One of the greatest things about travelling is the freedom of not knowing your next move. But, when it comes to taking the right kit, this footloose and fancy-free attitude can really catch you out (think midnight trekking up one of Sri Lanka’s highest peaks in flip-flops, not my best look!).
Striking the perfect balance between packing too much or too little can feel as likely as striking gold. So, to help you in navigating this big, beautiful world of ours with all the gear (and all the ideas), I’ve put together the ultimate list of travel essentials for women. Check off this list as you pack, and you’ll be prepared for whatever your travel trip throws at you.
Think this list is missing something? Let us know in the comments below – after all, sharing is caring!
What To Wear
- A sarong (a supremely versatile item – use it to cover shoulders in the more conservative countries and use it on the beach when you fancy a dip in the sea)
- A selection of simple tops (the simpler, the better as you’ll get away with wearing the same thing over and over (and over) again 😉)
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 1 cosy jumper or fleece
- 2 long skirts, dresses or jumpsuits – (jumpsuits are a personal fave here as you get both movement and modesty)
- 1 nice dress (for when you’re feeling fancy)
- 1 pair of leggings (perfect for sports and the plane)
- 2 pairs of socks
- 2 bras
- 7 pairs of underwear (one for each day of the week 😉)
- 1 pair of hiking boots
- 1 pair of sandals
- 1 pair of trainers / lightweight shoes
- 1 waterproof jacket
- 1 swimming costume
A few of my favourite clothing items:
Tracker FG Women’s Hiking Boots
I’ve endured countless bulky boots that feel like bricks over the years but have now found the ultimate female hiking boot. Drum roll please… The Vivo Barefoot’s Tracher Fg Boots are so soft they’re practically foldable and come with a waterproof lining and thick sole designed for rough terrain. Get out of that tent and up that mountain!
The North Face Stow-n-go Iv Bra
With the inevitable feasting, drinking and lack of routine that comes with travelling it can be hard to stay fit on the road. Not only is jogging free and can be done anywhere, it is also a great way to get to know a new place. This comfortable bra has built in pockets that can hold cards, keys and a phone, so you can check maps on the go and treat yourself to breakfast afterwards.
Patagonia Women’s fleece
Patagonia has been at the forefront of the active wear game since the 1970s and it is still my go to brand for reliable technology with style. This outrageously warm fleece has a windproof barrier and a moisture-wicking polyester mesh lining, and I love the retro-look; very Motorcycle Diaries.
Whether temple hopping or on planes, slip on shoes are every travellers’ best friend. Toms are made of lightweight canvas that moulds around your feet. If I’m being totally honest not wearing socks in sunny climes can result in smelly shoes. Try a sprinkling of baby powder morning and evening to keep them smelling fresh.
Nike Lux Training Leggings
These classic black leggings are super supportive, which makes them ideal for flying as well as being active because they have in-built compression technology. They’re made from sweat-wicking fabric which dries quickly, great for hiking in humid conditions or protecting your modesty when scrambling onto the top bunk of a Trans Mongolian railway carriage.
Which Toiletries To Take
- Body wash
- Face wash
- Dry shampoo
- Hand sanitiser (for times when there’s no bathroom in sight)
- Travel first aid kit – anti-histamines, diarrhoea tablets, safety pins, painkillers etc.
- Insect repellent
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Menstrual cup
- Make-up (minimal if you’re going to a hot climate)
- Eye mask (critical for blocking out light on those overnight journeys)
- Earplugs (a hosteller’s must-have)
- Small mirror
- Toiletry bag
Some of my go-to toiletries:
The Diva Cup
I’m not going to sugar-coat this. Getting your period while travelling is a pain in the ovaries, especially if you’re somewhere without access to toilets. However, menstrual cups make the whole thing way less of a faff because you can leave them in for 12 hours before washing them in the shower and reusing them. They are far better for the environment too.
Lush Shampoo Bars
These bars are perfect for travelling: small, long-lasting and eco-friendly. They won’t explode in your backpack and you’re fine to pop them into your carry-on luggage. Shampoo bars are in the limelight right now for all the right reasons and Lush are paving the way with their diverse (and wonderfully smelling) collection.
Theye Mos Mosquito Repellent
Repel those pesky mozzies the natural way with Theye Mosquito Repellent Cream. This brand-new product contains no alcohol or deet and one application lasts six hours.
Swish to Go
For those times that a brush, paste and even water just isn’t available, Swish to Go is the answer. This natural powder turns to liquid on the tongue where it can be swished around for 10 seconds and swallowed to deliver cleaner teeth and minty fresh breath. Come at us overnight buses.
Mini Tamanu Balm by Tropic
Why pack multiple products when you could take just one? This all-natural healing balm is perfect for soothing chapped lips and cooling sunburn, as well as smoothing over itchy insect bites.
Regardless of our best efforts, there are times when mosquito bites just happen. This cunning little tool helps to reduce itchiness and swelling by creating a tiny spark inside the plastic, effectively giving the bite a series of tiny electric shocks, which localises the poison and stops it from spreading. Simply press on to the bite and click 10 times. There are no prizes for being stoic when it comes to mosquito bites…
Garnier Ambre Solair Dry Mist Sun Cream Spray
I love this sun cream, particularly when travelling solo. A dry mist that absorbs instantly, it is water resistant and sprays on, so you can fully protect your back without having to rely on helpful (and potentially creepy) strangers.
Aveda Dry Shampoo
One effortless squeeze and a puff of natural powder that smells like flowers will transform your hair. Aveda’s dry shampoo is pure magic, leaving your locks voluminous and feeling freshly washed. It’s a must for city breaks and long journeys alike.
Personalised Organiser Toilet bag, LL Bean
This hanging toilet bag has a hinge design and tons of pockets, so you can open it right up and look through it without everything falling out. A sure-fire way to minimise swearing in the shower!
Practical Items (i.e. everything else)
- Microfibre towel (lightweight, fast-drying and compact – don’t leave without one!)
- Padlock (preferably one with a combination lock rather than a key)
- Clothes wash
- Reusable water bottle
- Ziplock bags (handy for dirty laundry and for separating out toiletries)
- Personal safety alarm
- Travel visas (get these sorted as early as possible!)
- Extra passport photo (in case of any visa issues)
- Peppermint oil
- Sleeping bag liner
- Local currency (even a small amount will help you get off to a good start once you touchdown)
- Emergency contact numbers
- Money belt
- Plug adapter
- Books or a kindle
- Electronic device chargers
- Portable charger
- Portable Speakers
UE Boom 2 Speakers
From morning yoga on a rooftop to sunset drinks at the beach, there’s nothing like music for turning a good moment into a great one. The UE Boom 2 is quite simply the best portable speaker on the market in my humble opinion. It’s waterproof, light, has great sound-quality and lasts for 15 hours. BOOM.
I’m a big fan of devices that fulfil lots of different functions. After all, you’ve worked hard to save up for a holiday, surely your gadgets should work equally hard to look after you while you’re away! Case in point is this all-in-one key ring, personal attack alarm and torch, ideal for walking home at night and trying to unlock your door in the dark. The best news? It costs less than £3.
Day2 Dry Wash
You know that moment when you get invited out by new hostel friends and your favourite outfit isn’t dirty, but it’s not quite clean either? Now you can rescue it with Day2, a dry wash powder that revives any item of clothing, removing wrinkles and making it smell laundry-fresh. It’s essentially dry shampoo for clothes, what an invention!
Miaroma Peppermint Pure Essential Oil
You’re living in a beach hut in Thailand or Goa, waking up the crash of the waves and chilling underneath the stars. It seems too good to be true until suddenly you realise that a cockroach has managed to breach your defences and is now running around inside your mosquito net… Discourage spiders, cockroaches and mice by sprinkling pure peppermint oil around your room or mix it with coconut oil and rub it into your skin.
Poweradd Slim2 5000mAh Portable Charger
Little is more worrying than realising you are lost in a foreign city and your smartphone is down to 1%. Or seeing that your iPad is in the red as you board a 14-hour plane ride. Poweradd’s tiny external battery is only just bigger than a lipstick so can easily fit into a pocket and it charges most phones twice.
Nomader Collapsible Water Bottle
This water bottle is a traveller’s dream – it’s foldable, leak-proof and durable. Built with hiking and cycling in mind, it’s a trusty travel companion which is made to last. It’s also free of BPA, PVC and other harmful chemicals which can only be good news. Hydration for the nation!
Travel Towel, Dock and Bay
Beaches, pools and hostels… Taking a towel travelling is non-negotiable, but no one wants to waste valuable suitcase space. Dock and Bay’s are made of a unique fabric that dries three times quicker than a standard towel and is both lightweight and sand resistant.
About the author
Imogen Lepere is a travel writer with a soft spot for anything quirky, surprising and incongruous. Her adventures include teaching in Kathmandu, riding the Trans-Mongolian railway and living with a nudist colony in Greece. She currently splits her time between London and Melbourne, where she can normally be found with a glass of wine in one hand and a pen in the other. Read more of her work here or follow her on Instagram.