5 Packing Tips for Traveling Women

Let’s face it, we all have to pack our bags when we travel, and this can be quite a difficult task for women with so many choices of clothing and shoes. Packing is an art in itself; packing light is a ninja skill. Finding my inner packing ninja has been a welcomed challenge time and time again, and I’ve mastered it. Here are five tips to start you on your way to becoming a packing ninja yourself.

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5 Packing Tips for Traveling Women
Originally published in Distinctly Montana Magazine Spring 2015.

5 Packing Tips for Traveling Women

1. Get a backpack that fits YOUR body

If you’re going to pack right, you first need the right backpack. Don’t listen to anyone who insists you need a massive backpack just because you’ll be traveling for a long time. Most women are not built to carry massive backpacks, and I found this out the hard way. Go see the experts at REI to get fit for your pack. The most important rule: don’t let the length of your trip determine your pack size; rather, let your body size and strength be the determining factors. Watch How to Choose the Perfect Travel Backpack

2. Only pack about 80% full

This means two things: don’t overpack, and only bring what fits. The best way to do this is to pack versatile and interchangeable outfits. The more outfits you can create out of just a few tops and bottoms, the better. Also, allow space for buying fun things overseas (scarves, accessories, art). One way to ensure you will have extra space is to pack any new items you buy in their entire packaging. For example, if you buy tampons and they come in a big box, pack the box to take up space; you can ditch it once you get overseas and make the tampons fit in the nooks and crannies of your pack. Bottom line—you never actually need as much as you think you do.

3. You only need three pairs of shoes

  1. Flip flops, even if you’re not headed to the beach, you’ll need these for showers.
  2. Comfortable walking shoes, these can be hard to find. I swear by my Skechers Bikers-Step-Up Mary Janes if you need a recommendation.
  3. Weather-dependent shoes. The option for warm weather could be flats or gladiator sandals that pack easily and can be dressed up or not. The option for cold weather could be a comfortable pair of flat-bottomed boots that can be dressed up or not. Wear these on the plane so you don’t have to pack them).

If you must account for an extra activity that requires specific shoes, then bring shoes for that activity, otherwise resist the temptation to bring too many pairs of shoes! 

Related: Best Travel Shoes According to the Experts

4. Bring safety pins and a scarf

Safety pins are the backpacker fix-all. Use them for wardrobe, backpack, or purse malfunctions, to fix sunglasses (they can take the place of a screw), and most importantly to lock zippers (yes—a safety pin properly affixed prevents a zipper from opening—don’t make it easy for people to steal from you). On that note, a bonus tip: always bring a purse that zips closed.

A scarf is essential for its versatility. Use it as an extra layer if you’re cold, an accessory to an outfit, a wrap if you need to cover up to enter cathedrals, mosques, monasteries, etc., a towel if you find yourself without one, and use it as a sheet if you want to cover up your hostel or hotel pillow.

5. Leggings are genius for traveling

Cotton/spandex leggings are the perfect bottoms for traveling. They are comfortable, stylish, and pack lighter and smaller than jeans. Generally, leggings should be worn with tops that cover your bottom because it’s more socially acceptable (even if it’s just a long tank top). If you don’t have enough tops like this, the cheat around that is to bring a cotton spandex mini skirt that can be worn over the leggings, looks nice, and hardly takes up any space to pack. The skirt also doubles for dressy bottoms if necessary.

Bonus Tip

Bring a plastic grocery bag for dirty/muddy shoes to keep the “shoe-ness” off your clothing.