My grandma used to say, “Carry everything with you, so that when you arrive, your things arrive too.” And after I touched down in Ecuador’s Quito airport for a solo trip a couple of years ago and realized that my checked baggage hadn’t, her words rang louder than ever.
When traveling alone, packing light isn’t as important as packing smart. Since travel inconveniences amplify when you’re on your own, you want to prepare for any scenario that will set you back on your journey.
First and foremost, the items at the top of the priority list should provide comfort and convenience—and ideally serve more than one purpose. So leave behind the strappy heels you’ll only wear once (no matter how cute they’ll look in your photos), and make sure you’re choosing things efficiently. In the same way the KonMari decluttering method asks you to take every item into your hand and ask if it brings you joy, hold every item and ask yourself: Is this item a necessity on my trip? If it passes the test, set it in the suitcase.
The next tier of the test? Make sure you can singlehandedly manage your luggage for a distance. Without anyone to split the baggage-toting time with, challenge yourself to see if you can walk down the block and back without a struggle. The key here is being able to keep your hands free, so you can focus on what’s ahead and not what’s weighing you down.
Related: A T+L Editor’s Carry-On Must Haves
For me, the secret combo has been an ultra-light, rolling hard carry-on suitcase and a backpack, since it passes the international carry-on allowance and I don’t have to check anything (thanks, Grandma!). Here are 23 items that have helped me trot the globe with as little baggage—figuratively and literally—as possible. And for more solo travel advice, here are my hacks for traveling alone, tips for how to meet people, and the best places to go.