Behind The Butter

Packing Essentials for Ethiopia


A bunch of you asked what I packed on my trip so I thought I’d compile it all here this morning. Even though the title of this post says “Packing Essentials for Ethiopia”, you can pretty much sub out Ethiopia for any developing country.

Also, just a heads up that I am a chronic over-packer. You might not need all this stuff but I always error on the side of “better safe than sorry”. These are all the items that between the eight of us we packed, and we were so thankful we did!


*All outfits packed in large ziploc baggies with a dryer sheet stuck inside. I can’t even TELL you how much I appreciated this tip, brought to me by my friend, Wynn. It felt so good to put on something clean and fresh everyday.

*a whole change of clothes in your carry-on. When my luggage didn’t make it to Ethiopia, I had a momentary freakout. But then I remembered I had a whole change of clothes in my tote bag and felt sooo much better {it was only 9am and we had been traveling for 17 hours}. You never know what will happen – be prepared!

*Rain boots! I was so happy I brought these and wore them every day, even if it didn’t rain. Mud, mud, mud.

*Sneakers/comfy walking shoes

*Layers and a rain jacket. That goes without saying.

*Comfy yoga clothes/sweatshirt for the plane.


*Neutrogena face wipes. I’ve talked before about my love for these — I used them every day to freshen up!

*Hand sanitizer. Also goes without saying.

*Toilet paper. Just bring it. You’ll thank me later.

*Sunscreen/ BB cream {I’ll talk more later about my new love for this stuff – thanks, Dana!}

*Toothbrush/toothpaste/small mouthwash.


*Ciprofloxacin. For traveler’s diarrhea. Just one sip of the water is all it takes…be prepared.

*Kaopectate. For upset tummies.

*Sleeping pills. They help to get through the first night on a new time zone!


*Dramamine. Helps with planes, trains and automobiles!

*Small supply of band-aids and neosporin.

*Zofran. We were happy to have this on our trip!

*NyQuil. Pretty much saved us on a few occasions…I’ll never travel without it now. Ever.

*Wellness Formula Pills. This is my secret weapon and I take it whenever I travel, wherever I go. I also take it when I start to feel run down. I swear by this stuff!

*No Jet-Lag. A Noonday friend turned me onto this and I think it definitely helped! Highly recommend if you’re going further than three time zones away.


*Mini packets of gummie bears! for obvious reasons. When aren’t gummie bears a good idea?

*Two copies of your passport.

*Lipton instant tea + honey packets. I was so happy I brought these! You just add one to a bottle of water and you instantly get delicious tea…kinda like Crystal Light without the aspartame.

*Starbucks VIA packets. Always a good idea! I keep a few in my purse for emergencies. And by emergencies, I mean airplane coffee.

*KIND bars, Larabars, trail mix packets, fruit leathers.

*Ear plugs/eye mask for sleeping.


*Altoids!! We were all SO happy we had these…especially when girls were sick on the bus.

Things to Leave Behind:

*Hair dryer. I brought mine and never used it. It was a total waste of space in my luggage.

*Engagement rings/nice jewelry. Never make yourself a target…be smart.

*Nice clothes. They’ll just get dirty and muddy anyway.

*Ipad. I never once turned it on.



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  • rachel @ the faded apron
    August 20, 2013 at 8:10 am

    great tips! I also always pack a journal, a sleep sack (you might not know where you’re sleeping…or if it has clean sheets), Dr. Bronner’s soap, and some sort of inexpensive fragrance (I once had a little bottle of Johnson & Johnson baby cologne that I would put on before bed- it always made me feel a little fresher than I was, especially in hot, sticky climates).

  • Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe
    August 20, 2013 at 8:29 am

    These are great tips, Jenna! I never would have thought in a million years to pack clothes in ziploc bags with a dryer sheet. I am a chronic over-packer too, so thank you for the “leave behind” category too!

    • Mish @ EatingJourney
      August 20, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Same. I’m going home to America in October..not Ethiopia..and I will be doing this.

    • Linda chislom
      September 15, 2017 at 8:29 am

      What size zip lock bags to use and where to purchase?

  • Circie
    August 20, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Hey! Thanks for the amazing, opeen story and follow-up travel tips. I’m going to Africa in a few weeks. What sleeping pills do you recommend?

  • Terri A.
    August 20, 2013 at 9:36 am

    A trick w/ the toilet paper – take the core out before packing and then you can squish the roll down. So much better than tissue paper for short calls.

  • Nicole
    August 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Love these tips! I always have such a hard time packing and then end up over packing for every trip.

  • Emily @ Life on Food
    August 20, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Dryer sheet idea is genius!

  • Katie D.
    August 20, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I’d add pads and tampons! I went on a mission trip to the DR and even though it was not near my time of the month, all of females got their period!

  • judith scott
    August 20, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Jenna, Great advice! I am leaving next month for 3 weeks: Thailand, Bangkok, Siem Reap Cambodia, Mekong River and Saigon.
    I assume the climate and conditions will be similar. Was wondering about hair dryer/ipad.
    It seems all hotels now have dryers and access to free internet…why can’t the US hotels do that?
    Also, all the med recommendations. I discovered No Jet Lag years ago and I swear by it, it works!
    Does the dryer sheet prevent wrinkles? That’s a new one for me.
    Loved your previous post. Reminds me of a quote “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”.

    • Sue
      August 20, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Love that quote! Thanks for sharing.

    • Sue
      August 20, 2013 at 10:30 am

      Also, the dryer sheets just keep everything smelling nice & fresh.

  • Farah @ Fabulously Farah
    August 20, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Awesome tips! I am now going to try the Wellness Formula Pills thanks to you!

    I think a good pair of headphones is essential because the ones the airplane provides always hurt my ears.

  • Sue
    August 20, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Great tips, Jenna! I’ve been to India & Africa multiple times so I thought I’d add a few more in case people are using this as a packing list:
    • I love wearing cargo pants b/c my passport & money all fit in the pocket on the side of my leg. It feels really safe & secure this way so is a great option when you don’t have a great place to keep these things. Speaking of pants, it’s uncommon that people wear shorts in most developing countries – especially adult females. You will already get a lot of attention so you may want to reserve shorts for really touristy areas/big cities.
    • A tote bag/backpack – as in something you can use to carry around for the day. A typical purse won’t be big enough for purchases, treats, bottled drinks & other things I’ll mention. Ideally they’ll have a closed top so people can’t steal from it.
    • Extra batteries! They can be expensive & sometimes difficult to find.
    • Chewable Rolaids are your friends. I have rarely been sick on my trips but sometimes got little tummy aches & these were great & portable.
    • ATM card — you don’t need to get foreign currency in advance because you can withdraw it easily from an ATM at the airport. However, call your bank in advance to notify them of your trip & learn about any different country rules, i.e. in Africa, I had a lower maximum withdrawal amount. Also note that not every country has ATMs on every corner so plan ahead & get cash when you can.
    • Totally agree with Katie’s advice above: pads/tampons even if you don’t think you’ll need them. Surprises happen, especially when your body is out of whack and you’re traveling with a bunch of other females.

  • Jessica @ Prayers and Apples
    August 20, 2013 at 10:40 am

    super helpful! love the dryer sheet tip 🙂

  • Daman
    August 20, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Hey Jenna!
    OMG is that Emily from the bachelorette the last girl standing on the right? Totally looks like her!

    • jenna
      August 20, 2013 at 11:18 am

      yep! she was part of our team!

  • Sarah
    August 20, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I agree! The girl on the right looks just like Emily! Did she go???

  • Sarah @ Yogi in Action
    August 20, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Love the packing list! I definitely agree with the leave behinds. I’ve done some travelling in third world countries and I make sure to always bring (in addition to what you mentioned):
    – a money belt. Might make you feel silly wearing one but at least it makes your stuff harder to take
    – flip flops. Especially if using shared showers
    – warm soft socks (for the airplane ride, my feet always get cold)
    – enough underwear to last a few extra days than you thinkyou need. You never know when you’ll need an extra pair
    – bug spray with DEET in it
    – I like to scan my passport and email it to myself, my fiancée and my mom, along with a copy of my itinerary. That way they know where I am, and if everything is stolen- they have a copy of my passport for the embassy

  • Kim
    August 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Definitely agree with the Cipro! I got a prescription before my trip to Peru and used it… my husband ended up having to buy his own while we were in Peru, but luckily you don’t need to see the doctor there in order to get it from the pharmacy! And it is a zillion time cheaper there than in the US (even with health insurance)!

  • barbara
    August 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    glad you had a good time! just an fyi, though, it’s “err on the side”, not “error”

    • Karen
      August 20, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Really. The girl goes to the other side of the world to do a great thing and you correct her on grammar.

      • Nys
        August 20, 2013 at 8:26 pm

        Why are you so upset by the correction? Barbara was perfectly nice about it.

  • Marissa@ohhhsolovely
    August 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    just curious…is that emily maynard from the bachelor/bachelorette in the above pic? looks just like her!!

    • Mish @ EatingJourney
      August 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      I think someone else asked..a couple of comments above (I don’t watch) but Jenna did reply back that it was. 🙂

  • Caroline L.
    August 20, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    These are all such great tips that aren’t found on the common “travel essentials” list – thanks so much for sharing, I’m loving the advice about packing outfits in Ziplocs + packing a dryer sheet with them!

  • grammie2maddie
    August 21, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Just an aside – snarkiness is not becoming – ever…

  • Packing For a Year Abroad – with four seasons and only 100lbs | Hello Dumpling
    August 24, 2013 at 7:40 am

    […] These tips aren’t too helpful if you’re going for a short period of time to somewhere that’s a high on the tricky-traveling list; so if you need tips on that, I recommend this post by Eat Live Run, it’s pretty comprehensive: […]

  • Rike
    September 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    What I found to be the most overused and valued item when I went to Africa was a simple, long skirt. Women tend to wear skirts instead of trousers and in order to fit in and connect it really made a difference wearing a skirt as opposed to shorts or trousers. So I would definitely recommend adding that to your otherwise fabulous list.

  • linda
    May 18, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    So thankful for the advice about the toothbrush and toothpaste. I’ve never thought of packing those for a trip.

  • JT
    August 16, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Moving to Addis in 2 weeks. This was very helpful! Thanks!