Hand Luggage Only: Smart & Stylish Packing Tips for Asian Summer Trips
Date Updated: 09/08/2023
From jam-packed megacities to serene temples, idyllic islands to lush rainforests, an Asian summer holiday promises everything you could dream of and more. But traveling in Asia in the summer also brings unpredictable tropical rainstorms, off-the-charts humidity, and (especially in Southeast Asia) intense equatorial heat.
So how do you pack for everything, but travel with next to nothing? Let our packing tips point the way to a smart, stylish Asian summer holiday.
Beat humidity with lightweight, breathable fabrics.
Pack lightweight and breathable clothing made from natural fibers like cotton or linen. These materials not only take up minimal space and weight when rolled tightly, they also allow air circulation and help wick away sweat, keeping you fresh and cool in heavy humidity. Consider loose-fitting, flowy clothing—it will up your comfort level plus keep you in sync with cool Japanese and Korean style.
Bring a lightweight shawl or scarf for modesty.
In many places in Asia, particularly in religious places such as temples, shrines and mosques, visitors are requested to observe cultural norms around modesty. Most often, this means covering your bare shoulders (as in Buddhist temples in Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar) or less frequently, your head (as in Indian temples) before entering a sacred place as a sign of respect.
A lightweight shawl rolls up easily and stuffs into a day bag for this very purpose. Simply unfurl and throw around your shoulders. A larger scarf can also double as beachwear—now you have a chic sarong to knot around your hips at the pool.
Ditch the raincoat for a folding umbrella.
For those unpredictable tropical showers, leave the bulky raincoats at home. Even if they’re unlined, humidity is so high in Southeast Asia that plasticky raincoat material will just stick to your skin and overheat you. Instead, do as the Asian girlies and aunties and carry a compact folding umbrella. These keep you cool throughout a burst of rain, and do double duty as sun protection on an intensely sunny day.
Pick up cute cooling accessories along the way.
Asian street markets (or air-conditioned malls) are the perfect place to stock up on cute cooling accessories and gadgets that are both fun and practical. Keep an eye out for small handheld, battery-operated fans, traditional paper fans in a variety of patterns, cooling towels, and sweat-wicking underwear or cycling shorts for layering under dresses or skirts.
Browse beauty counters for genius Korean and Japanese skincare products like “water SPF” (extra-light, extra-strength sunblock that feels like next to nothing on your face), aloe vera-based after-sun lotions, and minty shampoos and body wash to leave your skin tingly fresh after the umpteenth cold shower of the day.
Pack versatile, flexible, easy-off footwear.
Asia is very much “leave outside shoes outside” territory. Bringing in shoes straight from the street into a host’s home, or into a place of religious significance like a mosque or temple, is considered unhygienic and can be viewed as a sign of disrespect. Easy-off footwear, such as flat loafers, slides, or sandals without fussy straps are a convenient choice.
Our Salt-Water Sandals come in styles that slip off easily, and also provide the flexibility, durability and versatility you’ll need for an Asian summer holiday where anything is possible. With sturdy construction, durable soles, reliable stitching and high-quality, easy-to-clean materials, you’re ready to rock from street to spa to shore and more.
Want more flat-packing inspiration? Check out our tips on minimalist packing for a European summer holiday!