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15 Useful Items to Pack for an Overseas Trip

Updated on January 22, 2013

Whether you're headed out for a few days or a few weeks, it is important to have the right gear and items so you are prepared for your trip. The more ready you are, the better the chances something won't be ruined on your trip, such as important electronic equipment being broken or running out of batteries as you're ready to take that photo of a lifetime. Of course, depending on your destination, different clothes are needed, but there are some equipment that one should pack on any trip. The requirements in compiling this list are that the item has to be fairly lightweight, durable, and easy to take care of. Here are some essentials you might want to consider packing along. These items are listed in random order.

1. Sleeping Bag Liner or Sheet Sack

This is a pretty lightweight item that can be folded or rolled to fit into even a tiny backpack. It is useful particularly if you're concerned about sanitary conditions of the lodging you're staying in, or you are too cheap to 'rent' sheets at the hostel you are staying in (yes, this is still true in a lot of countries, including Australia!). You can also use this on cold bus or boat rides, doubling its use as a blanket. It is also more sanitary because you can wash it a lot easier than a sleeping bag.

2. Waterproof Bags

Ziploc bags won't really do in this case if you really want to ensure that your valuable electronics and IDs (some are still made of paper, such as international driving licenses in some countries) are safe. Not only will your electronics stay dry, it can prevent sand from getting in something, say, like your camera and ruining it. It can also help keep your toiletries from spilling all over your luggage if something happens to leak. Waterproof bags can also double as handy organizers for smaller items in your pack (such as underwear) if you know you spend too much time emptying your bag searching for something.

3. Voltage and Plug Adaptors

It's great that you packed all your electronics and the right chargers, but what happens when you can't plug it into the socket at your hotel? Some of the more upscale hotels are kind enough to provide one for you, but don't count on it. Long gone are the days of big voltage converters and separate plug adaptors: Many are much smaller and contain all the plugs you need for most overseas destinations. Do a bit of research on the place you're going and the converter you're going to purchase to make sure it has the right plug you need.

4. Swiss Army Knife

There are more occasions than you realize where you might need this handy dandy tool. Whether it is to open a can of soup you want to cook at your hostel, or opening that much need bottle of beer, it is one essential item most people don't realize they need until it's too late. Many models now include tweezers, scissors and a toothpick, which is much needed on many occasions.

5. Sewing Kit

Instead of having to go out to buy new items of clothing, having a sewing kit handy will help you fix minor rips and tears in your clothing. It can also help fix minor rips in your travel pack, or temporarily fix it until you can get access to a travel store. It can also save you much headache in trying to find a seamstress to fix it, or trying in vain to communicate to him or her if you don't speak their native language.

6. Travel (Microfiber) Towel

This is a small and lightweight item that is useful for when you don't have towels handy, such as if you're staying in a low budget hostel for instance. It can also be handy to dry yourself off after a rainstorm or equipment that might have accidentally gotten wet. It can also double as a beach towel or to wrap yourself if you get a bit chilly. The fact that it dries quickly is handy if you're traveling from place to place and you don't want to put anything wet in your pack.

7. Antacid/Stomach Medicine

You don't want to get stuck in your hotel room for the remainder of your trip if you decide to experiment with some 'exotic' dish you passed by on the street. It is always useful to pack this in cause you don't have access to a pharmacy near by, or in some cases, certain medicines require a prescription (you just never know!).

8. First Aid Kit

Don't fret over minor cuts and scrapes! Just make sure you have a basic first aid kit ready and hopefully that tiny gash won't turn into something gruesome you'd have to go to the hospital for.

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9. A Headscarf or a Large Scarf

This is particularly useful if you are headed to places to worship such as mosque, where women are required to cover their hair, arms and legs. A large scarf can help to cover your hair as well as your shoulders. Even consider using a sarong as some places of worship require men and women to wear those if they choose to visit. Most places will have ones readily available for you to borrow or rent, but it is probably more sanitary if you use your own.

10. Any Type of Rain Gear

You don't want a bit of rain to dampen (sorry, bad pun!) your trip do you? The weather isn't always going to be as nice and sunny as one would hope, so it is always helpful to be prepared. It is probably a good idea to have a raincoat that is big enough to cover your day pack and camera, you wouldn't want those to get soaked!

11. Flashlight

Don't be caught in the dark! Make sure you have a way of navigating around the dark in case you are camping, find yourself caught in an electrical outage, or are walking along the streets with not streetlights (personally I wouldn't do that, but to each their own).

12. Small, Non-Perishable Snacks (From Home)

This is is always handy if you're caught between destinations, such as on a layover, or stuck on a bus and you're hungry. Go ahead and munch on one of your snacks too if you find all the stores are closed or you can't be bothered trying to decipher what that snack item is in Farsi, for example.

13. Notebook and Pen

If you have a PDA device such as an ipod touch or a tablet, that can be useful. However, what if you need to quickly jot down some useful information such as telephone numbers and your ipod touch runs out of batteries? In past experiences I've also found it useful to have one of these handy in case I need someone to give me directions, and they need to draw a map because they cannot communicate to me in English.

14. Water Filter Bottle

Some countries have water systems that are jealous of North American standards. You just don't want to risk drinking bad water and get sick. This is also handy if you happen to go camping and you can't boil the water you're drinking.

15. Map of Local Area and Phrasebook

Guidebooks aren't the most useful if they're thick and so full of information it's hard to navigate through it quickly. Grab a local map (either a tourist one or downloaded on your smartphone) and just start exploring. If you get lost, a map is easier to hold than a thick guidebook. And be sure to have a small phrasebook in case you're in a country that doesn't speak your native language and you find that you are in need of some help.


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    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      Cris Sp - yes, that is a good suggestion. I have been lucky enough to not have gotten sick from drinking water, but I know people who have, and they say it wasn't fun.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 5 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Great practical travel tips but if I may add, also bring a pill specifically for diarrhea (it never hurts) cause even only the water can make you sick in the foreign land.

      I like to travel light and never without my water filter bottle and my lipgloss (:

      Up and sharing. Cheers!

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      hawaiianodysseus - the water filter bottle is a self contained unit, like the brita filter pitcher you can get. I imagine you'd have to change the filter in it every month or so if you use it everyday. I normally boil my water if it's that bad, or I sometimes just end up buying bottled water, especially Asian countries.

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      Louisa - I never thought of instant coffee and tea bags, what a great idea! I can't even remember the times when I wished I had a sewing kit and had to wander to try to find a seamstress...

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 5 years ago from USA

      Thanks Debbie!

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Wonderful tips, Sarah! I really like how efficiently organized this hub is!

      I have a question about the water filter bottle. Does a person need to buy accessories for it, or is this a self-contained unit that just requires tap water?

      Thanks for sharing, and may you and yours have a blessed New Year!

    • Louisa Rogers profile image

      Louisa Rogers 5 years ago from Eureka, California and Guanajuato, Mexico

      I like all of these, esp the sewing kit! It's a hassle to want to mend something w/o needle and thread. I also bring an immerser to heat water, a lightweight mug, instant coffee, and my favorite teabags. Very practical tips here, thanks.

    • debbiepinkston profile image

      Debbie Pinkston 5 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

      Great advice!