Next week, I leave for India (Kolcata, Darjeeling, and Delhi). Below is my packing list. A good packing list takes a long time to compile, and there seem to be very on the internet made by women. I hope this is of use to my fellow travelers, especially those out there who (like me) feel the need to bring face scrub and Q-tips.
Suitcase--lightweight, sturdy, lockable... or you could go the backpack route
Lock--combination or key, for keeping the suitcase safely shut
Belt/Strap/Bike Lock Chain--for holding the suitcase securely shut and fastened to whatever surface it's supposed to be attached to (top of the bus, bottom of your train seat, etc.)
Ziploc/Space Saver Bags (various sizes)--for packing everything as effectively and efficiently as possible, less air=more space, bring extras
Power Adapter--two-way or multi-function, depending on how often and where you travel
Swiss Army Knife--I don't think I need to explain this one. Just pack it.
Small Sewing Kit--for emergency repairs... or you could get things repaired... it depends on how often you plan to move around
Flashlight--small, lightweight, reliable, with extra batteries
Lighter--for emergencies/blackouts/smoking (if you smoke)... Just don't pack it in your carry-on!
Scotch Tape--just in case... It's very handy stuff!
Water Bottle and Water Sanitizing Tablets--more ethical than bottled water, though I can understand wanting a "cold one" in the Kolkata heat; I like the Platypus bottles because they collapse as you use them
Clip Belt/Purse--Many people use belts to clip things on (iPod, flashlight, etc.). Personally, I prefer a lightweight purse with an over-the-shoulder strap and a zipper.
Guidebook/Maps/Travel Notes--for, you know, getting around and stuff... kind of important
Umbrella--tiny, collapsible, lightweight, sturdy, essential during monsoon season, but otherwise a "buy as needed" item
Sunglasses and Sunglasses Case--utilitarian, UV protective, durable
Documents and Money Stuff:
Passport and Copy of Passport--Keep these in separate places. Also, if you live in the US, apply for your passport EXTRA early. Mine took 17 weeks to process, and arrive just in time for me to go to the Indian Consulate to get my visa.
Other ID--useful... Preferably state-issued
Credit Card--Check which kind is more commonly accepted where you plan to travel. Call your credit card company before you leave to let them know you're traveling; otherwise, they may put your account on hold for "suspicious activity."
Cash--your country's and theirs
Vaccination Certificate--required for crossing some borders; I KNOW you don't want to use the sketchy, expensive ones they sell at the crossing
Extra Passport Photos--in case you need an extra visa for a different travel zone or nearby country
Money Wallet--lightweight, easy to carry close to the body
Soap and Soap dish/Liquid Soap and Washcloth--I'm going with the soap and soap dish. If you decide to use liquid soap and a washcloth, be sure to pack extra Ziploc bags for the bottle. Nothing's worse than a suitcase full of suds.
Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Dental Floss--Travel toothbrushes are best.
Shampoo and Conditioner--Once again, in a Ziploc bag.
Deodorant--especially necessary in the hotter climates
Face Soap and Scrub--optional
Moisturizer--body and/or face; if you don’t think you'll need much, just bring a sampler size
Razor--Remember that skit on Kids in the Hall where the "vacation beards" make people go crazy and kill themselves? No? Never mind...
Nail Clippers, Tweezers--If these are on your Swiss Army Knife, you can skip them. I'm particular about my grooming products, so I'm still bringing them.
Antiseptic--I'm a spaz. I need this. And I need...
Band-Aids--Various sizes and shapes
Malaria Tablets--There are two kinds. One can cause hair loss and the other can cause severe sunburn. The kind that can cause severe sunburn is more common, so (unfortunately) that's the one I have. Let's raise a (tea) toast to Vee NOT getting second degree burns in Kolkata!
Aspirin/Ibuprofen--I'm going to venture a guess that you will need this at some point in your trip. At least bring a little two-pack so you have some on you when you really need it.
Ciprofloxacin--You know that horror story you heard from your friend who ate a salad on vacation and was violently ill for three days? Don't let that be you.
Imodium--Once again, Delhi belly is no fun.
Any (Legal) Drugs or Supplements You Regularly Take/Use--birth control pills, vitamin B12, probiotics, anti-migraine pills, eczema ointment, and the like
Sun block--ESPECIALLY if you are fair-skinned (like me) or you're taking the anti-malarial pills that increases chances of sunburn; note the SPF and reapply often*
Aloe Vera--for the sunburn that (if you're like me) you will inevitably get, despite all the precautions
Hand Sanitizer--wipes, gel, liquid, whatever... you'll really want it on multiple occasions
Toilet Paper--optional, but I think it's worth it to bring a roll and avoid the scratchy stuff
Tissues--one of those little handy packs, for dust, pollen, travel bugs, tear-jerker moments, etc.
Q-tips--I think that Q-tips are one of the greatest things in the whole wide world. I'm packing two per day.
Lip Gloss, Make-Up--optional, though lip gloss with SPF can be a big plus for even the least glamour-fabulous traveler
Tampons/Pads--as needed (It is common for female travelers to stop menstruating, so don't worry too much if you think you need them, and then you don't.)
Condoms--as needed (Though the HIV/AIDS rate is lower than previously estimated, it's still very high. Please be safe.)
Glasses/Contacts/Contact Solution--as needed
Flip Flops--for showering; a necessity if you're staying in a hostel
*"All Day" doesn't really mean all day. "Waterproof" means you can run into the waves for two minutes, and then pat yourself dry. A proper application of sun block is 1-oz (a shot glass full) for your body, plus more for your face. The FDA is currently revising the way sun blocks are rated and what claims they can make on the packaging. For now, just know that the labels don't really mean what they say.
Buff--a multipurpose circular band of cloth that comes in so handy you'll wonder how you lived without it before, great for packing light enough to make room for the face scrub, Q-tips, and other small luxuries
Tank Tops/Cotton Bras--for wearing under other clothing (female travelers should not bare their shoulders in India, though midriffs are considered to be much tamer than we view them in the West)
Lightweight Local Garments--I'm going salwar kameez (tunic and flowy pants, with a scarf) shopping there. The local dress is, well, suited to the local climate. If you don't feel comfortable doing this for whatever reason, I suggest lightweight pants and (non-offensive) tee shirts.
Sweaters--Another "buy there" item (yay for yak hair!), for the mist and chill of the Himalayas.
Hats--This varies with where and when you're traveling. I'm brining one for hot weather and one for cold weather. The one for hot weather has a wide brim, SPF protection, breathability, and a waterproof coating. The one for cold weather is warm and water-resistant.
Socks--moisture-wicking, good for hot and for cold, suited to your activities
Hiking Shoes--great for the mountainous regions, make sure they're broken in BEFORE you leave
Waterproof Shoes/Sandals--great for monsoon season
Other Comfortable Shoes--optional
Dress Shoes--I'm buying one pair of flats there for nights out on the town. Optional.
Stockings--For when I'm going somewhere dressy.
Nice Salwar Kameez--Ditto above.
Swimsuit--should be modest, only necessary if you actually plan to go swimming
Purse--also mentioned in "Documents and Money Stuff," but worth mentioning here, too, especially if you want to pack a (small) nice one for a fancy dinner or whatever
**Obviously, this list will vary from person to person much more than the other lists. This is what I chose to pack. Take what you will, fill in the rest.
Other Useful Things:
Contact List--useful phone numbers, addresses, etc.
Phone Card--make sure you can use it from the country you're traveling to, or buy one there
Spoon--useful for sauces, chutneys, and the like, especially when eating on the street in a country where most people just use their hands
iPod, iPod cHarger, iPod cAse--Two words: very necessary.
Powdered Detergent--in a Ziploc bag or Tupperware box, for handwashing delicates (do not leave delicates to the dhobi!) or washing on the run (dhobis sometimes have a one-day turnaround, so if you're hopping from place to place it may be easier to do your own washing)
Cord--a length of cord can come in incredibly handy; use it as a washing line, carrying strap, quick-fix repair, etc.; bring more than you think you'll need (10 feet plus)
Quick-Drying Towel--available in camping stores
Camera--digital or film, with extra memory cards/film
Video Camera--optional, with extra recording media
Travel Journal/Sketchbook--optional, but highly recommended
Non-Black Tea--if you crave green mid-afternoon or chamomile in the evening or... whatever (If you're traveling to, say, Japan, change this to "Non-Green Tea." If you're traveling to China, just buy it there unless it's something specific and non-Chinese.)
Tea Strainer--see my article on Infusion Methods for help selecting one
Things I Will Be Buying There:
Tea--lots of it, no explanation needed
Local Dress--I figure the locals know what's best for the heat, rain, and cold in their areas, as they've dealt with it for many generations. Also, you can get gorgeous, one-of-a-kind garments tailored for you at very little cost, which is kind of awesome. Just make sure to get the measurements taken towards the beginning of your trip, as you will probably have (temporarily) lost weight by the end.
Local Spices--cheaper, fresher, and easier to get than in my local market
Ayurvedic Medicines--Neem toothpaste, Pudin Hara, White Flower Balm, etc.
Local Art and Crafts--whatever strikes my fancy and is in my price range... I'm sure I'll get some scarves and fabric, maybe a small sculpture or painting... I wholeheartedly recommend buying local art whenever you can and wherever you are! If you choose carefully, it can be something you remember your trip by and treasure for many years.
So, that's it for my packing list. What else do you pack?