Whether you’re headed on a solo trip, a beach vacation with your girlfriends, or a romantic getaway, proper packing is essential for a stress-free travel experience.
That’s where a good travel packing list comes in handy. As a frequent traveler, these are my top travel essentials for women that should be on every lady’s packing list.
From quality luggage and comfortable yet stylish travel shoes to simple but often-overlooked personal products – you’ll thank me for them later. There are even some personal travel safety accessories to keep you and your stuff safe.
Some travel items are an excellent investment, and others are simple must-haves for easy traveling, no matter the situation.
Luggage and Packing Essentials for Women
One of the most important travel essentials for women is quality luggage. And it’s not just about looking good. It’s about making your life easier when you travel.
Wonky wheels, insufficient compartments, no compression straps, poor-quality handles, and broken zips are just some of the luggage shortfalls that can put a strain on your trip. Even if you are only traveling to one destination and staying put, quality luggage can make a world of difference to the ease of your trip.
I must admit, I’m a bit of a luggage hoarder. I have luggage for all travel occasions. I’ve struggled with too many annoying travel situations because of the wrong kind of luggage to compromise anymore.
Quality luggage and the right type of bags are essential, especially for women.
I prefer my soft-sided Samsonite rolling duffel for river cruises where you want to stash your bag under the bed after unpacking. Hard suitcases don’t always fit. (You can see my river cruise packing list tips here).
Or trips where you might have to squeeze your bag into all kinds of luggage compartments – Like a train trip. My soft-sided duffel was great when we traveled through Switzerland on the Golden Pass Train after a Christmas river cruise.
Whatever brand of luggage you prefer, I highly recommend investing in a quality set, so you have numerous bags to suit your travel situation.
Underseat Carry on Bag
An underseat carry bag is a fantastic investment. I rounded up the best wheeled underseat bags here that meet most airline requirements.
I love the Travelpro Maxlite 5 Underseat Carry-on Bag (shown above and below). I have done many trips around Europe with this bag and had no problems fitting it under the seats of multiple low-cost airlines.
I’ve been able to pack for 4-5 day trips with just this bag and a crossbody handbag. I even managed a 5-day trip to Naples in winter with just this combination.
A good underseat bag is also a sensible second bag to your check-in luggage. You can pack enough clothes and toiletries to tide you over for a few days in case your luggage goes missing. They also luggage stack well for easy handling when in transit.
While an underseat bag is a great way to manage lost luggage issues, a luggage tracker is a terrific way to keep track of your luggage.
We looked at the best luggage trackers and smart tags here. We discuss the different types of trackers and their features to help you choose a tracker or smart tag that is right for you.
Compression Packing Cubes
I must admit, I wasn’t a fan of packing cubes for many years. I thought there was no point in adding extra weight to your bag. I felt like it was putting bags inside bags. How times have changed.
Packing cubes are amazing, and compression packing cubes are an absolute travel essential for women (and men). I love them so much now, possibly because my travel style has changed since we stopped traveling full time.
As a frequent traveler, I love carefully folding and stacking freshly ironed clothes like silks, linens, or crisp cotton in a packing cube. You can zip them up super tight with compression cubes, and your clothes arrive with barely a wrinkle. (also great for men’s shirts).
I also like them for keeping all your socks and underwear in one place. Packing cubes are essential to my one-bag travel style for short trips and for keeping clothes from arriving in a mess in a larger bag.
My favorite packing cubes are my baggallini compression cubes (maybe because they match my Baggallini carry-on or because they come in many shapes and sizes).
Compression travel bags are a genius travel essential for winter if you’ve got bulky items like sweaters or jackets.
Simply pack and roll them, and they push all the air out, reducing bulky items to nothing. You can save loads of packing space which is fantastic when you have bulky winter shoes to pack.
Compression bags are also great for storing (and compressing) dirty laundry, keeping all the smells and dirt separate from your clean clothes.
Travel Jewelry Case or Wrap
If you like to travel with a change of jewelry, a travel jewelry case will ensure your necklaces don’t end up in a knot and you don’t risk losing an earring or ring from a pocket.
These lovely compact and super organized travel jewelry cases have you covered for a weekend away to a longer journey where you might want to take a few more pieces.
I never leave home without a foldable tote, and travel is no exception. A quality foldable tote is a must-have travel essential as it is so versatile.
You can use them for shopping, of course, but they are also great beach bags or as an additional carry-on if you find your bags tips the scales on the way home. They are also very handy laundry bags.
I like to make sure my travel foldable totes are extra strong and fold into a little pouch so they don’t take up too much room in my handbag.
This 6-pack of strong (holds up to 35 lbs) reusable foldable totes is perfect for travel. They fold up small, and you can slide one into each of your bags to have on hand.
If you don’t want to use a compression bag (which is my pick) or a foldable shopping tote for your dirty laundry, there are plenty of options for dedicated travel laundry bags.
Handbags, Backpacks, Sling Bags, and Purses
A good handbag is one of the hardest travel essentials for women to get right. Thankfully, when it comes to the best handbags and purses for travel, there are now so many options available for women.
I try to opt for an antitheft brand when looking at good travel handbags or backpacks for women. Or, at least, keep anti-theft in mind when selecting a handbag for travel.
I have extensively researched this area of travel accessories for women – I have a drawer full of antitheft and crossbody bags, backpacks, and sling bags – some I love. Others, not so much.
Buying Guides for Safe and Stylish Travel Bags for Women
At a bare minimum, I always recommend ladies travel with a crossbody bag for style, comfort, and safety – keeping your bag cross-body makes it harder to pickpocket or snatch. Things are less likely to fall out as well.
But even better, I recommend investing in a travel purse or backpack with antitheft features such as hidden pockets, locking zips, or even slash-proof fabric.
Travel Water Bottle
A lady needs to stay hydrated, especially when traveling. Nowadays, there is no reason not to travel with a reusable water bottle (do I need to go into all the environmental, health, convenience, and financial reasons?).
There are some fantastic travel water bottles on the market now, from collapsible bottles to self-cleaning and filtering bottles. We have a comprehensive guide to the best self-cleaning and filtering water bottle for travel to help you choose the right bottle for you.
Some of the most popular filtering water bottles for travel.
Some might describe me as a chronic water drinker (or, is that obsessive?). Either way, I never go anywhere without a bottle of water in hand. This is why I was so excited to receive a LARQ water bottle as a gift.
I am so in love with this water bottle, and it’s not just the stylish design. They are a bit on the pricey side, but I think they are a worthwhile investment.
I have the LARQ Bottle PureVis™ model. It is the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle and water purification system. It uses fancy light technology to eliminate up to 99% of bio-contaminants from your water and bottle. This means I can refill my bottle anywhere, and at the push of a button, I know the water and the bottle are clean. It also has a travel setting for intense cleaning mode.
Travel Clothing Essentials for Women
Lightweight Travel Jacket
Jackets for travel can be tricky, especially when faced with changeable weather. While we can use compression packing bags to reduce the bulk of packing additional jackets, having a great travel jacket (or two) is a godsend.
I’ve rounded up some of the best lightweight travel jackets for every season here, showcasing fantastic jackets that hit the mark for style and practicality.
If there is one piece of travel advice I would give any fellow female traveler (other than good luggage), invest in one, or better, two really good pairs of travel pants.
See my pick for some of the best travel pants for women for all travel styles here.
We’ve all been there. A long travel day wearing uncomfortable pants that dig into your crotch, pinch at your waist when you sit, ride up, or worse, constantly slip down at the back. And then, they end up not being as travel-versatile or wash and wear-friendly as you thought.
Thankfully, there are some fabulous travel pants for women that are comfortable, packable, practical, versatile, and stylish.
Pants that will take you comfortably on a long flight, won’t crush, are easy to wash, and can be dressed up or down.
Available in black and navy with plenty of travel features.
Available in various colors and styles from straight leg to boyfriend cut.
Much like a good pair of travel pants, the optimal travel dress should be comfortable, easy care for easy wear, and can be dressed up or down for any occasion.
While the classic little black dress springs to mind, there are plenty of great travel dresses to suit the season that will take you from day to night.
Travel dresses that look equally good with sneakers and sandals, a strappy heel, or a sensible wedge. Of course, they all come in black.
Available in 4 colors with adjustable tie waist. Tie it front or back.
Available in black, navy, and fuchsia with a perfect day-to-night cut.
(Use our exclusive Anatomie discount code GET15OFF for 15% off any order)
Available in 8 colors, this dress is made from 100% mulberry silk and is completely washable for low-maintenance luxe.
Comfortable Travel Shoes
Do yourself a favor and invest in some comfortable shoes for travel. You don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort to nail the right travel shoe.
If you’re like me, a stylish pair of sneakers will take you from day to night when traveling – see our guide to the best sneakers for travel. Or, look to the super comfortable ballet flat Vogue is “obsessed” with – the Demi Ballet flat by Margaux for a chic day-to-evening look.
To cover most travel situations, a good pair of sneakers, a pair of sandals, and some comfortable flats are usually more than enough for your travel footwear wardrobe. See our tips on packing shoes for travel to maximize your space.
The likes of Birkenstock (especially Birkenstock’s EVA wet shoe sandals for beach vacations) Sketchers, Ecco, Keds, Merrel, and Keen have always been reliable brands for comfortable travel shoes—Sketchers and Campers are especially good for slippery cobblestones in Europe.
A relatively new brand on the scene making waves with travelers is Allbirds. They make all-natural shoes that offer stylish, sustainable, and super comfortable travel shoes for all occasions.
Women’s shoes and sandals that are very comfortable for long days on your feet and practical for travel.
Foldable Sun Hat
Don’t get caught without a hat when you travel. I don’t know what’s worse, getting sunburnt or having to buy a ridiculous hat in a hurry from a souvenir stand.
Be prepared ladies and be sun smart. Your older self will thank you.
Invest in a good, packable hat, which should last for many adventures and summers.
These collapsible hats travel well and look great.
This classic folding Panama hat from Cuyana is hand-made by artisans in Ecuador. It is made with soft weave straw that lends itself to being compressed and flattened for travel without permanently altering the hat’s shape. You can also adjust the size.
Blanket Scarf and a Light Weight Scarf
A scarf is a fantastic travel accessory for all seasons. A blanket scarf in winter can be used as a shawl or a scarf, and it makes a cozy travel companion on the plane or train where it can double as a blanket.
A lightweight scarf is one of the most versatile travel essentials for both men and women. Use it as an accessory to dress up an outfit. Use it to block the sun or keep the dust from your face – I used mine daily for this in Morocco and Africa on safari.
A light scarf is also handy to keep in your bag when visiting mosques or other religious sites. I always recommend a lightweight scarf for countries like Turkey.
Packable Rain Coat and Travel Umbrella
Don’t leave these two items until you need them. Invest in a quality packable raincoat or poncho and a travel umbrella that will slip into the pocket of your luggage.
Beauty and Hygiene Travel Essentials for Women
Hanging Toilet Bag
I know that a hanging toilet bag sounds quite specific, but I have two, and I think they are the best.
Most hanging toilet bags will have all the little compartments to separate your shampoos from your makeup – which is great but not what I love about them most. It’s the hanging bit.
I use the hanging toilet bag included with my TravelPro underseat bag when traveling with carry-on only. It’s TSA approved and has a clear plastic wet pocket and rear mesh zip pocket.
The baggallini hanging toilet bag that matches my 22″ carry-on has loads of room, including side and rear pockets but zips up to be quite compact.
How often have you checked into a hotel, and there is barely enough bench space in the bathroom? Or, you are sharing a bathroom with others and don’t want your makeup bag getting wet or knocked on the floor. With a hanging toilet bag, you can hang it on the back of a door, on the shower rail, or on a towel rack.
It keeps all your toiletries out of the way and dry, and items seem easier to access at eye level – especially when you have to reach from the shower for something. I also like that your toiletries are out of the way when housekeeping is cleaning.
Clear TSA Toiletries Bag
If you don’t have a clear TSA toilet bag as part of your carry-on luggage, these strong, clear toilet bags are TSA approved and have clear, reinforced seams and a sturdy zipper with a wide opening.
So much nicer than using zip-lock bags, don’t you think?
A Travel Hairdryer
For some ladies, a hairdryer is not a travel essential, but for me, even with short hair, it’s a must.
There’s no need to rely on those awful hairdryers bolted to the hotel wall with a short cord and no power. Today’s travel hairdryers are lightweight and powerful, and most are dual voltage for international use.
I rounded up the best travel hairdryers here to take the guesswork out of choosing the best blow dryer for the traveling lady.
While it may be a little gross, we’ve all been there – in a public toilet in a random country and shock horror – no toilet paper.
I remember our first trip to Morocco (way back when), where payment to use the toilet got you a small issue of toilet paper – and we’re talking a square or two at best. And don’t get me started on toilet stories from Asia. I vowed never to travel without some kind of wipe in my handbag.
I know there are many travel-size packets of feminine wet wipes out there, but my favorite is the original flushable Stall Mates (they now come in a Feminine Fresh version which is nice to have that time of the month).
They are packaged in individual-use wipes, almost like a small refresher towel. They stash nicely in the pocket of your handbag, taking up no space so you can have plenty on hand for public toilets, airports, or where ever you need them. Unsurprisingly, I highly recommend them on my Morocco packing list.
Thankfully for us ladies, this is an area that has seen rapid development of innovative ideas in the past decade.
If you haven’t made the switch yet, you may like to follow the lead of other traveling gals and pack some period underwear, a menstrual cup – or both. For your health, the environment, convenience, and your peace of mind.
When we were based in Hanoi, Vietnam, for 3 months, trying to find tampons was nearly impossible. Substandard sanitary pads – yes. Tampons – no.
And that heart-wrenching moment when we were about to board a tiny boat for the deserted island vibes of Little Corn Island for a week. I realized I needed tampons, and the only general store had everything from livestock to dive gear – but not a sanitary product in sight.
Packing period underwear or a menstrual cup could save you a whole lot of unnecessary stress in unfamiliar situations.
Mini Travel Razor
Whether getting your Roman Holiday on in spring or visiting the remote Islands of Nicaragua, body hair maintenance is every girl’s priority.
As with Nicaragua’s mystical volcano ladened, Ometepe Island, don’t assume a razor will be an easy find. In Rome – no problem, but you want one on hand when you need it.
I love these little travel razors because they come in their own little case, take up no room, and are just as good as a full-size razor.
In-Flight Travel Essentials
Ear plugs are more than just an in-flight travel essential. I recommend them for countries where the call to prayer may interrupt a good night’s sleep – Turkey, Malaysia and Morocco spring to mind for this. They’re also essential for inner city accommodation where street noise can be problematic.
4-Point noise masking system with optional white noise sleep sounds for enhanced sleep quality.
Super soft, breathable fabric with an adjustable nose flap to block light completely.
Don’t arrive with puffy feet or canckles, ladies. Aside from being a healthy choice to help prevent DVT, compression socks can help keep puffy feet at bay. They are also comforting after a long day of walking and sightseeing.
Amazon bestseller – graduated compression, lightweight and breathable with a reinforced heel.
Helpful In-Flight Health and Beauty Products
Includes the fave Lip Sleeping Mask.
Keep fresh on the go without harsh chemicals. Perfect for long travel days.
The cutest BPA-free: non-toxic & environmentally friendly refillable travel bottles.
A luxe, natural pulse-point therapy roll to relieve stress, nausea, or weariness.
Keep your locks looking fine without needing a full-size brush.
Stay super hydrated in-flight to arrive feeling and looking better
Travel Safety Essentials for Women
Whether traveling alone, with friends, or with your significant other, it never hurts to factor in personal security.
There are some fantastic personal security products for travel that every woman should consider packing.
Door lock and Door Jammer Alarm
If you’ve ever felt uneasy falling asleep in a hotel, even with the door locked. Have you ever wondered about someone breaking in when staying in an Airbnb apartment or the possibility of someone opening the cabin door on a cruise ship?
If you’ve ever had these concerns, a travel door lock and / or a door jammer with alarm might help you sleep easier.
You can buy these travel safety products separately, but this bundle offers extra safety options.
Read more of our safe travel guides here to find the best products and tips for staying safe while you travel.
Walking back to your hotel at night in a strange city or out and about early in the morning when few people are around. We’ve all been there where we’ve felt a little uneasy.
In an emergency, a personal alarm will alert attention to the situation scaring off a potential attacker. It should startle an attacker enough to give you time to flee even if no one is around.
She’s Birdie–The Original Personal Safety Alarm for Women by Women
When threatened, Birdie’s loud siren and flashing strobe light create a diversion and help deter an attack.