Traveling alone? Learn how to pack like a pro

When embarking on a solo trip there are several things to consider. Packing is one of the essentials since you’ll be schlepping around your belongings all by yourself. You need to be clever about it.

No matter where you go and how you like to travel – be it a city break, wildlife travel or backpacking through entire continents – there are some universal packing tips to get the most of your solo travels. The full-time travelers behind the travel blogs Swedish Nomad and Alien Chris share some of their secrets when it comes to smart packing. Read on and take notes.

Don’t know where your first solo travel should go to? Get inspired by these destinations for the solo traveler and check out our indispensable tips for solo travelers.

Find the travel luggage that suits your needs

First things first, you need to decide which travel luggage to take with you. In order to find the most practical bag, think about which items you want like to bring along, how long your trip will be and where it will take you.

While a suitcase wins when it comes to personal convenience, organized packing and ease of transport, it won’t make sense to bring it along if you’re planning on backpacking or hiking through wildlife areas.

Factors to consider when choosing a suitcase are size and weight, features (such as wheels, expandability and compartments), durability and price. When searching for the right backpack, consider the size, the type of framing, top loading versus front loading, support, weight and functionality.

Pick clothes that you can mix and match

Stick to the basics when planning for solo travel

Stick to the basics when planning for solo travel

Mix and match should be your mantra when starting to pack. Bringing clothes that can only be worn as one outfit is a big no-no if you want to travel light. Go for T-shirts and other basic clothing that you can wear on different occasions and mix with several outfits.

But don’t forget about dress code if you have any activities planned that require specific clothing. If you want to visit temples, for example, you need to cover up your shoulders and legs. For the ladies, this can easily be done with a sari or sarong, and for the lads, some light trousers will do the trick.

Packing cubes

Packing cubes are the ultimate luggage organizers. They’re basically ultra-light pouches that come in different sizes. Not only do they save space, they also help you organize your clothes so that you don’t need to unpack the entire bag just to find a new pair of socks.

If you don’t already use them, make sure to invest in two or three packing cubes in various sizes. Get a small one for your socks and underwear, and a large or medium one for shirts, T-shirts, tops and shorts/light pants.

The packing cubes from Eagle Creek come in various sets, sizes, colours and patterns.

Wear your heavy items

When you think about it, it’s quite obvious, yet you would be surprised by how many people pack jackets and jeans while they’re going to the airport in a T-shirt and shorts. No matter what the temperature is at your final destination, be smart and wear your heaviest clothing items instead of packing them. That’ll bring light travel to new heights!

Use a backpack as a carry-on

Your hands will always be free when travelling with a backpack

Your hands will always be free when travelling with a backpack

This is a great travel hack because travelers wearing a backpack as carry-on luggage rarely get asked to weigh it at the airport. When you reach your destination, the backpack can also be used for day trips.

A backpack is also lighter than other carry-ons, so you save some weight there as well. Talk about win-win!

If safety for your possessions is a concern, consider purchasing a Pacsafe backpack protector which is basically a wire mesh bag that you can wrap around your backpack and lock it.

Use the empty spaces

As a solo traveler, you will, of course, meet a lot of other travelers that can lend a helping hand, but when transporting yourself from A to B, you’ll most likely be flying solo. That means you should use every empty space possible to minimize your luggage, and thus make it easier to lug around.

Your luggage is rife with small empty spaces that can be used cleverly. Take your shoes for example – they make for a great packing space for a small bottle, underwear or other small items. Think about your luggage as a puzzle, and try to fit everything strategically.

Fold and roll

Save up on space: fold and roll your clothing items

Save up on space: fold and roll your clothing items

Even if you use packing cubes, the classic fold and roll still makes sense. Your clothes will have fewer wrinkles and you will also save up more space. Make sure to stretch your clothes as you roll, and don’t be afraid to roll them as tight as possible.

Secure your cash and credit cards

When travelling with a partner, splitting cash and credit cards between the two of you is natural. Yet when you’re travelling by yourself, splitting the cash and credit cards becomes a necessity in case your wallet suddenly disappears. It’s highly recommendable that you carry the biggest bulk of your money in a belt under your clothes and only stash a day’s amount of cash in your wallet.

On top of that, consider storing some emergency money in a hard-to-get-to place on your body, like a shoe, sock or bra.

Pack everything and remove half of it

Now take half of it away

Now take half of it away

Unless you’re a seasoned traveler, you’ll probably pack too much. It’s easy to think “Oh, I will definitely need this” for half of your wardrobe, but unless it has a truly important purpose, chances are that you will not use it.

A good packing tip is to pack everything you think you need, lay it all neatly on your bed, and remove half of it or everything you’re not so hot about. Every single item you pack should have an important function, otherwise, there is no need to carry it around.

Pack a microfiber towel

This is a great and cheap investment for your travels and will work for almost every occasion. The microfiber towel takes up less space and dries quicker. It’s also easier to fold and roll than regular cotton towels. You can bring this to the beach, use for showering or just about anything that includes water or getting wet.

It’s especially golden if you’re backpacking or staying at cheaper hostels, where it’s not uncommon to pay a small fee for towels if they have any at all.

Get a good toiletry bag and high-quality toiletries

Quality and high functionality are key when it comes to your toiletries. Having a functional toilet bag (think lots of pockets) will help you stay organised, and will also save space in your checked-in luggage. Some toilet bags even fit a small mirror and can be folded.

If you’re going on longer trips, and already know that you’ll have a checked-in bag, make sure to get big bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. Even better if you can buy a good 3-in-1 product. By bringing these products along, you will save money and be sure to use a product that you like. Sure, most hotels and hostels offer these too, but often the quality is low and they’re neither good for you or the environment.

In case of emergency

First aid kits come in handy for every type of travel

First aid kits come in handy on every type of travel

Nobody likes to plan for accidents or worst-case scenarios, but when travelling solo it’s a good practice to think about what could go wrong. Especially in places where you can’t count on anyone else being around. Do a pharmacy run and get some painkillers, large patch bandages, eye drops, multi-vitamins and whatever else you usually have at home on a regular basis. If worse comes to worst, you’ll be prepared.

Additionally, make sure you have a card containing your emergency contact info in your wallet. If you lose your phone or laptop, you’ll still be able to get hold of your family or friends.

For added safety on your travels, consider carrying a whistle or personal alarm that will help draw attention in case of emergency.

Bring a power bank

Don't sweat over battery life!

Don’t sweat over battery life!

When travelling solo and off the beaten path, the worst that can happen is low battery. Of course, it’s fun to get lost every now and then, but if you’re on a schedule and need to find your way back or you just want to keep your loved ones updated on your whereabouts, battery life is crucial.

Make sure to pack a power bank, so you always have a spare battery to charge your phone.

Use a luggage scale

Last but not least, make sure to take a luggage scale with you. They’re inexpensive and effective as you never have to worry about having to pay overweight fees for hand luggage or checked-in luggage. Some airlines have serious excess fees, so coming prepared to the airport will end up saving you some dough.

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