PACKING LIST FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS

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 may have finally figured this female packing list thing out.

I’ve learned that, thankfully, with a few staple items, you can travel just about anywhere without spending a fortune on gear.

The followings are my ultimate packing list. Feel free to mix and match and take just what you want. Enjoy!

Tip #1: What Bag to Bring

Should you go with a backpack or a suitcase? It depends on your travel destination(s) and length of the trip.

I am a huge advocate of backpacks, as it gives me the advantage of mobility (trust me, dragging a wheeled suitcase on a staircase is not fun at all!). It’s also great to not have to wait for your luggage at the airport upon arrival!

Many people are afraid that carrying a backpack will take a toll on their backs, but if you have the right one that fits your body, the weight will be evenly distributed and you will be fine! I highly recommend testing out backpacks (with weights in them) as everyone’s body is different.

  • A 65L bag, which is big enough for all of my belongings, including some hiking gear.
  • 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.
  • Packing cubes are the single most important thing for organizing my clothing and compressing my belongings.
  • If carrying large cameras and a computer, I bring an electronics backpack with locking zippers and wear in the front.

Tip #2: What Clothes to Bring

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 not be able to find cheap clothing or buy it on the road, so bring everything you think you’ll need. These suggest packing lists will help:

Hot Climates

  • 5–7 thin and simple tank tops and T-shirts 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
  • 2–3 pairs of light cotton pants and/or leggings
  • 1 set of sleepwear
  • Sufficient underwear to last you at least a week; I suggest 7 pairs of panties, 2 bras, and 2 sports bras
  • 2 sets of interchangeable swimwear
  • 2 pairs of thin socks and 1 pair of normal socks for hiking
  • 1 pair of hiking or running shoes
  • 1 pair of flip-flops (jandals, thongs) or sandals
  • A hat with a brim that will shade your face and a pair of sunglasses
  • 1 sarong or big scarf when the modest dress is called for and cooler evenings

Temperate Climates

  • 2–3 tank tops for layering
  • 2–3 long-sleeved shirts for layering
  • 2–3 T-shirts
  • 2–3 tunic shirts or dresses (that will go well with leggings)
  • 1 set of sleepwear
  • 1 pair of jeans or thick pants
  • 1–2 pairs of shorts of varying lengths
  • 1–2 pairs of leggings
  • Sufficient underwear to last you at least a week; I suggest 7 pairs of panties, 2 bras, and 2 sports bras
  • 4 pairs of socks: some for sports 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

  • 3–4 long-sleeved shirts for layering
  • 2 thermal shirts
  • 2–3 sweaters and/or sweater dresses
  • 1 pair of jeans or thick pants
  • 2–3 pairs of leggings for layering
  • 1 set of sleepwear
  • Sufficient underwear to last you at least a week; I suggest 7 pairs of panties, 2 bras, and 2 sports bras
  • 7 pairs of thick socks
  • 1 pair of snow boots
  • 1 heavy coat
  • pair of gloves
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 beanie or winter hat

 

Tip #3: Toiletries to Bring

I’m happy to report that it’s both easy and straightforward to find 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 the following:

  • 1 hanging toiletry bag
  • Refillable travel bottles (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face soap)
  • Facial moisturizer
  • Razor refills
  • Extra contacts
  • Birth control for the length of your trip (if you take it, or consider monitoring your cycle with a free app like Period and using condoms, which are available almost worldwide)
  • Ibuprofen
  • A travel first aid kit
  • A toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
  • At least one deodorant
  • Sunscreen
  • Tweezers
  • An eyeglasses repair kit
  • Nail clippers
  • Makeup
  • 1 palette of eyeshadow (though I tend to go makeup-free in hot climates!)
  • 1 light powder foundation and bronzer
  • 1 eyeliner and mascara

For 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.

Tip #4: Practical Items

Though most items such as bedding and pillows are provided in hostels, you’ll need a few other things to make your travels easier and cheaper. The following are my must-haves:

  • A travel line for drying clothing (in Europe, Oceania, and North America, it’s expensive to wash your clothes at a laundromat, so consider your budget)
  • A Diva Cup (a reusable menstrual cup).
  • A microfiber towel (plenty of hostels and camping sites will not have towels, regardless of where in the world they are, so bring your own quick-drying one to save money and hassle).
  • A headlamp for camping and as a personal flashlight at night.

Tip #5: Products to Keep You (and Your Belongings) Safe

 

I’ve never had anything major stolen. I credit this to watching my belongings like a hawk, always carrying the most important stuff on my person, and using thief-safe travel products. These are the security-related items I swear by:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A lock for lockers, doors, and your belongings when needed.
  • COVID considerations: Welcome to the new normal! Bring a mask (or several) to protect yourself and others. I recommend cloth mask with a filter pocket to reduce your environmental impact.

 

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

I suggest you write down what you think you need — and then cut it in half. You never need as much as you think. Doing this will help you travel light.

 

 

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