I am a big proponent of lists, because I like to pretend that I'm organized, and without them, I am completely scatterbrained. In the process of packing for a trip, there are 5 major things that you cannot leave home without. These items, if forgotten, will cause the world to come to an end, or at least dampen your vacation. So, these are the things that always top my list, and why:
Photo by Lindsey T (theogeo)
1. Tickets. Airplane tickets, train tickets, bus tickets– or whichever method you're taking to get to your destination. Some people think tickets are no big deal, but those are the people who are always on time to the airport, not the ones who just barely make it there before the boarding gate closes, like me. If you have a problem keeping up with your tickets, one of the best things airlines have done in recent years is to create the electronic ticket. It's the worry-free alternative for people like me. You basically show up at the airport, go to the kiosk or the check-in desk, and give your ID and your credit card, print off a boarding pass, and you're done.
2. Reservation Confirmation Numbers. For your hotel and for your car rental, you should always have a confirmation number in hand, just in case. Print out the email you get from AllStays or your direct booking. Very often, hotels or car rental agencies don't get last-minute reservations that were made online. To avoid the hassle of the “let me call my manager” response, just hand them your printed-out confirmation sheet, and that puts an end to all confusion.
3. Underwear. Yes, this deserved a place on the list. Nothing is worse than realizing you forgot to pack your underwear. Although underwear is fairly accessible in America, if you're traveling abroad, you may not be so lucky. Not that underwear doesn't exist in other countries–it just exists in different languages, and you may have a hard or embarrassing time explaining it to the taxi-driver.
4. Camera and Film or Memory Cards. Forgetting your camera is unforgivable. It's one of those regrets that will haunt you for the rest of your life, starting at the precise moment when you realize you'll need to shell out $25 for a disposable, 20-photo camera… that takes blurry pictures. Check, double check, and triple check that you have your camera (and film or memory cards) safely packed in your carry-on.
5. Identification. It's hard to go anywhere these days without proper identification, but it's really one of those things you may find yourself needing at the oddest of times. On a spur of the moment adventure, I went to a casino in Mississippi, without my ID, and got stopped at the door. I was surprised that they even checked. And I learned a tough lesson: carry my ID everywhere, in case I might need it.
Here are a few more tips, if you're traveling abroad:
6. Copies of your passport or visa. Keep these copies separate from your actual passport, perhaps in a suitcase. It's good to have, in case your passport ever gets stolen, and you need to get a replacement through the American embassy.
7. Prescription Medication. Make sure you have enough to last beyond your trip's departure date, in case you get held up for any reason (like weather). Communicate this with your doctor ahead of time. He or she may need to see a copy of your ticket to prescribe an extra dosage of your medication.
8. Traveler's Checks. It's so much safer to travel with these checks over cash. Traveler's checks are like credit cards, only cooler, because you feel like you're writing a check. It's easy to use, most everyplace in the world handles them, and you won't have to worry about them getting lost or stolen (these checks come with a refund guarantee).