What should you bring on an international adventure trip? This packing list will help you remember all of your essential travel items.
Planning an international adventure usually involves a bit more research and planning than your average local trek. While certain items will be strictly dependent on the activities you plan to do while you’re away, many of your outdoor adventure essentials will be the same.
Our international travel checklist gives you the framework you need for a seamless trip abroad. There will be tweaks and additions here and there for all travelers, but we were able to do most of the groundwork for you.
With so much excitement, planning, and sometimes stress leading up to your departure date, it’s easy to forget a thing or two. Making and using a packing list ensures that you’ll always have your international adventure essentials, no matter your destination, experience, or level of chaos in your life.
Download Printable Checklist
International Travel Checklist
Our international travel checklist should be used as a base for your essential travel gear. It is not all-inclusive for each type of adventure travel. You will need to add items specific to your planned activities, and item amounts will vary from trip to trip and person to person.
Prep Before You Go: Travel Documents and Identification
As with any outdoor adventure trip, there is plenty of planning to be done before your boots even hit the trail.
And there are several logistical aspects that need to be in place as well. Beyond your plane tickets and other transportation, you must thoroughly research the area you’re visiting. Remember to look into any permits and vaccinations that are necessary for both entry into the country and also backcountry travel.
Documentation & Identification
First thing: Get a passport or make sure the one you have is up to date. Also, always have a printed copy of your passport as well as a digital copy, just in case it goes missing. Having a digital image saved on your phone works, but even better if it is in an email or the cloud. This way, if you lose your passport and your phone (worst-case scenario), then you can at least access a copy of your passport online.
On top of that, keep a secondary form of identification like a driver’s license. This also helps if you lose your passport, or in case customs requires two forms of identification for entry to a country.
Before leaving on an international trip, ensure your vaccinations are up to date. Beyond that, have documentation of said vaccinations.
We also suggest that you carry hard copies of your reservations, travel itinerary, emergency contacts, and plane tickets. While you can store most of these items digitally, having a hard copy as a backup is a good idea in case your phone is lost, dead, or damaged.
Visas and Travel Insurance
While this isn’t always necessary, you may need to secure a visa and travel insurance for your trip. To see country-specific instructions for Americans traveling abroad, the U.S. Department of State has detailed information on their website.
Investing in travel insurance is a relatively personal choice. However, circumstances can change unexpectedly. Travel insurance can help protect you if you experience a medical emergency while abroad. It can also help you recoup money if you’re unable to travel as planned.
Pet- and House Sitters
This may seem like overkill to some, but a house sitter may be necessary to tend plants that need daily watering. It can also help prevent break-ins, as it will appear someone is still home, even if your house sitter is only coming and going once or twice a day.
As many outdoor enthusiasts have pets, booking a pet sitter before a trip can prove a lifesaver — literally. It is usually less expensive than boarding and, in some cases, makes your dog more comfortable while you’re away.
Notify Your Bank
Having cash on hand can be helpful, but it isn’t always a necessity when traveling in certain parts of the world. You can easily use a debit card (usually with a small international fee) in most countries. Because you’ll be using your card to make purchases or withdraw cash while you’re abroad, you need to notify your bank, so it doesn’t suspect fraud and deactivate your card while you’re in a foreign country.
Download Useful Apps
The final bit of prep is to download useful and entertaining apps or resources onto your phone. You should always have a digital copy of the important documentation (above).
Beyond that, downloading music, books, podcasts, and a map app for navigation in cities and the backcountry can break up travel time and help you get around when you arrive.
Personal Hygiene Items
You can purchase some personal hygiene items upon arrival at your destination. However, bringing at least a small amount of things like toothpaste and deodorant can be a lifesaver during long travel days, layovers, and unexpected delays.
TSA & Travel Tips
Always consult TSA and airline protocols and regulations when packing. This is especially important for toiletries, as these can sometimes include liquid. Things like contact lens solution, lotions, or even bug spray must be within the regulated ounce limit, or they will be thrown away. You can usually bring larger containers in checked bags.
To prevent any exploding liquids in your baggage, pack toiletries in a resealable and waterproof baggie. You can use something as simple as a reusable stasher bag or invest in a waterproof toiletry-specific carrier.
Being an international travel checklist for outdoor adventurers, a first-aid kit is necessary. Unless you are traveling with a tour company, you should plan to bring at least a basic first-aid kit. For an all-in-one option that’s great for travel and rugged adventure, the VSSL First Aid Mini is one of our go-to kits.
Some standard first-aid items like nail clippers or scissors may not be permitted in your carry-on, so checking your kit is a safe way to ensure you’ll get to keep everything in it. If you aren’t checking a bag, you will likely have to omit those items and purchase them upon arrival.
If you aren’t sure what to pack in your first-aid kit, take a look at our first-aid kit essentials checklist.
Personal preference and duration of stay will help determine the types and quantities of toiletries you bring. One of our top recommendations is to use either powdered or tablet toothpaste. This is easier to travel with, is lighter for backpacking, and will always make it through security. You can also invest in a travel- and camping-specific toothbrush to be both plane- and backpacking-friendly. If you’re a stickler for oral hygiene, you can also find tablet mouthwash.
Also, consider a small amount of toilet paper and some wipes. This does not need to be an extensive amount, just enough for one or two uses in case of emergency. If you have a long few days of travel, wipes can also be nice to refresh your armpits and face.
Organizational Luggage Items
International travel will always be easier with some well-thought-out luggage organization. While our international travel checklist includes a few organizational items, other tricks we’ve learned can take some trial and error to find what works best for your needs.
Travel Pack or Other Luggage
The first big decision to make is the type of bag you’ll be using. If you’re heading overseas for a backpacking trip, it makes sense to use your backpack as the primary luggage item. You may end up taking a suitcase and a backpacking pack if you’re planning a mix of adventure and leisure activities abroad.
If you do bring a suitcase, though, plan to have a place to store it while you are on the trail backpacking, climbing, or kayaking. Depending on the adventure aspect of your trip, if you are away from your hostel or hotel for days on end, you need to see if they allow customers to store extra luggage until your return.
Ultimately, which bag you choose will be dictated by your activities, length of stay, and personal needs. If you’re new to travel, especially extended travel, learning that less is more may take some time. Sometimes choosing a smaller bag is the best way to cut down on items you really don’t need.
Cotopaxi makes some of our favorite travel bags, including the Cotopaxi Allpa for its mix of organization, versatility, and features. Plus, it’s available in 28L, 35L, 42L, 50L, and 70L sizes. And if you really want to keep yourself organized while traveling, look into the Matador SEG42 — a pack unlike any we’ve ever tried.
Consider selecting a travel-oriented bag like the Global Companion made by Eagle Creek for a hybrid luggage backpack option.
If you’re planning on checking your larger backpacking pack, a daypack can work well as a carry-on or, for some airlines, as a personal item. Having a daypack is perfect for sightseeing in the city or finding short-day adventures in the area.
There are several types of daypacks to choose from, and if you don’t plan on using it often, you may consider a collapsible or packable daypack. Most collapsible daypacks pack down small enough to fit inside your pocket, making them an uber-travel-friendly bag choice.
For more daypack options, check out our favorite daypacks here.
Not everyone is a fan of packing cubes, but after embarking on travel with and without them, packing cubes win my favor hands down. Essentially, packing cubes give you a way to divide your gear, clothes, toiletries, or anything else into specific organizational bags. They tend to be a rectangular shape to make it easier to fit into a suitcase or backpack.
Not only does this help you keep things organized and compact, but it also helps you find specific items in your luggage. When you keep all of your belongings separated in specific cubes, then you’ll always know exactly where to find them.
RFID Wallet or Money Belt
This is not always seen as a necessity to all travelers, but protecting your personal information and the money you have should become a priority. RFID (radio frequency identification) wallets and bags block RFID signals by using electromagnetic enclosure technology.
While these products can offer some extra security and protection, they may not always be necessary. With the rise of electronic payments like Apple Pay, you may not even have credit cards along on your trip. So, if you don’t already own an RFID protective wallet, weigh the pros and cons before purchasing one.
Even if you do not get an RFID-specific wallet or bag, a money belt is always a good idea. Some travel-specific bags have hidden pockets to prevent pickpockets from stealing anything. Still, knowing where items like your passport are at all times can bring you the ease of mind you need to enjoy every moment of your trip.
Adventure essentials are somewhat tricky to generalize. Everyone’s version of adventure will be a bit different. A rock-climbing expedition requires much different gear than a week-long river trip. With that in mind, our adventure essentials are baseline recommendations that almost all outdoor adventure trips should include. You’ll have to determine the other activity-specific gear that you need.
Maps, a first-aid kit, and a water purification kit should make any list. Keep in mind that certain items common in first-aid kits like nail clippers or scissors, or even a multitool, will not be allowed through TSA at the airport. So, you may want to check your adventure gear instead of packing it in the carry-on.
Depending on your itinerary, you may also need to bring a camp kitchen. While you can purchase most food after arriving, it does help to have other things like a stove and utensils handy. The primary tip to remember is that you should not bring fuel aboard the plane. Plan to buy fuel for your stove when you arrive.
Similar to our backpacking essentials checklist, adventure travel clothing needs to be functional, packable, and moisture-wicking. As with any outdoor activity, the season, climate, and weather patterns will all influence the clothes you wear. So, research the area you’re planning to visit.
Once you have a good idea of the climate and weather you expect, then you can start to plan your clothing. While you want to pack to meet the activities and length of stay, don’t bring a new outfit for each day. Plan to do laundry while you’re abroad. You can often find laundromats, or even bring detergent to wash clothes in a sink or shower.
Layering is another key practice to cut down on the amount of clothing you pack. While you can usually wear one shirt or a pair of pants for a few days in a row, your socks and undergarments may be a different story. For these specific items, plan to pack quite a few. They are small and won’t take up too much room, and if you have a week or two between washings, you’ll at least have some clean underwear.
Having certain things like an eye cover, inflatable neck pillow, or noise-canceling headphones could mean the difference between the longest flight of your life, and getting a bit of sleep on the plane. In addition to your phone, which travels on all adventures, big and small, be sure you also pack the charger, a portable power bank, and charging adaptors (if necessary) to use outlets in other countries.
And to help make actual travel time more enjoyable, downloadable apps like audiobooks, podcasts, and music can be lifesavers. Also look into GPS/map apps, CouchSurfer for free places to stay, or Trail Wallet to easily track travel expenses. These types of downloads can make your trip easier to navigate, so you can spend more time enjoying what you’re doing and less time worrying about which logistical plan is up next.
Adventure Travel Will Look Different for Everyone
Planning outdoor adventures in different parts of the world or even in a different part of the country can be one of the best ways to travel. You get a chance to experience the culture of another place, but you also get to delve into the beauty of the landscape far beyond what most tourists take the time to see.
All international travel takes some planning, but adventure travel can be a bit more daunting. That’s why we put together an international travel checklist to help you move through packing and planning, no matter your experience level.
Are you looking for more travel tips? Check out these three simple travel tips from the pros.