We went on a five night family trip to Bangkok, Thailand in July of 2018. We were going there on a visa run from China, and since it was our first trip in a while where we didn’t have to carry everything we own on our backs, we relished the opportunity to pick and choose what we brought. Here is our family packing list for Bangkok, Thailand.
We’ll discuss what we packed and what we left home, and go into a little detail about why we made each decision and whether we regretted it. We tried to include everything we brought for a mother, a father and a toddler.
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Our Expectations for Our Trip to Bangkok
We schedule our trip to Bangkok for July, not because that was when we really wanted to go to Thailand, but because our Chinese tourist visa requires us to get out of the country once every 60 days, and Thailand has a visa exemption for Americans.
Our mental image of Bangkok, Thailand was probably pretty similar to what most Americans picture. Hot, humid air. Busy, dirty streets. Street food, temples, tuk tuks and tourists. It was all of those things, for better or worse. Everyone said that the people in Thailand were very friendly, and everyone was right (it will blow your mind how friendly Thai people are).
We also found out July was part of the rainy season in Thailand. Shortly before our trip I checked the forecast for Bangkok and it showed scary thunderclouds every day for our entire stay. Obviously this made us nervous. But it turns out that doesn’t mean it rains all day every day. Sure we saw some rain, but we struggled more the bright sun that the rain clouds. (Update: We just got back from a second visa run to Bangkok, this time in September, and it was much rainier!)
Family Packing List for Bangkok, Thailand in July
What We Packed for Bangkok, Thailand
- Idaho Jones Gallivant – The Idaho Jones Gallivant Baby Changing Diaper Backpack has been our go to diaper bag ever since we had it shipped to us in Budapest, Hungary. It’s been traveling full time with us for almost a year now and it’s still going strong. It’s stylish, durable and it holds a lot of stuff. You can read our full review of the Gallivant here. We used it on every outing to carry Lisa’s necessities, plus water bottles and whatever else we think we’ll need when we leave the hotel. As expected, it served us well in Bangkok.
- Timbuk2 Camera Backpack and Rainfly – I bought this camera bag as a gift for Jake, and it is one of his favorite pieces of gear. We use this as a carryon whenever we travel and it holds all of our photography gear and (if we bring it) our laptop. It’s padded and secure enough to hold our electronics, but it doesn’t really look like a camera bag, so we worry (less) that it will get stolen. It worked great as always. Whenever we go outside with it we pack the rainfly inside because there is so much inside to protect. It’s kept our gear safe even when we had to dash through heavy downpours – which actually happened at the airport in Dali when we got home from this trip.
- Skip Hop Backpack – Skip Hop makes these little backpacks with leashes on them. They are the perfect size for a toddler and Lisa loves using hers as a carryon when we fly. We didn’t wind up using it much once we were on the ground in Thailand, mostly because she spent more time in the stroller, but when you are in the airport or train station it is really handy. Lisa loves to walk around carrying her own stuff, and we love being able to hold on to her and keep her from wandering off. She has a habit of silently stopping to look at something, but when she’s wearing her Skip Hop bag we at least know she stopped following us. At first we were worried that she would hate the leash, but in reality she actually insists that we hold it when we walk (“hold my tail!” she says).
- Zero Grid Passport Wallet – This is the wallet Jake carries around with him when we travel. It’s just big enough to hold three passports, and it’s RFID shielded for security. It fits in his pocket, but it also has a strap so he can wear it around his neck or inside his shirt. NOW we have six passports since we got ours renewed in Shanghai, but had to keep carrying our old ones because they contain our Chinese visas. Once we were in Thailand, we just kept our old passports in the suitcase and carried the new (valid) ones in the wallet. We wanted to buy Zero Grid’s six passport family wallet, but unfortunately they don’t ship to China.
- Children’s Clothes – For Lisa we packed more outfits than we had days on our trip, and we still could have used a few more. It’s easy to forget how fast kids clothes get dirty, especially when traveling. Because you’ll likely be going back and forth between hot, sticky streets and cold air conditioned hotels and malls, make sure you dress your children in light weight breathable materials and just carry a cardigan or something in your backpack in case you need it. We did all of our photo shoots in the morning and evening so that we wouldn’t have to drag her out in the heat of the day.
- Dannie’s Clothes – Even though I felt like I planned carefully, I brought a few more dresses with me than I actually needed. I just wanted to make sure I had enough options considering I was still a little unsure about the rules at the temples, or about the weather. Generally speaking, the weather was a little to warm to be called comfortable, but not miserable. Make sure you bring a few breathable options. As for the temples, as long as your knees and shoulders are covered, and you’re shirts don’t have anything offensive on them, you shouldn’t have a problem. If you are in doubt, bring a scarf with you, just in case. I packed a pair of comfortable walking shoes for the travel days, a pair of sandals for the heat, and a pair of heels, just in case I needed them.
- Jake’s Clothes – Jake brought two pairs of pants, one pair of shorts, and five shirts (three button downs and two tee shirts). I think he would have been more comfortable if all of the shirts had been tee shirts, but he likes to wear long sleeves. The long pants weren’t a mistake though, since some of our favorite attractions don’t allow shorts. There are plenty of places that capitalize on this requirement and sell cheap pants on the street, but they tend to be unattractive and low quality.
- BabyZen Yoyo Travel Stroller – We bought our Yoyo in Vienna, Austria, and it’s the best stroller we’ve ever had. What makes it amazing for travel is that it’s large and sturdy enough for children to sit in comfortably for long periods of time, but designed so perfectly that it still folds up small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment. In our travel stroller review, we go into detail about why fitting your stroller in the overhead is even more important than you think (trust us, we’ve been doing this for a while). Make sure you also get the rainfly, which fits perfectly and securely. Bangkok, Thailand isn’t perfectly stroller friendly, but it’s about as close as any other city. You can handle it. At some sites, like Wat Arun, you may have to leave it on the ground if you want to explore upper levels.
- Diapers – One thing I’ll say about full time travel is that it makes potty training extremely difficult. Lisa was almost three when we went on this trip, and she was still wearing her pull ups (as of this writing she is almost trained, we swear)! Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems like she goes through diapers faster when we are traveling. We packed almost thirty of them, but we still had to buy more of them while we were in Bangkok. Note: Diapers were not easy to find.
- Wipes – Wipes aren’t just good for diaper changing. We use them for cleaning everything foreign Lisa is going to handle, from airplane windows and tables, to souvenirs we buy on the street. If you can, buy the bags that have the closable plastic openings.
- Swimming Diapers – We almost forgot these. If Lisa was going to go swimming in a pool before she was potty trained, we didn’t want her leaving anything behind. We tried letting her sit in her inflatable pool at home wearing a regular diaper once, and we found out just how comically heavy they can get.
- Umbrellas for Rain – We brought two umbrellas for Jake and me (Lisa had her stroller rain fly), but it just didn’t rain as much as we expected. That being said, we wound up using them anyway as protection from the sun. Even though we wore sunblock, the shade still felt really nice on a long day outside.
- Disposable Ponchos – We never used these, but having them with us made us feel more secure, so we didn’t regret having them with us. They only take up about as much space as a deck of cards, so no big deal. Even though we had umbrellas, we wanted to know we had something with us that could keep all of our bags dry if we really got stuck out in some lousy weather.
- iPad – Even though the flight from China to Thailand wasn’t super long, we thought it would be good to bring some entertainment for Lisa. She has some games on there, but mostly she just wants us to read her books these days. We have an entire article about using Kindle Books for Kids Travel, and how much space it saves compared to packing actual physical books. Even when Lisa’s in a strange place, at least her bed time stories can comfort her and remind her of home. That article also has a list of some of her favorite books. Don’t forget the charging cord in the hotel.
- (Inexpensive) Toys – We brought a little bag of inexpensive plastic toys. She lost one of her Hello Kitties on the plane, but other than that this seemed to work out well for us. Lisa carried them all in her Skip Hop bag and felt like a real grown up.
- Travel Silverware – When you’re traveling in Asia it never hurts to have a few sets of silverware with you. Jake and I know how to use chopsticks, but Lisa doesn’t. Plus, if you ever get takeout, you never know if they’re going to give you anything at all to eat with. We all used our silverware at one point or another, so this was a definite win.
- Toddler Snacks – Do I even need to point out that this is a good idea? Just remember to keep liquids under 100g. Also, avoid things that make fingers sticky or colorful. Bananas are a disaster unless you have a hard container for them.
- Food Containers – We brought a few resealable food containers so that we could carry meals around with us. We used them a few times, though we probably could have survived without them if we’d had to.
- Silicon Place Mat – There is much disagreement in our household about the value of traveling with a silicon place mat. Pros: A divided plate to separate unfamiliar foods, something cute and familiar to make a toddler smile, and a dish that is clean and chemical free when eating in questionable settings. Cons: they are heavy, they don’t actually keep the table clean, and once they are used, you still have to carry them home dirty. We’ll call this one a toss up, too.
- Sunblock – Even if you don’t burn easily, overexposure to the sun has harmful long term effects. Protect yourself. We use ThinkBaby sunblock which is free of all the nasty stuff we don’t want to put on Lisa.
- Thermos – On a hot day it’s nice to pull out a cold drink. Our hotels both provided complimentary cold bottled water, which we just poured into our thermos to carry around with us. The name brand makes it pricy, but those things really work. Ours has a picture of Miffy on it and the cap has a mechanism that toddlers can handle (here it is on Amazon). Lisa actually really likes opening and closing it, so she actually drinks more water when we travel than when we are at home (maybe that’s why we ran out of diapers).
- Cell Phones – Jake and I both brought a cell phone with us. Just like Lisa we need to be entertained on our flights, even if we have to do it offline. It’s also nice when both of us have a phone because one us can be looking up directions while the other one reads reviews or sends emails. Both of our phones are unlocked, so we had no problem getting a foreign SIM card. If you’re phone came with a data plan, you might have to buy an unlocked one if you want to use data while you travel.
- Thai SIM Cards – We bought our SIM cards from Ctrip.com and they were waiting for us in the Kunming, China airport when we left. If you aren’t traveling from China, Ctrip probably won’t work out for you, but you can buy them at the airport when you land (it just costs more). If you can’t buy one ahead of time but you still want to save money, you can track down a retail store.
- Make Up – I knew we’d be taking a lot of photos, so I brought some of my makeup with me. Just the basics.
- Nikon D810 – Our D810 is our DSLR camera and it’s the primary camera we use for our photo shoots. It is admittedly bulky, and it’s probably more than you need for your vacation. That being said, we love it and we’ll probably carry it around with us until we accidentally drop it in the ocean or something (again).
- Nikon 24-70mm Lens – This is our walk around lens, and it’s good for landscapes or portraits. It’s sharp and it’s fast. Our 24-70mm will do in almost any situation.
- Nikon 70-200mm Lens – Jake says he feels more creative when he’s using a long lens (he even wrote an entire article about getting creative with a zoom lens). We got our 70-200mm one back in our wedding photography days, and he still uses it a lot when we travel. It’s good for everything from portraits to wildlife, and of course it’s also very sharp and fast.
- 90mm Macro Lens – We’ve been carrying our 90mm macro lens with us since we started traveling, and we hardly ever use it. Macro lenses are good for taking photos of very small things up close. Sometimes we think about getting rid of this one, but it’s not very heavy and Jake is convinced that we’ll miss out on some great opportunities if we leave it behind.
- Fujifilm X100T – This is our mirrorless camera. We like it because it’s the size of a point and shoot, but with greater functionality. On the occasions when we go out but don’t want to carry the camera bag around with us, we throw this one in the diaper bag just in case we feel the need to take photos. It’s great for our scouting trips. It’s not the best in low light, but we can use it in a lot of places that frown on professional looking cameras indoors.
- Nikon Speedlight – We brought this one in case we felt like doing photo shoots inside our hotel rooms or outside at night. It turns out we didn’t feel like it. That being said, we never regret having good lighting equipment with us because when we want it we really want it.
- Video Light – We bought a big flat video light online in China that happens to be the exact same size as our laptop. That means we can fit it inside the laptop compartment of our camera bag and carry it around with us when we think we might need it. It works pretty well, and we always bring it with us these days, but as I said above, we just wore ourselves out during the day this time and simply felt like relaxing at night.
- Extra Batteries – Photography gear doesn’t work without batteries. We brought lots of them, plus chargers.
- Lots of SD Cards – We decided not to bring our laptop or backup drives with us since we wanted to pack light. That meant lots of SD cards to store our images until we could import them when we got home. This worked out just fine, thought it does make us feel a little bit nervous to wait so long before backing up our images.
- Defogging Lens Wipes – If you are going from an air conditioned hotel room to a hot and humid Bangkok street, there is a really good chance that your lens is going to fog up. As it happened, we walked to every location, so our lenses always had time to get warm and defog themselves before it was time to take photos, but this could easily have not been the case, so we still felt good having them around.
- Reflector – We brought our reflector with us in case we needed fill lighting, but we never brought it with us to any of the sights, since it would have been so conspicuous to use at places like Wat Pho. We could go either way on this one.
TIP: Pack it or shop? When it comes to things like toiletries and makeup, you can probably get away with buying them once you get to Bangkok (except diapers!). There are 7-11s on every corner where you can get the basics. Clothing on the other hand is another matter. There is a lot of shopping to be had in Bangkok, but most of the good stuff we saw was in the high end malls, which are far from the attractions. That means a shopping trip for clothing is likely to take up half a day at a minimum, so don’t plan on it unless the shopping scene is the attraction for you.
In Thailand, and in Asia in general, I’ve found that smaller clothing stores have very little to offer me. Most Asian women are of very small frame, and the stores – especially the boutiques – are not stocked with my size. I am 5’6″, and in the U.S. I wear a medium/large or a size 10. In Asia I always have to ask if they have extra large. So keep your size in mind when you consider buying your clothes on the go. The styles there can also be a bit… conceptual?
What We Left at Home
- Laptop – In order to save space and reduce risk, we decided to leave our laptop at home this time. It’s not like we were going to have time to do any blogging on this short trip, and we could do any research we had to do on our phones. We just made sure we brought enough memory cards to hold all the photos we might want to take. This worked out great, and we’ll probably do the same thing for our upcoming trip to Japan. We’ll definitely bring it with us for our two week trip to Chiang Mai in November, though.
- Backup Drives and Card Readers – They wouldn’t do any good without the computer, would they?
- Toiletries – We decided to get wild and travel without toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo and soap. We got kind of lucky that the hotel had these things during our layover in Kunming, because the first hotel we stayed at in Bangkok, Thailand did not have toothbrushes or toothpaste. They did have shampoo and body wash, but now hand soap. It was still an awesome hotel, but you might want to bring that stuff with you if you are unsure.
- Scarfs – We knew that you had to cover your shoulders when visiting Thai temples, but we also read that you could buy inexpensive scarfs right outside most of the time. I wanted to wear a scarf with beautiful Thai patterns on it during our photo shoots, plus I thought it would make a good souvenir when we came back. Unfortunately, all the scarfs I saw looked very mass-produced and kind of ugly. Maybe if I’d spent more time looking I would have had more luck, but I’d recommend bringing your own just in case. I have a lot of scarfs that I like a lot, and though none of them would have looked perfectly at home in a Thai temple, I wished I’d brought some along anyway.
- White Noise Machine – We actually just forgot our noise machine, and we were kind of upset about it because we read how noisy Bangkok can be. We were seriously worried about getting Lisa to sleep. Luckily, both of our hotels were remarkably quiet, even the one that was right in the city center. I’d still recommend one. We have one that is portable, usb charged, and great for travel.
- Ergobaby Omni 360 – For the first time ever, we decided to leave our baby carrier at home. Lisa’s finally big enough that she can walk for more than five minutes at a time, and given that Bangkok has a well earned reputation for being hot and humid, we thought we’d risk it and go without. When Lisa was smaller our Ergobaby was invaluable. We used it in on the airplane when we didn’t buy her a seat. We carried her though stroller hostile subways, and in the mountains during our Summer in Scotland. This just seemed like the perfect time to try going without it. A year ago it would have been a disaster, but at almost three years old Lisa did fine with just a stroller and our arms. Read our review of the Ergobaby Omni 360.
- Travel Tent – Another staple of our earlier adventures was Lisa’s PeaPod Plus travel tent. During our year in Europe Lisa mostly slept in her tent instead of a crib since many airbnbs (and even some hotels) don’t provide a children’s cot. This thing packed down super small and it was light as a feather. But once Lisa started sleeping in real beds there was no going back. Her PeaPod was great for when she was smaller, but now she doesn’t need it anymore. Read our review of the PeaPod Plus and also read our Airbnb Tips for Slow Travel.
- Instant Coffee – Jake forgot his instant coffee. He got lucky, though. Both of the hotels had real coffee. He should have brought it anyway, though, because if things had worked out differently he might have made us all miserable.
- Dry Shampoo – I love traveling with dry shampoo, especially in humid climate where it takes my hair a long time to dry after a shower. When my hair is looking oily (say after traveling for a day) but I don’t have time to get cleaned up before we’re going out or taking photos, I like to have some dry shampoo on hand. Unfortunately, it’s hard to come by in China. I bought some while I was in Bangkok, though. Hooray!
- Children’s Books – Even though we bough Lisa some paper books after “settling down” in Dali, China, they didn’t make it onto our Bangkok packing list. Like I said earlier, Lisa’s happy traveling wither her Kindle books on the iPad.
- Bug Spray – We read that the floating markets in Bangkok are really buggy. After our experience at the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye, I was a little nervous about that. Eventually we decided we didn’t really want to do the floating markets anyway, so that problem kind of solved itself, but if you are looking forward to them, maybe bring some bug repellant. I don’t know what works on Thai mosquitos, but Skin So Soft worked for the Scottish midges.
After the trip, we felt like we’d done a pretty good job with the packing. We were especially pleased to have gotten our load down to just one suitcase, two backpacks and a stroller. At one point in our travels we had three suitcases, three backpacks and a stroller, so this was quite an improvement.
We hope you found this article helpful. If you did, you can read our other posts about Bangkok, Thailand, or head to our destinations page to see what other countries we’ve been to in Europe and Asia. If you’d like to help support our blog and our travels so we can keep producing content like this, please consider checking out our resources page or our shop when you are planning your next big adventure.
Oh, and one last thing you don’t need to pack is your knowledge of photography. You carry that with you. If you’d like to learn more about your camera and seize creative control over your images, have a look at my e-book, Easy Manual Mode Photography.