If you are traveling domestically within the US, there are certain things you don’t have to even think about when you arrive at your destination. For example- all the outlets will match your electronic devices, your credit cards won’t charge a foreign currency transaction fee, and if you need a few coins then chance are you’ll be able to find exactly what you need somewhere in the bottom of your purse. But these things may not be true when you board a flight that leaves the US. When traveling internationally, there are a few things you’ll want to be sure to prepare for ahead of time- so we’ve compiled this list of packing essentials for international travel to make sure you have everything you need for an amazing trip abroad!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links- Purchasing any of the recommended packing essentials for international travel via the links in this post will cost you no extra money but helps support Wandering Moms!

Packing Essentials for International Travel

ID, Passport and Travel Documents

When traveling internationally, your passport will be the single most important item you pack. You can’t enter another country without it! Make sure your passport has at least 6 months left before it expires, as many countries will not grant entry if there is less than 6 months left on your current passport. Also be sure to pack your driver’s license or other valid form of ID plus any other travel documents you’ll need like visa paperwork or printed boarding passes. Keep all of these documents in a safe place- we’ll share some great safety options below!

Copies of ID, Passport and Travel Documents

Because your ID and passport are so important while traveling internationally, you want to have a pack up plan in case anything gets lost or stolen. Take physical photocopies of your documents and keep them in a different location, or take photos of your documents and store them in your phone. It’s also a good idea to email copies to yourself and/or send a set of copies to someone you trust at home so you can either access your email from a different device or have someone send you copies if you also happen to lose your phone.

Emergency Contact Information

Remember when you were a kid and you knew important phone numbers by heart? Chances are that’s not the case anymore! We rely so heavily on our phones that most of us only know a handful of phone numbers by memory. Phones can get lost or stolen, and unless you trust yourself to remember all important phone numbers AND be able to recall them in a stressful situation- it’s best to keep a written list of emergency contacts just to be safe. Not only do you want numbers of family and friends back home, but also write down your hotel’s phone number and address and the contact information for the US Embassy in the country or countries you are visiting. Again- it’s useful to email yourself this information or give it to someone you trust at home so they can email or text you the information in case of an emergency.

Credit Cards and Cash

There are a couple of important things to know when packing money for an international trip. It’s best to pack at least two credit cards as you’ll want to keep them in separate locations in case one is lost or stolen. If someone snags your wallet and all of your cards and cash are in there- you’re in big trouble. But if you keep an extra credit card in a different bag or in the safe back at the hotel, you’ll have a back up. It’s also important to make sure you are traveling with credit cards that do not charge a foreign currency transaction fee! As for cash, most people prefer to exchange some money at their own bank before leaving as exchange rates are likely to be better than at the airport kiosks. Make sure you exchange for a variety of bills, including small bills for tipping, and then separate your cash so you’re not carrying it all together.

Universal Power Adapters

This one is super important when traveling internationally! Different countries use different power outlets and your US cords won’t fit in the outlets in other countries! Make sure you pack a couple of universal power adapters so that no matter when you go, you’ll be able to plug your stuff in!

Prescription Medications

You’ll want to make sure you take all your prescription medications with you when traveling internationally, as it may be incredibly difficult to get a script filled in an emergency. Always pack a couple of extra days worth of medications in case you have any travel delays. When traveling internationally, it’s best to keep prescription medications in their original bottles. Be sure to check that all of your medications are legal in the country or countries you are traveling to. Some medications that are legal in the US are illegal in other countries- for example, Benadryl is illegal in Zambia and any Benadryl dose higher than 10mg per pill is illegal in Japan. Be sure you are aware of any restrictions on your medications before you leave. Ignorance is NOT bliss- other countries can and will nail you for having an illegal substance, even if you had no idea it was illegal.

Over the Counter Medications

While traveling domestically, it’s easy to run into a familiar drug store to grab an over the counter medication for a headache or cold. While traveling internationally, this can sometimes be a bit more difficult- especially if you’re feeling under the weather. Pack common over the counter medications so you have a few doses with you. Be sure to pack your favorite go-to meds for pain, congestion, allergies, motion sickness and stomach upset. Welly makes a super convenient travel medication kit that will ensure you have everything you need in one cute little box!

Passport Holder

A passport holder is a great way to keep your passport, ID and other important travel documents safe. Look for one that has a cross-body strap as this style offers the best anti-theft protection. It’s much harder for someone to snatch something that is strapped across and held close to your body.

Anti-theft Backpack

While investing in a high quality anti-theft backpack is a good idea for any kind of travel, it’s definitely something you’ll want to consider purchasing for international travel. With multiple features such as slash-proof fabric, hidden zippers, locking zippers, and secret pockets- these special backpacks are designed to slow down a potential thief. Most pickpockets will avoid going after a theft proof backpack because they know they’ll be up against these extra challenges and it’s not worth the time or risk.

Money Belt

A money belt is a great way to keep your cash close to your body. While we all love a good purse, a purse hanging over your shoulder is the easiest thing for someone to walk by and snatch. A money belt is more discreet and harder for a potential thief to just grab. It will also give you another location to keep some of your money- because spreading out your cash is important. Keeping a few bills in your backpack, a few in your money belt and a few in your pocket (or bra!) helps you spread things out.

Did we miss any of your favorite packing essentials for international travel? Let us know in the comments!

You can also check out some of our other luggage guides including whether to go with a “Carry-on vs a Checked Bag” and “What to Pack in a Carry-On Bag”.


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