Don't Make These Packing Mistakes When Traveling Overseas

Embarking on an overseas adventure? It's easy to get bogged down in all the logistics and start stressing over a process that should be fun and exciting. From acquiring visas to booking your flights, there's a lot to handle, and it can be tough to keep your anxiety in check while traveling. Of course, one of the major considerations is what to bring. Whether you're an indecisive overpacker or an overly optimistic underpacker, traveling with the wrong stuff in your luggage can throw a wrench into the enjoyment of your whole trip.

"The root of the struggle of packing for a trip comes down to not knowing what to bring with you. If you aren't confident in what you have in your backpack or suitcase — or feel like you didn't bring the right thing — your trip could suffer. Sure, you'll survive without a raincoat or basic t-shirt layers, but any kind of discomfort will detract from the adventure," packing expert Lydia Mansel tells Travel + Leisure.

These challenges become even more apparent when journeying to distant shores, where you could face unfamiliar weather, laws, and travel risks, to name a few. It raises the classic question: What to bring, and what not to bring? If you're preparing for a big trip, be sure to avoid these packing mistakes when traveling overseas.

Don't bring too many clothes and shoes

One major travel faux pas is the simple act of overpacking. Dragging around numerous overstuffed bags is sure to put a damper on your overseas experience, and unless you're going abroad for months at a time, it's probably not necessary. Rather than bringing every clothing item that you could possibly want, use this opportunity to pack smarter and lighter.

Travel Fashion Girl suggests starting with a neutral palette for your travel wardrobe so that many pieces can work together in different combinations. And don't get caught up in all the maybes and what-ifs! Limit your outfits to accommodate the activities you know you'll be enjoying during the trip, so you don't end up lugging along irrelevant clothing items that never get used (per Smarter Travel).

As for shoes, look for pairs that can pull double-duty as both practical and cute. Her Packing List suggests taking two pairs total — one to wear during travel, and one in your suitcase. The key to this strategy is to choose two different types of shoes, so you've got options appropriate to multiple activities.

Don't overlook the local climate

Another crucial error when traveling abroad is failing to check the season, weather, and terrain at your destination. This is a quick way to pack all the wrong items and end up feeling unprepared and miserable during your travels. First and foremost, look up local weather reports for your destination. While it may be warm and sunny at your point of departure, don't assume it will be the same everywhere. Your destination may have a cooler climate or go through a rainy season that will require packing a poncho or umbrella. And don't forget: If your destination is in another hemisphere, it could be experiencing totally different weather and temperatures, as the Northern and Southern hemispheres go through opposite seasons simultaneously (via National Geographic).

Also, consider the terrain and local infrastructure. If you're going to a major city with plenty of public transport, a decent pair of walking shoes will probably be enough to get by. And if you're headed to the beach, some easily rinsable sandals are a must. But if you're en route to somewhere rugged, mountainous, or undeveloped, you may need to make room in your luggage for some sturdy hiking boots (per Shoenvious).

Finally, you may also want to be strategic while dressing for your flight when traveling between different climates. After all, you don't want to arrive at your destination and immediately start sweating buckets from wearing bulky layers in the tropics or end up catching a cold because you're underdressed for winter weather.

Don't bring your whole beauty routine

If you've got a comprehensive, multi-step beauty routine, all those products could eat up a lot of space in your luggage. Instead of bringing every makeup option or skincare product you own, it's generally wiser to streamline your routine for the duration of your trip. Perfect your travel skincare routine by focusing on the core of your usual regimen. "If [you're] traveling somewhere which necessitates light packing, I consider the essentials to be: Sunscreen with at least SPF 30, makeup wipes, facial cleanser, and nighttime moisturizer," Carol Cheng, M.D., tells Self.

As for makeup, less is more. Select a few high-impact items that will quickly elevate your look. If you like pronounced eyes, that may include mascara, eyeliner, and a small palette of favorite shadows. If you always rock a bold lip, choose one or two colors that will compliment every outfit you're packing. Don't feel committed to doing a full face every day of your trip — as Subtl Beauty points out, you may not always have the time or patience to apply a lot of makeup when you're hurrying to international business meetings or heading out for a morning of sightseeing. Bring items that will help you achieve a look that's quick, polished, and easy to maintain throughout the day.

Don't bring fancy or sentimental jewelry

When you're preparing to look adorable and selfie-worthy during your trip, it may seem natural to pick your nicest accessories to complete the effect. But carrying a ton of valuables is generally considered a traveling no-no. For one thing, wearing flashy items in some areas can make you a target for pickpockets or robbers. Jewelers Mutual even suggests turning your wedding ring inward to hide the stone.

Packing special jewelry can also end in disaster if your luggage is lost in transit. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, handlers mishandled over 2 million bags in 2021, so this is always a possibility to plan around. Even wearing valuable jewelry is discouraged while traveling, because if you accidentally lose something while abroad, it can be difficult or impossible to recover.

Ultimately, bringing expensive or irreplaceable jewelry can end up with a devastating loss, so it's best to leave these items at home — or at least have them covered under your travel insurance in case the worst occurs (per the North Carolina Consumers Council).

Don't forget to check for any prohibited items

In all the logistics around packing — like bag size, weight, and amount — it can be easy to overlook restrictions on the actual contents of those bags. But even if you can freely travel with something at home, that doesn't mean it will be welcome on a flight or at your destination.

By now, most people are aware that there are strict rules about liquids in carry-on bags. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), those traveling in the U.S. can only carry on a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, and creams. Moreover, the volume of each individual container must top out at 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less. Pack any more than this, and you could end up consigning items to the garbage at the airport security checkpoint.

There may also be less obvious restrictions that depend on where you're traveling to. For instance, many countries have different rules around medications, and even innocuous-seeming over-the-counter medicines may be outlawed abroad. Say you're traveling to Japan or Zambia. In both of these nations, Benadryl is banned — so you don't want to get caught at customs with any in your suitcase (per Reader's Digest). In general, it's a good idea to look up any local restrictions before you travel, so you can avoid an international incident and enjoy an easy, carefree trip.

Don't pack your bag to full capacity

One final tip that's important to remember: Empty luggage space isn't necessarily wasted luggage space. If you're going somewhere memorable, especially for the first time, you'll probably want to leave extra room for souvenirs. "Traveling is an amazing experience. Part of that experience is in the memories you create. I find it rewarding to get something that serves as a wonderful reminder of all those memories. When I see them, it reminds me of times I had with my family and friends," Jason Montague, President and CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, tells Forbes. "There isn't one thing we look for. It doesn't always have to be expensive. Our goal is to find something special just to us."

Maybe you're the type who collects the same thing everywhere you go, whether that's shot glasses, postcards, or collectible spoons. Or perhaps you like to find unique local knick-knacks that vary from place to place. Either way, you'll need to get them home somehow. So when you're packing for the trip, give your luggage a little room to breathe. That will leave you some flexibility to add items during your travels.

Alternatively, The Discoverer suggests packing an empty duffel or tote that won't take up much space in your luggage. That way, if you discover any must-have items that won't fit in your main bag, you can use the duffel as an additional piece of checked or carry-on luggage. Just be sure to sufficiently protect any fragile items, wherever you pack them.