How to travel light when visiting the Reef

Map of the Great Barrier Reef

Whether you’re planning to explore the reef or the nearby rain forests you can always make your trip hassle-free if you learn how to travel light. Carrying around a big suitcase full of “just in case” items will only make traveling stressful, especially if you’re visiting a few places up and down the coast/reef.

travel light when visiting the Reef

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to figure out which things should be the most important in your backpack, and most people generally find it hard to pack light. If you are the type of person who always packs too much and has to pay an extra fee at the airport, you will eventually realise that you don’t use half of the things you carry.

In this article, we’ll look at some tips for packing light when visiting the reef.

Start with a smaller backpack/suitcase

A good rule of thumb is to bring only one backpack or suitcase. If you can fit everything into a carry-on, even better! This way, you’ll be able to move more easily and won’t have to worry about lost luggage. And you won’t be tempted to bring more items just because “you have space” if you start with a smaller suitcase.

Then, make a list of the essentials that you’ll need while on your trip. For example, if you’re planning to spend time in the sun, pack sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, and swimwear. If you’re traveling in the winter, you may want to bring something warmer for the cooler nights (more on this in a moment).

Once you have your list of essentials, start packing them into your suitcase or backpack to make sure they fit.

Use compression cubes

Packing cubes are great not only because they help you keep your belongings organised, but also because they help you compress your clothes so that they take up less space in your suitcase.

You can use compression sacks that are usually made of a lightweight material that can be easily compressed, so they’ll take up less room in your backpack.

compression packing cubes

The rule of three

When travelling to the reef and coastal towns for only a couple of weeks, and you really want to travel light, you can apply the rule of three. Bring three of each item – three pairs of socks, three undies, three t-shirts, three shorts etc. This way you can wear one, while you wash another, while you’re drying the third! This minimalist approach works well when you combine it with mixing and matching your clothes.

Mix and match to travel light

Bring clothes that you can wear with everything else you have. This rule can help you get rid of a lot of the things you might want to bring that aren’t necessary.

It’s likely that you won’t wear a piece of clothing on your trip if you can’t wear it with any of the other clothes you brought.

Pick your clothes carefully. Given two choices, pack the item that serves more than one purpose and weighs less or takes up less space. Here are a few examples:

  • A poncho can replace a rain jacket, umbrella or backpack rain cover.
  • A sarong can be used as a towel, picnic blanket or skirt.
  • Instead of a long and shortsleeve shirt, consider one with roll-up sleeves.
  • Use a bandana to keep your neck warm, protect your head or neck from the sun or use as a sleep mask.
  • Pack shorts that you can hike in, swim in and walk around town in.
  • Running shorts and a sports bra can also be used as swimwear.

Don’t pack thick and heavy clothes

It’s the Great Barrier Reef. In Queensland. Even in winter, the norther region of Australia is quite warm. Pack a light outer wear like a windbreaker jacket. If you go on a reef cruise that lasts into the evenings or overnight, as it cools down at night on the water, you may want to bring long trousers and a jumper to keep warm on deck.

Travel light, wear it on the flight!

If you need to bring thick heavy clothes, you can wear it on the flight. However, once you arrive, you might realize that you don’t need it as its too warm, and then you’re still left lugging around extra clothes. Realistically, you would probably only end up doing this if you think your luggage might exceed the weight limit.

Use a portable wash bag

If you’re visiting the Great Barrier Reef for long enough, you will need to manage your washing. Use a portable Scrubba wash bag – they’re pocket size, so they don’t take up a lot of space. It’s perfect for camping, but also for longer backpacking trips. This also allows you to wear your favorite gear multiple times throughout your tour of the towns up and down the reef coast.

Pack the must-haves, not the nice-to-haves

When you’re packing your suitcase, it’s easy to get caught up in packing things that you think you might need, but in reality, you probably won’t. Instead of packing your whole wardrobe, focus on the items that you know you’ll use.

A lot of people make the mistake of overpacking and then regretting it later. If you find that haven’t packed enough clothes, there’s always the option of doing laundry while on your trip.

Don’t pack shoes for every occasion. Shoes are the bulkiest items in most travelers’ bags and If you want to travel light, I suggest you carry only one or two multi-purpose shoes. And yes, this is applicable to girls too. If you’re spending most of the day at the beach, and in beach-side villages like Airlie Beach, flip flops and sandals are more than acceptable.

woman on great barrier reef

Travelling light with toiletries!

Last but not least, don’t forget your toiletries! When traveling light, it’s often the little things that make a big difference. Items like travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, soap, and toothpaste can go a long way in helping you stay refreshed and clean while on your trip.

Toiletries can also be a great way to save space in your suitcase. If you’re tight on space, consider using solid shampoo bars instead of liquid shampoo. These are easier to pack and take up less room.

Keep in mind, you’re travelling to Queensland, not medieval convict-era Sydney Cove. There are shops everywhere that sell all kinds of perfume, deodorant, shower gel, shampoo, etc.

Never pack more than a week’s worth of clothes

Most trips people take to the Great Barrier Reef last more than seven days however you won’t really need more than a week’s worth of clothes for this period. Even if you travel longer, you’ll probably do your laundry from time to time.There’s no such trip that requires packing more than a week’s worth of clothes.

What to bring on a Great Barrier Reef Trip

Snorkelling and diving equipment are included when you go on a Great Barrier Reef tour, so you don’t need to pack your suitcase full of flippers and snorkels. You just need to bring whatever you usually take for a warmer climate casual holiday. Some recommended items when visiting the reef, but you still want to travel light, include:

  • Swimmers/bathers/towel: Even if you don’t swim, you may still want to “dip in your toe”. Let’s face it, you’re going to get wet!
  • Sunglasses: polarised work best on the water, but any that offer sun protection will be fine.
  • Hat: a broad brimmed hat to protect your face and neck from the strong tropical sun
  • Sunscreen: make sure it’s reef safe and apply it at least 30 minutes before you enter the water
  • Thongs/sandals: wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet
  • Waterproof camera: if you want to capture photos of your amazing reef experience underwater, bring your own waterproof camera.
  • Refillable water bottle: you’ll want to stay hydrated throughout your travels
  • A light jacket or windbreaker: keep warm if it gets windy out on the water (if you take a reef cruise).

What are your favorite tips on how to travel light? Do you think we didn’t mention some important things? Let us know in the comments!

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