The biggest mistake I made when going to Thailand was not packing correctly.
I read that line on other blogs, put in hours of research, and still ended up saying this in the end. Looking back now I would have done it completely differently, and I’m passing on my advice to you!
When I was researching Thailand initially, the basic consensus I was finding was that it was really hot and that the Thai people are pretty conservative. Both of these statements I came to find were absolutely true.
Depending on what you plan to see and do will really impact what you should pack and how much. Fancier restaurants & bars in the city require more dressy outfits, Temples require more conservative looks and obviously the beaches require more swim based attire.
Figure out where you want to go!
Beyond just researching fashion, I began to think about what cities I wanted to visit and just how I was going to get there. Depending on how much you’re travelling throughout the country will certainly impact how big of a suitcase you want to cart around. For my trip, I chose to bring a solo backpack. In the span of 15 days, we ended up taking 11 flights, 1 bus trip and 2 ferries, among countless cab rides in addition. With all that travel I knew I only wanted to worry about 1 bag that I could easily carry throughout all these transportation methods, especially to save money with the airlines.
While the backpack above was the only bag I brought on the trip and doesn’t seem like a lot, I will say that I under-packed in many ways and actually overpacked in others. One backpack is completely fine for a two-week trip abroad, though personal preference will really decide if this bag works for you.
What I packed:
Below is the list of items that I packed:
- Shirts – 7 spaghetti strapped blouses and 2 white t-shirts
- Shorts – 2 jean pairs
- Pants – 1 pair of jeans and 1 black pair
- Shoes – 1 pair of sneakers, 2 pairs of sandals
- Socks – 10 pairs
- Bathing Suits – 4 suits (2 tops & 4 bottoms to rotate)
- Cover-Ups (Wraps) – 2 pairs
- Bras – 3 of them, all t-shirt style
- Underwear – 14 of them (I always bring enough underwear for each day, no exception)
- Makeup Bag
- Hair Straightener & Curling Iron
- Toiletries Bag
- Sunscreen (I probably brought about 10+ spray sunscreens and another 6 or so lotion kind)
- Portable Steamer
- Small Crossbody Bag (not packed in the backpack)
- Jackets – one light-weight and one rain jacket
- Laundry Bag
- Neck Pillow
What I came to realize:
After a few days into the trip, we changed our thoughts on most everything we brought and even contemplated shipping some stuff back. What you’ll realize when you get to Thailand is that you can buy pretty much everything you need directly there and it’s cheap! Their shopping malls are massive, the night markets are expansive and everything outside of skincare (and women’s undergarments) are easily findable. We bought a North Face x-large travel backpack in a night market in Chiang Mai and it cost us about $60 USD. A similar backpack found online was priced about $200+USD for the same style.
Not only can you buy most of your outfits over there, but you can also have them wash, dried and folded back to you within 24 hours for cheap! A quick walk around your hotel in almost any city and you’ll find laundry services. Laundry pricing is done by weight, so for 1 kilogram of laundry, it will cost you around 30-40 Baht, depending on the company. Whether you buy your clothes over there or not, consider having it cleaned halfway through your trip, so you can bring less overall.
What I would have changed:
- Bring more t-shirts than blouses! I made the mistake of only really bringing spaghetti-strapped blouses and just general t-shirts would have been better.
- Skip the steamer – Now I understand for most people, they probably wouldn’t have thought to bring one in the first place, but I hate wrinkles and my blouses immediately wrinkle when you fold them. I probably only used the steamer once on the trip though and it took up valuable space along the way.
- Consider going natural with your hair – I personally like to straighten or curl my hair depending on the activity, but the humidity was next-level crazy and I’m from Florida! Straightening didn’t last a full day and curls last about an hour, despite what product I put in to try and keep it. Doing it over again I would probably bring my straightener, as it’s small and lightweight, but skip the curling iron.
- Skip the pants! – Unless you’re really planning on going somewhere fancier, you can probably get away with shorts and a blouse for dinner & drinks. Pants were really required at the rooftop bars in Bangkok, so it was a complete waste of space for me. My fiancé has the Quiksilver Amphibian shorts and he wore those the entire trip and they worked perfectly!
Here’s a few additional trips to keep in mind:
- Bring a jacket regardless of the time of year – We went in monsoon season so it really made sense to have one but remember that airplanes are typically kept colder and our 1 bus ride from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai was like riding in an ice-box. Literally, if I didn’t have a jacket to hide under then I probably would have caught a cold.
- Camera Equipment – Typically we travel with a tripod, as we find it the easiest way to get pictures of the both of us. We skipped this time and we really didn’t find a need for it, though it depends on what camera you’re bringing over. We skipped our big cameras this time and just used our iPhones and were really happy with the quality of photos we came back with.
- Skin products – DON’T BUY THEM IN THAILAND UNLESS YOU WANT BLEACHING AGENTS IN IT!!! In Thailand, most of the locals avoid the sun and you’ll find bleaching agents in everything from sunscreen to hair products to basic skin products. I’m super cautious with what products I use, so I used my Norwex face cloth and brought small shampoo/conditioners to be safe.
- Laundry Bag – If you drop your laundry bag off with a cleaning service then just remind them to bring it back. Ours, unfortunately, didn’t make it back, but we only spent about $3 on it from TJ Maxx, so I wasn’t all that upset.
- Keep in mind that the Temples of Thailand are sacred, no matter how touristy they get. Men and women are expected to cover their shoulders and knees before entering the temple and sometimes the grounds around the temples. Most times you can get away with the knees for the guys, but just have clothes ready in case they say otherwise. At the Grand Palace in Bangkok, they are especially strict so we ended up having to buy a pair of pants for my fiancé to get in.
- Bring a neck pillow! – Sometimes we skip bringing one, especially when we travel throughout the United States, but I really recommend bringing one over there. If you are planning to visit a few cities along the way then you’ll be using public transportation. The pillow is great for quick naps or for long layovers stuck in the airport!