- The number one packing tip is to pack lightly. Having a big, bulky bag makes travel cumbersome while walking around and on transportation. It also makes you a more likely target for thieves, scams, and touts.
- Find a backpack that works for you. It's best to try on the backpack to make sure it's comfortable and fits you before you purchase it, however, Hawaii has limited options for backpacks. The North Face in Ala Moana has some backpacks in stock to give you a general idea for size. Online options include Amazon, REI Garage (formerly REI outlet), and backcountry. Used backpacks can also be found for sale on Craigslist. When selecting your backpack, do your research and consider the weight, capacity (usually between 35 and 75 with my personal recommendation for capacity between 50 and 60), quality, frame (internal frames are generally lighter and slimmer), material (doesn't need to be waterproof but water resistant is ideal), zippers (lockable and concealable zippers are best), padding (comfortable shoulder, back, and hip belt), and compartments.
- Use gallon size Ziploc bags, Space Bags, or reusable compression bags (for example sold by Eagle Creek) to organize your belongings, keep items dry, and maximize the use of space. Pack all of your toiletries into bags to avoid leaking on your clothes. Use other bags to keep all of your clothes compact. Also, use a separate bag to pack other items such as first aid or electronics.
- Pack lightweight, quick drying clothes. You can pack less clothes if you can wash and re-wear clothes easily. Camping or dry fit clothes are great options for traveling. For girls, Lululemon has a lot of clothes that are great for traveling including crop pants, tops, and sports bras that are durable, lightweight, comfortable, and cute.
- Clothes not to bring include: 1) Jeans - are bulky and take a long time to dry; 2) Name brand logo wear - can attract negative attention; 3) Expensive jewelry or watches - also attracts attention and makes you a target for theft. It's best not to wear any jewelry, expensive or not.
- Pack clothes that can all be mixed and matched, that can be layered for different weather, and that are suitable for the country you're visiting (e.g. no short shorts and skirts in conservative countries).
- Buy toiletries in the appropriate size. If you are only going for 1 or 2 weeks, buy travel size toiletries. Or if you are traveling with a friend, agree to share toiletries (e.g. shampoo, toothpaste, dental floss) and first aid items.
- Toiletries not to bring include: 1) Bulky curling irons, hair straighteners, and hair dryers - not necessary and not worth the packing space and extra weight; 2) Beauty products - simplify to just bare necessities; 3) Excess first aid - just pack a little of each.
- Pack items that are multifunctional. For example, sarongs or scarfs can be used as a blanket, beach towel, makeshift bag, or wrap; shampoo that is also a body wash; smart phone that can be used as an alarm, to check email, play games, listen to music, flashlight, and surf the internet; or convertible pants and cargo shorts. This keeps your pack light without taking away from functionality.
- Pack your backpack and daypack in an order that is most functional. Put things that you need access to at top. Be sure to pack your passport and ATM/credit cards in a secure place.
- Pack a daypack. This is a small backpack to use when exploring around town. It's also to keep all your essentials and valuables (e.g. camera, passport, ATM/credit cards, phone) with you during flights and bus rides.
Sample packing list.
This is a general packing list to be used for consideration only. This list should be tailored for your specific trip, activities, weather, needs, and preferences.
- 5-6 Tops (mix of long or short sleeve, tank tops, sweaters)
- 2-4 Bottoms (mix of long, short, crop, convertible, sleeping)
- 1 Rain jacket or poncho
- 1 Jacket or fleece
- 4-6 Underwear
- 2-5 Socks
- 1 Bathing suit or swim shorts
- 1 Pair of tights or thermals (to layer for colder weather)
- 1 Pair of rubber slippers/flip flops (for showering in hostels)
- 1 Pair of lightweight and comfortable sneakers
- Quick dry bath towel (can be purchased at REI and Amazon)
- Wash cloth
- Ziploc, Space Bags, or reusable compression bags (for example sold by Eagle Creek) in variety of sizes
- Flashlight (if your phone doesn't have one)
- AC adapter for country visiting
- Chargers or batteries for electronics (check airline limitations and packing restrictions)
- Portable battery charger (to recharge while out during the day or on long plane/bus/train rides)
- Camera and extra memory cards
- Smart phone (change to airplane mode and switch on wifi to avoid roaming charges)
- Lock for hostel lockers (get a combination lock to avoid locking key inside)
- 5 ft of durable string (can be used to hang laundry, tie up things)
- Shampoo/body wash
- Sunscreen, lip balm with sunscreen
- Bug repellant and anti-itch cream
- Hand sanitizer (packed in daypack and carried at all times)
- Baby or wet wipes (to clean hands or self when sink or shower not available)
- Toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss
- Prescription medication (enough medication for travel time and copies of prescriptions)
- First aid kit (anti-diarrhea, headache, common cold, allergy, band aids)
- Small toilet paper roll (packed in daypack and carried at all times)
- Glasses/sunglasses/contacts/contact solution/contact case/spare contacts
- Ear plugs and eye mask (to help with sleeping in dorms)
- Snacks (just a few granola bars for long flights or bus rides)
- Sports drinks powder packets (easy add to bottle of water to help avoid dehydration)
- Passport, documents needed for visa or entry (e.g. vaccination booklet, financial information)
- Copy of passport, health and travel insurance
- Small wallet/coin purse (just big enough to fit an ATM card)
- Backup credit and ATM card (packed separately from primary ATM card)
- Emergency cash stash (at least $100 in crisp condition in various denominations)
- Computer (I like having my own computer to use)
- Computer lock (for added security in hostels)
- Hard drive (to back up photos)
- GoPro camera (I like to use for water and adventure sports)
- Canon Rebel SLR camera with only my 18-55mm lens (I love photography but still want to travel "light")
- 2 Sports bras (can be used for all activities, Lululemon has cute, comfortable sports bras)
- 1 Scarf or sarong (has so many purposes)
- 1 Dress for beach and going out
- Eco bag for shopping (Envirosax are super compact and highly durable, can also be purchased on Amazon)
- Feminine products (tampons, pads, or menstrual cup from Amazon)
- Beauty products (all purpose moisturizer, mascara, eye liner, tweezers, nail clippers/scissors)
- Brush and rubber bands