Packing Challenges You Face When Traveling Alone

packing challenges of solo travel

Solo travel can be wonderful. You don’t have to take a travel partner’s wish list into consideration. You can focus on only the activities that interest you. Sometimes it’s even easier to meet people when you’re on your own. And solo travel is great for building confidence.

But you know what is sometimes a struggle? Packing when traveling solo.

Packing carry-on liquids for solo travel

I admit it, when I travel with my husband, I take full advantage of his liquids bag (we travel carry-on only). He doesn’t have nearly as many bottles as I do, so I pack a few extras that wouldn’t normally make the cut on a solo trip.

You can also share things with a travel partner, like toothpaste, sunscreen, or bug repellent. But when you’re on your own, you have to bring all those items yourself, even if the bottle has more than you’ll use by yourself.

Traveling solo limits you to only that one small liquids bag in your carry-on, and you have to choose your toiletries wisely.

>>See why we love solid toiletries for carry-on travel.

packing challenges when traveling alone
Your toiletries can be more limited when you travel alone

Packing everything you need

Traveling with a partner means you can cut down on duplicates. You can share clothing with your friend or steal your boyfriend’s hoodie on a cold bus ride.

Not so when you’re traveling alone. If there’s something you know you’ll need while traveling, you have to make sure it makes it into your bag. You can’t rely on your friend to pack a cute dress to borrow, and you can’t rely on your husband to remember the bottle opener.

This might mean a few extra things squeezed into your suitcase, but think of it as a challenge to pack lighter.

packing challenges when traveling alone
Ali and her friend swapped dresses on a cruise – can’t do that when traveling alone!

Packing for safety

Often there is a sense of safety in numbers. If you’re traveling with someone else, there are two of you looking out for pickpockets and checking to make sure you haven’t left anything behind.

But when you travel solo, that responsibility is all on your shoulders. You have to make sure your valuables are secured to reduce the chances of being robbed. You have to make sure you get all your things off the train.

>>Read more about theft-proof clothing for travel.

packing challenges when traveling alone
One way Brooke packs for safe solo travel is by bringing theft-proof clothing

Carrying it all

Again, I love that my husband will take more of the heavier items when we travel together. But when I travel by myself, I have to be able to carry everything I pack. I have to be in control of my luggage 100% of the time, and this includes dealing with the weight.

It’s one of the reasons I think solo women should travel carry-on only. No one else is going to carry your suitcase up those five flights of stairs. No one else is going to hoist your backpack up into the overhead compartment. It’s all on you.

packing challenges when traveling alone
Ali keeps her backpack light, especially on solo trips

Technology and solo travel

These days, so many of us travel with a pile of electronics. If you’re with a friend, you can probably cut down on a few gadgets and cords and maybe even share a power strip. Some couples even use one camera or laptop between the two of them.

As a solo traveler, you have to decide how much of that technology you really need. If you run a blog or work from the road, you have to take all the equipment you need. If you love taking photos, pack whatever camera equipment you use. And don’t forget all those cords.

packing challenges when traveling alone

Despite the challenges of packing for solo travel…

…it’s still a great way to go. Even after years of being married, I still take a few solo trips every year. Last year I went to Cyprus and Kosovo by myself, and I have a few ideas for this year.

Solo travel builds confidence. It reminds me that I can actually do all these things on my own. I don’t need a travel partner, even if it is nice sometimes.

I also challenge myself to pack less and less when I travel solo. Since I know I’ll be carrying it all the entire time, I work harder at reducing the weight and number of items that make it into my backpack.

I enjoy meeting new people when I’m traveling by myself. I relish setting my own schedule and doing what I want to do the whole time. And sometimes it’s just fun to know I’m out there exploring on my own and gathering stories and experiences.

So those little packing challenges? Sure, I can handle that.

What kinds of packing challenges have you dealt with while traveling solo?

solo travel packing challenges

Written by Ali

Ali Garland is a freelance writer, blogger, and travel addict who made it to all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She enjoys travel planning, encouraging others to see the world, and packing carry-on only. She and her husband are expats living in Berlin. You can find Ali at Ali's Adventures and Travel Made Simple.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. chanteuse says

    I admit, traveling solo can be taxing on nerves because eyes and mind can’t rest (sometimes not even during sleep time if the accommodation turned out iffy or roommates shifty). Also, in the airport lounge, I take all my things with me to the lady’s room. Often I lost my seat when I got back.

    The few times I traveled with a companion (man or woman), I hardly ever encroached on the companion’s luggage. We may share a couple of items (like plug adapter, batteries, and toothpaste) but not much else.

    Toiletry for carry on only is not that difficult. I use bar soap (small size) for face and body. Now there’s solid shampoo (by Lush). Coconut oil is used for face and as body moisturizer (great in winter time when it’s solid, not melted). I can brush my teeth using table salt (the salt packets from dining places). The only liquid item I carry is sunblock (Biore Aqua Rich 2oz). Detergent is powder. Baby powder can be dry shampoo. Deodorant comes in solid form travel size. Most makeup items are not in liquid form.

    For security I use coated cable and pad lock to secure luggage to a pole on the train/bus or to a fixture in the room when in hostel (if luggage leaves my sight). Cash, cards, camera, phone are either against my body or tethered with metal chain or cable.

    It’s a trade off between having a travel companion and being mentally alert 24/7. After 30 years of traveling solo, I still prefer soloing, as long as I am physically able to be on my own.

  2. ClicketySnap says

    I’m looking forward to my first truly solo trip. I’ve travelled solo to a destination where I have met up with the rest of my family, but never done an actual solo trip. Usually, because I am the minimalist in the family, everyone asks me to bring empty suitcase space! So going there I pack my backpack and put it in a carry on suitcase, and coming home I’ll use my backpack as a carry on and check my suitcase full of everyone else’s extra.

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