recharger units are also very handy things, wherever you are - traveling or at home.

It is possible to get very small Wi-Fi hubs that you can plug into a hotel's ethernet outlet, or which can rebroadcast the hotel's own Wi-Fi, giving you more range and flexibility and also allowing you to connect multiple network devices to the one outlet (eg VoIP phone and laptop simultaneously).

Always pack a small flashlight

Food and Drink

High energy food bars are a great thing to keep close at hand, especially when traveling somewhere with questionable standards of food.

Other high energy food sources can include dried fruit, fruit leather, and jerky.

A named water bottle for each person makes it easy to simply refill rather than replace water bottles, and gives each person a sense of responsibility, reducing the number of forgotten/lost water bottles.  Hopefully.

If you're traveling places where the water is of questionable quality, consider taking a Steripen with you.  Portable and quick and easy to use, even in a restaurant when wanting to sterilize a glass of water.

Health and Personal Care

A chap stick helps, particularly in the dry cabin air on long flights.

So too do eye drops, for the same reason.

You should carry a basic first aid kit.  Put as much or as little in it as you feel comfortable with, and depending on your destination.  Here are some quick suggestions :

  • Neosporin with pain relief...great for bug bites

  • Band-Aids in a variety of sizes

  • Scissors (if not already part of a Swiss Army Knife or otherwise packed)

  • Tums/Rolaids

  • Immodium or Pepto Bismol (the tablets are so much nicer to take, and lighter/more compact than the foul tasting thick liquid)

  • Elastic bandage

  • Gold Bond or similar powder for heat rash and chafing

  • headache/Pain relief

  • Anti-histamines if you have allergies

  • Melatonin or other anti-jet lag solution

A small package of instant/wet and/or sanitizing wipes and anti-bacterial hand gell are great to keep in your carry on.

Shout wipes are great for cleaning stains off clothing.

If you anticipate the need for such a product, consider some zip-lock bags for vomit.

Toilet paper - either the last bit of a roll, or some sheets folded up - can be handy if you're expecting to use public toilets in places where you can't be sure there will be supplies of this essential product.

Spare change for pay toilets is also very important.

If you're a light sleeper, consider packing some ear plugs.

Many European (and other) countries don't provide washcloths in hotel rooms.  Bring your own, just in case.

Consider making or buying a small travel wash kit.  Magellan's have four pages of wash kits and components on their site to choose from, with lots of helpful products to reduce your reliance on expensive hotel laundry services.

If you have glasses, pack an eye glass repair kit as well as your glasses prescription.


A commonly suggested strategy is to pack a range of old clothing - outerwear and underwear - that you're about to throw away.  Wear these items during some/much of your trip, then leave them behind, using the space in your bag(s) for new things you've bought while traveling.

Some ladies like to bring a skirt hanger or two with them - many hotels just have very generic hangers in their closets.

A few clothespins can be useful for all manner of tasks, from pinning curtains shut to hanging laundry that is drying.

Take a small amount of washing powder or liquid and some fabric softener if you plan to hand wash items while traveling.

Some people like to bring a pair of slippers with them, rather than walk on old carpet of unknown cleanliness in hotel rooms.

Ladies find a shawl to be an invaluable traveling companion, which can be used for many purposes, ranging from a protective layer on top of bedspreads to acting as a sarong/skirt, to towel/beach mat, to pillow, to, well, acting as a simple shawl, too.


Duct tape - small mini travel rolls of duct tape are available from Magellan's.  Ideal for emergency repairs of all types.

3M have come up with a new type of clear duct tape, but this is not yet available in convenient mini-rolls.

Ziplock bags can be used for a wealth of different purposes.  Pack lots - they're light and inexpensive.  Take some in different sizes, and get the heaviest grade plastic (4 mil or thicker).  Where appropriate, label them for their contents.

Another multi-purpose device for fixing things in a pinch can be plastic ties such as these.

Rubber bands are good for lots of things.

Here's a clever device for traveling in countries where English isn't the first language.  The Kwikpoint Visual Picture Based All Language Translator.

No-one should travel without a Swiss Army Knife or good quality Leatherman type multi-tool, although if you take one of these, you'll need to keep it in checked rather than carry-on luggage.  It should include scissors, corkscrew, can and bottle openers, and both regular and Philips head screwdrivers as well as a knife.

A set of utensils - knives, forks, spoons, perhaps as part of a lightweight camping set can make it easier to enjoy fruit, bread, cheese, and deli foods in your hotel room.

If eating outdoors, a camping lantern can compliment these utensils allowing you to see your dinner.

A small plastic dish for keeping all your jewelry together when you take it off at night makes it much less likely you'll lose or forget a piece the next morning.

35mm film cans - use the clear ones so you can see what is inside - are great for small supplies of meds like Advil, sleep aids, Imodium, etc.  For travel outside the US it may reduce the possibility of Customs hassles to keep meds in their original packages (especially if going to a place like Bali or Singapore) although I've never had any problems myself.

A sewing kit with a small collection of safety pins, needles and thread, and perhaps some buttons too can really help you with emergency repairs to your clothing. Some hotels provide these as a courtesy item.  Take one and stick it in your bag.

You can never have too many pens, and make sure you have one in your carry-on too (for filling out forms on the flight or at Customs/Immigration).

A small notebook can be a useful source of paper for writing notes on.

A mini travel alarm clock loud enough to wake you up is a good thing to have.  Not every hotel has an alarm clock, or one that's easy to set, and hotel wake-up calls, unless programmed through a computer, can be unreliable and may not be on time.

Get a spare ATM card in case yours gets eaten by an ATM.  Banks often don't have access to the ATM machines in their own lobby, and so if your card vanishes into the machine, you could suddenly find yourself cashless for an extended time.

For foreign travel, unless you know there will be a bank (not commercial money exchange service) that will be for sure open and conveniently found, and/or multiple ATMS (in case one or two are out of cash or otherwise not working) at the airport upon arrival, pick up a small supply of the local currency before you leave home.  You should get enough to pay for cabs and small items until such time as you can get to an ATM and withdraw a larger supply.

For lovers of wine in moderation, and for those traveling alone.  At your destination, purchase a non-oily liquid in a glass bottle or flask with a capacity of about 12 ounces (or bring a similar bottle with you).  If you see a bottle of wine that you can’t resist, pour half of it into your bottle, until it’s about to overflow, and then cap it.  Because there’s almost no exposure to oxygen, it will keep for at least several days without deteriorating.  (If carried in a car, it’s usually illegal to keep within the passenger compartment.)

Other things to consider including in your bag :

  • Post-It Notes, for reminders to myself, hotel staff, etc

  • A length of Velcro, both the male and female parts with adhesive backing. This is great for making small repairs, binding things together, etc, and can be cut into small pieces of any size and shape

  • Small and Large Butterfly Clips, for pulling together curtains, keeping receipts in bunches, etc

  • Cross Ion pen, or any other small and comfortable pen that’s great for carrying in your pants pocket. You'll want a pen that can’t open and stain your clothing. Having your own pen immediately available for signing receipts, etc, decreases exposure to contact born viruses/bacteria.

  • Mini sized Permanent Marker, like a Sharpie, for labeling and marking items; they’ll write on almost anything. The ink can be removed from hard non-porous objects by the citrus solvents that are available everywhere.

  • Dry-erase pen like those used for overhead projectors. Good for writing on plasticized maps or any hard item that’s washable. Also can be used creatively: at wine and appetizer parties, imaginatively label your neighbor’s wine glass and let her label yours; pass it around for fun conversation.

  • Twixit or other similar bag clips. Great for keeping snack items fresh and neat in rental car, hotel rooms, etc. Has other uses: can be used to clip drying clothing items to clothes line or elsewhere.

  • Ultrasonic Dog Repeller for runs and walks. It only frightens angry dogs. Can be purchased through many catalogs.

  • If you're artistically inclined, why not take a small watercolor set and postcard size paper

  • The collapsible travel vases make it easy for you to brighten up your hotel rooms.

  • A string bag is handy and takes up no room in a suitcase.

Lastly, in addition to your needs, think also about bringing some small gifts for new friends and business acquaintances.  Try and get things that have some local flavor to your region - possibly calendars or local food items.

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Packing Checklists

Most people will agree on the good sense of having a packing checklist as a way to ensure you don't forget anything.

But there's a subtle danger with a packing checklist.  It encourages you to pack more than you really truly need.  Depending on your style of travel and duration of journey, you can probably make do without many of the creature comforts of home.  The ideal packing list (and packed suitcase) contains only what you need, and nothing that you could do without.

Packing checklists can be found in many different places.  There are a couple of extremely good web resources worthy of mention, however.

The Universal Packing List site asks you some questions about your journey and then dynamically generates a recommended packing list based on your responses.

A website devoted to packing only the minimum you'll need is and they have an excellent pdf format packing list.

You're best advised to adapt the various lists out there to build your own list, and if you want to be very methodical, you might even have different lists, or different sections of the list, for traveling to different places.  A tropical beach vacation list would obviously read different to a mid-winter business trip to the midwest, for example.

Some readers are very organized in how they use lists.  One idea is to not just have a list of items to bring, but also a space to write in the quantity of each item, too.

Another idea is to have columns to record the quantity to take with you to start, and then extra columns to record you have successfully repacked the items and not left them behind as you repack at the end of each stay on your journey.

Build a Special List

In addition to a generic packing list, you might also want to keep a small notepad and pen with you 24/7 for the week or two before a journey.  I have several categories of entries in my notepad.  One is for things I must do before I leave, another is for things I must bring, and the third is for things I must do while I'm on my travels.  As I think of things I need, I simply add them to the respective list.  This means, when I wake at 3am and think of something obscure that I must do or take with me, I can simply write it down then go back to sleep, relaxing in the knowledge I won't forget about it in the morning.

Depending on the nature of the things that go onto these lists, I might add them to my main default list templates.

Prepacked Travel Kits

A close cousin of the packing checklist concept is having already prepared travel kits.  I do this in two parts.  I keep a box of phone and power adapters, and other bits and pieces that I sometimes need to travel with, and then I have separate travel kits.  Some of these kits (eg personal hygiene, medical) simply need to be checked and topped up as needed, but others need to be then mixed and matched to suit the destination, with some items being returned to the big box and some big box items being added to the kit.

Related Articles, etc

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Originally published 2 Sep 2005, last update 30 May 2021

This article is copyrighted by David M Rowell, The Travel Insider LLC.

Related Articles
Vacation Planning Strategies
Packing Tips part 1
Packing Tips part 2
Fire Safety Tips - Preparation and Planning
Fire Safety Tips - Responding to a Fire

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