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Saturday, April 25, 2020

What to Pack for Your Trip Abroad, Pt. II

By Andy

Packing for a trip abroad, no matter the length of the trip, is a tedious process. If you're a perfectionist like I am, you don't want to forget to pack any items, and you won't want to leave anything to chance. It is challenging, but not impossible to bring everything you need for your trip that fits in a suitcase and falls within legal regulations. With advance planning and some research, you can spend a lot less time on your trip abroad, worrying about where you placed a much needed item or locating the nearest store, and more time enjoying yourself. I have used my many years of experience in traveling abroad to compile a list of what to pack for that next great adventure. 

This post will focus on your carry-on baggage. I should mention that, in my years of traveling, I have yet to master bringing just one bag as carry-on, that will fit in the overhead bin and not checking in any baggage. I don't know, nor have I met any fellow travelers who have done this. The only exception is those who travel domestically or for a week or less. If you're like me and you take trips of at least two or three weeks or even a month or longer, you'll understand the need for carefully packing checked luggage as well as packing your carry-on so that you have essential items always with you. 

So, without any further screwing around, here's an outline of what you should pack in your carry-on bag.

The carry-on bag: You need something in which to pack your essential belongings for your trip abroad. You need to pack your carry-on bag full of items to which you can have access at any time. You also want to be able to maneuver around airports, bus stations, train stations, and even short walks down the street to your apartment, bus stop or hotel with ease. Adding a luggage cart to your carry-on bag is an instant game-changer, and will ease the burden of you having to put a strain on your back, walking around with such a heavy load. 

A durable backpack with numerous compartments and features will fit the items listed below, and should fit in the overhead compartment, as long as you don't overstuff it. 

Once again, I recommend getting a carry-on bag from Samsonite. They are a well known and reliable brand, and they've been in the luggage game for over a century. They have a wide selection of luggage, so you are bound to find something that is the right fit for you. I have the Samsonite Novex Perfect Fit Laptop Backpack in black, which is a standard color, but also one of my favorite colors. It has blue accents on the zippers, and I add unique identifiers including a luggage tag and two small combination locks of different colors for added security. 

Passport: It goes without saying. Have this on your person at all times, and make sure it is valid. If you need a visa to where you are traveling, then check the U.S. State Department as well as the local consulate of the country in which you plan to spend time abroad. Make paper copies of your passport and visa.

Wallet: Have all necessary contents including credit and debit cards, and pack a slim wallet as well for when you're out and about, and only need to take money needed for the day or evening. Buy your foreign currency before you even depart, so that you can worry about one less thing upon your arrival. 

Flash drive: Scan copies of your passport, visa, health vaccinations, airline tickets, hotel reservations, birth certificates onto a flash drive, and take it with you when you travel abroad. This will also help you free up some memory on your camera, laptop, or tablet when you take so many photos, and need additional space. 

Laptop or tablet: If you want to check e-mails, transfer photos and other files, or get any work done, don't forget this. Just make sure you bring the power cord.

Coin purses and safes: You don't want to mix up your currency, especially coins, when traveling abroad. You also don't want coins falling out of your pockets. Separate coin purses and safe pouches take the worry out of coin storage during your time abroad.

Memo pads, notebooks and writing utensils: You will want to pack plenty of these in your carry-on, as you never know when you might need to write down important addresses, contacts, restaurants, or the phone number of the foreign women you just met. Don't rely on storing everything in your phone. You will need a simple backup.

CPR mask/shield: IF you are CPR certified, pack this along with your certification card, which you should have in your wallet at all times, anyway. You just never know when you might have to save a life.

Sleeping mask: Pack this in case you have trouble sleeping on the flight, or if the airlines do not provide one for you. Also, if there is too much light coming in through the curtains or window in your apartment or hotel, this will come in handy.

Ear plugs: If you're a light sleeper, you'll need something to block out the noise.

Cheap watch: It doesn't have to be fancy, just functional. If you're traveling to Europe, and don't want to stand out too much, but don't want to fork over a lot of dough, try a Ana-Digi. Otherwise, don't make yourself a target by wearing expensive bling.

Travel Alarm Clock: Don't always rely on your phone, watch, or a wake-up call from the hotel's front desk. Especially if you're staying in a apartment, hostel or spending the night in a train station (yours truly as done all of them), you need to have a backup alarm. 

Small flashlights: If the power goes out wherever you are staying, you'll need some help seeing and moving around at night until power is restored.

Sea Band: Works better than Dramamine for motion sickness.

Luggage Scale: You want to pack this in your carry-on because ironically, you don't want to add weight to your checked baggage. 

Power bank: Pack two because these things use up juice rather quickly. You can't always rely on airports or buses to have outlets or USB ports. Bus and train rides can be long, especially, when your phone is low on battery power. 

Power cords and voltage converters: Bring all necessary power cords for your phone, laptop, mp3 player, tablets, etc.

Lint roller: If you have a business meeting or date upon arriving at your destination, you'll want to pack one of these. No sense in looking like a bum when you're already jet-lagged. Check the travel items section at your local store for a travel-sized roller.

Medication bag: If you are on any prescriptions, ALWAYS PACK THEM IN YOUR CARRY-ON. Be sure to get a note from your prescribing/family doctor, stating that you can take them while you travel. Make copies and keep a copy in the medication bag. If you have to split your pills, use a pill splitter before you even pack your bags or depart.

Camera: Unless you're taking pictures solely on your phone, pack a camera, too. I recommend a Canon PowerShot.

Small Padded Pouch: This is for smaller, more delicate items such as phone, camera, and mp3 player. Tip: Before boarding the plane, have the items you know you're going to need (headphones, mp3 player, a pen for filling out the customs declaration form) in this pouch. Keep it in the netting on the seat back in order to avoid having to reach into the overhead compartment, and fumbling around in your carry-on bag to find it.

Umbrella: Make sure it is travel-sized and compact enough to fit in your carry-on bag. All the same, make sure it is windproof/wind tested. Weather is unpredictable, and the last thing you want is a defective, cheap umbrella or to get soaked on that short walk back from the local pub to your apartment.

Sunglasses: Simply put, you need protection from the sun's harmful rays.

Headwear: Pack a small hat so that the sun doesn't always beat down on you, and give your forehead a sunburn.

Inconspicuous money belt: Because a fat wallet will stand out, even with cargo pants pockets.

Collapsible water bottle: Save money and space by packing one of these. Fill up with water at the airport water fountain. Trust me, the drinks offered on long-haul flights are not even enough to stay hydrated. Pack some Aquatabs purification tablets to mix in before consumption. 

Packable jacket: If where you're traveling will have pleasant weather for the duration of your stay, this is a safe bet in case of any freak storms. If where you're traveling will have cooler, harsher weather, then you can wear your jacket to the airport gate, then take it off, fold it up, and store it in the overhead compartment. 

Waterproof Storage Bags: Keep your documents safe in case of spills. 

Folder Portfolio: Place your documents here so that you have a central location in which to find them. Include copies of your passport, visa, vaccinations, travel insurance documents, doctor's notes, boarding passes, hotel reservations, packing checklist, and some foreign currency. 

Foldable tote bag: Keep this folded up at the beginning of your trip, and save it for souvenirs or use it as a shopping bag. On the way back home, you can use this as a personal item and place it under the seat in front of you. 

Microfiber towel: A travel-sized towel will come in handy in case you need to freshen/wash up in the airport or train station bathrooms. These will also come in handy if you arrive at your destination and your hotel is not ready, and in the meantime, you want to hit the beach.

Polyester Mesh Bag: Keep a change of clothes in this bag. Keep fresh socks, underwear, and and extra shirt in here. Pack a polo shirt and even some slacks in case you have a dinner date shortly after arriving at your destination. Even if you travel on a cruise ship, it could be a few hours until you get your checked baggage. Note: On the day of your flight, be sure to wear compression socks in order to avoid DVT, leg swelling, discomfort, and blood clots. When dressing for the flight, wear loose-fitting clothing, but don't dress like you just got out of bed. Think t-shirt, henley, or a polo shirt and cargo pants. Duluth Trading Company Buck Naked Underwear will be your best friend on a long-haul flight. 

Books, language books/dictionaries, travel guide books. If you can't sleep during the flight, have some good reading material to keep you occupied on those long-haul flights. Berlitz, Fodor's Frommer's, and Lonely Planet are the top travel publications. 

Okay, so that covers what you should pack in your carry-on. Hopefully, you have a much better idea on what to pack. I provided you this list based on experience. Your author has had his checked luggage lost and eventually recovered and delivered to him. But a few days went buy before getting those items, hence, carry-on luggage is actually more important, when you think about it. 

You might make your own additions, or you might be able to fit everything into a carry-on bag and not have to worry about checking in baggage. That is great; to each their own. There is no one-size-fits-all-solution to packing for a trip abroad. This is not the perfect list, but merely a guideline. Until then, happy travels. 

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