Travel essentials for women cover image of Kim in Namibia

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Slow Learner


I brought two massive suitcases on my first ever solo trip. As I dragged them over the uneven pavement to my shared apartment in Barcelona, their wheels nearly broke off. My spirit nearly broke, too.

So I started dumping crap.

Then I started fine-tuning. I tried and tested tons of different products, clothes, bags, and shoes to find the best.

Over ten years of travel later, only a precious few true essentials. They come with me no matter where I go. Of those, the following fifteen are the travel essentials for women I recommend most.

Display of my 15 favorite travel essentials for women.

The Obvious Travel Essentials


The following travel essentials for women are so boringly obvious that I’m going to list them for you quickly and move on:

Passport, sunscreen, underwear, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, travel visas, birth control, tampons/diva cup, water bottle, cash, sunglasses, razor or wax strips, tweezers, hairbrush, and a suitcase or backpack to pack it all into.

Yawn.

Now, with those out of the way, let’s get to 15 travel essentials for women worth getting excited about, which I’ve broken down into:

Apparel Travel Essentials for Women

Kim wearing her Lululemon leggings and holding one of personal training clients back with a resistance band.
Leading a group workout class in Vancouver wearing my favorite Lululemon Fast & Frees.

1. Lululemon Fast and Free Leggings


My Most Essential Travel Essential

Yes, I’m an activewear woman:

I wear my Lululemon leggings everywhere when I’m on the road: not just while trying to stay fit while traveling but also on the plane, for hikes, on coffee dates, and to the market.

I love how they’re so thin, quick-drying, durable, and have functional pockets sewn into the sides. And Chris likes me in them, too. They may be my favorite of all the travel essentials for women on this list.

Check them out at Lululemon.

Ecco White Sneakers are one of my travel essentials for women.
My favorite Ecco sneakers after a couple of years of constant wear.

2. Ecco Soft White Sneakers


These Shoes Are Made for Walking

Tired, sore feet suck.

I eliminate this problem by getting shoes I can walk in for hours, and still feel decently stylish wearing.

My Ecco Soft White sneakers do the job perfectly. They’re high quality, deep fitting (so your heels don’t slip out and there’s space for orthotics), match almost every outfit, and despite the white color, easy to clean.

Check them out on Zappos.com.

Kim wearing her white linen shirt ready for anything in Muizenberg, Cape Town.

2. Hannah Lavery Drift Linen Shirt


Winnin’ in Linen

I’ve developed a weird obsession with linen (somewhat similar to Chris’ with merino wool).

Did you know linen’s made from flax?

I guess that’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is that my white linen shirt keeps me cool and dry in warm weather and can be dressed up or down and can look effortlessly chic with a naturally worn-in look.

I love my shirt from Hannah Lavery, a local Cape Town designer but if you want to buy one online in the Americas, I’d recommend one from Macy’s.

Check it out at Hannah Lavery or Macy’s.

Kim wearing her Patagonia Nano puff jacket visiting one of Spain's most beautiful towns
My Patagonia Nano Puff came in handy on our recent road trip off the beaten path in Spain when the temperatures dipped nearly 15 degrees.

3. Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket


Too Practical Not to Pack

Not the most stylish, but the most useful, I love my Patagonia Nano Puff jacket.

Why?

Because whether I’m going to the highly air-conditioned movie theatre in humid Panama or visiting Cape Town where the weather changes in a matter of minutes, this lightweight and packable but surprisingly warm jacket always has my back.

Check it out at Patagonia or Amazon.

Kim, Eduardo, and Chris pose after learning from the pig farmer that sells the most expensive Jamon Iberico.
Walking around with Eduardo Donato and his expensive pig farm, these pants kept me cool.

5. Wide Leg Aritzia Nanterre Pants


Genie Pants with Style

Do you remember when hippie genie pants with a super low crotch were a thing among travelers?

Maybe they still are. They look comfortable. But I can’t stand how they look, otherwise.

I’m so happy I found my Aritzia Nanterre pants instead. They are practical in warm weather and loose, have handy pockets, are incredibly comfortable for walking around the city or sitting on a 14-hour plane…

…and they don’t make me look like I haven’t shaved my armpits in weeks!

I can even dress them up by wearing a tighter fitting top and a necklace. This versatility makes them a true travel essential for women.

Check them out at Aritzia.

Tools

Valencia woman rolling small suitcase and plastic bags over street in El Carmen neighbourhood.

6. Google Maps Saved Places


My Travel Treasure Maps

Google Maps Saved Places lists are my travel treasure maps.

I save all the restaurants, cafes, attractions, and photo ops spots I want to visit. I can also save notes for each spot (like what day of the week a restaurant has a special deal or when a museum is free) and share my lists with others.

Then, when I’m traveling, I just open Google Maps on my phone and try to hit as many as I can. Best of all, I can access it all offline!

Read How to Unleash Google Maps Saved Places to build your skills at using this travel essential for women.

Holding up my HSBC travel credit card
Pretty content with my HSBC Premier World Elite credit card.

7. Travel Credit Card


More Money for Me

Who likes giving away free money? Nobody.

Well, if you’re using a regular credit card while traveling abroad that’s what you’re doing. And you’re giving your money to banks.

Keep that money for yourself with a zero foreign-exchange fee travel credit card.

With our HSBC World Elite travel card, Chris and I save 2.5% on all transactions in foreign exchange fees, as much as $100 per trip in travel insurance, and get $100 a year in free upgrades. AND it pays us up to 3% cash back.

Read our What Makes the Best Cards for Traveling? section of our credit card post for the basic info you need to know.

Kim trying to lasso a tree as part of the Adventure Trail, an interactive game the owners of Gecko Camp in Namibia organized for their guests.
Don’t test your luck by not buying insurance.

8. Travel Insurance


A Wise Waste of Money

This is the only thing on this list of travel essentials for women that I hope will be a waste of money for you.

But you need it because, no matter how many lucky charms you ate as a kid, accidents happen.

If you haven’t left for your trip, follow these 8 Easy Steps to Find the Best Travel Insurance.

Already traveling? Here’s how to find the best and cheapest post-departure travel insurance ASAP.

Bags

Stack of two packing cubes for clothing
My packing cubes make me happy.

9. Packing Cubes & Ziploc Freezer Bags


To Organize Is Wise

Maybe it’s the Japanese in me, but I find organizing my belongings, especially when I travel, to be extremely rewarding.

I organize my clothes with packing cubes to separate them by type (pants, shorts, tops, bras/underwear/socks, etc) and to keep my dirty laundry separate. This makes unpacking and finding specific items easy.

I also pack an assortment of Ziploc freezer bags for separating and packing toiletries, waterproofing electronics, carrying leftover food, and… so many other things.

Kim wondering if she needs to buy anything else in Sevilla wearing her trusty Longchamp bag
My Longchamp bag’s at my side, as usual.

10. Longchamp Le Pilage Tote


The Versatile Stowaway

I’ve considered leaving my Longchamp bag at home on so many occasions but it somehow squeezes its way into my luggage every time.

And every time I end up using it almost more than any other bag I own because it’s so lightweight, foldable and versatile.

Check it out on Amazon.

Muji containers in a ziploc bag, ready for travel.
Containers within a bag that I’ll put in a bigger bag. What can I say? I like packing.

11. Travel Sized Containers


For Not-So-Heavy Hygiene

Recently, I witnessed my friend unpack two full-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner from her suitcase. I was stupefied. Either her hair gets super dirty on vacation, she’s planning on using the bottles as weights, or she packed poorly.

Small travel-sized toiletries are enough. The ones pictured above can easily last me 2-3 weeks, and if they run out, I buy new product.

I’ve invested (ok, “invested” like $8) in high-quality containers with simple lids so they don’t explode in my bag and can be refilled and cleaned easily.

Check them out at Muji or Amazon.

Quick Tip: Get a plastic spray bottle (10-15ml) for your perfume instead of carrying around a heavy glass bottle!

Toys

I’m smiling but my glutes are screaming.

12. Workout Resistance Bands


Bands Make Her Dance Workout

Maybe not all women consider staying fit while traveling essential, but I do.

And that’s why I don’t leave home without my booty bands and my pull-up bands.

I use them to stretch, activate muscles before a run or a workout, make exercises harder or easier, and for partner exercises Chris and I sometimes do.

plantronics backbeat fit headphones

13. Plantronics Wireless Headphones


Get Unwired

I didn’t realize how much I took my Plantronics wireless headphones for granted until I accidentally sliced them in half with a pair of scissors the day before I left for Valencia, Spain.

Without time to buy a replacement, I was stuck getting tangled in and untangling my old-school wired headphones that barely stay in my ear properly.

I swear by Plantronics Wireless headphones because they stay put during sweaty workouts, have a long-lasting battery, and are very durable (as long as you keep them away from scissors).

This time I’m buying their new true wireless model so there’s no wire to slice in half.

Relefree Travel Towel

14. Relefree Travel Towel


Boring But Worthy

A travel towel is a boring item to include on a list of travel essentials for women, I know.

But somehow it keeps finding new ways to be useful for me, so I can’t help but give it a shoutout.

I use my travel towel for working out, to cover my shoulders in Muslim countries, at the beach, and to cover cheap apartment rental chairs in warm weather so my thighs don’t sweat. The list goes on…

Check them out on Amazon.

Maple salmon gift from Canada

15. Gifts from Home


A Trick to Connect With Locals

This travel essential is a trick Chris and I picked up from Korean guests we had back when we were Airbnb hosts in Vancouver.

When they arrived, they surprised us with a pair of wooden ducks. In their culture, they explained, the ducks symbolize partnership and, depending on your mood, you position your duck differently.

Because of this funny and memorable gift, we connected better with our guests and made extra sure they had an awesome stay with us. And we really want to visit Korea for more than a layover.

Since then, we always pack gifts from home to similarly connect with people we meet on our travels.

As Canadians, our go-to gifts are smoked salmon, maple syrup, local wine, and dried foraged mushrooms.

Travel Non-Essentials

Think twice about packing these non-essentials on your travels. Leaving them at home will save you the hassle of lugging these things around, save money, and save the planet.

  • Hairdryer
  • Bulky towel
  • Heels
  • Security belt 
  • Full-sized toiletries 
  • Travel-specific clothing like zip-off pants

Read These Essential Travel Tips Next

Check out our related posts below, learn How to Pick Gifts Even Better than Santa, and visit our blog roll for our most recent posts.

2 comments

  1. Thanks for your comment, Swati! Sunscreen is indeed very important and I actually mention it at the beginning of my post. I’ve tried to highlight the less obvious items that I pack and use on almost all of my trips, in hopes of helping other female travelers. Cheers!

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