Packing for international air travel usually means bringing only the essential items in order to save room, limit the number of items that can be lost or stolen, and to travel lightly simply because it’s easier. A lot of what you’ll pack depends on the climate you’re traveling to and the activities you’ll be doing there. A raincoat may be an essential item in one destination and a waste of space in another. A good rule to follow is to pack only the essentials that you don’t want to have to purchase once you’re there.
What not to Bring: This can be almost as important as the essential items to carry. Don’t travel abroad with any item that will either draw attention to you or be irreplaceable if you lose it, including your wedding bands and engagement rings. Expensive jewelry, family heirlooms, and extravagant clothing are all good examples. You should never travel with your social security card, birth certificate, or any other irreplaceable paperwork.
Passport: This item may seem pretty obvious, and you won’t get very far without it, but many travelers carry a photocopy of their passport and extra passport photos in a safe place apart from the passport in case it’s stolen. Having these items, including proof of your identity and lawful entrance into the country you’re in can save you a lot of headaches when getting a stolen passport replaced outside the country in which it was issued.
Travel Insurance: Travel insurance can be purchased on a trip-by-trip basis or as a multiple trip package for those who travel frequently. Its purpose is to protect the traveler against losses incurred by any number of unforeseen circumstances that could happen when outside one’s home region, including medical expenses, accidents, emergencies, theft of personal property, and even cancellation of a trip in which money has already been invested. Travel insurance does not cover things like auto insurance for one’s rental car.
Traveler’s Checks: Traveler’s checks seem old fashioned in a world where everything seems to be instant and electronic, but they’re actually still the safest, most secure way to protect yourself against the dangers of traveling with cash. You can exchange the checks for cash currency in another country for use at places that don’t accept them, without ever having to carry large amounts of cash on your person. While traveler’s checks can be stolen just like anything else, they’re hard to use without a matching ID and can be voided before use if you copy and save the serial numbers on each check first.
Prescriptions: This is an item to be double and triple checked because they’ll be very difficult to fill once you leave the country. Patients on extended trips who foresee needing prescription refills abroad may be able to make arrangements through their doctor ahead of time to travel with extra supplies or fill a prescription in another country.
Device Chargers: Your phone, camera, computer, iPod, and anything else you charge on a daily basis will need to be charged while traveling, too. Limiting the number of devices you’re bringing can help a lot. For example, a smartphone with a camera, MP3 player, and Internet access can turn four or more devices into one. Just make sure you bring an extra charger for that one device in case you lose the first.
Calling Card: International roaming charges can be very steep, so many travelers opt out of mobile phone service altogether when traveling abroad, even if they carry their phones for other purposes. While your phone’s service provider can offer you an international calling plan on extended trips, many travelers limit phone time by carrying a good old fashioned calling card for emergencies and keeping in touch with loved ones.
Corrective Lenses: Much like oral and topical prescriptions from a pharmacy, you won’t be able to get new prescription lenses in another country without a big cost to you and an even bigger hassle. If you wear contacts, bring one or more extra pairs in addition to your backup glasses. If you wear glasses exclusively, get a second pair with cheaper frames to have on hand as a backup.
Swimsuit: While you can buy a swimsuit almost anywhere, finding one that looks and fits perfectly is next to impossible, so pack an extra if you have it. It’s the one thing people always seem to forget!
Most importantly, bring your thirst for adventure, appreciation of other cultures, and a positive attitude. Bon voyage!