Greenheart Travel’s Ultimate Going Abroad Packing List

Greenheart Travel’s Ultimate Going Abroad Packing List

Whether you’re going on a short weekend trip or a long-term stay abroad, packing is an essential part of the travel planning process. It can be stressful figuring out what to bring, and how much to bring. Lots of people put it off until the last minute and then pack all the wrong things.

Feeling overwhelmed by the packing process? Have no fear! Greenheart Travel is here to help! We’ve compiled the ultimate packing list, including checked & carry-on bags, for you as well as some of our staff’s favorite tips. With this helpful list, packing will be a breeze! Now, you won’t have to worry about over packing or spending an arm & leg on baggage fees.

Checked Bag or Suitcase

Depending on your length of stay abroad, you may decide to check a bag with the airlines. It will allow you more space for your items (and souvenirs you buy later!) but keep in mind, there are trade offs –larger size can be cumbersome in certain countries, may harder to move around, airlines might lose it — so it’s always good to have the essentials & valuables in your carry-on bag. If you are checking a bag, make sure to check with the airlines ahead of time about cost & weight requirements to avoid fees at the airport.

stacy with bags

Greenheart Travel’s Packing List

All of these suggestions are assuming a 2 week stay, but you shouldn’t need much more than 2 weeks worth of clothing (regardless of length of stay) since you’ll likely be doing laundry along the way.

It’s important for female or female-identified travelers to do a little extra research about the destination country before packing. In many countries, there are societal norms about modesty, appropriate dress and skin exposure that disproportionately affect women. Be aware that your appearance & apparel may draw unwanted attention to you, so it’s always good to try and fit in with the local customs.

Please Note: You may not use some of these items. If they don’t apply to you, feel free not to pack them!

What How Many? Special Notes
Shoes 1-3 Pairs Recommended Sandals, Sneakers and Flats. Heels not necessary.
Bottoms 3-5 Pairs Shorts, Jeans & Slacks
Tops 4-6 Shirts T-shirts without writing or logos. At least one button down or polo is recommended.  Avoid low necklines
Dresses 1-2 Dresses Maxis are modest & comfortable
Pajamas 1 Set Shorts & t-shirts are usually fine
Outerwear 1 Coat Raincoat for rainy climates, heavy coat for cold climates
Underwear  7 -10 pairs Can be rolled for easy packing
Socks  6-8 Pairs Might consider less for a warm climate if you’ll be wearing sandals
Bras 3-5 bras Don’t forget at least 1 sports bra!
Swimsuit 1 -2 sets Bikini, one-piece or shorts. Check social norms first.
Hat 1 baseball hat or sun hat Helps to avoid sunburn
Sunglasses 1 -2 Pairs Polarized make it easier to see in the sun
Scarf 1-2 Scarves For quick cover up, or outfit change
Prescription Glasses *if needed You never know when you might run out of contacts
Shampoo & Conditioner 1 month supply Keep in small containers
Toothbrush & Toothpaste 1 month supply Mini sizes under 3.4 oz are best for TSA
Cosmetics 1 make-up bag Just the basics is usually enough
Razor 1 handle & extra blades Avoid electric if possible
Contacts *if needed Have at least a couple extra sets on hand
Feminine Products As much as you’ll need Tampons are REALLY hard to find abroad.  Bring lots
Basic First-Aid Kit 1 Kit Should include bandaids, over-the-counter meds (tylonol, imodium, etc) & cold meds
Towel *if needed Check if it’s included in your accommodation. If not, quick dry towels are best!
Cross-Body Bag 1 Purse or bag Make sure it has a zipper!

Other Items You Might Want to Consider

  • Prescription Medication — If you have any prescription meds, you should bring enough with you to cover your entire stay because finding the same name brands abroad can be challenging. Always keep a doctor’s note with the written prescription available just in case you get stopped in customs.
  • Wrist Watch — Your traveling buddies will get sick of you asking what time it is every time your phone dies.
  • Alarm Clock — Even though most people use their phone, you might be without power and still need to wake up!
  • Bug Repellent — Depending on where you’re going, the mosquitoes and bugs might get a little nasty. Repellent can be hard to find, and is usually expensive.
  • Converters & Chargers– Check whether the power in your destination country will be different than at home, and buy a converter if you need it. Nowadays, companies make universal converters which are usable around the world, and are definitely worth the extra money if you plan to travel a lot! Keeping all your cords & chargers in one zipped bag makes organization easier.
  • Mini Detergent — You might not always have access to a washing machine, and may have to wash your essentials (ie underwear) in the sink so having mini detergents will help you wash stuff more easily.
  • Shower shoes — If you’re going to be changing hostels or accommodation frequently, the communal showers can get gross. A cheap pair of flip-flops will make your life easier.
  • Greenheart Travel T-Shirt — Don’t forget this comfy shirt! If you snap a picture in it, you might be featured on Instagram!

Large Carry-On Bag

Here at Greenheart Travel, we are big supporters of the #carryononly trend for travel, but for longer programs, it can be hard to fit it all in a small bag! You might check a bag and still need a backpack or larger carry-on. In that case, here is your complete list.

flatlay carry on bag with numbers
  1. Basic Toiletries — On long international flights, you’re going to want your basic amenities. Its a good idea to pack your toothbrush & tooth paste, contact solution, and deodorant. Other nice things to bring are some cleansing face wipes, hand-sanitizer and perfume/cologne so that you can freshen up right when you land.
  2. Comfortable & Easy to Carry Bag — Whether you prefer a roller bag or backpack for your carry-on, it needs to be comfortable and easy to move around in. Lugging a heavy or uncomfortable bag through an airport as you change flights is a hassle you just don’t want to deal with.
  3. Passport & Important Documents — Having easy availability of your passport and wallet is an absolute necessity in your carry-on bag. You won’t have access to your checked bag before passing through immigration, so you need it in your carry-on bag. It’s also a good idea to have copies of important documents, like your visa (if applicable), address of residence, and a copy of your credit cards on hand in case the immigration officer requests it.
  4. Electronics, Chargers & Headphones — Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t trust the airlines with my expensive electronics! Computer, tablets, cameras and chargers are always in my carry-on bag where I can keep an eye on them. It’s also a good idea to pack at least one power converter in your carry on bag if you need a quick power-up once you arrive in the foreign country, because their outlets might be different.
  5. Sunglasses — These are easily broken in checked bags, and you’ll probably want to put them on right away!
  6. Snacks & Water Bottle — Buying food and water at the airport is expensive! And these days, the airlines hardly give out any freebies, so it’s economical to come prepared. For domestic flights, you can pack pretty much any food you might want. Your water bottle will need to be empty when you pass through security, but you can fill it up on the other side. Plus, you’re saving plastic from ending up in a landfill! If you back any perishable fruits or veggies, you’ll need to eat them before you land so you don’t have to declare them in customs.
  7. Journal, Pen & Paper — With hours on a plane, your mind is likely to be racing with excitement and energy. You might feel inspired to reflect or write about your upcoming adventures, so having a journal on-hand is a great way to pass the time.
  8. Book — Even in the days of electronics, nothing beats a good book! We recommend paperback if you can manage it, since it’s lighter weight.
  9. Shout Wipes — Because you never know when you  might spill on yourself.
  10. Extra Change of Clothes — There is nothing worse than landing after 14 hours of travel to find that your bag didn’t make it and you’re stuck in your dirty clothes. Always back an extra pair of clothes (especially socks & underwear) in your carry-on bag, just in case!

Small Carry-On Bag

If you prefer having a smaller carry-on bag (like a purse or small backpack), that’s fine too! You’ll need to downsize a few things, but the essentials are still likely to be in your bag. Check out what we suggest below.

  1. Eye drops & Contact Solution— Dry eyes are the worst!
  2. Water Bottle — Saving the planet and dollars at the same time.
  3. Magazines — These are easy to pick up and swap at airports.
  4. Sunglasses — Yup, still make room for those!
  5. Socks — If your feet get cold like mine, socks are always in my carry on bag, even if it’s just a purse.
  6. Toothbrush & Toothpaste — Gotta get that fresh breath, amiright?
  7. Passport & Important Documents — I’m not trying to get rejected at the border.
  8. Books — Something to fall asleep to.
  9. Snacks — No hangry travel for this savvy traveler.

Packing Tips from the Greenheart Travel Staff

I keep a bag for my dirty clothes and I always put a dryer sheet inside the bag to keep it smelling fresh. That way it doesn’t stink up the rest of your stuff! You can also turn your clothes inside out to know which ones are dirty vs clean” — Savannah McDermott, Teach & Work Program Coordinator

Pack your favorites. Never bring something that you haven’t worn before. I always travel with basics, like a white t-shirt or black vest, and then jazz up my outfits with jewelry or a colorful scarf” — Sara Dorsey, Senior Teach & Work Abroad Program Manager

I never travel with a suitcase. My trusty backpack has been with me since the beginning and I love it. It’s so much easier to move around with a backpack than a suitcase, especially in developing countries. No matter how long my trip is, I will find a way to fit it all in my backpack” — Kara Menini, Teach & Work Program Manager


Rolling underwear & socks and then stuffing them into my shoes helps save space. Plus, it helps maintain the shape of dress shoes or for the ladies, keep your flats less flat.” — Kyle Trebotich, Director of Greenheart Travel

I save up all the cosmetic & lotion samples that I get from like Birchbox and Sephora for my travels. They’re the perfect little sizes, and are easy to pack. Those mini perfumes are the best!” — Lauren Bauer, Teach & Work Abroad Director

I am a big exercise nut, so I always think about how I am going to work out while traveling. I pack a swimsuit instead of running shoes, because it saves space and still gets my heart rate up!” — Hope Pavich, High School Abroad Director

I pack all my small things (shirts, underwear, socks, etc) into gallon plastic bags. It makes it easy to squish them down and save space, and it also makes it easier to find inside a big backpack or suitcase. I always pack a few extra too, for dirty clothes and toiletries. Sometimes the air pressure explodes the bottles, and I don’t want lotion all over my stuff!” — Megan Arzbaecher, Short-Term Programs Manager

kara at ohare

Did we miss anything? Comment below with any packing tips or suggestions that you use while you travel!

4 thoughts on "Greenheart Travel’s Ultimate Going Abroad Packing List"

  1. Abby Washburn says:

    Two other things you could add would be gum (for reliving pressure in your ears and fresh breath) and chapstick.

  2. Shakira Keller says:

    Hey! Awesome suggestions. The only thing that would make this better would be using more inclusive language to ensure trans and queer folk who are looking into a move abroad won’t be further discouraged, especially since there are already so many barriers in that respect. A simple step would be combining both lists into one! That would allow people to choose what’s right for them no matter their gender. I hope Greenheart can take this small step towards inclusivity.

    1. Megan Arzbaecher says:

      Thank you so much for this suggestion Shakira. You are totally right, and we appreciate you bringing this to our attention! We’ve actually already gone ahead and updated the packing list to be one single list. Hopefully this will be a less gendered list, and more cohesive and inclusive for all. We couldn’t agree more about making travel & cultural immersion inclusive and welcoming to all people, so thank you for helping us update this blog post. Please let us know if you have any other feedback!

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