3 Months in a Carry-On: Southeast Asia


carry-on backpack packing list

One of the biggest hassles of long-term travel is stuffing as much as you can into a carry-on suitcase. Checking bags is expensive and time-consuming. It also leads to a lot of unnecessary stress since airlines are notorious for losing baggage. So it only makes sense to stick with a carry-on whenever possible.

Here’s my personal packing list for Southeast Asia that has worked out wonderfully. Keep in mind I’m somewhat of a minimalist but still a girly-girl, so this should be practical for most women, give or take a few things. Also, even though Southeast Asian countries are far less developed, finding most everyday items (toiletries, etc) isn’t an issue. So don’t worry about packing everything you would ever need.

Personal Item

I use a small drawstring backpack, but a traditional daypack or purse would also work.

  • Cell phone and charger
  • Tablet/e-reader and charger
  • Travel wallet (money, credit cards, passport, travel docs)
  • Notebook/travel diary
  • Empty water bottle to fill up once through security (Money saving pro-tip!)
  • Liquids (I find they’re easier to access for security this way)
    • Toothpaste
    • Shampoo
    • Soap
    • Sunscreen
    • Bug spray (with at least 50% DEET)
    • Laundry detergent/Febreeze
    • BB/CC cream (make-up plus sunscreen)
    • Mascara/eye-liner
    • Moisturizer (salt water and pools are very drying)


I use the Kelty Redwing 40L, but you can go bigger or smaller based on your needs.

  • All-in-one electronic adapter (different SE Asian countries require different adapters)
  • Towel
  • Lock for belongings
  • Sunglasses
  • Medications and OTC/travel medications
  • Sea sickness wristbands (like these, for all the ferries you’ll be taking)
  • Duct tape (comes in surprisingly handy)
  • Sandals
  • Sneakers (I usually wear mine when flying to save space)
  • Toiletries
    • Tooth brush
    • Floss
    • Comb
    • Deodorant
    • Nail clippers (double as scissors)
    • Razor
    • Lip balm
    • Hair ties
  • Clothing ( I roll my clothes in two packing cubes to save space)
    • 3 pairs of shorts (2 casual, 1 “nice”)
    • 3 pairs of yoga pants (itinerary-specific, as I was doing a lot of yoga/hiking)
    • 3 bathing suits
    • 3 airy dresses
    • 3 pairs of socks
    • 5 tops (3 casual/workout, 2 nice)
    • Sweatshirt (the AC in cars/shops can be surprisingly cold)
    • Sarong (helpful for the beach as well as staying conservative at temples)

1 Comment on 3 Months in a Carry-On: Southeast Asia

  1. David P says:

    Great to see you post again!

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