The Ultimate Packing List for Female Travelers

Woman standing on a large stone with a backpack on, with a backdrop of rugged snow covered mountains
Last Updated: 10/23/23 | October 23rd, 2023

In this guest post, solo travel expert Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse shares her tips and advice to help you pack for your next trip abroad.

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 found myself in the same situation eight years ago, but with the benefit of hindsight and over a decade of travel experience, 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 following are my tried-and-true methods and products that, even after years on the road, I still love and use, and make for the ultimate packing list. Feel free to mix and match and take just what you want. Enjoy!

Tip #1: What Bag to Bring

A solo female traveler hiking in beautiful rural Montana, USA wearing a travel backpack
Should you go with a backpack or a suitcase? It depends on your travel destination(s) and length of 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) in person (REI stores are perfect for that), as everyone’s body is different.

That being said, these are the tried-and-tested staples that I take with me around the world:

  • I use a 65L REI bag, which is big enough for all of my belongings, including some hiking gear.
  • I use this Pacsafe messenger bag as a day bag, especially for towns like Phnom Penh or Ho Chi Minh City, where drive-by motorbike theft and bag-snatching can occur, or in parts of Europe or South America, where people try to unzip your purse when you’re distracted. There is a wire running through the strap, the colors are not flashy, and it is equipped with hidden pockets that block RFID readers from scanning passport and credit card information. Plus, the zippers lock.
  • 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, which I wear in the front.


Tip #2: What Clothes to Bring

backpacker dressed appropriately and fun for the climate
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, costing just a few dollars per garment, it 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, bring everything you think you’ll need. These suggested 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 (this post lists the best walking shoes for travel if you need ideas)
  • 1 pair of flip-flops or sandals
  • A hat with a brim that will shade your face and a pair of sunglasses
  • 1 sarong or big scarf when 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 sport 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 (and/or base leggings)
  • 2–3 sweaters and/or sweater dresses
  • 2 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
  • 1 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

backpacker in the mountains
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). Use code “nomadicmatt” for 15% off your purchase!
  • A sleeping bag liner, in case you encounter a hostel that is less than clean.
  • A sarong for easy covering up for temples or at the beach (you can also buy this on the road).
  • A headlamp for camping and as a personal flashlight at night.


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

Kristin Addis, female solo travel expert, with her well-packed suitcase
In my eight years of traveling, 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. It’s also good to wear in polluted cities too.


After years spent traveling the world, 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.

Kristin Addis is a solo-female-travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has traveled the world ever since. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and YouTube.

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.

Need Help Finding Activities for Your Trip?
Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace where you can find cool walking tours, fun excursions, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more.

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.