Packing essentials: What to pack on a solo trip

Be prepared for your solo trip. These are the things you need to pack on your next solo vacation.
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If you’re planning to take a solo trip, you might consider packing a few extra items. Though you’ll need nearly all the same things as you need for a trip you’re taking with a partner, friends, or family, there are a few things you can pack to ensure your belongings are secure and to give you peace of mind while you’re out exploring on your own.

Here’s what to pack on your next solo trip.

Whistle keychain or safety siren

Often, when we think of solo travel, we think of safety risks. It is true that you have to be vigilant when you travel solo and it can be harder to relax when you’re alone. At least for your peace of mind, it’s nice to have a few safety items with you.

Some sites might recommend self-defense keychains or pepper spray but I don’t recommend using either. A strong gust of wind can make pepper spray your own enemy and sharp objects can be used against you or banned from certain venues. A whistle or a safety siren and strobe are great options because they are compact, easy to pack, and loud enough to annoy anyone near you.

If you ever feel particularly unsafe, I have a full-proof way of getting creeps away from you: develop an insane walk like this and randomly say things out loud to yourself like, “Maybe I shouldn’t have fought that wolf with my bare hands.”

Lockbox or lock

If you’re staying in hostels, I highly recommend packing either a lock or a portable lockbox if you have extra room. Though some hostels may provide a secure box for you to lock things in, I like to bring an extra one in case their secure boxes looks janky or are too small.

An additional safety tool you might consider is a door lock. I’ve personally never felt the need to travel with one but I’ve had friends say it’s made them feel safer knowing they have an extra layer of security.

Safety travel apps

One great thing about the age of smartphones is that they’ve allowed for a whole slew of new apps that keep solo travelers safe. One such app is MayDay. If you ever find yourself in an unsafe situation, the app alerts your emergency contacts and sends your location info to them. Noonlight is a similar app that also partners with Tinder to keep you safe on dates.

There is also the TripWhistle app which gives you the emergency contact info of officials in whichever country you’re located and lets you dial the right contact with just one click.

Any local apps

Before I visit any country, I like to see what local apps they have, especially in the realm of public transportation. Sometimes it’s easier to have these apps on your phone as they might have options for English speakers or pay-by-phone options. It’s extra helpful on days when you’re so tired from walking that you want the nearest bus route information ASAP.

Another pro tip is downloading offline Google Maps for the area you’ll be in so that you can have navigation services even without cell data. I also recommend downloading Google Translate if you’re going somewhere you’re not familiar with the language.

A secure purse

My rule of thumb is that I don’t travel with purses that have open compartments and I don’t wear backpacks for daily use unless they have anti-theft features. I’ve had one too many friends get their belongings stolen because someone easily slipped their hands into their bags.

For a long time, I didn’t use a backpack as my daily bag while traveling because I felt like it screamed tourist to anyone looking for an easy target. Luckily, there are many more stylish anti-theft backpacks on the market with hidden compartments for additional security.

Even when I’m not traveling, my go-to bag is a fanny pack worn crossbody style. I love fanny packs because it’s fun to say “fanny” and they allow me to keep my belongings in front of me at all times, unlike a backpack. For extra security, opt for a “waist belt bag” that has a leather belt as its strap instead of one that can be unclipped.

If you prefer traditional purses, I suggest the Samsonite Mobile Solution Everyday Crossbody.
It’s not a traditional anti-theft bag but it doesn’t need to be to serve you well. Between its organized main compartment and quick-access pockets, I can stay on top of just where everything is—keeping my important documents in the pouch nearest me and my other items stowed away. 

Copies of your contact info

I always make an absurd amount of copies of my important documents. Maybe I’m paranoid or maybe I’m avoiding potential disasters. I’ve had a color copy of my ID save my butt once in Italy when I didn’t know I needed a certain form of my ID for an event. 

Most importantly, I make a laminated, color copy of my ID and passport. I keep that copy with me when I’m out and about. I also keep a black and white copy of my passport in each piece of luggage just in case my belongings get lost and someone needs to contact me. Lastly, I keep pictures of my documents on my phone as well. 

If you think that’s all a bit much, you should stop reading here because I also use a label maker to attach my contact info to all my important electronics and I make my contact info the background of my lock screen.

A (literally) small book

Maybe it’s silly, but one thing I was nervous about when I first began traveling alone was eating at restaurants by myself. In some countries, it’s not commonplace to eat alone and I was a little nervous about the side eye. I also did not travel with cell service so there was only so much fake scrolling I could do on my cell before I felt like a little kid with a Fisher-Price phone.

Right before I left for my first trip I happened to pick up a book that was so physically small that it fit right inside my purse, so I took it everywhere with me. As a bonus, tiny books are also great for making you look pretentious while dining alone. I recommend Before the coffee gets cold or The Alchemist–fittingly, both books are filled with their own adventures. See more of our travel book recommendations here.

If eating alone still isn’t your style, maybe try the Eatwith app that lets you meet locals while having immersive food experiences or seek out food markets like the ones by TimeOut that make solo dining less stress-inducing.

Portable charger

A portable charger is an absolute must when you’re traveling alone. There are few things worse than beings stranded somewhere all alone and not having any way to navigate back to your place or call an Uber. I like to stay prepared and pack either a small, credit card-sized portable charger or one that doubles as a phone case and charger in one.

A remote phone clicker

One bummer about traveling alone is that you don’t have a trusted friend to take your picture. Sure, you can ask a stranger. Sometimes you get lucky and happen to ask someone who is a well-trained Instagram boyfriend but most times you end up with someone who cuts half your face off and gets more of the ground than the Eiffel Tower in the picture.

For that reason, it can be best to take matters into your own hands. Set up your phone somewhere safe while using the self-timer features on your phone or use a remote clicker to snap your pics just the way you want sans the goofy selfie stick. Feel free to splurge on a compact tripod too, if you dare.

Things you can leave behind

Just as important as what you should pack is what you shouldn’t. Here are a few items you can leave behind at home.

Heels

Though this isn’t a hard and fast rule, I generally skip packing heels and if I do, I pack ones with a chunky heel. It depends on where you’re traveling, but most of my trips have involved cobblestone streets or sandy beaches and heels simply don’t make sense. Plus, you’ll see that most of the locals don’t wear heels either because it’s not worth the twisted ankle or ruining your favorite pair. See our list of recommended travel shoes here.

The wrinkly fabrics

I learned a long time ago that the last thing I want to do on vacation is iron something (or share a bathroom with someone I barely know). If I absolutely must pack something wrinkly for an especially humid trip, I roll my clothes in tissue paper to avoid full-blown wrinkle chaos.

Birkenstocks and Crocs

Okay, this is just a personal thing of mine. Please, for the love of god, can we stop wearing these?

Other tips

Don’t plan too far ahead

Traveling alone can get quite expensive. Things you would have split with a partner or a friend, you’re now paying for in full on your own. I like using the Headout app when I travel because it lets you book tickets to see all the coolest places and they’ll often have last-minute deals and discounts so you can spend less and see more.

Join solo travel groups

Even though you’re making the journey alone, it doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time by yourself because let’s be honest, who really enjoys their own company that much? Oh, you do? Okay, well…I didn’t think you would think that internally while you read this. 

In any case, there are some great solo travel groups (I know it sounds like an oxymoron) out there that can connect you to like-minded travelers if you decide you’d like to enjoy someone else’s company. See our recommended apps and Facebook groups for solo travelers here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. This post contains references to products from one or more of our partners and we may receive compensation when you click on links to those products.

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