What are some of my top things I can’t travel without in Southeast Asia?
Packing is something I’ve always looked forward to as a child. I’d plan my outfits, make several piles of clothes and put little post-it notes on top for which outfit I’ll wear each day. Packing for 6 months was a lot more challenging though – so after coming back from our 6 month travels, what were my absolute essentials? What I shouldn’t have brought? Below you’ll find a no bullsh*t guide to my travel musts when spending a long time in South East Asia.
Why a guide to things I can’t travel without in Southeast Asia?
In 5 months we visited Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, South Korea, Laos and Thailand. All the countries had a very important thing in common – climate. This is an important factor for this packing guide, as it determined which kinds of clothes we will be bringing with us. But the majority of the places also lacked some important items in hotel rooms, which we had to buy while traveling. And since they consistently didn’t provide us with those, I know or sure I’ll be bringing them along on every SE Asia trip in the future.
One of the most important things I can’t travel without and one of my worst nightmares (I like to exaggerate a bit sry), is coming to a hotel room and seeing those sad three hangers hanging in the closet. Normally this works just fine if we go somewhere for the weekend, but on our travel through Asia we booked long stays, even up to 1 month! In some places we’d get two shelves to share for whole month. What am I supposed to do with a shelf? ONE SHELF! Haha! So I saw straight away that we need to go and buy some hangers. I like my stuff organized and can’t stand having clothes lying around or unpacked for a month. Best decision ever! We ended up using them in every single place we traveled to!
2. Handheld Steamer
This little baby saved our looks countless times. We always bring this with us, but it proved even more needed in SE Asia as we only got an ironing board in two places! A lot of them didn’t even provide it if you asked. We bought it about 2 years ago and it’s worth making extra space in the suitcase if you don’t want to look like a crinkled paper bag.
3. Mosquito Spray
If you’re anything like me, you’ll remember to bring this bottle with you more often than your lipstick. Mosquitoes had me for breakfast, lunch and dinner and some places had such an extreme amount of these annoying little insects, I would probably be bleeding from scratching if I forgot to bring the spray with me! In 6 months we went through 5 bottles of 60mL sprays. We loved this Swedish brand on the image. It worked 100%. Life saver!
I’ve always been a sucker for pretty uncomfortable shoes. But after hearing so many people saying Birkenstocks are the most comfortable shoes they ever purchased (and I am NEVER getting on that Crocs train), I decided to invest in a pair myself. I wore them 80% of the time and to my surprise, and my boyfriends, my feet never hurt. For next time I know not to even bother with other sandals, it’s not worth the suffering! I have the Arizona Slim Oiled Leather Habana Brown.
5. Straw hat
I can’t travel without my big straw hats and on this trip I packed 3. Totally unnecessary, since I ended up only wearing one. I later shipped two home (with some clothes we didn’t need) and a few weeks ago bought a new one. Now this new one is in constant use! A good straw hat will not only protect your face and shoulders from the scorching Asian sun, but will also look super cute on your travel photos. A win-win in my book! My previous favorite was from H&M and the current favorite is from Zara. Love the wide black line!
6. Hand towel
Another thing I can’t travel without in Southeast Asia is something that really bothered both of us. Barely any place (except 5 star hotels) gave us a hand towel, so every time we washed our hands we had to use the big towels which were always hanging away from the sink. A small thing, yet so handy to have! We bought a small cheap one in Bintang Supermarket in Bali and had it with us the entire time.
7. Light shaping bikers
My secret is out. I wear these under every.single.dress while traveling in hot places. I don’t belong to the thigh-gap club and absolutely hate it when my thighs rub against each other – it can hurt so much in a very humid environment! So my last trip without these was in Vietnam and Cambodia, where I looked through every market for something similar and haven’t found it. Last year I saw H&M does a 2-pack of these light shaping bikers and bought two of them. The shaping part didn’t matter so much for me, but I am so happy my thighs don’t hurt at the end of the day and that the lines don’t show at all. A must-buy for any tropical trip!
8. Sun cream and after sun
So this one is pretty obvious. But why I am writing it here is that you don’t go ahead and stock up as much as we did. We came prepared, that’s for sure – 6 sun creams and a big after-sun. We ended up using 2 full sun-cream and only a third of the after-sun in 6 months. Of course this will depend on each person, but for a reference; I am quite white and usually get red when tanning and then white again. I know, the worst. This time around I used the sun cream religiously (factor 30 in the first month) and turned brown after about 3 weeks and then only needed the factor 20 for the rest of the trip. I needed the after-sun only twice and I applied generously. So don’t waste those suitcase kg’s on these creams. They sell them everywhere and if you happen to run out, just buy them there. The price will be probably higher, but it’s usually not so ridiculously much. We bought ACO 30 factor and Nivea 20 factor. The after-sun was also from ACO.
9. Hair Oil
If your hair gets frizzy, then you’ll find this top thing I can’t travel without very helpful. My hair is naturally wavy and even though I haven’t colored it for 4 years, I still have some leftover blonde (yep, I used to be blonde) on my tips, which get very dry and frizzy in humid weather. I didn’t use a hair drier for the entire time, but my hair straightener is a tough one to avoid. I’ve been straightening my hair since I was 15 years old and don’t plan on stopping until I completely accept my natural wave. To give it some nourishment I used the Toni & Guy Glamour Serum Drops on almost a daily basis and when it ran out I bough a new product in South Korea – MISSHA Damaged hair Rich Oil and absolutely LOVE IT!!! Gives such a nice shine and smell to my hair and isn’t too oily.
10. Pills for Curing Food Poisoning
The first time I ever got food poisoning was in Vietnam and I was in a horrible condition. I managed to get poisoned the night before we flew back home so I really didn’t want to puke the whole flight home. My boyfriend went to a doctor and brought back a set of three pills to make me better. They worked like magic and by the time we boarded the plane I was almost all better! I am sure your doctor will tell you which you need to bring, but I know one of them was charcoal. These have become one of the top things I can’t travel without and never traveling to Asia without these again! I needed them twice and they helped me each time. (PS: pills on the image are purely symbolical)