The ultimate travel packing list | What to pack for vacation, business and adventure

So you’ve decided to go travel somewhere eh? Good for you! Seeing the world is one of the best parts of living. My name is Mark and I have traveled a lot in the past couple decades. Both for work and pleasure. I’ve traveled extensively in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. And over this time I have come up with a great packing system. One that I want to share with you today. This is my ultimate travel packing list where I will list everything you could possibly want to bring with you on your trip or vacation. For an ultralight travel packing list I encourage you to pare down the items on this list significantly. I am only putting everything down so you don’t forget anything!

Each item on list is linked to our favorite example of that item. I own most of these items myself and can vouch for their quality and durability. I also built this as an international travel packing list so you will see a lot of references to things like visas, vaccinations etc. If you are only traveling domestically then you can generally ignore these parts.

We wanted to make this the definitive travel packing list template. If you have any questions or additions that we should make, please shoot us an email.

I will put notes here and there to highlight: (1) things you really don’t need to bring and (2) things that are often overlooked that you should totally bring with you. So pay attention to these little not boxes as you read.
I have also made this whole packing list printable and available to download via PDF, Word and Excel here if you want to print it out or save it to your computer or device.

The ultimate packing list

Table of contents


Passport The ultimate travel packing list | What to pack for vacation, business and adventure

The absolute essentials

This is stuff that I would argue every travel at least needs to consider. Most of the things on this list are pretty necessary and I wouldn’t personally leave home without them when I go on vacation or a work trip. Of course it all depends on what country you are visiting but I’d treat this list as pretty “untouchable.”

  • Passport
  • Boarding passes
  • Money (cash)
  • Wallet or purse
  • Visa
  • Credit cards and ATM cards
Make sure your passport is up to date with a recent photo. I’ve seen people turned away at the airport when they arrive because their photo doesn’t look like them. Also, most countries will need you passport to be valid for at least another 6 months after you leave the country you are visiting. AND, last but not least, make sure you have at least 3 empty pages on your passport. Customs and immigration will often take up a whole page for arrival stamps and visas and they will need to know you have a free page for when you leave! A lot of the section below is oriented towards an international travel packing list so move on if you aren’t traveling internationally.
  • Insurance card (health and travel insurance)
  • List of medications
  • Emergency contact information
  • ID (driver’s license or something else official)
  • Itinerary (leave a copy of this with a loved one too)
  • Copies of important documents (store this in a separate bag just in case the other one gets lost)
  • Extra passport photo (you may need this on arrival for a visa, its always good to have one on you)
  • Frequent flyer cards
  • Reservation documents (hotels, hostels, AirBnb etc.)
  • Vaccinations and yellow fever card (you’ll need this for many countries)
For documents (all of the paper and flat stuff above) I like to use a passport wallet to contain everything. That way I know where everything is and I can find it at the drop of a hat.
Get a good pair of sunglasses that will survive many trips. It’s tempting to get a budget pair but the quality lead to you just buying pair after pair of poor sunglasses. And do those actually provide UV protection for you eyes?

Tortuga Travel Backpack carry-on size

Luggage and bags

You aren’t going anywhere unless you have the right luggage (suitcase, carry-on, personal item etc.) Here are my personal favorite types of bags that you should consider.

Pick the kind of luggage for (1) how long you are traveling for and (2) whether you are traveling domestic or international. Each airline will have their own baggage restrictions. I recently went to Japan for two weeks with just a carry on bag and a backpack and I loved the freedom of not having a huge bag to lug around.

Clothes The ultimate travel packing list | What to pack for vacation, business and adventure

Clothing

This is what will take up the most room in your bag. Be smart about it though. You don’t need everything on this list! And you certainly don’t need 5 pairs of shoes. Try to bring stuff that is multi-purpose and eliminate things that you likely won’t need. After all, you can usually buy stuff at your destination if you absolutely need to.

For both men and women

For underwear, socks and t-shirts, consider buying lightweight merino wool. Not only does it breathe well and retain heat when it need to, but it also repels odors. That means you can wear a pair of socks a couple times before washing. This will lighten your load considerably.
Even if you are going somewhere tropical, it gets cool at night. I lived in Tanzania for a year and found that it could get quite cold during the night time. Bring a hoodie no matter where you are going. Trust me.

For the guys

Did you know that most airlines will have a little closet on the plane that you can ask to store your suit or blazer until you arrive at your destination. Say goodbye to wrinkly jackets boys! Just ask the flight attendant (nicely) if they could stow your jacket for you.

For the ladies


Merrell Moab Gore-Tex best travel hiking shoes

Footwear

This is a real tough category. Shoes take up a lot of room in your bag and in many circumstances you need multiple pairs for formal and casual events. Again, consider getting a pair of shoes that could be worn both casually and dressed up if the need arises. It’s all about multiple use here people!

I know I said to bring a pair of multiple use shoes above. And that still stands true. But a tip I learned a long time ago is to bring at least two pairs of shoes on a trip. This is because if you walk a lot your foot will naturally start to get irritated by the pair of shoes you are wearing. By switching it up to a different pair that fits differently, you will give you feet a much needed break.

For the ladies


buyers guide best toiletry bags for travel

Toiletries

You need them. And the TSA wants to take them from you! Here is another area where you can minimize the number of items you pack. Just consider products that you absolutely can’t live without and won’t be able to buy locally at your destination. So bring that favorite face cream that is only available at one store in your local town. But leave that giant pack of razors behind. You can buy them anywhere!

For medication, make sure you bring the original container (or at least the label from that container). You can easily get these confiscated at your destination. Also, be sure that you know what medications are actually legal where you are going. Did you know that melatonin is actually illegal in Japan?
If you are planning to travel carry-on only, check what kind of razor you are planning to bring. Straight razors (the type where the blade easily pops out) are NOT allowed in carry-on. Normal disposable razors are totally okay.
Wet wipes are one of the best things ever. Bring a pack in your personal item on the plane. You never know when you will be in some strange place where there is no soap for hand washing. I’ve used wet wipes countless times when I needed a quick refresh.

Electronics The ultimate travel packing list | What to pack for vacation, business and adventure

Electronics

Alright, so this is a category that really varies by the individual. But I encourage you to really narrow down to the absolute necessities here. Do you need a camera if you have an iPhone 8 and it takes ridiculously good photos already? Probably not, unless you are a photographer. Leave the laptop at home unless you are working while you travel. Phones can do a lot nowadays.

I take my portable USB battery with me everywhere I travel. This allows me to be without wall power for days. I can recharge my phone like 10 times with my 20,000 MaH battery. It’s handy for watching movies on planes, trains and automobiles too! Just don’t forget the right charging cables. iPhone Lightning cables and the latest USB Type C cables may not be easy to find where you are traveling!
Did you know that most electronics are multi-voltage nowadays? This includes your phone, laptop, tablet… That means you don’t need that bulky power converter from days gone by. Those converters are only for higher voltage things like hair dryers, curling irons and stuff like that. We recommend you buy cheap versions of those at your destination to avoid having to use bulky (and to be honest, kind of dangerous) power converters. Just get yourself a power adapterthat allows you to physically plug your devices into the wall.
If you are going to a developing country, where power outages and power cycling can be regular occurrences, bring a flashlight! Sure, your phone has one, but its nice to save your phone for… phone things… Head lamps are great for places where you are cooking your own meals. It’s hard to cook in the dark while holding a flashlight.
Here’s a tip for those of you trying to build a long term travel packing list. Don’t! When I pack for two weeks I generally pack the same as what I would pack for 2 year. Seriously. You’ be surprised what you can get away with when you are a bit ruthless. Again, if you moving somewhere for the long term, your packing list can really be the essentials that you can’t buy at your destination. After all, I’m sure Mumbai sells hair dryers right?

Packing cubes: What are they and why should I use them

Accessories

Here is a bunch of stuff that sort of doesn’t fit into the other categories.

Nothing improved my travel experience like when I started bringing a could eye mask and a couple pairs of ear plugs. It is super hard to sleep on planes and even in strange places when you land. Make it easy on yourself and spend a couple bucks on these. You can often find them in airports too!

The ultimate travel packing list | What to pack for vacation, business and adventure apps

Apps and software

You can’t have a packing list without “packing” your phone full of the most useful and necessary apps for your trip. Seriously, this is a real thing we have to deal with now…

If you are going to rely on apps, make sure they work offline! Or make sure you gave reliable internet access at your destination via Wifi or a local SIM card. Before you leave log into Google Maps and “pre-save” your location to your phone. This is available in the main menu now and is super helpful. Trip Advisor also offers these “City Guides” for many locations. This has been a life saver for me in the past. I literally navigated all across Rome with it and it operated flawlessly, complete with GPS tracking.

Stuff to do before you even leave

  • Notify your bank about your travel plans
  • Put a pin code on your credit card
  • Get all necessary immunizations
  • Check baggage restrictions for your airline
  • Check visa regulations and apply for visas beforehand if necessary
  • Get someone to water your plants and feed your pet!
  • Leave itinerary with a loved onebus
  • Put lights on a timer at your house
  • Arrange for a neighbor to check up on your house while you are away
  • Put on your out of office email reminder at work (and stop thinking about work)
Baggage restrictions vary widely across airlines. Make sure you are familiar with what size and how many you can bring on your flight(s). Also, just because you bag is a carry-on, does not necessarily mean that it is small enough to fit on board the plane. Check out our handy guide to baggage requirements here.

That’s it! All the rest is up to you of course. We hope you enjoyed our travel packing list template enough to share with friends! Choose wisely about what you do and do not bring on your trip. Going more minimal has always been my style. And over time you will discover which stuff can totally be left at home. Get out there and see the world!

Again, check out this entire Ulimate Travel Packing List in printable PDF, Word or Excel by downloading it here. You can download and print this for future use!

Tags:

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Justin September 15, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Awesome list! Really nice job… If you decide to add any additional “cool gadgets” you might want to bring, don’t forget the Cup-Pilot (found at cup-pilot.com) traveling cup holder – for those of us who tend to spill our coffee when we travel:-). There are a couple of other options in this space (airhook, tugo, etc.) at varying price points and functionality. Enjoy the journey! Justin, Cup-Pilot.com

    • Reply
      Mark (The Carryon Guru) September 16, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      Genius! Thanks for sharing!

Leave a reply