• packing for thailand

Packing For the Thai Islands in a Carry-On

Well, over a year has passed and I’ve STILL been meaning to write about what to pack if you’re going to the Thai islands. You can easily do laundry as you go so whether it’s for 2 weeks or 4, this should work well.

koh lanta thailand, packing for thailand

First, you need to know what bag to take. A carry-on is perfect for the islands and I just love traveling carry-on only. I recommend taking a 48L backpack. It’s small enough to go as a carry-on but can be expanded greatly if you want to shop while you’re there and check it on the way back. I would NOT take a rolling bag since you have to jump around via ferry. I used a REI Traverse 48L Backpack.

If you’re curious how to dress on the Thai islands, it might not be what you’re thinking. Coming from Goa (a non-conservative place in a conservative country) I had an idea of what girls would be wearing and packed really well. Basically, pretend like you’re going to LA and pack that- you’ll be fine. But leave the baggy tourist pants behind!

koh phi phi travel tips

koh phi phi travel tips

koh phi phi travel tips, packing for thailandI packed the same way I do for a weekend getaway in Goa.

  • Sarong
  • 2 maxi dresses, 1 maxi Skirt

  • Jean shorts

  • Kimono/jacket
  • 2 pair yoga pants
  • 1 sports bra
  • 5 tank tops, 3 cute crop tops for going out

  • 1 club like dress, or just a little black dress

  • t-shirt to sleep
  • 1 pair of flip flops & 1 pair of sturdy hiking sandals (I prefer Chaco’s)

  • 4 bikinis

  • Undies & a bra

You be surprised how often you are just in your bikini and sarong- meaning you don’t need a day outfit. Shopping in Thailand is huge and there are cute crochet tops and t-shirts to buy so whatever you do, don’t over pack.

koh samui island thailand, packing for thailandKo Samui

maya bay the beach, packing for thailandmaya bay

You’ll need some other misc things like a small medical kit, travel size toiletries (pack a lot because they are expensive on the islands), comb, wet wipes, sunscreen, tanning oil if you like, sunglasses, and maybe a couple bracelets but you can buy jewelry as great souvenirs. I also take my Fossil Heather Watch everywhere I go.

packing for thai islands, full moon party koh phanganfull moon party

For makeup, it’s hot so keep it as simple as you can. Don’t forget to take OPI nail polish. They shops will charge you almost double to use a good polish, and without doing that, the manicure will be ruined without two days.

My makeup list, most of which I have in sample sizes and large sizes.

  • Sephora Bronzer in Aruba
  • Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick in Pout
  • Laura Mercier Lip Glace in Bare Pink
  • NARS The Multiple in Orgasm
  • Burberry Brit
  • Lash Power Mascara
  • Clinique Moisture Surge

You’ll want a Kindle, your phone, chargers, adapter for the plugs, headphones, ATM cards and passport!

This post is in partnership with Expedia

Share this on Pinterest


About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Rachel March 16, 2015 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    The Thai islands have got to be one of the easiest places to pack carry on for, oh to only ever having to pack island wear!
    I’m a total convert to carry on, I did the Trans-Mongolian to South East Asia in a 40L Osprey and I loved it, so much easier! I have two packs now, the other is a 36L with wheels (which I’ve just reviewed). I love Osprey packs!
    I seem to pick cold destinations these days, no easy to pack bikinis, sarongs and tanks! Ah well, adventure is adventure!

    • Rachel Jones March 17, 2015 at 4:46 pm - Reply

      Yeah it’s hard when you have to pack for different weather. beach vacay packing is actually fun, while packing for cold or conservative places isn’t so much!

  2. Nat March 17, 2015 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Congrats Rachel!!
    I’m still carrying my checked luggage around me (15kg)… But that’s all I have to cross the world.
    You packed really smart! For the Thai Island you don´t need more than bikini, skirts and sunscreen!
    Hope you had an amazing time! We are leaving Southeast Asia on Monday and my heart is already sad!

    • Rachel Jones March 17, 2015 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      That’s really small! You pack smarter I think :) haha mine only lasted one month

  3. Alana - Paper Planes March 17, 2015 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Great list – but did you actually wear all your clothes?? I always seem to wear the same three things on the islands :)

    • Rachel Jones March 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      I am crazy about changing my outfit a lot for nights out haha, but I do always overpack so there were a couple things I didn’t wear! I actually took a rain jacket too which I needed need so left off the list

  4. Jessica @ The Belle Voyage March 17, 2015 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    Hahaha I’m so glad I’m not the only one who brings nail polish with them in a carry on bag!! I do love packing for a beach vacation – so much easier than any other trip!

  5. Paulina June 3, 2018 at 11:46 pm - Reply

    Super helpful! I have 4 nights in the islands in two weeks and cannot decide where to go! 2 in phi phi two in Lanta or All in phi phi in a more quiet area (if that exists)? Or ko Yao yi? Any tips I would love!

Like the Article? Leave a Reply