Travel Checklist: Your Travel Essentials

[Updated December 2020]

Packing a suitcase can be overwhelming, especially if you’re going on a long trip. We’re here to help! We’ve compiled a travel checklist of what to pack when travelling and tips on how to pack a suitcase. Take the stress out of packing for your exciting holiday with these handy tips:

1. Start with a checklist

First, set out the bare essentials and then add a few items that you want to bring along. Noting everything down helps you keep track of what you really need to pack and what can be left at home. Pack clothes that serve a dual purpose and that can be paired up with multiple items.

Tip: Pack by outfit so you don’t waste space by packing clothes that don’t go with anything or that you might only wear once.

2. Know your airline’s baggage policy

Don’t be one of those people at the check-in counter moaning about having to buy extra luggage. Find out what the baggage policy is of the airline you’re flying. Some low-cost airlines only offer hand luggage, so you’d need to purchase additional checked luggage if a carry-on bag is not enough.

Tip: Save up to 50% by purchasing extra luggage online rather than at the airport.

3. Roll, don’t fold

Rolling your clothes takes up less space than folding them. This way, you can also roll up smaller items and stuff them into empty pockets and gaps.

4. Store travel documents separately

Rather than fumbling about for your ticket or hotel voucher, have all your travel documents together in a pouch or envelope, and store them in a separate compartment for easy access.

Current Covid travel regulations require you to scan your own ticket and passport to minimise handling. Make sure you have all the necessary entry forms and PCR tests (if required) for wherever you are travelling to. 

5. Keep a change of clothes in your hand luggage

It’s always good to be prepared, so pack in an extra outfit that you can change into to freshen up between long layovers or should your luggage go missing.

6. Safeguard your liquids

The last thing you want when you open your bag is to find your clothes covered in shampoo or make-up. Liquids expand and contract with cabin pressure and changes in altitude, so it’s best to seal the top of the lid with plastic wrap and keep your containers in a ziplock bag.

Read up on all you need to know about travelling with liquids.

7. Sample sizes and freebies go a long way

travel checklist

Toiletries can be bulky, so if possible, pack sample sizes or decant your products into small travel-sized bottles. Also, take advantage of your hotel’s complimentary toiletry packs. If you run out of anything, you can always buy as you need.

8. Wear your bulkiest outfit

Free up space in your suitcase by wearing your bulkiest outfit. Your favourite bomber jacket or hoodie can double up as a pillow and blanket to keep you comfy and warm inside those chilly cabins.

9. Wrap shoes in plastic

Avoid your clothes getting scuffed and dirty by wrapping your shoes in plastic bags or disposable shower caps.

10. Fill empty spaces

travel checklist

Economise empty spaces in your suitcase by stuffing socks and smaller items into shoes and hats. Fragile items can be wrapped in scarves, socks and beanies.

11. Layer up rather than bulk up

Instead of packing stacks of hoodies, jerseys and jackets, rather pack in thinner items that you can layer up – this also gives you more options to wear!

12. Store electronic devices separately

Always protect your gadgets and electronic devices by storing them in a waterproof casing or ziplock bag, especially if you’re hopping onto a boat. Packing smaller items like chargers, headphones, keys and earplugs in a sunglasses case will ensure they don’t get crushed or lost.

13. Store jewellery and valuables in empty containers

Leave grandma’s diamond ring at home, and if you must travel with valuable jewellery or other items, place them in empty, nondescript tubes and containers. Also, don’t pack these items anywhere near the top of your bag, but rather hidden between clothes so they’re out of reach of pickpockets.

14. Pimp your suitcase

Your plain, black suitcase could easily be mistaken for someone else’s, so make sure it’s easily identifiable. You could tie a colourful ribbon to it, clip on a bright belt strap or embellish your bag with stickers. Need we remind you to always tie on an identity tag?

15. Pack a small medical health kit

Avoid the hassle of trying to find a foreign pharmacy. Rather have a basic medical kit with essentials like paracetamol, stomach tablets, probiotics, eyedrops, plasters and ointments.

Tip: Never pack chronic medication in your checked luggage, always keep it in your carry-on bag with its prescription (if necessary).

16. Keep your clothes smelling fresh

Layer dryer sheets or fabric softener between your clothes to keep them smelling fresh. You can also place small hotel soaps in between your clothes – plus you’ll have a scented memento of your trip when you get home!

17. Wet wipes are your BFF

Always carry a pack of face wipes in your hand luggage – it might be a while before you reach your hotel room, and a wet-wipe ‘spritz’ will leave you feeling fresh and awake throughout your journey.

18. Pack the heaviest items at the bottom

travel checklist

Whether you’re packing a backpack or a suitcase, always pack the heaviest and bulkiest items at the bottom to maintain balance. Placing lighter items at the top will make it easier to wear as a backpack or to wheel it around.

19. Have a pen and notepad on hand

It’s a good idea to always have a pen and notebook handy should you need to jot down an address, phone numbers, fill in forms at the airport, and visa-on-arrival forms in the plane.

20. Don’t add last-minute ‘what if’ items

Be realistic about your trip and pack sensibly. Don’t pack in unnecessary things that you’ll probably never use. If you haven’t been to the gym in a while, you won’t suddenly start on your holiday – leave the gym clothes at home. Your trip to Zanzibar might not require hiking boots, but you’ll definitely need a swimsuit. Always check the weather and decide what you might be able to buy on the other side. For example, do you really need to pack an umbrella or can you just buy a thin poncho along the road in case it rains?

Tip: Planning a travel checklist ahead of time will help to avoid you panicking at the last minute and grabbing unnecessary items.

21. Do not check in valuables and essentials – ever

Valuables and essentials should be kept in your carry-on luggage, not your checked luggage. While your travel insurance may cover stolen or lost luggage, you don’t want to risk losing your prized watch to the airport staff’s sticky fingers. Make sure you bring your passport, ID documents, wallet, electronics, jewellery and other valuables onto the plane with you.

Hopefully now you’ll feel a lot more relaxed about how to pack a suitcase for your next holiday with this useful travel checklist. Understanding your destination and what you’ll need there will guide you to pack in only the travel essentials. And remember to leave some extra space for all the exciting gifts you’ll be bringing back!

Remember, taking out travel insurance is always a good idea, to cover you for any eventualities, especially for Covid-related situations.

Let us know if you have anything to add to our travel checklist!

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Our Readers Comments

  1. Hi there,

    Thanks for reaching out.

    South Africans are still allowed to travel to Ukraine, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and Costa Rica, among others. However you would need to contact the relevant authorities for the most up to date information as this could change at anytime.

  2. Great tips. Can’t wait to travel again after COVID.

    Are there any countries we can visit without needing to quarantine at the moment or do we need to wait till we are vaccinated before we can start traveling again?

  3. Hi Cheryl,

    Thanks for the awesome feedback! We love informing our readers and clients of what is happening in the Travel Industry and giving tips and information on any travel related topics!

    Puts a smile on our face when we know our hard work has paid off!

    When you get a chance, feel free to take a look at our other blogs.

  4. Great tips, especially for packing….
    Much appreciated.

  5. Hi Liesl,

    Thanks for getting in touch.

    This will depend on what country you are travelling too.

    Best to do a search or contact the airline you are travelling with. They should be able to give you a good idea of what is permitted when travelling to that country, what should be declared and what is not permitted.

  6. Hi Samantha
    Thanks for the tips. What for example needs to be declared in carry on and checked luggage?

  7. Hi there,

    You welcome to search in our blog section: in the search panel at the top right of the page. Please type in visa’s and you will be able to see all visa related blogs we have posted.

    Please keep in mind visa policies could change at anytime for each country, so best to always contact the Embassy direct, of the country you travelling too, to get the most up to date information.

  8. Hi Natasha,

    Great to hear from you and thanks for the great feedback.

    We really love giving tips and information on any travel related topics to our readers.

    Happy to hear you found it helpful and will use it on your next trip. Happy travels! 🙂

  9. Hi Samantha,

    Thanks for the feedback. We really love informing our readers and customers of what is happening in the Travel Industry and giving tips and information on any travel related topics!

    Happy to hear you found our blog helpful.

  10. Good tips for first time travellers

  11. loved it !

  12. any visa tips?

  13. Any tips for traveling with kids ?

  14. could have used this for my last vacation but will keep it in mind for the next one

  15. keep the good tips comming

  16. some of the tips i already knew but there were some new fresh tips that will make my packing life a whole lot easier

  17. will definitely be useful on my next trip

  18. Very helpful

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