Packing for a Safari is a little bit of a challenge if you want to be stylish and still be under the baggage size limits for the small bush planes. Shop in your closet first for some basic beige and neutral staples and add a couple of layers in the form of jackets or sweaters in olives and khakis and you got yourself a Meryl Streep inspired ‘Out of Africa’ wardrobe without having to break the bank. I ended up just buying each of the kids an olive shirt and olive pants for the trip and a hiking pants from Columbia for Mr. Suburbia, other than that we really just picked some tans and brown clothes from what we already had. Here are my tips on what to pack for a family safari trip including a packing checklist.
Most safari lodges and camps will include laundry services, so really less is more when it comes to packing for your Family Safari trip. Remember you can only bring 15 kg or about 25 lbs per person on the small planes. I was pretty proud when everyone from guides to local airline staff, who handled our bags commented on how light we had packed.
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The main reason most safari outfits are in greens and tans is because animals see things in tones of black, white and grey. Lighter colors stand out to animals, while bright and bold colors are distracting for the guides and fellow passengers in the safari vehicles. Whether you are in a walking safari or not it is best to stick to a neutral, natural color palette of browns, greens, grays and black. When you are in these neutral colors you blend in well with the environment or look like one single unit when you are in the jeeps. Avoid blues because they tend to attract tsetse flies. If you are on the hunt for super soft tees that are long-lasting, Everlane and PACT both are great brands that offer ethically-made and affordable basics.
When it landed in July in Kenya, the temperatures were in the low 50 F and we were thankful we had our jackets. Most drives take place early in the morning with a 5 a.m. wake-up call and last into the late evening. So it is best to bring layers. Pack cotton shirts that can go over the tees, and a fleece and Jacket. Most game drives will come with warm blankets to keep your warm, but also bring lightweight jackets with hoods to keep your head and upper body toasty as well. A packable ultra light compact jacket or vests work well because they take less space. I also like to keep at least one inner heattech layer from Uniqlo in case it does get cooler. Again it is super thin and takes hardly any space. It is always nice to have a couple of scarfs that add a little color to the outfit and it doesn’t look like you are wearing the same outfit every day. I tend to buy these as souvenirs from places we are visiting instead of bringing them from home.
Leave those heals and fancy shoes behind. Bring just one pair of walkable shoes, another pair of sneakers and a pair of flip flops. Even though you will spend most of the day inside the safari jeeps it is best to wear closed toed shoes so that you don’t expose your self to bugs and insects. I found these comfortable sneakers for women with memory foam from Jambu and wore it for the entire trip. Use code SUBURBIA18 to get 15% off the entire purchase. My favorites are Crane in olive and Evelyn in Brown. They have shoes for kids as well.
Hat and sunglasses
If you want to look all safari chic, get a nice neutral colored wide brimmed Panama hat. If not, any straw hat or caps will do as well – one with a chin strap will be practical. So that the hat does not fly off your head when the safari guide decides to race to the next wildlife spotting before the others get there. The African sun can be pretty damaging in terms of UV rays. always good to protect your head and your eyes from the harmful rays. If you have prescriptions glasses or sunglasses, bring a spare. You don’t want to break or lose one and miss out on all the action.
It is ok to bring a dress or skirt. If you are staying in a nice lodge there might be sundowners or Boma BBQs and it is always nice to freshen up after a drive and wear something nice other than safari pants. If you are staying in tents that are lower to the ground you might want to skip the skirts and dresses since there might be a lot of insects and small creatures roaming around the ground. Men and boys can wear pants or jeans, a nice shirt and a sweater for the evenings. The girl’s top is from Kohls and the pants are from Forever21 and the boy’s shirt and sweater were from Zara.
Travel First Aid Kit
From Sunscreen to Neosporin to a multi-symptom relief, I put the necessary medications in a small first aid kit to keep handy when traveling internationally. Please see the list below and always check the expiration dates before the trip. Add your prescription medications in a pillbox so you have everything in one place ready to go.
Luggage for a Safari
We are mostly carry-on only travelers but we didn’t own any duffel bags, so had to shop around to find safari appropriate bags for the trip. I bought a few bags to try them out and ended up loving the LL Bean bags. We packed everything into packing cubes and then into three medium LL Bean duffel bags and one smaller Filson bag. This leather bag that is made of vegetable tanned cow leather would be great as well, plus for every bag sold one child in Pakistan gets to go to school!
We wore the biggest bulkiest shoe and put the other shoe and flip flops in a separate bag and then into each of the bags. Each person had a backpack with their own small toilet kit, a jacket, hat, phone, and headphones. You don’t need handbags either, just a small pouch to hold all the essentials and cosmetics (IMHO you don’t need anything other than some nude lipstick and moisturizer with a good SPF when you are on a safari, the animals don’t care and you shouldn’t either). In all, we were about 22 pounds or so each.
Camera Gear for Safari
We had one medium F-Stop camera bag with the ICU that held all the camera gear. We had taken 2 Nikon bodies D750 and D850, a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm lens and a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm. We had taken our camera stand but never really used it.
Download a Printable Family Safari Checklist here
Safari Packing List for Adults and Kids
- 2 pairs safari pants in tan or olive
- 1 pair of jeans or nice pants for evenings/ One dress for women
- 1 pair of shorts
- 3 tees in neutral colors
- 2 flowy tops for the girls
- 2 short-sleeve shirts for the boys
- 2 long-sleeve shirts in safari-style and colors preferably cotton that also works as a layer over the tees
- One fleece, sweater or sweatshirt depending on your style. I prefer cashmere sweaters since they are thin yet keep you warm
- One lightweight packable jacket
- Walking shoes or boots
- Tennis shoes (optional, if you plan to workout)
- 2 pairs of PJs
- 5 to 6 pairs underwear
- 5 pairs of socks
- 2 scarfs
- Yellow Fever vaccination cards
- Sunscreen, I like the Neutrogena face and body stick so you don’t have to worry about liquid limits
- Bug spray or Ben’s Tick and Insect repellent wipes (These were more effective with the bugs)
- Itch relief
- Anti-diarrhea pills for adults and liquid for kids
- Anti-malaria pills, start taking these before the trip (You will need a prescription from your Doctor)
- Children’s pain medication(s)
- Allergy relief medications
- Any other prescription medications
- Camera bodies and required lenses
- Extra batteries and memory cards for the camera
- Phones and chargers
- Universal travel adapter or a British adapter
- Portable power banks to charge USB devices. Useful during long game drives.
- Small LED flashlight (It does get dark at night and good to have one of these handy)
- A reusable water bottle or thermos
- Standard toiletries for adults and kids
- Binoculars, most guides will have them but good to have your own. We loved our Nikon Binoculars
- Small Packable day bag like this one from Patagonia
- Cash for tips
- Medical/Travel Insurance cards
You might also like: Photos from the Masai Mara Great Migration – Soaring about the Savannah in a Hot air balloon Safari in Serengeti – 6 things to do in Nairobi and other posts from Africa.
Have you been on a safari, did I miss anything? If you are going on a safari let me know if you found this list helpful.
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