What to Pack When Travelling: The Ultimate Travel Checklist
The typical packing routine in films (and sometimes in real life) is more than simple: 1) stuff your suitcase; 2) sit on top of it; 3) finally manage to close the latches; 4) grab a beer to reward yourself for a job well done!
Yet, this simple scenario may have consequences. And if it’s only the inconvenience of ‘Where’s my swimsuit’, then you’re in luck - you can simply buy a new one upon arrival. But if you find yourself at the airport without a passport, the fallout may be disastrous.
So, a good travel checklist can do wonders, no matter whether you are a first time flyer or an experienced traveller.
Read our holiday packing list + guide to find out how to prepare well and avoid miscellaneous mishaps on the road. Bookmark it so that it’s always handy.
What to pack for a trip: the ultimate travel packing checklist
To avoid the film scenario, we should try to keep our holiday packing list concise and pack light (and maybe save space for some souvenirs). At the same time we don’t want to forget some travel essentials, so we'll have to keep things organised.
Let’s start with the most obvious and important items in every travel checklist:
Clothing and shoes
What you need will naturally depend on the length and type of journey you’ve planned. No holiday packing list can be universal but we can cover the basics to avoid mishaps.
Your travel checklist should always include enough socks and underwear, several tops and bottoms, and definitely your most comfortable walking shoes. Even if it’s not your prettiest pair of shoes, it’s much more important for your feet not to hurt after only one day of exploring and sight-seeing. That can totally ruin your mood.
It’s a good idea to bring a spare pair of shoes too. If your trip involves a more formal (or adventurous) occasion, you should pack a suitable one.
Travel tip: Place your shoes heel to toe and in plastic bags to keep everything clean.
For some travellers, this is simply a T-shirt and shorts, but depending on the climate at your destination, you might want to take your favourite warm pajamas.
You’ll probably remember the belts while packing the trousers but what I usually forget is my small day bag. And it’s really handy if you’ve planned a sightseeing trip - your backpack may be too bulky to carry around, especially in crowded touristy places.
How to pack jewelry
If you want to take some jewelry too, you should remember that all valuables should go in your carry-on. Rings, necklaces and earrings are also hard to pack so here are a few tricks you can use:
The straw trick - unclasp the necklace, string it through the straw and clasp it again. It’s quite easy and it’s tangle-free. You can also wrap it in a tissue or packing paper for extra protection. You may need to cut the straw to adjust the length.
The kitchen wrap trick - lay out a piece of re-sealable kitchen wrap and lay your jewelry out on half of it. Then fold and press the wrap to hold the items in place.
The medicine box - this can turn into a great container for your rings and earrings.
For your convenience, here’s a travel checklist you can tick off while packing (focus on lightweight clothing that can be layered):
Clothing packing list
- Short-sleeved tops
- Long-sleeved tops
- Jeans/ trousers/skirts or shorts
- Sweatshirt / fleece
- Coat/ rain jacket / windbreaker
Toiletries packing list
You don’t usually need to include a big shampoo and conditioner bottle to your holiday packing list. Most travellers use samples or get small containers for their basic toiletries.
Remember that only liquids and gels up to 100 ml are allowed in your carry-on. Meanwhile, your checked luggage will probably be tossed around so you’ll have to pack your cosmetics well to avoid spills. Here is what you can include in your toiletries bag:
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Skin care products (with SPF)
- Toothbrush/ toothpaste/ floss
- Comb or brush
- Shaving supplies
- Feminine products
- Scissors/ nail clippers
- Glasses & eye glasses case or contact lenses, solution and case
- Laundry detergent - if you’re planning to do some laundry (you may also buy this at arrival, of course)
Travel health packing list
If you know the town you're going to, you can buy these once you arrive at your destination (in case you need to). Yet if you’re travelling to an exotic location and are not sure about hygiene, running water and mosquito issues, it’s a good idea to prepare well - better safe than sorry!
So here is a travel checklist of the basics to help you stay healthy on the road:
- First aid kit
- Insect repellent & sting reliever
- Sunscreen & sunburn relief
- Diarrhea and laxative medicines
- Allergy medication
- Motion sickness pills or bands
In this day and age we hardly ever leave our phones behind; we can’t even imagine being ‘’disconnected’. Yet what we usually overlook is chargers, cables, and paraphernalia. I have to be honest - I have a collection of adapters at home, I tend to forget these and always have to buy new ones!
So it is always a good idea to include these in your list:
- Adapters & converters
- Camera, memory card
- Laptop and cable
Personal item carry-on bag
Here you should put the items you’ll need with you on the plane, such as:
- Mobile device
- Travel pillow, blanket, etc.
- Books or magazines
How to pack your checked luggage
All of the above can be organised neatly, believe it or not. If you’re wondering how, here are a few ideas you may want to explore:
Use packing cubes - these are zipped bags that come in different sizes, so you can organise your luggage in categories and easily find all you need.
Roll your clothes - this one we already mentioned. It’s a good idea if you’re travelling with a huge backpack and you’ve prepared outfits. Travellers say this method actually saves a lot of space.
Use the KonMari method. This is a special method for folding clothes with which you arrange them vertically in your suitcase. This actually makes unpacking quite unnecessary - you can find everything easily as it is.
For more tips on how to pack your suitcase, see our article.
When we pack our checked luggage, we tend to think about the activities at our destination and not about the journey itself. Yet if you’re in for a long-haul flight, travelling with kids or on a red-eye flight, you should also prepare for the trip itself.
Basic rules dictate that you keep your valuables in your carry on. Your passport, tickets, wallet, and jewelry should be with you at all times. The airline’s contract of carriage usually states the carrier is not liable for these and in most large cities you should be aware of pickpockets. So many travellers like to prepare:
- Money belt - quite practical as you can keep your passport and money inside
- Hidden pocket - same as above
- Neck wallet - some travellers keep their passports and tickets inside for easy access during the journey
- Undercover bra stash - a great solution for solo female travelers
Your travel gear should also be with you for the flight - your shawl, eye mask and ear plugs. Don’t forget your reading materials, camera and water bottle. And if you’re in for a long flight, remember there are lots of fun things to do on a plane.
Travel checklist of what never to pack in your checked luggage
All travellers usually know there are items you cannot take in your carry-on. However, this does not mean that you should randomly stack things in your checked luggage. Firstly, because there are certain TSA restrictions and secondly, because your bags may get delayed or lost. Luckily, you are protected in case of luggage loss or delay but you should also think about this worst case scenario when packing.
All travel guides warn you to pack the following items only in your hand luggage:
Laptop/computer or video equipment
Cash and jewelry
Matches, e-cigarettes or vaping pens
Personal documents, health insurance card, travel insurance information, etc.
- Credit cards and debit cards
Lithium-ion batteries (these made the news after exploding mid-flight)
Food considered agricultural risk (like pineapples or coconuts in Hawaii) or certain meats and cheeses
Alcohol (over 140 proof)
Medication - you don’t want this to get lost, you may need it.
All your clothes - keep a change of clothes in your carry-on just in case.
Feeling ready for your next adventure? I’m sure your bags will be neatly organised thanks to this quick travel checklist.
However, before you start on your own holiday packing list, make sure to check your baggage allowance to avoid going overboard with your luggage and paying extra.