How To Pack For a Vacation

by pkmcr

Time for your vacation and to think about what you need to pack? The list looks overwhelming and you wonder how you will get it all in! Let's look at how to pack for a vacation!

Are you going on vacation and starting to panic about what you need to pack? Stop worrying let's show you exactly how to pack for a vacation!

Let's go back to basics to start with and recognise that successfully packing for a vacation, it is necessary to understand what you will need and, more importantly, what you don't need to pack for a vacation.

I am going to share some tips and tricks that should allow you to finalize your packing list for an upcoming trip and to refine that list for future travels. Much to the annoyance of the travel industry, I'm sure, this page is also where you're going to learn how to save yourself a lot of money.

Travel Packing Essentials

The Stuff That Matters When It Comes to Packing For a Vacation

There are some essentials that you absolutely need to pack when it comes to travel especially when it's a vacation.


Unfortunately, in today's world you can't go far without documentation. Further afield, a passport has always been essential, and many countries require that your passport remain valid for at least six months AFTER your departure. Be sure to check your country's restrictions and your passport's expiration date before you get too far involved in planning your great adventure or vacation.

In addition to your passport, there are few more pieces of paper you may need. If you have travel insurance - and I believe that's often a good idea - take a copy of your policy number and also the insurance company's assistance phone number. Again, a photocopy works, but a digital copy in your email account can usually be accessed easily in an emergency. Some insurance companies provide a small card to take with you and instruct that you can leave the rest of the paperwork at home; take the card, if so instructed.

If you are driving overseas, you may need an International Driver's License. They are inexpensive and easy to get at your local automobile association. It's basically a multi-lingual translation of your local license, which you will need to carry with you, as well.

Reservations and "proof of onward travel" is an interesting one. The irony of the demise of the travel agent and the growth of online bookings is that I now carry more paper than ever before. Checking in online is now the norm for many airlines, and you will need to get a paper print out of your boarding pass in most cases.


Although I rarely carry much cash on me at home, on vacation I will often have a few hundred dollars of the local currency or US$. When the power goes down, ATMs and EFTPOS machines don't work. When your card has been frozen by the bank because you don't normally buy mojitos in Anguilla, cash is a very good thing to have on hand.

First Aid Kit and Sewing Kit

Generally speaking, anywhere with a tourist industry offers local medical services, and you should only carry the medical gear you know how to use. Most people will travel very light in this regard, but if you have had some medical training, then you might choose to carry more.

The basics you might want to carry in a very small pouch are:

  • Any pills or medicines that you need to take;
  • Remedies for stomach upsets and similar things;
  • Some bandages in various sizes;
  • Small tweezers for removing splinters.

Do You Need To Pack Specialized Gear for Your Vacation?

If you are really short-sighted but love to snorkel or dive, you may want to bring a prescription-lens face mask, if you already own one.

If your passion is photography, then by all means bring your camera(s), even if they are valuable and heavy. (Be sure to inquire about coverage for your equipment if you opt for a travel insurance policy.)

If you enjoy serious hiking, and particularly if the weather may be rough, then you should consider bringing your good gear.

For popular hiking destinations, you may well have the option to rent gear on-location, but otherwise you'll want to consider bringing your good boots, weather-proof outerwear and walking poles (but don't try to carry the poles on your flight).

Clothes Packing List for Your Holiday Or Vacation

Okay now we move onto what you need to add to your clothes packing list for your holiday or vacation.  Clothes are of course a travel essential, given that we wouldn't get very far without them.  But what to take and how to avoid taking everything from your wardrobe or closet that you "might just need" is the key.

The inexperienced traveler's usual approach is to add some of their favorite outfits to a pile on the bed, think about it, and then add some more. After throwing in a few more items "just in case," it's pretty obvious why few people think they can travel with less than two large suitcases.


Consider shoes first because they are the hardest things to pack. You need good, comfortable shoes for almost any type of holiday, but shoes are expensive, bulky to pack and sometimes hard to find while traveling.

Intimate Garments

Underwear is relatively easy. Basically you need three to five pairs of underpants/panties/knickers and if you wear a bra, perhaps three of those (they are easier to dry overnight).


This includes skirts, shorts or trousers, depending on your gender and the climate. For most people, three different bottoms are plenty. Since bottoms don't get as a dirty as tops, however, you may be able to make do with only two selections. At a minimum, many women choose to pack a pair of shorts and a sarong that can be worn as a skirt.


Most of my tops are shirts, usually with short or long sleeves. Cotton  or linen are still the best fabrics for a very hot climate - they just breathe so well - and if it's hot, getting it dry won't matter too much.

Women might like to take silk shirts because of course they take the least amount of room. However, they can be fragile (they sometimes really require an iron to look presentable) and the good quality ones are expensive. You might want to compromise on cotton or cotton/poly shirts which are cheap; they roll to a reasonable size and you can buy them almost anywhere.

A Sarong

When going on vacation many women  never leave home without a sarong. It's simply the world's most multi-purpose item of clothing/gear. The list of things I've known people use a sarong for include:

  • towel (beach or otherwise)
  • beach cover up
  • top sheet on a bed
  • shawl (sun-protection or warmth)
  • head covering (for mosques and churchs)
  • shoulder covering for temples (Buddhist and Hindu)
  • carry bag for dirty laundry
  • picnic cloth

A water-resistant pack cover is sometimes built in to a pack's design, but you can buy them separately, as well. These are great, of course, if you get caught in the rain when out walking, but often in Asia and Africa packs will go on the top of mini-vans and buses (even a small bag) and frequently without the benefit of a tarpaulin. The pack covers will help keep your bags clean, too.

A Short List of Useful Travel Gear

More Essential Travel Packing Items To Consider

A travel alarm clock, small with a built-in light, with an easy-to-set alarm can be useful. Even if you can normally wake up at a regular time at home, you may need an alarm clock on the road.
A small LED flashlight is nice to have, and LED flashlights last a lot longer on a couple of batteries than the old-style bulbs.

A universal sink stopper is basically just a flat piece of rubber so it will fit any sink. If you're wondering why this is on the list, just imagine trying to wash clothes in a sink without a stopper. It's useful for shaving, too. While virtually indestructible, I have lost a few over the years by unintentionally leaving them behind.

A travel clothesline is also a useful item for laundry purposes. This is basically two pieces of twisted elastic (which means you don't need pegs) that will stretch to fit the weirdest situations. Again, almost indestructible, one should last for decades.

Travel Packing Tips and Tricks

  1. Consider buying some more bags along the way rather than making one unit heavier.
  2. Safety is more about your attitude and minding some sensible precautions than about gear. If you are not going to wear your money belt 24/7, then don't bother having one.
  3. Consider taking: a travel alarm, flashlight, universal sink stopper, travel clothesline, sarong.
Updated: 05/19/2013, pkmcr
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pkmcr on 05/20/2013

@Dustytoes thanks so much for the feedback. The clothes line is such a simple but very practical idea isn't it.

dustytoes on 05/20/2013

What an excellent list of necessities to pack for travel! Those are great little travel pouches and I like the idea of a clothesline to put up anywhere.

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