Solo Travel Packing List: 10 Ways To Prevent “Oh Sh*t” Moments

Shani Silver
Feb 24, 2018 · 6 min read

This ain’t about face masks and neck pillows, k?

Both items acquired on Amazon.

I’m a planner. I think I’ve established this. But what good is a planner who doesn’t share the wisdom of her completely screwed up experiences that she plans never to have again? Thusly I give you 10 things I travel with that you’re definitely not thinking about but most likely need. Here we go…

A travel journal + double stick tape: When I returned home from a trip last year, I had collected cards, museum maps, metro tickets, etc that I figured I’d want to keep. I did want to keep them, but they’re still sitting in a manilla envelope doing me no good while my memories of where I acquired everything fade. Oh, that restaurant’s menu has an awesome font, wish I remembered where the hell it is or what the scallops were like. This year I’m committed to bringing a travel journal (mine is just blank pages) and double stick tape so that I can immediately adhere trinkets to the pages, and make notes throughout while I dine alone or sit on a train. Activity + souvenir + insurance against forgetfulness. What prize do I win.

Tissues: This seems silly, but 100% isn’t. I’m not a big fan of wasting time and money, maybe you are. Tissues come in ridiculously handy during solo travel, but only if you’ve already got them on you and don’t have to spend time walking around looking for a drugstore in which to acquire some while it’s cold and rainy and your poor coat sleeve has to suffer the consequences. Nor is it cute to triple the price for these in a Hudson News. Pay like 13 cents to get a package or five of them before you go.

Collected over time in the messy cabinet above my sink.

A small pharmacy: Similarly to the above, I really hate spending money and/or precious time on medication while on a trip. I am also certain I would walk into a French pharmacy looking for allergy medicine and leave with a very effective cure for athletes foot. I bring meds for all the needs I have when I’m at home, ranging from tummy-taming pills to band-aids to Alka Seltzer. Don’t knock this old man hangover cure until you’ve been spiritually healed by it. I pray at the church of effervescence.

Purchased on Amazon.

A travel kettle + instant coffee/tea: Full disclosure, I have never traveled with this before, but I’ve sure as shit needed it. Not all hotel rooms have coffee pots or tea kettles in them, especially if you’re in Paris which is my personal favorite escape hatch from the United States of America. This small, collapsable kettle will boil water which I will then use to make coffee or tea immediately upon waking, such that I don’t have to walk down a Parisian street before I’ve put my contacts in or beauty-balmed my bridge troll face. Sometimes I just wanna check my email with a cup of coffee before I start my day, ya know? Pro tip: Ask the hotel’s reception desk or restaurant for a coffee cup on your way to your room for the evening.

Multiple USB ports: Travel adapters go without saying, but getting the kind with multiple USB ports is more important now than ever. You never know how many outlets you’ll have access to, but you do know how much crap you have to charge. All but two items I’m bringing with me (tea kettle and laptop) can be charged by USB. In total I’ll have five ports to charge them with so I don’t have to decide if I want cell phone battery or straight bangs today.

A universal charger cord: As much as I love bringing 17 cords with me on vacation, this one allows me to just bring one, and contains every kind of plug for every kind of device even the most tech-dependent solo traveller could need. I’m slightly nervous I’ll need two of these, which means I’ll probably bring three. This was a Hanukkah gift from my stepfather, who is excellent at presents.

I get mine at Target and use the Cartwheel app for deals.

Plastic baggies: Oh my god if you learn nothing else from me, BRING BAGGIES. Lots of baggies. Baggies in different sizes. baggies for your baggies. All the baggies! Yes, I’m aware they are environmentally unsound but I do bring them all home and reuse them later so leave me alone. I am always amazed by how many uses I have for these things when I travel, but my personal favorite is a receptacle for my travel umbrella so that I a) don’t have to constantly have it in my hand and b) don’t soak the inside of my bag. It never stops raining on me, no matter where I travel or when, so I’ve learned this is an absolute must. Also this is a great way to keep purchases organized, to preserve leftover pastries (I’ve heard…), and to keep filthy shoes away from your clothes in a suitcase.

Purchased on…you guessed it.

Mini bungees: Also a newcomer to my list, but one that I think has a lot of potential. Mini bungees have a variety of uses while traveling, particularly while traveling alone. From holding stubborn bags closed to hanging up items in a hotel room with two hangers to keeping an annoying door that won’t stay either open or closed securely, I’m very interested to see how handy these are on my next adventure.

Wipes: Airplanes are filthy. Sometimes hotel rooms are filthy. If you’re a germaphobe, everything is filthy. I wipe down surfaces, doorknobs, toilet and sink handles, etc because really, is there any downside to doing so? I don’t walk around a city with these in my bag, they’re more for airplanes and lodgings, but I’ve never been mad I had the ability to make things less gross. You won’t be either. And yeah, I travel with them inside a baggie.

Yep, this too.

A cordless hair straightener: Here’s where I’m a genius. That rain I told you about? On every single trip until now, that rain and humidity have made my hair look like I’ve just spent an entire weekend moving apartments in the middle of August. Wanna take a vacation selfie looking like that? Me neither. This time, I’m prepared with a cordless, small hair straightener than can relieve me of my self-consciousness and bangs that have either flipped out at the sides or started to look like a barcode on the side of a box of crackers. It’s also much lighter than my normal straightener but still big enough to do my whole head, and it charges via…wait for it…USB.

Happy prepared trails.

Shani Silver

Written by

NPR called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Author of Refinery29’s “Every Single Day” series, host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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