Packing Tips for International Travel

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If you are gearing up for an international family adventure, you know the struggle of packing all too well. Juggling passports, snacks, and stuffed animals can be a real adventure on its own!

Don’t worry as I’ve got your back with some tried-and-true smart packing tips to make your international travels smooth and stress free.

View from Airplane window

How do I start Packing for International Travel?

Embarking on the packing process for international travel, especially with a family in tow, can feel overwhelming.

My family has done numerous trips so we have learned a thing or two about turning the packing ordeal into a breeze. Here are some of our packing tips.

Make a List, Check it Twice

Santa’s not the only one who needs a list! Before you start tossing things into suitcases, sit down and make a checklist. Include essentials like passports, tickets, travel sized toiletries and any medications your family might need.

This simple step will help you avoid that sinking feeling when you’re mid-flight and realize you forgot something crucial.

Packing List

Pack Light, Pack Right

I get it, the temptation to bring everything you think you may need is real. However, it’s crucial to pack light, especially when navigating airports and bustling streets.

Stick to the essentials and versatile items that can be mixed and matched. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later when you’re not lugging around a suitcase the size of a small car.

Use Packing Cubes

If you’ve ever felt like a packing ninja trying to stuff your family’s essentials into suitcases, I’ve got a game-changer for you: packing cubes. As a Mom who has navigated the challenges of international travel with my kids, I can vouch for the fact that packing cubes are an absolute lifesaver.

I find the best idea is to assign each family member a different color of packing cubes and suddenly, finding that missing item becomes a breeze.

No more digging through a sea of clothes to locate what you need – the cubes keep everything neat and tidy.

Travel packing cubes

Kids love to get involved, and packing cubes make it easy for them to do just that. Let each child help to pack their own cube. This not only empowers them but help to curb their urge to pack everything they own. Allow them to fill just one packing cube and you can put their other essentials into another one.

Kids also have a magical ability to get clothes dirty at the most inconvenient times. So pack an extra designated packing cube for dirty laundry, you can keep the clean and dirty separate, preventing that dreaded “laundry soup” scenario.

Check your Documents

Before embarking on your family adventure, do a thorough check to ensure you’ve got all the necessary documents. Passport? Check. Visas? Double-check.

Now, if your travels involve renting a car – a game-changer for family explorations – don’t forget the international driver’s license.

Travel documents

Ziploc Magic

Ziploc bags are a mom’s secret weapon. They’re perfect for organizing everything from snacks to toiletries. Plus, they keep the chaos contained, making it easier to find that one elusive hair tie or the emergency chocolate stash.

Gathering your TSA-approved sized liquids into a clear, resealable bag is a game-changer for stress-free security checks. This simple yet effective hack ensures that essential toiletries, like travel-sized shampoo, toothpaste, and lotion, are easily accessible and comply with airline regulations.

No more fumbling through the depths of your carry-on when the security officer requests a quick scan – just pull out the Ziplock bag, and you’re good to go.

Take Some Cash

Here’s a nugget of travel wisdom: get some local currency before you leave. While credit and debit cards are the superheroes of modern travel, having a bit of cash on hand is a smart move.

Arriving in a new destination can sometimes throw unexpected surprises, and not every corner of the world is plastic-friendly. Whether it’s for a quick snack, tipping, or hopping on public transport, having local currency ensures you’re ready for anything.

If you can’t snag some cash before departure, fear not – airports are often equipped with cash machines, so keep an eye out upon arrival.

Get Connected

Before you embark on your journey, make sure you’ve got your connectivity game on point. Consider ordering a pocket WiFi or look into getting an eSIM for your phone.

Checking your phone’s roaming package is another wise move. You don’t want to be caught in the wild without the means to share those precious travel moments or, more importantly, navigate your way through unfamiliar terrain.

Remember to pack travel adapters if you are visiting a country that uses different plugs than you are used to. This will ensure you will be able to charge all of your devices when you arrive at your hotel.

Also do some tech groundwork before you leave. Research and download essential apps like Google Translate and Google Maps.

When we recently ventured to Tokyo, Japan, these apps turned out to be absolute lifesavers. They bridged language gaps and ensured we never took a wrong turn.

Google maps and mobile phone

Wear a bulky item on the plane

During the colder seasons or destinations, a clever trick for saving precious suitcase space is putting on a bulky jacket before boarding the plane.

Although this might not be the most fashion-forward choice, it’s a practical and efficient way to fit everything into your suitcase.

However, it’s essential to consider the weather at your destination. In warmer climates, this strategy might not be as practical, and you’ll want to layer up instead.

But for chilly adventures, the bulky jacket trick ensures you stay warm in transit and leaves more room in your luggage for those cute souvenirs you can’t resist.

Don’t Pack New Shoes or Clothes you have not worn

OK this is probably more for the ladies. Resist the urge to pack those brand-new shoes or clothes you’ve been eyeing.

Sure, it’s tempting to showcase a fresh look on your vacation, but trust me, blisters are not the memories you want to bring home.

Breaking in new shoes before a trip is a must – the last thing you need is uncomfortable footwear slowing down your exploration.

Similarly, that cute dress might seem like a great idea until you realize it wrinkles like crazy or fits a tad snug. Stick to the tried-and-true favorites that have weathered the storms of daily life. Your feet and your fashion sense will thank you for it.

Quick dry Fabric is your Friend!

Embrace quick-dry fabrics like they’re your new BFFs!

When you’re globe-trotting with the family, spills, unexpected rain, or impromptu water fights are practically inevitable. That’s where quick-dry clothes swoop in to save the day.

These miracle fabrics not only dry in the blink of an eye, but they also fold down small which helps you pack light.

Choose Multipurpose Clothing

When it comes to mastering the art of packing, think versatility! Opt for multipurpose clothing items that can effortlessly transition from day to night or from exploring historical sites to a casual dinner.

A classic example is a stylish scarf that can double as a shawl, a headwrap, or even a makeshift blanket.

Try to pack some neutral-colored basics like a well-fitted pair of jeans or a versatile cardigan that can effortlessly mix and match with various outfits. These neutral options ensure you look great when you throw something together.

Roll, Don’t Fold

This might sound like a laundry tip, but it works wonders for packing too. Rolling clothes takes up less space and minimizes wrinkles. Plus, it’s a fun task to delegate to the little ones. Let them roll up their own clothes, and you’ve got a family packing party on your hands!

Leave out those Just In Case items

Resist the temptation to pack ‘just in case’ items. We’ve all been there, thinking, “What if I need this or that?” The truth is, most of the time, those ‘just in case’ items end up taking space and adding unnecessary weight.

Instead, focus on packing just the essentials. You can generally purchase items at your destination if you find yourself in need of something specific.

Do Laundry

To keep your travel wardrobe fresh, do some laundry while on vacation. Don’t worry if you have no washing machine – a bit of handwashing can work wonders. Toss a small container of travel-friendly detergent into your bag, and you’ll be all set.

Take a few minutes to hand wash essentials like socks, underwear, and tops in the sink. Bonus points if you bring a elastic portable clothesline or use the trusty shower rod to air-dry your freshly washed items.

This means you do not need to pack so many things for your trip, allowing you to save space for the souvenirs you are bound to pick up during your vacation.

Doing laundry in the sink

Keep Your Suitcase Smelling Fresh

Here’s a little trick to bring a touch of home to your suitcase: toss a dryer sheet in there! When you’re jetting off on a more extended family adventure, things can get a bit, well, lived-in.

A dryer sheet nestled among your clothes is like a burst of freshness every time you unzip your suitcase. Not only does it keep your outfits smelling as if they just came out of the laundry, but it also helps combat any lingering odors from the journey.

Bag your Shoes

Here’s a nifty travel hack for keeping your suitcase organized and your clothes pristine: bag those shoes! A simple plastic bag or, better yet, those free shower caps from your hotel room can work wonders.

Before tossing your shoes into the suitcase, make sure they are clean and pop them into a bag. This not only prevents dirt from transferring onto your clean clothes but also contains any unexpected smells. Plus, it’s a clever way to make the most of those complimentary shower caps that often go unused.

Packing cubes

Snack Attack

No matter where you go, hungry kids (and adults!) are a recipe for disaster. Pack a variety of snacks to keep everyone fueled and happy. Granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit are compact and won’t get squished in transit. Bonus tip: bring an empty water bottle to fill up after passing through security.

Emergency Kit

A mini first aid kit can be a mom’s best friend in unexpected situations. Include band-aids, pain relievers, and any specific medications your family might need. Better safe than sorry, especially when you’re far from home.

What Should I Pack in my Carry On Bag?

Preparing a well-packed carry-on bag is a travel ninja move, especially for international adventures. Here’s a checklist of essentials to ensure you’re ready for anything:

Woman walking in airport with carry on luggage
  1. Travel Documents:
    • Passport
    • Visa (if required)
    • Boarding passes
    • Hotel reservations
    • Travel itinerary
  2. Wallet and Essentials:
    • Cash (local currency)
    • Credit/debit cards
    • ID card
    • Travel insurance information
  3. Electronics:
    • Phone and charger
    • Travel adapter
    • Power bank
    • Headphones ( you may also need an adapter to connect your headphones to the inflight entertainment)
  4. Entertainment:
    • Book or e-reader
    • Travel-sized board games
    • Downloaded movies or shows
    • Notebook and pen
  5. Comfort Items:
    • Neck pillow
    • Blanket or scarf
    • Eye mask
    • Earplugs
  6. Snacks:
    • Granola bars
    • Nuts
    • Dried fruit
    • Gum or mints
  7. Toiletries:
    • Travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Facial wipes
    • Lip balm
    • Hand sanitizer
  8. Medications:
    • Prescription medications
    • Pain relievers
    • Motion sickness tablets
  9. Clothing:
    • Sweater or jacket (planes can get chilly)
    • Spare underwear and socks
    • Scarf or shawl
  10. Miscellaneous:
    • Sunglasses
    • Reusable water bottle
    • Important contact numbers
  11. Essential Documents Backup:
    • Make photocopies or digital copies of essential documents and keep them separate from the originals.

And there you have it a guide to stress-free packing for international adventures. Remember, the key is to keep it simple, organized, and most importantly, flexible. After all, the best travel memories often come from the unexpected moments. Happy travels!

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