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Packing tips for the 60+ solo female traveler

Traveling solo means there’s no one to help with the bags. What you take, you carry.

I’m trying my best to pack light when I travel. There are lots of ways to do it. By sharing some of the ways I cut down on what I carry, I hope you’ll share some of your packing tips with me.

Always be prepared to carry your own stuff.

That doesn’t mean you can’t look at some younger, strong-armed person standing nearby and give him your pathetic, “I’m an old lady” smile. It’s just that you can’t always count on being rescued.

Pack light.

By “pack light,” don’t tote a suitcase you can’t lift. Onto a moving train. By yourself. It’s happened more times than I’d like to remember.

Packing tips

Most airlines allow one carry-on bag and one personal item in the cabin with you.

For your carry-on, be sure it has rollers. If you’re like me, your flight is always at the gate at the end of the terminal.

For your personal item, consider a backpack instead of a handbag. If you plan smartly, the carry-on bag and the backpack may be all you need. Then there’s no waiting for luggage at the terminal at the end of a long day.

Packing tipsA travel backpack is one of my most prized possessions. I bought one in Norway 10 years ago. It was made of parachute material, so it was almost weightless. It stretched to hold more than you should realistically carry on your back. When not in use, it folded up into its own tiny bag.

I replaced my favorite backpack recently. The pompiers in Aigue Morte cut it off my shoulder after my fall in the street in September. I haven’t found an identical bag to replace it, but one works the same.

“What to bring?”

Travel day

Washable slacks/pants. Black (or other dark/patterned), comfortable, long pants. Dark colors hide spills or mishaps that are sure to happen. Whether you’re dressing smart or casual, you can wear them throughout your trip. “Comfortable” is the operative word, especially for airline wear. Overseas flights, for example, can be more than 24 hours long.

Walking shoes. Traveling means you’re bound to spend much time in an airport or train station. Wear comfortable shoes. Hopefully, they’re the heaviest shoes you’ll bring, so you don’t have to pack them. You may need to take off your shoes through security checks, so be sure they’re easy to slip on and off.

A shirt with sleeves. Wear a shirt with short sleeves or with sleeves that roll up. If the shirt is a dark color or patterned (see above regarding spills), it’s perfect. The problem with long sleeves is that you can’t remove them if you get overheated. It happens!

Lightweight jacket. When packing light, wear your travel jacket to free up suitcase space. Sometimes, you may feel like you’re taking it on or off constantly, but you’ll be glad you have it. You can always use it as a pillow.

Scarf. My neck often gets cold on a train or airplane. A scarf not only guards against a chill, it’s stylish. Some of my friends travel wearing a comfy hat. Same purpose.

Socks or booties. I wear socks or booties with my travel shoes. I don’t like to walk barefooted through security if they ask me to remove my shoes.

Jewelry. I’m an accessory freak, but airports are where I play it down. Remember, the jewelry you wear has to go through a security check. Keep it simple. I carry the jewelry I’m not wearing in my personal carry-on.

Daytime activities

During the day, when I’m traveling, I spend a lot of time walking. When I want to explore shops, cafes, galleries, and side streets, I wear slacks, a skirt, or a casual dress. It’s essential to be comfortable, but don’t dress down to avoid entering a “nice” restaurant or shop. That goes for shoes, too.

Washable skirts/pants/dress. I love my knit clothes. I choose them to mix and match. A dress can be worn with a sweater or jacket, or you can put a top over it, and it looks like you have on a skirt. In addition to knits being easy to roll and pack, they wash and dry overnight. They’re so versatile you can sleep in them!

Washable tops. Choose tops that mix and match with both your skirts and pants. A longer top or sweater can change a look from daytime to nighttime chic. On a three-week trip, I packed one knit dress, three skirts (one long), two pairs of knit pants, four tops, and a long sweater. It was liberating!

Bathing suit. Taking a bathing suit along is optional. After a long day sightseeing, a swim is relaxing. The long top you bring for skirts and pants will work as a stylish cover-up.

Jacket and/or rain gear. “Must haves.”  Some new, lightweight jackets that fold into small bags are ideal.

Shoes. Of all my addictions, shoes are not. My shoes are almost always chosen chiefly for comfort, not style. When he noticed my shoes, my brother used to say, “I sure hope they’re comfortable.” That says it all. So when I travel, I choose shoes for the flight, a pair for hiking or play (which may be the same as the ones for travel), and a dressy, comfy shoe — usually a ballerina flat. The color choice is generally black, yet I may prefer beige or light colors for warmer weather.


A long knit skirt and top take me where I want to go, night or day. Accessories make the difference. You can change an ordinary daytime outfit into something stunning for the evening with jewelry and/or a belt. Be careful, however, not to overload your bag. Scarves are ideal for “dress-up,” giving you a great new look with little effort. Best of all, a scarf fits easily in your suitcase or hand carry.

Packing tips

Other items to pack

Airplane necessities. A small toothbrush, toothpaste, and bottle of mouthwash fit into a plastic ziplock bag. Take hand sanitizer, face wipes, a hairbrush, and basic cosmetics to freshen up after the flight. A change of underwear comes in handy if your luggage is lost. Medications stay with you, always.

Cosmetics. Keep it simple. Also, remember to check the luggage containing all but your essential cosmetics. Then, you don’t have to worry about carrying liquids and sprays through security.

Toiletries. Travel-sized versions of your favorite brands are usually available. Or you can package your own. Put these into your checked luggage if you can do without them en route.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something! I almost always do. But perhaps this list will give you some ideas for packing.

Do you have packing tips to share? Please leave a comment.

Packing tips


Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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