On the second Wednesday of the month, Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes a guest column featuring tips and advice on solo female travel. It’s an important topic I can’t adequately cover, so I brought in an expert to share her advice for other solo female travelers! Here she is with another awesome article!

I know that it can be daunting trying to figure out what to pack for a week, a month, or a year abroad without much — or any — prior experience in the place you aim to visit. I found myself in the same situation four years ago, but with the benefit of hindsight and experience on every continent on earth (save for Antarctica — one day!), I may have finally figured this packing thing out. I’ve learned that thankfully, with a few staple items, you can travel to just about anywhere without spending a fortune on gear.

The following are my tried-and-true methods and products that, even after almost four years on the road, I still love and use:

What to Wear

backpacker dressed appropriately and fun for the climate
In places where clothing is cheap, such as Southeast Asia and India, don’t stress too much about having a complete wardrobe ready to go before you take off. Just about every girl I met in those regions wore clothing she’d bought on the road. It will suit the climate and at $3-$6 USD per garment, won’t break the bank.

In Europe, Oceania, or anywhere remote, where you might either not be able to find cheap clothing or buy it on the road, bring everything you think you’ll need. These lists will help:

Hot climates

  • 5–7 thin and simple tank tops or sleeveless tops that can easily mix and match with different bottoms
  • 2–3 pairs of shorts of varying lengths. Avoid denim in humid countries, as it takes a long time to line dry.
  • 2 long skirts or dresses for conservative environments that require modesty — and they breathe better than pants
  • 2–3 pairs of light cotton pants and/or leggings
  • 9 pairs of whatever underwear you find the most comfortable
  • 2 pairs of thin socks
  • 1 pair of hiking or running shoes
  • 1 pair of flip-flops (jandals, thongs) or sandals
  • A hat to cover your face

Temperate climates

  • 3–4 tank tops for layering
  • 2–3 long-sleeved shirts for layering
  • 2–3 t-shirts
  • 2–3 tunic shirts or dresses
  • 1 pair of jeans or thick pants
  • 2–3 pairs of shorts of varying lengths
  • 1–2 pairs of leggings
  • 9 pairs of comfortable underwear
  • 4 pairs of socks: some for sport shoes and some for boots
  • 1 pair of boots or closed-toed shoes (wear in transit to save space)
  • 1 pair of hiking or running shoes
  • 1 pair of flip-flops (jandals, thongs) or sandals
  • 1 jacket, preferably something waterproof, for all occasions

Cold climates


toiletries to pack while traveling
I’m often asked about buying toiletries on the road, and I’m happy to report that it’s both easy and straightforward finding shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and soap. Ladies abroad use these things, too.

Pantene and Dove products seem to be universal, and with the exception of a few really off-the-grid places, such as tiny islands and extremely poor areas where people mostly subsistence-farm, you’ll be able to find basic toiletries easily on the road.

My basic toiletry packing list includes:

For items such as prescriptions, the ease of traveling with them will heavily depend on what you need and how much you can get up front, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The best way to handle it is to talk to your doctor and insurance regarding how much you can get before you leave and how to best take it across borders.

Remember that in much of the world, doctors aren’t too expensive to visit and it’s possible to get prescriptions written and filled on the road. Some developing countries will not even require a prescription for some items, from prescription shampoos and skin creams to anti-anxiety medications.

Practical Items

backpacker in the mountains
Though most items such as bedding and pillows are provided in hostels, you’ll need a few items apart from those to make your travels easier and cheaper.

For example, in some parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia, it’s much easier to get your washing done for you at your hostel than to wash it yourself. When camping or traveling in other parts of the world, however, it’s expensive and difficult to find someone to do your washing, so it’s better to bring a washing line and do it in the sink yourself.

The following are my must-haves for making traveling easier:

  • Travel line for drying clothing (not necessary in Southeast Asia, where laundry is cheap, but necessary in Africa and South America, where it’s not always available. In Europe, Oceania, and North America, it’s expensive to wash your clothes at a laundromat so consider your budget.)
  • Diva Cup – a menstrual cup that can be reused throughout your trip. I was shocked to find that in China, for example, there were no tampons! Thank goodness I had the Diva Cup, a washable insert that makes everyone’s least favorite monthly visitor less horrendous.
  • Packing cubes – the single most important thing I use for organizing my clothing and compressing what I bring
  • Microfiber towel – plenty of hostels and camping sites will not have towels, regardless of where in the world they are. Bring your own quick-drying one to save money and hassle.
  • Sleeping bag liner – in case you encounter a hostel that is less than clean
  • Sarong for easy covering up for temples or at the beach (you can also buy this on the road)
  • Headlamp for camping, digging in your bag after dark in dorms without waking everyone up, and as a personal flashlight at night

Products to Keep You (and Your Stuff) Safe

kristin addis, female solo travel expert, with her well-packed suitcase
If you’re traveling with anything of value — which most travelers are — the next most important things to pack are locks and items that can keep your electronics and your person safe.

In my nearly four years of traveling, I’ve never had anything major stolen. I credit this to watching my belongings like a hawk, always carrying the important stuff on my person, and using thief-safe travel products. These are the ones I swear by:

  • Pacsafe messenger bag as a day bag, especially for towns like Phnom Penh or Ho Chi Minh City, where drive-by motorbike thieves and bag-slashers are a constant threat; or in much of Europe or South America, where people try to unzip your purse when you’re distracted. There is a wire running through the strap, the colors are not flashy, and it is equipped with hidden pockets that block RFID readers from scanning passport and credit card information. Plus, the zippers lock.
  • If carrying large cameras and a computer, I bring a locking electronics backpackwith locking zippers, which I wear in the front.
  • The Pacsafe backpack and bag protector is a wire mesh bag that protects valuables if you’re in a place without lockers or a safe. Whether in dorms, private rooms, bamboo bungalows, the trunk of a rental car, or wooden huts, it is a huge contributor to peace of mind and takes up very little space. Slip on the bag’s rain jacket, wrap the bag in the Pacsafe bag protector, then use an additional lock to secure it to a bunk bed bedpost or any other object in the room that is fixed to the floor or wall and would be difficult to remove.
  • A personal safety alarm is a good item to bring along instead of mace or pepper spray, which is illegal in many countries and sometimes not allowed even in checked baggage. It’s small and easy to walk around with, and it makes a very loud noise if you press it in an emergency
  • lock so that you can secure lockers, doors, and your belongings when needed.

Things You Generally Don’t Need

  • Mosquito nets: In almost every country where I needed a mosquito net, there was already one hanging over the bed. It almost never made sense for me to bring my own. I also have found very little need for jeans unless in Europe or North America. Hot and humid countries are not a good place for such thick clothing.
  • Money belts: Thieves know to look for them, and I find a much better alternative is the dummy wallet – a wallet with a few canceled cards and some petty cash inside. The rest, I stash in my shoe, bra, or a back, buttoning pocket. If a thief mugs me, I can hand over the dummy purse or wallet without a fight and we both walk away happy.
  • Your own bedding: If you’re afraid of encountering dirty bedding during your travels or just want to be sure that you always have something clean to sleep in, bring along a thin, small sleeping bag liner.
  • A suitcase with wheels: In most parts of the world, a suitcase with wheels is just an annoyance. The wheels get stuck in the dirt in Southeast Asia, where there aren’t often sidewalks. In Europe when traveling via train you’ll have to constantly drag it up and down stairs and over cobblestone. Go for a backpack. Matt has a helpful guide to picking the right one here.
  • Jewelry: Think twice about being flashy. It’s akin to wearing a “rob me” sign in a lot of the world. I usually leave any expensive or designer jewelry and sunglasses I have at home and bring along something cheap that I don’t mind losing. Plus, it’s fun to buy local jewelry on the road and bring it home. It makes the best souvenir!

After almost four years, those are my staples that I still bring with me on every trip. Even with all that, it’s still possible to pack light, travel with just one big bag, and keep your stuff safe and yourself comfortable. It’s all about having the right essentials and leaving the stuff at home that doesn’t serve a purpose during your trip.


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