How to: Travel Alone (what to bring and what to do!)

What to bring:

  • 3 copies of passport (always cary one copy safely in your pocket)
  • 1+ copy of each credit card
  • credit card (safer than debit)
  • original passport (or whatever ID required for the country)
  • the equivalent of about $50-100 USD cash in a money belt on your person
  • money belt (avoid getting in and out of it in public- it is supposed to be secret!)
  • detailed directions to your destination, including all train stops, bus stops, and ticket shops
  • emergency phone (not absolutely required but a REALLY good idea)
  • local dictionary (not required but useful when asking for directions)
  • walking map for how you get from the train station to your destination

What to do:

  • pack as light as possible
  • do not have any valuables visible
  • blend in (avoid looking like a tourist as much as possible- at least look like a ‘local tourist’)
  • eat in safe places
  • avoid large crowds while carrying luggage
  • do NOT carry anything in your back pocket
  • buy luggage locks and USE THEM!
  • for smaller zippers, use plastic zip ties (use nail cutters to snip them off- just don’t lock those in a pocket you zip-tied)
  • NEVER leave your luggage, even for a minute
  • never carry more than you can easily carry yourself!
  • travel in daylight- avoid arriving at night (if you must, walk straight to your hotel)
  • walk with your eyes ahead (looking down or around or looking nervous makes you a target)
  • get to know the locals and ask advice, but be careful with who you trust
  • dress appropriately (especially in conservative countries… but anywhere, be careful with shorts!)
  • do NOT get drunk when you are alone!
  • keep in touch with someone at home (in case you don’t make it to your destination)
  • register with Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (or equivalent if you are not American
  • trust your instincts! AND HAVE FUN!

Carry-on Toiletries

Packing for airline travels can be daunting, especially if you are limiting yourself to a carry-on. Yet, what I typically pack doesn’t change much between spending 40 days traveling eastern Europe, 2 months living in Italy, a week in Seattle, or a weekend in Yosemite. To keep with TSA’s 3-1-1 rule, you need a 1 qt zippered clear bag. I found one at Walmart that is perfect. You can fit a lot of liquid in it as long as each is in a 100 ml or less bottle. Make sure that anything liquid, including makeup and mascara, is in this bag. Be aware of anything that says TSA-safe or travel-size, as I have seen some that are actually 4 oz, and they MUST be under 3.4 oz!

  • Deodorant does not need to be in here unless it is gel, liquid, or aerosol. My deodorant is always perfume scented so I don’t have to wear perfume that can make other travelers sneeze. Bring your regular bar unless it is liquid.
  • Travel, hotel, or sampler sized shampoo and conditioner. Even if you stay in hotels, they don’t always supply these, and I always prefer my usual shampoos. You can buy refillable 100ml bottles to use your own, or you can buy mini bottles of Tresemme or Head and Shoulders at Walmart, and Ulta has sample sizes in many fine brands.
  • Toothpaste in travel tubes (sold at Walmart and grocery stores)
  • Soap in bar form does not need to be in this bag, but in liquid for must meet the 100 ml rule. Again, you can refill a bottle with your favorite liquid, or you can buy a travel sized version from the store. The plus side to having liquid soap is that it can double as laundry soap!
  • Mouthwash: I recommend buying travel Listerine since the lids are more secure than refillable bottles.
  • Sunscreen (remember to keep it under 100 ml) can double as moisturizer with some products!
  • Nail polish is TOTALLY optional but I think it always makes me feel more put-together (a big plus when running around an airport)
  • Cold creme (such as Ponds) is GREAT for travel since it removes makeup and dirt without water! Keep it less than 100 ml.
  • Facial cleaning cloths (like Olay or any brand) are dry and disposable, so they don’t need to follow 3-1-1 and works great even in a public restroom. Very light, use very little space, and feel so luxurious!  Be sure to use it to clean your face and neck if you are stuck traveling for over 12 hours.
  • Perfume (be careful, since many people fly with asthma, so I prefer deodorant until I arrive) should be in a plastic bottle (less than 100 ml) to weigh less, must have a cap, and I prefer roll-on since it is more durable, especially if the cap is screw-on.
  • Chap stick (travel can be dry! and yes, this must be in the 3-1-1) can be tinted to double as lip color! I love Burt’s Bees since it doesn’t taste like petroleum.

What are your travel essentials? Have you done anything creative to deal with the new rules for flights?

Traveling Light

When I travel, I often see people carrying gigantic suitcases overloaded with stuff they probably don’t need for a weekend trip to visit relatives. When I ask them why they travel with so much stuff, they usually reply “I want to be comfortable”. This, to me, seems to be a paradox. Because, honestly, these people genuinely do NOT look comfortable. Carrying heavy bags up flights of stairs, fitting them into overhead compartments on trains, waiting 30 minutes or so for their luggage to come into the baggage claim areas… I don’t understand. If you are backpacking in the woods by yourself for a week or two, I can appreciate the boy scout mantra “Be Prepared”. But even backpackers have to carry all their junk with them!

I can pack for an entire 3-day weekend trip in my medium purse. What’s inside?

  • 2 shirts (rolled up around toothbrush case)
  • 1 PJ pants or shorts
  • 3 panties (lightweight or lacy ones hand wash and dry really fast)
  • 1 lightweight wrinkle-proof skirt OR denim shorts
  • 1-2 pair of socks (if necessary)
  • 1 toothbrush in clean travel case
  • 1 bar of deodorant (perfumed ones can eliminate the need for separate perfume below)
  • small container for bare minimum makeup (1 mineral makeup, 1 eye shadow palate, lipstick, and minimum brushes)
  • 1 quart zippered bag (if flying by air and there will be no toiletries there) containing:
  • 1 venus razor head (no handle unless there is room)
  • 1 travel toothpaste bottle
  • 1 shampoo/conditioner <100 mL
  • 1 bar of soap or liquid soap <100 mL
  • 1 bottle of face soap <100 mL
  • 1 trial-sized bottle of perfume
  • any liquid makeup required for event (mascara/foundation) <100 mL

Now, if the event I were going to required a bit more beauty, I might include a straightener and I MIGHT need to upgrade to a backpack or small carry-on, but I cannot imagine needing a checked bag for less than a week (with the exception of strollers and sporting equipment, etc). What do you think you might need?