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International Travel Checklist: What to Pack for Your Trip Abroad

It’s hard to know what to bring for an international trip. Being safe and comfortable is more important than being stylish. Be sure to have important documents and emergency contact info. Also make sure you bring a power converter so you can charge your gadgets. Comfortable shoes and weather appropriate clothes are also a must.

International Travel Checklist What to Pack for Your Trip AbroadPacking for a trip overseas can be intimidating. You don’t always know what will be available in stores abroad if you forget something and need to buy it … and if you don’t speak the language where you’re going, that prospect becomes even more scary.

But just like properly packing for U.S. travel, you can avoid the stresses with preparation. Knowing what to bring abroad can help keep you and your money safe and of course, ensure you have a memorable, amazing trip.

Here is my international travel checklist:

Secure way to carry passport and money

You might want to leave your everyday wallet, backpack and purse at home, and take it up a notch to be safe. Now is not the time to be your most stylish … Money, credit cards, passport, a driver’s license and other vital documents and items should be kept in a more secure device. Many travelers use a money belt which wraps around their waist and is underneath their clothing. If you are carrying a purse, bring a durable one that crosses across your body to avoid theft. Any bags should be able to zip closed (and held close to your body as much as possible).

Appropriate clothes

Of course everyone wants to look their best in all of those photos you’ll be taking, but be smart when choosing what clothing, shoes and accessories to pack. Here’s a few things to consider when choosing your clothing:

  • Find out what type of clothing is appropriate for the culture you are visiting. For example, some countries don’t welcome tank tops or shorts. Try to wear items that make you blend in.
  • Be familiar with the climate to pack the right items. Does it rain frequently? What’s the average temperature? You may want a waterproof jacket if rain is common or breathable material if weather is hot.
  • Think about what activities you’ll be doing. Items like hiking boots and swim gear may be essential in some areas, but a waste of space in others.
  • Since packing light is always best when traveling abroad, choose versatile items you can wear often. Shoes that you can walk in, clothing that is comfortable and not binding and items you can layer are always good options.

Proper documentation for medication

If you’re bringing any type of medication, you need to take a few precautions to ensure you have no issues. Keep medications in their original, labeled container, and bring a copy of your prescription and/or a letter from your doctor in case there is any issue with your medicine.

Durable luggage

When you are packing, be sure your luggage is durable since you are traveling a long distance. You want to use something that is easy to transport, especially if you are traveling to multiple destinations. Luggage that can lock is a good option to keep items secure.

Power converter

When you arrive at your destination, you might be surprised to realize you can’t just plug in your phone charger, but you’ll need a converter. You’ll want to pick one up for charging computers, camera or anything else that requires electricity.

Important documents

There are many vital documents you need while you’re traveling abroad. Visit the U.S. Travel Department’s webpage to find country-specific information on which documents you need to enter the country. Here’s a general list of what you may need:

  • Valid passport
  • Photo ID/driver’s license
  • Photocopy of your passport (Use this any time you can instead of your passport. This will limit you having to take out your passport and reduce the risk of losing it. It’s also a good idea to have a copy in case you do end up losing your passport.)
  • Photocopy of your driver’s license
  • Photocopy of your credit cards (You can present this to the U.S. Embassy if your cards are stolen.)
  • Photocopy of plane tickets
  • Extra set of passport photos and a photocopy of your passport’s information page

List of important phone numbers

In the case of an emergency, the last thing you want to be doing is frantically looking for the right phone number to call. Instead, find the numbers prior to leaving. Store them in your phone and if you’re traveling with a partner, have them store the numbers as well. Put the phone numbers in a document to print out and carry with you in the event your phone is stolen. Here are some important numbers to find:

  • Nearest U.S. Embassy (Find the number at the U.S. Department of State website)
  • Overseas citizens services: 202 – 501 – 4444 ( The American Citizen Services work to help send money to assist citizens send money abroad, assist with victims of crime and help U.S. citizens who have been detained in foreign prisons)
  • International number for your credit card companies
  • International number for your bank
  • The airline you are flying with
  • Any hotels you are staying with
  • Emergency contacts and family who know you are traveling
  • Reputable, safe cab company
  • Local police
  • Hospital and doctor (U.S. Embassies have a list of medical facilities to use in case of an injury or illness abroad)

What to leave behind when going overseas

  • The U.S. State department advises against dressing like an “affluent tourist,” which may make you a target for theft. So leave your flashy clothing at home.
  • Expensive jewelry
  • Irreplaceable items
  • Social Security Card
  • Any credit cards or debit cards that aren’t necessary (need information about using credit cards overseas or help finding the best credit card for international travel?)

 Do you travel internationally? What are your best tips for keeping your money and luggage safe, yet efficiently packed? Anything our international travel checklist is missing?

Find the latest travel deals now at Expedia.com

Published or updated on April 10, 2013

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About Kristen Kuchar

Kristen Kuchar, author of Mac n' Cheese to the Rescue, is a food and travel writer working with numerous notable publications on both print and online. A firm believer that traveling and great food don't have to compromise finances, she's always finding great ways to save. She is currently living in Chicago with her husband Mark. You can follow her on Twitter @KristenKuchar.


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  1. Matt says:

    I’ve been to about 30 countries or so, but just to echo a prior comment, travel to most Western countries you don’t need to fret over the honest cab company, local police, etc. They have the same modern conveniences you have in the US, sometimes they are better.

    If however, you are going to a developing country, you’ll also need appropriate shots, malaria, pills, etc.

    Finally, even if you do try to blend in, people will known you are a tourist. Only a few times in Spain and Italy have I been mistaken for a local but even there once in awhile, despite dressing like a local, a fellow foreigner will come up to you speaking English asking for a photo.

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