Last updated on November 8th, 2022
What every solo traveler must have in her bag
by Carolyn Ray, Editor, JourneyWoman
With more and more airlines charging for baggage handling and more seeming to lose luggage en route, ‘packing light’ has become a hot topic.
For years I have proudly used carry-on, using packing cubes and multi-purpose clothing to slim down my wardrobe. However, there are some trips — like those to the Arctic or Antarctic — that require heavy expedition clothing that just doesn’t fit on a carry-on bag.
Why we should pack light when we travel solo
1. I don’t need to be a fashion plate. Ideally, we travel to observe not to be observed.
2. Especially as a woman who travels solo, plain clothes in plain styles allow me to fly under the radar and not stand out in a crowd. Social deviants and criminals are attracted to ‘glitter.’
3. I know the feeling of fumbling with a purse and backpack, trying to pull a large bag along the uneven cobbled streets of Europe.
4. Ditto, I know the feeling of shlepping a heavy suitcase up and down the stairs of subways and guest houses.
5. I understand how quickly passengers must climb onto a waiting train while trying to gracefully bring the heavy suitcase on board as well.
6. For safety’s sake, I want to always have one hand free and be able to move quickly and easily.
7. I know that as long as you are clean and dressed modestly you can fit in anywhere. You don’t need countless changes.
8. If you are on a multi-city itinerary you can rest assured that one city doesn’t wire ahead to the next to describe what you wore. You don’t need a different outfit for each event you attend.
9. Pack light and you will have room in your suitcase to bring back a few small souvenirs.
10. Pack light and you won’t need to spend a fortune on taxis from the airport. You will be able to use public transport.
BONUS: Pack carry-on luggage and save on baggage fees that will otherwise probably pay for a few glasses of red wine in Paris or several cups of coffee elsewhere in the world.
12 items women should pack on every solo trip
1. Pack in two basic colours and use layers. I favour black and gray and I include one white shirt to brighten things up. On long trips, I bring one different style of each (eg a blank tank, short-sleeved white shirt and long sleeved gray shirt).
2. Bring the clothes that I am most comfortable in and wear on a normal basis. (1) a skirt, (2) a pair of pants, (3) a nice pair of jeans (4) tights (5) add appropriate tops (one a bit dressier if you feel you are going to need it for evenings out).
3. Go to the Dollar Store and pick up two plastic rain ponchos that fold down to nothing. Keep them in your purse along with a small lightweight umbrella, just in case. Bringing an umbrella may be tempting but don’t do it.
4. Include at least two scarves that can accessorize any of your outfits but are also designed to keep you warm if the weather warrants it. Make one a bit sparkly for when you need a wardrobe pick-me-up.
5. Take along inexpensive jewelry. Never take anything you are afraid to lose. Both scarves, baubles and bangles will help you be a creative and stylish traveller. Besides, you can probably pick up some ‘fun’ necklaces or earrings as you travel.
6. Never take any one thing that can only be worn one way. That’s a perfect waste of space.
7. Bring as much underwear as possible. drip-dry underwear that dries overnight. We often recommend knit silk underwear which dries quickly like kimallansilk.com.
8. Wear my heaviest pair of shoes/boots (usually a walking shoe) on the plane. Pack one other pair that suits everything in my travel wardrobe, like a good pair of sneakers. I’ve become partial to white Skeechers which have a bit of a heel and can be worn with almost anything, even a dress.
9. Wear your heaviest sweater, hoodie or sweatshirt that takes up a lot of room in a suitcase. It acts as my blanket or pillow during the flight.
10. Hotel rooms are usually highly air-conditioned so I pack a long-sleeved heavy cotton nightgown that doubles as my bathrobe. Alternatively, I also take a light bathrobe and wear my silk underwear and a t-shirt.
11. Bring one all-purpose dress that can be used for hot days and cool nights. I have a long Sweaty Betty lightweight black dress with breathable fabric and a shorter version in navy blue. At night I dress it up with a necklace and wear my sneakers or flip flops depending on the climate.
12. NEVER leave home without a sarong. It’s a cover over short skirts or shorts when going into temples and mosques, a head covering or a swimsuit cover.
BONUS: I never travel anywhere without my rubber door stop and headlamp for safety reasons. The door stop because you never know if your door will have a lock that works; and the headlamp because you never know if there might be a natural disaster or power outage. A headlamp is also wonderful for late-night visits to hte bathroom when you’re camping or for cooking over a dark stove outside!
For more ideas visit our Double-Duty Packing special here.