Packing for 3 weeks in South Africa without checking a bag

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Today’s a very exciting day because tomorrow I leave for South Africa!  Imagine some triumphant trumpets blasting away.

I’ve already detailed my steps to planning this adventure in Phase 1 and Phase 2 and while I’ve been a busy beaver wrapping up all of my work and other commitments before heading out the door, the rest of my planning has been in the background.

The short version: I’ve been chucking things on my dining room table as I walk by, “I may need this, I may wear that.” Over time, stuff piled up on my dining room table. Now it’s time to sort through the “maybes” and get serious about packing a bag.

Packing: before picture

I’ve talked about my love of packing lists before, and have already detailed the one I put together for a quick jaunt to Paris back in April. I’m going to be in South Africa for three weeks, but I don’t want to check a bag. This means packing light and right.

It’s almost summer in South Africa, which means I can avoid a lot of bulky clothes. However, like Canada, South Africa seems to get a lot of weather, so I’ll need layers to make sure I’m ready for anything.


Official stuff

  • Passport
  • Plane ticket
  • Bank cards, credit cards, currency
  • Booking confirmations for hotels and pre-booked activities
  • Travel health insurance and proof of coverage


  • Sleepwear, sleep mask, ear plugs
  • Socks, underwear x 5, light and dark bras
  • Tops: 1 x tank top, 5 x t-shirt, 1 x long-sleeve t-shirt, 1 x sweater
  • Bottoms: 2 x pants, 1 x skirt, 2 x shorts
  • Accessories: scarf, earrings
  • Outerwear: light jacket, rain shell, hat
  • Shoes: 1 light sneakers, 1 sandals, 1 pair walking-friendly


  • Antibacterial hand gel, baby wipes, tissues
  • Bar soap, face lotion, body lotion, deodorant, razor
  • Glasses and case, contact lenses, case, solution
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
  • Dry shampoo, regular shampoo, conditioner, hair product, pins and elastic, wide-toothed comb
  • Lip balm and hand lotion (a must for the flights)
  • Makeup, cotton swabs, emery board, tweezers and nail clippers
  • Sunblock – under 100 mL

Staying alive

  • Anti-malarial efforts: Malarone and insect repellent
  • First aid: bandages, Imodium, anti-nausea tablets, ibuprofen, allergy pills
  • No Jet Lag (I’m going to try it after reading Hola Yessica’s recent review)
  • Aquatabs water purification tablets (just in case) and rehydration powder (also, just in case)


  • Money belt
  • Plug adaptor
  • Mini binoculars (safari optimism)
  • Camera, memory cards, Gorillapod flexible tripod, batteries, charger
  • Battery-free mini flashlight
  • iPod, charger and plug, ear buds
  • Guide, map, reading material
  • Journal, pens, notebook
  • Laundry soap (mini packs for sink laundry)
  • Luggage lock
  • Sunglasses
  • Stuff sack pillow (exactly what it sounds like, you put stuff in it and use it for a pillow)
  • Silk sleep sheet
  • Water bottle
  • Ziploc bags

Finally, I’m not going to check a bag on the way there, but I’m 99% certain I’ll do so on the way back.

What’s the longest trip you’ve taken without checking a bag? Share some of your favourite packing light tips in the comments!



  1. You are going to love South Africa! It is one of my favorite places. We went in October, and it was quite cold in Cape Town and at Addo Park, so layers are important. The only thing that’s hard about packing for an extended trip without checking a bag are the toiletries due to the liquid limits in carry on luggage. Sometimes, I just can’t find an adequate substitute for my favorite products at my destination. if you’re flying domestically within the country, South African Airways weighs your carry on bag and has limits, so be sure to check this.

    • Thanks so much for the tips! The toiletries are a pain, but I’m found a way to get everything I need into the 1L bag. Having to take sunscreen and insect repellent takes up a lot of room!

  2. You sound so prepared and organized! It’s going to be legen…

    wait for it…

    Can’t wait to see/hear your updates while you’re gone (if you’re planning on doing social media check-ins) and the inevitably amazing pics and posts when you return!

    Oh, I almost forgot…


  3. Have fun in South Africa! I’m impressed you got all that in your carry-on. Let me know if the No Jet Lag stuff works as well for you as it did for me – I’m curious!

  4. […] I love packing lists to a rather unhealthy degree. If the Olympic motto is “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” my packing corollary is “Lighter, Smaller, Better.” As such, my packing list is a constant work in progress and source of pride. To mix things up a little with this trip, I’ve been building my packing list in Pinterest. A Pinterest packing list is definitely not essential, but it’s been a fun way to learn Pinterest and how it can be put to practical use. As part of Phase 3, I did compile a proper packing list. […]

  5. thanks for the info. Planing on leaving on leaving in October so this is great. will start organizing my stuff from now. I usually make a list and check it off. Want to pack lite but don’t want to have to buy stuff that I have at home.

    • If you’re going to be over on the Kruger side, be sure to have a rain shell and layers – I found it a little chilly for spring. More importantly, have fun!

  6. This is the best packing list ever. I was struggling with packing for an up coming trip to Bali. Not anymore! A little twick and that’s it. Thanks!


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