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About to embark on your first solo trip? Packing can always be daunting, but for travelers hitting the road alone, the bag you bring — and what goes in it — becomes even more important. Though many of these tips and tricks are applicable to anyone taking a solo trip, some of these strategies are especially useful for women.
Whether it’s your first time traveling alone, or you’ve lost count, revisit this guide before your next solo trip for tactics to help you pack light and be prepared for every imaginable scenario.
Bring a Backpack
We know not all women traveling solo are backpacking. But it’s a lot easier to toss something over your back than to drag a suitcase along, especially if you’re visiting a country where the roads aren’t paved. It’s also much easier to keep track of your belongings. (You won’t forget even the most comfortable backpack slung over your shoulders.) This is especially useful if you don’t have a partner, friend or family member there to keep an eye on your bag while you pop into the restroom.
Here at TPG, we recommend Osprey for serious backpackers. If you’re traveling for work, you could opt for a more refined bag, such as the stylish leather LOTIS Audrey Ryder, which also comes with RFID protection. For women wanting something practical and minimal with a laptop sleeve, the Rains Field backpack boasts a waterproof polyurethane-coated shell.
Sorry to state the obvious, but if you’re traveling alone, no one is there to carry your bags for you. So don’t overpack! Bringing too much stuff will weigh you down (literally and figuratively), and one of the main reasons to travel solo is supposed to be the freedom of it all, right? So ditch the extra clothes and toiletries and learn to get around with a little less.
Use an App
Packing apps such as PackPoint curate a special packing list for you, taking into consideration your destination, reason for traveling, length of stay and other filters (think: if you can do laundry or if you’re going to the beach). You can add, delete and modify each item and check things off as you pack your bag. Seeing your belongings listed on the app can help prevent you from forgetting anything essential, while making sure you don’t overpack.
What to Pack
Bathrooms around the world are notorious for not having toilet paper, and tissues can double as napkins, wet wipes and more. And sure, you may just need them to wipe your nose, too. Many countries don’t sell them in small packs, so having a stash can be a lifesaver.
Personal Safety Gear
While pepper spray is banned in some countries, it’s always a good idea to carry some form of defense. My personal favorite is a necklace that also doubles as a safety whistle, like this antique silver whistle from 1928 Jewelry or a stainless steel version from Unbound. Women embarking on a solo hike or outdoor adventure may opt instead for a storm alert whistle. Sabre also makes personal alarms you can wear on your wrist while jogging, or a door alarm for your hotel or hostel door.
You should protect your items just as you protect yourself. One way to do that is with the Basu backpack alarm, which makes a shrill noise if anyone attempts to open your bag. And PacSafe is a brand that makes anti-theft luggage as well as a variety of locks and bag protectors. With an excellent selection of TSA-approved locks, cables and bag protectors, there are a number of ways to secure your belongings while on the road.
We know it’s basic, but if you want to take any photos of yourself when traveling alone, a selfie stick makes things a lot easier. We love the Xenvo SquidGrip, which works as a selfie stick, tripod and even wraps around bicycle handlebars or poles. This way, you’ll have endless options for photographing yourself in every setting.
Being able to secretly stash money, credit cards and other personal items is an easy way to avoid having to carry a purse — but, more importantly, it can be a safeguard in the event of theft and loss. Speakeasy makes a variety of travel scarves with concealed pockets, and having a scarf is a good idea anyway, as it doubles as a blanket to keep you warm on frigid airplanes. Similarly, The Travel Bra makes undergarments with hidden compartments, so you can stash belongings there, too.
Feminine Hygiene Products
Hear us out. Feminine hygiene products — especially tampons — can be difficult to find in some destinations. In Cuba, for example, they’re exceptionally hard to track down. That’s why it’s always a good idea to pack extra, even if you’re not expecting to need them during your travels. To save space, pack the compact ones with less packaging, or consider using a reusable menstrual cup instead, eliminating the need for tampons in the first place.
Having a small, multi-use pocket tool can be really helpful, and can spare you the headache of sifting through a number of miscellaneous implements. Though a pocket knife is absolutely crucial when camping, it can also be used to open a bottle of wine in your hotel without waiting for room service to bring a corkscrew. Opt for one that comes with tweezers, nail clippers, a serrated knife and a can opener. Just make sure to pack it in your checked back so it doesn’t get confiscated at airport security.
Secret Cash Stash
Having a little extra money and a credit card stored away, separate from your wallet, is always a good idea. After all, if you’re traveling solo, no one will be there to buy your train ticket if your bag gets lost or stolen. I usually keep a little local currency in my eyeglass case in the event of an emergency. Another idea? Roll up a few bills inside an empty lipstick or travel-size sunblock tube you’ve cleaned out.
A small keychain flashlight can come in handy if your phone dies and you’re walking back to your hotel or Airbnb at night. The tiny Photon PH505 attaches to your key ring and has a bright LED light that’s visible for more than one mile. I recommend sleeping with your flashlight in your shoe. Seriously. That way, if you need it in the middle of the night, you don’t have to dig around for it in the dark.
Long-Sleeved Shirts and Pants
Although this may seem obvious, it’s easy forget to pack these garments if you’re traveling to a sunny, warm destination. But remember: Dressing modestly in some countries, despite the heat, may help prevent unwanted attention. Loose and lightweight items are best, especially if it’s humid. These items can also be lifesavers on long flights, or if you decide to visit a temple or sacred spot where being covered is required. The good news is, if you forget these items, you can probably purchase them in your destination.
You may not be able to find certain types of medication during your travels and, what’s more, if you fall ill and you’re traveling alone, there’s no one around to run to the pharmacy for you. Be sure to pack bandages and disinfectant ointment, along with generic pain killers, bug repellent, anti-itch cream and medicine for an upset stomach.
Traveling on your own means you’ll have a lot of time to reflect. Keep a few books on an e-reader so you don’t have to lug around heavy tomes. One exception? A travel journal. Physically writing when you feel inspired during your trip will help you retain special memories of your solo adventure, and you may even learn a thing or two about yourself in the process.
Having a backup phone charger is important for any traveler. So much about travel is connected to our phones these days — boarding passes, for example, and hotel confirmation numbers. But a backup charger may be even more important if you’re a woman traveling solo. There are many apps that can help keep you safe during a trip, for example, but they can’t do a thing if your phone is dead. TPG staff members love the lightweight Anker power charger, which has two USB ports and can charge an iPhone up to seven times.
Silicone Wedding Ring
Wearing a ring (whether you’re married or not) is a way to stave off unwanted attention. If you do this, just don’t wear one that’s worth a lot, because losing it or having it stolen isn’t worth the risk. QALO’s silicone bands changed the way I travel, because they’re inexpensive and I won’t be devastated if it slips off at the beach (unlike my actual heirloom wedding ring).
Featured image by Toa Heftiba via Unsplash.
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