Packing like a pro: The ultimate guide to what to bring

So, you’ve narrowed your travel bucket list down to the next place to go, combed through your guide books, and made most of your arrangements. Now there’s only one thing standing between you and the world: packing. For many, it’s the most stressful part of trip preparations. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are our tips for packing like a pro, and check out these links for tips on packing for specific destinations:

Young men in jeans holding in hand foreign passport of Ukraine with air ticket attached to it.
Make your passport the first thing you pack and the last thing you check © Lina Moiseienko / EyeEm / Getty Images

Pre-Departure Checklist

Don’t leave home without getting the essentials in check

Your passport

Ok, you’ve probably thought of this one already, but check the expiry date. Some countries require at least six months’ validity. And if you have to renew, make sure you leave plenty of time, especially during peak vacation periods. Visa requirements can also change over time so don’t assume it’s the same arrangement as before if returning somewhere familiar. You can check if a visa is required at www.iatatravelcentre.com

Pre-book and save

Book in advance before getting to the airport for parking and holiday money. Even if you do so on the morning of your trip you’ll save. If picking up pre-booked currency, take the card you booked with and take note if you have to go to a particular pickup point to get your cash.

Safety

Read up on your destination for up-to-the-minute issues that might affect your plans. The US Bureau of Consular Affairs (travel.state.gov); Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (smarttraveller.gov.au); and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (fco.gov.uk) are the best places to start.

Get insured – and ‘fess up

Travel insurance is mostly health insurance, which is why the cost increases hugely when you get to retirement age. For it to be effective, every pre-existing condition must be declared, otherwise your policy could be worthless and you could end up with a very large bill. Also check that any activity you’re planning on undertaking will be included in the price.

Medical Matters

Start with a checkup at your doctor’s and dentist – it’s far easier to deal with any potential issues before you hit the road. Try to go as far in advance as you can in case you need to take full courses of immunisations before you travel. You can usually get any necessary vaccinations at your local health clinic, though specialist travel health clinics can also be found in major cities around the world.

Discount and membership cards

If you’re eligible, obtaining an international Student Identity Card (ISIC) or International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) before you go will save you money all over the place – see www.isic.org for details of both. Travellers of any age will benefit from Hostelling International membership (www.hihostels.com). Senior travelers also qualify for travel discounts with some airlines and for ground transport in many countries. Sometimes flashing an ID is enough, sometimes you need to use a local scheme.

The hands of a woman are packing a colorful sweater into a suitcase at home
The less you can carry with you, the easier your travels will be © Atit Phetmuangtong / EyeEm / Getty Images

Five tips for packing light

Doug Dyment, author of OneBag.com, gives his advice for reducing baggage bulge:

  1. There’s only one real ‘secret’ to traveling light: a proper personal packing list. It’s a contract you make with yourself, a personal pledge that you will never pack anything that isn’t on your list. And for most people, such a list needn’t include more items than will fit in a single, carry-on bag and is able to accommodate destinations ranging from India to Inuvik.
  2. Learn about luggage. Most bags on the market are designed to sell easily, rather than facilitate lightweight travel. So learn about design (shapes, configurations) and construction (fabrics, zippers). You may even discover that the primary function of a wheeled bag is to support itself, not efficiently transport anyone’s belongings!
  3. Avoid liquids; they are the bane of the light traveler. Liquids (and gels) are heavy, bulky, prone to leakage (particularly on planes), and suspicious to security. Did I mention heavy?
  4. Do some laundry. This needn’t be onerous: done properly, and regularly, it should be more like brushing your teeth. With the right gear (travel clothes line, powder detergent, universal sink stopper), three pairs of underwear will take you anywhere.
  5. Coordinate your colours. An excellent way to derive maximum use from a modest amount of clothing is to ensure that every item goes with ever other one.
A woman's hands prepare for a summer trip by packing items including a sun hat, some comfortable shoes and various electronic devices
No matter where you go, you don't want to spend your holiday money buying something you meant to pack © bymuratdeniz / Getty images

Backpacker’s packing list

Ensure nothing gets left behind with our handy checklist

Essentials

  • Passport
  • Boarding Passes
  • Foreign cash
  • Credit/ATM cards
  • Maps/directions/itinerary
  • Guidebook material
  • First aid kit
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Repeat and travel medication
  • Folder for all documents
  • Large backpack
  • Small combination lock

Electronics

  • Camera and charger
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Tablet and charger
  • Headphones
  • Plug adapters (see below)
  • Headtorch and batteries
  • Waterproof pocket camera
  • Back-up hard drive

Clothes

  • Light jacket
  • Waterproof coat
  • Light jumpers
  • Thin hoodie
  • Casual shirts
  • Vest tops
  • T-shirts
  • Loose trousers
  • Leggings
  • Shorts
  • Skirts
  • Dresses
  • Sandals
  • Flip-flops
  • Trainers/comfortable shoes
  • Belt
  • Thin socks
  • Underwear
  • Sleepwear
  • Sun hat/cap
  • Swimsuit
  • Sarong/shawl
  • Hidden zipper belt

Cosmetics

  • Sunscreen and aftersun lotion
  • Body lotion/moisturizer
  • Insect repellent
  • Deodorant
  • Perfume
  • SPF lip balm
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Soap/body wash
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Make-up and remover
  • Hairbrush/comb
  • Hair products
  • Disposable wipes
  • Sanitary products
  • Nile file/clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Bug spray
  • Laundry kit: travel detergent, braided clothesline, sink-stopper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Dental floss
  • Small tubes for liquids
  • Tissues

Miscelleneous

  • Painkillers
  • Glasses
  • Contact lenses and solution
  • Travel journal and pen
  • Books
  • Sunglasses
  • Waterproof watch
  • Beach towel/quick-dry towel
  • Waterproof bag
  • Water purifying bottle
  • Sleep sack
  • Earplugs
  • Refillable bottles
  • Travel neck pillow
  • Playing cards
  • Pocket sewing kit
  • Sleeping bag
  • Portable stove
  • Cutlery
  • Bowl/cup

International Plug Sockets

Here's a run-down of some of the world's plug sockets and fittings

Features - bb-plugs-a7e8e7eb3999
© Lonely Planet
Destination Plug type Compatible
with others
  Destination Plug type Compatible
with others
US A,B A   South Africa M
Canada A,B A   China I
Thailand O   Singapore G
Australia I   Malaysia G
New Zealand I   Japan A,B A
UK and Ireland G   Brazil N C
Europe* C,E,F C,E,F   India D C,D

*-Except: Switzerland and Liechtenstein (type J, compatible with C); Denmark (type K, compatible with C); Italy (type L, compatible with C if socket is 10A)

This information is reprinted from Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips

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