The Ultimate Solo Travel Packing List — and Essential Tips

From Birdie's Safety Alarm to Herschel's Packable Backpack, here's what you need for the best solo travel.

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Ultimate Solo Travel Packing List

Uniqlo / Marshall / Amazon / Target

One of the most delightful—and daunting—aspects of solo travel is that you’re in charge of everything. Much like how you get to choose wherever and whenever you eat and sleep or can opt to relax rather than rush to sightsee each day, you also determine what objects are worthy of making the journey with you. 

Packing for such a trip embodies the ethos of solo travel itself: While it’s nice to leave a little wiggle room (be it in your itinerary or for souvenirs), it also pays to be prepared. Ensuring you have everything you need to set the baseline for a safe and enjoyable trip ultimately allows you more flexibility in your day-to-day decisions. Plus, when traveling alone, there’s no one else to blame (or borrow from) if you forget your universal charger or toothpaste at home. 

We’ve rounded up T+L editor-approved, tried-and-true packing essentials for safer, more comfortable, and convenient solo trips. Use this guide when you’re gearing up for your next getaway—and don’t forget your general essentials as well, such as your passport and any necessary visas or vaccination cards. 

Best Personal Safety Alarm: She’s Birdie Safety Alarm

She's Birdie Personal Safety Alarm

Nordstrom

Personal safety alarms are invaluable protection for solo travelers and offer peace of mind while out walking alone, especially at night. “Personal alarms are great for added peace of mind and this is the most subtle and stylish, one I’ve ever seen,” says T+L senior commerce editor Morgan Ashley Parker. “I’ve held it in my hand while walking on a semi-busy street after dark, but I’ll keep it clipped onto a belt bag or backpack in certain destinations (so I can easily yank the alarm part off as needed). Note: I did this while unpacking once and, let’s just say, I won’t forget the sound—and flashing strobe light—anytime soon.”

Price at time of publish: $30

Best Hotspot Router: GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot

Amazon

As much as we all would love to “go off the grid” a bit more, it’s less relaxing than it sounds—and sometimes outright dangerous —when you find yourself somewhere with limited WiFi and no way to contact friends or family. “If I'm traveling overseas and don't have access to my phone plan, a mobile hotspot is essential for staying on the grid while flying solo,” says T+L commerce writer Anna Popp, who loves Glocal Me’s G4 Pro LTE Mobile Hotspot Router. “It gives me so much peace of mind knowing I have access to the internet 24/7 in case there isn't WiFi readily available.” Mobile hotspots are also great for digital nomads who may find themselves working from remote areas with limited internet access. 

Price at time of publish: $170 

Best Lightweight Layer: Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket

Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket

Uniqlo

This has been my go-to layer for years. If I’m not wearing it, I always keep it in my personal item in case I get cold on flights; it also bunches up into a makeshift pillow (or even an eye mask in a pinch). A lightweight layer is essential for climates where the temperature may shift drastically within just a few hours. This one rolls up into a fairly compact case so it doesn’t sacrifice much space in my suitcase. 

Price at time of publish: $80

Best Skin Refresher: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra-fine Mist

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist

Sephora

Without a friend to remind you to drink water on a long flight, you’ll likely be in need of a quick hydration hack when you get wherever you’re going. Here’s a shortcut to radiant skin that doesn’t look like it was just smushed against the window for 12 hours: Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow facial mist. Maria Yagoda, the travel-focused senior editor at Food + Wine, swears by it as a pick-me-up when on the go. “My skin gets super dehydrated on the plane, and this is so soothing to spritz on my face during a long travel day (it is also the perfect size to pack in my carry-on.) It smells amazing and is just so refreshing,” she says.

Price at time of publish: $29

Best Money Belt: EAGLE CREEK Money Belt

Money Belt

Amazon

“I use money belts while traveling to avoid getting my credit cards or cash stolen,” says Popp, who recommends Eagle Creek’s Silk Undercover Money Belt. This satin-lined accessory is sweat-resistant and features two handy zippered pockets to keep your passport, cash, and credit cards organized and secured. “I usually carry a regular purse, too, but having a hidden money belt is helpful for keeping track of money or other small valuables,” notes Popp. 

Price at time of publish: $31

Best Earbuds: Marshall Motif A.N.C. Wireless Headphones

Marshall Motif A.N.C. Wireless Headphones

Marshall

Ultra-comfortable and boasting 20 hours of playtime on a single charge, Marshall’s Motif A.N.C. earbuds are my go-to for making long plane or train rides more manageable. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with how personalizable their active noise-canceling capabilities are, which makes it easy to tune out crying babies or to adjust the transparency level when I need to hear any important announcements (or just pay closer attention to my surroundings). 

Popp points out that earbuds can also come in handy as a signal that you’re not looking for company, explaining, “Sometimes (most of the time) I just wear them so I don't get bothered when I'm on the train alone.” 

Price at time of publish: $219 

Best Cable Lock: Lewis N. Clark Retractable Cable Lock

Lewis N Clark Cable Lock

Amazon

“Leaving luggage unattended in public is definitely a no-no (as is hanging a purse on the back of your chair), but it’s not always possible to keep a bag in your lap or on your body, especially if it’s larger,” explains Parker. “Setting a bag on a chair or having it next to you on the ground could put you at risk for a snatch-and-run, so a long cable lock like this can just add some peace of mind. While it could surely be cut with heavy-duty shears, it will at least reduce the likelihood that you’ll be an easy target in public.”

Price at time of publish: $11

Best Packable Backpack: Herschel Packable Daypack

Herschel Packable Daypack

Herschel

Whether you’re backpacking or carry-on-ing, it’s always a good idea to bring a small, packable bag that you can use for day trips or hikes—and Herschel’s version, made of rugged ripstop material, folds up into next to nothing. “A packable backpack can be a godsend for storing items like a water bottle, extra sweater, phone chargers, etc. while I'm on the go,” says Popp. “I love that this backpack folds up into a built-in small pouch to make storing it even easier when it's not needed.” 

Price at time of publish: $49

Best Headlamp: Energizer LED Headlamp Flashlight

Energizer LED Headlamp Flashlight

Amazon

While this may sound unnecessary when you’ve got a phone flashlight, you’ll never regret having a battery-operated headlamp in case of emergency, particularly when traveling alone. “Not only did I use it to navigate my way to the restroom in the Sahara, but when I was in Cuba, there was a blackout while I was packing, so I simply strapped it on my head and continued without missing a beat,” writes T+L contributor Rachel Chang. It’s always better to be prepared! We love this model because it’s super lightweight and budget-friendly. 

Price at time of publish: $9

Best Portable Door Lock: Addalock The Original Portable Door Lock

Addalock The Original Portable Door Lock

Amazon

“I've watched one too many true crime documentaries, which means I always bring this handy door lock for hotels, AirBnbs, or hostels,” says Popp, who relies on Addalock’s model to double down on safety when traveling solo. “It's so tiny that I can toss it in any of my bags and I swear I sleep better knowing the door has another layer of security.” We love that this lock is easy to install and doesn’t require any tools to set up. 

Price at time of publish: $18

Best Travel-size Toiletries Containers: Cadence Capsules

Cadence Capsules

Cadence

Swap single-use plastic toiletries for Cadence Capsules, the editor-loved (and TSA-approved), leak-proof, and customizable containers made from recycled ocean plastic that you can fill with anything from cleanser to conditioner to your weekly vitamins. When traveling solo, it’s comforting (and in the case of medication, crucial) to have your go-to products all within easy reach. These magnetic capsules snap together to form a honeycomb, which makes them easy to keep track of in your toiletry bag (not to mention, chic).

Price at time of publish: $14

Best Eye Mask: Lunya Washable Silk Sleep Mask

4.6
Lunya Washable Silk Sleep Mask

Revolve

“This has got to be one of my all-time favorite gifts I've ever received,” says Yagoda, who praises the cozy factor of Lunya’s sleep mask. “Most sleep masks sort of tug on my scalp and don't feel super comfortable, but this one is so soft and silky and helps me sleep on flights,” she explains. Sleep masks in general are a must-have for solo travelers—they’re great for flights when aisle-mates don’t want to close the window shade and can be game-changing in hotels without blackout curtains. We love that this one is noise reducing and washable.

Price at time of publish: $48

Best Tripod: Joby Podzilla Tripod Large Kit

Joby Podzilla Tripod Large Kit

Amazon

Traveling solo means documenting your trip is all up to you, and a reliable tripod makes capturing special moments that much easier, whether you’re on a solid surface or not. Joby’s top-rated flexible tripod is made from a strong aluminum core that’s coated in grippy rubber, so it can wrap around just about anything, from a tree branch to a curtain rod if that’s what it takes to get the shot. 

Price at time of publish: $35

Best Travel Journal: Moleskine Lined Professional Journal

Moleskine Lined Professional Journal

Target

A travel journal might just be the most important item on this list. When flying solo, there’s no one else to recap the trip with at the end—you’re the sole keeper of those experiences. “I always bring (at least) one Moleskine for note-taking during my trip!” says Yagoda, who explains that journaling helps her remember her trip more clearly. Writing things down as you go is a way to preserve them as they happen and serves as a point of reflection during trips when you’re often on the move and meeting all sorts of new people each day. Moreover, journals come in handy as a way to entertain yourself during solo dinners. While there are plenty of patterned or monogrammed options out there, a simple Moleskine is a sleek and sophisticated classic. 

Price at time of publish: $23

Best In-flight Entertainment : Nintendo Switch Lite

4
Nintendo Switch Lite

Walmart

It always pays to have some fail-safe entertainment at your fingertips for unexpected delays or long travel days. “My Nintendo Switch is a solo travel essential!” says Yagoda, whose go-to game is Kirby. “Kirby can keep me occupied for every single minute of any layover, delay, or inconvenience on my trip,” she says. The lite model is designed for handheld play, easy to toss into a carry-on, and is compatible with over 5,000 games. 

Price at time of publish: $200

Best Water Bottle: Nomader Collapsible Water Bottle

4.3
Nomader Collapsible Water Bottle

Amazon

When traveling solo, you may be packing lighter than usual, so Nomader’s Collapsible Water Bottle is a space-saving hack that will still allow you to fill up at a water fountain after going through airport security. It’s insulated as well, so you can skip the nasty plane coffee and enjoy your piping hot Starbucks brew instead. In many European restaurants, they also charge for  water—toting around your own water bottle to stay hydrated is an eco-and-budget-friendly must. 

Price at time of publish: $35

Best Portable Charger: Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 Portable Charger

Portable Charger

Amazon

We’ve all run down our battery while taking too many photos or attempting to connect to poor WiFi while traveling. Portable chargers take the anxiety out of desperately trying to find a café to charge your phone when it’s at one percent and you don’t know your way around. Anker’s lightweight model weighs 7.5 ounces and can deliver two and a quarter charges to a standard iPhone 12. 

Price at time of publish: $22

Best Zipper-helper: ShareMoon Zipper Pulls

ShareMoon Zipper Pulls

Amazon

Your wardrobe is one thing that definitely should not be limited by traveling alone. “You don’t want to corner a stranger in the elevator or walk down to the front desk partially clothed, so something like this is incredibly convenient when traveling solo,” says Parker. “While there are many styles to buy, I’d recommend one with a spring clip versus a hook or lobster clasp as this style can work with the widest range of zippers.”

Price at time of publish: $10

Tips for Solo Travel

Share your itinerary (or location) with someone before you go

Most of my close friends and I share our location using “Find My Friends,” an iPhone app that shares where we are in real time (which can be very comforting while traveling solo). If you’re not keen to share that level of detail, consider at least sharing an itinerary and any general travel confirmations (i.e. flight numbers and hotel addresses) with someone you trust. 

You can also add friends to ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft so that they’re notified whenever you book a ride and reach your destination. (The auto-texts generated by the app have unexpectedly been a great prompt for staying in touch with friends while traveling, leading us to check-in about where we’ve been that weekend or dish on late-night rides home from evenings out.)  

Skip the selfie stick

Paris-based T+L contributor Sara Lieberman, who has traveled to over fifteen countries on her own, suggests skipping selfies and instead asking someone to take your photo, which is often an easy and no-pressure conversation starter. “Asking someone to take a photo of you will not only (hopefully) result in a better shot—feel free to direct them and set it up to your liking—but perhaps a conversation or even a shared experience. Maybe they'd be interested in joining you on a local tour that required a two-person minimum.” 

Go guilt-free

When traveling with someone else, you typically need to make some compromises to ensure you both get what you want out of the trip, perhaps waking up earlier than you’d like, or sightseeing longer than you’d want. The beauty of traveling alone is you get to call the shots, and leave the guilt of not feeling always-aligned with someone else behind. 

“Solo travel has always been my preferred way of seeing the world. I love the feeling of exploring a new place entirely on my own, which leaves me more open to unexpected discoveries and connecting with strangers,” says Yagoda. “Also, I can't lie, I love to do exactly what I want, when I want it—without worrying about a travel partner who may have a different vision in mind. I'm someone who needs a lot of rest and relaxation while traveling, so when I'm alone I don't have to feel guilty about skipping an afternoon of sightseeing if I don't feel up to it.”

Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers

It may go against what we’re taught as kids, but it’s crucial to trust your gut and chat up friendly-looking folks as you go about your travels. I recently climbed up 500 very steep steps to catch a sunset in Vietnam and found myself laughing with the other out-of-breath people at the top, lamenting the climb, which segued naturally into chatting about our respective trips.  

Lieberman puts it this way: “You know that NYC subway phrase about suspicious packages? ‘If you see something, say something’: Well, use it to meet people. But, like, with your general observations,” she suggests, noting that simple comments like, "’Amazing sunset. Do you know another good spot around here?’” can be natural openers for great conversations (and hopefully great travel tips!).

Don’t rely (only) on Google 

Another way to initiate conversations with locals or fellow travelers—and hopefully to enrich your trip in the process—is to ask them for advice. “If you don't know, ask!” Lieberman says. “We travel to learn, and when we're alone we often rely on Google or Wikipedia to educate ourselves rather than, say, another traveler who seems adept at buying metro tickets or a local who knows the right pronunciation for ‘addition’ (the bill) in French.”

Always read reviews before booking accommodations 

This applies to all travel but is particularly salient as a solo traveler: Do your homework before booking a place to stay. The worst thing when you’re weary after a long day of travel is showing up to a place that makes you feel anything less than comfortable. 

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Is traveling alone a good idea?

    Traveling alone can be one of the most incredible ways to connect more deeply with yourself and with the people and places you encounter along your journey. It’s a physical and emotional juxtaposition from your comfort zone, taking you to new places where there’s a good chance you don’t speak the language or know anyone (yet!). And that’s where the good stuff starts: Traveling alone forces you to chat up people you might never otherwise engage with if you had a friend or partner there to keep you company. Often, you may find yourself opening up about parts of your life that you haven’t even explored with your loved ones back home; there’s something about being removed from the familiar (and from the pressure of living up to what those closest to you might expect from you) that allows you to shed certain parts of yourself and try new ones on for size.


    While there are ample upsides to solo travel, there’s also an inherent risk in navigating a foreign (or even not-so-foreign) place by yourself. To mitigate that risk, it’s crucial to take proper precautions like some of the solo travel tips outlined above, whether that’s sharing your location with a friend or doing your due diligence when picking a place to stay. Carrying some of the products recommended here as well, like a personal safety alarm and a portable lock for the door in your accommodations, can offer peace of mind and an added layer of security as well. 


    For more inspiration and comfort, check out solo-travel-focused groups on Facebook. Many are dedicated specifically to female solo travel, while others may be destination-specific and offer insights into things to be aware of or visa logistics. You’re likely to find a ton of helpful tips and maybe even a travel buddy to link up with somewhere!

  • How long should a solo trip be?

    The beauty (and at times, most daunting aspect) of a solo trip is that you’re calling all the shots—including how long you’d like to travel for. Of course, there are the typical constraints, like a job that requires you to be on-site, or a family to consider. Budget is a determining factor as well, although there are ample ways to stretch your budget if you’re eager to keep traveling. Otherwise, it’s all up to you. If you’re new to solo travel, start with a shorter trip—maybe a long weekend or a five-day jaunt somewhere—to let yourself find your own rhythm without the pressure of weeks “alone” stretching ahead of you (as most solo travelers know, you’re rarely alone for long—you’re bound to meet friendly new faces along the way!).

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Sophie Dodd is a full-time freelance writer for T+L and other reputable publications. She spends her time working on vineyards, road-tripping through the Pacific Northwest, and seeking out the greatest outdoor showers of all time—all in the name of investigative journalism. She focuses on personal essays, branded content, feature writing, and just about anything that involves Paris. She spoke with other globetrotting writers and editors to curate this list of the best products and tips for solo travel.

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