It can be hard to decide what to pack for South East Asia. You need to get the balance right between having all you need for your time away, and actually being able to carry everything with you.
This is particularly hard when you travel with a young family as you don’t want your little ones to be left without something that they really need.
In this Southeast Asia packing list, we will help you to decide what to pack for your family. It is based upon a couple of extended trips that we have taken to South East Asia where we have visited Thailand (twice), Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia with our young children.
For the most part, this tropical vacation packing list is not specific to South East Asia but can be considered as a good family packing list for a trip to any hot or tropical country.
For our trips to South East Asia, we relied on public transport so we knew that we would have to be able to carry all of our things with us as well as carry the two girls.
Having said that, this isn’t really a how-to pack light post. We generally prefer to take a bit more than we might need, just in case. We were also on a long trip so if you are going to South East Asia for a shorter holiday you could reduce the amount of some of these items. We hope that it will give you a good start in making your own preparations for packing for Thailand and South East Asia.
What Bags to Take for Family Travel in South East Asia?
Now that we travel with two young children we have moved away from just having backpacks. We have so much stuff that they would need to be really big and heavy. But if you are looking for a backpack we have reviewed the best backpacks for travelling in this post.
Packing in this way means that we are able to transport all of our luggage plus the girls in their Ergobaby carriers when we need to travel about between hotels and various different forms of transport.
We originally bought a North Face 150 litre bag but sent it back as it seemed too big (amazing quality though). On reflection, it might have been good to have the extra space but we have managed fine with what we use.
We are glad that we went for a wheelie bag rather than big backpacks, in most cases we were able to pull it along quite easily. Pavements and roads in South East Asia aren’t always the best but we found that we were able to manage to get around with all our things quite easily.
The most challenging time was a beach landing on Koh Mook, but here we were able to carry our wheeled bag with one handle each until some kind travellers offered to give us a hand.
The girls love to jump on the bag and get a ride so our big bag doubles as a way of transporting them!
We also love to take ultra-small packable day packs as they come in handy all the time when you need to carry a few things.
So, here are our recommendations for what to pack for Thailand and Southeast Asia.
Thailand and South East Asia Packing List
What to Pack when taking a Baby to Thailand
Our youngest was 9 months old when we arrived in Thailand and celebrated her first birthday in Vietnam just before we went home. Fortunately, she didn’t grow out of anything in this period and we feel like we took the right amount and type of clothes for this trip.
If you are spending a lot of time on the beach your little one will end up spending a lot of time in their swimsuit, so this is one of the most important items to take. We like the ones that cover arms and legs as it protects them from the sun without having to worry quite so much about when you last put sun cream on.
Baby Clothes Packing List
- 6 short-sleeved onesies or cotton rompers
- 2 full-length onesies
- Washable swim nappy
- 1 UV protective swimsuit with long sleeves and trousers
- 2 small muslins – depending on how sicky your baby is!
- 1 sunhat and 1 swimming sunhat
- 1 large muslin for sleeping under
- Favourite small comforter/ teddy
Other Essential items for a Baby
Changing mat/bag: This is probably the most useful item that we packed. A compact place to keep your nappies, wipes, and creams which folds out into a handy changing mat.
Nappies/diapers: We always had a decent supply of nappies with us in the bag but they were easy to get hold of in most places (7 Eleven have them).
If you are heading to the more out of the way islands prices will be higher and supplies could be short. We stayed in Koh Libong for 10 days and ended up buying all the size 3 nappies in the village. The shops were really small and I am not sure when stock would have been replenished so it is worth planning ahead and taking extra with you.
Baby wipes: These are much harder to find than nappies so it is worth bringing a supply from home. Biodegradable ones are best given the difficulty of disposing of waste in Thailand (especially if you are visiting islands).
Teething necklace: Good for keeping your little one entertained and quiet whilst travelling or in the baby carrier.
Nappy cream: Just in case of any sore bottoms you will want this on hand.
What to Pack for a Toddler or Young Child
For our toddler/pre-school age daughter we took the following which worked out just right for a long trip where you expect to do some washing as you go along. If you are happy to pay for more frequent clothes washing, you could get by with less than we had.
Toddler Packing List
- 4 cotton/linen summer dresses. This is what our daughter wore most of the time. For a boy (or a girl who doesn’t like dresses), you will probably need shorts and a t-shirt most of the time so bring more of those.
- 4 t-shirts
- 2 shorts
- 2 pairs of lightweight trousers (good for covering up if there are mosquitos about and for buses and planes)
- 1 long-sleeved top
- 4 pairs of underpants
- 2 pairs of socks.
- 1 long UV protective swimsuit and 1 normal swimming costume. Our girls spent most of the time in their swimsuits when staying on the coast.
- Trainers (you could probably leave these at home if you don’t plan to walk through any jungle/ forests),
- Sandals (necessity),
- Beach shoes (our daughter like to climb the rocks on the beach & kayak so these came in really handy).
- 1 sunhat and 1 swimming sunhat
What not to take
Pyjamas: We carried around pyjamas but never used them. Even with air con in the room, it is too warm to want pyjamas on so just some pants or light shorts will do.
Raincoat: Unless you are visiting in the rainy season, you are much better off taking an umbrella which can double up as a sun umbrella on sunny days (which are hopefully far more likely!). Even if it does rain you will probably be too hot to want to wear a raincoat.
What to Pack for Baby and Toddler Bedtimes
A good night’s sleep makes such a difference when travelling with kids. Creating an environment where they feel safe and comfortable is one of the most important things to do to ensure that they sleep well. We recommend taking a travel cot so your child has a familiar, clean place to sleep It also saves money compared to getting a room with an extra bed.
Mosquito nets: Mosquito nets are very rarely provided in the hotels we stayed in so if you have a child that is not protected in a travel cot it is worth taking your own mosquito net. Generally, the rooms we stayed in didn’t have that many mosquitos, but as there were often some around it gives us extra peace of mind to have the net up.
Large Muslin: We used this as a blanket for our baby in her cot. As it is so warm we didn’t take any other bedding.
Blackout blinds: These travel blackout blinds are great to make your room dark at night times
Don’t forget to bring a favourite toy or comforter if your child likes to sleep with a soft toy. We have a cuddly giraffe that has been all over the world!
What to Pack for Baby and Toddler Mealtimes
Breakfast in the hotel room on our first morning in Thailand
Baby food: We took food pouches from home. They are so handy to have when you are out and about and need a quick meal for your little ones. Don’t feel like you have to fill a whole bag with them though.
You should be able to find food for your little one. Fruit is easy to come by almost everywhere. At mealtimes, you can order a plate of boiled vegetables in most restaurants (ask for no salt).
Food pouches are available in some places in Thailand but they are not easy to find and are more expensive than in England so it is worth taking a supply with you.
Snacks like oat bars are also great to have with you, it is pretty hard to find snacks that are even vaguely healthy.
Totseat chair harness: This baby totseat is a great back up to have when eating out with a baby. Baby high chairs were quite widely available but not every restaurant has them and often they only have 1 or 2 chairs for loads of tiny diners.
Table mat: We did baby-led weaning so we took one of these table mats so that we could always have a clean table for our baby to eat off. We didn’t use it all that much but it came in handy a few times. We also took antibacterial wipes to clean up tables which also worked well but is not so eco-friendly.
Plastic tubs: This comes in super handy for taking leftovers from a restaurant, or for taking some food with you during the day. We like these ones from Systema.
Bibs: We have these super small bibs to try and reduce the mess at mealtimes, although sometimes we would just take their tops off. You will inevitably have to do plenty of washing whilst you travel with a baby.
Kids knife and fork: make meals times a bit easier for your little ones and get them used to using small-sized cutlery.
Drinking bottle: This is essential. Find a kids bottle that your child can easily drink from and that you can take anywhere. You can’t drink the water in Thailand so will end up buying loads of plastic bottles of water. Occasionally you will be able to get refills of your own bottle which is good for reducing the amount of single-use plastic that you get through.
We have a travel tap water bottle that makes all water sources safe to drink. It is pretty amazing and reduces the need to buy water when you are travelling.
We take super-concentrated fruit squash that is great for adding a bit of flavour to your drinks without having to buy fizzy drinks. The advantage of having a flavour for the water was that it encouraged our toddler to drink lots and stay hydrated in the heat.
What to Take for Getting Around with Young Kids
We travelled around using a variety of means of transport, aeroplane, ferry, speedboat, taxi, tuk-tuk, bus and train. There are a couple of things that you might like to take to make journeys easier and safer.
Mifold travel booster seat: This is a great travel booster seat. It is tiny so easily fits in even a day bag but it makes travelling by car far safer. It is for ages 4 years and up so our eldest is right at the youngest end of the age range but it worked just fine. Read our review of the Mifold in this post.
Baby/toddler sized buoyancy aid lifejackets: This is something we added to our Thailand packing list on our second visit after seeing other families using them the previous year.
Most boats have lifejackets on board but they are unlikely to have any that are small enough for babies or pre-school children. We used the lifejackets more than we expected and they were great for snorkelling and kayaking as well as for the girls to wear on long-tail and speed boats.
What to Pack to Stay Healthy
Suncream: This is available in most tourist areas in Thailand, but it is expensive and it can be hard to find high factor or waterproof sun cream.
Hand sanitiser: Very handy for keeping hands clean on the move.
Disinfectant wipes: We used these to clean high chairs and the floors in hotel rooms.
Sterilising tablets: We use these to sterilise our water bottles and straws occasionally. A tiny brush is handy to clean the straws and you may want to take a bottle brush.
Optibac: OptiBac Probiotics For Travelling Abroad is a natural supplement of good bacteria, created especially for travelling to destinations with different climates and environments. We’ve been taking these for years just a few days prior to travelling and for a little while whilst abroad & we haven’t experienced any upset stomachs. For the children (1yr & above) we just sprinkled the capsule contents onto their porridge.
First Aid Kit: There are bound to be times when you need a plaster or bandage so we always take a first aid kit along ours contains Calpol, Benadryl, antibiotics for mastitis, children’s inhaler in case of croop, mosquito repellent for kids and adults, Bonjela, plasters, paracetamol.
Boots in Thailand has most of these things if you forget anything or need to buy more, but it is way handier to pack them when you leave so that you have them ready when you need.
South-East Asia Packing List: Kids Entertainment
You will probably need fewer toys than you think to keep your kids entertained whilst away. But it is definitely worth taking a few things to keep them occupied on journeys and if you want some quiet time in the hotel.
The toys we liked the best include stacking cups which are compact and brilliant, you can use them to make sandcastles on the beach, to pour water in the pool or even to stack on the floor.
We also took a few Duplo brick and people, some cars, soft baby toys, PJ Mask and My Little Pony figures, threading beads, a painting set, storybooks, colouring/activity books, pencils, stickers, and a small spade.
The colouring and activity/sticker books were the things that got used the most.
You will probably spend time at the beach and will want to find hotels with a swimming pool where you can cool off. It is worth being prepared and bringing an inflatable baby ring, armbands, pool toys or balls, dive sticks, and snorkels (you can get kids snorkels, our 4 year old loved it and picked it up really quickly).
The most essential thing for entertaining our toddler was to take a tablet with us. She never uses it at home but when travelling there are so many times that it can help keep her happy and calm when tired, or just entertained whilst we are busy packing or planning the trip.
South East Asia Packing List: Technology
We have a growing list of technology that we take with us to help plan and record our adventures.
Kids tablet: Basically a lifesaver on the plane or when you need a bit of quiet time. Check out our review of the best kids tablets. We like the Amazon Fire kids tablets but there are loads of great options covered in our best toddler tablets post.
iPhones: we use these more and more to take photos
Chromebook: Small and fast and light this is perfect for travel. If you need to book hotels, do a few matched bets, work on your blog, or just keep up with the news, we think this is a better option than a tablet (ours folds over so it can be used as a tablet if you wish).
Canon Eos Camera: We still like to travel with a proper SLR camera
Canon 50mm Lens: This is the lens we use the most. It is great for getting really good portrait photos of your kids.
Go Pro: Great for taking out on a kayak or for underwater shots when snorkelling.
Chargers: As you can see there is plenty on this list that needs charging so be sure to take all the wires and plugs that you need. It is probably worth taking spare wires for your phones just in case you lose them. Although you will be able to pick up unofficial wires locally.
Plug Adaptors: Check that you have the right adaptors before travelling. You may want to consider taking an extension lead so that you have enough sockets for all your gadgets.
Power bank: These can come in handy as a backup if you end up somewhere with an unreliable electricity supply.
Other Useful Things to Take to Thailand
Packing Cubes: These are really handy to keep your things organised. We ave one for each of us inside the big bag.
Lonely Planet: Always handy when planning where to go next.
Clothesline: We have a really handy elastic clothesline with hooks that we can hang most places to dry our clothes.
Clothes pegs: The clothesline we use doesn’t actually need pegs but it is better with them and they come in handy for lots of things, especially putting up the mosquito net. The girls also seem to think that they are loads of fun to play with.
Dry bag: Keep your valuables nice and dry when on the boat/kayak or beach.
Travel towels: Smaller, lighter and quicker drying than a standard towel.
UV umbrella: These are useful for rain (much better than a raincoat) and also provide shade from the hot sun.
Penknife: Mainly used for cutting up fruit, but these have so many uses when travelling.
Bodge tape and string: For when you need to fix things or rig up
Padlock with long wire: We use this to lock our big bag when travelling around and to store valuables in if the room has no safe.
Final thoughts on What to Take to Thailand and Southeast Asia
We hope that you have enjoyed reading our Southeast Asia packing list and know have a good idea of what to take on your own trip. We feel that this is a fairly comprehensive list that we have tried and tested on a few trips now.
If you use the Thailand packing tips that we have included in this guide you should be well prepared for whatever you need on your trip. It is important to remember that you get pretty much anything that you need once you arrive, so don’t stress over it too much. Relax and enjoy your trip!