Packing List: Essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia
You have done all the hard work, picked your perfect destination, booked your flights and hotels. Now it’s time to gather all your essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia trip!
We have lived in Malaysia for a few years now and have traveled all over Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, The Philippines etc… We have learned the things we can’t live without that are essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia. Whether you are traveling for leisure, backpacking, or with kids, these items are both for comfort but also for your health and safety.
This page does include affiliate links, we will receive a small commission if you make any purchases from these links. This comes at no extra cost for you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
#1 Essential ~ Filter Water Bottle
Our number one essential when traveling in Southeast Asia is a good water bottle that can filter water for you. In southeast Asia, the only country that has drinkable water is Singapore.
So if you are planning a trip to Thailand, Bali, Cambodia, Vientman, or anywhere else in Southeast Asia, you will have to drink filtered water ALL THE TIME. Most hotels will provide bottled water for you, but that is a lot of plastic going into our oceans. For the backpacker, this will save you on having to pack in clean water with you.
So I suggest purchasing a good durable water bottle that will filter water for you. Then you can fill it up from any sink and it will make the water drinkable for you. My favorite option for this is the Lifestraw brand. It can easily be purchased from Amazon. It is usually around $40. I’m telling you all, buy this before your trip. You’ll thank me later!
This water bottle is very durable and easy to carry. The “straw” on the inside will filter any water for you, in fact, you can even fill up your bottle from a river and it will make it drinkable. It also comes with a clip so you can clip it onto your backpack. I like the size they sell on Amazon because it’s easy to slip into my backpack.
Save the planet and use your own water bottle. Essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia
Also, Southeast Asia is HOT all the time, so you need to drink lots of water. Making this water bottle my number one on the list of essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia. Especially when traveling with kids, mine have never understood why they can’t drink out of the sink.
If you don’t want to pack the entire water bottle, or if you already have a water bottle you like, you can also purchase just the straw (the filtration part) on Amazon for around $17. Then you can put the straw into any other water bottle. This is also great for backpacking Southeast Asia.
Just make sure you purchase a good water bottle before you go! Save our oceans and filter your water making it safe to drink.
This is essential when backpacking with kids through Southeast Asia so they can fill their water bottle anywhere and you know they are getting safe drinking water.
#2 Essential to Stay Cool – Hand Fan
As I said before when traveling in Southeast Asia, you are going to be HOT. I’m not talking a little hot, I mean the kind of heat that melts you. I have lived all over the US including many hot and humid places but nothing is like the heat of Southeast Asia.
So my second essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia is a rechargeable hand fan that you can take everywhere with you. This is essential because you will sweat and you will be hot and you need something that will dry you off.
When we first moved to Southeast Asia, we purchased 2 of these fans to share for our family of 5. Let me tell you, after a few weeks, we went back and bought 3 more, you will NEED these. My kids each have one now and they still need them when we are going to be outside for long periods of time.
I love this one from Amazon because it’s so versatile. You can fold it and put it on a desk, you can clip it to an umbrella, or you can wear it like a necklace. My kids love it because it’s small and easy to carry but also works great! It’s easy to charge with a USB, make sure to charge it every night. My only complaint is the batteries never last more than a day.
#3 Essiential~ Melatonin
The time difference from the US to Southeast Asia is around 15 hours. This means you will be going to sleep when you are normally waking up. And then waking up when you’d be going to sleep.
All of this adds up to a heavy case of jet lag for you and your kids. So how do you quickly get over jet lag so you can enjoy your hard-earned vacation? We have lots of great tips in our post about jet lag. But if I can recommend one thing that helps the most it is sleeping on schedule with the new time zone.
So how do you make yourself and your kids go to sleep when your bodies are saying it’s the middle of the day? Melatonin is the best answer. Melatonin helps you fall asleep and stay asleep all night. The best part is that it is natural and Amazon sells kid-friendly versions so your kids will take it without any fighting.
The key to giving kids melatonin is buying the right kind. You need to buy the correct dosage and the type that your kids will take easily. Always check with your child’s doctor on the correct dosage. It is usually recommended to start 0.5 mg to 1 mg and go up from there. If 0.5 didn’t help your child sleep, give them 1 mg the next night.
If your doctor says yes to sleep aids:
Next, you need to pick out a flavor and kind that your kid will like. Of course, my kids like to make this difficult. My oldest prefers this Zarbee’s gummy (berry flavor) from Amazon. Note these gummies are 1.5 mg each.
My middle and youngest daughters prefer the Zarbee’s grape flavored tablets. The tablets are 1mg each and they are easy to split to make 0.5 mg.
For my husband and me, we usually take this fast-dissolving tablet that is strawberry flavored. These tablets are 5mg, adults can take 2, or sometimes we break these in half for our oldest daughters. These are Essentials for parents when traveling in Southeast Asia.
We also suggest giving your kids melatonin on the long flight to Southeast Asia to help them sleep on the plane. We have other awesome tips on how to fly with kids in our post here.
#4 Essiential~ Mosquito Protection
You would never guess the most deadly animal in the world is the mosquito! Mosquitoes-borne diseases kill more humans every year than any other animal on Earth according to the World Health Organization.
Needless to say, it is extremely important to prevent mosquito bites when traveling in Southeast Asia. But maybe you don’t want to be covered in bug spray all day long, we have the perfect option for you, mozzie stickers!
These are literally stickers that you put on your clothing or your child’s clothing and it will repel mosquitos. They work really well, we use them on our kids every time we are out. Amazon sells a great brand that also has fun characters so your kids will actually wear them.
If you don’t want to wear a sticker with a character on it, they also sell just a plain yellow or green sticker for adults.
If you are going to be camping or backpacking in Southeast Asia, I would still suggest using bug spray. These stickers are great for day to day touring but there are so many bugs in the forests, I would still suggest packing traditional insect repellent. I love this one that is recommended by doctors because it is deet free and works great. I like the lotion type because the liquids are notorious for leaking in checked luggage.
If you are going to be backpacking with kids, make sure they are wearing mosquito protection at all times. Even at night when they are sleeping, I would make sure they at least have a sticker on.
Whatever form of insect repellent you choose, make sure to wear it, mosquito-borne illness is not a souvenir you want to take home.
#5 Essiential~ Electricity Converters
When traveling to Southeast Asia, you will come across lots of different kinds of electricity. Make sure to take either a multi-use converter or just one for each country you will be visiting.
Which countries have US electricity outlets
- South Korea
You do not need to take a converter for these countries if you are traveling from the US.
Which countries have the UK outlets in Southeast Asia
- Hong Kong
If you are only going to one of these countries or maybe Singapore and Malaysia as they are neighboring, you will only need one converter. Here is a UK converter that we have used for years when we travel to Malaysia and Singapore. I like it because it has 3 outlets, plus 2 USB ports. This saves you from having to pack multiple converters.
Which countries have European outlets in Southeast Asia
- Myanmar (Formerly Burma)
If you are traveling to multiple countries in Southeast Asia (Universal Converter)
If you are traveling to multiple countries in Southeast Asia, you will need multiple converters or we love this universal travel adapter.
It actually covers more than 150 countries and converts voltage from US, EU, UK, Australia, Southeast Asia, China, and even South America. What we love the most are the 4 USB ports. It makes it easy to charge multiple cell phones, tablets and watches all at the same time.
It also has a built-in smart chip to protect against power surges in these developing countries. Buy it here from Amazon and this will keep you from having to buy and pack multiple converters.
#6 Essiential~ Entertainment for the long flight
Headphones are an essential item on any trip, let alone one that takes you 24 hours to get there. Great headphones can make a huge difference on a long flight. Helping you to cancel out the noise, watch movies, listen to podcasts/music, and get some rest. Bose makes some of the best noise-canceling headphones on the market.
But we understand the cost of the Bose is high, so we also have another option for you. Check out these noise-canceling headphones by Cowin. They are under $100 and work really well. The comfort that they give will allow your ears hours of entertainment. They work similarly to the Bose but for a third of the price. Which headphones you take with you, make sure they are comfortable!
For your kids, I would recommend these awesome wireless headphones. My kids love them because they light up on the outside, they come in multiple colors, and they are wireless. They also come with a wire so you can plug them into the inflight entertainment.
I love them because they are super lightweight and are easy to pack. Oh, and they are a great price. You can easily purchase them on Amazon for under $30.
#7 Essential Alternative Entertainment – Nintendo Switch
Most international airlines have a great entertainment center for watching movies or shows, but sometimes it’s just not enough to last a full 24 hours on the plane. That’s when it’s time to pull out the Nintendo Switch!
I know as a parent, I am always worrying that my kids are spending too much time on screens. Well, the only benefit of a long flight is that you don’t have to worry about screen time for a few hours 🙂 If you are traveling with kids this is a great way to keep them entertained, and I will be honest, playing a game of Mario Cart with my kids makes for a fun flight. What else are you going to do on such a long flight?
Besides it provides tons of entertainment. I would also recommend buying a packing case for your Switch, this makes it easy for our daughter to put it, the remotes, and all her games in her carryon. Making this device an essential item when we are traveling in Southeast Asia just to survive all the flights!
Another reason to love the Switch is that once you arrive at your destination, or when you are home, you can plug it into your tv and play it on the tv as well. We have had many families Mario Cart battles perched in front of our tv. It is a bit expensive, it is $299 on Amazon and everywhere else, but it is worth it! We have had ours for almost 2 years now and it still works great. Plus we have used it as a family countless times.
#8 Essential to not get sick – Hand Sanitizer & Disinfecting wipes
Getting sick when you are away from home is the worst, and especially if it is the beginning of your vacation. No one wants to be sick on their holiday. Next to having clean water, this might be the most important thing for me as a mother.
I have taught my kids to wipe down their area as soon as they sit down on the airplane. Wiping down the tray table, armrests, and anything they might touch.
We take Clorox travel wipes with us on all of our trips. I usually take multiple packages, because it’s not just on the airplanes that we use them, but sometimes at hotels or even at restaurants. Amazon sells a handy 4 pack of travel-size wipe. I will put one in each of my kid’s carry-ons and one in my checked luggage for the return trip home.
Also, make sure to wipe down tabletops or other surfaces that you will be eating off of during your trip. This will help cut down on germs.
There are so many times throughout the day that we should be using hand sanitizer, but even more so while we are traveling. You might be on and off public transportation, pushing buttons on the hotel elevators, or you use a public restroom and they are out of hand soap.
There are so many reasons to take this with you while you travel and not only for your self but for those traveling with you. As a mother of 3 kids, I make sure that they each have their own when traveling. I do have to remind them to use it, but this way they can get it without you having to climb over other passengers to hand them your hand sanitizer.
This is especially important when backpacking with kids because there will not be easy access to soap and clean water. Make sure to try to keep their hands clean before they eat. There are so many germs here that they have never been exposed to and need to be protected from.
I like using a small hand sanitizer that can clip to the outside of yours or your kids carry on. I’ve found it makes it easy to use and remember. Purell offers a pack of 8 travel sanitizers for a low cost. There are others that have fun travel clips for kids to put on their carry on and it makes it fun for them to use hand sanitizer.
#9 Essential to stay organized – Packing Cubes
Packing cubes have quickly become one of my must-haves when traveling. These are great when packing for kids, especially if you are switching hotels or cities. If you don’t know what a packing cube it, they are small, lightweight, mesh/fabric, and usually zippable cubes to pack your things in. Think of it as a small drawer in your dresser but now in your luggage.
I like to organize my outfits by day. Meaning I will put all my clothes (shirt, pants, underwear, socks, exercise clothes, etc…) in a pack. Then I can easily remove them or put them in the drawer in the hotel.
There is something extremely satisfying to open your luggage and know exactly where everything is, especially with kids!
Unpacking becomes fast and easy. For my kids, I usually just take their packs and put them directly into a draw. So simple and easy for them to find! Packing cubes will quickly become some of your essentials to travel with.
Now that I am used to packing with cubes, I will never go on a trip without them again! This brand on Amazon is the best on the market for a price. The fabric is durable and easily cleaned. Trust me, you will love these packing cubes!
Packing cubes are also great for backpacking Southeast Asia! You can put your clothes in a few cubes, throw those in your backpack and you’re ready to go. This makes it so easy to find your clothes in your backpack.
#10 Essential to stay sheltered – Mini Travel Umbrella
The worst is when you are out sightseeing on a nice day, and heaven opens up and rains on you. It always seems like there is at least one day on any trip that we get rained on. When you travel to Southeast Asia, it is almost a guarantee that it will rain during your trip.
I know as a mom, your bag is already full! So, I really like this mini travel umbrella. It is lightweight and windproof. One of the big problems with other mini umbrellas is if there is any wind they pop open or break. However, this one is a small but mighty umbrella that is easy to pack with you.
Don’t forget that umbrellas can work just as well in the blistering sun. It is very common in Southeast Asia to carry an umbrella around in the sun or rain. Umberalls are also great at the beach to block the sun while toddlers or babies play in the sand.
#11 Essential Water Proof Bags
When traveling to Southeast Asia you will see these everywhere. At first, I was like “what is with these bags“. Then, the more time we spent at the beach, trying to protect our phones from the water and the sand, the more I realized we needed one.
Maybe you are backpacking through the jungle when one of Southeast Asia’s rainstorm hits. You will want something to keep your phone and belongings dry. Even walking the streets for Bangkok we have been caught in a couple of downpours that soaked through our backpacks and bags.
We bought one of these dry bags for the beach and then quickly bought a couple more because they are so easy for us to use and became one of our essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia.
Amazon sells a variety of bags, but I prefer this brand. I like the smallest size because I am usually only putting my phone and maybe my wallet in it. Also, the small size is easier to fit in your suitcase. If you are traveling to one of Southeast Asia’s beautiful beaches, you will definitely one of these.
Water Proof Phone Case
I like the waterproof bag for all my things, but I also recommend a waterproof phone case. If you plan on island hopping or doing anything on the water, you will want to protect your phone.
We don’t have a GoPro or waterproof camera but my husband put an old phone in this case and took it snorkeling with him. Here is a 4 pack of phone cases. They are also good to put a wallet or credit cards in to protect.
#12 Essiential~ Sun protection
One thing you are bound to encounter in Southeast Asia is the hot sun. The sun here is extremely strong at times. As we all know, a lot of sunshine is so bad for your skin. But sunscreen has it’s downsides too.
I have learned to love rash guards. (Long or short sleeve swimming shirts). My kids always wear these at the beach, water park, and pool now. Over the years of living here, my husband and I have also transitioned to wearing rash-guards too.
You can find some greats on rash guards at Old Navy and Gap in their stores. But if you don’t have time to run to the store (or if it’s off-season), of course, Amazon has great options for girls sizes 2T-10, for boys sizes 2T-10, some cute options for women, and a few short-sleeved options for men.
Another thing to consider is how bad sunscreen is for our oceans. In Singapore, they do not allow sunscreen at their water parks. So make sure to pack a rash guard so you don’t walk away with a sunburn. The sun in Southeast Asia for some reason feels stronger and more intense than other parts of the world and proper sun protection has become essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia for us.
#13 Essiential~ For girls
This is definitely one of the essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia, your own tissues for the bathroom. Most of the time when you are traveling through Asia, the bathrooms will not have toilet paper. Let me tell you from experience, there is nothing worse than being stuck in a public toilet without toilet paper!
So I suggest packing some tissues in your purse or backpack and take it with you everywhere. You can easily buy these small packs on Amazon and throw them in your bag. This will also be very essential if you are backpacking Southeast Asia, don’t forget to pack them!
Tampons are Essentials when traveling in Southeast Asia
Trust me on this one, pack your own tampons. You may be able to buy tampons in Southeast Asia, but they may not be the brand you like, or even worse they will be ridiculously expensive.
My favorite brand, Tampax Radiant, is so much easier to buy online and have it ready to go when I start packing. Don’t waste time on your vacation searching stores for tampons, go prepared my friends!
Other essentials that you already own
- Swimming suit
- Flip flops/sandals
- Rubber bands for your hair
- Bag for dirty laundry
- Tennis shoes for hiking
- Medications you take on a regular basis
- Lightweight clothing (did I mention it’s hot here)
What to leave behind at home
- Heavy makeup~ It will just melt off 🙂
- Shower stuff, unless you have specific brands, you can easily buy shampoo, soap, etc here
- Ibuprofen and Aspirin; one of the major mosquito-borne illnesses in SEA, is Dengue Fever, which starts with a high fever, and headache. But if you take ibuprofen or aspirin, which are both blood thinners, the illness can become very dangerous because of the risk of hemorrhage in the brain.
- Warm/heavy clothes. Such as; coats, sweaters, sweatpants, thick jackets, and flannel. Trust me you will not need them.
Your next trip to Southeast Asia
There are many great places to visit in Southeast Asia to visit from Thailand to Bali, Indonesia, to Laos, Cambodia, from temples to jungles, and massive towering cities, like Kuala Lumpur.
Southeast Asia is truly unique with cultural and natural beauty. If you don’t know where to begin, I would recommend starting with Singapore and then to Thailand. Here you can learn how to plan a trip to Thailand.