by Karen Tee and Rebecca P.
How to travel light without leaving the essentials behind.
Going solo can be one of the most liberating experiences a person can have. From controlling your itinerary to not having to deal with petty squabbles and disagreements with your travel partners, it’s wonderful to have all that holiday time to yourself. But as a solo female traveller, you’ll definitely want to cut down on the amount of luggage you carry, because it’s never fun dragging around all that stuff on your own. Here’s how you can pack smart without compromising on life’s material comforts.
1. Invest in the Right Suitcase
I’ve found it less of a hassle to travel with a four-wheeled suitcase as it can be easily rolled around. Plus it’s simpler to organise my stuff. Popular brands such as Rimowa and Tumi have lightweight four-wheeled suitcases that are as sturdy as they are roomy, so you have space for extras you pick up along the way.
If you’re backpacking, many of the quality travel brands like Osprey and North Face make travel backpacks for women. These are more suitable for a woman’s frame and come in a range of designs from neutral colours to prettier designs.
2. Choose a Smart Carry-on
A backpack makes a smart choice for carry-on luggage as you can keep your hands free when you travel. Not to be confined to backpacking trips, there are many stylish carryalls on the market. Look for one with a top handle so you can also carry it around like a tote. You can’t go wrong with an ergonomic Samsonite backpack, while fashionistas will love the cheery, brightly coloured offerings by Cath Kidston that are sure to stand out from the crowd.
3. Compartmentalise Your Stuff
Separate categories of items, such as electronic gear, toiletries, makeup and underwear, into different pouches and lightweight bags so you won’t have to empty out your suitcase each time you need to grab something. You can get packing cubes from most travel shops such as Flight001 Asia or The Planet Traveller or online at Lazada.
Daiso also sells vacuum bags to compress bulky items and plastic zip-lock bags in a variety of sizes at just SG$2 each!
4. Keep Delicate Clothing Wrinkle-free
Keep silk, linen and other easily crumpled fabrics folded into separate soft cloth bags (laundry bags provided by hotels or cloth bags that come with shoes when you purchase them do nicely) and packed on top of everything else to minimise wrinkling.
5. Leave the Hair Dryer Behind
These days, almost all hotels have a hair dryer in the rooms, so don’t waste luggage space with this extra piece of equipment. Similarly, leave the curling tongs or straightening iron at home – after all, you’re on vacation so embrace a look that’s au naturel. You can also try spritzing on some dry shampoo to keep your locks grease-free in between washes.
6. Stick to a Colour Scheme
I’ve discovered over time that if I pack according to a colour scheme, it becomes that much easier to mix and match when I’m at my destination. Pick clothing in mostly classic hues of white, tan, grey, navy blue and black, then add a few separates in bright colours or prints for the ultimate travel-capsule wardrobe.
Pack only versatile pieces and leave room for a bit of shopping.
7. Accessorise, Accessorise, Accessorise
Unless you are planning to partake in vigorous sporting activities (be sure to get your sweaty gear properly laundered), most clothes can be re-worn at least once before being handwashed and dried overnight. Change up your look by adding accessories, such as a colourful scarf, some chunky costume jewellery or a bright lipstick, and you will be surprised at how effortlessly different you look with these subtle changes.
8. Swaddle Yourself with a Scarf
A scarf can be one of the hardest-working items in your travel-capsule wardrobe. Use it as a wrap on the plane or in chilly climates, to dress up a neutral outfit, as a sarong when you hit the beach or as a cover-up – particularly useful when travelling around Asia and visiting temples or places of worship that require you to dress conservatively.
9. Leave the Heels at Home
Unless you are travelling for a specific event that calls for a dress code, there is really no need to bring high heels, even if you are going on a city vacation. After all, ballet flats or loafers from brands such as Aldo, Repetto or Tory Burch add a touch of modern chic to your look, will allow you to club-hop without hurting your feet and can be worn during the day as well. How’s that for multitasking footwear?
10. Pack an Emergency Kit
Assemble a small kit containing “lifesavers” such as hand sanitiser, aspirin, anti-diarrhoea and allergy medicine, rehydration salts, safety pins, mini sewing kit and tampons – you’ll never know when these could come in handy. What I do is leave this kit untouched in between travels, simply replenishing what has been used or expired, so I don’t have to repack everything each time I need to jet off.
11. Streamline Your Beauty Products
Unless you have sensitive skin or need a special formulation for your hair, use the body wash, shampoo and conditioner provided by the hotel instead. As for makeup, less is more. Foundation, concealer, mascara, eyeliner, and eyeshadow in a neutral shade and two or three lipsticks for different looks are pretty much all you’ll need when you’re on the road.
12. Be a Sample Hoarder
When shopping for your favourite beauty products, don’t hesitate to hoard samples and mini bottles as they usually last a couple of days, which makes them perfect for travel. Most popular brands such as Kiehl’s, Clarins or Shiseido, all available at Tangs, will offer one or two samples if you ask. They will also save you on bottle bulk!
Alternatively, if you must, transfer your essentials into mini containers that are sold at travel stores, pharmacies or Muji.
Better yet, GoToob and GoTubb are hot favourites with frequent travellers. Made of silicone, they are drip-free squeezey tubes that fit in small spaces. For a prettier version, Sephora has a similar Wanderlust Travel Set (though we’re not sure it’s available in Singapore). Sephora in general is a great place to find travel-sized beauty favourites and other travel-friendly containers.
13. Stay Fresh on the Road
Keep lip balm and panty liners in your hand luggage and with you at all times to stay fresh during transit or throughout the day when you travel. In hot countries, a hand fan and water spritzer can come in very handy. Fill your own spray bottle or get Eau Thermale spring water from beauty brands like Avene or La Roche-Posay.
A set of earplugs will also block out any unwanted sound if you are desperate for some shut-eye. Noise-blocking headphones are an alternative.
14. Laundry Tricks
If you’re backpacking on a budget, or travelling for a longer period, you might need to do a bit of laundry but the price of hotel laundry services can be pretty costly. Pack a few clothes pegs and a fishing line for a makeshift laundry line that you can stretch out – between trees, between bunk beds, across the bathroom. Hand wash in a sink, squeeze dry so it doesn’t drip, and hang out to air dry. A sink stopper or a squash ball helps to plug the sink for hand-washing in any sink.
If you aren’t staying in accommodation that provides toiletries, bring a little bottle of liquid detergent. It will go a long way. If you’re camping, cut a towel and sew it into a little pocket for a small bar of soap and use that for washing and scrubbing.
15. Packing Your Jewellery and Makeup
To keep your jewellery from tangling, use a pillbox to keep your earrings and necklaces separate and tidy. Another cheap trick is to run your necklace through a straw so they stay streched out and tangle-free.
Jewellery pouches and cases designed specifically for travellers are a little more expensive but useful and stylish for women who travel often. You can find the latest designs of travel bags online, at Sephora or Zalora.
16. Stretch or Slumber
Packing a yoga mat gives you something to bring outside for some healthy exercise as you travel. It can also double as a sleeping mat if you need to catch some shut-eye between flights, or any other sleep situations that require ‘roughing it’. It can take up a bit of room though so think about whether it’s really necessary for your trip. A sleeping bag is a more universal option.
17. Travel Towels
Micro-fibre towels are light and dry quickly. They don’t feel the best, but you’ll be thankful for the space it saves you instead of lugging a bulky heavy towel around. Again, only handy if you’re not staying in hotels.
18. Spillage Free
Put some gladwrap cellophane over the lip of your bottles and screw the caps on over it. This prevents accidental spillage in your bag.
Waterproof, foldable bags are also great for keeping all liquid toiletries together to limit spillage. They can also be used to keep dirty laundry apart. Ziplock bags are an alternative.
19. Tidy Cables
All those chargers for your smartphones and cameras can get messy. Velcro cable ties are great for keeping things tidy. Plastic one-time-use cable ties come in different sizes and can come in handy to secure something that falls apart on the road.
A more stylish option is to buy travel electronics organizer grids. Some brands would be Eagle Creek, Cocoon, Ready2Go tech organizer.credit: www.cocooninnovations.com
20. Keep Bras in Shape
I prefer to stack my bras, fold them loosely in half, tuck the straps in and stuff my rolled-up undies or socks in the space between the cups. More undies and socks can fit in the gaps around the bra.
For those precious bras, you can get a firm bra case to keep them in shape – although frankly I find them far too bulky.
21. Clean Soles
Use a shoe bag or a showercap to keep your shoes from transferring dirt from the soles to your clothes.
22. Avoid Exceeding Weight Limits
If you’re prone to falling under the shopping spell, packing a digital weighing scale can help you keep track of your bag’s weight while you’re still in your hotel room, rather than getting a shock at the airport and having to pay a hefty fee for exceeding the baggage weight allowance. A quick check and you’ll know you absolutely should not buy anything else, no matter how much you fall in love with window displays in the remaining days of your trip.
23. Retractable Cable Lock
For peace of mind and security, you can use these to lock your bag to your dorm-room bed or luggage rack in a train.
24. Portable Power Strips
When you have a bunch of electronics to charge, or urgently need to charge your phone, but all the sockets in the airport or hostel are in use, a portable power strip can be a lifesaver.
Look for travel-friendly strips rather than bulky household ones. Monster 4, Tripplite and Belkin are some popular brands. Pair that with travel adapters that have plenty of USB charging ports, and you’ll never have to worry about this.
25. Prevent Makeup from Breaking
Lay cotton wool over your compact powder and similar products to prevent breakage as you move around.
26. Smooth Legs and No Cuts
One good shaver serves you better than a bunch of disposable razors that take up more space. To keep yourself from getting cuts as you rummage through your travel kit, re-use the sealable travel bags that comes with toothbrush travel kits.
27. Considerations for Asia: Weather
Many of our favourite holiday destinations are within Asia. Keep in mind the effects of rain and humidity. A foldable umbrella, slip-resistant footwear (cheap flip flops can be a disaster in the rain!), sunscreen, a hand fan and anti-frizz hair serum are some things you should consider.
If you’re very susceptible to insect bites, carry some repellant, cream or tea tree to apply after.
28. Considerations for Asia: Modest Dressing
Remember to include a pair of full-length pants, even if they are light hippie pants, because there’ll be places where shorts are not appropriate. Particularly in Asia’s many beautiful religious sites. Alternatively, a scarf could do the trick when visiting mosques and temples.
29. Babywipes and Tissues
The life of travel is messy.
30. Dry Run Packing
Unless you’re a pro at packing light, giving yourself time to pack and repack is a really good idea. You’ll figure out how to better optimize space, and give yourself a chance to dump things you don’t actually need. Especially if you’re going to handle all your bags yourself, test the weight and see if it’s truly manageable. Consider if you’re travelling to places where there are cobblestones or lots of stairs that mean you have to handle the full weight of your bag. In those cases, it’s definitely better to go with just the essentials.
Image Credits: Getty Images