Traveling through the multiple climates and landscapes of Latin America can present you with a packing nightmare. Weather-wise, a multi-country trip in Latin America can mean you end up needing suitable clothing for hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, warm clothing for exploring Patagonia as well as swimwear for the golden beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
We’ve all been guilty at some point of throwing a torrent of frustration and abuse towards our suitcases due to the seemingly impossible packing task ahead and ensuring that we are prepared for all weather, come rain or shine.
This predicament can also leave you at the end of your rope with your restrictive luggage allowance, when traveling to a multi-season, and diverse country such as Colombia. Here are some essential packing strategies which you can use for a stress free packing experience for your vacation in Latin America or you can simply jump to our traveler’s checklist for general Latin America travel at the end of this blog article.
♦ How to Pack: Traveling from cold to hot climates
If your Latin America travel itinerary starts in the winter season or in a cool climate such as Patagonia or the Peruvian Andes, you should base the majority of your travel clothing on preparing for cold weather. Remember to focus on packing warm layers and taking with some quality outerwear as once you arrive to the warm beaches or climates, you can then replace some of your heavier items with some extra summer essentials.
After completing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you may decide to donate some of your heavier clothing to a local charity or organization.
As you don’t need as much clothing in the heat you won’t need to buy as much and summer clothing is usually cheaper than heavier winter items. An important tip is to always keep hold of your two quality outerwear pieces and invest in items that are light to pack yet water resistant. Even during the warmer leg of your journey, the weather may be unexpectedly cooler in the evenings or you may want to participate in hikes where even in tropical destinations, the temperature can drop at higher elevations.
♦ How to Pack: Traveling from hot to cold climates
When traveling from hot to cold climates in Latin America, the contrary to the above applies. It might be more expensive to find quality winter gear whilst traveling so, we would recommend packing two essential pieces of outerwear that are light to pack such as a rain jacket and wool or fleece jacket. Depending on the length of your trip in the warmer climates it may become a nuisance to have heavy, unused winter clothing taking up all of the space in your suitcase.
By purchasing quality cold climate clothing, you can avoid having to pack bulky clothing and a number of layers that you may only use once or twice during your trip.
You may want to do some research or ask your Encounter Latin America specialist for some good clothing options which you can pick up when starting the colder leg of your trip such as Peruvian alpaca scarves or ponchos. Purchasing items such as Peruvian chullo hats, handmade colorful ponchos or alpaca clothing is a great way to also tick off a few items from your souvenir list, which you can also wear at home during the winter.
♦ How to Pack: Traveling back & forth through multiple seasons
Latin America’s landscapes and climates are diverse meaning that your travel itinerary may have you going back and forth between a number of different seasons. Colombia is the perfect example of such diverse climates, with Bogota situated in the cool Andes, Medellin being the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ and Cartagena enjoying the warm weather of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. In this case you should plan to take clothing that mixes and matches light, quality fabrics such as merino wool and synthetics that you can layer and use in all climates.
We recommend investing in some clothing with specialty materials that provide insulation in light fabrics.
Let your creative side take over as there are a number of clothing options available that accommodate a little weather imbalance without weighing down your suitcase.
♦ Some final multi-climate factors to consider
Ultimately there are a number of factors that will impact how you pack for a multi-climate trip in Latin America not least because of the airline luggage restrictions. Whether traveling for 7-days in Colombia or 12-days exploring the Best of South America, the amount of time that you’ll spend in each climate should help you decide how much warm or cool clothing items you will need for each destination.
The trick to packing effectively for multi-climate trips is to make sure that your clothing mixes well so that you can layer your outfits accordingly, making use of everything you bring.
You should also consider the travel activities you will be doing on your Latin America trip and where you will be for the majority of your time. Plan your clothing options to fit these activities and if you’re torn between clothing items, choose the one that serves different purposes such as travel pants that can be worn to trek, for sightseeing and for relaxed dinners.
♦ Traveler’s checklist for General Latin America Travel
□ Passport/Visa(s)/Personal Identification
□ Check expiry dates on Passport, Credit Cards
□ Tell banks/credit cards traveling abroad
□ Travel & Medical Insurance documents
□ Email yourself copy of passport/medical cards
□ Money belt or security pouch
□ Water bottle or bladder
□ Permethrin-containing Insect Spray
□ Lightweight moisture-wicking clothing
□ Rain jacket
□ Wool Socks
□ Clothing for layering/Base layers
□ Flip flops
□ Travel shoes
□ Waterproof hiking boots
□ Brimmed Sun Hat
□ Wool hat & waterproof gloves
(traveling in winter/cooler climates)
□ Cell/Smart Phone & Charger
□ Camera/Video Camera & extra memory cards
□ Camera/Video Camera charger/extra batteries
□ Electrical converters & adapters
□ Travel journal & pen(s)
□ Reading material
□ Toiletry bags
□ Toothbrush & Paste/Floss
□ Comb/Brush/Hair ties
□ Facial Tissues
□ Personal hygiene items
□ Glasses & case
□ Extra contacts & solution
□ Eye drops
□ Nail scissors & tweezers (in checked luggage)
□ Lip balm with SPF
□ Shaving kit & razors (in checked luggage)
□ Moisturizer with SPF
□ Make-up & travel mirror
* Consult health center or physician for help in planning your trip’s medication needs
□ Travel health information
□ Personal Prescriptions
□ Pain & fever relievers
□ Diarrhea/Laxative medicines
□ Allergy medicines
□ Hydrocortisone cream (for allergic rashes)
□ Antibacterial ointment
□ Sunscreen/Lip balm
□ Sunburn relief
□ Insect repellent
□ Sting reliever
□ Hand Sanitizer
□ Glasses/Contacts & case
□ Eye drops & Contacts solution
□ Medicines & vaccinations specific to itinerary
– e.g. Malaria, Altitude Sickness Pills