Ask Kara: “How Can I Pack For Thailand With Hand Luggage Only?”


“Kara, can you please please please write a blog post on what to pack in hand luggage for a 2 week trip to Thailand? Preferably with a girl with curly hair in mind?! We decided to take hand luggage only but it’s hard – what do you do about suncream, shower stuff, shampoo, etc?! I’m at a loss so turning to my local travel expert! Help!” – Liz

Maya Bay, Thailand


Hi Liz!

Wow, hand luggage only! Very brave indeed.

Well let’s get down to it, toiletries and beauty products are the main issue here. Everything you need compacted into 100ml bottles in a 20cm x 20cm plastic bag. Damn, girl. The only way you’re going to combat this is to suss out exactly what you can buy over there. Here’s my suggestions –

Products You Can Buy Over There

  • Shampoo & Conditioner: Wherever I’ve travelled in Southeast Asia, I’ve always found shampoo and conditioner readily available in brands I know from home. Even in the depths of Laos, I managed to get my hands on Herbal Essences, so I reckon you’re fine to head straight to the nearest health and beauty retailer.
  • Shower Gel: Same as above for shower gel, you won’t have any issues getting either a shower gel or a bar of Dove soap (it’s everywhere).
  • Razor: The issue with hand luggage only means no razor blades allowed! Unfortunately I don’t think you’re going to get a Venus Olay razor over there, but you’ll be able to get disposable ones for sure. Or better yet, if you’re only going for 2 weeks, get a wax before you go and you’re all set.
  • Toothpaste: Get your Colgate over there, but maybe take a travel size toothpaste for a mid-flight freshen up or for any stopovers en route.
  • Mosquito Repellent & Tiger Balm: Mosquito repellent is always best bought locally no matter your luggage allowances. Mozzies are different all over the world and the locals just always tend to know the best way to keep them at bay. In Thailand, this is likely DEET, which is readily available. Similarly Tiger Balm is the best way to sooth itchy bites and it’s super cheap over there.

Packing dramas

Products To Take With You

  • Hair Serum: Although I’m not of the curly-haired persuasion, I get the need for products. Serum will keep your locks frizz-free in the heat and doesn’t take up too much space in that liquids bag. But that’s the only haircare product you’re allowed, lady!
  • Suncream & Aftersun: The thing about Thailand is that being pale is fashionable over there. So there are whitening properties in a lot of their skincare products, and it’s not always easy to determine which ones. To be on the safe side I would bring your suncare with you. Obvs this isn’t ideal due to the limited number of products you can bring but better safe than sorry right?
  • Deodorant: They also sometimes have that whitening malarkey in Thailand. No-one wants white underarms. No aerosols are allowed on the plane in hand luggage so I would go for Sure’s Maximum Protection Anti-Perspirant. This is a cream-based stick which is so much more effective than any other roll-on I’ve come across.
  • Make-up: This is tough. I would stick to non-liquid products as much as possible to make the most of your 20cm x 20cm space. You should only be left with mascara and foundation at a push.
  • Make-up Removing Wipes: Technically not a liquid so won’t need to go in the liquids bag! Yay!
  • Travel-Sized Moisturiser: Depending on how much space you have left in that tiny bag, I would opt for a mini face moisturiser. Just to avoid your skin drying out on the plane. Once it runs out, I’m afraid aftersun will have to be your moisturiser…

This Works In Transit Skin Defence

Products To Leave At Home

  • Nail Varnish: Paint your nails and toenails before you go and when they start to chip, head off to a Thai salon. Sounds quite extravagant but a pedicure will be under a fiver, include a colour of your choice painted and even a fabulous Thai foot massage to accompany it. You just have to.
  • Toner or Moisturiser: The make-up wipes and aftersun are going to be your skincare I’m afraid! But the sun always does wonders to your skin anyway. You’ll survive!

So what about everything else?

Topshop Mini Travel Straighteners


In that hot climate, I don’t think you need a hairdryer, it’ll dry so fast. And with your hair serum, your locks will be frizz-free in the heat. I would however suggest you take a trusty pair of travel straighteners to keep the curls at bay. They’re pretty good and quite cheap these days so not a massive investment.


Sure your hotel might have a bathroom towel but what about when you want to lay out on the beach? A towel is going to take up too much precious space so I would go with a sarong – lightweight and multi-functional (Check out the full post on sarongs here).

Travel Pillow

It’s a long flight to not have a travel pillow. And although there are loads of great ones out there, the blow-up variety is going to best in this situation. The Travelrest is my fave.

Roll up you clothes for travelling


Thailand’s hot weather means clothes shouldn’t take up too much of your limited luggage space – a pair of denim shorts, a few camis and a couple of swing dresses and you’re good to go. Although if you’re going to be visiting temples on your trip, remember to bring an outfit that covers your shoulders and your knees – a tee and some printed trousers should do the trick! Also remember to bring some kind of hoody or cardigan, purely for the ridiculous levels of aircon they pump out!


2 or 3 pairs of shoes allowed I reckon. And you’ll be wearing 1 pair on the plane so that’s okay, right? Remember not to take any shoes that are expensive or sentimental. You have to leave shoes outside buildings before you enter them and I’ve lost a helluva lot of flip-flops that way…

I hope that helps, Liz?! Let me know if you have any more questions and have a fabulous trip! Here’s some Thailand pics to whet your appetite… xx

Koh Tao, Thailand

Khao Sok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Tuk tuk, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Koh Tao, Thailand

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