Ultimate Travel Checklist
They say the journey is the destination, and that starts with packing. Creating and following a well-considered travel checklist is truly the secret to an enjoyable, worry-free vacation free of any snafus. It ensures that you have everything you need in the right place at all times, eliminating those small stressors from the sometimes-hectic travel experience. Before you head out for any kind of journey — whether it be a week by the sea or a quick trip to the countryside — be sure to reference our ultimate travel checklist to ensure that you’ve thought of everything before you walk out the door.
Selecting the Right Luggage
Well-packed luggage starts with the right vessels. Because even the neatest, tidiest and most organized packers will regret choosing bags and cases that aren’t sensibly designed. Here are the luggage components you need for short- to medium-length trips (anything under two weeks).
What Should You Pack?
The truth is that there’s no one universal travel checklist, everybody’s checklist should look different. Your destination and the activities you’ve planned should be primary considerations in crafting your perfect packing list. However, the following items are a rough guideline to get you thinking about what you may need to pack. Going camping? Make sure to check out our guide to what to pack camping, too!
Clothes and Shoes
The following list is great for people heading to many popular destinations, including urban and tropical ones. Of course, more rustic environments — the desert, the beach or the rainforest, for example — will require special technical clothing and protective gear. Be sure to consider all weather and environmental factors before creating your final packing list.
- Collared shirt
- Long-sleeved shirt or base layer
- Hoodie or crewneck
- Dressy outfit, if necessary
- Packable raincoat
- Light jacket or shell
- Comfortable shoes
- Dress shoes, if necessary
When deciding what toiletries to bring, it’s a good idea to go through your entire daily routine in your head, from getting ready in the morning to getting ready before bed at night. Note any and all products and tools you use throughout the process and pack those items in your toiletry bag. We always recommend stocking up on a few reusable plastic travel bottles to reduce plastic waste and to keep your toiletries clean and tidy. Plus, they let you take your preferred products with you rather than relying on travel-sized ones or the hotel’s free toiletries.
- Face wash
- Dental floss
- Dry shampoo
- Hair styling products
- Hair ties
- Styling tools
- Hair dryer
- Contact lenses
- Contact lens solution
- Bug spray
- First-aid kit
- Eye drops
Anyone who’s ever shown up at the airport without their passport or ID knows what a massive pain this can be. If you’re occasionally absent-minded, set a reminder on your phone — or go old-school and put a sticky note on the door so you see it before you leave — that alerts you a half hour or so beforehand to remember to grab any necessary personal documents.
- International driver’s license, if necessary
- Credit card(s)
- A small amount of cash
- Emergency wallet card
- Known traveler number, if you have one
Where would we be without our tech? Travel is one of the most important times to have a well-stocked library of downloaded media, because you never know when you’ll be stuck for long periods of time without Wi-Fi or data. Hardware is vital, too, especially your chargers and adapters. Spend some time stocking your phone with media and apps so you have everything ready to go when you need it.
- Phone charger
- Laptop charger
- Foreign adapters and converters
- Bluetooth headphones
- Wired headphones (as a backup)
- Travel speaker
- Downloaded podcasts
- Downloaded playlists
- Downloaded shows and movies
- Downloaded maps
What to Pack in Your Carry-On Bag
Before you pack for air travel, make sure you check with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the current rules on what you can pack in your carry-on luggage. Some items are barred from carry-ons altogether — firearms, ammo, certain lighters, butane, box cutters, corkscrews, etc. — and some have special restrictions, so always check with the TSA before packing anything questionable in your cabin bag.
Tip: If your checked luggage gets lost, which is actually surprisingly uncommon these days, your carry-on may be all you have for hours or days. Consider packing a backup outfit (including underwear) and a few choice toiletries just in case.
- Phone charger
- Portable battery bank
- Glasses case
- All prescription medications
- All valuable jewelry and watches
- Disinfectant wipes
- Travel pillow
- Eye mask
- Backup outfit
- Basic toiletries
- Book or magazine
- Compact umbrella
- Empty water bottle
Things to Remember Before You Go
In addition to your complete packing list, it’s a good idea to create a list of things to do before you leave. Whether that means lining up care for your pets, securing your firearm or printing out your travel plans, a few before-you-go tasks will help prevent any unnecessary issues.
- Firearms. Bringing a firearm or ammo? Make sure it’s packed properly in your checked baggage according to the TSA’s current guidelines. The TSA requires all guns and ammo be packed in locked, hard-sided gun cases in your checked bags.
- Medical devices. If you have any special medical equipment, such as a diabetes test kit or monitor, make sure you pack it in your carry-on bag in case your luggage gets lost in transit. Check with the TSA about traveling with portable oxygen and other medical equipment.
- Pets. Don’t forget to prepare care for pets before you go! It’s a good idea to have a separate to-do list just for pet care detailing how you’ll handle any food, medication, walks, visits, etc. Schedule all pet-sitters at least a month beforehand.
- Parking and transportation. If your journey starts at the airport, make plans for how you’re going to get there and back. Schedule your rideshare or book a parking spot.
- International phone plan. Traveling abroad? Your phone data probably won’t work, but you can pay a fee for access in foreign countries. Most service providers let you pay for access by the day (usually $10 to $15 per day) so you have data while you’re away.
- Downloaded maps. If you’re heading anywhere besides a major metropolitan area, it’s a good idea to download your Google Maps beforehand (here’s how). This ensures that you have access to your maps even without an internet connection.
- Downloaded playlists and podcasts. This one’s especially important for long flights with expensive Wi-Fi charges! Make sure to pre-stock your laptop and phone with media.
- WhatsApp. Though it’s not the default messaging app in the United States, 1.5 billion people use WhatsApp in 180 countries throughout the world (that’s more than Facebook Messenger). If you’re traveling to Canada, Europe, South America, Central America and many parts of Asia, having WhatsApp on your phone will be quite useful.
- More special apps. It’s hard to know beforehand what apps you’ll need at your destination, but downloading a few beforehand can save you from a headache. Download an international clock app, altitude map, special weather apps, military time converter app, rideshare apps, booking apps and any travel guide apps you may need.
- Someone at home in the know. You’re not likely to experience an emergency while abroad, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Leave a trusted person back home with a detailed itinerary with all travel plans before you go.
- Printed or downloaded travel itinerary. Don’t rely on the cloud or your email to keep you in the loop about where you need to be and when, so be sure to print your itinerary.
- TSA Pre-Check. The TSA Pre-Check program is ideal for those who travel multiple times per year. For $85 a year, you get a five-year membership that lets you speed through security without removing shoes, laptops, belts and more.
A Little Bit of Prep Goes a Long Way
Preparing for a getaway of any length can be extremely stressful, especially if your trip will be long or if you have a lot of things to take care of beforehand at home. But creating a thorough travel checklist will help ensure that you leave nothing behind and that you aren’t left in a scenario without the items you need while you’re away. Start with this travel packing checklist so you’re one step ahead of the game!