If you’re anything like me, you put a lot of planning into your packing. In the weeks leading up to a big trip, especially an international one, the daydreaming is basically constant. Inevitably though, regardless of the mental preparation, you put it off. You could probably make a lot of excuses for that, but really, travel and packing procrastination go hand in hand like a stomachache after eating something thai-spicy. You know you probably shouldn’t…but you just can’t help it, you kind of want to. Just to see if you can handle it. Then in an uncomfortable panic, you suffer.
You don’t have to! If you think about it, there are certainly some very important things that you need, but, especially if you are sticking to what you can carry on your back, your options are quite limited. Not to mention, the less you bring with you, the more room you have to bring new treasures back with you. Here’s a list of essentials to keep you well prepped for your next international exploration:
A copy of your passport and extra passport pictures
Yes, you need a passport to get in and out of the country, but it is an excellent idea to keep a photocopy of the personal info section as well as some extra photos on you in case of emergency. If by some rotten streak of luck your passport gets stolen or lost (that’s never happened before) having these things give the whole replacement process a big head start.
This can change via the climate you are visiting. I personally always bring a cheap pair of black flip-flops. That $2 investment can pair with a dress, keep your bare feet off the gross floor in any situation where THAT might unfortunately be necessary, and, paired with toe socks, provide a very comfortable campground slipper situation. Converse All-Stars are also fairly versatile, as well as flats. Honestly, think about the pair of shoes that you could wear out to the club and to the grocery store the next day…and there’s your answer. I don’t know how big your feet are, but I can almost promise you that you aren’t going to want to fill your entire pack with footwear.
A small notebook and a pen
You don’t have to be a writer to appreciate having this with you. Write down directions, draw maps, keep track of local restaurant suggestions, or just jot down your thoughts. In my experience, this has been one of the best souvenirs imaginable. I’ve had locals draw maps in my notebook, people give me language grammar lessons on busses, and been able to capture moments in words that pictures never could have.
You don’t need to carry around an unabridged dictionary of the country’s language, but if you are a little bit iffy on the country you are traveling to’s language, even a list would help. For example, good phrases to keep with you are: “Where is the nearest bathroom?” “Check, please.” “Excuse me sir, I believe you have misplaced my goat,” and “Of course, I’d love another bottle of wine.” You know, everyday phrases.
This could be as simple as a little pocketbook with a few pictures of your family and friends back home. This comes in handy not only in times when you’re feeling a little lost or homesick and need some cheering up, but it can also be a perfect conversation starter in a pinch.
A neutral dress or button down shirt
The key here is versatility. Don’t waste your space bringing a lot of expensive jewelry and accessories…it can honestly bring you attention in a bad way. Much better to bring a simply dress and get a local scarf to jazz it up, or a button down shirt that can look good in any situation.
A bar of soap in a soapbox, and a quick drying camp towel
Some hostels are luxury, but some don’t even provide soap. If that’s the case, good luck finding a towel. And especially if you have sensitive skin, you don’t want to mess around with soaps in languages you don’t understand. God forbid you end up washing your face with specially formulated athletes foot soap. I also suggest a bar as opposed to body wash because A. It lasts a lot longer than a tiny thing of body wash that your airline will let you check and B. it won’t open and spill over all of your stuff. Also, a good bar of soap can wash your body and even your hair if completely necessary. Keeping it in a little plastic travel box you can get for cheap at almost any store is going to save you a world of trouble.
Travel-size toilet paper
You wouldn’t believe it, but it actually isn’t standard for every country to provide toilet paper in public restrooms. Travel sized toilet paper can help save you from some awkward and sticky situations. A good tip is to actually look at travel guides from those who have explored before you to see if this is actually necessary.
One of the joys of international travel is the spontaneity of uncontrollable situations, but if you pack right, you can be ready for anything. Happy travels!