Packing Light for Your First Trip as a Solo Female Traveler
Tips, Tricks & Hacks to Packing Light for Solo Female Travelers
Do you want to know what my biggest nemesis is when it comes to travel?
I. Hate. It. With. Passion.
Because I have been traveling solo for work and leisure since 2007, I have learned how to travel light. Funny enough, my friends call me Mary Poppins because I have become very efficient at making the most out of small bags through all of the years of packing my suitcase for work.
However, If I had unlimited money, I would gladly pay someone to pick out my outfits and pack my bags for me. But since I am not rich, I must do what I hate and pack my bags myself.
Hauling a heavy suitcase or backpack can quickly turn a fun trip into an exhausting ordeal, especially when visiting multiple cities or using public transportation. To make matters worse, carrying too many things can make you a target for thieves.
But have no fear because you will be a packing pro in no time. In this post, I will share practical tips and tricks to make the process more manageable so you can travel light, stress-free, and without breaking the bank.
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Benefits of Packing Light for Solo Female Travelers
Here’s why I will always recommend packing light:
Safety First: Trust me, keeping it light means you’re less likely to be a target for people who love to help themselves to your property, especially when you’re traveling solo. Also, you are less likely to injure yourself with lighter luggage than with heavier luggage.
Agility: have you ever tried to board a bus or a train with a suitcase that practically weighs your own body weight? It’s not a good look, and that shit isn’t easy. Packing light means you can easily hop on and off buses and public transportation like a pro.
Your Comfort Matters: If you are backpacking, heavy bags are the enemy of your back, shoulders, and neck – especially on those long travel days. Less weight means less pain and more energy for enjoying the journey. If you are carrying a suitcase, remember that you may have to be able to lift that weight at some point in time.
Laundry is Your Friend On Long-Term Trips: Are you backpacking or city-hopping? No worries – laundry services are everywhere and save you from overpacking. Keep it light, refresh those clothes, and you’re ready for round two. I have been able to travel for 6 weeks with a 40-liter backpack in the winter using laundry services.
Staying on budget: Did you know that checking a bag on some airlines may cost you up to $100??? Honestly, this is one of the reasons that I love Southwest Airlines’ baggage policy. If you are not flying an airline with a generous baggage policy, expect to pay between $30 – $100 per checked bag. Checking bags is like throwing money out the airplane window. Stick to a carry-on, and you’ll have more cash for the experiences that truly matter – like that extra fancy dinner or a cool excursion.
Why should I Pack Light?
This elder millennial learned this lesson the hard way. Of course, we want to look good on our trips, but that doesn’t mean you need to pack your entire closet.
Be smart about your wardrobe choices. Pack basics that can be worn with multiple items, and bring smaller accessories that pack a punch in your outfits. Smart packing of toiletries and electronics is also essential. Remember that traveling solo, even when backpacking or traveling on a budget, doesn’t mean you have to look like you haven’t showered in days while trekking through jungles.
Choosing the Best Carry-On Luggage to Pack Light for Solo Female Travel
Your luggage is essential for packing light. If you give yourself too much space to pack for a solo trip, you will find enough items to fill it in. Prices for luggage can run anywhere from $50 to over $1000 for higher-end brands. While cost is a factor, prioritizing the right features over style or brand name is vital.
When I was looking for luggage for my first solo journey, I knew that I wanted a backpack. After hours of watching videos on YouTube, there were certain features that I specifically wanted in a travel backpack. Here are the features that I looked for:
- Size compliant: airlines use a different sizing for their carry-on baggage. Make sure that the backpack fits the baggage description for all airlines that you will be flying.
- Lightweight: Go for soft-sided bags made from lightweight, long-lasting synthetics.
- Front Loading Design vs. Top Loading: I wanted something other than a top-loading backpack. Using a top-loading backpack means you must take out everything to find something at the bottom. A front-loading backpack opens up the same way you would open up a suitcase. It makes it a million times easier to pack your bags and not have to unload everything in your backpack to find the one thing you were searching for.
- Compartments: Multiple compartments to keep you organized
- Secure: Lockable zippers deter theft of your bag or its contents.
- Comfort: Padded shoulder straps and back panels are great for comfort
- Compact: Bags designed to compress and become more compact for storage are ideal.
I’m a huge fan of Osprey backpacks, which offer all these features. Some also have detachable daypacks, which allow for even more functionality.
Here is the backpack that I chose for my first solo journey:
Sometimes, you want to avoid carrying a heavy backpack on your shoulders, and you want to use a carry-on suitcase. Here are some features to search for when shopping for your carry-on suitcase.
- Compact and Compliant: the first thing to review is that the bag’s dimensions will fit the carry-on allowed sizes, especially when flying budget airlines that charge for every service in an a la carte model. Sometimes, airlines will have you measure your luggage against their allowed measurements, and you want to ensure it does. Otherwise, you may pay $40-$100 to check that bag at the gate. Here’s the chisme on why Frontier Airlines is getting sued about their carry-on policy.
- Light as a Feather: choose a carry-on made of lightweight materials. Trust me, the last thing you need is your bag, contributing unnecessary weight to your load. Light fabrics ensure you’re not starting your journey with a workout.
- Durability: I’ve had beautiful luggage that lasted only one flight. The last thing you need is to buy a suitcase made with poor quality materials that your zippers fall apart, wheels fall off, or the bag explodes on the luggage carrousel. Look for durability with reinforced corners and sturdy straps.
- Smooth Strolling: Those wheels need to be smooth!! You should not have to fight your luggage to roll it through the airport. Make sure you test the rollability of your bag at the store. Spinner wheels will definitely move more easily.
- Sturdy Handles: take out the telescopic handle and test it. Adjust it to your height, and see how comfortable it feels. Do this multiple times; you want to avoid a telescopic handle that jams.
Here are 2 carry on size suitcases under $150 that meet the criteria above:
Brands like Away, Tumi, and Briggs & Riley are known for combining these benefits with sleek, stylish designs at a higher price point.
Choosing a carry-on with these features will make you glide through airports like VIPs.
Packing Cubes for Packing Light
You may be wondering what all the buzz is around packing cubes and if it is worth it to use them. Packing cubes are a way to pack more in smaller spaces. I love using packing cubes on my trips because they help me sort clothing in my bag. I can easily choose one cube and know all my shirts and blouses are there; a separate one will hold underwear, socks, PJs, etc.
Here are some tips for how to use packing cubes to your advantage:
- Use different-sized cubes for clothing categories. For example, 1 cube for tops, 1 for bottoms, 1 for underwear, socks, light undergarments, etc.
- Store the items of clothing you will be using the most in the area of the backpack or suitcase that will be the easiest for you to reach during your travels.
- Packing cubes can keep clean and dirty clothes separate from each other.
- Arrange cubes strategically – flatter items on the bottom/sides, bulkier items on top/in the middle.
- Compression cubes will give you extra space. However, they aren’t always convenient. I have had to replace a few sets because the zippers tend to rip when compressing the cubes if they are too full.
The bottom line is that packing cubes will change your life.
You can use ziplock bags if you want to avoid investing in packing cubes. However, I prefer packing cubes because they are reusable. Ziplock bags are disposable and will likely end up in the trash after one trip. I prefer something made out of more durable materials. Even my broken packing cubes are being reused as bags for shoes or sandals.
👑 I roll my clothes instead of folding them – rolling takes up less space!
👑 I also use rubber bands to keep my clothes compressed.
👑 I wear my heaviest outfit to travel.
👑 I bring Downy spray to spray out the wrinkles.
Here are the packing cubes I use if I am packing a backpack:
I use these packing cubes if I am packing my carry-on suitcase:
How to Pack Toiletries to Travel Light
Toiletries are essential but can add weight and take up lots of space. As of November 2023, TSA still restricts the sizes of liquids allowed to travel in your carry-on within the US. Each country’s security is different and will have similar rules and be stricter about enforcing these regulations. However, in the US, the need to have these toiletries fit in a quart-size ziplock is not really enforced. Here are some tips that will help you save on weight and space:
- Travel-size toiletry versions of your favorite products are your best friend.
- Solid shampoo, toothpaste, and body lotion versions do not count as liquids.
- Refillable bottles not only help you bring along your favorite products but also help you be more sustainable in your travels. By reusing bottles, you are cutting down on waste. If you have toiletry bottles from hotels, use those too.
- Be realistic about what you will truly need. Remember that you will likely find the same product (or better) if you run out on your trip. Packing only the necessary will save you from carrying unnecessary weight and clutter.
- Pack your prescriptions in their original bottles with labels and paperwork intact. Make sure you have a few extra days’ worth of medications in case of travel delays.
How to Pack Electronics to Travel Light
I have one piece of advice for you when it comes to packing electronics: Don’t go overboard with gadgets!
Unless you are a professional photographer or a travel content creator on the job, your phone and/or a small camera should be more than sufficient. Plenty of times, I have packed a 2nd camera only for it to return unused.
I always prefer to travel light of electronics for safety reasons. The less valuable items you carry, the less you have to worry about being a target for theft.
Here are my tips to ensure that you don’t overpack electronics on your first solo trip:
- Bring a universal charger if you will be traveling abroad.
- Only bring a laptop if you are sure you will be using it. Truly assess how much time you will spend on your laptop. If not, you will not be carrying unnecessary weight.
- Bring a portable external battery pack or charger to recharge on the go.
- Keep your chargers simple. I bought this gadget, and I love that it charges all of my devices at once.
- Use cloud storage for files and music rather than weighing yourself down with hard or thumb drives. Or use a smaller hard drive. I use this:
So there you have it – a crash course in packing light. Remember, less baggage, more freedom. When preparing for your travels, especially as a solo female traveler, it is smart to pack as lightly as possible. You can easily flow on your journey by being selective about clothing pieces, smart with toiletries, and minimalist about gadgets.
Most importantly, packing light aligns perfectly with the spirit of solo female travel – doing it on your own terms, at your own pace. Let go of the excess stuff and make more room for spontaneity and joy.
If this is your first time visiting my blog, this article is part of The Ultimate Guide for Solo Travel. The Guide is an ever-growing sequence of posts that will help you with everything from Changing your mindset about Solo Travel, Building your Confidence to Solo Travel by Self Dating,and Learning how to Afford To Travel More. Make sure to subscribe to the blog for the next post in the guide. Soon enough you will be embarking on your own solo journey!