One of the worst parts of travel is figuring out what to pack, and then getting it to fit in your bag. Being mindful of what you pack, shedding a few unnecessary belongings, and purchasing something you lost are all things that happen when you decide to live in the road. (Even if you’re not becoming a digital nomad, packing for any trip is a pain.)
This solo female travel packing list is broken down into four different sections.
- Keeping Safety in Mind
- Year-Round Necessities
- Seasonal/Climate Specific
By the end of this post, hopefully you’re an expert on what to pack. But as always, please feel free to reach out with any questions!
Table of Contents
Keeping Safety In Mind
This section is not meant to scare you from exploring the world. However, I would find it irresponsible to write a solo female traveler packing list and not mention something.
In general, I’ve found that I feel safer in many countries outside the US. Numerous women I’ve met share this sentiment. Exercise caution until you get a feel for a place, and talk to local women and others who have visited the destination.
Certain items you may be accustomed to carrying with you, such as pepper spray, aren’t allowed on flights. Below are travel-friendly recommendations.
- Whistle — Unlike pepper spray, you can take these on flights.
- Luggage Locks — Only purchase locks that are TSA-approved.
Locks keep your stuff secure while in transit (Everyone has recurring nightmares of a loose zipper and stuff spread out over the cargo hold).
- Birth control — This is covered a bit more in-depth in the solo female traveler tips post but it’s advisable to have a plan. Either ask for an advance on your prescription, have a long-term form (i.ee an IUD), or a plan for obtaining it abroad.
While this post serves as a good, general solo female traveler packing list, you should always adjust for the culture and customs of the countries you plan to visit. In particular, when you visit more conservative countries.
No need to stress, in general, if you follow two main rules you should be good to go.
- Be well-covered — These are not the places to wear shorts, crop tops, bikinis, or anything too revealing. Make sure most (if not, all) of your legs, chest, shoulders, and mid-drift are covered. Think t-shirts over tanks and pants and long skirts over shorts.
- Wear loose material — Well-covered doesn’t mean it’s time to break out your favorite form-fitting body suit or tight maxi dress. Pick loose and long dresses and skirts and shirts that are on the baggier side. Leggings and form-fitting pants are generally okay as, long as they’re covered by a long tunic or dress.
I make additional, more specific recommendations for all climates in the lists below.
There are many items you’ll need no matter where in the world you go or what season you travel in.
Bags & Organizers
These aren’t something you “pack” as much as something that contains the stuff you’re taking with you, but important to include.
- One big bag — Whether it’s a carry-on-size suitcase or a classic duffel/backpack combo, choose wisely. You want one large enough to fit all your necessities, but also manageable enough to confidently lug around the world as a solo traveler.
- Day pack — I prefer a standard backpack for this, but whatever you’re most comfortable with to take with you during the day.
- Organization Method — Packing Cubes, Tech Pouch, and numerous other things, something that keeps you organized is essential.
Tech & Gadgets
After safety, this is the most important category. These items aren’t like toothpaste or socks that can be purchased in most places. If you can find the stuff listed below abroad, it can be difficult to track down and more expensive.
- Laptop — Even if you’re not working remotely, it’s still handy. Not everywhere has a TV to binge Netflix, and I hate doing tasks like planning, researching, or paying bills on my phone.
- Cell phone — Obvious but the key to keeping you connected and not too lost. You’ll need a device for SIMs and emergency calls. (We at World Embark recommend that you purchase a SIM card in-country, as this is much cheaper than an international data plan.)
- E-reader — This is optional because not everyone is a huge reader. But between airports, flights, trains/buses, and general downtime, you might find yourself with the desire to pick up a book. Many prefer physical books, but they’re too impractical, which is why E-readers are perfect.
- Chargers — You can typically purchase these in other countries, but electronics and accessories are often much more expensive outside the US/Canada.
- Universal Travel Adapter — Not every country has the same electric sockets, and you’ll need a converter to charge electronics.
- VPN — Protect yourself from hackers while using various, unprotected wifi spots. Also, a VPN is helpful if your favorite show on Netflix isn’t available in all countries.
This will be a very minimalistic list as hygiene will be covered in detail at the end of this post.
- Toothpaste — Although if you’re tight on space, this can be bought post-arrival.
- Facewash (1 small carry-on container)
- Moisturizer (1 small carry-on container)
- Underwear (10 pairs) — This is the one item I advise you to overpack. You never know when you’ll get a surprise period, or when you’ll be without laundry access for longer than normal. You can re-wear most clothing items, but underwear is something that needs to be fresh.
- Bras (2 – 3) — If you’re active, one casual wear and a couple of sports bras.
- Socks (6-8 pairs) — I prefer to overpack. No matter how desperately in need I am to do laundry, fresh socks and underwear can keep me going for a while.
- Pants or shorts (3-4) — Quantity will depend on the season and climate. Depends on your lifestyle and where you’re going, but four pairs of either should be more than enough. Plain
- Short sleeve shirts — Quantity will depend on the season and climate.
- Long sleeve shirts — Quantity will depend on the season and climate.
- Jacket (1) — The heaviness of the jacket will vary on the climate.
- Scarf — One or two always comes in handy for “emergency coverage” when a shirt doesn’t quite cover your shoulders or chest. Also, scarves are handy if you need to cover your hair to visit religious sites (in many countries, not just conservative ones.)
The type of footwear you pack will vary slightly between destinations, seasons, and activities you plan to do. Broadly speaking, the following are general guidelines.
- A pair of casual shoes, sneakers, or boots that can be worn in various scenarios. These should be comfortable for walking decent distances.
- Flip flops or sandals that can get wet. Even if you’re not much of a beach or pool person, you’ll want breathable footwear. Also, showering in hostels barefoot is not ideal.
For female travelers, the shoes you bring depends on your preferences and lifestyle. If you’re active like me, you’ll bring running shoes that can double as casual sneakers. If you plan to hike, you’ll want to pack something such as hiking boots.
Also, no matter what shoes you bring, coat them with waterproofing spray before travel. This ensures you have something to keep your feet dry in the event of rain.
Seasonal / Climate Specific Clothing
While the list has focused on daily carry, the clothes will vary a bit depending on what season and climate you’re traveling in. Your bag for summer in Greece will differ a lot from winter in Canada. If you are traveling anywhere in the southern hemisphere, remember the seasons are reversed!
The most divisive season. Either you embrace or resist it in the form of a three to six month hibernation. If you plan to be somewhere that doesn’t have year-round sun, make sure to pack the following.
- Base layer top & bottom (2 pairs) — Long underwear, long johns, whatever you call them. Can also be wool depending on your cold tolerance.
- Socks (3 pairs)/ Wool Socks (3 pairs)
- Gloves (1 pair)
- Hat (1) — Most of your bodies heat is stored in your head.
- Scarves (2) — Not cute flowery ones. Think warm materials such as wool, flannel, etc.
- Short sleeve shirts (2) — At most.
- Long sleeves shirts (4 – 5) — Mostly sweaters. Use long-sleeve shirts as a layer above the base layer
- Pants (3-4) — Jeans, leggings, etc. whatever you prefer to put over your base layer.
- Jackets (1-2) — A proper winter jacket is something down-filled and long enough to cover your behind. Also, make sure you check the description. You will want to verify how cold of temperatures it’s made for, and if it’s waterproof.
- Winter boots (1-2 pairs) — Or something that does okay in the snow.
*For conservative countries
Winter clothing in general follows the two golden rules above (coverage and not too-form fitting) but it’s still a good idea to be mindful when packing. Make sure the pants and shirts you pack aren’t skin-tight or too revealing.
I put the transitional seasons together because you wear the same thing — layers. For the spring, you layer less as the season gets progressively warmer. So mostly short sleeves with a light jacket and scarf for the morning or late at night. Fall requires wearing a bit more as the temperatures continue to drop.
- Short sleeve shirts (4 – 5) — Perfect start to these layer-heavy seasons.
- Long sleeves shirts (2-3) — At most. One to two should be sweaters for the fall.
- Pants (3-4) — Jeans, leggings, etc. Whatever you prefer.
- Scarves (2) — Airy materials like cotton as the temperature will not warrant flannel or wool.
- Jacket (1-2) — A light jacket for every day and a waterproof one for these two annoyingly unpredictable seasons.
- Shoes — Both seasons can be damp around the world, so you might want a pair of rain boots. At the very least, shoes that have been coated with water-proofing spray.
*For conservative countries
Similar to winter, these seasons should leave you respectfully dressed by default. Again though, here is a reminder of some things to keep in mind. The best options are loose-fitting T-shirts, looser tunics, and have long sleeves. Don’t forget a few “emergency coverage” scarves, on the lighter side for these transitional seasons.
The season that many remote workers happily chase. Summer clothing is usually light and minimal, allowing you to bring a smaller bag. And while summer certainly varies from Brunei to Brazil, below is a general packing list appropriate for all types of sunny destinations.
- Summer dresses (2 – 3) — The lazy solo female traveler’s favorite outfit.
- Sleeveless tops (2)
- Shortsleeve shirts (2 – 3)
- Flannel/cardigan/hoodie (1) — Some days are just cold. You are never expecting them.
- Shorts (2 pairs)
- Pants (1 pair) — For colder days.
- Swimsuits (2-3)
- Flip flops/sandals (1 pair) — You don’t need more, trust me.
*For conservative countries
Summer is the season that you need to be extra considerate when packing for a more conservative destination. This is is why I’ve written a completely separate list.
- Dresses — Definitely do not pack standard summer dresses. Make sure the skirt is long, at least past your knees, the top covers the necessary areas (shoulders, chest), and the overall fit is loose.
- Sleeveless Tops — Do not pack.
- Shortsleeve shirts (1 – 2) — Best options are loose-fitting T-shirts.
- Long sleeves shirts (2-3) — Loose-fitting, including in the sleeves, which will keep the sun off you and help keep you cool even when covered.
- Flannel/cardigan/hoodie (1) — Something for cooler days.
- Shorts — Do not pack.
- Pants (3 – 4 pairs) — Best options are loose-fitting joggers, like looser long-sleeves, these will protect you from the sun and keep you cool. Maybe one pair of thin leggings to be covered by a long top.
- Scarf — One light one to help with coverage on hot days.
- Swimsuits — Generally fine to pack, to be worn only at pools or beaches (always check local guidance).
- Flip flops/sandals (1 pair) — Generally fine to keep.
There are just a few, random things that I’ve found useful through my travels as a solo female.
- Yoga Mat — Great for staying active or just stretching after all long flights and train rides, a yoga mat can double as a base when camping, or something to sit on when you don’t have room for a picnic blanket. I’ve had success (and seen others) strap it to the bottom of a backpack to avoid counting as an extra carry-on.
- Reusable water bottle (1) — Buying single-use water bottles is bad for the environment, but it’s also not great for your budget.Bringing your own water bottle is a great way to ensure you’re always hydrated on the road. It can be refilled in many countries around the world where tap water is safe. Otherwise, invest in tablets, a Steripen, or Lifestraw to filter the less-than-ideal tap water!
- Feminine products — A lot of solo female travelers swear by the DivaCup as a great eco-friendly, reusable solution for when you have your period abroad. I haven’t personally tried it but many friends have and only have positives to say about the product.
If you opt not to try the DivaCup, I recommend you stash a few emergency tampons or pads in your carry-on. Traveling messes with our bodies and especially the menstrual cycle, so it’s common (speaking from experience) to have weird periods while traveling. Don’t be surprised by an early cycle or if you skip a month altogether.
Also, in some places, tampons aren’t sold widely or can be hard to access (especially if you’re somewhere rural). Additionally, in a lot of countries, many tampons don’t come with applicators. If that’s a no-go for you, bring some from home (although you do eventually get used to it.)
*Bonus What to Leave At Home
This article may be a solo female traveler packing list, but you have limited room in your bag. Below, I’ve elaborated on what can stay behind. There’s probably more, but these are things I’ve found I can do without in the suitcase.
- Hygiene products beyond those listed above — You can buy things like soap, shampoo, etc. there. Leave the elaborate skin-care routines at home.
- Most makeup, hair, and beauty products — To save space in your pack, becoming low-maintenance in this area is the best approach. Makeup is available in most countries, and if you’re flexible on brands and products, you can purchase post-arrival.
- Hair dryer, straightener, or curler — Besides the fact that space in your bag can be used more wisely, the international voltage will likely fry anything electric.
- Books — Although I am a hard-copy lover, I recommended an E-reader at the beginning of this piece. Occasionally, I purchase something, but I’ve mostly stopped buying them as I continue to travel.
- Document copies — This is less about what you “don’t need” and more about what you may need in case of an emergency. Leave copies of anything important with a trusted friend or family member. Typically I leave copies of my passport, ID, credit cards, and insurance policies with my partner as well as my dad. If I have an accident or lose something abroad, someone I trust has a reference.
- Sharing my Location —You may want to leave someone a rough itinerary, text each time you change location, or better yet, share your location. So if something happened, you’d want loved ones to have an idea of where you are and the tools and documents necessary to help.