How I packed for 2 weeks in Southeast Asia in a Carry-on

A lot of people are over-packers, my friend Allison being one of them.  So when I told her that we were all planning on packing for our two week Thailand/Cambodia trip with just a carry-on suitcase and a personal item, she was less than thrilled.  “There’s no way in hell” was a closer response.  But, after much decision making and several bouts of re-packing and re-organizing, all 6 of us managed to think tiny and bring just one small suitcase.

Ready to go!

  My first step in packing was liquids.  I was most concerned about how I was going to fit 3 bottles of sunscreen and shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion into one quart-sized bag.  I had an earlier moment of triumph when I fit everything into a gallon-sized bag, only to be told there were size rules on your liquid bags.  So I had to compromise, anti-bacterial gel and mini Fireball shots were out, sadly.  Luckily, Julio doesn’t need as much conditioner as I do, so I was able to squeeze all of our products into two quart-sized ziplock bags (TSA rules!).

Quart-sized liquids bag

Next up was clothing.  A lot of people commented beforehand “how are you ever fitting 2 weeks of clothes in a carry-on?”  But when I made the point that we’d be in 95 degree weather and on the beach 99% of the time, they conceded, “well, maybe it’s possible.”  I’m proud to say that I actually didn’t wear every item I brought- I could have actually packed less!  But I digress… I started by choosing the most important item, bathing suits.  I brought 7 of them and a coverup, and no I don’t think I brought too many haha!  I have many of the same tank tops in every different color so I brought 6 in variety of colors.  One pair of jean shorts, one pair of black shorts, and a gray pair, 2 maxi- dresses, a regular dress, and 2 rompers.  I brought one workout outfit (that I did in fact use!), a scarf for covering my shoulders in the temples, and two pairs of loose linen pants (one I wore, one I didn’t).  I brought 10 pairs of underwear, a sports bra, regular bra, and 3 pairs of socks.  Finally, I brought a hat, a pair of sneakers, nice sandals, and regular flip flops.  Overall I think I did a great job packing- I wore almost everything I brought.  Julio and I did laundry at two hotels for about $7 each time, but mainly because he was out of clothes, and I still had plenty of room for souvineers.

Clothing layout


Fully packed!  With one wanna-be stowaway…

For my personal item, I brought a large red tote-type bag I got in Mexico that I use as a beach bag.  I didn’t bring a purse, but just brought my wallet and a sunglasses case.  In my bag went my phone, GoPro, magazines, my Nook, all important travel papers that I had printed out and organized beforehand, pens, and Chapstick.  The ladies on the trip agreed on bringing one straightener (which I brought but never personally used), and one hair dryer.    Everyone brought a beach towel as well, although all of our hotels provided them and said we could take them off-site on our tours, so that wasn’t really necessary.  My personal item bag was just a hodgepodge of items thrown in, it could have been more organized like Stacy’s backpack, but it worked for me.

My personal item beach bag

I would say our plan to minimize what we brought on our vacation and travel lightly was a success.  I’ve gone away many times and not even worn half of what I brought.  Even the first time Julio and I went to Thailand we overpacked and on the way home, our suitcase was over the weight limit!  For a tropical beach vacation, no matter the time span, a carry-on is plenty big enough for all of your travel needs.

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