packing for Thailand: what worked and what didn't

My purple dot flowers rolling hard case suitcase and the blue and lime green REI backpack. 

My packing philosophy can basically be summed up in three phrases:

* One carry on, one personal item. No checked bags.

* Pack as lightly as possible while still being prepared.

* Everybody needs to be able to actually carry their own stuff.

The exception to this last rule is that Remy frequently falls asleep in transit, so we need to be able to split his stuff - plus carrying him - between us, if he is conked out. And if I'm traveling with him alone, I need to be able to carry everything - this happen when I took him to California a few years ago and I had to wake him up to walk groggily next to me, but I carried all our bags. Also, we didn't take his booster seat to Thailand, but we do when we travel in the US. I have a bungy cord system that clips it onto my rolling bag. We gate check it since it isn't FAA approved. (While he was still in a five point harness car seat, you can bet I brought it onto the plane and had him sit in it!)

Playing War in Chiang Mai. 

I mentioned my awesome new hiking backpack from REI in this pre-trip post. Yes, it is pretty much almost as big as my rolling bag. It still counts as a personal item. And because I didn't stuff it full (it wasn't even half full on the way to Thailand), it still fit under the airplane seat, when it needed to (mostly, it didn't need to and I was able to store it overhead).

We actually ended up checking the rolling bags on our domestic flights through Thailand, because we thought we were required to and it seemed like not something we wanted to argue about. Not a big deal; I don't check bags because I'm worried about it, per say, I just prefer having it all in one spot and not having to wait at the carousel.

I forgot my hat and bought this silly one in Japan. It looks like a baby bonnet. I'm going to use the fabric for something. 

This is the list of the clothes I brought:

3 pairs of shoes (sandals and five fingered shoes that can go in the water - I'm wearing my "sneakers.") 
5 pairs of underwear. 2 pairs of bike shorts (for under skirts). 4 sports bras. 2 pairs of socks (one for the airplane, the other "just in case.") 2 camis. 2 swimsuits. 5 shirts (short sleeved). 1 dress. 1 heavier anti-rain/wind sweater. 1 light medium sleeved cardigan (wearing). 2 capris. 1 pair of convertible pant/capris. 1 pair of capri leggings. 1 skirt (wearing over flowy yoga pants). 

I posted this list on Facebook and most people (especially my mom) were shocked at how little clothing I was taking (M walked in, looked at my pile and said, "I think I overpacked." Then he removed a few extra pieces from his suitcase). I think I might even have taken away a shirt from this pile at the last second (which I shouldn't have done.)

My reasoning was two-fold: I expected we would wash our clothes and hang them to dry each night (we brought a great clothesline but ended up getting fluff and fold laundry service in Chiang Mai and Koh Samui because it was cheap and right next door to our hotel) and I expected to buy a lot of clothing in Thailand. (That mostly empty backpack is for the stuff I expected to bring back).

While my reasoning was sound, I didn't take into account two unknown factors: I didn't buy as much stuff in Thailand (especially clothing) as I thought I would and I needed to change my clothes twice a day in Bangkok because of the humidity and grossness (plus we had a whole extra day in Tokyo to soil clothes, without having enough time to wash them). So almost immediately I ran out of underwear and clean clothes a few times. It worked out fine - I bought a new shirt at a night market and I wore my bike shorts while my underwear dried.

I did not need the heavier fleece sweater I brought (except on the planes), but while it was bulky, it wasn't too heavy, so I kept it for the plane ride home.

Detail from the shirt I bought in Bangkok - yup, another elephant!

In terms of medicines, I was super happy we didn't need any of the Imodium AD I brought (it is available everywhere in Thailand, but when you need that kind of stuff, you don't feel like going to the store to get it). I only brought a few packets of electrolyte solution (and forgot to pack the EmergenC I was going to bring). That was a mistake, since we all got dehydrated in Bangkok from walking around sweating and used up most of my packets. If we had gotten traveler's diarrhea, we would have needed to get more.

We brought a water purifier but never used it. Our water strategy was: buy a gallon jug of water, keep it in the fridge and refill our water bottles with it. I am still glad we had the purifier (and it's now in our emergency stash).

We over packed flushable wet wipes, but I don't regret that at all. (I think we ended up bringing six or seven of the Kirkland brand packs, we had four left over, I think, in various stages of empty). We didn't need the three quick-dry towels I brought, but they packed down light.

We had umbrellas but it rained a lot less than we thought it would (August is Monsoon season).

I brought my kindle (best. device. ever.), one paperback (just in case, and I never read it), four or five magazines (which I did read on the plane). I downloaded books from the library, just like I do at home. I read SO much while we were in Thailand, it was great!

He brought Panda from home.

In terms of packing for Remy, we did great. He wasn't as into the dry erase board as he was last year, so that's not coming with us next time. He loved the Pigeon Rides a Bus activity book I got him (and I had extra books as surprises along the way). We did buy small toys in Thailand, including two new stuffed animals to join the two he brought with him.

We brought UNO cards with us and then bought a package of regular playing cards in Chiang Mai and taught him how to play War. This was great fun, except when Rem got a little overly competitive. Still, it was so fantastic to be able to play card games together, I was happy, M was happy and Remy was definitely happy.

And that pretty much sums up the entire trip: we were happy together.

We probably could have gone lighter in some ways, and could have had more in other ways. But what we had was fine. We made do when we needed to, and we were all able to carry our own stuff, so it wasn't a big deal at all.

And we had a lot of  fun.