The Most Essential Items for Your Solo Travel Packing List
I’ve traveled solo to nearly 70 countries and here’s what I’d never go without.
When I was nine years old I attempted my first solo trip. But like other youngsters who run away from perfectly fine homes, my sojourn was short-lived. Afraid of the dark, I was back before my family could even miss me. Twenty-five years later, I’m proud to say I’ve traveled solo to nearly 70 countries—and while it isn’t always easy, it’s definitely rewarding.
Of course, the secret to a successful solo trip, whether you’re visiting a national park or a major metropolis, is knowing what to pack. When traveling with friends, you always have a built-in Plan B. But when you’re flying solo, borrowing stuff isn’t an option. You also need to pay more attention to personal safety.
While all I packed on my first solo trip were my favorite Beanie Babies, I’ve since mastered the art of packing everything I need to stay comfortable on the road. From a blanket that keeps me warm when I don’t have a cuddle buddy, to a compact tripod that means I’m not limited to classic selfies, here are eight products I think every solo traveler needs.
When you’re traveling solo, you don’t necessarily have a partner to cuddle up with when you’re cold. That’s okay, because a blanket will do the trick. I love this blanket because it’s lightweight (thanks to the synthetic insulation), quick-drying, and stain resistant. Slightly larger than a bath towel, it packs down in its stuff sack and even fits in my backpack’s water bottle holder. Plus it has a clip, so I can wear it as a cape when I’m camping.
When I’m stuck in a middle seat without a companion’s shoulder to lean on, I rely on this travel pillow. Unlike cheaper, flimsier alternatives, this model is made of dual-density memory foam that holds its shape. I also appreciate the removable machine-washable cover, the headrest straps that keep it from sliding to one side, and the pocket for stashing my ear plugs.
When I travel with a companion, we only need one working phone (or power bank) between us. But when I’m alone, it’s up to me to keep my gadgets juiced up. I recently went on a solo surfing trip to the Philippines, where this best-selling portable charger quickly became my BFF. I used it to recharge my new GoPro Hero 12 while cruising around in the traditional fishing boats that took us out to the breaks. I also relied on it when I was scootering on the island and needed to keep my phone alive.
I love this carry-on for solo trips because it comes in an international size. This means that it’s smaller than most carry-ons by one to two inches, which makes a big difference in weight—crucial, because I hate it when I can’t get my bag in the overhead bin without having to ask a stranger for help. This model also has a brake system that keeps it from rolling away, which is handy on trains. I also like the combination lock, and since it’s so compact, it’s easy to fit in the toilet stall with me.
One of the things I miss while traveling alone, especially abroad, is conversation. Earbuds are the next best thing. I listen to Duolingo (so I can learn the language of my host country), podcasts (comedians who make me laugh), and audiobooks. I also think having earbuds in helps keep unwanted attention at bay. That said, for safety reasons, I don’t wear them in situations where I need to be alert. I also recognize it’s easier to meet people when you’re fully present.
A police officer once told me that making noise is often more effective than carrying pepper spray or a weapon. That’s one of the reasons I purchased this alarm. I can pack it in my carry-on, and it’s so loud you can hear it from 1,300 feet—four football fields—away.
Forget sharing food: The best part about traveling with friends, in my opinion, is borrowing their clothes. When I’m traveling alone, I like to pack versatile pieces so I get multiple looks for the price (and luggage real estate) of one. While it’s not cheap, Lululemon has a great selection, and their stuff lasts forever. I love their reversible bucket hat and this Power Pivot Everlux Tank Top that can be worn backwards when you want a different neckline. I also love the Men’s Switch Over Bomber Jacket which can be worn inside out for a completely different quilted look.
After a decade of relying on a flimsy selfie stick or propping my phone up on water bottles and running to get the photo before it tipped over, I finally broke down and invested in this tripod. It deserves photo credit for most of my Instagram content. The legs are bendy, so you can attach it to almost anything, and the rotating head lets you choose your angle. Plus, it’s durable; it’s traveled with me to all seven continents and it still looks like new.