Need 6 pieces to pack for a trip to Southeast Asia

Q. I’m heading to Tokyo, Thailand, and Cambodia for a month. I’m super pumped about the trip as I have not had the opportunity to travel outside of the country for a couple of years and I have never been to Southeast Asia (though I’ve always wanted to go).

I’ve learned (the hard way) that one really shouldn’t over-pack for these adventures, so I’m only bringing a carry-on sized bag and a collapsible duffel that will come along to tote around souvenirs before I ship them home. For this trip I especially want to only bring the bare minimum because I’ve heard that everything is very inexpensive other there (including clothes) and that I will be able to buy climate appropriate wear–read: made for the incredibly hot and humid weather–for very little money. However, I still need to bring some basics. And I will need something to wear in Tokyo, where we will be stopping for the first few days of our trip before we get to Thailand and the prices are much higher.

My question is this: What should I bring ? How would you pack?

I only want to bring around 6 pieces. My activities will be so diverse–city sightseeing in Tokyo and Bangkok; Temple Trekking in Cambodia; an elephant trek through mountain villages in Northern Thailand; and beach hopping all along the way–so bringing diverse pieces will be essential. Laundry can be easily done so I have no problem wearing the same things over and over.

Other things you should know: I am petite (size 2 or 4) but (unluckily) big busted so braless is never an option.

A. Sounds like a fantastic trip! I applaud your plan to pack very lightly since you don’t want to be bogged down with cumbersome luggage. For the hot & humid climate and the varied outings you plan to take, I suggest the following extremely pared-down, yet functional, list:

1. 2 to 3 tank tops/t-shirts
2. pair of shorts
3. casual skirt
4. casual day dress
5. comfortable yet chic sandals for city tours
6. hiking shoes/sneakers for treks
7. linen scarf/wrap – just in case you need an extra layer
8. hat

Look for fabrics that are easily packed and either won’t wrinkle or are meant to be wrinkled (like the scarf and skirt below). The packable items below will keep you comfortable, well-dressed and should carry you through the month. Have fun!

  • sarah

    I was just in Tokyo for the first time and I felt underdressed the whole time. Everyone there is dressed to the nines. They are put together impecibly, everything from their clothes, accessories, shoes (you will never see a scuff on them), makeup and hair (I have no idea how they keep every hair put!). I would highly recommend something dressy and black for Tokyo, even if you end up wearing the same pair of pants every day that you are there.

    • StyleBakery

      Great suggestion, Sarah. We were thinking more in terms of an “active” trip, but you’re right – if she’ll be doing some sight-seeing in Tokyo, it wouldn’t hurt to pack something chic and trendy. A cute dress is probably the easiest to pack since it’s just one piece.

  • Naomi

    Great tips but one concern is the dress code at temples in Thailand and Cambodia. I went temple touring in these countries two months ago. In both places women (and men) are not allowed to enter temples with out proper attire: Shoulders, knees and toes covered. It’s good to consider this when selecting your staples (especially if you’re going to be dressing in the dark in order to make it to the temples by sunrise). I went with a just below the knee summer dress in light weight cotton and a tissue thin cardigan and they were perfect. You could also swap out the shorts for capris or a slightly longer skirt and then throw the shawl around your shoulders.

    P.S. Sarah is right about Tokyo but the Boho look is also big there so with shorts and the right scarf, you won’t look out of place. Just bring a fun pair of earrings and don’t go out without mascara (Tokyo girls rock fake lashes everywhere).

  • kest

    Yeah- with Naomi- You will NOT get into any temple grounds in southeast asia in any of the items listed- and, should you sneak past and get in, you’ll simply be offending people. It is very important to have long sleeves and at least knee length pants. These are, however, easily available, and perhaps easier to purchase there, if time is available to go to the local markets before entrance into your first temple.

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