I still wonder to this day, how I have often packed my life into a bag for trips that have been anything from 1 week to 6 months away from home. As you travel more and more, you begin to realise what your essentials are, as well as things you really don’t need to take with you. Depending on what kind of traveller you are, packing can change and it’s brilliant if you can become more versatile with what you can live with and without. Adapting your packing to where and how long you are going is a huge skill.
Remember all those holidays you’ve been on and you didn’t wear half the clothes? You need to snap out of that. It’s important to limit yourself and discover how you can work with smaller amounts of clothing, yet keep it fresh in a look by simply changing a top or popping on a kimono or casual shirt. Stop thinking holiday and start thinking adventurer. You need to think outside the wheelie suitcase about what you NEED.
I met a guy when I was in Thailand and for 1 month, he carried around a bag which only weighed 7kg. A girl on the same trip was carrying a whopping 28kg with her. What a contrast. Although the lighter the better, it’s all about a happy medium balance and about being savvy and sorting the good from the bad.
I’ve made a list of what is essential and tips for how to work it. There are also some handy brands and links to guide you. I have also compiled a short list of things you don’t need.
– Wash bag: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, body moisturiser. If you’re planning a short trip for a few weeks, I’d recommend taking the mini travel size bottles. 3 weeks plus, take the bigger bottles, you can honestly make them last for 2-3 months.
– Sun cream – start off with your higher factors, nobody wants to look like a lobster or be in agony from sunstroke on your first few days of travel. If your skin is pale, go for factor 50 and work your way down factors slowly. If you tan easily, like myself, start with 30 and work your way down. If you have rich dark skin, start on a factor 25 and again work down. Sun protection is a must! Look after your skin, it’s the only 1 you get. I usually go for a Nivea product or Malibu product. Grab a bottle of aloe vera gel or after sun too for the days you do get caught out, to ease the sunburn.
– Bug spray – whether it is sand flies in New Zealand or mosquitos in Thailand, get yourself bug spray. Look for the deet levels on the back of the spray, the higher the deet level, the better off you are from fighting against nasty bites. Although be aware, too much deet isn’t great for your skin. Try and find a balance and a spray that will work for your skin. I typically use Jungle Formula. Another great little pot of magic for when you do suffer from the odd (or multiple) bites is Tiger Balm – I highly recommend you grabbing a pot of this for your travels.
– Clothing – this is a trickier subject as everyone is pretty different. Pick out your favourite couple of tops, shorts, dresses, jeans. Buy some thin material vest tops or tees in a mix of colours. You can switch these around with shorts in hot weather and use them to layer in the cooler climates. 1 pair of leggings. 1 or 2 jumpers/cardigans. Swimwear is always essential, 2-3 of these. Undies and socks are a must of course, I generally squeeze as many in as possible as you can never be too sure of your next wash day. Hiking boots or a really decent pair of trainers are a must for exploring. A pair of casual trainers like Vans or Converse. 1 pair of sandals and 1 pair of flip flops are all you need. I wear Havaianas, you pay for long lasting wear with these bad boys.
– Waterproof – go for something small and lightweight. Go and try a few on in shops, browse online too. I’d recommend checking out Mountain Warehouse and similar shops. Even if you’re heading somewhere hot, you need to be prepared for rainy and monsoon seasons, so a jacket is worth packing, especially as you can wrap up a waterproof into a small ball.
– Camera – if you’re a bit of a whizz, grab your Cannon or Nikon with a few lenses. Make sure you’ve got yourself a good camera bag to protect your precious camera. Personally I have opted for a GoPro. Mine is a GoPro Hero Session 4, small, can take photos and videos and even better – it’s waterproof! Do go into shops and research what will work for you though. The great thing about GoPro? You can buy attachments so you can capture and record thrilling activities to beach sunsets, by using wrist or chest straps and the good old selfie stick to name just a few. Of course phones have fabulous cameras these days, so why not capture some moments from yours?
– Phone – take the phone you currently have and if you happen to have a spare, take that too. If you are going on a longer trip, do consider cancelling your contract if it’s due to end soon and swap to pay as you go. Buy a local SIM card wherever you go and use that. Bundle packages can often come with international deals. Of course, download WhatsApp, Viber and Skype, these apps are so easy to use to stay in touch with friends and family over wifi. Make sure you have a decent case for your phone, you don’t want to be breaking screens whilst away having the time of your life.
– Laptop/iPad – depending on what you want to do and how long you are away, really think about whether or not this is something you need. If you’re planning on living and working abroad for 4 months plus, I would absolutely recommend taking a laptop. If, like myself, you want to just keep a track of photos, write a blog and keep your social media alive, take an iPad with you.
– Worldwide adaptor – get an adaptor you can use in every country and continent. I got mine from Amazon and have never looked back. I can use it everywhere and it also has 2 USB ports, so I can charge 2 things at once with ease.
– Medical bag – just in case. It is super important to just even take the basics with you: paracetamol, plasters, throat lozenges, ibuprofen, rehydration sachets, diarrhoea tablets, just to name a few. Think about where you will be going, what you will be eating/drinking, activities you will be taking part in and so on. I pop a small pair of scissors and tweezers in mine too.
– Portable charger – one of the best purchases I have ever made. Again, I got mine from Amazon. If you just want something small, you can find one that will do about 2 full charges. However, if you look for a slightly bigger one, you can often find a charger with 2 USB ports that can hold power for 6-8 charges. Brilliant for jungle trekking and alike for when you don’t know when you’re next charging point might come along.
– Make-up – this is an easy topic. Just take your very basics, once you hit humidity, the sea and the sun, you will not want to be putting any slap on. When you fancy making some effort, just go for your foundation, bronzer, small eye shadow palette, mascara and eye-liner. Simples. Remember face wipes to free your skin afterwards.
– Washing sachets – miniature washing powder packets for when you just need to do a quick undies wash. Simple, small, affordable and efficient.
– Towels – 2 towels. This is all you need. I was a wolly and took 3 on my last trip which was an absurd amount. 1 beach towel, 1 towel for showers. Easy. I was fortunate enough to be given a quick-dry microfibre towel and what an amazing thing it is, you can find them on Amazon.
– Locks – do take a couple of padlocks with you for lockers at hostels and for zip bags when you’re out and about. It would be nice to think most people are trustworthy but unfortunately things can disappear. You don’t want the trouble of claiming valuables back through insurance, particularly if you didn’t lock them up in the first place. I have a padlock with a key, as well as combination padlock and I use both.
– Document folder – buy a small folder or large travel wallet to keep your important documents together. Passport, cards, money, driving licence, flight tickets, hostel bookings, insurance and alike. Keep it close and keep it safe. It’s always a good idea to keep emails in paper and electronic form when travelling. A scanned photocopy of your passport is a good idea too, just in case you get into trouble and lose yours.
– Heels – unless you’re a fashion blogger or going away for an epically romantic weekend, I wouldn’t advise heels. They are awkward to pack and unnecessary if you are on a trip of a lifetime to experience awesome adventures and explore the edges of the earth.
– Your entire wardrobe – I listed ‘yes’ clothing items above. Of course take what you need and a few more key pieces you love. Black, blue and white vest tops are 3 of my items that are easy to switch around with shorts and to wear under a kimono. A simple idea to switch your look with just a touch of colour, whilst keeping your packing simple. Make your own take on travelling style.
– Jewellery – don’t take anything too expensive, I’ve met people who have lost pieces that were sentimental or valuable to them. Just a couple of small necklaces and maybe a couple of bracelets are enough. If you have a nose piercing like myself, do take a spare stud with you. I forgot to do this and couldn’t pick another stud up for a couple of days once I lost mine surfing, so it was a little painful to pop a new stud in.
– Hair straighteners– I totally understand if you need these, and if this makes you feel good, bring them. Hair dryers are something that can be forgotten in hot climates, but if you feel better for bringing a small portable dryer, go for it.
The wrap and roll technique. Rather than folding, I roll my clothes. You can squish more in your bag and your clothes will crease less. You can also stuff socks and undies into shoes. Remember plastic bags for dirty washing and to keep leaky bottles in.
Where to put the weight? Heavier items should sit in the upper middle of your backpack, it’s the best place for less strain on your back.
Also, think about your need to take or not take a sleeping bag. If you’re staying in hotels and hostels throughout the whole of your trip, don’t bring one. If you’re going to go wild and camp lots, of course take a sleeping bag and camping mat.
Everyone is individual. This isn’t how everyone should pack, it’s a basic guide for those who aren’t sure where to start or for those who need a little more guidance to improve their packing skills.
If you want to know more about how to pack for a more specific trip, please get in touch!
If you want to know how to pack for a ski season, check out my future posts.
Happy packing my adventure friends!