A to Z Thailand packing tips
Given the huge demand for packing help, I've spruced up and fine-tuned my Thailand packing tips into a tidy A-to-Z.
A to Z Thailand packing tips
Since its first draft in 2008, my “What to Pack for Thailand” advice has been amongst the most popular posts on this site – shared 32,500 times and counting. Its popularity makes perfect sense. While hotels, activities and restaurants are subjective choices, packing the wrong shoes will be wrong on every pair of feet. Given the huge demand for packing help, I've spruced up and fine-tuned my Thailand packing tips into a tidy A-to-Z. Below you’ll find helpful gadgets, great bits and pieces for day-trips and enjoying the beach, plus tips for staying safe and comfortable in Thailand's heat. Enjoy!
A is for Anti-Insect Loofah Soap
I prefer to use natural mosquito repellent for Thailand and these exfoliating loofah soaps go one better: your skin becomes less and less appealing to mosquitoes as you exfoliate (find out why). They work perfectly for travel as there's nothing to spill; I use them constantly. Add strong product guarantees, natural ingredients and fantastic reviews? Oh yes yes yes.
B is for Barefoot Water Shoes
For something even more packable, a pair of aqua socks rolls up to nothing but is great to have on hand for exploring an unexpectedly rocky beach. They won’t take the place of hiking sandals but in many spots will be preferable to bare feet.
C is for Coconut Milk Wipes
These coconut refresher wipes are a good backup to keep in your carry-on or day bag – reminding you at least 239 times in this post – it’s insanely hot in Thailand.
D is for Dual-Voltage Travel Steamer
I recommend wearing a majority of linen in Thailand (find out why). As such, using your travel steamer not just in the morning as you get ready – but also for quick touch-ups on crumpled linen – is ideal. Yes, you’re on vacation, but it takes two minutes. I have this dual-voltage travel steamer: it plugs straight into Thai plugs (no adapter needed) – just fill it up in the bathroom sink, let it heat up for a minute and steam any crease to oblivion (it gets addictive).
E is for Electrolyte Drink Tabs
Be careful with Thai heat and humidity – it’s really easy to dehydrate if you’re not used to the climate. Make sure you’re replenishing yourself with the salty/mineral concoctions that you need (fresh coconuts are good, too). Each tube of these electrolyte tabs has 10 tablets within, and I try to drink one tab daily. They’re great to drink in-flight as well – keep a tube in your carry-on and chug a bottle on any layover. I’ve tried most of the flavours and prefer strawberry-lemonade above all.
F is for Foldable Duffel Bag
Plan ahead: Hoping to leave Koh Samui with lots of goodies? A foldable duffel bag is easy to store in your main piece of luggage as an eleventh-hour ‘just-in-case’. If you’re looking forward to shopping in Thailand, a larger fold-out duffel bag gives you mega buying power.
G is for Gin Gins
I use Gin Gins like the My Big Fat Greek Wedding dad uses Windex. Sore throat? Gin-gins. 20% hungover? Gin-gins. Crack-of-dawn wake-up call? Gin-gins. In-flight meal is never getting served? Gin-gins. You get the idea. Something about the ginger just makes me feel better if I’m ever feeling “bleh”. Tuck a few in pockets of your carry-on, hand bag or backpack and you'll be mighty pleased with yourself when you remember they're there.
H is for Hand Sanitizer
Are you (or have you become) one of those people who wipe down the plane tray table and armrests with antiseptic wipes? If so (hello welcome), the habit likely continues with liberal doses of hand sanitizer. Slightly non-scientific theory? The germs are out there. Brand new Thai germs we aren't used to. Wouldn't you rather they get someone else? Exactly. While Purell is ubiquitous, I prefer Dr. Bronner’s Hand Sanitizer in lavender scent. Tip: Spray it on your plane pillow to both disinfect it and add some lavender-sleepy-time scent. It smells really good.
I is for Incognito
Incognito, in my opinion, is THE best mosquito repellent for Thailand, by a wide mile. I absolutely swear by this stuff – it’s DEET-free, never tested on animals and I love it as much as coffee. I never use DEET products as my mosquito repellent for Thailand – find out why – but you should choose a level of mosquito protection that you're comfortable with. This will depend on your travel plans for Thailand.
Unlike elsewhere in Thailand, Koh Samui is malaria-free, so it's an easier choice for my usual itinerary. Whatever the product you choose, you'll want to bring some bug spray with you. Repellent brands like OFF! are readily available in Thailand, but 'bug spray shopping' seems like a waste of your vacation.
J is for Jet Lag Remedy
I recently got desperate enough to try melatonin to combat jet lag and found that it worked well for me (however do your research before taking any kind of supplements). In the same vein, this homoeopathic jetlag remedy has great reviews – you chew one tablet at take-off and another at landing.
K is for The Koh Samui Guide
No matter what stage of holiday planning you're in (whether you're deciding on Koh Samui as a destination or are sitting on packed suitcases), The Koh Samui Guide puts everything you need to know in one tidy place.
L is for Lonely Planet Thailand
Lonely Planet Thailand is renewed and refreshed with – I hope – less elephant-riding than last time. This updated edition covers Bangkok, Central Thailand, Ko Chang, Chiang Mai Province, Northern Thailand, Hua Hin, Southern Gulf, Samui, Lower Gulf, Phuket and the Andaman Coast.
M is for Mosquito Repellent Bracelets
The easiest, laziest way to protect yourself. Absolutely the best trick in the book – put mosquito protection ‘up your sleeve’. These mosquito-repelling bracelets are totally natural and DEET-free. Their protective magic lasts between 10-15 days. Bonus? They're waterproof.
N is for Neck Support Travel Pillow
Bare minimum, it’s a twenty-hour journey to Bangkok from JFK, LAX or O’Hare. Add an eye mask and some earplugs to triply guarantee that you’ll arrive happy and well-rested.
O is for Organized Cubes
Whether you like to keep everything in its place or have an expensive habit of losing clothing on vacation, I think organisey cubes and cases earn a deserved place in every suitcase. Tip: Buy different colours for different members of your family and unpacking has never been easier.
P is for Plug Adapter
Thailand has two kinds of plugs. While one of them is the same as the U.S., you might find it useful to have a universal adapter in case you (A) meet only round pin sockets or (B) if you're stopping in a third country en route to Thailand. Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, have different plugs again.
Q is for Quick-Dry Beach Towels
Dries three times faster than a normal cotton towel – and sand won’t stick. In its travel pouch (included), it packs to 10″X6″. When needed it folds out biiiiiig.
R is for Relief Stick
While Thai pharmacies are generally excellent, an on-the-go bite relief stick is great to have in your travel bag in case you’re bitten by a mosquito.
S is for SPF 40
I’ve used this stuff every day for a few years and it’s the only face sunscreen I can stand to wear in Thailand’s humidity. Everything else I’ve tried feels hot, heavy and sticky. Instead, this is like a weightless gel rather than a sloppy white lotion. Don’t mess around with the sun in Thailand – and take even more caution when you’re near water (or anything reflective, like a glass table top). I only pack SPF 30 and higher (and this is almost always paired with a UPF top and a big sun hat).
T is for Thailand's Best Street Food
Learn exactly how to dig into Thai street food safely, and with confidence. You’ll learn where to eat, and exactly what (and how) to order (see my full review). This updated book covers Bangkok primarily, with sections on Phuket and Chiang Mai as well.
U is for UPF 50+ Shirt
In addition to sunscreen, discussed above, there’s a real genius to packing some UPF clothing for Thailand. Its magic? It retains its UPF protection even when wet. If you’re on a snorkelling trip, for example, you’ll be in and out of the water too often to successfully reapply sunscreen. Imagine trying to moisturise a sea lion. Instead, UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing like rash-guards and sun-shirts can literally save your hide.
V is for Very Bad Situations
Pharmacies are extremely easy to find in Thailand but … there are “occasions” when you need “Multi-Symptom Relief”, and you need it immediately. We’ve all seen Bridesmaids. I don’t like this discussion any more than you do … but let’s agree this is a wise thing to keep on your person at all times. Avoiding eye contact and moving on…
W is for Waterproof Phone Case
Remember when the annoying cell phone store guy asked a thousand times if you wanted the warranty and you said: “no, no, no, go away”? Now you’re heading to a country where you’ll sit by the pool, go snorkelling, ride on boats and possibly experience torrential, tropical rain. Bring back-up for your little buddy. Fits all large phones – iPhones, Samsungs, the whole gang.
X is for 'Xtreme' Ear Plugs
A cheeky X, but an X no less. Quality ear-plugs are (A) great for sleeping on planes and (B) indispensable when the Thai temple next to your hotel throws a karaoke party until 4 am. If you hope to sleep on your flight to Thailand – please – add a pair of quality earplugs. Many people turn to sleeping pills, but ear-plugs and an eye mask are the tickets.
Y is for Yoga Sling Sandals
In terms of comfiness, these flip-flops mean you'll (A) walk upon an extra-squooshy yoga mat that's (B) strapped to your feet with a t-shirt. Can happy feet get happier? While there are a few tricks to choosing the right shoes for Thailand – these puppies are perfect for all sorts of itineraries: enjoying your resort, relaxing after a tough trek or backpacking session, and so on. If they're on your feet, I'm jealous.
Z is for Zap-It Bite Relief
Bring along a small tube of hydrocortisone cream and you’re Eagle Scout-prepared for fixing the mosquito bites you're not going to get (because you followed these tips). While it looks like a toy, the Zap Ease Bite Relief device is a piece of engineering magic. I was scared to try it – expecting self-inflicted electrocution. I can vouch that it’s 100% painless, very effective, and weirdly compulsive.
More packing tips?
Obviously packing all 26 suggestions would leave no room at all for clothes or souvenirs. I intend the list as an exercise in Thailand travel logic and to jog your memory for things you’d perhaps have forgotten (or might be excited to now include). More questions? See these resources: