Travel Essentials For Women – Tried & Tested

Female Travel Packing List

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Looking for a detailed women’s travel packing list? I’ve been packing bags and cases since I was 19 years old, and this guide was 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 now think I’ve nailed it!

I’ve taken short trips and backpacked around extremely hot countries, stormy climates, freezing snow for skiing and cities with a nip in the air. Hi, I’m Gemma; that’s me in the picture below.

Going away for a while? Check out my guide on how to create a long-term travel itinerary.

Now, let’s dive into my recommended travel essentials for women.

Luggage For Long Trips

Before purchasing sunnies and sandals, it’s probably wise to consider where you will put them!

So let’s talk about luggage.

Are you a backpack or a suitcase kind of girl?

For a long-term trip, I would advise considering a backpack.

Why?

Because there will be times that you are walking through cities and hopping on public transport.

Throwing a pack on your back makes moving much more accessible.

We previously used the Vango packs, but now that I’ve spent years researching travel gear, I would go for the Mercedes of all bags, the Osprey US / UK.

Woman wearing Vango 80 Litre Rucksack Backpack at airport

So what’s so great about Osprey?

Osprey only focuses on bags and bag-related products, so they are known as the king or queen of backpacking luggage.

They also have a returns policy if the bag stops functioning as it should.

The pack is ideal because it opens up like a suitcase, which makes access to clothes much more manageable.

Try getting something out of the ‘old style’ top access backpacks while nine other people doze off in a dorm; this is how not to make friends while you travel!

Respect the hostel dorm etiquette.

Some also have a detachable day pack, which you unzip and wear on your front when you have your pack on your back.

What about a hybrid if you can’t see yourself with a backpack?

Hybrid backpacks fuse the best of both worlds – they take the wheels from a suitcase and the straps from a bag to create a rolling backpack.

The downside to backpacks with wheels is that they add more weight to the overall backpack as it has to consider a structured back and wheel casing.

I’ve written about wheeled backpacks in detail.

You can read my comparison guide here.

The main issue with taking a traditional suitcase on a worldwide/long-term trip is that most cases aren’t durable enough; for example, the IT suitcase looks good and is lightweight, but from experience, the rubber on the wheels burns off after a week-long trip to Italy.

This isn’t the case (boom boom) with the Eagle Creek range.

Eagle Creek luggage is made for off-road travel, which means you can pound the cobbles of Europe and pull the case through the sandy streets of Colombia.

I have been using the Eagle Creek case for trips for over two weeks.

I go for our Samsonite cases for road trips, which look great and have a sturdy outer material.

Luggage For Short Trips

If you are going away for a shorter trip, depending on how you pack, you could get away with a much smaller bag or case.

I can’t recommend the Eagle Creek Expanse Carry-On enough.

It’s smooth, good-looking and, like its bigger version, strong.

Eagle Creek Expanse

Other Travel Baggage

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

I do carry a safety net with me.

It is made by Pacsafe US / UK and has protected my belongings since 2015.

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

I then cover it with a coat, etc.

Don’t risk it.

PacSafe Net Travel Safety

PacSafe net to deter theft

Buy an Osprey bag cover US / UK to protect your day bag and electronics.

My camera stopped working after an Asian downpour in Vietnam in 2013, and so did my heart.

Woman wearing a bag with an Osprey bag cover

How to Pack For Long-Term Travel and Short-Term Trips

Packing for long-term travel differs slightly from short-term trips because you should consider what you can’t get on the road.

You are also likely on a budget if you are going away for a long time, so you don’t want to waste money and have to spend too much on unnecessary travel items for women.

I detail what I replenished and bought during my “big” trip at the end of the guide.

Other readers have found it helpful to see the reality of travel!

For short-term trips, you may be restricted by space and also size.

If you are taking carry-on only, you won’t be able to take liquids bigger than 100ml, so consider this when shopping for travel toiletry items.

My best packing tip is to roll your clothes instead of folding them, which creates more space and fewer wrinkles or pack similar clothes in separate bags or packing cubes.

Packing Cubes and Alternatives

During my big trip, I didn’t use packing cubes; I opted for large sandwich bags from an army store as they were super cheap.

Now, I do use packing cubes.

I like that they come in various sizes and zip around the items.

You can pack a lot, and they place neatly in your luggage, stacking on each other.

The grab handles on each cube are handy for pulling out from your bag or case.

See for yourself US / UK.

You can see the contents of my backpack in the image below.

Long-Term Female Travel Packing List and Short-Term ‘Pic n Mix’

Travel Clothes for Women

Travel Tops

Tops – this is where packing starts to get difficult 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 bright
  • 1 x denim coat – for city tips
  • 1 x fold-away raincoat, the Marmot waterproof jacket US / UK, which I love – perfect for the backpacking Europe packing list! It goes everywhere with me, from dog walking up Munros (Scottish mountains) to hiking through rainforests. 
Machu Picchu Packing List

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

Travel Dresses and Skirts

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 photos!

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

  • 2 x fancy summer dress – black
  • 1 x black wrap-around – LBD for travel, top tip for female packing list South America
  • 1 x bright
  • 1 x playsuit if that’s your style

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

Consider the length of dresses and skirts depending on where you are visiting.

For example, here is our guide on what to wear in Dubai.

Packing list for girls | Sunshine Coast BC

Travel Trousers / Bottoms

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

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

Couple posing during Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua

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 disco pants after dusk in areas that are very prone to them.

We did carry mosquito nets by Lifesystems for the first year but did not use them; there were times when 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 decided that since it was making no difference, we’d use a DEET-free alternative called Avon Skin So Soft US / UK.

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

Factor into your budget that you will likely replenish some of your long-term female travel packing list at some point.

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

White clothing quickly becomes a gross yellow tone!

Suntan lotion, curry, and alcohol stains aren’t always avoided if it is a good night!

Things get stolen, yes, annoying, but opportunists carry a backpack too.

Underwear/Garments

This aspect of the list is a personal choice and may vary depending on the availability of a washing machine or the ability to do hand washing.

It is worth noting that hand washing can be tricky if moving to a destination every couple of days or if visiting colder climates.

  • 5-7 pairs of pants/panties/knickers
  • 5 pairs of trainers/sneaker 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 or packing cube.

Swimwear

  • 2 x bikini tops
  • 3 x bikini bottoms

I suggest avoiding patterns and mixing different bikini bottoms with tops for a women’s long-term travel packing list.

Storage: Cute makeup bag or packing cube.

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 the Two Scots Abroad Facebook page!

Here are my footwear essentials.

  • 1 x flip-flops/sliders – especially if using communal areas
  • 1x day trainers – black
  • 1x walking boots/shoes – Salomon Ellipse trek shoes US / UK, which I trekked with to Machu Picchu, 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, remember they will smell quickly, especially in warm and rainy climates. My gym Nikes squashed down neatly, so I didn’t mind carrying them
Clothes folded on bed for a packing list
I ditched the walking sandals.

Exercising While Travelling

If, like me, you have to do some form of exercise, save a packing cube for:

  • 1 x sports bra
  • 1 x gym trousers or shorts
  • 1 x vest top
  • 1 x trainers
  • 1 x resistance band

Travel Accessories For Women

  • 2 x shades
  • 1 x large scarf – multi-use: cover-up, beach towel, create a den around your dorm bed for privacy
  • 2 x headscarf – hides day two hair
  • 1 x hat – protect your face from sun ageing
  • Rings – for longer trips, leave the expensive bling at home; this means engagement/wedding rings – most insurance policies will not pay back the total amount, and obviously, the sentimental heartbreak of losing them is not worth it
  • Watch and plug if electronic
  • Documents wallet
  • Small money purse
  • Handbag? I bought a cheap one in Vancouver
  • 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
Woman smiles to camera wearing yellow dress and hat

Travel Toiletries List & Makeup

I rarely wear makeup in super-hot climates like Nicaragua, but I wore a full face on nights out in Austin, Texas, so this will change with your routine.

Face – Avoid Ageing Skin

  • Factor 50/60 moisturiser, always! La Roche-Posay US / UK if feeling flush
  • Cream lotion wash
  • Exfoliation
  • Night cream/retinol

Travel Hair

  • Solid shampoo and conditioner – this stuff is genius; there is no liquid, so there is no spill!
  • Or, small bottles
  • Hair ties
  • Kirby grips/bobby pins
  • Hairspray
  • Dry shampoo – I dropped this from my original list

My usual routine is to wear freshly washed hair worn down but watch for sunburn in your parting.

On day two, hair is worn up.

I like quiffs and buns to pull my hair back.

I found head scarfs an excellent way to hide greasy hair, too.

Couple posing on dune while sandboarding in Huacachina Peru

Body Stuff

  • Toothpaste – paste or tabs for no spill
  • Soap or body wash
  • Deodorant
  • Razor
  • Factor 50 suntan lotion – always
  • Avon Skin So Soft US / UK – midges, mosquitos and smooth skin

I use towels provided by the accommodation or opt for hiring over packing as they are too bulky, and I don’t find that quick-dry microfibre travel towels dry water off my skin!

If you travel as a couple and book private rooms, you’ll find that towels are often included; oh, the privilege!

Hotel room with bed at Art Hotel Asahikawa Japan

Makeup – The Slap 

  • Light foundation
  • Eyeshadow, bronzer and blush palette
  • Liquid eyeliner
  • Lipstick for party nights
  • Bushes
  • 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!)

Exploded nail varnish in a tub

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 US / UK – does not budge so prevents blisters
  • Tubigrip support
  • First aid kit – including needles
  • Filter and purifying bottle
  • Tampons – a reader pointed out in the comments that you may struggle to get them on the road, so true! I had to call my mum and mother-in-law to bring packs over for me on two occasions. Stock up or try a menstrual cup
Leukotape Tape

Travel Insurance

Don’t travel without it, it’s not worth the risk.

Us Brits have the luxury of public 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.

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 on the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu as well as skiing at Whistler.

I claimed in Vancouver as I had to visit the GP and physiotherapist with an ear crystals issue and they paid out speedily.

They also answered my stupid amount of questions before I bought the isnurance, 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.

You can read our insurance comparison guide here.

Woman jumping over huge tub of Pringles at Bolivia Salt Flats

Travel Electronics

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

  • MacBook Air – maybe not essential for non-bloggers
  • Hard drive – now a tiny Sandisk SSD US / UK, previously Transcend US / UK
  • Camera – then Nikon Coolpix, moved to Sony A6000, now Canon M50
  • SD cards – I never delete images; it is 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, cables, and plugs
  • Apple MagSafe battery pack (pricy but no cables) or Anker battery charger US / UK
  • Earphones and cables
  • Skross universal travel adaptor with USB slots US / UK
  • JBL clip music speaker US / UK – it’s light, splash-proof, clips onto your bag, and is affordable
Skross Universal Plug USB Port

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.

I do love planning outfits so choosing a travel essentials is a challenge for me.

During our “big” trips I do replenish some items and here is a breakdown of what I bought during our 17 month backpacking trip:

Peru (April)

  • 1 x scarf from a market in Cusco
  • 1 x fake North Face puffy jacket – below
  • 1 x Peruvian handbag – fell apart by June!

Canada (September)

  • New brogue shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Denim skirt
  • Dress
  • Handbag
  • Tights
  • Socks
  • My friend brought over Marks and Spencer knickers and a Topshop dress
  • Splurged on four items for $12 CAD / £6 at the Salvation Army
  • New vintage raincoat – sent home (yellow)
  • Ski gloves – I should have bought liners, too, at the hardware store. I’ve now upgraded to Hestra gloves US / UK, which are really flipping expensive, but I did not feel the cold once during our ski week in Austria this year
  • Winter hat for snowshoeing
  • 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

Rings Austin Wedding Special

Portland, Oregon (January)

  • New vest tops as I move to Nicaragua – 35 degrees heat!

Austin, Texas (March)

  • Wedding shoes/bag / accessories/underwear

Budapest, Hungary (May)

Gearing up for warmer weather:

  • 3 x new dresses
  • 1 x vest top
  • 1 x cardigan
  • 1 x bikini bottom
  • Socks
  • Sandals

Lisbon, Portugal (July)

  • 1 x new dress for a festival; I was feeling pretty gross about clothes at this time
  • 1 x shades

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 sure the culottes, Salomon shoes, and Marmot raincoat will be going on our next trip to Iceland too.

Want more ridiculously useful packing lists?

Here is our packing list directory.

Also, see this packing list.

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


66 thoughts on “Travel Essentials For Women – Tried & Tested

  1. backpackcorner says:

    Hi Gemma 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.

  2. Liana says:

    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!

  3. Charlotte says:

    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!

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      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. Samantha says:

    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

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      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?

      • Samantha Czwordon says:

        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

  5. Aoife says:

    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!

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      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!

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