By Marcia Weldon
I’ve traveled almost a million miles on one airline and countless more on others, and I never leave home without my packing list. Because I’m a planner, I have a go-to product for everything that can go wrong on a trip and I want to help you avoid some of the mistakes I have made in the past. Here is my current packing list for international travel I update it constantly and use it domestically on occasion.
First and foremost, take a picture of your passport page and any VISA that you obtained to enter the country. Keep that picture on a cloud service so that you can access it if you lose your phone. Also, make sure that you send a copy to your travel companion if you have one.
I’m not going to list the cosmetic items or all of the gadgets that I pack, but below are my essentials. No one has paid me for mentioning any of these products and I’m not endorsing them. The brand names are for illustration purposes only. Remember, I’m not a doctor so do not take my suggestions as medical advice, and please consult with your doctor before doing anything outside of your medical routine.
I have a sensitive stomach, bad knees, other medical issues, and get seasick easily. I travel with my prescription medicine in a pill container but I also make sure that I have a picture of all of my medication bottles and that my traveling companion knows what I’m taking in case I’m unable to speak. I once had a major medical emergency in Brazil and I was able to pull up the list of the pills and dosages on my phone with no problem even though I was in agony and could barely see straight. I also carry a few band-aids and some heat therapy patches in case my back or knee hurt after too much walking. Benadryl works if you have a MINOR allergic reaction (sneezing, watery eyes) and can help you sleep. Of course, carry an EpiPen or other medication if you have a serious allergy.
For stomach issues, I always travel with peppermint tea bags and strong ginger chews as a first line of defense. It may seem like overkill for stomach remedies, but my travel doctor gave me invaluable advice before I went to Africa. For an upset stomach start with Pepto Bismol. I carry a chewable version. Then I go to Imodium if that doesn’t work. If you really feel like you can’t leave your room because you have to stay near a bathroom at all times, then go to the activated charcoal (and of course, see a doctor if you need to). The charcoal soaks up whatever ails you but can also make the prescription medication less effective so don’t take it within a few hours of your prescribed medicines. During a trip to Guatemala, I never had to use the charcoal because in some remote villages I took the Pepto before the meals. Many of my companions were much more comfortable after using my charcoal. I also carry chewable Dramamine for motion sickness. You never know when you’ll be on a rocky boat or spend hours on unpaved roads bouncing around.
For flights and long road trips, I carry flushable wipes and individual Wet Ones to clean my face or in case the bathroom has no toilet paper. I travel with emergency protein bars and nuts. I also carry a soothing mixture of essential oils in a small spray bottle for the aromatherapy effects. I personally mix oils of lavender, lime, orange blossom, grapefruit, eucalyptus, and lemongrass that I buy at the farmer’s market. It makes my hotel rooms smell good but it also masks unpleasant scents from passengers who have used an airplane restroom before me. Exercise bands can help you stretch on a long flight and burn some calories in small spaces. Travel size Febreeze can help outfits last longer. I also wash many items in the sink wherever I go using soap that I carry or whatever my accommodations provide.
Once I get on a flight, I put my eyeshade on and I listen to podcasts or audiobooks on my Bose noise canceling headphones. They’re expensive but worth it. I don’t like to walk around the street with expensive headphones (and they are hard to sleep in), so I also carry cheaper, smaller wireless headphones. I also have some Apple AirPods and Phiaton wireless headphones (not pictured). For an objective review of some of the best headphones out there, read here from reviews.com. I wish I had read their blog post reviewing 20 bluetooth headphones before I bought mine (although my Bose Q35 and Apple AirPods made the cut)!
I try to travel without my laptop unless absolutely necessary so I use my iPad Mini and a Zagg keyboard. I can compose documents, edit papers, or develop presentations without the bulk of a laptop. I have an extra mini extension cord with three extra outlets, which has come in handy in rooms or when sitting on the floor of an airport with only one or two accessible outlets. Finally, my MyCharge extra battery has saved me and my colleagues on more than one occasion. It plugs into the wall, has a USB port, and can accommodate Android or Apple phones and tablets. I always walk with at least two chargers. On more than on occasion, I have had to lend my charger to a traveling companion or tour guide. Before I bought my new iPhone and Apple Watch, which have some protection for accidental falls in water m, I used to carry a bag of uncooked rice. That bag saved me when I dropped my phone in an airport toilet bowl on the way to Africa I grabbed my phone out of the (clean!) water and immediately immersed it in uncooked rice for a few days to absorb the water. It worked just fine. Some people also swear by blow dryers, but I don’t use those.
I try to never check a bag but I do carry bags within bags. My Dakine bag folds into a tiny ball but can carry an umbrella, raincoat, change of clothes, water bottles etc. I carry a fast drying camping towel and grungy rubber shoes that I can use at a beach or at a shower in a hostel or gym. I never travel without 2 pairs of glasses in case one breaks. I sometimes use compression bags for bulky items to save space in my carry on. To keep warm on planes, I use a cashmere travel scarf (well worth the investment) and fluffy warm socks. I never walk barefoot in an airplane and always put my shoes on before going into the bathroom because some people don’t hit the toilet and I don’t want to pay the price of their poor aim.
I hope these tips help. If you have items you would like to add to the list, please comment below.