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Easy Packing Tips for Solo Women Travelers

Perhaps the bane of many women traveler’s existence is figuring out how to pack a bag that fits the weight restrictions, especially at airports.

At least, for me, it has been. I’ve been called many things in my life, but a light travel packer isn’t one of them.

I’ve moved abroad five times in the past eight years, and bit by bit I have learned to navigate the murky waters of packing my suitcase and backpack.

Bit by bit I’ve improved and learned how to pack quickly and efficiently for any trip, anywhere in the world and without the benefit of a partner’s suitcase to share.

From the arctic conditions of southern New Zealand in winter to trekking through Mongolia to a girl’s weekend in Manhattan, here are my best travel packing tips and secrets for packing for solo female travelers.

10 Travel Packing Tips for solo female travellers

1. Wear layers and convertible clothes

If there is one thing I dislike traveling, it’s wearing uncomfortable clothes. That being said, I intentionally don’t dress like a college hobo in sweatpants 24/7 either. I always try to pack my most comfortable clothes for long travel days and long flights.

I wear a lot of really soft cotton t-shirts, pants and skirts with cute cuts that can be either dressed up or down. I also make sure I pack things I can layer easily, like cardigans and wraps that I can re-wear over and over again. And a thick good pair of black leggings is a key part of my travel wardrobe.

Me exploring New Zealand
Me exploring New Zealand

2. Take a backpack as a carry on with a small tote

This is probably one of my best travel hacks I’ve figured out.

If you take a daypack sized backpack as a carry-on, you rarely are asked for it to be weighed – I believe this is because it’s much less obvious and obtrusive. Much less often than with a rolling suitcase as a carry-on.

This is important if you are flying with an airline that can be strict about weight limits. My carry-on always is overweight since it’s filled with my camera equipment and electronics, though if I get asked to weigh it (which is rare) I just say it’s camera equipment and they let me through.

Since I usually buy snacks and water in the airport, I have a small canvas tote rolled up in the side of the pack that I use once I’m on the plane to put whatever I need for the flight into, like my laptop, Kindle and music.

Then I put my backpack in the overhead bin and I don’t have to think about it til I’ve landed. Trust me, this makes life so much easier.

3. Plastic bags

I am the biggest fan of plastic bags, and I usually have half a dozen tucked away here and there throughout my luggage.

I always put my toiletries in a plastic shopping bag to prevent it leaking all over my clothes, and my smaller items in a ziplock bag inside. If I buy wine, I always wrap it in two or three plastic bags before padding it in clothes.

Additionally, depending on where I’m going I will leave “bigger and heavier” toiletries at home and buy them once I arrive, like shampoo and conditioner, bringing just a travel size with me.

4. Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on

You never know when your luggage might get lost and if you’ve been traveling for 24 hours, not having a clean shirt or underwear might be a breaking point, at least for me it is.

It doesn’t have to be an elaborate outfit, usually I just pack a light cotton dress, underwear and socks, depending on the climate of my destination.

5. You really don’t need 5 pairs of shoes

Shoes are so heavy and take up so much space and weight in your luggage I’ve found it’s not worth it.

I have a 3 shoe max rule and stick to it when I’m traveling. If I’m going somewhere warm or beachy, flip-flops and flats, and my sneakers if I’m hiking.

If it’s winter, I’ll wear my boots on the plane, if it’s really rainy, I pack waterproof shoes. Wet feet can ruin a day.

comfy & cute flats
comfy & cute flats

6. Don’t pack a hairdryer

I went through a stage where I used to take a hairdryer with me until I realized that the majority of hotels have them already. And if they aren’t in the room, you can ask to borrow one. What was I thinking?

7. Hide some money in your suitcase

Knock on wood I’ve never been mugged or pickpocketed, but I have plenty of friends who have.

One of the best ways to cope with it, is to divide up your money, and hide some in your suitcase or bag, away from where you keep your wallet in case something happens.

8. Portable USB charger

In this day and age, everyone needs to charge something right?

My life is on my phone, and when I’m traveling, it’s where I store all of my essential info, like maps, directions to hotels, flight info, ect. That means I need it on all the time, and I really hate having to rush looking for outlets in airports or transport spots, especially with different converters.

I’ve invested in a few small portable USB chargers and batteries over the years, and my god have they been a lifesaver!

9. Blanket size scarf

Even in summer, I always wear a big blanket-sized scarf I can wrap myself up in on long travel days. Whether I’m in a cold hotel room or an over-air-conditioned flight, or I just need a nap somewhere, I love being able to wrap myself up when I need to.

10. Leave “one time” outfits at home

This is another big takeaway, I’ve learned to leave one-time outfits at home because they usually aren’t worth the space. The exception is when I need a specific outfit for an event, like a conference day or a wedding.

I love pretty dresses more than most girls, and have more than enough of them in my wardrobe, but I’ve learned the hard way not to pack them on busy trips, or maybe just pack one. Otherwise, they end up scrunched up in the bottom of my bag.

Check out these amazing travel gifts for her!

Need more solo travel tips?

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10 travel packing tips for Solo Female Travelers

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36 thoughts on “Easy Packing Tips for Solo Women Travelers”

  1. I’m a dude, but wearing layers is my favourite advice here. I do it all the time and it is my favourite way to save space.

    Pack a few tops that are different coloured, same with bottoms, and you have enough clothes to look different for at least a week!

    Thanks for the packing tips Liz.

    Jack Johnson.

  2. Quite helpful tips! I also carry a big scarf to cover myself anywhere. Carrying plastic bags also sounds good. I am sure it’s useful when you need to wrap something like Liz mentioned, a wine bottle!

  3. Great tips. I would add one I found from another travel blog – pack all clothes that are in the same colour scheme. Then they mix and match really well, giving you lots of different outfits for the same packing space so you don’t have the same thing on in every photo. If possible, ensure that each top matches each bottom so you get the most out of clothes between wash days (I thought this would be really hard but managed to pack for 2.5 weeks in SE Asia with carry-on only following this).
    Also, don’t take much jewellery. It can add weight, you don’t want to risk losing good stuff, you often want to buy it as souvenirs and you can usually buy something cheap if you really need.

  4. Great tips! I really struggle with the shoes as they are my guilty pleasure. Most are bulky and unnecessary though. I have found some foldable flats that work well if I feel a need to look nicer than in my old navy flips or sneaks. The large scarf is a fabulous idea too and can serve so many purposes!

  5. I am also known for being an overpacker so I have learned to buy small luggage. Since I can only take what will fit in the carryon, it forces me be a lot more selective. These days, the one thing I can’t travel without is my unlocked phone. I’ve bought local SIM cards twice now and it has worked really well for me. Being able to look stuff up on the go or send photos to friends & family back home makes me feel more confident as a solo traveler.

  6. In my bygone years as a single female backpacker, I packed mix and match outfits, eg. A multicoloured skirt and then pick Tshirts with those colors that Tshirt could be worn during the day with shorts or dressed up a bit with the skirt for dinner and yes only 3 pairs of shoes

  7. Yep, yep and yep!! All tips I’ve used myself. Also love ziplock bags of different sizes and take heaps of spares!
    The only one I would add is to take a double adapter or power board. I only have one converter adapter and always need to charge more than one thing so make sure I have at least a double adapter as well!

  8. I never thought about to take a scarf with me yet.. normally I get one on the plane for the time-being. It can actually have so many applications, even for a glass bottles when it’s check-in language.
    Regarding packing the right amount of clothes, there is a new device coming out shortly that will immensely help to save space and still take the favorite pieces. It’s essentially a washing machine in the size of a smartphone.
    This device is called Dolfi. You can find it here:

  9. Plastic bags are the bomb! I use them all the time while traveling and they’re a lifesaver. I usually pack carry on as well and while I’ve never been asked to have my bag weighed, it’s always overweight I’m sure. I’m heading to Europe for a few months now and my goal before setting off there is to get my bag down to the 7kg weight limit you usually find on budget flights. It’s gonna be tough (especially in the shoe department…always the shoe department).

  10. If you’re going to the beach, pack a swimsuit in your carry-on too!
    I’ve had really good luck so far with not being asked to weigh my carry-on – it’s often the limits.

  11. Darby of Green Travel Antics

    This is great advice! I’m about to do a bicycle tour across South America, I’ll be going through a million different climates, and my packing space is limited to two small panniers. Layers are definitely the answer!

  12. Thank you for sharing this great post! 🙂
    I am just about to start my first solo travel and it was great to read this. It gave me the extra confidence I need about what to pack!

  13. The best tip I read was use buy a muilti usb charger. You can also plug your device into most Modern tvs to charge via usb.i also recently discovered most planes have usb plugin to charge devices.

  14. Love the idea of bringing a scarf! I leave on Thursday for Thailand, and just threw a scarf in my bag to bring along 🙂 Thanks!

  15. All the tips are perfect! I liked the “scarf” one the most, because I always forget to pack it and then I miss it when needed. Having read about it explicitly in a blog, I won’t forget it hence forth! 🙂

    Another great tip to save space in the bag is to roll the clothes. If you have a pair of clothes, roll them together! This not only saves the space, but also makes it easy to find the clothes in the bag and take them out without disturbing the other packed items.
    I have read this in most of the articles for “backpacking ideas for treks” and have used it myself.

    Thanks Liz!

  16. these are helpful tips…love that #9…I’m totally a scarf gal so I bring 1-2 every time I go ANYwhere!! <3 And about #7…I'm one to simply wear my cash and other essentials in different places on my body. then I always know where my important things are without worry. My PortaPocket system's simple and comfy to wear under (or at times, over) my clothes & works almost anywhere on myself…from ankle, calf, or thigh, to arm, wrist, waist or hip. And it goes from casual to fancy without missing a beat. Much more than a neck safe or money belt… maybe you'd like it too? 🙂

  17. Thank you for sharing this amazing list of advice! I am really fond of scarfs and I love the idea of bringing them when I travel especially the big ones! It has many uses and every time I go out I never forget to bring one.

  18. The great dilemma before going on a trip: What do I take with me?! Many people over pack (me included unfortunately), but by keeping to your guidelines I might avoid that. Hopefully without forgetting anything important. Working for an event promotion company I have discovered many events across the globe. I would love to attend some of the travel events, but before that I should learn to pack properly.
    Candice @

  19. I always end up over packing my things esp shoes! Blanket size scarf’s were always my fave it’s a must when travelling. Thanks Liz!

  20. I’m off travelling soon and I keep seeing the scarf suggestion but can’t seem to find big enough lightweight ones in my local shops. Where do you get your favourite ones from?
    Thank you

  21. That’s quite an interesting article Liz, and I find it really useful, As a corporate traveller, packing things is literally hectic work, and I am going to follow your tips for my upcoming travels. Hope this parking trick could save some space.

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