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  • Writer's pictureMilan Ballard

My Travel Checklist

Gearing up to travel this holiday break? Check out my good friend's tried and true travel checklist!

She's got a great travel and fashion blog, be sure to check out the original post (and all her other wonderful posts) here!



Traveling alone is as eye-opening, self-satisfying and fun as you’ve heard. I pride myself on my nearly flawless travel-planning. As a frequent traveler, years of minor (and some major) mishaps have helped me curate a checklist I use to fully prep and pack for any international voyage.

When traveling, especially solo, it is crucial to plan for everything and expect the unexpected. Plan for that missed connection, for the stolen wallet, being stranded at 8:30 PM on a closed train platform somewhere between Milan and Florence with no working cell phone or available human resources... I digress.

Below is my checklist for making solo a trip abroad memorable, not miserable:


Before you head to a foreign city, take time to really know where you’re going. Make a list of cafes, bars and museums that peak your interest. Jot down the name of that cute little shop with the cool earrings you love. Having a list available to you is better than going blindly into a new city, and if you choose to wing it once you get there, so be it. Even if you scrap the list completely, at least you have an idea of what is available to you.

Checking out a map and planning your route between destinations can save a lot of headache down the road. If you don’t know where to begin, apps like CityMaps, Visit A City, Guides by Lonely Planet and more offer guides, reviews and even downloadable city maps so you can find your way even without wifi.This is crucial if you are prone to wandering off the beaten path.


The bag alone can make or break your trip. To really make the best selection, you need to consider your ease of movement and ability to lift/carry/drag said bag for any amount of time. Whenever I begin packing for a trip, I consider how I will be traveling. Will I be in a car, train or plane? Will I need to walk from the train station or airport to where I’m staying? If so, how far? Is there a weight/size or bag limit on my flights?

Whether you choose a backpack, duffel or rolling suitcase for your travels is completely up to you. Keep in mind the amount of travel between cities as well as travel time when choosing your luggage. Having traveled with a combination of luggage throughout the years, I’ve found a mid-sized backpack and small rolling suitcase to be my preference.


Above all, my number one killer packing essentials are Ziploc Space Bag Travel bags. They are lifesavers. You can double the space in your bag and the amount of clothes you pack (or bring home) in seconds. The bags zip up effortlessly, and the air is compressed out by rolling the bag on itself, no extra tools required.

Outside of saving space, the bags are also perfect for organization. If you like to plan your outfits ahead of time, you can fit at least day’s worth of items into each individual bag, saving yourself time, effort and disarray. And if you’re a big shopper, a collapsible duffle that tucks neatly into your suitcase is perfect for holding new clothes, shoes, etc. for your flight home.

Will you do laundry on your trip? Whether you answer yes or no, having a separate bag for dirty clothes is essential for keeping your clean clothing fresh. If your trip is longer than a week or two, you may want to choose accommodations that offer a washer. I recommend packing a few dryer sheets to stuff into your dirty clothes bag as well.

Finally, a shoe bag is an often forgotten but very necessary travel essential. Walking around all day is not only trying on your feet, but also on your shoes. Keep random gunk from the streets off your clothes by packing away shoes into their bags before stuffing them into your luggage. You don’t need to be fancy; plastic grocery bags work just as well.


It is crucial to have a back-up for everything. Every credit card, debit card, ID, passport, you name it. Make multiple copies of each item—both sides—and stash the extras in your luggage, backpack, anywhere you don’t have the original copies. Keep one locked away in your room and keep a copy on you always. Your card could get stolen, your passport may fall out of your pocket at the airport, you may take a giant swig of sangria at a café in Madrid while watching the sunset and boom your license has magically vanished. I’ve been there, and I have saved myself from a major meltdown and my trip from a downward spiral thanks to these backups.


My most important tip of all—spend time AND money you didn't expect to. Whether you splurge on one item or you get lost in the old city center in Lisbon; don't be afraid to spend. In the end, that's what traveling is, right? So don't be afraid to buy an item from every stop on your trip. Having something tangible you can admire for years to come is, in a way, priceless. It doesn't have to be big or expensive. Maybe you want to collect magnets from each new city, perhaps it’s a clothing item or a pair of earrings, some unique décor for your home, whatever it is, buy it. Hit up the vintage stores, the locally-owned shops and the outdoor markets. Having something truly unique helps your vacation live on and leaves you with a story to tell years down the road.



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