What to Pack for Asia in July

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packing list asia summer

Packing for a trip that has one consistent theme is always so much easier.

For example: a beach trip.  A business trip.  A weekend wedding.  A city escape.  It’s pretty easy to envision what key pieces you’ll need for each of these kinds of trips, and to find pieces that all go together.  But what about those trips that involve a million different flavors?

How about: eleven nights, two countries, three flights, a college reunion, sightseeing, hiking, international business….AND being a bridesmaid?

That’s the packing challenge that one of my readers, Jennifer, is facing for her upcoming trip to Asia this summer.  I can completely understand why she dubbed it “a packing gauntlet”.  And then some, girl!

Jennifer’s trip to Asia in July sounds completely AMAZING.  She’ll be spending the first four nights in Shanghai where she’ll be in a wedding among college friends she hasn’t seen in years, then traveling with her husband for the next four nights in Chiang Mai, and then three more nights back in Shanghai.  What a dream.

Except for that whole packing part.  Definitely a challenge.  Jennifer reached out to me to see if I could offer her any advice or suggestions.  I do love a packing challenge!  BRING IT.

As Jennifer puts it, Shanghai and Chiang Mai couldn’t be more different from one another, fashion-wise.  It’s true!  Shanghai, though diverse, is cosmopolitan and chic, while Chiang Mai is a laid-back university town that caters more towards backpacker-style travel.

What the cities DO have in common, though, is the heat and humidity that July brings.  It’ll be in the 80’s in both cities with enough humidity to keep the evenings warm, too.

All of this, coupled with all of the activities she’ll be doing on her trip, definitely makes for a packing conundrum.

The events Jennifer needs to pack for:

A friend’s wedding in Shanghai: she’s a bridesmaid and will also be attending pre-wedding activities.  In addition, she’ll be clubbing post-wedding, sightseeing around Shanghai with college girlfriends, and meeting her husband’s local colleagues in Shanghai.

Then she’s off to Chiang Mai to wander the night markets, hike the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai, recover with a day at the spa, and finally – back to Shanghai with her husband on the last three nights of their trip.

What to Pack for Asia in July

I wanted to help Jennifer out by putting together a capsule wardrobe that would get her through her trip in style!

When it comes to trips that are multi-dimensional, my best packing advice is to stick to neutral colors, find pieces that can be dressed up or down, and choose items that all go with one another.  For hot weather, stick to breathable fabrics like linen or cotton – steer clear of silk or polyester – you’ll just be sweating up a storm.

For a trip like this, skirts and dresses are going to be Jennifer’s best friend.  Add different shoes and accessories, and it’s so easy to transform them from day to night.


I chose neutral-colored tops in light, breathable fabrics that she can dress up or down for day or evening, depending on the activity.  The tops are basic, but they all have fun, feminine details, so they can stand alone without being boring.

Nearly every top can go with each of the bottoms, so this will allow her to mix up her outfits with a minimal number of pieces.

Shanghai Chiang Mai Tops

striped tank / gray v-neck tank / gray cap-sleeve / black v-neck tank / gray studded tank / white tank


Colored shorts will go with any of the neutral tops for daytime exploring in Chiang Mai, and the tops can also be paired with patterned skirts for dressier, but still casual options.  White and black denim are great options for evening dinners, and can be worn with any of the tops.

Shanghai Chiang Mai Bottoms

white denim / coral shorts / black and white skirt / black denim / navy and white skirt / green shorts


I chose dresses that Jennifer could wear during the daytime for exploring and sightseeing, but that she could dress up with heels and accessories for evenings and dinners out.  They’ll also be perfect for pre-wedding activities like the rehearsal dinner, or for the evening she’s meeting her husband’s colleagues.  I picked a mix of short and maxi dresses to give her a range of options.

Shanghai Chiang Mai Dresses

black maxi / cobalt blue dress / black dress / navy dress / gray and white maxi

Shoes, Bags & Accessories

For shoes, I’ve picked a comfortable sandal for walking around, a dressier gold sandal, and black-and-gold wedges to wear with skirts, dresses or pants for evenings.  I also chose two bags: a larger bag that zips to bring as a carry-on, and a small cross-body bag that will be perfect for wandering through both cities.  The long strap on the bag detaches to make it a perfect clutch for the evenings, too.  Finally, I added a Panama hat to help keep her cool in the July heat!

Shanghai Chiang Mai Shoes, Bags & Hats

flip-flops / large carry-on bag / panama hat / wedge espadrille / black cross-body bag / gold gladiators

Finishing Touches

For jewelry, I used my rule of three necklaces: a small, delicate one, a statement necklace, and a pendant necklace.

Two pairs of earrings should work, too: a pair of studs for daytime (or really anytime), and a larger statement pair for evenings.

Finally, I tossed in a light moto jacket that she can bring with her just in case she encounters heavy air conditioning anywhere!  A light cardigan could be a great alternative – but I am in the middle of an affair with moto jackets at the moment so I couldn’t help myself.

Shanghai Chiang Mai Finishing Touches

statement necklace / moto jacket / rose gold charm / statement earrings / studs / pendant necklace

The Extras

A few extras that Jennifer can add to her bag (in addition to her bridesmaid dress!): hiking shorts and a workout tank top, a few extra plain cotton tank tops, a swimsuit, and a lightweight scarf to mix up her outfits even more.  On the flight there, I’d suggest wearing long yoga pants with casual long layers, and tennis shoes that she’ll wear again on her hike.

And voila – all packed!  Have a fabulous trip, Jennifer!

Headed to Asia this summer?

Check out my perfect Hong Kong itinerary and my perfect Chiang Mai 3 day itinerary for first-time visitors to both cities!

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