Famous for its breathtaking landscapes and friendly culture, Canada has quickly become one of the top tourist destinations in the world. If you’re planning a trip to Canada, this ultimate packing list for Canada will ensure that you won’t forget a thing.
If you are an avid traveler, you would know the importance of planning ahead. Since it’s such a large country, different regions can have different weathers and cultures. For example, winter on the West Coast is nothing similar to winter in the prairies.
But worry not because you’re in the right place. I get that traveling abroad is always exciting, but packing for it can be so tedious. So keep on reading to prepare for what could be the trip of a lifetime. This is my ultimate packing list for Canada. Apply for an IEC visa first to get yourself started for the Canada dream
Traveling is always exciting, except for the packing part. For that reason, I have condensed the entire ~4500 words post into a handy printable checklist so you can refer to it more easily.
Let’s start by talking about some of the must-have items when packing for Canada. They range from flight essentials to medications and personal items, so let’s dive right in!
Adapter/ converter: When you’re traveling abroad and you want to plug in your devices, you’ll probably need an adapter. Different regions (of the world) have different prong styles and the adapter basically serves as the “middleman”. I am using this universal adapter. It can be used in most countries and can charge up to 4 products at the same time.
Wallet: pretty much self-explanatory. It’s for holding all your cards and cash but I wouldn’t recommend keeping all your valuables here.
Canadian cash: Although most places do accept credit/debit cards, cash is very convenient to have. Occasionally, you will come across shops that charge more if you pay with cards or don’t even accept them.
Medications (if any): Only you know what you need to bring. If you have to take any pill or medication regularly, be sure to bring them in their original packaging, along with your prescriptions. This makes it easier for the customs officials at the border to identify what you’re carrying in.
Phone + charger: Nowadays, you can use your phone to check the map, take photos, book hotels, communicate, and connect with others. Many people cannot go a day without it. Just remember to bring your charger too because otherwise, that’ll be very sad.
Packing cubes: If you are planning to travel for more than a few weeks, consider getting a few of these packing cubes. They help a ton with organization on the road. You’d want to separate your clean clothes from dirty clothes, or your rain gears from electronics. I like to think of them as drawers for your bag. Additionally, packing cubes also compress everything and save you space, what’s not to love!
Travel documents are always your first priority. I recommend making copies of all your travel documents beforehand. Always carry the originals and photocopies in separate places so if you lose one, you still have the others. Apply for Canada visa working holiday.
Passport: A valid passport is always required as it is one of the most universally accepted pieces of travel document. Your visa, eTA, work permit, or other pieces of ID cannot replace your passport. So double-check, triple-check, and always keep your passport safe.
Visa: If you are on a working Holiday visa then you should take your point of entry letter with you.
Proof of insurance: health insurance or travel insurance or both for your entire stay in Canada.
Bank cards (credit or debit): You can always order foreign cash from your local bank before your trip but the exchange rate is usually very poor (but remember to check anyways). Here in Canada, it is often better to cash out directly from an ATM if you need to. Having a feeless credit/debit card also helps you to avoid carrying too much cash, which is never a good idea. They are accepted as a payment method at most places.
Plane tickets: Can’t imagine forgetting those. Yikes!
Emergency phone number list: Always look up the emergency number of a country or region before traveling there. In Canada, it’s 911. Additionally, you should carry a list of emergency contacts such as close friends, family members, insurance agents, etc. You never know what might happen.
Address of where you’re staying (for the 1st night): Whether it be a friend’s house, hostel, hotel, or B&B, it never hurts to have the address handy.
Luggage options 🧳
Even before you start to pack anything, you need to decide on which type of bag you’re going to bring. This will pretty much depend on your travel style, the weather conditions, and the type of activities you plan to do.
Also e sure to take some time and decide on the appropriate bag size for your trip. The more space you have, the more you will pack. And that’s not a good thing just to be clear.
Backpacks: These are my go-to kind of bag because they are versatile and convenient. I can carry them around the city but also bring them along when hiking in the mountains. Just pop them on your back and you’re on your way.
Duffel bags: They are designed to be an alternative to the classic suitcase and backpack. For general traveling, a small 35-50 L bag usually works.
Suitcases with wheels: A traditional suitcase is perfect for those who are planning to stay within the city areas. They are heavier and bulkier but who cares if you’re just going from your hotel to a taxi to the airport? Consider bringing a small day pack to carry your essentials when going out and exploring.
Toiletry Kit: a small toiletry kit can help to keep everything organized. This kit is compact and simple but does its job well enough.
Toothbrush: I usually saw off the bottom half of my toothbrush to save space, or you can get one of those foldable toothbrushes.
Toothpaste: Although most hotels provide free toothpaste and it is quite cheap to buy, I like to carry my own. Remember, in order to bring toothpaste with your carry-on luggage, it has to be less than 100 ml.
Hairbrush: A small travel-sized hairbrush is nice to have, especially if you are traveling for work. This is more for the ladies but anyone can find it useful.
Deodorant: If you want to bring deodorant, bring the tiniest amount. People always bring way more than they need to. Although, you can find most brands of deodorant in drug stores here, having your own is a lot more convenient.
Make-up: Again, you should only pack the bare minimum.
Shampoo/ soap: Depending on where you are planning to stay, you might want to bring your own shampoo and soap. They are easy enough to buy but not everyone wants to go shopping once they’re in Canada. Having said that, don’t go too overboard. This travel-sized kit is both cheap and portable (you’ll have to fill them yourself).
Lotion: similar to shampoo, you can normally find travel-sized bottles such as this one. I suppose sunscreen would fall under this category too, but I also have it described below.
The clothing items described below are pretty basic. They allow for lots of flexibility and personalization. I will go into more detail in the season-specific clothing sections. I almost never carry more than a week worth of clothes because anything over that just adds unnecessary weight. You can always visit a laundromat or hand wash your clothes if needed.
One other important thing to keep in mind when traveling in Canada is to dress in layers. This way, you can adjust to the constantly changing weather.
Shirts/ T-shirts/ long sleeves: I usually bring a couple of T-shirts, a long sleeve shirt, and a casual button-down shirt. You usually can’t go wrong with those, but you should always consider the activities you’re planning for your trip. Cotton shirts are the cheapest, making them perfect for everyday wear. Polyester dries quickly and wicks moisture away from your body, making it a more suitable material for physical or athletic activities.
Pants: These are great for traveling because they are so versatile. I always bring along a pair of jeans because they can literally be worn anywhere. They are durable, stylish, and don’t require ironing (not that I ever do that). A pair of outdoor pants/ leggings could also come in handy. They are ideal for physical activities (ex. hiking) but they can also be worn to casual hangouts or just explore the city.
Windbreaker: A good jacket can handle anything from light drizzles to chilly breezes. If I can tell you one thing about the Canadian weather, it’s unpredictable. Windbreakers are more suitable for the spring/ summer/ fall as you will need a much thicker jacket comes winter.
Fleece jacket (or wool): A fleece jacket is a versatile layer that you should bring regardless of the season. It keeps your body insulated from the cold, which is nice to have in the spring/ summer/ fall. In the winter, you can wear it under your winter jacket, as a warmth layer. It can even be rolled up into an emergency pillow if needed.
Socks: they keep your feet dry and comfy. Ankle socks are never a bad choice but depending on the seasons and your personal preferences, socks’ length and thickness may vary. More on socks below.
Poncho: If you are not familiar with ponchos, they are very thin, lightweight raincoats. They can be folded into smaller than the palm of your hand, which makes them very portable. You can bring your own or get one for $2 from the Dollar store in Canada.
Summer specific clothing 👒
Summer isn’t very long in Canada, but it is a nice time to visit. It is hot in most places. Days are super long. The sun is bright and in your face most of the time. So to prepare for the summer, here are some additional items to add to your packing list.
Bathing suit: Canada isn’t a tropical country but it is home to miles of coastlines and thousands of lakes. A bathing suit will come in handy in the summer because watersports are very popular here. You can try surfing in Tofino, chase waterfalls, or paddle on turquoise lakes in the Rockies.
Shorts: They are more breathable and comfortable compared to pants. Summer in Canada can be hot and humid (during the days), so shorts are definitely the more preferred option for most people.
Dresses: Similar to shorts, wearing dresses is a great way to deal with the summer heat.
Flip flops: They are perfect for beach days, but they can also be used for leisure walks or camping. Also, if you are staying in hostels or dorms where there are shared showers, you might not want to go in barefoot. These Adidas slippers are of high quality and they are very comfortable.
Winter specific clothings ❄️
The Canadian winter is cold, long, and harsh. Generally, you can expect lots of snow, freezing temperatures, and short days. The West Coast is not as extreme, but expect lots of rains and thunderstorms. If you planning to explore Canada during winter, here are some must-have items.
Winter jacket: This is a must-have if you are planning to visit Canada in the winter, especially in the colder regions. The temperature can drop below freezing at any time (it just stay there in most places) so you gotta be prepared. Although there are many types of winter jackets, I prefer down jackets (the ones that are puffy). They have their advantages and disadvantages, but in terms of insulation, they are excellent choices.
Winter boots: They provide more protection against the snow and freezing temperature. The Rocky Mountains, the prairie provinces, and most of Eastern Canada is not exactly tropical during this time of year. Even if you are a budget backpacker/ traveler, it won’t be easy to survive here without a good pair of winter boots.
Wool socks: I think socks are the most underrated travel items. A high-quality pair of socks keep your feet dry, warm, and comfortable. Since wool socks tend to be more pricey, I usually only bring 2 pairs to rotate, in addition to lots of regular socks.
Ear warmer: The ears are among the most vulnerable body parts in cold environments so they are at the greatest risk. Ear warmers protect them from the cold, plus, I think they look cute.
A warm base layer: When the temperature is below -20°C, it can be very challenging to stay warm even if you’re bundled up in your winter gears. Long thermal underwear worn under your pants and shirt can immensely help to preserve your body heat.
Scarf: It keeps your neck warm and can also be pulled up to cover your face if needed. Does a lot for its weight.
Mittens: I normally opt for a pair of touch screen gloves. They are convenient because they are made with special fabric, which allows you to use your phone, tablet, or other touch screens. Thick waterproof winter gloves are more suitable for skiing, hiking, camping, or other winter outdoor activities.
Depending on what you’re planning to do on your trip to Canada, you will pack different types of footwear. When traveling, comfort always comes first. Remember to choose a pair that is well-fitted, comfortable, durable, and looks nice.
Hiking shoes: If you are into hiking/ camping/ backpacking, then a good pair of hiking footwear is one of the best things you can invest in. They provide more support to both your feet and ankles, as well as keep you comfortable on the trail. Check out my post on the differences between boots and shoes to see which style fits you better. The Solomon X Ultra 3 GTX has been my favorite for a long time now.
Sneakers: As a minimalist backpacker, I almost never bring anything else other than my favorite pair of sneakers. They are clean, comfortable, lightweight, and versatile, a perfect combination. They are not ideal for the beach or mountain top scrambles, but they generally do the job well.
Sandals: I’m talking about those multi-purpose sandals that you can wear to the beach, around town, or even play sports in. They are more breathable compared to closed-toe shoes but still provide enough support.
Laptop + charger: If you are planning to work during your time here, then a laptop is almost an essential item. Most places in Canada have wifi so unless you’re planning to go deep into the forest, that is not a concern. You can usually get wifi (sometimes for free) at fast food places, public libraries, or coffee shops. If your charger doesn’t have the correct prongs, consider bringing a universal adapter too.
Tablets + charger: Tablets are more portable compared to laptops. They are quickly becoming more and more popular among travelers these days because of their portability.
Camera + charger: Who doesn’t like to take photos? Canada is home to some of the world’s most stunning natural landscapes, along with numerous charming cities. You will for sure want to capture the special moments made along your trip.
Memory cards: for storing memories from your cameras.
Power bank: I cannot travel without one of these. Watching your phone slowly dies when you’re in the middle of nowhere is possibly the worst feeling ever.