You’ve booked your holiday, all your papers are in order and you’re ready to fly to Australia for the adventure of a lifetime. But before you can head off to the land down under, you need to pack. So, what are you going to take?
It’s always a little tricky to know exactly what you’ll need when packing for a holiday; however, Australia’s geographical location can make it even more of a head-scratcher. Not only are the ‘traditional’ summer/winter seasons reversed from the Northern Hemisphere’s (winter runs from June – August and summer from December – February) but you’ll also need to account for the top half of the country being located in the Tropic of Capricorn, which experiences wet and dry seasons – wet being Australia’s ‘summer’ and dry being ‘winter’.
What you need to pack will largely depend on which activities you’re interested in. For example, a packing list for an adventure holiday will vary considerably from one geared towards five-star luxury. Sit down and make a list of all the activities you anticipate doing and when you start to pack clothing, read through your list to make sure you’re covered for every activity and event!
It can also be helpful to think about how many days you’ll be away, how many of those days are travel days, and how many of those days will include dinner in a sit-down restaurant? In general, Australia is a pretty casual country but if you’re planning on catching a show at the Sydney Opera House, you might want something a bit smarter than outback camo gear. Closed shoes are generally required in restaurants (no beach sandals!) and smart casual attire is appreciated in finer establishments.
What to pack:
Besides basic clothes, toiletries and other personal items, here are a few essential things you might not have thought of adding to your Australia-bound suitcase:
High-coverage, lightweight clothing
Australia’s sun is infamously intense. You’ll need to take extra care in order to protect yourself from sunburn and dehydration. As a good rule of thumb, it’s best to stay under shade from midday – 3pm as this is when the sun’s UV rays are at their harshest. This isn’t always possible, so it’s a good idea to pack a wide-brimmed hat (or a cap with a neck flap) and some lightweight long-sleeved tops and trousers for when you know you’ll be spending a long time in direct sunlight. Of course, what you pack will depend heavily on the time of year and regions that you plan to visit. With so many different climates in the same country, layering is a ‘locals tip’ for maximising packed luggage. Although Australia’s winters (June – August) are not typically harsh, temperatures can dip as low as 2-4°C (~35-40°F) in southern cities and below freezing in the mountains. If you’re planning on touring Tasmania, The Blue Mountains or windy coastal regions (like The Great Ocean Road or Kangaroo Island) at any time, it’s a good idea to pack a few warmer layers as well as a windbreaker/warm jacket for chillier weather.
Read our blog post, Australia’s Weather By Region: The Best Times To Visit for more information on our seasons and climate.
Sun Protection & Swimwear
Australia’s beaches rank as some of the best in the world. You’ll want to ensure that you’ve packed your bathers so you can enjoy the crystal clear waters and unspoiled coastline that have made this country such a firm favourite among visiting tourists. A little-known fact is that the sun’s rays are reflected twice when underwater, so if you plan on having a long splash it might be a good idea to invest in a long-sleeved rash vest to help cover up.
When choosing sunscreen for the beach, make sure to buy 30-50+ SPF REEF SAFE (one without harmful toxins that will damage the reef or marine life) sunscreen and reapply throughout the day (especially after swimming). If you do happen to get a bit pink then aloe vera gel is a welcome relief to sun-pricked skin.
Another way to protect yourself from the heat is to drink plenty of water. Australia’s combination of dry air and hot temperatures can quickly drain your energy and potentially lead to heatstroke – a fever-like condition, which can lead to unconsciousness. If you know you’ll be out for most of the day, bring along a water bottle to keep your energy levels up and dehydration at bay.
Australia’s tap water is safe to drink so you don’t need to buy your water or use a filter. Invest in a temperature-resistant flask to keep your water cool throughout the day and unnecessary plastics out of landfill.
If you know you’ll be spending a lot of time away from your accommodation or on overnight tours, it’s a good idea to pack a lightweight daypack. This will allow you to bring along all of the essentials we’ve mentioned above – a hat, extra layers, a water bottle and bathers – so that you’re ready for any and all possible adventures!
Australia uses a Type 1 power outlet, which is different from most countries (except New Zealand), and power is delivered at 240V 50Hz AC. While most appliances these days run on 100-240v, you may find you still need a power transformer/converter for some of your appliances – particularly those designed for use on the head (hair curling wands, straighteners, etc.).
Most non-computer electrical appliances sold in the US are not rated for 240V and therefore cannot be powered directly from a household mains socket in Australia. However, for many 115V appliances, a transformer can be used to step down 240V to 115V and provide a safe power supply.
Look for a universal power adapter that has built-in fuse protection, as the amount of current emitted from an outlet varies by country and can lead to battery failure if the surge is too great. It’s also a good idea to find one with multiple USB ports, as this means you’ll be able to charge multiple devices at once.
The type of travel insurance you require will depend heavily on the length of your trip and the activities you wish to take part in. For a standard trip, you’ll want to make sure that you’re covered for medical expenses, repatriation to your home country in case of ongoing medical treatment, lost, damaged or stolen goods, curtailment or cancellation of your trip and delayed or missed departures. If you’re taking expensive equipment along with you (e.g. high-end camera, smartphone, laptop etc.) you’ll need seperate gadget insurance, as most basic policies will only cover up to a limited amount per item.
We recommend putting the majority of your spending money onto a travel card or debit/credit card and changing just a small amount of spending money into Aussie dollars (AUD). A backup credit card in case of emergencies is also a good idea.
In Australia, we use a chip and pin system for purchases with cards. While magnetic strips and signatures on foreign cards are still technically accepted, you may find that some establishments refuse to use them in a bid to cut down on credit card fraud. If you don’t have a pin number on your credit or debit card, contact your bank before you leave to set one up. Transactions will be much simpler and you’ll also be able to withdraw cash straight from an ATM.
Your Driver’s License
If you plan to hire a car during your time in Australia, don’t forget to bring your driver’s license! All driver’s licenses written in English can be used for hiring a car in Australia. If your driver’s license is written in a language other than English you will need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Contact your local automobile association to obtain one of these.
What NOT to Bring
Customs control in Australia is notoriously strict in order to protect our fragile ecosystem. To avoid fines or having your bags confiscated, make sure you haven’t packed food of any type (dried or fresh). Likewise, muddy shoes and items made of wood should also be avoided as they can bring in foreign seeds, plants, insects etc. You should also make sure to bring along the prescriptions for any required medication that you may have.
One last tip – Australian domestic airlines are clamping down on the weight of carry-on luggage. It’s an age old trick to pack your heavier items in your hand luggage to avoid excess fees but beware that airlines are catching on! Our tip is to keep your hand luggage below 7kgs (15lbs) and, if required, request additional weight allowance for your checked luggage.
Now you’re ready to pack your suitcase – go and enjoy your Australian holiday!