Minimalist’s Guide to International travel

This is a picture of the actual bag I travel with. I like it a lot because it has a padded laptop area, a side pocket for my thermos, a secret pocket, a beer bottle opener, a clip to close the top so I can stuff a lot inside and it’s water-proof.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of international traveling. Some of the places I’ve been are: Laos, Thailand, Germany, Spain, Morocco and the UK. No matter where I went, there were certain items that really saved the day. I’m also a bit of a minimalist and prefer to carry everything on the plane to avoid checked bag fees or expensive plane tickets. Below I’ve compiled a list of the bare necessities for international travel. You can of course add to this list but, I’ve found these to be the most essential items and they all fit into a regular sized back pack. 

Some questions you need to ask before you go are: 

What are the visa requirements? 
Does my phone work in this country?    This is different for every carrier and you’ll need to find out from them directly. 
Are there any vaccines I should get before I travel here?    The CDC is a great resource, you can also ask your regular doctor for assistance. 
Can I drink the tap water?    I don’t really like buying a bunch of water bottles so, I keep a travel coffee mug to fill up wherever I go. Not all countries have drinkable tap water and if you feel like it may not be safe, it’s always best to just buy bottled water for health reasons. Depending on the length of your stay, I would recommend buying gallons and refilling your mug as needed. 

The List

Color copy of Passport – in case you loose yours or, you may need it to do certain things like rent a motor bike in Thailand or climb the Atlas Mountains
Printed Itinerary – You can send this to concerned relatives so they’ll “know” where you are. It’s also helpful if there is some kind of computer error or your phone dies, you can still find your way. On this itinerary you should include your flights, hotel stays, the phone number and address of your embassy in that country. To keep a digital copy, you can email this to yourself.
Portable Power Bank – I have a tiny one that’s about the size of an E-cig and can charge my phone four times over.
PhoneCables & ChargersPower Converter – for the countries you will visit. For my five month stay in Germany I bought a power strip with the step-down voltage changer. This allows me to plug in my laptop while also charging my phone through a USB port. It is super handy and light-weight. Some countries have different voltages and can fry your electronics so, it’s always good to check in advance what type of converter you will need.
Headphones – for listening pleasure but also to block out annoying people on the plane.
Earplugs – for sleeping in noisy cities and also blocking out annoying people on the plane.
Toiletries – Totally minimalistic: Comb, Shampoo (you can also use as soap) nail clippers, hair ties (they come in handy for multiple uses).
Med Kit – Ibuprofen, Benadryl, bandaids, Neosporin, hand sanitizer, cold medicine from home (because there’s a real possibility of getting sick in a foreign country) but, if you are caught empty handed in the cold medicine department, don’t be afraid to ask at the local pharmacy for what you need. You can use google translate to help communicate your symptoms. Most other countries will sell antibiotics over the counter if you know how to ask for them.
Needle & Thread
Adjustable Belt – not just for holding up your pants but also for securing or tying items, or creating a tourniquet if there’s a serious injury (I’ve never had to use it for this purpose).Underarmour Shirt – for warmth if needed.
Hiking Pants – I have a pair of extremely light-weight hiking pants that can be changed into shorts. These are great for all weather even snow and they fold up really small.
Fluffy Blanket – This is great for multiple uses: comfort on the plane, picnics and a towel in a pinch.Scarf – also handy for tying things.
Freezer Ziplock Bags – For stuff, it makes sense.
Jacket – I use a standard hoodie but, anything would do.
Clothing – Two more pairs of socks than you think you’ll need (you can thank me later). Undergarments for each day, one pair of jeans and a t-shirt for each day. I could minimize this to 2 t-shirts and then buy clothing once you arrive. You can pack as much as you like but, I have found it is better to pack light and leave room for new items.
I packed this for my trip to the UK and was able to fit everything into my backpack. This allowed me to easily get through the airport and it wasn’t too heavy to carry. When I arrived, I bought some pajamas and that was all I needed. I still had some room left in my bag for souvenirs and a pack lunch. What about money? So, you don’t want to do a currency exchange at the airport because it’s really expensive. Its better to withdraw from an ATM and better still to use the first ATM you find away from the airport. You’ll need to check your account online for the exact currency exchange rate later. I hope that you have found this post helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions of things to add, please email me! 

Happy Travels,


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