Waddup Nomads,

This past Fall, I spent two months in Asia. Specifically, I was in Hong Kong, Thailand, and mainland China, with a day trip to Macao. In this video and blog post, I want to share everything I packed for my two-month trip and share tips and tricks on packing for Asia, for a long-term trip, and how to pack for smaller trips within a long trip.

A Little More About My Trip

We flew into Hong Kong first and treated it like our home base and set up shop. From there, we flew to Bangkok for one week, took the bus to Shenzhen across the border into mainland China, where I first went for one week and then made shorter trips a few more times, and one day in Macao.

This might not be the same kind of trip you’re planning, but I believe this video can be helpful for a few different types of people:

  • If you’re travelling to Asia for any length of time
  • If you’re planning a trip with a lot of smaller trips within it
  • If you’re planning a two-three month trip, and need help making a versatile and compact packing list

If you’re new to my blog, any packing I do starts with defining these four criteria: Weather, activities, vibe, and trip length.

Packing for the Weather in Asia

For the weather, we were going to be in Southern China and Thailand, so we’re talking humid and hot well into the fall. In fact, it ended up hitting 38℃ in Hong Kong for several days and Bangkok was also quite humid. It rained a little bit, but the truth was that it never lasted too long, so I could just seek shelter and wait it out. I’m glad I brought my raincoat, but I’m also glad it was a very compact pack-away K-Way.

Because of the intense sun, I adopted a practice from the locals and used a parasol on those really hot days when I knew I’d be out. At first, I felt silly, but when everyone is doing it, you fit right in. And one look at me, there’s no question why I need it.

Temperature in Hong Kong in November

To survive, I made sure to pack a lot of linen, breezy tops, and to avoid peak hours. I also picked up a handheld electric fan which everyone had and was sold on every street corner. Only near the very end of our trip.

Planning Your Trip Activities

Let’s cover activities next since this also impacted my choices. This trip was not strictly tourism. In fact, that was lower on the list of priorities. First, it was a chance to connect with my husband Tyler’s culture. His paternal side is Cantonese, so we have an apartment to stay in Hong Kong. This gives us a home base while in Asia. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a place to store our larger suitcases while we make shorter trips to other cities in neighbouring countries.

Apartments in Hong Kong New Territories

Tyler also has family in Thailand and friends in China, so we did the rounds and I got to meet some of his friends here for the first time. The second reason for the trip is that we are full-time business owners getting two companies Keiko Furoshiki and Function House off the ground. Our products are made in China, so being in Hong Kong allows us to be in a better timezone to work quickly on our next few products and review samples more efficiently by visiting the factories themselves.

Manufacturer visits in China

So, all this to say, this was a pretty drawn-out trip, with a mix of business and leisure, and where we fully adopted the local lifestyle for a good portion of it. Because a lot of the trip was uncertain, I made sure to pack something I could wear to a cocktail party in a pinch, to formal business meetings, on a hike, and to a temple.

Eating at Bangkok restaurants

Choosing the Vibe of Your Packing Capsule

Vibe might be the least obvious parameter among the four but I think it’s just as important. To guide your packing choices, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I here on business or leisure? A business trip will have a very different vibe to a bachelorette trip or Christmas at your parents.
  • How do people dress at my destination? What cultural cues do you need to consider?
  • Do I want to stand out or blend in? Will those cultural cues influence your choices?
  • Do I need to follow any modesty rules out of respect or for safety?

And if you are on a trip without significant limitations or parameters, you can also just have fun with it and ask yourself:

  • What do I want to convey?
  • What is my current style?
  • Do I want to have a particular aesthetic?

It can be risky to take on a new style while travelling, but sometimes a trip is an opportunity to create a capsule around a specific aesthetic and play dress up for a little while.

Bangkok tuktuk rides

Factoring in Trip Length

Lastly, the trip length was two months long with smaller side trips of seven days at most.

For me, when I have access to a washing machine, the trip length stops being a significant factor once I go over the three-week mark.

At three weeks, I usually have to bring a checked bag because I have some items that aren’t carry-on friendly, and I have a bit too much tech to bring in my carry-on to fit enough clothes. I will wash my clothes on the trip, but I want enough clothes that I can at least go at least one week

On Getting Inspiration Online

I remember years ago, when researching Asia packing content, I would come across 3 categories:

  • The soul-searching backpacker
  • The over-prepared performance travellers
  • And the elite luxury travellers

And while none of these align with my own style, I think we can learn from all three.

Like backpackers, you don’t need as much stuff as you think. Nobody cares if you re-wear the same things over and over again and hey, if you do need something unexpected, borrow or buy it, no need to stress about it.

I do look to high-performance travellers for gear recommendations because if I am going to spend money on something I’m adding to my kit, I want it to be thoughtful, sturdy, and made from good materials.

And well, stylish people are an endless source of inspiration and they remind me that just because you’re travelling, doesn’t mean you can’t be true to your personal style – especially when visiting cities.

Assembling My Packing List

I took all the information above and used it while packing for Asia. Perhaps this sounds like I’m really overthinking things, but the more I travel, the more this kind of analysis becomes instinctual. By now, this kind of planning happens organically and I spend less time thinking about packing and certainly make fewer mistakes. By breaking down this methodology on my blog, I hope you too can benefit from it.

how to pack for asia

For this trip, I wanted to look and feel like myself, but I also didn’t want to be miserable wearing clothes unfit for the season, activities, and culture. I also didn’t want to buy anything new so I went with cool tones with pops of colour, fairly modest, and comfortable.

I chose some more edgy pieces, like trendy Onitsuka tiger sneakers, tabi flyknit Nikes, a layered skirt over pants trouser and futuristic sunglasses paired with some classic feminine styles like mid-length skirts. Even though the shapes are feminine, there’s also a lot of sporty Nylon. This isn’t just practical for travel, it gives a street-style feel to the outfits.

Choosing my Clothes for Asia

For the vibe, I chose feminine, sporty, and trendy in neutral, cool tones with pops of colour. When packing for Asia, I looked at retailers like Muji and Uniqlo to get inspired and what seemed to be consistent was modest necklines, midi skirts, and performance nylon. Great, I have lots of that.

I made sure most of my clothes weren’t too revealing and were easy to clean. I brought some linen and some merino wool because these are comfortable in varying weather, and I brought clothes I could easily layer once it eventually got cooler in the evenings, which it only did for the last week in Hong Kong. In case it rained, I brought a raincoat, close-toed shoes, and my nylon bag that zips shut.

Seeing family in Bangkok

I only brought shoes I was comfortable walking in for long periods but also some options I could dress up in case I went somewhere fancy. I made sure to bring a blouse I could wear in hot weather but that covered my shoulders when visiting temples, and I packed things that would be appropriate for business meetings.

But Hong Kong is also a super stylish city, so this was a great place to be trendy. I felt like it was one place I could wear a designer purse on the metro and not be worried, and I was right. I also wore trendy sneakers, my Nike tabis, this skirt-over-pants combination, and this cool green nylon dress with shoulder pads. I also packed pyjamas, workout gear, a bathing suit and socks, and underwear.

One note about visiting temples: They don’t just require modesty, they also don’t like torn jeans or dirty clothes, and you have to remove your shoes, so don’t wear something too cumbersome to take on and off.

Non-Clothing Items I Packed

Let’s talk about all the non-clothes items I brought. Because we’re working remotely, we brought a lot of tech gear: laptops, keyboards, cameras, cables, chargers, and all that.

I also brought a fair amount of cosmetic products. Because we were checking bags, I brought a few more than I usually would and brought some full-sized things too. But, I also brought samples and some travel-sized things I already had and wanted to use up. Plus, I brought some empty travel bottles so when I did small trips, I could fill those up.

I also brought a quick-dry travel towel which I highly recommend. In fact, as far as quick-dry fabrics, I really liked my merino wool items for that reason. I was washing and drying my clothes so often that they had to dry fast.

How to Pack for Smaller Side Trips

Let’s talk about strategically packing for a long trip that has small trips inside. First, you’ll want to make sure you have the right bags. Since you might not want to bring a large checked bag for a tiny side trip, you’ll need a carry-on. But if the trip is upwards of one week, a backpack might not be sufficient.

Packing the right bags for travel

For example, I brought: 1 medium checked bag from Level8 cases, 1 small carry-on suitcase from July, and my Away weekender bag. In my large suitcase, I brought two purses and a small backpack.

For my trip to Thailand, I brought the small suitcase, the weekender, and my nylon tote.

Packing list for 7 days in Thailand

For my first week in China, I brought my suitcase and a backpack.

Packing list for 7 days in China

For my overnighter, I just packed the backpack.

Overnighter into China packing list

And for the day trips, I just used my tote bag.

packing for day trips to Macau and Shenzhen

In my case, the side trips had very similar vibes and weather to my larger trip, so I didn’t have to pack anything I’d only use on one side trip. I just paid attention to making sure I had enough options. It certainly helped that everything mixed and matched to begin with. As for cosmetics, I transferred some larger items into travel containers

Regrets and Final Thoughts

Do I have any regrets about what I packed? Not really. I didn’t bring a hair dryer nor a travel iron because the outlets are different in Asia and that felt like a waste. I considered buying cheap ones there but I kept putting it off until it was too late and no longer worth it. So, I do feel like I looked dishevelled for most of my trip. I was sweaty, frizzy, and wrinkled, but I did my best.

My MVPs were these merino wool trousers I wore a bunch, my white nylon wrap skirt, my jeans, this white linen Posse vest, and my thin cashmere neon top that was my extra layer in the evenings.

outfit in hong kong

If you’re starting to get sick of the clothes you packed by week 5 or 6, that’s totally normal. I got my nails done in Hong Kong every few weeks, which made things feel new, and I got some new earrings too. I bought a new bag midway through and some shoes near the end, so I did have a few new items to mix things up. I also started borrowing more heavily from my husband because I was just seeking some fresh style.

uniqlo puffer in airport

Towards the end of the trip, it got chilly and since I was planning on staying in the US for one week before returning to Canada in December, I picked up a puffer coat from Uniqlo that I wore when travelling home, which I was grateful for because I was very cold in the States.

Let me know in the comments if you have specific questions about my trip or packing list!

Happy travels xox