Your passport is valid. Your immunizations are up to date. The ticket is booked and paid for. Now it’s time to gather the essential items on a packing list. As you probably know by now, airlines tack on monstrous fees for overweight luggage. Pack light – you don’t need that much. Roll your clothes instead of folding them; a suitcase will hold more items that way. Travelling to a destination with warmer weather? In that case very few garments are needed, and if the destination is known to be cheap – Thailand, for instance – leave room in the suitcase for great deals!
Copies of Travel Documents and Money
Protect yourself before leaving home by copying the photo page in your passport. This will save considerable frustration and significant paperwork later on if a passport turns up missing. Bring extra photos for visa applications if, for example, you plan to visit Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.
Go to your bank at home and order some currency of the nation you intend to visit, instead of having to wait in line at an exchange counter when you arrive. The rates offered at airport exchange kiosks are terrible, in any case. ATMs give out local cash, but you’ll be charged a fee every time you do this and the notes (bills) are typically large, and hard to break. An extra stash of U.S. money is a good idea, because it still goes the farthest in many corners of the world. Just make sure the notes are new and without rips.
No matter where you go, a small medical kit is essential! You can fit a whole bunch of supplies in a side pocket of a suitcase or carry- on bag. You might include bandages, tweezers, rubbing alcohol, tape, cold/headache medications, and mosquito repellent (not mosquito coils).Speaking of mosquitoes, malaria and dengue fever are still big problems in Africa, Asia, and the sweaty areas of South America. Taking doses of anti-malaria pills may be necessary before departure and during the trip.And, bring a hat along with sunscreen! Ditto for a pair of sunglasses, prescription or otherwise. Sunlight is fierce in many countries.
Other Useful Items
Toilet paper is a scarce commodity in many places, but is taken for granted in North America. You’ll be in a tight spot in foreign restrooms that don’t have it. You know those little bottles of hand sanitizers in pharmacies? Buy one before you leave. Soap might be unavailable even in nicer establishments; you’ll certainly need some after a squat toilet experience.
Books are handy for long plane and train rides. To block out the noise of the people around you, carry an MP3 player to while those long journeys away with your favorite music. Finally, invest in a small flashlight because power cuts are common in some countries.
What Not to Take
Leave the expensive watches, jewelry, and cosmetics at home. Taking a money belt? Don’t. You might as well hang a sign around your neck that screams, “I’m a tourist, please rob me.”