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What To Pack When Travelling Internationally

Monday, 07 January 2008

20 Kgs of luggage allowance and months away from home - what do you pack when travelling?

Often I have seen friends packing way too much stuff in their bags when they are only travelling for 2 weeks . They bring a full backpack, a travel pack and some carry on luggage AND their laptop.... everything but the kitchen sink - just in case they "need" it.

That is too much to pack when travelling, especially when travelling to Thailand or anywhere in SE Asia. Carrying around a whole pile of crap that you do not need or use is a sure way to annoy the heck out of you when travelling, especially if you plan on getting around and seeing the country you travel to.

Here's what to pack when travelling international, or more specifically what I pack... 


Well obviously the first thing you need to think about when you are considering what to pack when travelling, is what you will be doing when you get to your international destination? The climate of where you are travelling to? And lastly - though not nearly as important - how long you will be away.

As I travel often I can now pack for a month long International trip in about 30 minutes and take 13kg of luggage (includes study backpack) + laptop. That included formal wear clothing as well as gym and casual wear.

A 4 day trip to Cambodia sees me with a small day pack in stark contrast to the backpackers lugging around a huge backpack, plastic bags tied off either side, a day pack strapped to their front and often carrying some other stuff - how could you possibly enjoy travelling with all that to look after and carry about?

As an experienced traveller I know. If you load yourself down the only place you are going to want to go is to your hotel, you are not going to be interested in carrying that stuff around looking for a better deal, or a better location, or even checking out a few of the local hotels as they are often much better value than the International chains. Even if you are staying in backpackers hostels you want ot check out a few as quality can vary greatly in the same price range. 

Here's How To Pack When Travelling

Travel light. Leave everything behind that you can, if you suddenly find that you left something that you absolutely must have you can beg, borrow or buy it in nearly any country in the world these days.

Check the local customs on the internet at the locations you wish to visit, singlet tops are considered low class in SE Asia for example and are considered rude for a lady to wear, in fact you won't be allowed into Temples or religious sites dressed like that.

Bikinis are also considered rude and/or crass as are traditional Australian male swim wear (Speedo's). 


Packing To Travel For A Month Or More

  • 4 pair of underwear (7 if very hot climate)
  • 4 pairs of socks (7 if very hot climate)
  • 4 casual shirts for day wear
  • 2or 3 collared long sleeve business style shirts (I often need to dress well)
  • 1 pair of short gym pants (2 if very hot climate)
  • 1 pair 3/4 cargo pants 
  • Gym Singlet (3 if very hot climate)
  • Board shorts - for sleeping in, around the home wearing and swimming in
  • 1 very good dress shirt (wear on the plane)
  • 1 pair good pants (stylish jeans for me) (wear on plane)
  • 1 pair good shoes (wear on plane)
  • 1 pair runners 0r Vibram Five Finger shoes for casual and gym wear
  • 1 pair flip flops if in warm climate
  • Business or nice leather jacket if going to cool climate (wear on plane)
  • Laptop
  • Nokia smart phone with ebooks, built camera and MP3 player
  • Book or two to read (though I often load ebooks onto my phone and read them on the phone)
  • Toiletries (no aerosols on airplanes)

On my trip I will wear the stylish jeans the good shoes and business shirt on the airplane, you will find customs and immigration much easier on you if you look like a respectable citizen, the business shirt gives the impression you are there for work and that you have a respectable job. Also a clean white high quality business shirt will also double as smart casual wear. For me, as a minor celebrity, I can turn up to high class events in stylish jeans and a GOOD shirt and get away with it as it is expected in my profession. If your work will not allow you to do this then changethe stylish jeans to nice business slacks.

I like to take my laptop as I do a lot of writing and I prefer to working in my hotel room for free rather than sitting in an Internet cafe for hours a day, though most people who carry a laptop around with them do little more than check email and listen to music this you can do on any of the latest Nokia Smartphones. An internet cafe or a decent mobile phone would be easier for them. 

4 changes of shirts, socks and underwear are enough, these can be hand washed in a basin easily. I take 7 sets if in a very hot climate like Cambodia as you will need to change clothes due to the fact that you will sweat and have to change clothes more often.

The above should come in at about 10kg with your bag, this will leave you enough room to bring things home with you, like my last trip to Australia when I brought 10kg of protein powder back with me. 


Packing To Travel For A Week Or Less 

On a recent 3 day trip I took my small day pack and a friend turned up with a much larger bag complaining about how heavy it was when we spent 3 hours looking for a vacant room in a hotel. For 3 days you need next to nothing;

  • Good jeans (wear them on airplane)
  • Smart casual shoes or hiking boots (depending on location - wear them on the airplane)
  • Shorts
  • Flip flops (if hot country)
  • 3 smart casual shirts
  • 1 good dress shirt for  dinner party, meetings, etc (wear on the airplane)
  • 3 pair underwear (5 in hot weather)
  • 3 pair socks (5 in hot weather)
  • Business Jacket  (if going to cold climate - wear on trip)
  • Board shorts (sleeping, swimming, etc)
  • 3 days supply of protein powder packed into protein powder shaker (in case I cannot find food late at night)
  • Toiletries (razor, toothbrush, deodorant, 1/2 roll of toilet paper - you never know)
  • Nokia smart phone with camera, MP3, and headphones and ebooks/games loaded

This will all fit into a small pack that can easily be carry on luggage at an airport if you are flying. This is great as you can check in late and walk straight off the plane and be first to customs and through to the taxis. No waiting at all.

Packing Bags To Travel To South East Asia 

  • The clothes you are wearing
  • Change of good clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Nokia smart phone with camera, MP3, ebooks and games loaded

Buy a new suitcase/backpack in these countries and buy new clothes as needed/wanted. Bring very little and buy a new wardrobe during your holiday.

Be careful with quality and you can get some good bargains with quality T-shirts costing $3 to $5 dollars each, jeans costing $10 to $20, suits tailor made for $100, runners and casual shoes $20 to $30 for good quality.

Shopping smartly in these destinations can save you enough money to pay for the trip if you are in need of a new wardrobe. 

Even in other destinations it is never too expensive to get another one of whatever you really need, as if it is that important you will use the extra when you get home anyway. (This is how I ended up with 3 leather jackets at one stage)


Traveling Internationally With Medications 

Also I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that you MUST check the legal status of any medications you wish to  take with you, what is over the counter sold in corner shops in your part of the world may well be a gaolable offence in another - read up before you go and take prescriptions and letters from your doctor for everything that you do need.


There have been reported cases of harsh sentences imposed on people 'trafficing' drugs like a handful of headache tablets containing codeine (legal in many countries), another fellow coming from Amsterdam had the butt of a marijuana cigarette trapped in the tread of his shoe and got jail time and another fellow was sentenced with trafficing Opium because some poppy seads had fallen off his bread roll into his pocket at Heathrow. Check online if you are entering a Zero Tolerence country and make sure you are safe.

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