Even though we’re frequent travellers and have taken more overseas trips than we can count, when it comes to packing, it still takes us ages. It’s really quite an art, making sure you have just the right type and amount of clothing for your trip, especially when you’re not entirely sure what you’ll be doing each day. You have to take into account things like temperature (especially when you’re visiting both warm and cold places), activities that you’ll be doing, and of course what baggage allowance you have on your flights. Sometimes internal airlines have very restrictive luggage policies, particularly in places like Africa where you’ll often be flying on small Cessna planes between game reserves or islands. Yes, it is possible to spend a couple of weeks on safari with just 10 kilos to play with, but it does mean taking plenty of washing powder!
We often use a travel packing tick list that we print off for each trip, so we can check off everything we pack, otherwise we’d no doubt leave the most important things at home! We also have a list of “nice but not strictly necessary” things for those items that would be great to have if there is space, but we can do without if needed.
Most of our trips seem to be to hot destinations, so over the years we’ve become experts at deciding what essential items should be stuffed into our suitcases for sweaty sojourns. So, if you’re heading somewhere exotic, whether it’s to a tropical island or a remote game reserve, here’s what you need to pack:
Obviously you’re going to need clothes! But packing the right type of garments is crucial to a successful holiday. It’s going to be hot, so leave the woolly jumpers at home, and just take a light sweater and showerproof jacket for potentially cooler evenings or damp afternoons.
For the day, make sure you pack plenty of lightweight tops, shorts and skirts for exploring and sightseeing in the heat. I find that cropped leggings and kaftans or tunics are amazing for keeping cool! Pop in some dresses and shirts too for when you want to glam up for an evening out.
Sunhats and sunglasses are a must for when you’re out on excursions, and maybe a scarf or sarong for covering up in the intense sun, or on the beach. Of course, don’t forget to pack your swimming gear too!
We’re big fans of solid shampoo, as it takes up far less room than traditional bottles, and helps save the planet from plastic too! These are highly recommended if you’re going on a long trip, or have a restrictive weight limit on flights. Leave the shower gel at home as usually this will be provided (or just use your shampoo!), but don’t forget all the usual things like toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and a hairbrush. Anti-bacterial hand gel is a good idea these days too.
Probably the most important item to pack in your toiletry bag is sunscreen, and make sure it’s a high enough factor for the destination you’re visiting. An aloe vera after sun cream is advisable too, for those bits you miss! In the same vein, put in some mosquito spray if you’re heading to the tropics or forests where the little critters are likely to be active in the evenings. Take some anti-bite cream for when they manage to attack you anyway!
Most of us tend to use our phones to take pictures these days, but for those of you who prefer the quality of traditional cameras, don’t forget to pack them. Most importantly, remember to put in the spare batteries, memory cards, and charging cables so you don’t run out of juice after taking hundreds of snaps of elephants, or palm trees. Check what sockets are used in your destination country and buy a travel adapter if required. If you’re taking a laptop too, you may be able to get away using the USB socket for charging your cameras and phones, which will but down on all the cables!
We always pack one pair of sturdy hiking shoes, for when we go off walking or exploring rough terrain. And we often wear them on the plane to cut down on our baggage weight too. Then there’s a pair of flipflops for the pool and around the hotel, as well as something a bit more upscale for nights out. I often take ballet flats which roll up small when we’re travelling light. Sometimes, if we have the room, we’ll pack wet shoes as we love scrambling around seashores but aren’t keen on the barnacles. It’s a bit of a luxury, so this is only when we have the full whack when it comes to baggage allowance.
When we travel to hot countries, we often pack an umbrella as afternoon rain showers are frequent occurrences. It’s often too warm to wear a waterproof jacket (you just end up sweating), so having a small umbrella in our bag that can be whipped out when needed has often been a blessing.
We also take a collapsible water bottle and get refills from our hotel in the mornings. They don’t take up much room and stop you having to buy lots of single-use plastic (which is now banned in several countries anyway). If you’re not 100% confident about the water supply, then take some iodine tablets too for purification, or buy a filtration straw.
A Kindle or e-reader is always on the list, for those downtime hours on roasting afternoons when you just want to swing in your hammock with a cocktail and a good book. Don’t forget the charger!
Another great little bit of kit is a laundry bag. It doesn’t take up much room, hardly weighs a thing, and will keep all your dirties separate.
First aid kit
Most hotels will have a decent first aid kit on the premises, but what about when you’re out adventuring, or staying somewhere a little less reliable? We always carry a small first aid kit with us with a few essentials like plasters, bandages, antiseptic cream, paracetamol, and tweezers (for removing ticks and sea urchin spines!). It’s advisable to also carry a disposable injection needle if you’re travelling well off the beaten track in remote countries, in case you are hospitalised and need a shot. Of course remember to pack any medication you require, as well as travel specific things like anti-malaria tablets if needed.
So there you have it, a list of all the essentials you need to pack for a hot holiday abroad. Have we missed anything? Share your tips with us below.