There’s a quote by American author Neale Donal Walsch:
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Over the years I’ve found that my life gets significantly better when I take myself outside of my comfort zone.
One way is through travel; learning to navigate on my own, immersing myself in a place where I can’t speak the language.
I recently returned from Europe, hence the idea for this article.
What started as a post about what to pack for a trip abroad became more about international travel tips.
So in addition to what a stylish man would want to pack, I’ll touch on a handful of travel tips and tricks, like how to book your flight to save money, and a few key things you’ll want to do before leaving home.
Part 1: Packing For A Trip Abroad
Three things will largely determine what you’re going to pack:
- Reason for the trip
Your clothing, primarily, will be determined by the big 3 listed above.
Below, I’ll demonstrate how I packed for a 10-day trip abroad to Western Europe, specifically London and Brussels.
The forecast was clear skies every single day of the trip. It was a lucky break.
I packed a standard carry-on and a personal backpack with no checked bag because who wants to lug that around, especially being on the move.
The reason for the trip was for leisure. I would pack differently were it for business.
One last thing, remember to give yourself enough time for packing. You’ll want to ease into your busy travel day calm and well-rested.
The last thing you want is to be rushing the night before your flight, staying up late packing things you don’t need and forgetting important things like your wallet or passport.
What I Packed
- 2-3 undershirts
- 4-5 button ups
- 2-3 long sleeve/short sleeve t-shirts
- 2 watches
- 1 polo shirt
- 1 wind resistant zip up jacket
- 1 canvas field jacket
- 1 thick sweater
- 1 blazer
- Hat or cap
- A pair of underwear for each day
- A pair of socks for each day
- 2 pair of jeans
- 2 pair of chinos
- 1 pair of comfortable sweat pants
- 1 dress belt
- 1 casual canvas belt
Seems like a lot, but a carry-on that has a zipper for expansion can do wonders. You can also pack a full outfit in your personal backpack. I was able to conserve and maximize space utilizing a mix of all the methods provided in this article.
Remember, you don’t need to bring this much either. In fact, looking back, I overpacked and would certainly bring less for my next trip. I’m just sharing everything that I was able to fit in a single carry-on and backpack.
Shoes are tricky because they take up too much space and are oddly shaped, making it difficult to conserve space. I was able to wear my boots, pack 2 pairs in my carry-on, and another in my backpack for a grand total of 4.
But even if you only pack 2 pairs—a casual sneaker for those long days on your feet and a more dressy pair for going out at night— you’ll be fine.
This is up to you. Many of these things you can purchase at the pharmacy after you’ve settled in. But if you have a dopp kit, why not bring along some of your favorite essentials?
Remember to carry travel size toiletries 3.4 oz/100 mL or under. You’ll want all of your toiletries to fit inside a small or mid-size plastic ziplock bag to adhere to TSA carry-on regulations.
The 3 C’s:
- Converter adapter
Pretty self-explanatory. You can buy these at your destination if you forget to bring them.
See the illustration below for common adapter plug types and the quick reference guide.
To make the most of each item packed, have restraint and only bring what you feel is essential, otherwise you’ll waste space like I did with a few of my items.
More than likely, you’ll need less than you think. You can always purchase what you don’t have, like medication or a poncho, while you’re there. You can wear a pair of pants or shirt twice, no one’s going to notice.
When traveling, less really is more. It makes for a much more comfortable experience. And while traveling comfort is paramount.
Part 2: Travel Reminders, Tips and Tricks
1. Keep your passport safe
While traveling between countries, keep your passport on your body, preferably in a zipped pocket.
If you’re in a hotel and will be spending the day sightseeing, keep your passport in your luggage with a lock on it or you can use the hotel’s safe box.
If you’re staying at a hostel or shared space you definitely want to keep your passport on you at all times. You can’t trust anybody.
Pro tip: Remember to make copies of your passport or better yet, leave an electric copy in your email or in the cloud just incase it gets stolen or lost, else you’ll be unable to verify your citizenship to go home.
2. Google Flights will save you money
Use Google Flights to book your trip. It’s the simplest, fastest and most cost-effective way to find the results you want. I found that Google does the best job of aggregating flights from every airline site on the web.
Remember to give yourself enough time in advance. Unlike domestic flights where the best time to book is 54 days in advance, you’ll want to give yourself more time if possible for international travel. As a rule of thumb, 3 months in advance or more will yield the best prices.
Pro tip: After booking you’ll have the option to track airfares on Google Flights. This allows Google to send email alerts on a price change. I recently did it with a domestic flight and saved $35 after Google alerted me of the updated fare.
Keep in mind that some airlines will probably do a simple price adjustment while American Airlines (the flight I chose) makes you go through a process of refunding your initial order and then repurchasing the flight, even if it’s the exact same flight.
3. Avoid roaming fees
The last thing you want is to be shocked by roaming charges incurred while abroad. However, if you know your cell phone plan has free data for international travel or if you signed up for an international plan, you’ll want to turn on roaming to get internet access.
Luckily for me, the past few years traveling abroad, (with T-Mobile) I’ve had unlimited text and data, with upgraded 4G speeds this year (pretty sweet). They even send a text upon arrival to remind me to turn on roaming for internet use.
Pro tip: Check with your service provider beforehand to see what their plans are for international travel.
4. Give credit card companies a heads up
When going abroad, remember to call your credit card company to let them know the dates you’ll be traveling. I’ve had my credit cards frozen on numerous occasions while traveling domestically, let alone internationally. So you’ll want to let card companies know in advance for your convenience.
Pro tip: Call your credit card companies and have them ship to you updated chip cards (standard in Europe and becoming standard in the U.S.) to replace your non-chip cards, if you haven’t already.
Some companies (Capital One for example) don’t require for you to call them in advance so long as you have a chip card. Instead of automatically freezing your account, they’ll send you a text or email shortly after you attempt a purchase where you’ll verify if it was you with a yes or no. Super convenient.
5. Wear your bulkiest items
If you’re going to bring heavy items like boots, jeans or a jacket—wear them on the day of your flight to conserve weight and space. Keeping in mind the weather, I dressed in layers which kept me warm and comfortable on the flight without the need for a blanket.
Pro tip: Dress in layers that way you can stay warm and comfortable on the airplane. If you’ve flown before you know how brisk it can get during a long flight. And if you get too hot, just remove a layer or two.
Seven Bonus Tips
1. Online Check-in
Check-in online 24 hours in advance to save time at the airport. Some airlines give you a 48 hour window.
2. Mobile plane ticket
Opt for a mobile ticket, but print one out just incase the airline ticket agents are being sticklers.
3. Avoid foreign transaction fees
Check your credit cards for foreign transaction fees. Capital One doesn’t have any and is a safe bet for travel abroad.
4. Phone charger anyone?
An external phone charger bank is especially handy if you’re going to use your phone as your camera. And extensive use of Google Maps for navigating will do a number on your battery life. These external chargers are portable and can be a lifesaver.
5. Keep what you need easily accessible
Have your dopp kit/travel kit in an easily accessible area in your personal bag. That way you can grab your tooth brush and face wipes for a quick refresher on the plane or during layovers.
You’ll also want to keep your boarding pass tucked inside your passport that’s in an easy to reach pocket. The last thing you want to do is misplace important travel documents, rushing through the airport, looking like hurried mess.
Pro tip: Remember to be polite and have your smile readily available. Smiling makes those around you more at ease. At an airport especially, you’ll want to have patience, treat others kindly, and be nice to airport attendants.
6. Pack everything early
I’m not sure about you, but for most of my life, I’ve chronically waited up until the very last minute to pack my things for my trips. When you’re going internationally, you want to give yourself time so that you’re not rushing, and worse forget your essential charger or toothbrush.
Get started as early as you can, preferably a few days before the flight. If it’s an early morning flight, you don’t want to be haphazardly throwing things into your luggage at 2am. Better to get it all done early to give yourself some rest and relaxation before the long trip abroad.
7. Leave room for spontaneity
Some of us like to plan meticulously. This is something I always did, but over the years learned to simply go with the flow. Sure you should plan a few main points of interest for the trip, but overall you want to give yourself room to discover the new country without any plans. This is where the magic truly happens.
In Closing: Why I travel
They say “[t]ravel often; [that] getting lost will help you find yourself.”
A few years ago, I promised myself that I’ll travel to one new place that I’ve never been, every year.
There’s a joy to getting lost in a foreign country, wandering the streets with strangers you just met, eating amazing food, bonding over your favorite tv show or love of ancient architecture.
You learn that although you’re from different lands, you’re not all that different from each other. You open yourself up and you expand your worldview. There’s nothing like it.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many people from cultures so different from my own, having a good time even with a language barrier.
I’ve found that less planning, leaving room for spontaneity and getting lost along the way, makes for a much more relaxed and enriching travel experience.
For me, travel is more than just an escape. It’s an opportunity to collect experiences that stay with me for a lifetime.
And that’s why I travel.
I hope this post was informative and was as much of a joy to read as it was for me to write.
Originally published in November 2016. Since updated with additional content.
On to you. Do you love to travel…what are some of your travel essentials?
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