A Travel Checklist: What to Pack for a Student Trip
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A Travel Checklist: What to Pack for a Student Trip

Having the right items packed for your trip can make a huge difference. You don’t want to be stuck without essentials like prescription medicine or be uncomfortable because you have the wrong sleeping bag or clothes for the weather.

To avoid these problems, each trip on our program page has packing information included on the pages with program details. However, there may be some variance depending on simple factors like whether you get cold easily.

In general, all of our lists mention the need to bring essentials like a passport, but here are some other packing tips to keep in mind.

Your Carry On

Our packing lists have some important details about what documentation will be needed during your travels. Here are some other factors to consider:

  • Covid Protocols – Remember to pack your Covid vaccine card and a mask since some international flights and airports are still requiring facial coverings.
  • Money – It’s a good idea to have some currency for the destination country and an international prepaid debit card or credit card, if desired.

A prepaid debit card will give you the opportunity to lock in an exchange rate before traveling and load several currencies. The cards also sometimes come with extra benefits like travel insurance. Just keep in mind that these cards may not be usable in some locations, and it can sometimes take a few days to load a card.

  • Travel information – Make sure you have all flight details handy, particularly if you are not using Rustic Pathways Air. This includes details about departure times, gates and seats.
  • Prescription medicine – This will need to be in the original container. A doctor’s note is also helpful. You can add an empty daily medicine holder if it serves as a reminder to take the prescription.
  • Prescription glasses or contact lenses – Remember to include extra contact lenses, if applicable. For glasses you may want to consider bringing an eyeglass strap and a small repair kit, along with an eyeglass case.
  • Cellphone – Remember to download music on your phone before leaving home if you like to listen to music during trips and won’t have the option to stream.
  • Chargers – Keep in mind you may need an international phone charger or adaptor.
  • Small snacks – This is not a bad idea if you want to avoid expensive airport options.
  • Running belt or travel belt – Many teens and young adults like using lanyards with a card holder for important items, like a driver’s license. However, they are too small to hold a passport and are not the safest option for some adventure activities, particularly if you have a lanyard without a safety release. Travel belts and running belts work well for this.
  • Sweater/sweatshirt for the plane – This is a good option for anyone who gets cold easily.
  • Basic hygiene items – You may want your toothbrush in your carry on bag.
  • Change of clothes – As mentioned in the packing lists, don’t forget a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost.

Odds and ends

A few small items that are not on the lists you may want to pack include:

  • Comb or brush
  • Nail file
  • Dental floss
  • Hair accessories like ponytail holders
  • Flip flops for the shower or beach
  • Tissues
  • Small laundry bag to separate dirty clothes
  • Gum if you have problems with ear pressure while traveling
  • Deck of cards
  • Chapstick
  • A belt, if needed
  • Plastic bags for wet items

For any liquids, creams or gels you decide to bring in your carry-on bag, remember you are limited to containers that are 3.4 ounces or less placed in a waterproof or plastic quart size bag. To avoid liquids, you can pack powdered or solid toiletries.

Packing Tips for Your Larger Bag

It’s recommended that students use a backpack or duffel bag for the rest of their items. If you’re using a backpack, it’s preferable to have one that can be opened from the front and the top. That way you don’t need to dig as much for items. It’s also good to test carrying the bag to ensure it fits your body well and isn’t too large or small.

Once you have the bag, here are some things to keep in mind while packing:

  • Don’t overpack – You will need less than you think.
  • Roll clothes – Using space saver bags is also an option, but if you are not overpacking, rolling works fine. If preferred, packing cubes also can be used to keep things organized.
  • Use layering – If you are bringing a backpack or duffel bag as recommended, it’s easier to pack in rows. So for a backpack, you can put bulkier items that are less needed near the bottom, heavier items in the middle and things you’ll need more frequently or earlier in your trip at the top or inside the pockets. So if your plane is arriving later in the day, you may want your pajamas near the top. You also should make the best use of space as possible by putting items inside your shoes and using other nooks and crannies.
  • Pack practical clothes and shoes – Follow the suggestions on your program’s list to ensure your clothes are culturally appropriate and are the best option for service and adventure activities. Comfortable shoes are a must. You may also want to consider clothes that don’t wrinkle easily, so you feel confident when you get out to enjoy the day.
  • Stay dry – If you are going on a trip with swimming, packing a quick dry towel is a great idea. You also may consider getting a dry bag, which will keep items like cellphones dry during rainstorms or when doing water activities like kayaking. Having some quick dry clothes is very helpful.

If items do get wet during your trip, you may need to put them in a plastic bag if you’re on the go, but you’ll have to pull them out later to dry. Moldy clothes are not only unpleasant but also tend to be unsalvageable. So when you’re repacking your bag during the trip, keep this in mind.

  • Get the right gear – Having a lightweight sleeping bag when it’s really cold or bulky thick shorts when it’s really hot can make things rather unpleasant. Check out the normal weather trends before packing to help guide decisions. It’s important to be realistic about how you handle temperature differences. If you get cold or hot easily, you’ll enjoy your trip much more if you pack with this in mind.

Once you’re traveling, many programs have opportunities to buy items from local merchants if you are missing something. Hopefully though with the right planning, you’ll be all set for the journey.

For more packing details, you can view our article – What Expert Travelers Wished they Would Have Packed for Their First Trips. You also can reach out to us for any questions. Happy packing!

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Lead Editor

Mary is the Lead Editor at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.