Our carry-on bag for domestic travel is packed and ready for take off. Now it’s time to take on international trips. As a retired flight attendant with over 20 years of experience, I suggest you have these seven items in your carry-on bag for traveling internationally. (This is in addition to the electronics, entertainment, and more that go in our carry-on for domestic travel.)
Why do I pack more in my carry-on for international travel? The U.S. has rules that flights can be delayed on the tarmac for no more than a few hours before taking off or after landing. These rules do not apply internationally. If the aircraft has to make an impromptu stop — like for a medical emergency — passengers are not always allowed to get off the plane or may be restricted to certain areas of the airport.
All this is to say that domestically, you have the opportunity to deplane and hopefully purchase any items you may need. Internationally, you may not get that chance. Therefore, my bags are packed a little differently for international flights. Here’s what’s in my carry-on bag when traveling abroad, followed by a few pro tips that make the trip easier.
1. Pencil Pouch
I used to carry a bag of pens and pencils to complete customs forms. Although these forms are now electronic, I still have a pencil case just in case. I suggest you have a black ink pen and a pencil with an eraser. Lots of people take notes on their phones nowadays, but you never know when you’ll need a pencil or pen!
Pro Tip: Write down the address of your hotel. Sometimes customs forms ask for this information.
2. Change Of Clothes
I always have a change of clothes on hand. I love my KÜHL travel pants and shirts. They are lightweight, easy to wear, stretchable, and affordable. These come in handy if your checked baggage doesn’t arrive when you do. For this reason, it’s also a good idea to pack a change of undergarments, too.
3. Soap Sheets And Other Tolietries
Bringing along some toiletries in your carry-on bag will help keep you feeling fresh even if your flight is delayed or your bags get lost. I pack soap sheets, which dissolve in water and lather like regular soap and a washcloth, but wet wipes will do the trick. And please, don’t forget your deodorant!
I always put my toothbrush and travel-size toothpaste in my carry-on. They also come in handy if you eat something particularly offensive in the airport. Your seatmates will thank you.
Lightweight, durable, and multi-functional, Patagonia is my jacket of choice. It keeps me warm, covers me in the rain, and has detachable sleeves. It’s not the cheapest, but I believe it gives me what I need when I travel.
When traveling internationally, I keep two to three days’ worth of medication in my carry-on bag. This way, should my luggage be delayed, I still have my meds on hand.
6. RFID-blocking Passport Holder
Keep your passport and all documents you’ll need together. You’ll also need to have your proof of vaccination records. I have an inexpensive RFID-blocking passport holder for safety and peace of mind. The holder isn’t just for your passport. Use it to store credit cards, boarding passes, and other important documents. This keeps your personal information safe from being stolen.
I included snacks on my carry-on list for domestic travel, but so many of us have food allergies or restrictive diets that I’m including it here, too. Remember to pack any food you may need on your travels.
Pro Tips For Travelling Internationally
Check The State Department Website
If you have questions about international travel, Travel.State.Gov is a good resource. It suggests registering with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and help locate you in an emergency. The State Department website also has helpful tips for everything from preparing for your trip to returning to the U.S. on an expired passport.
Sign Up For Global Entry
If you hate long lines and are somewhat tech-savvy, check out Global Entry. It’s a trusted traveler program that will help to speed up your entry back into the U.S. Some major credit card companies will reimburse your application fee.
Sign Up For Clear
CLEAR is an easy way to bypass those long security lines at TSA and, right now, you can get a 2-month free trial with code: 2FREE. Again, some major credit card companies will reimburse your application fee.