Hey everybody! So, years of bopping around the globe have taught me that one of the cardinal sins of travel is to over-pack. Cramming everything I need into a car for a road trip is one thing, but after losing a suitcase or two flying to places like Barcelona or New Zealand, I know now that packing light is key!
If you can fit everything into your carry-on bags, I promise your next trip will be a little less stressful.
Of course, packing fewer items means that the ones you do bring along are all the more important, so I wanted to share with you my list of travel essentials for women. Or for anyone, really! It’s everything that I have to have in my best travel bags.
Here’s the thing, friends. A suitcase or carry-on bag is not the place for your high heels or chunky boots. Odds are you’re going to be doing a good bit of walking, and that’s not something you’ll be happy about in statement shoes!
Unless you’re traveling for a wedding or otherwise formal event, a good pair of comfy tennis shoes, sandals, and/or slip-on flats are all you need. You may also want to throw in some flip-flops for hostel or camping ground showers.
The same rule applies to the rest of your clothing. Everything in your bags should be multi-purpose and layer-able. Here’s my basic clothing packing list, to give you an idea: plain leggings, some tank tops, a couple of tee-shirts, a couple of neutral button-downs, a comfy black dress, stretchy jeans in a couple of different colors, a neutral skirt, a cardigan, and a sweater or two. That’s it!
Depending on the weather, of course, I may add in a coat, or subtract the sweaters, but that’s the gist of it. It’s very mix-and-match, hence all the neutral colors, so you can re-wear the same clothes in a different configuration, to make it feel like you’re not wearing the same thing every day. Try out some of my Boho outfit ideas for inspiration!
On the other hand, I highly recommend over-packing underwear and socks. You can never have enough underwear and socks.
Now, I don’t want to hear about any of my readers trying to pack full-size shampoo and conditioner bottles in their travel bags. No ma’am!
If you don’t have one already, it’s time to get a clear toiletry bag (there’s plenty at Target and on Amazon) to avoid a TSA hassle and pack that bag with reusable 3.4 oz bottles. You can fill those babies up with your favorite moisturizer, hair products, lotion, and sunscreen with no chance of seeing them get thrown in the trash. Of course, if they run out, you can fill them right back up again once you arrive!
Thankfully, solid deodorant does not have a size limit, so you can keep your standard stick around with no problem. If you want to bring cosmetics (again, less is more!), you may want to consider getting a second clear makeup bag to have enough room.
Here’s an obvious one, but make sure you have the right travel adapter for your destination! When in doubt, you can get global or universal ones that should do the trick wherever you end up. This comes in especially handy if you have a layover or two in a country with outlets that are different from your home and from your destination.
Also, portable chargers and power banks. Get one now. No matter how high-tech and long-lasting your gadgets are, you are always at risk of getting stuck somewhere without an outlet, wishing you could charge your phone! Planes stuck on the tarmac and broken-down buses come to mind… Been there!
Packing cubes are your friend, here. Not only do they compact your clothing for extra space, but they also keep things organized. Of course, if you don’t want to invest in a set of high-quality packing cubes just yet, ziplock bags will do the trick in a pinch.
When it comes to suitcases, go for a high-quality hard-shell wheely suitcase. If there were ever a place to splurge, it would be here, because you don’t want to deal with a broken zipper mid-transit! This happened to me once, and I had to secure my bag with safety pins. The TSA agents were not amused.
For carry-on bags and backpacks, make sure they’ve got plenty of smaller zipper compartments to keep your passport and wallet secure, as well as convenient places to store tampons, your toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, and other travel items.
You’ve got to keep your energy up while on the road, and, much in the same way you need to keep your electronics charged–you have to keep your body charged, too!
I always have a water bottle with me, which I fill up once I get past airport security. You can find collapsible water bottles if you’re looking for a space-saver, or, my favorite, the Lifestraw Water Bottle, which comes with a filter. Perfect for when you’re backpacking or not sure about the drink-ability of local tap water–although, you’d have researched this before your trip, of course!
My favorite snacks to go with include Clif Bars, granola, and sturdy fruit like oranges and clementines. They pack plenty of energy and aren’t going to stink up the airplane and turn all the passengers against you. Never walk out the door without something to munch on!
We all need something to keep us from losing our minds on long flights and road trips, and cell phone games only go so far! The simplest option is a Kindle or other eReaders, so you can download all your favorite books without the bulk.
If you don’t want to spend too much on new books, try the Libby app, which lets you download ebooks from your local library for free.
Many streaming services, including Netflix, allow you to download movies via their app onto your tablet or laptop, and I’d highly recommend noise-canceling headphones to fully enjoy what you watch or listen to!
Comfort and Privacy
If you’re sharing an Airbnb or among dozens of people in a hostel, you want to make sure you’ve got all your essentials under wrap and aren’t constantly being disturbed by those around you.
First, the simple combination of an eye mask and earplugs. It’s great for overnight flights as well as hostels, where your fellow travelers might be awake and mingling all night. Also those noise-canceling headphones I mentioned before!
In these situations, a simple combination lock has been a life-saver for me, as not all hostels offer lockers with locks. Sounds like an oxymoron, an un-lockable locker, but it’s always best to be prepared. You can also use the lock to secure your luggage in transit, at bus stations, in a shared Airbnb, and so on. Just be sure not to forget the combination!
And there you have it, my basic packing tips to make your next trip a cinch! I hope you found them useful, and of course, feel free to add or subtract as you travel and figure out the essential travel accessories for you. Maybe you can’t live without a neck pillow (to be honest I find them a little too bulky!), hiking boots, or a tote bag–it’s all up to you. You’ll figure it out as you go!