If you’re currently planning any type of extended trip – be it three weeks, three months, or three years – you’ve probably already read through dozens of suggested packing lists. I know I did. Those lists are super helpful when it comes to identifying the true essentials, like the right bag, power adapters, and silk bed liners (verdict is still out on that one as far as I’m concerned). As I read through list after list, I began to become overwhelmed by all of the items I “needed” in order to go traveling through Asia. Part of the appeal is throwing caution to the wind and traveling light, right?
As I narrowed down my packing list (and felt how heavy my bag was getting), I decided to go as minimalist as I could and started eliminating almost all non-essential items. Hair tools? Pshh. Multiple pairs of shoes and sandals? Ix-nay. Extra swimsuits? I’m a MINIMALIST, hello!
The end result was that everything fit into my carry-on bag, and I was feeling preeeeetty slick, if I’m being honest. Fast forward 6 weeks and there were a couple of items I was longing for, and having an unexpectedly difficult time finding replacements for while on the road. Thus, I have put together a list for you of some of those non-essentials you may want to stuff into your bag before hopping on a plane.
I know, I know. This one should be obvious. I *did* bring a small travel size sunscreen with the expectation that I could surely find more once I arrived at a yet-to-be-determined sunny beach town. While this is true, sunscreen is EXTREMELY expensive in Asia since it is really only used by tourists. There are also a lot of fake sunscreens that are quite convincing if you’re not looking closely. I learned that the hard way after getting sunburned in Goa for three days in a row. Long story short – bring enough sunscreen, and make it at least SPF 30+ (you’ll still get your tan on, don’t worry chica).
MAKEUP & PERFUME
At home, I wear makeup nearly every day. As I was preparing for my trip, I was so excited to ditch my makeup routine and go au naturale, which for the vast majority of the time, I did. Tropical temperatures + humidity + foundation is not a cute combo. What I was glad to have in my arsenal, however, was a good mascara. I wish I had also brought a lipstick or tinted lip balm. Despite being a “grungy traveler” there were more opportunities to get a little dolled up than I expected, whether it was an invitation to an Indian wedding or a night out dancing in Weligama.
I have to give credit to my friend and seasoned traveler, Beth, for thinking to bring perfume. Throughout our time traveling together in India, we shared her jumbo bottle of perfume on evenings that we wanted to feel a little more human. I loaned her my mascara, she gave me a spritz of perfume, and we were ready to take on whatever the night had in store.
Another obvious one, I know. Here’s the thing. When I first set out on my trip, the only confirmed destination was northern India, in January, which only gets up to about 65F/18C during the hottest part of the day. That, coupled with the fact that India isn’t always the most bikini-friendly place, I thought I would be just fine with one suit. Plus, I thought a cheap backup suit would -again- be easy to find in the event I needed one. I was wrong. It is not.
Swimwear in Asia is either absolute crap quality, or insanely expensive for a slightly higher quality, and there is no in between. When you’re on the beach almost every day for weeks at a time, you’re going to want to switch things up. Bottom line – bring at LEAST two suits, maybe 3 depending on your destination(s).
BRALETTES & CROP TOPS
In my pursuit of being the ultra minimalist, I refined my packing list to only the items that I considered highly practical and multi-functioning. This meant that a lot of my crop tops and cute bralettes didn’t make the cut. While I still stand by less being more, I would bring along a couple more cute layering items and lacy bralettes on my next trip. If you’re traveling somewhere with a hot, tropical climate, these items are an easy way to keep your wardrobe feeling fresh and trendy without being hot or bulky. I also ended up wearing a lot of loose high waisted pants and skirts, which pair oh-so-nicely with a cute cropped shirt.
NAIL CARE ACCESSORIES
Please, if you take nothing else from this article, take a nail file and clippers with you. I distinctly remember reading an article stating “leave these behind as manicures/pedicures are cheap and easy to come by throughout Asia!” so I made the mistake of not bringing any of the above. Sure, salons are relatively affordable throughout Asia, but if you’re ever at a point where you’re deciding between a meal or a manicure, food usually wins. And sometimes, you just don’t spend any of your precious time sitting in a chair waiting for polish to dry.
Why nail polish you may ask? Because despite my best efforts, my nails were filthy at all times. No matter how many times I cleaned the dirt from my nails, it was there. Eventually you turn to nail polish to hide the reality of your filth, or you use your handy emery board to file the issue away.
HIGH QUALITY TRAVEL SANDALS
When I was researching what to bring for my trip. the thought of “travel sandals” sent a shudder down my spine and I was determined not to be one of those travelers. I had a pair of simple sandals from Nordstrom Rack the previous summer that were super comfortable and matched everything I packed, so I thought I was set. That lasted for 3 days before they started to fall apart from the constant walking and inconsistent dirt roads and paths. This set into motion of series of shoe mishaps that I could write an entire article about. All that to say, research your sandals and make sure they’ll hold up. Thankfully, travel sandals have come a long way with brands like Merrell, Naot, and Teva. In fact, Birkenstock is having its own little fashion moment right now.
WORKOUT RESISTANCE BANDS
If you’re going on a shorter holiday, you can skip this item (unless of course you plan to film some #Insta #Fitness #BeachWorkout #Content. In that case you go girl). If you’re going to be traveling for an extended period of time, on the other hand, these may come in handy. I’m not a serious athlete, but I do like to pick up and put down some heavy things every now and then. I wasn’t worried about leaving behind my gym membership when I set out for my trip, but after about 6 weeks of travel there were more than a few times I longed for some resistance bands to get a bit of a workout in. These are lightweight, affordable, effective, and you can use them anywhere. Win, win, win, wi- you get the idea. Well worth the .05 pounds and very minor space they’ll take up in your bag.