I love travel. I hate packing. Are you the same way?
The problem: I try to pack light, but then anxiety takes over. What if I go out to a fancy restaurant? (I probably won’t.) What if I want to go for a run? (I definitely won’t.) In this whirlwind of what-ifs, I inevitably overstuff my suitcase and still end up forgetting something important.
Here’s a better strategy: Start with this core packing checklist, organized by category. Then, add items that are specific to your trip. And don’t sweat the details too much! As long as you have money, identification, travel documents and travel insurance, you’ll be fine.
Packing Checklist: The Really Important Stuff
These are crucial to carry on your person (don’t put them in your checked baggage, if you can help it) and difficult to replace.
- Passport or driver’s license. Remember that you’ll need a passport or REAL ID for domestic air travel after Oct. 1, 2020.
- Travel insurance documents. It’s wise to have a hard copy of your policy, because you never know when your phone battery or connectivity will fail you. Make sure you buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve made your trip arrangements! Get a quote here.
- Travel itinerary and boarding passes/tickets
- Required immunization documents and/or visas
- Cash, credit cards and copies of credit cards. Remember to notify your credit card company if you’ll be traveling overseas.
- Money belt
- Prescription medications and copies of prescriptions
- Prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Hearing aids and batteries
- Cell phone and charger. Before you leave, download the free TravelSmart app from Allianz Global Assistance, which can help guide you if you experience a travel emergency. You may also want other useful travel apps that can help with navigation, translation and even travel anxiety.
- Laptop or tablet and charger
- Power adapters, if you’re traveling overseas
Packing Checklist: Carry-On Essentials
These are the additional items you’ll want to put in your carry-on. We love this packing tip from the editor-in-chief of Travel+Leisure: "I have a small zippered pouch that I always put in my carry-on bag — in it I stash all the things that I want to keep with me on a flight (headphones, earplugs, Emergen-C, phone, wallet, etc.) so that when I board I can just pull that pouch out, toss it into my seat, and then place my carry-on in the overhead bin, quickly and efficiently."
- Water bottle
- Hand sanitizer/sanitizing wipes. Don’t catch a cold on your flight; fight plane germs!
- Camera and charger/accessories
- Books, e-reader and charger, and other entertainment
- One lightweight change of clothes
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, eyedrops and other toiletries for freshening up when you arrive
- Neck pillow and/or blanket
- Ear plugs
- Eye mask
- Non-prescription pain relievers, sleep aids and other medications
- Any valuable jewelry
- Small notebook and pen
Packing Checklist: Your Travel Wardrobe
We’re big fans of the 1-2-3-4-5-6 rule for travel packing.1 This means that, for a week-long trip, you need 1 hat, 2 pairs of shoes, 3 pairs of pants/skirts, 4 shirts, 5 pairs of socks and 6 pairs of underwear. This rule can be modified for different types of trips and varying climates, of course, but it’s a good place to start.
- Rain gear
- Exercise clothing
- Bathing suit and cover-up
- Dressy outfit (dress or blazer/tie)
- Accessories (jewelry, scarves, etc.)
- Casual/walking shoes
- Dressy shoes
- Sun hat
- Cold-weather hat and gloves
- Laundry soap and clothesline
- Laundry bag
- Travel sewing kit
Packing Checklist: Toiletry Kit and Extras
A hanging toiletry bag with several compartments is a worthwhile investment.
- Sunblock and sunburn treatment
- SPF 15 lip balm
- Insect repellent
- Face and body lotion
- Comb and brush
- Hair products
- Hair accessories
- Shower cap
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Contact lenses and solution
- Sanitary pads or tampons
- Nail file and clippers
- Small first aid kit - with Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment
- Baby wipes - for quick cleanup
- Travel packs of tissues
- Pain reliever
- Cold medication
- Allergy medication
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Anti-nausea medication
- Water purification tablets
- Small flashlight
- Duct tape
Additional Packing Checklists for Special Trips
This core packing list can easily be modified for each traveler’s needs — if you’re traveling with an infant or a pet, for instance, or taking a cruise or a business trip. Here are some specialized travel packing lists:
Read more: Travel Checklists for Every Vacation