Bring This, Not That – The Official Overseas Travel Packing List

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Hiking along an alpine lake while trekking the Santa Cruz in Peru.
When you’ve got your entire life strapped to your back for months as you roam around foreign countries, you will want to make sure your pack is full of the right gear. There is no turning back when you’re halfway around the world! Traveling to a foreign country can be a great experience but the margin for trial and error should be kept to a minimum when it comes to being prepared. You will have enough to think about without having to worry what you did and didn’t bring. When packing your bags, you should remember that every item you pack will likely accompany you for the duration of your travels. Minus snacks. You also need to take into consideration that you could lose almost everything you bring in just a few unfortunate events. Each item you are equipped with should be carefully thought out.

Don’t Forget…

  • Phrase Book – If there is a language barrier, be sure to bring a phrase book! This will make your life easier and provide you will many of the quick phrases and vocab to get around.
  • All Over the Counter Medicine That You Could Possibly Need – Obviously, different countries have different pharmacies and drugs. If there is a language barrier, it’s going to be very difficult to explain to the pharmacist that you need something for your explosive travelers diarrhea. No one wants to play charades and act that out. It helps to be prepared for the unimaginable! Think motion sickness, migraines, stomach bugs, ear infections, Band-Aids, Neosporin, Vitamin C etc.
  • Clothing That You Can Depend On – Pack clothes that you will love to wear for the weeks and months to come. Make sure you really enjoy wearing everything you own or you’ll be sick of your attire real quick-like. We have found that comfort and durability is key when considering what to bring on a long trip. It’s also worth mentioning that quick dry apparel will save you many headaches when you’re hand washing clothes and waiting for them to dry. Also if you do multiple day hiking trips you will certainly want gear that can get soaked and bounce back within a few hours. Some cities/countries provide easier accessibility to clothing options than others; to avoid a constant search to find something you need, just bring a few extra pieces of logical clothing.
  • Ziploc Bags – When you’re living out of a backpack, it is a huge pain in the butt to dump out everything you own just to find your toothbrush. Keeping your items separated in Ziploc bags for organization and cleanliness. Bring a few extra to keep spare change, souvenirs, odds & ends, etc.
  • Laundry Detergent For Hand Washing Clothes – You never know what type of laundry facilities you’ll come in contact with. We’ve found that it’s much easier to hand wash clothes in the sink of the hostel and hang dry overnight rather than trucking down to the public laundromat, spending a half day wasting time doing laundry and trying to decipher how to use a foreign washing machine.
  • Photocopies of Important Documents – Plan for the worst, hope for the best. What happens if your passport is stolen, bank hacked, money stolen, and half the contents of your backpack are gone? Do you have a plan? We have color photocopies of our passports, basic airline itinerary and bank phone numbers in each of our backpacks. We left the same information back with people in the states we trust to cancel all accounts should our identities or accounts be compromised. We hope we’ll never be in this situation, but it’s better to have a plan than not!
  • Reading Material – Especially if you’re traveling in a foreign country where your native language isn’t common, be sure to bring your own reading material. Book stores are hard to come by and the books in English are priced through the roof! Many hostels have some sort of book exchange, but the pickings are pretty nil. Nooks are not a bad idea in this situation, the batteries last forever and the reading material is cheap. They take almost no space making them very easy to pack.
  • Small, Quick Dry Towel – Some hostels provide towels, some do not. A packable quick dry towel will save you the inconvenience of renting a towel to take a shower at some hostels. A small towel is great to pack for beach days too!
  • Hand Sanitizer/Soap – You will want to be sure to bring your own hand sanitation. Don’t count on all the bathrooms you come across to have hand soap or sanitizer of any kind. Keep those dirty mitts clean and save yourself from a bad time of being ill.
  • Granola Bars – Granola bars are a lifesaver for overnight bus rides and getting your gut adjusted to new foods. If you plan on doing any type of hiking or day excursions, they come in handy for a quick snack. Read more from Runner Click. 
  • Collapsable Water Bottles – Use them when you need them and pack them away when you don’t. Enough said! Seriously we have been thankful for the extra two liters of water capacity when we need it.
  • Good Footwear – This is one of the most important things you cannot forget. Have a solid pair of hiking boots or shoes and you will be fine. Make sure they are comfortable and broken in before the trip. Chaco has been our shoe and sandal of choice for years! They have never let us down and we would recommend getting a pair for any occasion.
  • A Small Lock – Many hostels have lockers that you can store your more important items in. Having a lock comes in handy when you need to secure your goods. Go with a thinner lock as hole sizes very. We would not recommend wire locks as they can be snipped easily.
  • Extra Space In Your Pack For Souvenirs – When you leave home, be sure your backpack isn’t filled to it’s bursting point! Trust us, you’ll want room for souvenirs. When we were leaving Colombia, one of our packs was used primarily for bring coffee and other souvenirs back to the United States.
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Mountains or Jungle we’re ready to rumble!

Leave it at Home!

  • Expensive/Flashy Jewelry – Chances are, if you’re in a foreign country you will be noticed simply because you look different than the locals. You don’t need to paint a target on your back by showing off your nice gems and saying “look at me, I have money”. You could put you and your travel partners in potential danger of getting robbed or worse.
  • Your Nice Electronics – Theft can happen to anyone when you travel. It happens in the hostel dorm, when you turn a blind eye at the bus station, when you get up to order another coffee, anywhere. If you can’t live without a laptop overseas, we suggest buying a low end, “burner” laptop that you won’t be down $2k should it get stolen. Cameras are great to have but use your judgment as to where and when you take your shots. You might be surprised at how fast something can jump out of your hand and be gone before you even know what happened! iPods are okay but should still be used with discretion.
  • Hair Styling Tools – Curling irons, hair dryers, flat irons and whatever other heat tools you may use should be left at home. Many hostel dorms do not have mirrors which means you will be occupying one of the very few bathrooms primping. Trust us, most folks go au natural while backpacking… Embrace it!
  • Extra Wallet Weight – While it’s important to carry all your essentials, you do not need your extra gift cards with $3.26 left or membership cards to your favorite grocery stores. Carry only your ID, a credit card and an international ATM card (we use Wing’s Financial). Then, put an extra credit card and ATM card hidden in your pack should your wallet get stolen.

 

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Every trip is different in it’s respective ways but we never forget the staples that we shared with you above! On our most recent trip to South America for three months, we either brought or left behind everything on this magic packing list! We literally used every single thing we brought with and had plenty of extra room for souvenirs. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and LIVE ON THE ADVENTURE! 

 

LADIES! – We recently compiled female specific travel tips and tricks just for you, read more about it here!

 

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38 thoughts on “Bring This, Not That – The Official Overseas Travel Packing List

  1. As a fellow traveller I’d say these are all good ideas especially the medicines, even if your not accident prone you’re bound to get atleast somesort of ailment if your travelling for a while. People forget just how much of an inconvenience something as small as a blister can be when you’re backpacking

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  2. I don’t know if it comes under the catagory of ‘flashy electronics’, but I found a smart phone invaluable when traveling around. From looking up hotel/hostel reservations, or finding where you are on a map, to accessing downloaded translators, its a great way to carry a lot of information. And if you get a dual sim phone you can keep your home sim working while you use a cheap pay as you go sim to access the internet, etc.

    Also, when making copies of important documents (like your passport), always upload a copy to a folder online. Most e-mail services (G-Mail, Outlook, etc.) will provide some space to do this, or you can get a free Dropbox account. It’s easy to do, and it’s always good to know that, if it all goes wrong from one reason or another, you (or your embassy) have access to a copy of your most vital documents.

    I always take a small sewing kit with me too, just in case. And when I’m on long trips and start getting weighed down with souvenirs and mementos, I pack them up and post them home. Lightens the load.

    Oh! And one more top tip. If you have a digital camera save a photo of your contact information onto every memory card you use (and protect it from deletion). Then if you ever lose a card, or the camera, and someone finds it, they can get it back to you. 🙂

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  3. Another great post! I think a lot of this is helpful even if the trip isn’t overseas. Just the act of thinking about what you’re packing, what you’ll need, and what you probably don’t want to carry, is a useful exercise!

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  4. Great list! I will forever be in debt to my Chacos for not killing my feet while spending hours on end on my feet.

    As for the over the counter medication… sometimes there are things you just cant predict. Luckily when your eye is swollen, red, and covered in goop, even a language barrier isn’t going to stop the Italian pharmacist from knowing you have pink eye!

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  5. This was a very helpful post! I especially liked the bit about photocopying important documents. I never thought about that before, but that could definitely come in handy.

    Also, I have a question. When you go on your backpacking excursions, do you bring a survival kit? If so, what do you put in it?

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    1. We thought it might be over board but we did use our photo copies a number of times for surfboard rentals and hostal stays.

      So we bring a small kit with bandaids, iodine, antiseptic gel, tape, makeshift splint, and a k-bar military knife. The basics 🙂

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