Female Travel Packing List

Female Travel Packing List: Bras, Backpacks & Big No-Nos

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This women travel packing list has been created after a 17-month travel trip around the Americas and Europe. This is now the fourth edition of my travel packing list, I’ve whittled down my original oversized travel wardrobe and I now think I’ve nailed it! I’ve backpacked around extremely hot countries, very rainy climates, freezing snow for skiing, and cities with a nip in the air (check out our long-term travel itinerary for some travel inspiration). Hi, I’m Gemma, that’s me in the picture below. 

Female Packing List Items

Vango 80 Litre Rucksack I Female Travel Packing List

 

Long-Term Travel Backpack

Before you start purchasing your sunnies and sandals, it’s probably wise to think about where you are going to put them! I backpack with a detachable day bag is a worthy investment.

I would go for the Mercedes of all bags, the Osprey Farpoint 55l if you can pack small or the bigger Osprey Farpoint 70l if you are me.

Note – I previously backpacked with the Vango Freedom but I wouldn’t recommend it over the Osprey.

The Osprey is ideal because it opens up like a suitcase which makes access to clothes much easier.

Try getting something out of the ‘old style’ top access backpacks while nine other people doze off in a dorm, this is how to not make friends while travelling! Respect the hostel dorm etiquette.

While on the move, I usually have a cloth tote bag with my electronics in it for easy access on buses/planes/trains.

I do carry a safe net with me, it is made by Pacsafe and has protected my belongings well – I was not robbed while travelling!

In accommodation, I put my day bag into the net and secure it around a radiator or bed frame then close it with a padlock. I then cover with a coat etc.

How to Pack for Long-Term Travel

I will have a more detailed post on how to pack for long-term travel which will take you through my successful packing technique but in short, my best tip is to roll your clothes, as opposed to folding.

This creates more space and fewer wrinkles.

Pack similar clothes in separate bags.

Packing Cubes and Alternatives

Many travellers use packing cubes to organise their clothes. Some packing cubes have a vacuum technique which squishes your clothes down to nothing, this saves lots of room but causes wrinkles (there are no irons on the road!)

I have not invested in cubes because I found a large sandwich bag type bags in an army store for super cheap. I separate my tops and bottoms and pack away in these bags.

I also carry cute makeup bags from Primark (low-cost European shop, similar to Forever 21 but cheaper) which I pack my underwear and swimwear into (see contents of my backpack in the image below).

I read that Primark packing cubes now exist so may be worth a dig for future trips. 

Long-Term Female Travel Packing List

Please factor into your budget that it is highly likely that you will replenish some of your long-term female travel packing list at some point.

Washing machines and launderettes in the likes of Vietnam, Peru, etc are pretty harsh on your clothes ruining those travel essentials for women.

White clothing quickly becomes gross yellow colour! Suntan lotion, curry, alcohol stains can’t always be avoided (if it was a good night!)

Things get stolen, yes, annoying but opportunists carry a backpack too. Seriously think about investing in the PacSafe net if you carry expensive electronics with you.

We managed to avoid any theft using it.

Travel Tops

Tops – this is where packing starts to get difficult for me because although I am practical, I still like to look nice.

  • 3 x day vest tops (mixed colours)
  • 1 x night vest top (lacey, black)
  • 1 x hoody (ditched when reached warmer climates)
  • 1 x thin top
  • 2 x cardigans (1 x black / 1 x yellow)
  • 1 x fold-away raincoat, the Marmot PreCip – love – definitely one to add to your packing sheet, perfect for the backpacking Europe packing list females, and menfolk! It goes everywhere with me from dog walking up Munros (Scottish mountains) to hiking through rainforests. 

Machu Picchu Packing List

International packing list: vesties are besties – easy to pack for trips to Machu Picchu, Peru

 

Don’t Skirt Around – Dresses

I love dresses! If you choose the right type of material (avoid denim and wool), they roll down very small.

Perfect for hot days, party nights, and Instagram photos!

Also ideal for a road trip packing list since they are so versatile.

  • 1 x fancy summer dress (black)
  • 1 x black wrap-around (LBD for travel, top tip for female packing list South America, samba in style)
  • 1 x yellow (my favourite colour)
  • 1x playsuit (navy)

Tip: I tend to avoid patterns – easier to dress up, dress down, to keep looking new.

Travel Trousers / Bottoms

I’m not the biggest fan of trousers or shorts. My dumpy 5’2 1/2 body does not look good in denim shorts, praise be to the chicas who can rock that look.

For those who do look cool in hot pants, you could replace some items in the bottoms list.

  • 1 x black culottes (4 years old, love them)
  • 1 x khaki shorts (hiking)
  • 1 x plain skirt
  • 1 x denim skirt (probably don’t need this as heavy but I like it)
  • 1 x black long gym trousers (doubles up as disco pants)
  • 1 x (thin/light, pull on top of gym trousers for hikes and skiing)

My friend Laura has a great review on travel pants (trousers to us Brits!), they actually look nice!

Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua

Hiked up an active volcano in Nicaragua & boarded down it, in culottes!

 

Mosquitos. The little horrors love me!

All guides tell you to wear light, floaty clothes but that look is just not me so I compromise with wearing the disco pants after dusk in areas which are very prone to them.

Take malaria tablets in malaria zones and be wary of Zika, especially if trying to get pregnant.

We did carry mosquito nets by Lifesystems for the first year but did not use them, definitely times where we should have. Check if the countries you are visiting have a malaria warning.

For the first year we used mosquito repellent with DEET called OFF but then decided that since it was making no difference we’d use a DEET free alternative called Avon So Soft.

DEET melts plastic, I’ll just leave you thinking about that.

Underwear

This aspect of the long-term travel packing list for women is really a personal choice. I would always go for the higher number of underwear as I’m a clean freak.

Yes, you can hand-wash (and you will) but it is often not warm enough from hand-washing to dry, especially when moving on every couple of days. Tired of moving? It happens, consider the benefits of slow travel!)

  • 5-7 pairs of pants (knickers)
  • 4 pairs of trainers socks
  • 1 – 2 pairs of longer socks (traditional / ‘normal’ – better for hiking)
  • 2 x bras
  • 1 x sports bra
  • PJs (1 x vest / 1 x shorts)

Underwear storage: Cute makeup bag with zip

Swimwear

  • 1 x black bikini top
  • 1 x blue bikini top (one halter / one straps is ideal)
  • 3 x bikini bottoms

Storage: a stripy makeup bag, hello sailor!

Travel Shoes

Walk your way to packing success by learning from my mistakes…

I used to carry way too many shoes! This was pointed out to me when I posted a photo of packing list version three on Two Scots Abroad Facebook page! Here are my long-term footwear essentials.

  • 1 x flip-flops – Havaianas – 5 years old
  • 1x day trainers (black)
  • 1x walking boots/shoes – Salomon Ellipse, lighter than boots but still waterproof, quite attractive as boots go
  • 1 x fancy sandals (black)
  • 1 x sports trainers – if your day trainers can double up, great, but remember they will smell pretty quickly, especially if in warm and then rainy climates. My gym Nikes squashed down really neatly so I didn’t mind carrying them.

Long Term Packing Guide I Female Travel Packing List

Female Packing List #3 – get rid of some shoes!

Exercising While Travelling

I packed a sports bra so when we moved to Canada for six months I began exercising again. I bought cheap gym trousers from a charity shop and used a downgraded vest top.

  • Sports bra
  • Gym trousers
  • Downgraded vest top
  • Nike trainers (mentioned in travel shoe section)

Bling, Rings, and Other Accessories

  • 2 x sunglasses (lose / break / replace)
  • 1 x large scarf (multi-use: cover-up, beach towel, create a den around your dorm bed for privacy)
  • 2 x headscarf (hides day 2 hair)
  • Jewellery (leave the expensive bling at home, this means engagement/wedding rings – most insurance policies will not pay back the full amount and obviously the sentimental heartbreak of losing them is not worth it)
  • Watch (phone battery won’t always be charged!)
  • Documents wallet
  • Small money purse
  • Handbag? I bought a cheap one in Vancouver as we moved there for 4 months
  • Cloth bag (beachwear / picnics / electronics)
  • Drawstring bag (great for putting wet clothes in / or lunch on travel days as it attaches to clips on day bag)

Travel Toiletries & Makeup

In all honesty, I rarely wear make when in super-hot climates like Nicaragua but I wore a full face on nights out in Austin, Texas so this will change with your own personal routine.

Face – Avoid Ageing Skin

  • Factor 50/60 moisturiser, always! if feeling flush
  • Cream lotion wash (with re-usable makeup cloths)
  • Exfoliating wash (I am prone to acne)

Travel Hair

  • Solid shampoo– this stuff is genius, no liquid so no spill!
  • Lush solid conditioner too (avocado – lovely)
  • Bobbles
  • Kirby grips/bobby pins
  • Hairspray
  • Dry shampoo (I dropped this from list)

My normal routine is washed hair worn down (watch for sunburn in your parting), day two hair is worn up. I like quiffs and buns to pull my hair back. I found head scarfs a nice way to hide greasy hair too.

Body Talk

  • Toothpaste (I love the ) and toothbrush, sorry UK readers, Amazon doesn’t sell them but you can get them at Lush shop
  • Soap
  • Body wash (if stationary)
  • Deodorant (tried the chemical-free stuff, not suitable for sweaty climates like Cuba!)
  • Razor
  • Factor 50 suntan lotion (always)
  • Avon ‘Oh So Soft

We did not bother taking a towel. I hate those quick-dry microfibre travel towels! They just move the water around your skin. Personal choice to hire instead.

If travelling as a couple and booking private rooms you’ll find that towels are often included (oh, the privilege!). Alternatively, towels always come with Airbnb bookings (new to Airbnb? Sign up using my code – you get credit and we get credit too, thank you!)

Makeup – The Slap 

  • Light foundation
  • Urban Decay ‘On the Run’ palette
  • Liquid eyeliner
  • Lipstick for party nights
  • Real Techniques brushes (comes with case)
  • No nail varnish (exploded twice, luckily packed in sealed Tupperware!)
  • Nail file
  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Luminous face paint for a festival!

I know some of you will not bother with make-up at all and high five to you  but I’ve been plagued with acne since I was 19 so like to have something to cover up the scars (the sun helps!)

Travel Makeup Fail

Imagine they weren’t in a tub?! Summer vacation packing list for females – essential or bin?

Delhi Belly – Long-Term Travel Medical Kit

This covers every day normal pills to deathbed essentials.

  • Contraceptive pill (photocopy proof of prescriptions)
  • Paracetamol
  • Aspirin
  • Tablets for constipation
  • Tablets for diarrhoea
  • Malaria tablets
  • Anti-histamine tablets
  • Anti-bacterial cream for bites
  • Plasters
  • Blister pads
  • Leukotape hiking tape (does not budge so prevents blisters)
  • Tubigrip support
  • First aid kit (including needles)
  • Filter and purifying bottle (like DrinkSafe Travel Tap (read review) or Water to Go (quote TSA15 for 15% off at checkout)
  • Tampons! A reader pointed out in the comments that you may struggle to get them on the road, so true! I had to get my mum and mother in law to bring packs over for me on two occasions. Stock up! Alternatively, pack a menstrual cup (those words make me shudder), not something I’ve tried myself but would consider for future – saving space, time, and the environment (another great suggestion from reader)!

Travel Insurance

Don’t travel without it, it’s not worth the risk. Us Brits have the luxury of socialised medical health care through the National Health Service so don’t quite understand that the cost of using health care systems in countries which charge.

My friend, Kaci, went over her ankle at the Grand Canyon and was charged $500 for a visit to the doctor and an X-ray. Luckily she had travel insurance and good friends (me!) to hold her hand all morning (while others were out hiking…)

I’ve shopped around, extensively (that’s how I roll, you can probably tell from the length of this article) and settled on True Traveller because they could insure hiking at high altitude (Lares Trek to Machu Picchu) as well as skiing at Whistler.

I claimed in Vancouver; I had to visit the GP and physiotherapist (I had ear crystals which were making me feel dizzy!) and they paid out speedily.

They also answered my stupid amount of questions before I bought, I really do wish I could be as cool and laid back as Craig sometimes! Get a travel quote for your trip from their site here.

World Nomads is one of the other popular travel insurances.

 

Travel Electronics

Blogging, watching Netflix, taking snaps – here are the essential travel electronics which I travel with

  • Macbook Air (maybe not an essential for non bloggers)
  • WD My Passport 1TB external hard drive (dropped several times and still works)
  • Cameran (then Nikon Coolpix, now Canon M50)
  • SD cards (I never delete images, another form of backup). Do not buy from eBay, I did and they were fake and lost my images, when compared to the real deal it was obvious they were fake. Learn from my mistake
  • Phone
  • I won’t travel without a second battery just in case, we use Anker phone capacitor battery
  • Earphones
  • Skross universal travel adaptor with USB slots
  • New addition – JBL clip music speaker – it’s light, splash-proof, clips on to your bag, and is cheap. Craig has bought a few for gifts this year, it’s love

Before I knew how to take photos

Female Backpacking List – Replenishing Clothes

How do you guys look so suave all the time on the road?! I’d love a blog post about that! Seriously!! – Facebook follower.

Quick answer – we are vain! Craig and I have purchased additional items to meet needs and replenished our clothes when required for the likes of moving to a different climate.

I usually shop in charity shops but with the exception of Canada this wasn’t really an option so had to settle for H&M.

Peru (April)

  • 1 x scarf (market)
  • 1 x fake North Face puffy jacket
  • 1 x Peruvian handbag (fell apart by June!)

Canada (September)

  • New brogue shoes (Forever 21)
  • Sunglasses (Forever 21)
  • Denim skirt (Topshop)
  • Dress (Urban Outfitters – birthday)
  • Handbag (pre-loved)
  • Tights (H&M)
  • Socks (H&M)
  • My friend brought over Marks and Spencer knickers and a Topshop dress
  • Splurged on 4 items for $12 CAD / £6 at the Salvation Army
  • New vintage raincoat – sent home (yellow)
  • Ski gloves (should have bought liners too at the hardware store) I’ve now upgraded to Hestra which are really flipping expensive but I did not feel the cold once during our ski week in Austria this year
  • Grey winter hat for snowshoeing (Toronto Kensington Market)
  • Winter hat – Vancouver souvenir…

… and a vintage wedding dress, but I don’t expect everyone has ‘eloping to Austin‘ on their long-term travel plan

Portland, Oregon (January)

  • New vest tops (H&M) as moving to Nicaragua (35 degrees heat!)

Austin, Texas (March)

  • Wedding shoes / bag / jewellery / underwear

Budapest, Hungary (May)

Gearing up for warmer weather.

  • Three new dresses (H&M)
  • 1 x vest tops (H&M)
  • 1 x cardigan (H&M)
  • 1 x bikini bottoms (H&M)
  • Socks (H&M)
  • Sandals (Deichmann Shoes)

Lisbon, Portugal (July)

  • 1 x new dress (H&M)
  • 1 x sunglasses (festival time!)

Our family kindly gave us money throughout the trip for birthdays, the Vancouver engagement, the wedding, and out of feeling sorry for us! This helped fund Project Replenish.

Packing List for Women Overview

When we returned home after travelling for 17 months it felt so good piling up the contents of the rucksack and burning them. Jokes! I’m pretty certain the culottes, Salomon shoes, and Marmot raincoat will be going on our next trip to Iceland too. Want more? Check out this crazily extensive packing lists directory!

I hope this packing guide for females has been of use. I have created a pin to accompany this long-term planning list for women – please feel free to save and share (pin to Pinterest packing board!)

Pack for success with this female travel packing list.

So what do you think?
Have I nailed the ultimate packing list?
What can’t you travel without?


» Read next: our hiking packing list – what to pack and what to leave


 

Gemma and Craig are full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 61

  1. Hi, I’m new to your blog and this was such a great post! I have a question about your nail varnish explosion disasters. Did these explode on flights, or did it happen during travel overland? Any idea what caused it?

    I’ve been painting my nails since I was about 14 and have had them painted ALL the time since then, so I’m really struggling with the idea of stopping completely for my 6-8 month trip to South America soon!

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      Author

      It was a flight that was the culprit. Why not get shellac for leaving then ween yourself off? Treat yourself to getting your nails done every now and again? I’m confident you’ll forget about the habit once you are on the road and you are too busy having fun!

  2. Just stumbled across your page and this article is ACE. I’m vain also, but have also been to several Glastonburys! My husband and I are off for four months in May, starting in Vancouver and working our way down to Rio and i’m having to be very ruthless. I have a macbook air which i am already dreading carrying around, but I have a lifestyle blog (i’m a relatively new blogger), so i need to be updating that on the go!

    You’ve given me so many useful tips! Do you think i’ll have to get some kind of warm sport jacket for specific parts of south america? Looks like the markets for ‘creative lookalikes’ are a good shout haha!

    Would you recommend starting a separate Insta page for your travels? Your photos are incredible and dreamy! Are they all shot on your camera or a mixture of phone and camera? (i have a decent Canon which I looove, but again i’m new to the photography scene too)

    thanks for all the inspiration!

    Sam xx

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      Author

      Sounds awesome Sam! I’ve actually just replaced my black gym/disco pants for our next trip to Texas [thre weeks, two weeks in Austin, final road tripping in a van around Texas!]

      IG – lifestyle bloggers tend to get away with a mix of travel and other themes. It depends on what you think your audience would want. I struggle to manage one account if being honest, two would stress me out to the max! Thanks for the kind words.

      Cusco is the spot for genuine fakes 😉 I would definitely recommend a decent raincoat, nothing worse than being wet! What’s your Insta and I’ll follow your trip?

      1. Awesome, thanks Gemma! We’ll check Cusco out – and get a decent raincoat!

        It would be amazing if you’d follow my insta! My profile is @according_to_samantha though I’m struggling to get to the point where all of the photos look good and consistent!.

        We leave May 8th, so there’ll be lots of pics and vids! – I’ll be sure to shoot my backpack and tag you in to thank you for the advice.

        S xx

  3. Hi!
    I stumbled upon this post and your packing list looks perfect for what I want. I just have one question, did everything you listed above fit into the Osprey 55 or 70L? Trying to decide which backpack I should get for my upcoming trip and I want to make sure everything fits! Thanks again for the post!

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      Author

      The bigger size. I bought a smaller backpack and had to return it. You’d be surprised how much room electronics and toiletries take up!

  4. Hi Gemma & Craig: I totally agree on most of your packing list and just want to suggest an easy but dressy item I always take with me on trips – a Lycra/Jersey dress in a fit-and-flare style. It takes up absolutely no room at all, can be balled up and shoved into a corner of your pack and still be pulled out and hung up for 5 minutes to take any wrinkles out. Especially useful in a basic coloured abstract print (ie. navy & white or B&W) – won’t show stains, hand washes and hang dries quickly, and always looks appropriate, even for theatre or good dinners out. I’m a 55 y.o. and my hubby is 61 – we are active travellers who like to make our own way around the world (no all-inclusives, group tours, or ‘big-box’ hotels.) Great blog!

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      Author

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