Tips for Female Travelers
Because I’m currently a minimalist, I don’t have the luxury of traveling with a huge wardrobe of clothing and beauty essentials. I’m sure it would be a blast and at some point I may decide to be a fashion traveler. But the round-the-world trip I’m on currently requires me to be nimble and travel with less, so here are tips on how to exist as a woman with pared down essentials.
What’s in My Toiletries Bag
- Squeeze Bottles: Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Lotion, Self Tanner, Face Wash
- Spray Bottle: Baby Oil
- Tiny Bottles: Lavender and Sandlewood Oil, Moroccan Argan Oil (for hair and skin)
- Balms: Tiger Balm, Neosporin, Anti-inflamatory (bug bites)
- Other: Deodorant (full size), Toothpaste, Baking Soda, Comb, Toothbrush, 5X Compact Mirror with Suction Cups, Eye shadow, 3 Eyeliners, Concealer Stick, Tweezers, Fingernail Clippers, 8-Hour Lipstick, Pumice Stone
My Travel Bags
I currently travel with an Osprey Backpack (daypack) and Osprey Hybrid Backpack on Wheels (overnight pack). The two match nicely and they also zip together, though I’ve never used this feature. Both can be used as a backpack, so theoretically I could put the large on my back while the smaller one is on my front. Typically though, I’m carrying the smaller daypack on my back, and wheeling the larger one (while the straps are zipped up inside). Fully packed, my smaller backpack weighs less than 7 kilos and my larger one typically weighs between 10-14 kilos (less is better to avoid having to pay pricey checked luggage fees).
Travel Outfit for Flights
Since I’m a carry-on traveler, my luggage needs to literally be as light as possible. Every ounce or kilo counts. Because so many airlines have imposed new fees for both checked bags and carry-ons, my luggage is weighed regularly. To keep my luggage lighter, I wear layers of my heaviest clothes to fly in.
My typical flight outfit is a t-shirt or cami under a button-up sweater, with my light corduroy jacket tied around my waist. This is paired up with jeans, my heaviest pants, along with socks and sneakers, my bulkiest and heaviest shoes. Oddly, this works out well because many airplanes are cold, and the layers keep me warm. It’s never too hot (until I land in the tropics!). It seems like a lot to wear for me, as I prefer to just throw on a tank, sandals and a skirt or shorts, but it works well for my travel days.
Basic Clothing I Travel With
My lineup of clothing consists of this: 3 t-shirts, 3 camis, 1 dressy tank, 1 cute halter top, 2 long-sleeved blouses, 2 button-up sweaters, 1 light corduroy jacket, 1 pair walking shorts, 1 pair beach shorts, 1 pair blue jeans, 1 pair black capri jeans, 1 pair Columbia sports pants in both black and beige, 2 short skirts, 1 maxi skirt, 1 short sundress, exercise outfit, 1 bikini swimsuit.
Shoes I Travel With
I pack three pairs of shoes for travel: one nice pair of sandals, one pair of rubber Havaiana flip flops, and a pair of Nike running shoes. I wear the sandals every day, I use the flip flops at the beach or springs, and whenever I shower in hostels, and I use the running shoes for jogging and hikes. Sandals and flip flops do break down when you wear them so often, so I’ve replaced these a few times on the road at local shops and markets.
Travel Underthings & Workout Wear
I keep it simple while traveling and pack 6 pairs of thong underwear. They are small and don’t take up much space. Four pairs are dry wick fabric and two are cotton. The dry wick are better because if I’m in a pinch to do laundry, I can just wash a pair in the shower or bathroom sink, hang them to dry and they’re ready to wear in the morning. For bras, I have a black bra for darks, and a beige bra for light shirts. For exercise I have a pair of capri running pants, a running bra and dry wick racer back tank, and this outfit doubles for running, yoga, hiking and generally any exercise.
I have a black pashmina scarf that fits perfectly in my day pack and has saved me on a number of occasions. It’s got a lot of square footage but is thin fabric, folds up small, and has a fun hippie vibe with some sequins and fringe. I’ve used it as a blanket in airplanes, as a sarong in temples, as a pseudo umbrella during sudden rainfalls, and to keep me warm in rooms that have way too much air conditioning.
My scarf also works nicely to help hide the camera around my neck when I’m using a flat pancake lens and am going for low-key street shots in different cities. I just pull the camera out when I see something interesting to shoot, and when I’m done I let the camera fall back under the scarf that’s wrapped around my neck.
Travel Tubes for Liquids
I swear by the squeezable travel tubes with suction cups that let you stick them to shower walls and bathroom mirrors (trust me not all random hotel bathroom floors are spotless so the suction option is great). I bought two packs of three 3-ounce tubes, for a total of six tubes in different colors (the different colors remind me what product is in which tube).
I originally bought the U.S. approved 3-ounce tubes to maximize my carry-on travel liquids, which consist of shampoo, conditioner, and face and body lotions. But when I traveled during the Paris attacks and the French airports were on code red, I ran into problems at the security line because French airport officials accused me of having tubes that were too big for carry-on. It turns out the tubes weren’t too big, but I didn’t speak enough French to prove it at the time, so I had to leave the security line and return to the front of the airport to check my bags. Having liquids that are too big at the airport requires you to either trash your containers and the liquids in them, or check your luggage, both of which are expensive options, and may cause you to then lose your place in line, and risk missing your flight.
After the travel tube incident in Paris, I decided to downsize all my travel tubes to 1.5 ounce each and haven’t looked back. My bag is lighter, my toiletry pack is easier to get into. I do have to refill my tubes more frequently but it’s never been an issue and the smaller size is definitely still worth it to me.
Travel Spray Bottle for Body Oil
I have dry skin, especially when traveling! After showering I mist with plain baby oil that I’ve sweetened up with essential oils (lavender, sandalwood, etc.). I’ve found that using a small misting bottle helps me conserve the oil and reduces the chance of spilling it on hotel floors and making a mess. I bought a 2-ounce clear cobalt blue plastic spray bottle for my baby oil, which fits perfectly with my squeezable travel tubes. I typically use travel size baby oils to refill my baby oil spray bottle when needed.
I wear minimal makeup while traveling. My routine is black mascara and 8 hour lipstick. If I’m at the ocean I wear waterproof mascara, which comes off easily with my baby oil. For my skin, I typically use self-tanner which just evens out my skin tone and gives me a slight glow.
I use a facewash with salicylic acid to keep my complexion clear. I’ve been fortunate enough to find everything I need all over the world by reading ingredients carefully in shops and pharmacies. While many ingredients are in different languages (including languages with symbols instead of letters), there is usually at least one option that has the word salicylic.
For nights out, I do have one tiny eyeshadow compact with four smoky colors, and 3 eyeliners in brown, green and blue. I use these on my hazel eyes when I go out dancing or feel the need to spruce up my minimalist look!
Travel Hair Dryer
Because I don’t have space, I do not use a hair dryer. I have fine hair and this was a major and difficult adjustment! But I’m used to it now. I simply squeeze the water out of my wet hair, rub in some conditioner and scrunch it while it’s still damp, and it dries naturally with some waves.
Getting Pedicures While Traveling
I just spent a bunch of time in Asia, where you are often required to take off your shoes and walk barefoot in hotels, restaurants and public businesses. This made the bottom of my feet dirty, callused and tough, and not a pretty sight. But Asia was still a treat, because pedicures were cheap, so I could squeeze them into my budget. Despite how cheap they were, I still “behaved” and only got a couple, and tried to keep them going for weeks and weeks – as long as possible. I discovered gel polish, which is more expensive but makes your toes look beautiful, and lasts forever, and I’m hooked.
To keep my feet smooth in between pedicures, I pack a pumice stone in my toiletries bag, and use it a few days a week when my skin is wet in the shower. Scrubbing your feet with these regularly sloughs off the dead skin, and keeps your feel smoother longer.
Getting Manicures While Traveling
Sadly, I am so active that my fingernails are simply short and trim. When they start to grow, they just get caught in backpack zippers or on rocks while I’m hiking or climbing, so I’ve thrown in the towel, for now, on sexy fingernails. But I do have some girlfriends that have beautiful nails even while they travel, and they swear by gel polish. So, my suggestion is to use gel polish if and when you get a manicure while traveling. It will cost a bit more, but will give you beautiful color that lasts and lasts without chipping.
I generally don’t travel with jewelry of any value, as it isn’t practical and could draw unwanted attention. But since I do like to feel pretty and feminine, I typically have at least a small pair of hand-made earrings, a few simple or beaded bracelets, and a small ring or two that I’ve bought at a local shop or market. Since I don’t have space for gifts, I sometimes bring back jewelry for people in my family (men and women). So this holiday season my entire family, including my dad, rocked some great leather and beaded hippie bracelets bought beach-side in Bali! Having small and inexpensive pieces of jewelry to wear is fun, it helps you share your experiences and reminds you of the special places you’ve been.