Saturday, September 9, 2023

Hip Pocket Survival - International Travel Packing

Hip Pocket Survival - International Travel Packing

As an international traveler to many developed and less developed countries, it is a requirement to plan ahead and legally check anything you are intending to pack or carry is permitted and/or legal. This legality check should be done in both the country you are traveling to and countries you might be traveling through to your destinations. You should assure the right documentation and visas are obtained and ID but legally checking everything from toiletry items, to snacks to images and videos on your phone. Some of these mis-steps can make you travel uncomfortable, difficult, or worse considered illegal with harsh fines, jail or worse where you might be traveling or traveling through. 

What is legal or tolerated in the US may be illegal or make you highly targeted in other countries - examples range from knives to CBD gummy bears to sexual images on your phone. In England, lock bladed knives over 3-inches are illegal, so even your Leatherman with locking blades is illegal to carry and notably they do seem to have metal detectors in most public museums and other similar locations. On the other hand, India has metal detectors everywhere including some grocery stores, but carrying a knife is legal. It is always wise to check legality of all things you carry and especially internationally. As you plan your return to the US, also note that US customs can also be very challenging if you are bringing in prohibited items. International travel is not the time to push the boundaries or decide you want to make some political statement.

Beyond ensuring everything you have is legal, international travel is usually hard on the body and you want to assure you and your body are well taken care of.


  • A complete IFAK kit is a must for any traveler, your kit may vary

  • Ciprofloxacin AKA Cipro is a must have for the inevitable travelers diarrhea. Literally without it you could die from dehydration. This is not something that might happen, it is more of a when it will happen. This is usually not a slight case and is the “OMG I am going to freaking die on this toilet” level of events. You need Cipro. For example, I literally ate everything in India for almost 7 days, however none of that bothered me until I had some fresh yogurt which has a completely different culture and bacteria in it than the US and a lot of it.

  • Probiotic Capsules - Take them religiously during travel to help not get the above travelers diarrhea.

  • Complete multi-vitamins are also extremely helpful to assure you leave and return healthy with a strong immune system that will stand up to lots of new bacteria and viruses it may have never encountered.

  • LiquidIV powder packs - I cannot recommend these enough for recovery from everything from overindulging in drinking to too much time in the sun.


  • Hand sanitizer - If you travel, you need this even if you are a constant handwasher. Just keep in mind that not all countries have clean water that you are washing your hands with.

  • Bring your own Toilet paper. It may seem ridiculous until you have worn your backside out with the recycled cardboard other countries consider TP. With traveler's diarrhea it can become a necessity.

  • Bring a small supply of shampoo and soap. In some countries it seems it is nothing like what we consider as soap.

  • Learn how to use a Bum-Gun. If you do not currently own a bidet for your toilet after the great Covid TP shortage, then you should try one out, because it is something “sorely” missed from home when traveling. With that noted, most international countries have bum guns which are in essence a kitchen sink sprayer hanging from the side of the toilet. Use them, they are amazing especially when you are spending a lot of time in the bathroom. For many countries in public bathrooms you can also use them to clean up and hose down an otherwise less than clean toilet before use.

  • Pocket Pack Poliet Seat Covers - Sure I have issues with using public bathrooms, but these are a lifesaver even in airport or airplane bathrooms that have been hosed down and gross as hell.


  • Do not over pack…. do not over pack…. do not over pack… except for underwear.

  • Generally, most international hotels have laundry services and usually they are exceptional and relatively inexpensive. Pack light and just launder your items.

  • I highly recommend any of the new synthetic fast dry shorts, pants and shirts which allow you to literally just wash them in the shower and line dry them overnight

  • 20-feet of paracord with a Nighteyes Figure 9 Rope Tighteners. Without question one of my most used items for various uses including line drying hand washed swimsuits and clothing.

Overtly Expensive Accessories & Jewelry

  • Generally most countries like the UK and most of the developed countries are pretty safe, however pickpockets are thick in any city.

  • While in the UK I saw a lady get her extremely expensive purse stolen by a run-by purse snatcher in a very ritzy area of London. Scooter drive-by purse and backpack snatching are very common internationally.

  • Since I was on business, I was wearing one of my nicer watches and ended up slipping into my pocket because it seemed to be getting the wrong type of interest.

  • International travel is not the time to look like you are rich. Just keep in mind that in a lot of countries the fact that you might have any watch is a sign of great wealth.


  • Don’t look like a tourist. You don’t need a backpack and fanny pack, plus a hat that could block out the sun around a stadium. If everyone is wearing jeans and t-shirts or jeans and a tucked in shirt, wear that. If you need step by step directions to a destination, pop in an earbud, run the directions on Google and keep your phone in your pocket.

  • Door Jam Lock - These are inexpensive devices that jam a door and offer another level of security on the often “iffy” international door locks of hotels and bathrooms.

  • 18-inch screwdriver in checked luggage - Lots of stuff you can do with an 18-inch screwdriver ranging from pry bar use to defense. Never been questioned in a decade of travel why this is in my suitcase. 

  • Based on the laws of the countries I am passing through or my destinations, I almost always have some type of folding and fixed blade knife plus Leatherman and Swiss Army style knife.

  • Note that just because you passed the US TSA does not mean you are good through all other countries' similar TSA security. Germany flipped the “f” out about a standard charging block the wife had and surrounded her with four fully armed guards. India’s security there is no green light, everyone gets searched and they need all the cords in a separate bag. A UK agent said I was carrying too many pens… really they did. One country confiscated one of those carabiner clip bottle openers because it was a tool. The lesson here is to bring cheap stuff you might need to toss.

Legal Considerations

  • Some countries such as Saudi based countries have severe life altering penalties around sexual images, adultery, and orientation. I highly recommend going in clean with a burner phone when traveling with no images or videos on a phone and remove all content from other smart devices you take along. 

  • For any prescription, even the Cipro, you should have your written prescription for it with all labels on the dispensed bottles intact. If possible only take enough medication for your trip length. Taking excess prescription medication could be viewed as trafficking and distribution in some countries.

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