How to Pack for International Travel in 2024: My Master List

What I pack when I travel has changed over the years, but one thing I’ve learned is that less is more.  I haven’t checked a bag OR used a typical suitcase in years.  So, how to pack for international travel? Below is what I consider my ‘Master Pack List’ (the basics for most destinations).  If you will be doing extended outdoor activities your list will be a little bit different. 

how to pack for international travel backpack, tourist as seen from behind walking over a hanging bridge

What Type of Bag Should I Use?

For Longer Trips: Backpack and Duffel

I’ve tried out all kinds of bags, from large checked suitcases to regular carry-on suitcases, to backpacks, to duffel bags.  One thing I realized very early on was that I can easily fit everything I need (even for an extended trip) into a backpack and a carry-on.  This is an easy way to save money and hassle.  My favorite bag to use as a carry-on is this duffel bag. 

I can fit a LOT in this duffel, and because it’s a flexible bag I’ve never had issues fitting it into the overhead bin.  Many people prefer using a frame backpack as a carry-on, but I like using a duffel because I can sling it over one shoulder and still have my regular backpack over the other.  So yes, this means that you have to lug two bags around until you get to your hotel. 

Kendall and I used this bag combo for our 7-day trip to Peru, our 2-week trip to Costa Rica, and our last-minute trip to Banff National Park.

For Shorter Trips: Backpack Only

This truly is the best way to go.  Not only is it more comfortable, but many of the cheapest flights don’t allow carry-on luggage anyway.  My favorite backpack is this one.  It is incredibly roomy and yet still fits underneath the seat (as long as you don’t pack it TOO full).   

How to Pack for International Travel: Complete Packing List

Electronics

  • Universal outlet adapter
  • Power Bank: This has come in handy more times than I can count.  My favorite is the Anker power bank, it’s small and charges my phone completely three times. 
  • Headphones (great for plane rides or long train rides)
  • Phone and charging cord

Clothing

  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 pair of good walking shoes or hiking boots: I’ve used Colombia Newton Ridge boots for most of our travels, including our rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike, and they’ve been incredible
  • 1 pair of close-toed water shoes (for the beach, shared showers, or any water activity)
  • 5 pairs of socks (replace with hiking socks if you will be hiking)
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 1 pair of capri leggings with pockets: these are my go-to pants for hiking or other outdoor activities.  While Kendall loves hiking in jeans, it’s better to pack something moisture-wicking. Capri leggings are lightweight, dry out quickly, and can be rolled up to be essentially turned into shorts. We visited Peru in May (one of the best months to hike the Inca Trail), and these were perfect for the mix of hot weather, wet weather, and chilly mornings.  
  • 1 pair of jeans or slacks
  • 3 T-shirts
  • 1 dress shirt (if I will be going anywhere where I want to look classy)
  • Light jacket (I ALWAYS bring this, even if traveling to a warm climate) 

Personal Toiletries

  • Travel-sized shampoo/conditioner combo (I also use this as body wash)
  • 1 microfiber washcloth
  • A small bottle of liquid laundry soap
  • Travel-sized deodorant
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • 1 small razor

Skin Protection and First Aid Essentials

I keep most of these items with me all of the time and they have been a lifesaver. For example, on our 4-day trek to Machu Picchu, all of the best Inca Trail companies had a basic first aid kit, but Alpaca Expeditions didn’t happen to have things like moleskin, sunscreen, or Ibuprofen. Super important to bring these along!

  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer 
  • Small ziplock bag with a few doses of the following: Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Benedryl, caffeine pills, and Dramamine.
  • Small tube of antibiotic ointment (I’ve found this can be hard to find in certain countries so I like to have it with me)
  • Tiny roll of moleskin (I buy a big roll and then just wrap a little bit around a triple-a battery which is what I bring with me).
  • Band-Aids
  • Travel-sized tube of sunscreen
  • Travel-sized bug spray 
  • Lip balm with SPF protection
  • Duct tape (I wrap this around my travel-sized sunscreen).
  • Sunglasses or hat
  • Small headlamp (you never know when you’ll need it, even if you aren’t hiking)

Sleeping Gear

  • A tiny fan.  This is a little unconventional, but this is one trick that helps me sleep great anywhere.  I love this fan from SmartDevil.  
  • Eye mask
  • Earplugs.  I love Mack’s Ultra Soft earplugs

Documents and Money

  • One credit and one debit card (kept in separate locations).  I love my Charles Schwab debit card because they reimburse ATM fees.  
  • A small amount of cash
  • Passport
  • Printed copy of passport (keep in a separate location)
  • Printed copies of all reservations (hotels, rental cars, tours), with addresses and contact numbers
  • Travel insurance contact numbers
  • Copy of phone numbers for all credit/debit cards I will be bringing with me: this is to be able to quickly call if a card ever gets lost/stolen
  • Copy of vaccination status (including Covid vaccine)

Food and Water

  • Enough snacks to last until you arrive at your destination and can find a grocery store (I never buy food in the airport).  
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Water filter (I like life straw). This is especially important for trips where the tap water is not always potable, like our time in Cusco, Peru.

There you have it!  I hope you can use this list to start planning your next adventure. And remember, I always adjust based on the activities I will be doing. Best of luck with your travel plans!

Similar Posts