We have been travelling full time in Asia for over two years, and have perfected the ultimate packing list. Whilst we may not have perfected how to travel light, we certainly know which items we cannot do without.
We have been using this essential international travel packing list for many years, and it’s worked for us so far!
We have stayed in All Inclusive resorts, been on luxury tours, gone camping and now we are backpacking, plus we have stayed in every type of B&B and hotel in between. In other words, we know what we are talking about. Regardless of your age, how you are travelling and where you are going, we know the essential items to pack for worldwide travel.
We cover everyday essentials such as toiletries and electronics, how to travel plastic free, which medication you should take, anti-theft protection, plus even what bag to take.
This is Feet Do Travel’s ultimate packing list; all tried and tested! What we carry and why.
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We have put together this international travel packing list to cater to everyone. Backpacking around the world, Europe, or Asia? Cruising the Caribbean? On a working visa in Australia? Taking a mini vacation or holiday? All of these essential items can and should be on your travel packing list Travelling as a couple means we spread the items between us, eg I will carry the first aid kit but Sy will have more electronics.
Passport - Make sure it is up to date with at least 6 months remaining. For long-term travel, check you have enough pages for entry/exit stamps and visas, and a long expiry date. In the UK we have the option to get a 48 page "jumbo passport" instead of the regular 32 page.
Copy of your passport - This is SO important! Always have at least two photocopies of your passport stashed away from your passport, and scan a copy to be kept in the cloud and/or email it to yourself. If something happens to your passport, having easily accessible copies will save you some of the headache.
International Driving Licence - If you intend to drive overseas, whether you hire a car or a scooter, it's best to arrange a permit to be on the safe side. In Thailand you only need to show a photographic licence, but in Indonesia you need an International Driving Licence.
Visa - Some countries you need to apply for a visa in advance (China for example). If you know which country or countries you plan to visit, check with your Embassy for their requirements.
Passport Size photos - For longer trips, it's always best to take a few extra passport photos so you can apply for visas when you're away. Not all countries have an easy option for passport photos, so this will save you the headache.
Travel Tickets - Whether this is your flight ticket, train ticket, boat or coach ticket, make sure you have it! Double check whether or not you need a printed copy, or of an online ticket can be accepted.
NB: For some countries you need to show an onward flight before you are allowed to enter, for example Indonesia or the Philippines. If you cannot produce a flight ticket out of the country (sometimes boat tickets are not accepted), you will not be allowed to board the flight. Yes this has happened to me!
We have both and we have an account each as a back up in case we lose one card, or it's swallowed up by a machine. NB: Countries like Thailand and Philippines have a country-wide charge enforced by the government so there is no getting around paying ATM withdrawal fees here. With a Monzo or Starling Card, at least you don't have a transaction fee on top.
Vaccinations & Medication - Check with your GP if you need any vaccinations for the country you are intending to visit. As a bare minimum you should ensure your Tetanus, Typhoid, Polio are updated but you may also need Hep A, Hep B. Don't forget to ask about whether you need malaria tablets!
Insurance Documents - You should always get travel insurance no matter where you go, and have a copy of those documents available. Carry a photo copy and scan them into the cloud/email to yourself.
You could have flight delays/cancellations, lost luggage, stolen luggage, stolen laptop/camera/phone, lose your wedding ring (yes this happened to Sy when white water rafting!), fall off a scooter - the list is endless. We use and recommend World Nomads as they cover us for all of the above plus scuba diving! They also cover multiple countries if you are planning a bigger trip.
Every Day Essentials
Being plastic free is important to us and has been for many years. My mantra is the 4R's
Refuse (the most important!), Reduce, Reuse, Recyle.
Refillable Water Bottle with Built-in Filter
This is the ultimate refill water bottle. LifeStraw comes with a built in filter, which means you don’t have to find a refill station whenever you need water! Top up from a tap and the filter removes bacteria, parasites, viruses, microplastics and also reduces chlorine
If the bottle with built in filter is too excessive, just buy a regular aluminium refillable bottle – but don’t forget the sterilisation tablets.
You can buy tablets specifically for water bottles, but we have found baby bottle sterilisation tablets and denture cleaning tablets do the job for less money. We carry a mixture of both and just pop half a tablet into our bottle with warm water, leave it for 5 minutes then rinse. Simples.
If you need glasses to see, it’s extremely important to take a spare pair when you travel. There are all sorts of unfortunate situations which can arise, and you don’t want to find yourself stuck without vision if you break your glasses or put them down and lose them. You should also take spare prescription sunglasses like Oakley sunglasses.
Admittedly you can simply #RefuseTheStraw, but when you’re drinking a fresh coconut or sipping on a sundowner, you just want a straw. We carry bamboo straws as we bought them on Gili Air to support their #PlasticFreeParadise campaign. We also have aluminium, but glass or paper are other options.
The amount of single use plastic cutlery thrown away is criminal. You will want reusable cutlery for the food court in Singapore, street food in Thailand or Penang – basically everywhere in Asia. We bought ours in 2013 for our visit to China and the only option then was plastic. BUT the aim is to reduce #SingleUsePlastic and they are still going strong all these years later. Today you can also buy titanium or bamboo.
You may take carrier bags to the supermarket in your own country, but sometimes good intentions go out the window when you travel. But it’s when you are in another country that carrying a foldable bag is even more important. You will undoubtedly need this when browsing souvenir stalls, when buying goods from 7/11 – the list is seriously endless. Carry at least two in your day bag and if you have a handbag, pop one in there as well (I do!).
If you plan to take any day trips on a boat, travel around by scooter, hike waterfalls or just hit the beach, a Dry Bag is essential for keeping your goods dry. What we love about the Ultra Dry Adventure Dry Bag is the straps to carry it like a backpack. You can buy a 10L or 20L, and either black, blue, pink or yellow to match your water bottle (or is that just me?)
As scuba divers and ocean conservationists, we are passionate about protecting our coral reefs. Did you know that a coral reef is made up of thousands of tiny living animals?
Most suncreams also contain palm oil which displeases me! It took a lot of research, but I managed to find Omucci which is Reef Safe and Palm Oil FREE, and Green People which is Reef Safe and uses sustainable Palm Oil from countries other than Indonesia & Malaysia (I checked their website and emailed to double-check before purchasing).
After spending time in the sun, whether it be laying on a beach, scootering around, hiking, travelling by boat, or even just sightseeing, you need to look after your skin. You don’t have to use an after sun (which generally contain palm oil), a moisturiser containing Aloe Vera works perfectly well for me. This natural brand doesn’t test on animals, doesn’t contain palm oil and is suitable for vegans. If you don't believe me - check out the reviews!
Admittedly most accommodation will provide towels (this includes hostels), but it's always good to have your own quick-dry towel for hitting the beach, to take Scuba Diving, going on boat trips or hikes to waterfalls.
Toothbrushes are a huge contributor to landfill as they are made from plastic, whereas Bamboo is environmentally sustainable. You will be doing the environment a favour it you make this switch!
I switched from using supermarket toothpaste which comes in a plastic tube, is tested on animals, contains palm oil, and contains ingredients that I would rather not use! A natural toothpaste means I have guilt free teeth cleaning every morning!
Using a natural toothpaste such as Georganics opened my mind to the possibility of making my own - which I have now done! I plan to share this recipe with you later.
I use toothpowder which I keep in one large container, and when I go off on little trips I take a smaller vial to keep my luggage light - that's the beauty of powder, you can easily transfer into a smaller pot. You can also buy mouthwash tablets instead using liquid mouthwash.
Whoever invented this deserves a medal. Used as a shampoo and a body wash bar, this little gem reduces plastic on both counts, saves space AND if you get the right one, doesn’t contain palm oil and isn’t tested on animals. Genius. This shampoo bar by Funky Soap comes with a natural cotton bag to carry it around, but it's also good as a natural loofah.
NB: To make your shampoo bar last longer, wherever possible dry and store in a well-drained soap dish. I carry a small bamboo rack with me which is lightweight and flat.
If you have long locks, you need to condition them. Switch to a conditioner bar and you will help #BeatPlasticPollution (ps, Funky Soap doesn't contain Palm Oil, it's not tested on animals AND it's suitable for vegans!)
Off-the-shelf deodorants and antiperspirants not only contain palm oil, but are filled with toxins and ingredients I would rather not have on my body. So I switched to natural deodorants and am trialling a home-made recipe bar! Some natural deodorants are sold in plastic containers, but I always opt for non-plastic.
Schmidt's Natural Deodorant comes in a jar with a small spatula that you apply to your pits, and is suitable for men and women. There are many options on the market, so if this one doesn't work, please don't give up! Try another, and another - the planet will thank you.
Ditch your single-use plastic razors, not only will you save money in the long run, but you ar helping the planet! I bought my electric shaver two years ago and it's still going strong. Sy uses a double edge aluminium razor known as a "safety razor". He replaces the blades when needed which are easily bought from any supermarket (even when you are travelling).
NB Kanzy is suitable for both men and women.
We use a combination of packing cubes and compression bags to keep our clothes organised. Compression bags squeeze out the excess air giving us more room in our luggage, whereas packing cubes compartmentalise all other things such as underwear, bathers, electric cables etc in a neat, easy-to-grab way.
There are many style of wash bags, but we prefer a hanging wash bag which hangs up in the shower. It’s just a matter of personal taste really, the good thing is there are plenty of options to choose from, different sizes, in a range of colours for both men and women.
Use it to wash a few items, or as a washing up bowl if you stay somewhere longer (it's what we did on Gili Air). Some people love Scrubba but they are the most expensive on the market.
These luggage scales have multiple uses. We weigh our clothes before putting into the laundry (when we don't have the time/energy to do it ourselves), but also for weighing hand luggage before a flight. If you are flying with a strict airline such as Air Asia, it's important to ensure your hand luggage isn't too heavy to avoid paying excessive fees.
The luggage you take with you is very important. Buy cheap luggage and the wheels could fall off when you reach your destination (that’s happened to us) or the bag could be ripped by baggage handlers (yes, this has happened as well).
Our suitcases are both soft-shell Samsonite and we highly recommend them. I have a 4 wheel Samsonite Expandable Spinner, Sy has a 2 wheel Blue Wheeled Duffle Bag which is like a sports bag.
There are many different makes to choose from, to help you out, here's a review of the best luggage brands for 2020.
If you are backpacking, you will have to carry that bad boy instead of wheeling it, so it’s needs to be comfortable as well as practical.
In the past I have had top loading backpacks, but during my All-Inclusive and Cruise phase, quickly became used to having a suitcase. When choosing a backpack, we both decided to get a full front opening style.
We would definitely recommend Osprey Farpoint in Volcanic Grey (as if that matters) which has a detachable Daybag. Farpoint is also selected as Osprey’s one of the best travel backpacks by OutdoorCrunch.
Osprey have a wide range of sizes for both men and women, they also come with a lifetime guarantee so if it breaks, they will fix it or give you a replacement.
If you don’t have a Backpack with attachable Day Bag, or you want an additional Day Bag, there is a huge range to choose from. In addition to our detachable day bags (which we keep attached to our backpack filled with our first aid kit), we have another day back that is carried on our chests (I kid you not!). Sy has a Lowe Alpine Vector 30, I have a North Face Surge II.
Lightweight quick-dry walking trousers with zip-off legs are a must. Comfortable for wearing on long travel journeys, they cover you up in case you need to visit an embassy to apply/renew your visa. Ensuring they are quick-dry helps in case they get wet when you are riding on a scooter, taking a boat journey, or have swam in a natural waterfall and your bathers are still damp!
Travelling in tropical climates will mean rain showers when you least expect it (or torrential downpours). We have been caught out plenty of times in Bali, Indonesia, Borneo and the Philippines, and a lightweight rain jacket will save some of the misery. Nothing worse than riding along on a scooter with rain dripping in your eyes. Even if you have a poncho, it's better than nothing!
You probably already have a sarong and realise how useful they are, but if you don't - then buy one! I use mine as back-up towel, beach towel, a beach wrap, dressing gown, to protect my modesty when changing, cover my shoulders to enter temples ... the list goes on.
A sarong isn't only for women either!. Men need to cover their knees in temples so it's a good idea to carry one on a day trip (we found this out in Nusa Penida), they can also use it on the beach as a towel etc. Choose any brightly coloured design/pattern that takes your fancy.
Sy swears by his Anker power bank, it’s invaluable on long journeys. He plays games on his phone to while away the hours on bus, plane, train or boat trips, and plugs the device straight into the power bank (at least it keeps him quiet!).
As we carry multiple devices, the Anker power bank gives us plenty of juice when charging facilities are unavailable. Using Google Maps and social media drains the phone battery pretty quickly, and we often need to charge our cameras on the fly! We have to credit our friend Mark for introducing us to the Anker power bank.
Imagine if your laptop didn’t work or you lost your camera, if you don’t back up all your photos and valuable documents it would all be lost. That’s why an external hardrive is so important.
We carry two 2TB Toshiba hardrives with us and sync them both (Sy used to work as a software engineer for a back-up recovery company so knows the importance of backing up).
We have found Toshiba to be reliable and they come in a variety of sizes. NEVER keep photos just on your laptop or camera, back them up with an external hard drive, we cannot stress this enough.
Perfect for transferring date, or for storing your Game of Thrones box set. SanDisk have proven to be reliable and trustworthy, and we always carry a few of varying sizes. I keep one in my hand bag - you will be surprised how often you meet people and wish to exchange information.
No point in having all these fancy gadgets if you can’t charge them. This one can literally be used all around the world. Malaysia is different to the Philippines is different to Indonesia, so this "one size fits all" adaptor is perfect, just change the head depending on which country you are in.
Maybe this is just a man-thing, but Sy loves his Gerber multi-tool and always takes it everywhere with him. 10 tools including pliers, wire cutters, fine edge blade, spring-loaded scissors, flathead screwdriver and crosshead drive.
A torch/flashlight and candles should form part of your emergency disaster pack. Maglite's are amazing! Lightweight, durable, and they use AA batteries. Sold in a variety of colours and boxes.
Asus is the one we both use. Sy has a better spec than me for photo and video editing and this is the one we use to watch movies and box sets. My Asus is lighter but perfectly fine for my work as a digital nomad. I am on my laptop sometimes all day for weeks at a time and have been for nearly three years. When we need to replace our laptops, we will 100% choose another Asus.
For all our underwater images we use an Olympus TG5 with Olympus PT-058 Underwater Housing. A popular choice amongst divers - easy to use, and you can buy additional parts such as strobes etc as you progress.
The camera itself is waterproof so you can take it snorkelling, and on land it also takes superb photographs. A fantastic all-round point-and-shoot camera we could not be without.
Don't forget the memory card! All our underwater photos are shot in RAW so we have two 32GB San Disk Extreme Pro, all other photographs are JPEG so we also have two 16GB San Disk Extreme Pro. (A 16GB fits 1,000 RAW images, and around 2,300 JPEG).
We both carry our important items in a cross-body bag. Our passports, wallets, phone, keys, insurance papers etc all go in here, sometimes if we feel uncertain about a place, we wear this under out top, or hold onto it with one hand. Paranoid much? Maybe, but many big Cities around the world have issues with petty-theft, Barcelona is reported to be the pick-pocket capital of the world!
If you don’t already have an RFID wallet for your travels, then invest in one! In this day and age of contactless payments, you better protect your cards! Lifeventure comes with 6 RFID protected card slots and 4 stash pockets.
By this point, you really must think we are paranoid, but hear me out. As a precaution, it’s best not to keep all your money in one place. Spreading it around makes sense, and the great thing about these two products is no one will know money is stored in them. The secret bra pouch is for women and the money belt is for men – just in case you were wondering, but feel free to mix it up if you’re a couple!
We are serious about the protection of our goods, you have to be in this day and age, and we swear by pacsafe. Although they may not be the cheapest products on the market, the piece of mind they give is priceless.
We have used our Pacsafe in hostels that didn’t have a safe, hotels in dodgy areas, and Cities with a high crime rate (I’m looking at you Phnom Penh!). Prevention is better than cure right?
How it works is simple, you pop your backpack or daybag into this tamper-proof aluminium "cage", tighten it up, then loop it around something that cannot be moved like a bed frame or bars on a window. Its then secured with the enclosed padlock.
Yep, if you are travelling you need travel insurance. Checked in bags go missing, you may fall off your scooter, your camera is stolen (aaaaahhhhh heaven forbid!). If you are a scuba diver it’s essential you cover yourself in case of DCS, the cost of being taken to a chamber would be far more than your insurance policy.
First Aid Kit - last by definitely not least
Why no DEET? It melts plastic that's why (it's melted the nail varnish on my toes!), so imagine what it does to your skin! Protect is organic and very effective!
Trust me when I tell you this stings a lot less than alcohol when you need to clean a wound! Betadine Antiseptic is perfect for any small skin abrasions, especially in tropical climates. Sy swears by it if he gets a cut and has to go diving, the nasty seawater will make any small abrasion turn nasty but not if he uses Betadine.
We've used rehydration tablets for years at the gym. They replace electrolytes and salts lost through sweating, perfect if you go hiking, mountain biking, laying on a beach for a few hours in a tropical climate (ever wondered why you sometimes get a headache despite drinking lots of water?).
Rehydration tablets are also good after a few too many sunset beers, just drop one in your water and drink as normal. High 5 and Nuun are good brands.
We swear by Dioralyte Relief. You never know when Bali/Delhi belly is going to strike. We recommend you carry at least 2 boxes with you
Travelling around Asia? We booked online and checked all train, bus, and boat schedules in advance with 12Go Asia. They are cheap, safe and easy.
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