The essential packing list for solo female travelers by Marcela

The essential packing list for solo female travelers- My Red Sabbatical

Ever since I remember, travel has been my passion. Thanks to the invention of budget airlines, and courtesy of my driving license, I would spend most weekends exploring new places. City breaks, road-trips, hiking excursions, beach breaks, spa getaways, skiing trips, rafting expeditions, you name it. And then there were the big holidays. My passion eventually took over and I decided to quit my corporate job to travel full time.

But over the years, what I bring with me has changed. I have 20 odd years experience of being the crash test dummy for my packing strategies – the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of it has to do with changes in income, lifestyle and preferences, but most of it is about having learnt what makes sense and what makes my travel experience easier and more enjoyable.

Having said that, I don’t believe in ‘one size fits all’ packing lists. We all have our specific styles and ways of travel that will determine the ideal configuration of our baggage contents. Instead, I have 4 principles that shape what I bring:

  1. Travel light – after all, who likes lugging around heavy luggage. I have a small backpack and a small suitcase that I use depending on where I travel. This prevents me from over packing.
  2. Be comfortable to forget things – sometimes this is accidental and sometimes intentional with items I am not sure if I will need. The bottom line is that most things can be bought on the way, and often at even better cost.
  3. Cluster similar climates – it’s much easier packing for either cold or warm climate, rather than trying to fit in your jumpers, bikini and the whole world.
  4. Coordinate colors – being able to easily mix and match tops and bottoms will give you the flexibility to be creative.  It is nice not having to feel like you are always wearing the same outfit.

Suggested packing list for female travelers:

This very much depends on the climate and where you are going. In some places, it makes sense to buy few items locally, as they are much cheaper and tailored for the specific climate and culture. Not to mention that they make lovely souvenirs. South East Asia and India are good examples. When going to places that can be expensive, like say Europe, Australia or the US, try to bring most if not all you need. Unless splashing out is part of your plan, that is.

 -Packing for Vietnam

Warm climate and tropics

– 4 light tank tops
– 4 t-shirts or light tops that cover shoulders
– 2-3 long skirts or dresses
– 2 pairs of shorts
– 2 pairs of comfortable  light trousers or leggings
– 8 pairs of underwear
– 2 scarves – ideal for protecting from sunburn, covering shoulders in temples, covering head against the sun, protecting from an evening breeze or using as a sarong

– 1 swim suit or bikini
– 1 hat
– 1 pair of boat-shoes, running shoes or hiking boots
– 1 pair of short socks
– 1 pair of flip flops or sandals

Moderate climate

– 2 tank tops – for layering
– 3 t-shirts or short sleeve tops
– 3 long sleeve tops
– 2 – 3 dresses
– 1 pair of shorts
– 2 pairs of leggings – for layering and under dresses
– 2 pairs of trousers or jeans – jeans are quite heavy so I tend to avoid them if I can
– 8 pairs of underwear
– 4 pairs of socks
– 2 scarves
– 1 jacket
– 1 pair of flip flops or sandals
– 1 pair of closed toe shoes or boots
– 1 pair of boat-shoes, hiking boots or running shoes

Cold climate

– 2 tank tops – for layering
– 2-3 t-shirts – for layering
– 3-4 long sleeve t-shirts or tops
– 2 thermal t-shirts or tops
– 3 warm tops or jumpers
– 2 pairs of leggings – for layering
– 2 pairs of trousers or jeans
– 8 pairs of underwear
– 8 pairs of warm socks
– 1 warm hat
– 1-2 pairs of gloves
– 2 scarves
– 1 warm jacket
– 1-2 pairs of warm shoes or boots


– Sunglasses – also handy in colder climates when it’s sunny
– Small over the shoulder bag – can be used during the day to keep purse and essentials or in the evening
– Pair of earrings, bangle or necklace to spice up the outfit when going out

Female packing list My Red Sabbatical top tips
Ocean pack 5L dry pack with smaller dry pack


– Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
– Refillable small bottles (or hotel goodies) with
– shampoo and conditioner
– shower gel
– face wash / make-up remover
– body lotion / oil
– hair volume spray
– Moroccan oil
– Hairbrush and a couple of hair bands / hair pins
– Face cream (day & night) and eye cream
– Face mask (travel size) – the face sheets or cups from essence are ideal
– Deodorant
– Make-up
– small bottle of foundation
– eyeliner and brow-liner
– 2 eye shadows – neutral and evening
– blusher / bronzer
– lip-balm
– 1 red lipstick
– Nail scissors, nail file and tweezers
– Sunscreen
– Mosquito repellent
– A couple of tampons or menstrual cup – in emergency until you can buy some locally


– Birth control or condoms
– Any prescription medicine – at least to start with before you can top-up locally
– Band aids and antiseptic cream
– Ear plugs – absolute must-have especially when sleeping in shared accommodation
– Mouth guard – I tend to grind my teeth in sleep
– Hand sanitizer


– Laptop including charger
– Fuji camera including spare battery, charger and little cleaning brush
– Tripod
– Phone including charger and a power bank
– Small headphones
– Micro Bluetooth speaker – super small, great for listening music and striking conversation with other travelers especially when travelling solo
– Power adapter

Miscellaneous items

– Rain poncho
– Quick-drying towel
– Headlight
– Small canvas and / or plastic bags / organizers – for shoes, laundry, storing specific items
– Dry bags – 5 liter (can use during day trips as a back-pack, ideal in rain or for water sports, kayaking, rafting, etc.) and 1 or 2 liter [ (fits essentials like phone, passport and wallet) and can be clipped on top of bigger dry bag, to a paddle board or kayak for easy access
– Book or Kindle, pen and a small notepad

Safety and essentials

– Travel insurance – my go-to is World Nomads
– Lock – always handy in shared or accommodation without safe and when using public transport
 Personal alarm – small device that makes a lot of noise at the press of a button
– Small wallet and 2 credit cards that work abroad
– Passport including a copy of passport in my phone and hard copy stacked in my back-pack (in case my passport is stolen)
– Handful of passport photographs – will come handy when applying for visa in places
If you want to read more about safety and solo female travel, check out my article on Solo female travel in India with many tips transcending geographies.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This is where I have tried and tested a particular product and feel comfortable to recommend it to you.  If you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, I will get a small fee.


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