Packing for trips has become an art form to me. I know some people just grab things quickly and throw them in a bag, but not me (not anymore!). Packing the right things is so important to having a good trip. And now that so many airlines are charging a lot for checking bags (and then potentially losing them), being able to fit everything in a carry-on bag is the goal.
Even if you’re packing for more than a week, you can still travel with a carry-on size bag. Of course, if you’re bringing a lot of camera equipment, or packing for a ski trip, then this may not be feasible. But for most trips that I make, I now just use one of two bags: either my Osprey Porter 30-liter backpack, or my 20-inch rolling suitcase I bought on Amazon for $37. A day pack or purse is a good personal item to bring, depending on the trip.
So what should you bring on a trip to Guatemala or Belize (or Central America in general)?
Note: all brands mentioned here are done so out of my personal recommendation. I am not paid by any company or brand to promote their product.
The weather during our trip was going to be between 80-90 degrees during the day, and 60-70 degrees at night. So, warm. I wanted to pack a variety of pants and shorts, long sleeve and short sleeve shirts. There were times when it was windy and chilly, so being prepared for that is important too.
Part of packing minimally is to pack clothes that stick to a color theme and that can go together in different combinations. I tried to keep that in mind when choosing what clothes to bring. Even more important than that though, was choosing clothes that are comfortable, light weight, and quick-dry.
I ended up packing:
- 3 t-shirts (1 quick dry)
- 2 tank tops (1 quick dry)
- 2 long sleeved shirts (1 quick dry)
- 3 pairs of pants (2 hiking and 1 leggings)
- 3 pairs of shorts (2 quick dry)
- 1 set of pajamas
- 1 casual dress
- 2 swimsuits
- 3 bras (2 sports, 1 regular)
- 7 pairs of socks (3 hiking) and underwear
- 2 head wraps/sweatbands
- 1 ball cap
- 1 lightweight rain jacket
- 1 sweatshirt
What should I have left at home?
- The head wraps/sweatbands
- The dress
- 1 each of the pairs of shorts and pants
I used everything else!
Shoes take up a lot of space. I knew I wanted to limit the number of pairs I brought. So I just brought two: Salomon hiking sneakers and Keen water shoes. I used both multiple times, and I highly recommend them!
I decided that since I was packing only a carry on bag, I needed to limit the amount of liquids I was bringing. So I used bar shampoo, bar conditioner, and bar body soap.
I ended up packing:
- Travel size deodorant
- Assorted bar soaps
- Travel size toothpaste and toothbrush
- Hair brush
- Small bottle of sunscreen, and a bar of sunscreen
- Two types of insect repellent (one lotion, one spray)
- Cream foundation and blush + brushes
- A compact, quick dry towel
- Tweezers (came in handy for a splinter, too!)
- Face wipes (came in handy for hands too, on the go)
- Pepto bismol
- Allergy meds (zyrtec)
- Antibiotics (prescription for “just in case”)
- Malaria medication (prescription)
- Compact water filter
- Ear plugs
- Sleep mask
- Neck pillow (used on flights and overnight bus)
The headlamp wasn’t necessary to bring. The cave tour company provided that with the helmet. The water filter wasn’t necessary either, as we just ended up buying bottled water. It would have been more environmentally friendly to use the water filter and a refillable bottle, but that also takes some time, effort, and a degree of not caring what others think!
The ear plugs, sleep mask, and neck pillow were very helpful on the overnight bus we took. They enabled me to get a few hours of actual sleep.
Back to the art of packing–I’ve become a packing minimalist (over-packing is just extra weight!) and I love packing cubes! They help you to organize your things into categories, and it also helps to keep everything compact and therefore you fit more into a smaller space.
The lime green case is for toiletries. It’s very compact but that helps you to decide what’s really important. It’s another Osprey brand item that I own and really like.
I put the neck pillow, waterproof bag and cell phone case, sweater for the flight (it’s always freezing), my wallet, passport, etc all in the day pack. This brand, “New Outlander” is not a brand I had heard of, but this backpack is pretty amazing considering I paid $17 for it on Amazon. It fits a lot and is super lightweight. It folds into a tiny bag, too, if you want to store it.
What did I not pack, but wish I had? Well, a portable charger would have been nice, although I survived without it. Having some quetzales (Guatemalan currency) ahead of time would have been nice too, but it wasn’t an issue.
Finally, this isn’t something to pack but it’s a great idea to get: travel insurance. Be sure to read the fine print and check what it covers. Most plans are pretty inexpensive, and you never know when you’ll need it. When I went to Peru back in 2010, I paid $30 for travel insurance and ended up using about $1,200 worth of coverage for medical bills related to my hospital stay for a parasite (don’t eat uncooked produce or ceviche!).
If anyone would like recommendations on brands of clothing, backpacks, or anything really–let me know. I can go into more detail for anyone who would like.
On that note, if anyone would like packing advice for other countries or types of trips, let me know.
I hope my packing advice can help someone out there to be better prepared for their trip!