As a solo traveler, I feel it is important to pack light. For this I have a tight and concise packing list.
By packing light I am in control. I face fewer line-ups at airports and I am more mobile. Because I can handle my luggage myself, I can save money by taking buses rather than taxis. And I think I am less of a target than someone who has a large suitcase or multiple bags.
Looking for a more fashionable post on packing light?
Read Bare Minimum Packing: Urban and Luxury Travel
To me, packing light just makes sense. But it seems that it is a challenge for many.
As I travel to conferences other delegates wonder at my ability to put it all in one carry-on and a day pack. Last November I went to Los Angeles for four days, then to London for four days, on to Wales for a lot of walking and north to Liverpool and Edinburgh. I traveled for 19 days in total. Needless to say, the weather and activities between LA and Edinburgh were very different. But I had everything I needed in one carry-on and a day pack.
I only own the two bags shown on this page. I have a carry-on size backpack by Vaude (my model is no longer available but you can find the current Vaude packpacks here) and a very affordable roller bag by Swiss Gear (that could be updated as it is now nine years old but hey, it’s still going strong). I also have a daypack that is made for a hydration system, however, I don’t use it for that. The interior sleeve that’s for the bladder fits and protects my computer or iPad perfectly. This pack is similar, but, as with the Vaude, not exactly the same as mine.
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Packing List – The Essentials
- Guidebook: I prefer an ebook or digital chapters. If you’re going to multiple destinations Lonely Planet usually offers a 3 for 2 deal. They also have specials throughout the year.
- All paperwork:
- hotel confirmations
- flight information
- passport and visas
- travel insurance.
- If I’m on a road trip I also make sure that I have roadside assistance. If you have AAA or CAA you’re fine in North America. If you don’t you can buy short or long-term roadside assistance from Allstate.
- Credit cards
- Rewards card: You need a go-to card for collecting reward points. I did the analysis and I recommend the Tangerine Cash-back credit card for Canadians. However, it does have foreign transaction fees so I don’t use it when I’m out of the country.
- No-foreign-transaction-fee card: Look for a card with no foreign transaction fees for your travels out of country. When I travel outside Canada I use the Amazon.ca Visa Card which is free and has no foreign transaction fees.
- Backup Card with no annual fee – I have a basic free Visa card that is a backup to my backup. And yes, I have had to use it.
- VPN: I have a VPN on my phone, tablet and computer so that I can safely use public WiFi. I would never travel without it. I think it so important that I contacted the company I use, StrongVPN and asked for a discount for readers. And they gave it to me! Enter Solotraveler as your coupon code at check out. For more details read VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide. To go directly to set up your VPN click here.
- Global plugin adapter (This one has worked for me around the world and it’s less than $5.00)
- eReader – Kindle, Kobo, iPad (whatever you use)
- Journal and pen
- Computer and ac adapter. I now have a Macbook Air so I carry that. Before getting this light computer I useed my iPad and a keyboard that also acts as a cover.
- Phone and charger
- Camera and charger (I have the Lumix G)
- Prescription medication, vitamins, supplements, water bottle
- Tiny first aid kit
- Conditioner, hair product, face cream, makeup, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, brush, razor, shave soap
- A few feet of duct tape
- A couple of resealable plastic bags
Packing List for Women
To be pack-worthy, everything I take must go with many things. To have clothes for a range of activities that work together, choose one color palette. Working with a base color like black or brown, along with a contrasting color such as grey or beige, and an accent color, makes sure that everything you’re carrying works together.
- Shoes – two pairs total. One pair of street shoes (or sandals: I’m currently loving the ECCO Yucatan sandal for its stability and durability. You can see my ECCO sandals here.) and one pair of dressier shoes. Shoes can make or break an outfit so choose them carefully. It’s preferable to take shoes that have proven themselves comfortable. If you need hiking boots, wear them on the plane. You can tie them onto your carry-on or backpack and wear your street shoes at your destination. I didn’t have hiking boots when I went to the Lake District so I bought them there. I walked out of the store in my new Berghaus boots and started hiking – in the rain!. No blisters. Dry feet. Heaven. As styles change much faster than you will need to replace your boots, mine are no longer available, but you can find the current line of Berghaus hiking boots here.
- Pants – three pairs total or two pairs and one dress or skirt (wear your most comfortable on the plane)
- Tops – five tops, one light sweater and one camisole (that works as an under layer for hiking and under a jacket for a dressier look)
- One cardigan OR light jacket that can dress up or down depending on jeans/pants and accessories
- Belt, inexpensive jewelery, one scarf to dress up casual clothes
- Pashmina scarf – it has so many uses from head cover to beach cover-up to protection from a wind storm
- Jacket – I have the Marmot Women’s Precip Jacket. I just bought my second Marmot jacket. It took me over 12 years to wear out my first one.
- Umbrella, scarf, gloves, rain pants, hat, vest, pair of sunglasses (depending on the weather of your destinations, you may not need all of these)
- Bathing suit
- Pajamas, underwear, bras, socks
Sounds like a lot but it’s not. Rinse clothes out when necessary. Count what you didn’t use when you get back and don’t pack it again.
Packing List for Men
A man’s packing list is not a lot different from a woman’s except that it’s easier. There is not as much nuance in what a man wears and, throw a blazer onto a guy wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and he looks great. So, here’s the men’s packing list.
- Shoes – two pairs total. One pair street shoes (or sandals) and one pair of dressier shoes. Like above, if you need hiking boots, wear them on the plane. Only bring shoes that have proven themselves comfortable.
- Pants / shorts – three pairs total. You know your style but one pair should not be jeans.
- 4 t-shirts (make sure at least one of them is white to wear under a dress shirt). If you’re going someplace tropical or humid, make sure that they are very light and pack more of them.
- 1 golf shirt or casual shirt with a collar
- 1 dress shirt
- One blazer (This is optional, of course, but really useful. Choose a light fabric.)
- Belt and tie (if you’re into that look)
- Umbrella, scarf, gloves, rain pants, hat, vest, pair of sunglasses (again, depending on the weather of your destinations, you may not need all of these)
- Bathing suit
- Underwear, pajamas, and socks
Packing Light Tips
- Don’t pack the bulky things – wear them on the plane.
- Follow carry-on rules according to your airline. Be really careful about the weight. Just because you can fit it into a carry-on does not mean they will let you on the plane with it.
- Watch the restrictions on the size of bottle liquids and other items you are allowed to carry on board.
- Be considerate of other passengers and don’t hog the overhead space.
And then, if you want more information on traveling solo, there’s The Solo Traveler’s Handbook.
And there’s the FREE Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide
See more books on the Gear & Books page.