Packing for International Travel: Essentials, Hostels and more
Packing for international travel can take some strategy. How much you can pack and what you need to bring will vary depending on your destination, type of travel and length of stay. However, there are a few items that are essential that I take on every overseas trip.
“Just in case” is the curse of packing”- Alexandra Potter
Packing for international travel usually means packing light. Aside from going to the beach where you can check a suite case, get it to your room and forget about it, packing light is essential and makes your life of travel much easier.
- Pack only things that you KNOW you will wear.
- Pack things that can go with different outfits
- Choose your shoes wisely!
- Shoes take up a lot of space, so choose some that are COMFORTABLE and versatile
- Need a jacket? Wear it on the plane!
Essential Items for International Travel
Aside from the obvious items such as passport, ID, local cash or credit card and plane tickets, here are a few items that are essential when packing for international travel:
- Power Adapter/Converter
- Don’t forget your adapter. And bring multiple if you have several gadgets to charge. Bring a power converter if you plan to use a hair styling tool
- Portable Charger
- SO VALUABLE. You will be taking a lot of pictures. There is not much worse than seeing something you may never see again and not be able to capture the moment!
- Refillable water bottle (that preferably collapses)
- Water isn’t free in Europe. But it is drinkable out of a faucet. Take a easily packable water bottle and stay hydrated!
- Medicines for all ailments
- Travelers upset stomach is a real thing. Colds are common when going through airports and public transportation. Don’t let an ailment bring you down during your travels
- Neck pillow
- Don’t attempt an 8 hour flight without a neck pillow. You will be full of regrets! Especially if you aren’t lucky enough to get a window seat.
Essential Items for Hostels
Packing for international travel when staying in hostels requires a few essentials that aren’t necessary when staying in airBNbs or hotels.
- Backpack (instead of suite case)
- many hostels have drawers for storing your bag and many won’t fit a carry-on suite case. If you want to store your luggage, you will need a backpack!
- Learn more about traveling with a backpack here
- Lock with key or code
- Most drawers or lockers do not come with locks. Bring your own and protect your personal items!
- Small, quick-drying towel
- Unless you get a hostel that is private-style or hotel-style, you will need your own towel. Get the quick-drying fabric for travel!
- Shower shoes
- Don’t get a fungus! Public showers are common in hostels, bring shower shoes that dry quickly!
- Portable charger
- See above for details, but be sure to bring one if you’re staying in hostels. Outlets can be few and far between!
Backpack vs Suitcase
If you book a car and plan to drive during your trip, your choice of carry-on doesn’t matter much. You can put your luggage in the trunk and get by fairly easily. However, if you have been to Europe or other destinations with a long history, you know that there are a TON of cobblestones and many airBNBs and hotels with stairs only to the top floor. In Dubrovnik, Croatia there is limited parking and it is a city built on a hill: not ideal for a rolling suite case!
With that being said, choose a backpack when you:
- Aren’t renting a car
- Are city hopping
- Know the place you are going is hilly
- Booked accommodations in a top floor without elevators (you’ll be surprised; happened in Paris to us!)
- Staying in a hostel
- Most have small lockers and most wouldn’t accommodate a hard-shell suitcase
The downfall to using a backpack is it is less organized. To help with this, I use vacuum seal bags to separate bottoms, tops, undergarments, dirty clothes, etc and it helps a ton!
Suitcases are just easier to use and find your items honestly. It is nice to be able to pull a suitcase when you are carrying another small backpack (versus hiking backpack in the back and small backpack on the front). When I choose to use a suitcase:
- Beach trips
- Single destinations
- Minimal public transportation is required
Which backpack to use?
Things to remember when choosing your backpack:
- It is important to have a comfortable backpack that fits you well. They can be bulky, so if it doesn’t fit right and cinch correctly you can be miserable.
- Get the right size
- too small and you can’t fit what you need and too large you can’t use it as a carry-on
- Look at the entrance/zipper style
- Some have a front zipper where you can access all of your items from the front
- Some only have access from the top of the bag
- (this requires you to take out EVERYTHING to get to what is at the bottom of the bag)
- Read reviews. My friend bought a cheap backpack and it broke before we arrived to our FIRST destination of a 2 week trip.
My Backpack of choice
I travel with the Osprey Aerial 55L backpack. This is the one item I splurged on and I have no regrets. I have used it on 4 international trips and 12 different countries and it is holding up wonderfully. It fits me well and is comfortable to walk with, even with the 15,000 steps you can take in Europe. There is a big zipper in the front so you can access all items without having to go from the top of your backpack.
Keep an eye out for sales; I’ve seen it cheaper on Amazon intermittently!
Traveling on a metro, on a bus and walking on foot with a rolling suite case can be a difficult way to travel in Europe (we survived Toledo, Spain with suitcases, but it was a feat with all the hills and cobblestones!) However, travel with whatever you are most comfortable with. I’m sure there are those who would never dream of traveling with a backpack or vice versa.
For country-specific packing guides, click here!