Travel tips

International travel checklist

your international travel checklist isn't complete without suitcases covered in stickers

Lynn Friedman/Via Flickr

I enjoy reading the multitude of international travel packing lists that you can find on the Internet and I also enjoy watching the YouTube videos of people packing for a trip.  I just need to be motivated and inspired when it comes to packing, especially for a big international trip.  Even though I love to travel, I hate to pack. I never leave it to the last minute, but that just gives me more time to agonize about it.

When I browse in antique shops, I love to look at the vintage luggage. They usually come in sets. People traveled back then with multiple pieces of luggage like vanity cases and hat boxes. (I’d love to travel with a vanity case instead of just my quart-size plastic bag for my toiletries and cosmetics.)  Some of the suitcases even have interesting stickers from various European hotels. Maybe EF’s operations staff can convince our ihotels to start providing these colorful stickers. I also like to look at the huge steamer trunks and open them to see these “traveling closets.” People who traveled with expensive luggage like that probably had servants to do their packing. That’s what I want—someone who will come to my house and do my packing before each trip.  If you don’t have that luxury either, here is an international travel checklist that I hope you find helpful.

  • Check the weather of your destination: Go to and check the 5-day/10-day forecast for your destination. You never want to be too cold, too hot, or too wet when you are on a tour. Check your travel itinerary to see if you are planning to visit any sacred sites like cathedrals. For example, St. Peter’s Basilica has a strict dress code—no shorts, bare shoulders, or miniskirts. The shorts ban applies to the boys in your group.
  • Pack a carry-on with extras: If you are planning to check your suitcase, be sure to pack in your carry-on an extra shirt, underwear, and socks in case your baggage is delayed.  On my Scotland tour last June, our luggage did not catch up with us for several days. At least I was able to wash what I wasn’t wearing in the hotel sink and have something clean and fresh to wear the next day. I did get tired of wearing the same pants and jacket, but I was planning to do that anyway.
  • Miniaturize the sizes of your toiletries: condense them so they can all fit in that quart-size plastic bag. Make sure all gels and liquids do not exceed the 3-ounce limit. Use the complimentary soap and shampoo in the hotels. I advise the girls in my groups to simplify their beauty routines so they don’t need to pack a lot of cosmetics. They don’t have much time in the mornings to get ready on tour and after a couple of days together on the bus, there is no need to impress anyone.
  • Pack undergarmets for each day: Everyone needs to pack underwear and socks for each day. Travel with your old and worn-out underwear and socks, and throw them away after you wear them. (You just have to forget what your mother told you about wearing nice underwear in case you get in an accident.)  My students laugh at this tip, but it does leave some room in their suitcase by the end of a tour. Their mothers love it because it gives them a chance to clear out their children’s drawers. You can also travel with underwear and socks that are easy to wash and fast to dry. Wear one set and wash the other set at night.
  • List outfits: Make a list of what you plan to wear each day. Lay your clothes on your bed and see what items can be worn more than once.  If you can’t wear something at least twice, then don’t pack it. Trying to convince the girls in my groups that it’s fine to wear your clothes more than once on a tour can be a lost cause. Stick to a few dark and neutral colors so everything can be interchangeable. My favorite travel colors are black, khaki, and white.

Group leaders should consider offering their students an incentive to encourage them to pack as lightly as possible. Provide your students with a basic ipacking list and think about giving a prize to the student who has the lightest bag. Group leader Mike Curtis commented on Paul Mattesini’s January 28, 2011, post, “Packing Light for Travel”. He weighs all of the students’ bags before they board the bus and they can’t get on the bus if their bag weighs over 45 pounds. He also buys lunch on the first day of his tour for the student with the lightest bag as long as everything on his travel checklist is packed. I stand by the airline counter and keep track of the weight of the students’ bags as they get checked in. The student with the lightest bag gets a crisp $20 bill from me. No one ever returns home from a tour and says, “I wish I had packed more stuff.”

(Editor’s note: Add Gail on Google+ If you have a question about for EF Group Leader Gail Ingram, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Gail here, and she will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)
Topics: Travel tips

Gail I.

Gail is a former longtime EF Group Leader, who was also a frequent mentor to new group leaders and a regular presenter on EF’s Free International Training Tours.

Hundreds of destinations.
Endless possibilities.

Contact us Browse tours