If you are preparing for your first trip abroad, or simply packed way too much on your last trip, this may be useful to you. Before I went abroad for the first time last year I pored over several similar posts online (but still packed way too much). Many travel guides and tips are geared toward backpackers or male travelers, the needs of which are different. This is about how a twenty-something female spending 5 weeks in two Asian countries in the heat of summer with events that require looking nicer than the common backpacker grunge packed for the occasion.
I knew I had done well when I arrived in Taiwan and both my brother and his roommate looked at my luggage and asked, “Is that it?”
Above is a slightly dark photo I took just before leaving for the airport back in June. I took a carry-on size bag from a luggage set (which I checked) and a duffel bag (which I carried on). That was it. When I met up with US friends in Korea I discovered that nearly all of them had packed twice the volume I had. Yet, I don’t feel like they had that much more. There was never a moment when I regretted packing more lightly.
What allowed me to pack so lightly was, in part, the rolling technique. To make the most of your suitcase space you don’t want to fold your clothes, you want to tightly roll it. You can fit things much more efficiently with this technique.
So here’s what I brought:
5 tanks tops of various colors– all worn countless times
1 tee-shirt– also worn many times
1 button-front shirt– worn about 3 times
2 light weight cardigans– great in air conditioned places, chilly evenings, and on the plane
1 pair of long pants– worn on the plane coming and going and twice on chilly evenings in Korea
2 skirts– worn many times, one I even substituted as a dress one evening by putting a belt and sweater over it
1 dress– worn about 4 times for more formal occasions
2 pairs of shorts– worn countless times
bathing suit– worn once, probably could have left it home, the ocean was too cold for a proper swim anyway
assorted underthings– you’ll never regret taking an extra bra or 10+ pairs of underwear, they don’t take up much room
1 pair of comfortable flats– to pair with dress and skirts
2 pairs of sneakers/walking shoes– one worn over, one packed as a spare for when the other got wet in the rain
I also brought some basic shampoo, soap, and cosmetics, but not much. In fact my recommendation for women traveling to Korea is not to worry to much about cosmetics. Unless you need very specific brands, there is probably better selection for skin care in Seoul than in any US city. Places like Nowan have an entire street of facial care shops. All tailored to different needs, all pretty cost effective. I got a set of tea tree oil toner and lotion for about $14 US.
Even for shampoo and such, US brands like Dove are widely available at the neighborhood grocery.
If you’re not used to the humidity, you’re probably not going to want to wear a lot of makeup to begin with. Korean makeup is usually of good quality and not too expensive, plus it is made for that climate. So if you really want to dress up for a night out, you can always pick up some eyeliner or lipstick at a shop there. The only thing that is impossible to find is dark foundation colors, so you may want to bring that.
So, I hope this has been helpful or educational for some of you out there. I was able to do laundry regularly, so I never felt like I under-packed. I’m not at the point were I can bring just a backpack for a few weeks travel, but circumstances don’t allow many people to do that. That doesn’t mean you can’t pack a bit more lightly and save yourself a backache.