About a year ago I posted on my blog everything I would be taking with me on my trip. (Click here to read the original post.) Without knowing where I was going or how long I would be gone, I was clueless. I poured over other online bloggers’ packing lists and “must haves” trying to be fully prepared, and at the same time keeping the bag weight to a mínimum. As I look back over my old list, I laugh at some of the crap I brought. I think the number one lesson I learned, is that yes, you can buy just about anything anywhere, but the quality is not the same. Unavailable are the silky-soft-moisture-wicking-quick-drying Lululemon t-shirts, high-quality-wrinkle-defying face cream, or sturdy-leak-proof water bottles. I just had to learn to live with lower quality stuff and adjust my spoiled nature or wait for friends to bring me things from the U.S. So, here’s a review of what I originally packed and what I needed and what I didn’t (updates in bold).
- Flip Flops (x2) – Havaianas: I wore (and wore-out) both pair within 6 months. I didn’t really need two though. You can buy flip flops anywhere, but I do like the durability of the Havianas, so I bought a replacement pair in Nicaragua.
- Flats (1) – Tieks: I did wear these quite a bit, as my “fancy/night out” shoes, but ha, let’s be honest, they really aren’t that fancy. I ended up ditching them in Peru, and I don’t think I will buy another pair.
- Sneakers (2) – A light walking pair and a heavier hiking/running pair. I know. Too many.: I wore the walking shoes a bit, and the running sneakers almost never. I ended up ditching both pair in Costa Rica and buying a pair of Merrell hiking shoes. These have been awesome, and maybe my best purchase of the trip.
- Socks (4): For some reason, I never had enough socks. Luckily these can be bought anywhere for cheap.
- Slipper/Socks (1): I don’t know what happened to them, but in each place where I was spending more than a month (Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua), I bought cheap slippers for around the house.
- Jeans (1) – Joes Jeans: I cannot say enough wonderful things about these jeans. So durable and practical, and I used them everywhere. I will maybe get a fresh pair before I head out again, but only one pair of jeans is needed. Apparently, you can wear jeans many times before washing.
- Skirts (1): I ditched this after Colombia. I just didn’t wear it very much.
- Long Yoga Pants (1) – Lululemon Studio Pant: These pants are phenomenal and held up after many washings. Perfect for yoga, work outs, plane and bus rides, pajamas, etc.
- Cropped Yoga Pants (2) – Lululemon Step Lively: I really liked these as well. I don’t think I used them as much as the other yoga pants, but still a great thing to have
- Shorts (1) – Old Navy: Used these a bunch and still have them.
- Workout Shorts/PJ Bottoms (1): I ditched these after Nicaragua, but I bought a couple of other cheap shorts to replace.
- Dresses (2) – Peacock dress!: I sent the peacock dress back to the States with my friend Nicole. I just didn’t wear it enough, and it was too heavy. The second dress I wore quite a bit, until it fell apart after too many washings. I will probably buy that dress again.
- Tank Tops/Sleeveless Shirts (5) – Also for working out, cause that’s gonna happen.: Actually, working out DID happen occasionally. I did Zumba in Colombia and yoga in Nicaragua.
- Short Sleeved Shirts (3): I think I will get some more high quality t-shirts for the next leg of my trip, instead of constantly replacing with cheap, “disposable” shirts.
- Long Sleeved Shirts (2): Didn’t start using these until I got to Guatemala, but I was glad to have them then. Also, in Peru and Bolivia.
- Black Windbreaker Jacket (1) – Lululemon: Excellent, practical, lightweight jacket.
- Black Light Jacket (1): I used this hoodie quite a bit too.
Rain Poncho (1) – It’s raining in Cartegena!: Never used it and ditched it in Colombia.
- Bathing Suits (2): I used these a bunch and eventually bought two new ones in Colombia and Nicaragua. I think 2 is a good number for bathing suits, although at one point in Nicaragua I had 4.
- Thongs (14): Wore these and had my friend Sabeena bring me some new ones from the states when she came to visit.
- Boy Shorts (6): Wore these a bunch too.
- Regular Bras (3): The most difficult thing to find for me in South/Central America were high-quality, well-fitting bras. Almost impossible.
- Sports Bras (2): Used these often.
- Sunglasses (2) – Ray Bans and Maui Jims: Replaced the beat up Ray Bans in Lima, Peru, but overall I was glad to have these. At times I bought fun, cheap, disposable shades along the way.
- Sarong/Scarf (1) – Thanks Iris!: I actually took two scarves and used both of them all the time. When I was in Guatemala, I bought a few more cheap ones, but ended up ditching them because they were falling apart.
- Buff “Hat” – Thanks Ruby!: I used this more than I thought I would, and I will continue to bring it on my travels.
- Jewelry – a couple pairs of hoop earrings, a few necklaces, nothing expensive or valuable: I used these, and I also bought more cheap stuff along the way.
- Watch (1) – Swatch: Love my swatch, but the strap holder thing broke, so I will probably get a new one.
- Hiking hat (1) – Patagonia: Never used this, so I ditched it, but I did buy some cheap, fun hats along the way.
- Acetaminophen PM: Used it up and had my friend Nicole bring me a replacement.
- Excedrine Migraine: Barely used it.
- Prescription Levothyrox: Used it daily, and was able to buy more as needed.
- Anti-Diarrheal: Used rarely.
- Sinus Decongestant: Used never.
- Benadryl: Used never.
- Fluconazole: Used it up, will replace.
Cipro – Antibiotic: Used it up, once for myself, but mostly gave away to other fellow travelers.
- Doxycycline – Anti-Malaria: Never used, will not replace.
- Anti-Itch Cream: USED! For terrible mosquito bites. Will bring again.
- Antibiotic Ointment: Used for occasional cuts and scrapes, will bring again.
- First Aid Kit: Mostly only used Band-Aids.
- Headlamp: Used occasionally, will bring again.
- Doorstop: Used rarely, but glad to have it when I did. Will bring again.
- Travel Cable & Lock: Never used the cable, so will probably ditch it, but the luggage locks were critical.
- Duct Tape: I don’t think I ever used this, but I might keep it with me just in case.
- Super Glue: I used it once, and it dried up, so I chucked it. Won’t replace.
- Pepper Spray: Thankfully I never had to use this, but glad to have it. I have a love-hate with this pepper spray, and I could (and might) write an entire blog post on how much trouble and anxiety this has caused me. But either way, I think I am going to keep it.
- Small Sewing Kit: This was taken away from me at an airport in Guatemala, but I have since replaced it.
- Swiss Army Knife: The mini scissors on this were used all the time. I will take this again.
- Dreamsack – I’ve never used this, and not really sure if I ever will?: I used and loved this thing! And I will bring again.
- Ear Plugs: Used a bunch, and will bring again.
- Eye Pillow – My favorite “luxury” item, so good for jet lag-induced headaches.: Used daily, will bring again.
- Cable Ties: Never used and ditched in Guatemala.
- Water Bottle: Used until it broke and couldn’t find a decent replacement anywhere. I will take again.
- Carabiners – This is apparently a “must have”, but I have no idea when I will use these.: Used once to clip my sleeping bag on my backpack. Gave one away to a friend. Not sure I need this.
- Corkscrew: Used it a bunch.
- Umbrella (Small): Used it rarely, but glad to have it when I needed it.
- Antibacterial Wipes: Used rarely, will not replace.
- Quick dry towel: Used rarely so I ditched it, but ended up buying a cheap towel in Peru. Not sure if I will replace.
- Plastic Ziplock Bags: Used these for everything.
- Thank You Cards: Used rarely, will probably ditch em.
- Pens & Sharpie: Used the pens, but never the sharpie.
- Traveling Translator Guide with Pictures to Point At – Thanks Sabeena!: Didn’t use this once, but I think will come in handy for Asia.
- Journal Books – Thanks Karen!: Used these to record expenses mostly, but now I have an app for that, so I might not bring more.
- Moo Cards – to give out my contact info when I make friends on the road: I used these a bunch.
- Dive Card/Dive Book – hoping to get more use from this: Only used it once in Colombia! But I will continue to bring it.
- Exercise Band – Ha! I’m so sure I’ll use this daily.: Never used this and ditched it in Guatemala.
- Playing Cards: I never used them, ditched them in Guatemala, and then bought a deck in Nicaragua. I will bring these again.
- Sunscreen: Good sunscreen is impossible to find and is very expensive in South/Central America. Will bring again.
- Tissues: Used daily. Available everywhere for cheap.
- Bug Spray: Used frequently. Found that it is better to buy this where you are, as the formulas can be different for the region. I bought some great repellent in Colombia, that was made for the awful mosquitos they have there.
- Toothbrush: Used daily. But when I needed to replace it I couldn’t find “soft” head.
- Toothpaste: Used daily. Cheap and available everywhere.
- Soap: Used daily. Cheap and available everywhere.
- Eyes Cream: Used daily. Cried when I ran out and had friends bring me from the US.
- Face Cream: Used daily. Could not find any decent to replace.
- Face Wash: Used daily. Found decent replacements when needed.
- Pocket Mirror: Used daily. Half of it broke, so I will replace.
- Dental Floss: Used rarely. Sorry Mr. Dentist. I just never think about it.
- Shampoo: Used daily. Found decent replacements when needed.
- Conditioner: Used daily. Found decent replacements when needed.
- Deep Conditioner: Used weekly. Could not find good replacements.
- Dry shampoo: Never used and ditched.
- Headbands: Used daily to hold my hair when washing my face. That’s it really.
- Hair Ties: Used frequently until I got a terrible haircut in Peru and my hair was too short. 😦
- Hair Clip: Used daily until they broke. Will bring again.
- Comb: Used daily.
- Brush: Used daily.
- Chap Stick (x2): Used daily.
Tweezers: Used frequently until they were confiscated getting on a flight in Guatemala. Impossible to find a decent replacement.
- Nail Clippers: Used frequently.
- Nail File: Used rarely.
- Razor: Used frequently.
- Deodorant: Used daily.
- Mascara: Used daily.
- Eyelash Curler: Used daily.
- Eye Shadow: Used daily until it broke and made a mess everywhere.
- Face Powder: Used daily.
- Eye Liner: Used occasionally.
- Kindle & Charger: Used daily.
- iPhone 4S & Charger: Used daily.
- Halo Pocket Power – Back-Up Charger for iPhone – Thanks Linda!: Used often. A lifesaver.
- ASUS Laptop & Charger – I mentally debated taking this, but ultimately decided that I want it.: Used occasionally until it broke in Colombia, and I bought a replacement laptop. Ultimately I am glad to have this.
- International Converter: Never used it, because everywhere I went had US outlets, but I will bring this again.
- Grid-It Organizer – This thing is pretty cool.: Never used it and ditched it in Colombia.
- Passport with Kate Spade Cover – Thanks Lisa!: Used frequently.
- Health Insurance Card – Blue Shield says they’ll cover me on the road!: Never used it and ditched it after the rates doubled.
- Real Wallet & Dummy Wallet – One to give to theives? I have read a lot about this “dummy wallet”, but I don’t know anyone who actually had to use this tactic. I just plan on not carrying much with me.: Never used the dummy wallet.
- 500 US Dollars: Spent it.
- 600,000 Colombian Pesos: Spent it.
- Chase Sapphire Visa Credit Card – Primary credit card with no international fees: Used frequently.
- Edward Jones Master Card – Back-up credit card: Never used it.
- Charles Schwab Debit Card – Primary ATM card with no fees: Used frequently.
- Edward Jones Debit Card – Back-up ATM card. Never used it.
- Bank of America Debit Card – Back-up to the back-up ATM – I really don’t want to keep this account open, but it has my business account on it and all of my automatic bill pay, so… Never used it.
- Old Student ID – For student discounts? I am not sure if I can still pass as a student?: Never used it. Will ditch it.
- Primary Suitcase – Eagle Creek Twist 65L – a rolling bag/backpack hybrid.: This bag was excellent, but I only once used the backpack straps, and I hated them. I’m not going to ever use them again, if I can help it. I *might* try to downsize to a smaller bag, but I am still researching.
- Carry-On Bag – Timbuk2: I ditched this in Guatemala and replaced with an excellent, small North Face backpack that I can use for weekend trips, hiking, and as a carry-on.
- Purse – Baggallini Amsterdam Crossbody: I ditched this, but not sure when. I just buy a small, cheap local purse wherever I am.
I am still trying to downsize even more. Clothes and toiletries take up the majority of space and weight in my bag. With clothes, it is a constant balance of having less clothes, vanity/boredom with these few clothes, how “dirty” clothes need to be to warrant washing, and how often I get laundry done. For toiletries, I grapple with expensive, tiny bottles of products versus larger (heavier) bottles, that cost less and last longer. I’m not sure if I will ever get the balance perfect, but I am going to keep trying. Any questions or comments, write them in below….