No one ever asks me what I pack when I go travelling, which is rude but probably a good call. Once, I told my friend that she should pack, and then bring half of what she was planning to bring. I think I read this advice on a tea bag label or something. Turns out, she needed those extra layers since she was going to cold European countries in October/ November.
Whenever possible, I pack as though I am poorer than I am. I avoid paying for check-in luggage at all costs, so the following is for carry-on purposes.
Backpack: I have a stellar North Face (45 litres) backpack that has been beaten to a pulp by baggage handlers yet looks spanking new. For the purposes of inter-Europe flights, I have occasionally had problems with the size of it, since it is just over the standard carry-on size but 98% of the time, I have never had an issue. Because I got spooked that one time, I switched within Europe to a smaller, under-the-limit size backpack, which is Mckinley brand (26 litres). It is okay, but it hasn’t held up to the North Face standards.
Personal item: An over-the-shoulder purse. I’d like to say I bought it intentionally a little ratty so people wouldn’t want to steal it, but I’d be lying. It is simply just a little ratty. My personal item can always be squished into my carry-on backpack because airlines like EasyJet will make you shove all your items in one carry-on bag. This is very entertaining if you have ever witnessed people struggling with this.
But enough about the backpack, people say that what’s on the inside that counts, so here is what is inside my sexy bag.
Note: This is for a two-week trip to a sunny destination (25+ degrees Celsius). Some things aren’t applicable to everyone so don’t be stupid, just think.
- Travel Immunization Record booklet
- Cash*, credit card, debit card
- Medication/ mini first aid kit
- Band-Aids (plasters for those who speak English properly, unlike me)
- Pain meds: Advil, Tylenol, paracetamol, ibuprofen (pick your poison)
- Motion sickness meds
- Anti-diarrhoea pills (for those spicy countries)
- Lip balm (I am 76% sure this counts as a gel so I try to put it in my liquids clear zip-lock bag but I often forget and no one has said anything)
- Print-out (what is this 2010? – indeed it was when I wrote this) of the plane ticket, itinerary confirmations etc. (I know there is a thing called mobile phones that can have digital versions of these but I always feel safer printing it out, and I of course love killing trees and do so whenever possible)
- Electronics and related stuff (obviously make sure your electronics are fully charged for the plane)
- Charger for phone, and other electronics. I don’t advise bringing many fancy gadgets. Check out the plugs/ current converter that you may need for your destination. You can buy really cheap multiple USB socket charger things. Since most electronics can be charged by USB, it works brilliantly
- Headphone earplug socket two-prong adapter thingy. Some airlines (like Aeroflot) are a bit old school so if you want to use your own fancy Dre beat me headphones then you need this adapter thing. If not, you’re stuck using the cheap headphones they provide. You can buy it from Alibaba or do what I did and get your kind, aeroplane neighbour, who brought two, to gift you one of his
- External power bank if you have long journeys and know you will be using your electronics.
- Mini-tripod (I bought this Gorilla one that fits in my pocket)
- Toiletries please have the liquids and gels in an easy-access place when going through security at the airport or I will be that jackass behind you who sighs really loudly at how long you are taking to get your shit together.
- Disposable shaver I get pretty grimy on my travels, but some may want to look respectable. You can take the disposable blades on the plane (ie. Venus razor)
- Insect repellent with deet (I phoned the airport asking if I could bring this on board despite it having a massive FLAMMABLE symbol on it and the lady was chill and said I could)
- Shampoo** (I usually have a stockpile of mini-bottles from hotels that my parents stay at. Finders keepers)
- Soap (I use a face wash normally but when I travel, I will switch to the throw-away face wipes since they don’t count as a liquid. The face wipes also can double as disinfectant wipes in a pinch)
- Lotion/ hand cream
- Pack of tissues (for all those late nights you spend crying over what you got yourself into)
- Face mask for catching some zzz’s
- 2 bathing suits
- 2 sets of sleeping wear- remember that a shirt you wear during the day can double as pyjamas
- Underwear- I usually pack enough for each day but when you go on longer trips, you can always go to a laundry mat or wash them in the sink depending on how grubby you want to be
- 1 bra remember bikinis are basically bra and underwear combos
- 5 pairs of socks, if you go hiking
- 1 pair of sandals I have Birkenstocks but they aren’t meant for water, so for hostel showering it is nice to have those cheap plastic ones
- 1 pair of running shoes/sneakers/ good walking shoes
- 3 bottoms ie skirt or shorts and long-ish stretchy pants for the plane and temples
- 5 tops bring quick drying, dark-coloured shirts, some of which can cover your shoulders/ your jugs for if you go into a religious building. As I type this I see I brought a white shirt.
- 2 rompers/ dresses (remember that rompers make it very difficult for you to go pee and usually when travelling you are given some sketchy places to do your business. Ie. hole in the ground. You wouldn’t want a cute belt or something getting in the way. Dresses with capped sleeves are best since they can be beach wear and also temple-friendly
- Light cardigan/ jacket/ sweater in case it gets cold at night/ on the plane
- Turkish towel- this a beautiful multi-purpose towel, it doubles as a scarf, blanket, beach towel etc. etc. I recommend having both a Turkish towel and a travel towel for the shower since if you use the Turkish towel on a sandy beach it can get dirty and then you need to dry yourself with a dirty towel. Then there is really no point in showering at all
- Lock for hostel lockers
- Pen (perfect for filling out forms on the plane etc.)
- Small notepad
- Book- if you bring an actual book, you can leave it in a hostel once you are done reading it to save space in your backpack
- Travel towel- there are loads of quick dry options, I have one by MSR
- Water bottle- although in some countries you can’t drink the tap water, it is still nice to have for the plane in your home country
*this is always tricky to know how much to bring. I have read and talked to many people and they all suggest converting it once you are IN THE COUNTRY. So, I bring euros to Thailand, to get them exchanged into Baht. Now, it is often the case in Asia that the banks there will charge you a fee to take money out of the ATM. I normally see about a 5€ charge per transaction. So regardless if you take out 20 or 200 from the ATM, you will have to pay the same fee. In Asia, especially, most places are likely to accept cash over anything else. Now, if you are ballsy enough, you will carry around wads of cash like a gangster, then go for it. Be aware hostels aren’t the safest place for your valuables. Hotels are a different matter, most should have a safe of some sort.
** this is not only applicable to shampoo, but in general, as long as it is 100ml or less, it is a winner for your carry-on. There is no need to buy one of those cute tiny toothpastes that are 50 ml when you can actually just buy a regular size one under 100ml for cheaper. Don’t be fooled by the cute mini-ness in the travel-size toiletries section.