The complete travel checklist: packing your bags for a trip


August 24, 2023


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Travel checklist

Anyone about to go on a trip always has the same question: am I forgetting anything? The SAIL experts have a few tips and tricks to ensure you aren’t. The main one? Pack your bags several days in advance so you have time to add some items you may not have thought of initially. The next piece of advice: use a travel essentials checklist and tick each item off as soon as you put it in your bag so you don’t forget anything. And to make your life easier, here is the ultimate travel checklist that all travellers should have with them, as well as a few tips on how to choose the right luggage and how to pack it efficiently.

In this article, discover everything you’ll need to add to your suitcase, including:

  1. Travel essentials
  2. Travel clothing
  3. Personal items
  4. The accessories you may not have thought of
  5. Luggage

Travel checklist for essentials

These are the items you cannot leave at home when travelling. Think of all the administrative formalities you may have to go through (customs, airport, etc.). Based on your travel destination, you may have to bring some local currency with you. Also, make sure you don’t forget any medication.

  • Your passport and identity documents (visa, etc.)
  • A pen to fill mandatory forms on the plane
  • An RFID-blocking wallet or travel money belt
  • A lock for your suitcase
  • Your travel itinerary (address of your accommodation, or contact details at your destination, for example)
  • Cash
  • Travel adaptor
  • Medication or prescription if needed

Travel clothing

vacation clothes

The style and amount of clothing you’ll need to bring will depend on the type of trip you are planning to take, and how long you’ll be gone for. Will you be walking around town, or hiking in nature? Sleeping at a hotel, or camping while on a road trip? Going on a weekend getaway, or heading for a multi-week adventure? Whichever trip you choose to go on, opt for light, versatile and casual clothing which could be worn anywhere, either while visiting the Colosseum in Rome or hiking the hills of Rio de Janeiro. And when it comes to organizing your suitcase or backpack, think of rolling your clothes rather than layering them. This will save some space, and you’ll be able to find what you need faster.

For more tips, read our list of the three essential clothing items for travelling light.

  • Underwear
  • A swimsuit
  • Several pairs of pants or shorts, skirts and dresses
  • Several light tops
  • A warm sweater
  • Comfortable shoes for walking or for sporting activities
  • A pair of sandals
  • Protection against the rain and sun (hat, sunglasses, etc.)
  • A rain jacket

A few extra tips for travellers: Consider using compression bags for your clothes (and removing the air by pressing or using a vacuum cleaner) to save space in your luggage. You could also separate your clothes into several smaller travel bags or packing cubes. This way, you can just grab the bag which contains your sports gear, or your beach kit, without having to completely empty your suitcase to find what you are looking for.

Personal items for your travel checklist

Do keep some space in your luggage for a small toiletry bag, which should contain a few personal travelling items. If you are travelling with a carry-on, or if you are going on a fairly short trip, opt for small containers (less than 100 ml). Those who travel often may want to grab some compact and reusable containers for soap and shampoo.

  • Your personal hygiene products
  • A small toiletry bag
  • Some sunscreen and aftersun
  • Anti-nausea medication
  • Mosquito repellent and bug bite relief

The accessories you may not have thought of

While they may not be on your essentials list, these items can make your trip much smoother. For example, consider a luggage scale so you can bring back a few souvenirs without the risk of going over your luggage allowance. If you are headed for the outdoors, a light and compact first-aid kit to treat abrasions or blisters is a must. And why not throw in a pair of compression socks to stop your legs from getting tired during your next flight? Or stash a dictionary in your pocket so you can say a few words in the local language as soon as you arrive at your destination.

  • A luggage scale
  • Some earplugs
  • A first-aid kit
  • A travel pillow
  • Some compression socks
  • A reusable water bottle
  • A travel guide or bilingual dictionary

Perfect luggages for your travel checklist


As it is one of the most fundamental travel items, you will need to choose your luggage carefully. Chances are you’ll use it for many years to come, and on many types of adventures. It should therefore be versatile, practical and durable. Here are three options to consider depending on your needs, the amount of clothing you’ll bring and the mode of transportation you’ll use.

The rolling suitcase

Manoeuvrable, solid and with a large storage capacity, the two- or four-wheeled suitcase (the most popular one on the market these days) is a good option for trips lasting at least a week or more or trips requiring flights. Suitcases with a soft case tend to be lighter, while those with a hard case can keep fragile items safe. There are also various storage capacity options, and you can choose either a smaller carry-on, or a bigger suitcase which will go into the hold.

The duffel bag

Versatile, light and compact, the duffel bag is very popular for short trips on planes, trains, and buses. It can be carried in your hands or on your shoulders using a strap, which makes it the perfect all-purpose option. However, carrying a heavy bag on your shoulders for several hours on end can be tiring. This is why some models feature two straps so you can wear them on your back.

The travel backpack

Similar to a hiking backpack, the travel backpack is usually designed with several pockets (useful for storing away your accessories) as well as many straps, allowing you to tie some items to your bag without taking valuable space inside (such as your rain jacket, travel pillow, sandals, etc.). It is much loved by backpackers and frequent travellers alike, both of whom want to have their hands free as they move about. There is a wide range of options when it comes to storage capacity (from 40 L to 80 L on average), and price. Some models also come with a smaller, detachable day bag, which allows you to leave your bigger bag in your hotel room as you leave for your day of adventures. Clever, huh!

One last tip for your travel checklist: Some backpacks are so light and compact that they can be folded away and stored just about anywhere when empty. Use them to carry your groceries, your wet towel and swimsuit after a day at the beach, or to bring a picnic with you.


What should be on my travel list?

What are the three essential items to take with me when travelling?

How much clothing should I bring for a two-week trip?


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