“What do you pack when you’re traveling internationally?” “What do you need to take with you when you travel internationally?” And “What do you need to have when you travel internationally?” These are all questions that I’ve received often enough that I’ve decided to write a post about them.
My very first international trip was taken when I was actually very young. As I’ve mentioned before in the past, my mother loved to travel. As the only daughter and youngest of three children, I was usually the one that she took along on her travels, as by the time I was about 7 or 8, my brothers were adults and already on their own. Yes, my mom took her sweet old time having me. 😊
When I was old enough to venture out on my own, I visited as many Caribbean countries as I could. Traveling to and amongst the islands is almost like going home. I spent most of my childhood on the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, so visiting Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados was very commonplace. It also helped to have family on both islands so we would visit and spend our vacations with them, catching up on old times.
Back then, my mother took care of the packing, so I never had to worry about a thing. Fast forward to the present time, while I still visit the Caribbean, my focus has now turned to European travel. So far I’ve visited eight countries in Europe (United Kingdom, France, Iceland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Italy), and while each country is unique, I generally pack the same no matter where I’m going, with one exception, my clothing changes based upon the season I’ll be there.
So what are my international essentials? Here are the 10 items that I’m never without whenever I travel internationally, whether they’re in my handbag, carry-on, or virtually.
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- EAR PLUGS AND EYE MASK
If I’m traveling on a red eye or an overnight flight, I try and get as much sleep as I can. I use earplugs to help block out the noise of the engine and those around me and sleep with an eye mask. I used to travel with a light blanket, but have since just used a sweater or jacket, and I’m usually fine. However, those two items are always in my handbag.
- INTERNATIONAL ADAPTER
I never go anywhere without it. I learned my lesson very quickly when traveling to London a few years ago and having to go out and get one because at the time I thought that I would have been able to just plug in my computer. However, when traveling over from London to Paris, I realized that the adapter I bought in London FOR London, did not work in Paris. So upon my return to the US, I purchased an international adapter that has worked wherever I go, even in Australia, where their outlet is also different.
- MY IPAD PRO AND KEYBOARD CASE
I like to travel light, and before I would take along my computer with me, especially if I had work that I needed to get done or emails that need to be returned. While my 13” MacBook Pro isn’t really considered heavy, it does take up a lot of space in my bag, much-needed space that I can use for other items. My iPad Pro does the same work as my laptop and is not only smaller, but also considerably lighter too. It also works as entertainment as I download my Netflix movies that I’m interested in watching as the airlines don’t always have my viewing choices.
- SONY NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES
I’m partially deaf (something you might not have known), but I also don’t want to disturb those around me when I’m watching a movie or listening to my music while on a plane. And these headphones (the Sony WH1000XM4)* are boss! Before I purchased them, I would just use my regular Apple AirPods, but last year I decided that I wanted something better, something to help with my ears clogging when I travel. Sure, I know how to unclog them, but why go through all that? These headphones not only keep sound in but also keep most noises out, and they were rated better than Bose.
* update – I’ve since upgraded to the Apple AirPods Max and nothing compares.
I never go anywhere without my cell, unless it’s to the store. Whenever I travel, I like to keep in touch with family and friends. It’s also an excellent way for me to connect on social media, especially Instagram. My phone provider not only gives me free texting internationally, but I also pay for their data plan when I travel as well so that I can connect my iPad Pro using the built-in hotspot. Now I can be connected anywhere at any time.
- PORTABLE CHARGER
Cellphone batteries don’t last forever, even if you place them in battery-saving mode, and with tons of applications running, it can drain your battery faster than you have places to visit. To be on the safe side, as I might need my phone to get directions, make a call, or even order an Uber, I always walk with a portable charger, but I do also set my cellphone in battery saving mode so my battery can last a bit longer as well, as I’d rather be safe than sorry.
- MY SONY A7RIII MIRRORLESS CAMERA WITH ADDITIONAL BATTERY
While I have a Canon DSLR, it’s been over a year since I’ve last used it, and it’s now considered my backup camera. Not only is the Sony A7RIII much lighter, but I’ve found that it’s also much more user-friendly and takes incredible photos. As a matter of fact, 95% of the images on this site for the past year have been shot with my Sony camera. I can’t imagine living without it now. As for my lens. I travel exclusively with the native Sony 24-70mm lens as it gives me quite a range of shots. I can get up close or as far back as I desire. I also use a vertical grip that holds two batteries, so I never have to worry about my battery dying while taking photos, which also helps with not missing that shot.
- 2 MEMORY CARDS
I’ve always brought along 2 memory cards whenever I travel. One in my camera and another in my bag. Just like the additional battery, I don’t want my memory card to run out of space and there to be no store to grab another. So there’s always a backup. Luckily for me, my Sony camera holds 2 cards in place and automatically saves to the other when the first fills up, something that came in handy as, on my most recent trip to Hawaii, I ended up using both of them as the other was filled. Who knew I took so many photos?
- TRAVEL CUBES
Since I travel almost exclusively with a carry-on unless I’m going for more than 2 weeks, then I pack everything in a travel cube. I’m a huge fan of the Eagle Creek brand and have an assortment of their cubes in different cube sizes and cube designs that I use for our travels. Each person has their own color or design, which helps to differentiate the cubes so no one gets their stuff mixed up. One stores my toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrush, etc., while the others contain clothing such as jeans, tees, and undies. I started using cubes about 2 years ago and have never looked back. You’ll be amazed at how much you can fit in a cube and how much space you’ll save. I’m also not going to list what clothing I pack as it all depends on the season I’m traveling in, but a rule of thumb is always to take double the underwear for the days you’re going, and comfortable shoes to walk in.
- TRAVEL INSURANCE
I actually struggled coming up with #10, because I thought I had covered everything, but this one is something that EVERYONE should have while traveling internationally. Travel insurance was something that I never worried about until I went home to the Caribbean and got stranded in Antigua on my way back. Those who are FROM the Caribbean know the plight of traveling with L.I.A.T. I’d personally never had an issue with them in the past, until that one time, but they’re known for either being late or not leaving at all. I ended up purchasing brand new tickets back to Colorado when they finally got me to Puerto Rico. Since then, I’ve always bought travel insurance, to protect my family and me whenever we’re flying.
You’ll notice that I didn’t list passports and ID, credit/debit cards, and cash, as that’s pretty obvious. You’re going to need your passport when you travel internationally, and some form of currency, whether you’re purchasing items or food. I keep my driver’s license on me as a secondary identification or if I need to rent a car, and my passport is locked away in the hotel safe while out and about. You can also take along a reusable water bottle that you can refill with water. I don’t always do this as I prefer drinking bottled water since you can never be too safe.
I’m also a carry-on traveler, meaning that I almost travel exclusively with a carry-on, I never check luggage unless I’m going for more than a month and with Madison (for 3-week trips or less we exclusively use carryons), and my carryon luggage of choice is Calpak. I’ve never had an issue with their luggage, and their carryons are compatible with every airline I’ve flown on. Believe it or not, all of my essentials fit in my carry-on or handbag, so you’re good for AT LEAST a three-week trip.
Here’s wishing you all the best on your international travels and that my checklist will help you on your journey.