Before we start, let’s get one thing straight. What you’re about to read would never make the cut for the holiday style guide of any fashion magazine. If you’re looking for a how-to transform your suitcase into a mobile hair and makeup counter, then I recommend you hit return and try the next link down on Google now.
If you’re still reading, then you’re a woman that prioritises adventure over glamour and would rather spend your time wandering astray than glued to your mirror. While a passport, card and toothbrush are universal basics, some essentials are specific to just us ladies. It’s not about being high maintenance, it’s about being practical and recognising our physiological design demands a different way of packing.
Every flight I’ve boarded thus far has been in a selfless quest to fine-tune this travel packing list for the rest of my sex. Mary Wollstonecraft eat your heart out:
Quick-dry travel towel
This one is non-negotiable as I’m all about packing light – I’ve even taken scissors to my quick-dry before just to make more room for more souvenirs. I’m not a brand ambassador or slave to labels but when it comes to travel towels, I need something designed to do more than just wrap around my waist.
As a woman, I’m not asking for Egyptian cotton or my initials embroidered at the edge. But call me old-fashioned, call me prude: sometimes it’s just lovely to be able to cover both my breasts and bum – at the same time. Dock & Bay towels are designed by men and actually fit women too – cute colours, biodegradable materials and no accidental flashing!
A good book
As an English literature grad, I spent my degree studying a classical canon dominated by male writers. As much as I love Shakespeare, Wordsworth and the Brothers Grimm there’s not always room in my case for their hefty volumes. Instead, I travel with one paperback and make an inspirational female writer my travel companion. I’m toying between Wild by Cheryl Strayed and I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai for my next adventure.
The sarong is to me what wheels are to the car, toner to the printer or corgis to the Queen. My sarong isn’t just reserved for beach breaks; it’s my jack-of-all-trades when it comes to travel. Is it a throw for the beach? Tropical skirt? Light dress? Hobo bag? Hair wrap? Sheet to sleep under? Shawl to cover your arms for an impromptu temple visit? All your bases covered.
Instead of lugging around tubes of shampoo and conditioner travel with a shampoo bar and a leave-in conditioning oil instead. Kinder to the environment and your split ends: it’s a win: win situation. You might love the sun & sea, but your hair does not. Give it some extra love with a couple of pumps of Aussie’s 3 miracle oil.
Contrary to most travel advice you’ll read, I’m a firm advocate of travelling with a little bling. Leave anything valuable/of sentimental worth out but keep that fourth finger sparkling.
Linda Barker was the first female to marry herself in 1993, and Emma Watson recently declared herself ‘self-partnered’. With mindfulness and self-love on-trend it’s time to hop on the bandwagon, celebrate solemnity (if you’re not already married) and put a ring on it!
In some other cultures, you might find yourself targeted as a solo female traveller, and a fake wedding band is an easy way to deter unwanted attention.
As far as stereotypes go, I’m not your typical “girly-girl”, but I do like to touch base with my feminine side even when roughing it. Little sachets of moisturising facemask take up no space in your case and are perfect for those times you forget to reapply the sunscreen after your swim or end up with reverse panda eyes from your sunglasses.
Even if you’re taking off on a backcountry adventure or beach-bumming along the coast, it’s always worth packing something a little dressy for those impromptu invites. Prepare for the improbable. You never know when you’ll find yourself knee-deep in mud and cowpat only to be spontaneously invited to a wedding – true story!
A good pair of sandals
Shoes are always the bulkiest part of the packing process, and no one shoe fits all occasions (unless you’re taking inspo from Lily Allen’s early days!) The closest thing to it is a pair of sandals and I love my Birkenstocks for this reason.
Wear them to the beach, city sightseeing and even with a dress in the evenings – bless the Scandis for their functional fashion sense.
You would never stuff your entire wardrobe into one drawer at home so why do it to yourself when you travel?! Channel your inner Marie Kondo and go to organisation-town on your suitcase by investing in some packing cubes. It’ll save you so much time and frustration in the long run!
None of us look forward to that time of the month, especially when we’re on holiday. Much of the developing world would furrow their brows at a tampon and most likely mistake a menstrual cup for a water filter. Abroad a tampon can be harder to come by than Willie Wonka’s golden ticket: so look out for yourself and your planet by investing in a moon cup before your next adventure.
Aside from some strategic accessorising, solo female travel doesn’t require a case full of gadgets and gizmos in the name of personal security. Your pepper spray probably won’t make it through customs, and there’s nothing more stressful than when the stopper of your rape alarm works itself out on its own.
If you think of yourself as a target and set your guard too high, you’re much less likely to open yourself up to new and life-changing experiences. When I travel, I set myself up on my phone’s Find My Friends app. This way, my closest crew know where I am and can follow my journey as I go. Check out some more travel apps we’re swearing by this year.
Got anything to add to my travel packing list?