How to Pack for an Overseas Trip in One Hour


Exhausted, excited and happy, my brand new husband and I returned home from our wedding night tired and yet full to burst with excitement about our very first overseas trip for our honeymoon.  I had kept an entire notebook full of things to do before our big day and had ticked everything off.  I was adulting so hard.

There was just one, teensy tiny thing we forgot to do.

We forgot to frickin’ pack.

We had to get up at 5 am, it was currently 11 pm and we were still photocopying last minute travel paperwork. I thought for sure in our haste to get everything packed we would forget something.

We didn’t.

The truth is, while we like to think of ourselves as being organized enough to get packing squared away a few days before we go, life happens and sometimes (like right before your honeymoon, for example) you end up in a situation where you only have an hour to pack.

Here’s what to do.

Affiliate Disclosure: Please note, this post may contain affiliate links.  Any purchases made through clicking on these links will earn us a small commission at not a cent of extra cost to you.  Affiliate links are part of our business model and help keep this site alive.  Got concerns?  Check out our Privacy Policy and Affiliate Disclosure for more information.  Thank you for your support.


Step Number One: Don’t Panic

I am a notorious panic packer.  I leave it to the last minute, run around like a lunatic, forget to pack the shoes I need and instead pack six different pairs of jeans that I definitely don’t.

Don’t let this be you.

Stay calm.  Methodical.  Practical.  Think about the activities, places, and climates of the places you will be experiencing on your trip.  Pour a wine.  Put on your favorite chill out music and when the crazy gets too much, slow down, breathe, think and plan.

You’ve got this.

Step Number Two: Get Your Packing List Ready

Print out a packing list as a rough guide (bonus hack:  keep a second copy in your suitcase for the ride home to make sure nothing has been left behind).  Grab a pen and check things off as you go.  A little overkill?  Maybe.  But you won’t have that gut sinking “Oh shit!” moment at the departure gate.

Step Number Three: Get Your Visas, Passports and Travel Documents Ready to Go

Photocopy everything: your flight confirmations, your hotel confirmations, your passports, embassy contact details, your driver’s license, and your visas x 2: leave one at home with a trusted friend or relative (together with the contact details of the hotels in which you’ll be staying and embassy details), carry one with you and have another back up copy in your suitcase.

Step Number Four: Get Your Luggage Together

Have size appropriate luggage for the job.  Set them out on the bed: your checked luggage, your carry on luggage and your handbag/manbag.  Grab some clear Ziploc bags out of the cupboard.

Step Number Five: Pack the Important Shit First, the Rest is Just Stuff

Pack the necessary bits first – the stuff that can’t be replaced at a 7/11 when you get there – think passports and glasses (your handbag) and medications (your carry on). Have a doctor’s prescriptions and letters for your meds.  Keep them in a clear Ziploc container.

The rest is just stuff.

Remember to pack chargers for your mobiles, tablets, laptops, and cameras – it’s most likely you can source all this if you get to your destination without them (depending on where you’re going), but not likely from a 7/11 and it’s probably going to be a pain in the ass.

Toiletries on planes used to really stress me.  Here’s the lowdown:

  • Liquids, aerosols or gels must be kept in containers of 100 ml and weigh 100 g or less.

  • Yes, this does include makeup, food (including soft cheese and peanut butter), gel-filled tablets like fish oil, and mouthwash.  Check out the list here.

  • Travel toiletry containers cost less than $10 for a set and are just the right size.  Decant your shampoo, conditioner, cleanser, toner, and moisturizer into those. 

  • Clearly mark them (so you don’t end up trying to wash your face with conditioner) and pop them into a Ziploc bag.  Put your mascara in here too – some airports count it as a liquid, others don’t.  Better safe than sorry.

  • Put them in the zip up pocket in the inside lid of your suitcase.

  • In my experience, no matter how I’ve packed it, liquid foundation never travels well.  Leave it at home.  Take a stick or powder, or dare to go bare.  You’re on holiday, after all.

Step Number Six: Know the Weather In the Places You’ll Be Staying

A quick Weatherzone check will tell you the weather in the places you’ll be staying – modify your packing list accordingly, but throw in one or two items (no more than that) which are warmer or cooler than the current weather trend predicts just in case. 

If you’re going somewhere cold, try to layer as much as possible with lots of thinner layers (thermals are great) rather than trying to squish one big heavy parka into your suitcase that really only goes with one outfit.

Consider wearing heavier items for cold weather with you on the plane i.e. heavy cable jumpers, bulky boots or Uggs.  Carry your parka.  Added bonus: you stay warm and comfy in the ice cold plane air conditioning.

Step Number Seven: Curate Your Wardrobe 

Make a smaller amount of clothing items work overtime: pack classic pieces that are versatile and can be worn in multiple combinations.  Choose staple pieces that can be dressed up for evening wear and dressed down for day wear with accessories, shoes, and jewelry.  In terms of color, pick mostly neutral colors (black, white, grey, beige) with a color palette of no more than three main colors so that everything mixes and matches.  Add more splashes of color with accessories.

Pack items that are wrinkle resistant (this is easy for me because I don’t iron, so my closet is ashamedly wrinkle free anyway).

Don’t forget your jeans.  A friend once told me that the rule of thumb is to ALWAYS take a pair of jeans with you if you think you’re going to be staying somewhere overnight or longer and I never forgot it.  Also, add at least two more pairs of underwear than you think you’re going to need.  Trust me on this.

Step Number Eight: What You Don’t Need

You only need one workout outfit, really… and you probably won’t use it.  So resist the urge to take your Nike tights AND your Lorna Jean shorts.  I set out with the best intentions to work out every time I travel.  I have used a hotel gym exactly twice in all my life.  But DO pack your comifest walking sneakers and a sports bra.  A brisk walk or a jog is a great way to explore your surroundings and burn off the margaritas you’re going to drink on the beach later. 

 Oh… and ladies, you definitely DON’T need more than one pair of heels.  Choose a cute pair that is relatively comfortable and goes with everything (nude heels are classic, versatile and understatedly sexy) and move on.

Step Number Nine: Roll Up, Roll Up

Items like tees, workout gear, tanks, socks, pajamas, and undies can be rolled up to make them extra compact and stuffed inside packing cubes.  If you haven’t discovered packing cubes yet, you need to get onboard that train ASAP.  They help to keep your suitcase tidy, organized and easy to find and prevent you having to do that yoga pose of having to sit on your suitcase while you try to zip it shut.

Step Number Ten: Make Your Bag Your Own 

Nothing worse than trying to pick your black suitcase out of a line up of 12 other identical suitcases on the carousel.  Tie a colorful ribbon around it, or use these cute suitcase covers to jazz it up, make it your own and ensure it stands out from the crowd so you don’t spend an hour chasing every black suitcase you see.


Take the stress out of transporting liquids, upgrade your luggage, fit everything snugly and make sure your luggage is easily spotted in an airport with our top picks (affiliate links).

How to Pack for an Overseas Trip At the Last Minute.jpg