Traveling can be stressful and forgetting to pack important items, including prescriptions, can become a big issue once you are in flight to a foreign country and cannot turn back. There are numerous pre-published packing checklists that are very useful and can be found on the Internet. Enter the search term “travel packing list.” I use these types of lists regularly to ensure I am bringing along all the critical items for any trip. You can also create your own similar lists in Word or Excel that can be tailored to your personal needs.

Remember to only take what you think you will need.  This will depend on your personal requirements and the type of vacation – ski trip vs. beach. With experience, I am able to pack for a full week of travel in one small carry-on and I choose to re-use pants/slacks at least two times. I pack a travel sized bottle of Febreze, which can help remove odors along the way such as potent food smells from restaurants. This alone can save a good amount of space and reduce the overall weight of your luggage. Of the shoes you choose to pack, one pair should be your walking shoes.  The one you use to visit museums and walk around the city. They should be a tried, true, tested, and comfortable pair of shoes that do not cause chaffing or callouses with extensive walking.  Toiletries should be travel sized or put into travel sized bottles. If you are taking longer trips (over one week), consider packing additional clothes and toiletries in a checked bag.

The use of packing cubes are up for debate, in my mind.  They can be useful at containing like items in one bag and may prevent luggage from becoming disorganized.  This is a personal preference and some travelers believe these to be essential to an organized trip while others choose not to use them.

When traveling with prescriptions, ensure items are clearly labeled with the pharmacy prescription label to ensure U.S. and foreign border security agents are able to identify its contents.  For those with more complicated medical conditions, such as Type I Insulin Dependent Diabetes, bringing along a doctor’s letter on hospital letterhead listing your medications, dosages, your condition, and the need for these prescriptions to remain with you as you travel.  If you are ever hospitalized overseas, this letter may assist doctors and the U.S. embassy in ensuring you receive the proper care. In addition, make sure your doctor’s contact information is noted clearly on the letter with a 24 hour emergency contact number. Talk with your doctor early and often to identify a plan for emergency medical situations when traveling in a foreign country – especially ones requiring hospitalization.  Overseas medical care can vary widely.  Do some advance research and be aware of the local medical care available.  Consider obtaining travel insurance.  Many plans include emergency medical evacuation when emergencies and natural disasters occur.

As you plan your packing remember to leave ample space for souvenirs and handicrafts that you may pick up along the way.  I have frequently found myself in situations where I leave a small amount of room in my luggage for souvenirs, but find an unexpected souvenir that exceeds the allotted space.  I now travel with a foldable duffle bag or carry-on bag. It fits neatly into my suitcase pocket and can be used when I run out of room.

Bottom Line: In the hectic lead up to travel, ensure you have a checklist handy so you don’t forget critical items.  Make a plan and do your research for a safe and comfortable trip.