Checklist and Tips for Traveling Abroad

Utpal K Dutta

It is always good to have a handy checklist for your travel packing. The best place to stick it is the inside of your wardrobe door or in your travel documents folder – some place you would definitely access while preparing for the journey. Here is a checklist at the end of this narrative in tabular form, categorized into groups. Though it is tuned towards international travel, it is helpful for domestic travelers too.

To start with, some tips based on my travel experience to numerous countries over decades……

Travel Attire

For comfort in a long distance flight, I always recommend loose shirt or T-shirt or a casual top, preferably with pockets. Wear a loose trouser (with pockets that can be zipped or buttoned) made of soft material. Of course if you have to proceed straight to a business meeting after landing, you have no choice but to bear the discomfort of a formal dress.

Remember you shall have to remove your footwear for security check at every boarding and transit points during your flight. So select comfortable footwear that can be taken off and put on easily. I prefer a sandal having Velcro lined straps, with socks (for the cool environment in the plane).

Weather

Never forget to check weather forecast for your destination. It will help you select your clothing and other paraphernalia. Unless the climate of your destination is a very warm, wear a full sleeved top for the flight. It can be quite cold inside the plane.

Baggage Weight and Size

Carefully check the weight and size allowed for hand baggage and check-in baggage as per the airline baggage rules. Airlines can be nasty these days on excess weight.

Put something like a colored strap or ribbon on your baggage as marker. All the baggage on the baggage belt at your destination will look very similar. It may be difficult to identify your baggage on the belt unless you put a marker.

Packing Time

The bulk items do not take too much time once you have listed them. Maximum time is taken for tidbits like toiletry, medicines, children’s essentials etc. Organize them a few days before travel date. Never leave it for the last hours of packing.

 Now a few points referring to the checklist at the end….

A. Travel Documents:

In the checklist under travel documents, the most important are ticket, passport, visa, cash and credit cards. You must not lose them under any circumstances. Passports do get stolen in the airport or even in flights. Passport of some countries is quite valuable. I have come across American visitors losing their passport after landing in Vietnam. Theft of cash or credit card also does happen. I like to carry these items in wallets and pouches touching my body in a buttoned or zipped pocket of my trouser or top.

The rest of the items in this category can be carried in the hand baggage, a light bag or a stroller. Be careful on what you carry in your pocket. Once in the USA where security check is strict, by mistake I had an inhaler (for breathing ease) in my pocket. I was stopped after the security barrier. The security officer took out a gadget which sniffed the inhaler as well as my palm. Then he let me go. Put all such things inside your hand-baggage. Nothing metallic, not even coins should be in your pocket.

B. Hand-baggage Essentials:

To keep the hand-baggage light, carry mainly the minimum essentials. Limit it to essential documents like medical insurance, some medicines, toiletry (small tourist size bottles and tubes of tooth paste, tooth brush, moisturizer), cellphone with charger and minimum possible other gadgets. Add to it a few snack bars and a small bottle of water. Once you board the plane, sometimes it may take quite a long time before you are served with a glass of water.US airport security agency TSA’s rule states liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container and they must be in a clear, plastic, zip-lock bag. If you want to carry a few books, pick up lean and thin ones. 

Inside the aircraft may get very cold sometimes. Always carry one piece of light but warm clothing or a scarf in your hand baggage. All valuables including jewelry should be in the hand baggage or wallet. Never put them in check-in baggage.

Hand sanitizer is a must. Certain spots of airports and planes (like drinking fountain buttons) which passengers frequently touch can be full of bacteria.

Travel light, as light as possible, preferably with wheeled hand-baggage or back-pack. Airports these days are very big in most places. You have to move around a lot with your hand baggage. If you are going for a short business trip, and do not like to wait at the baggage belt, then carry all in the hand-baggage, as long as it is within allowable limits of weight and size.

C. Check-in Baggage:

Rest of the items in the check list can be in the check-in baggage. Choose a light bag or suitcase with wheels. You may have to lift and carry the baggage often and it is better to give your spinal cords the comfort of carrying light baggage. Certain moot points on what to carry in the check-in baggage –

Clothing

Always look into the relevant websites to understand the weather in the country you are visiting. Carefully select your dress according to the weather. Also look into the dress code/ customs of the country you are visiting.

Take the least possible number of clothing that you can manage with. As an extra precaution, you can carry a small pack of detergent powder in case you have to wash the used clothing for re-use. Normally for a trip of a week or two, four or five combinations of dresses, should be adequate. Even if not on a business trip, it is good to carry one set of formal or semiformal clothing for any unforeseen formal event.

Medicines

If you are young, hale and hearty, you can carry only a small emergency kit containing some analgesic and anti-allergic tablets, antiseptic cream, diarrhea medicine, motion sickness pills, cotton swab and Band-Aid. But if you have to take some lifesaving medicines or eye drops regularly (applicable particularly for senior citizens), carry the full course in your hand baggage for short trips and at least 30% in excess of your requirement for long trips split between your hand baggage and check-in baggage. Remember that your medicines may not be available easily in the country you are visiting or may be too expensive there. Carry doctor’s prescription and a brief history of any serious ailmenmts.

D. Children’s Essentials:

This list is made for infants and toddlers. Judiciously split their requirement between hand-baggage and check-in baggage. Landing and takeoff can be painful for the kids. Always keep something to sip or suck depending on the age, for soothing effect during takeoff and landing.

                                                                 CHECKLIST

Category Item Remarks
A.    Travel Documents *Keep them in a wallet inside a buttoned or zipped packet in your attire.

 

  1.      Passport*
  2.     Visa*
  3.      Ticket/ Boarding Pass*
  4.     Cash*
  5.      Credit/ Debit/ Cash cards*
  6.     Airline Frequent Flyer Cards
  7.      Medical/ Accident Insurance
  8.     Hotel bookings
  9.     Any other bookings
 
B.    Hand-baggage Essentials 1.      Laptop
2.     Cellphone + Charger
  3.      Other Gadgets Minimize and enjoy your trip
  4.     Universal Adapters
  5.      Medicines  
  6.     Toiletry
  7.      Disinfectant wipes
  8.     Hand sanitizer
  9.     Jewelry
  10.   A piece of warm clothing
  11.    children’s essentials See item-D
C.    Check-in Baggage
  1.      Clothing – casual and formal
  2.     Undergarments
  3.      Handkerchiefs
  4.     Socks/ stockings
  5.      Medicines
  6.     Folding umbrella/ cap
  7.      Neck-tie / scarf
  8.     Sleepwear
  9.     Small hand towel
D.    Children’s Essentials

Infants/ Toddlers

Split between hand and check-in baggage`
1.      Food Supplies
  2.     Diapers
  3.      Wipes
  4.     Toys Simple, small ones
  5.      Something to sip or suck For landing and take-off