Happy Monday! Last night I slept in my bed for the first time since mid-January. Wow. What an amazing feeling. I love traveling, but who can beat snoozing in their own bed, hogged by their own huge dog? I didn’t think so. I wanted to republish this post today since I’ll be stuffing all this goodness into my own bag this evening. On Wednesday, I’m embarking on my first official travel guiding trip. Five first-time travelers (to Asia) will be in my hands – better wish us luck 😉
Katie here : Sarah’s in Thailand! What a lucky bum! But really, I’m so excited for her and can’t wait to hear about the adventures as she travels. During her first stint in Thailand, she kept a lengthy journal on her Tumblr account and it was amazing – all of our friends and family were anxious waiting for each new post. If you’re interested in that experience, those posts are still accessible – just scroll down to November 2011 through April 2012 in her archive. Today she’s checking in with a timely post on packing and staying calm when your luggage takes a different plane ;-).
Once upon a time, packing was a completely daunting task. I remember I would call my friend Kandy and we would pack together, which really meant wandering around our respective rooms talking about random things and placing an item or two in a bag every twenty minutes or so. Fast forward ten years and packing is a breeze. I have an easy foolproof method that I stick to and my packing gets completed in no time. Today I wanted to share a sample packing list for spending one month in Thailand and how I go about packing in general.
When packing, I start by looking up the weather of my destination. If it’s a large country and I’ll be traveling about, its good to check multiple cities in case there are major changes in the elevation, landscape and climate. I also take note of the number of days I’ll be traveling as well as the general activities I’ll be partaking in. For instance, if I’m going to Thailand for a week to visit beaches, I’ll obviously want to take beachwear and bathing suits and flip flops, but if I’m visiting to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary I’ll want to take clothes that I can easily move around in and get dirty. If I’m going to visit religious sites, I’ll be more conscious of dressing modestly. It’s also a good idea to research how the locals dress so as not to offend or disrespect anyone.
For this specific trip, I knew I would be in Thailand for a month and my main activities would be practicing yoga, relaxing on beaches, trekking in jungles and visiting the school where I used to teach English. With that in mind, I knew I would need a bunch of yoga outfits since they would instantly be drenched in sweat, a couple beachy outfits, some sturdy shoes for trekking and some modest, semi-professional clothes for my school visit. Taking climate into consideration, this time of year is the rainy season in Thailand so lightweight, quick dry clothing is essential. Also, the climate will stay in the mid-eighties to nineties in most areas, so breezy yet modest clothing is key. With all that in mind, I begin to craft a packing list, here’s what I came up with:
- Credit card
- Debit card
- $$$ it is always good to take cash – USD specifically. You’ll find when you travel some that most problems can be solves with USD.
- Business cards – you may meet new friends and you will want to give them someway to contact you eventually
- Wallet, Purse, Tote or day backpack
- Address and phone number of where you’ll be staying during the trip (this is important for the arrival card / arrival visa paperwork.
- Passport photos – handy for visa on arrival (depending on your country of origin) and for obtaining any permits or special passes you may need for activities. Passport photos are also cheap and easy to obtain in most countries if you’d rather wait.
- Headlamp + spare batteries
- Camelbak and or drink bottle
- Sneakers and or boots
- Flip flops and or nice Sandals and or Chacos
- Towel and or sarong and or turkish towel
- Toiletries – I brought: chapstick, hair ties, hair oil, face oil, hair brush, tweezers, nail clippers, q-tips, sunscreen, lotion, Aleve, bug spray, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, razor + blades
- Jewelry – nothing flashy or expensive
- Toasties aka fleece-lined leggings
- Smartwool pullover
- Scarf to cover shoulders and face
- Rain jacket
- Bathing suit
- Yoga pants
- Elephant pants
- Long skirt
- Undies + bras + socks
- Tank tops
- Loose t shirts
- Modest dresses long + short
- Dice for yahtzee
- Deck of cards
- Book / kindle
- Thai language guide
- Pen + notebook
- Camera + film
- Camera, batteries, charger, sd cards
- Phone / iPod + charger
- Plug adapter – easily available at your destination, but it’s nice to have immediately
- Keyboard? Ipad, laptop, etc (I often work from my iPhone with a bluetooth keyboard)
- Sleeping sack / sleeping bag – Sleeping sacks protect you from bedbugs and I’m always cold in airports and on buses so I take a lightweight 50 degree sleeping bag with me.
- Space blanket + matches + mini first aid – totally not necessary, I just imagine survival scenarios.
- Snacks – nuts and or power bars – absolutely essential and life saving.. never be hangry again!
Katie and I each wrote posts about our preferred carry-on contents. Take a look at those, but for international flights, also think about what makes you most comfortable and plan for the worst. Imagine you land in Bangkok at 1:30am only to realize your luggage didn’t make it to the final destination. Shit. Now you’re left to only what’s included in your carry-on bag for the next couple days. Did you bring an extra pair of undies? Toothbrush? A fresh outfit? This just happened to me! My bag was left in China, but luckily I kept calm (this has happened many times before) and didn’t worry about it. I had everything I needed with me and I knew my bag would eventually show up.
Always, always, pack for the first day or two of your vacation in your carryon. I learned this lesson early as my luggage was lost during my very first trip abroad. I had to spend four days in Jamaica wearing the same outfit, a white t-shirt and sweatpants capri leggings, I can picture them perfectly. I actually threw them away right when my luggage arrived, I was so sick of that outfit! Most of my trips are longer term and therefore lost luggage is really no big deal, but if you’re headed to Hawaii for a week for your honeymoon, you might be a little peeved that you didn’t get to wear the four sexy swimsuits you bought specifically for the trip so just think about the first day or two of your trip and shove those belongings into that carry on bag.
In my experience, lost luggage always resurfaces after a a day or four, but if it doesn’t and you have travelers insurance, you’ll be reimbursed for the contents of your bag and for the bag itself. I don’t do this, because I’m not the most organized person, but it’s a good idea to jot down a quick list of everything that is in your checked luggage that way you can easily put together an itemized list for your insurance company. I had to account for each item in my lost luggage at 1:30am in the baggage claim office at Bangkok. I was so tired and would have loved just pulling out a list of everything and its value. Thankfully my stuff showed up, but if it didn’t, my insurance company would have used that initial list to base their claim off of so make sure to take care when you’re filling out such paperwork.
A few tips for longer trips / backpacking adventures
- Laundry service is cheap and convenient in most countries.
- Take old clothes and donate them or throw them away along the way
- Take old undies and socks and throw them out as you wear them. It’s a great way to thin out your wardrobe and you wont have to worry about laundry as much. Added bonus? Your bag will become lighter.
- Visualize the items in your luggage that you absolutely must bring home, try to make that pile as small as possible just in case something happens – you may find amazing souvenirs to fill your bag or your ferry might be sinking and you can only float with one suitcase – kidding, but who knows?!
That’s all jet-setters! A quick and easy formula for packing your bags for that next big trip. I’ll be back in a few days with suggestions on how to adequately prepare to be immersed in a new culture, stay tuned!