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Category: Family, Fun & Holidays

What I Pack in My Backpack for International Trips

Welcome to my two-week series all about our recent family trip to South Africa. I’m recounting some of our favorite experiences, lessons we learned, travel tips, and some of the most memorable stories and takeaways. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.

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I shared a peek into my backpack on before we left for South Africa and so many of you asked if I could give links to the products and post more details. So, here is the much-requested post with all the details on what I pack in my backpack for international trips.

First off, you want to find a sturdy backpack that is specifically designed for the wear and tear of travel.

After a lot of research, I bought on Amazon and I absolutely love it. It’s the perfect size to be able to carry everything I need to carry — and it has a very protective pouch for my laptop. It’s also not too large or bulky and fits under the seat of every plane I’ve been on.

In the largest zippered section, I usually bring:

  • my books I’m reading or plan to read on the plane (yes, I’m weird and travel with real books — I just can’t bring myself to switch to a device for reading!) some magazines I’ve gotten for free (I leave these on the plane after I read them)
  • socks (in case my feet get cold on the long flight)
  • (I sometimes bring , too, depending upon the flight)
  • If you are not bringing a carry-on with you on the plane, I would also recommend including a complete change of clothes + basic toiletries in your backpack (I’ll share what I put in my bathroom/toiletries bag in a post in a few days) so that you can brush your teeth/wash your face on the plane + change your clothes, if need be. In addition, if your luggage gets lost, at least you’ll have some basic things until they find or replace your luggage.

In the next zippered section, I pack:

  • My wallet & passport (I also usually stick my phone here — it’s not pictured since I was using it to take these photos!)
  • Snacks (you never know when you’ll get hungry or if the food will be good on the plane or not)
  • An eye mask for better sleeping

In the top pouch, I pack my earbuds and adaptors for the plane, if needed (Some of the South African Airways flights have two-pronged headphone jacks and you need an adaptor for them.)

I absolutely LOVE and have had them for a few years and used them incessantly! They are so lightweight but so high quality and do a great job at noise-cancelling.

In the top zippered pouch, I keep my sunglasses. This is a really sturdy pouch and can’t be crushed — which is great for something like sunglasses or a small camera.

In the side pouches, I pack phone chargers.

In the front zippered pouch, I pack:

  • Wet wipes + antibacterial wipes (these are so handy for lots of things — including wiping down your tray and space on the plane right when you board + to use as toilet paper if you’re going to a location where there might not be toilet paper in most bathrooms)
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Listerine Strips — these are the BEST and I always bring them when I travel
  • Lotion
  • A pen/pencils
  • Lip balm
  • Tissues
  • I had the medicine bag in another bag on this trip, but if I wasn’t traveling with others, I would also pack basic medicines in this pouch — sleeping meds, Dramamine, stomach meds, essential oils, ibuprofen, etc.

In another side pouch, I pack a bag of tea bags. Since I don’t drink coffee anymore and there isn’t always decaf tea readily available, I like to have these on hand to make my own (I ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water and cream).

I pack my in another side pouch because I have found that rinsing out my sinuses once a day has made such a difference for my allergies and is one of the reasons I’m no longer on allergy medication! (And yes, I totally bring bottled water or get some on the plane and rinse out my nose in the airplane bathroom!)

And then my computer and computer cord goes in the computer pouch.

I love that this backpack has a luggage handle pass-through, too!

And there you have it — everything I packed in my backpack for our trip to South Africa (which is pretty much what I usually pack on any international trip!)

What else would YOU pack in your backpack for an international trip? Am I missing anything that you think is a necessity? I’d love to hear!

If you enjoy posts on international travel, be sure to also check out the following posts I’ve written on the topic: