Living out of a Suitcase for 3 weeks?! The Asia Trip Packing Guide

One of the most exciting aspects of the MIM experience is the Asia Trip that we take between Winter and Spring terms. We spend three weeks traveling through Japan, Korea and China. It is a thrilling experience (so I hear) that draws people to the MIM year after year.

As the trip approaches, everyone in the cohort starts to think about how they will haul everything they need around for three weeks in the most convenient way possible. This endeavor is made more challenging by the fact that we are not simply backpacking, we are required to dress in formal business attire much of the time. You can’t shove a suit in a backpack! There has been plenty of advice and legendary tales from cohorts past, however I thought I’d bring in some fresh ideas on how to pack light for this 3-week adventure. I have traveled extensively over the last decade of my life and have learned two of key things about packing light: de-bulk however possible and keep your wardrobe versatile!

Sky Roll Suitcase

An interesting trend emerged this year, stemming from a 2011 alum that carried only one suitcase and a small duffel bag for the entire three weeks, as well as through his extension trip to Cambodia! How did he do it? The SkyRoll suitcase with an external garment bag. Rumor got around about how he was the only person to avoid fees on the domestic China flights, and several of these have been purchased within this year’s group so far! Let’s hope we have the same success as he did with avoiding the fees…

Packing the right clothes can also be tough, especially when we will need to wear suits much of the time. Look for multi-tasking pieces that can be dressed up or down and don’t require frequent dry cleaning. Avoiding white and lighter colors might get you more use out of a garment while on the trip. Laundry facilities are available in or near a couple of our hotels, but I have repeatedly heard that hand washing in the sink is the norm on the Asia trip.

Another challenge of the Asia trip is that it will be C-O-L-D in the countries that we are visiting, requiring even more bulk to our luggage. I have always been a fan of base layers, especially made from Merino wool, which is warm, fast-drying and odor-repelling. Icebreaker, a New Zealand company with a local presence sells great base layers. They’re not cheap, but you don’t need many pieces to get by since it’s tough to stink them up.

I have to admit, I have a bit of a shoe addiction (not helped by working at a shoe company). Another major challenge that lightweight travelers face, shoe-addicted or not, is the question of how many pairs of shoes to bring. Versatility is key here. If you have a dress shoe that can also be dressed down and is comfortable enough for all-day wear, you can make that pair work double-time. For a casual shoe, make sure it’s just as versatile and comfortable. For my casual shoe, I plan to bring a pair of Keen A86-TRs, which are super-lightweight and can be used for working out or just walking around. Bonus: they don’t look like your typical running shoe.

Advice might vary about personal care and first aid products, but I am of the opinion that we will be able to get most of our personal care products in our host countries. Sure, bring a bit of toothpaste and lotion to hold you over, but it’s easy to find much of what you need over there. Folks, if you are open to trying new cosmetics and personal care products, Japan and Korea are well-known for high quality brands, so don’t fear the drugstore!

For those of us who are less adventurous about our products, it’s easy to find sample or travel sized versions of the basics at any supermarket or big box store. This is an easy and cheap way to cut down on bulk. Heck, dig through your cosmetics stash and I’ll bet you will find hotel bottles or other samples that can be packed in place of normal sized containers.

There is much more to be said, but these are the basics. It will be interesting to see how everyone deals differently with our luggage constraints! I’m sure another legendary luggage packer is among the ranks of this year’s cohort. Happy packing!

Emily is in year two of the part-time Master of International Management experience. She brings a great amount of world travel and professional experience to the program. After two years of living in Taiwan, Emily returned to her native Portland to start the MIM in 2010. Emily currently works in global logistics for a Portland-based footwear company and is passionate about the burgeoning outdoor industry in the Pacific Northwest. Emily has pursued the supply and logistics specialization of the MIM, and is currently studying Mandarin Chinese.
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