Image source: Flickr - Nomadic Lass
Packing. It's an unpleasant, sometimes stressful topic for a lot of travelers but I think especially so for women. We can't get away with just throwing a few shirts and a pair of shorts into a bag like guys can. Even though women can get away with being slightly less put-together on the road than at home, most women still want to look nice, to feel good.
Packing, therefore, can be a pain. I always agonize over things like shoes and whether or not to take a hair-drier with me. I try to color-coordinate so I can have a bunch of mix-and-match outfits; I hate wearing the exact same thing over and over again.
And after years of traveling all over the world, I've come up with a list of must-haves – things that I always put in my bag, no matter what country or city I'm visiting.
A scarf is one of the first things I pack in my bag. Not only can it keep your neck warm in cooler climates, but a scarf is also extremely versatile: it can dress up a casual outfit, cover up your head or shoulders in more conservative destinations, or even act as a light blanket or headrest on a long bus ride or flight.
Speaking of long bus rides and flights... one of the worst things about long-haul travel is getting to your destination and feeling dirty or smelly. I've now pack solid perfume sticks (Aroamas are my current favorite) with me in my bag they take up no room and don't violate liquids rules, but are a quick and easy way to freshen up after a long trip.
These are fantastic since you can: use them to layer, use them to sleep in or use them to cover up in conservative countries. I always pack a pair of leggings; even if I'm not 100% sure I'll need them.
A little black dress
It doesn't have to be fancy, but a comfortable LBD can be a great addition to your travel wardrobe. Even if you're backpacking in Asia, you might find yourself in a situation where you need to wear something other than cut-offs and flip-flops. I have a simple black jersey dress that has been to more than 20 countries with me; I can dress it up with some fun jewelry and shoes, or dress down by wearing it plain with flip-flops.
Speaking of fun shoes, a pair of comfortable flats is never a bad idea to pack. Again, chances are you'll want to look on the nicer side for at least a few nights out. Look for a pair that fold up you can easily throw them into your purse or tuck them into a corner of your suitcase or backpack.
A folding fan
The $1 fans you can buy all over Southeast Asia the kind made of cloth, usually with rhinestones on them may seem like an odd addition to this list. But you should definitely pick one up if you can (I bought one in the US a few summers ago). You'd be amazed how good moving air can feel when you're stuck on a crowded bus or humid train. And, since they take up very little room, you don't have to worry about giving up precious space in your handbag for a fan like this.
If you're like me (i.e. convinced that strange sheets the world over are inherently icky), consider investing in a silk sleep sheet or sleeping bag liner. Again, these take up virtually no room in your bag, but can give you peace of mind when you find yourself in less-than-ideal sleeping conditions. I've used mine on sleeper trains in the past, and they are also great for camping or staying in hostel dorm rooms.
Especially if you're traveling solo, you may want to invest in a small doorstop alarm. These are basically doorstops that also have a built-in alarm meaning if anyone tries to get into your room at night, you'll be sure to hear them. There's a big misconception that travel is really dangerous for women but if you take simple precautions like looking out for your own safety, it doesn't have to be dangerous at all.
This of course isn't my entire packing list but are some of the essentials that I pack on nearly every trip.
What would you add to the list?