There’s no arguing that often travel can be a little more complicated for us ladies than it is for our male counterparts, that should however not keep us from travelling and enjoying it as much (or perhaps even more), so long as we are suitably prepared.
I’ll start by admitting that I’m not a girly-girl, makeup or fashion-conscious glamorous lady by any means (as my Instagram pics will testify @lisa_albert_dutoit ), so many aspects of budget travel may be easier for me than the average lady. I will, however, admit that my travel habits have evolved over the past 15 years from initially travelling to Europe with multiple pairs of high heel shoes, a hairdryer and hair straightener to now being able to backpack across Asia for more than a month with only a 35L backpack! Now I’m not saying one form of travel is right and the other wrong, but I do think I have a fair idea of what remains important for all female travellers.
After travelling regularly for over 15 years and currently travelling full-time, I will be the first to say that there is no one travel style that works for everyone. There are, however, many travel tips which I have picked up over the years which I wish I had learnt earlier on and which are more than likely applicable to all.
So here is my list of travel essentials and tips which I hope will help you as much as they have helped me:
Let’s dive right into it… that time of the month isn’t fun for any of us. Even less so if you’re caught off guard, can’t find your usual product or don’t have regular enough access to a flushing toilet. If there’s one single thing that I’m most grateful for having discovered, it’s the M-Cup. When I first heard about it I thought the concept was disgusting and was sure that I would never try it. But with ongoing struggles with tampons either needing to be changed too regularly or at inconvenient times and them taking up half of my backpack’s packing space, I decided to give the M-cap a try. I’ll be honest and say that it’s not something that you feel comfortable with immediately. I must have read a million reviews and watched even more YouTube videos about how to insert and remove the little thing before I was brave enough to try it! And even then, the first time I used it I was sure I might never be able to remove it! A few months in (and plenty of laughter at myself for my prior hesitation), there simply is no looking back. The two most significant benefits to me are that fact that I can now go for approximately 12 hours without having to think about needing to change a tampon and that all I need to pack when I travel is one small cup, no matter how long I’m travelling for. Of course, there are also the added benefits of an improved natural cycle and the fact that I’m contributing to saving the planet. There are numerous makes (feel free to check out reviews ) and no one make is best for everyone. I would suggest reading as many reviews as possible to establish which make will be best suited. But whatever you do, do try one – it may take a few months to get used to it, but you will not be sorry and you will not look back!
While we’re on the topic, although not essential, this app is very handy. It allows you to track your period together with other optional things like ovulation, weight, temperature, symptoms etc. You can customise your cycle and period length and it will prompt you with a reminder a few days before your next period is due to start. Like I said, not a travel essential, but definitely useful.
Ok, so this might only be suited to the smaller breasted of us ladies. I am a 32B (and only just!), so keep that in mind when you read this. Travelling with a backpack only means that any and all space is valuable. It also means that the clothes that you do pack need to be easily hand washable and quick drying. At the same time, I like to feel both comfortable when I travel and look reasonably presentable! I used to travel with one nice and proper bra and then a few sports bras for daily wear. Although sports bras were functional, they are not exactly sexy or elegant! And then I discovered Bralettes – what I have found to be the perfect crossover between the comfort of a sports bra and the function and finesse of a real bra! I know these may not work for everyone, but for me, they save on space, are easy to wash and dry and are super comfy. There are also more and more of this style of bra becoming available.
Cosmetics & Makeup
This is a difficult one for me as I’m not a very heavy cosmetic user at the best of times. My advice is twofold… keep it simple but don’t compromise on the items that are important to you. For me that means always packing in my favourite brand of face cream as this doubles as a daily sunblock and tinted base which is pretty much the only “make-up” I wear daily. I also recommend taking a small travel bottle (5-10 ml) of perfume to keep in your handbag especially when travelling in hot climates - no lady likes to feel stinky! A great tip for shorter travels is to dye your eyelashes before your trip and save on carrying mascara with you. This is also a good idea if you are going to be spending a lot of time on beaches and swimming and don’t want to bother with waterproof mascara. The only other “custom” item I try to always take with me is my Curaprox toothbrush – there simply is no other toothbrush once you tried one of these and no, they do not sponsor me!
How To Keep Those Legs Smooth
This is always a challenge, particularly travelling long term with limited packing space (backpack only). Although a simple safety razor would be the most compact option, I by far prefer to make space to pack in my Braun Epil-Silk Epilator. Obviously this is a personal preference, but the advantage of epilating is that it lasts much longer than shaving and you never have a prickly stubble. Yes, it’s painful, but it does get more bearable over time.
Staying Fit & Flexible
It really does make one’s travels more enjoyable when you more fit and flexible. Of course, travelling with a good pair of running shoes is a good way to get some cardio exercise. I also swear by yoga for keeping toned and flexible. It’s a great way to ensure an overall body workout and concentrate on the smaller muscles and balance to help prevent injury while possibly doing other more extreme exercises. I am a huge fan of the DownDog Yoga App, which I have been using for years now. it allows you to customise your yoga classes and even save them for offline use if you don't have a data connection.
Travelling Alone & Safety
If you are travelling alone as a woman, there are many tips regarding safety available on the internet. I would firstly and foremostly recommend just listening to your inner voice (that female intuition!) and not doing anything that you don't feel comfortable with. This will be different for each of us, but if you feel uncomfortable in a situation, it will most likely show, and that is what can make you most vulnerable. Another thing to keep in mind is that many countries make special provision for female travellers when it comes to both public transport (female only train and metro carriages) and even female only taxi's (UAE). Do your homework before you travel to make sure that you know what to expect in order to stay safe.
Clothing & How To Dress
Trust me when I say this, you always need less clothing than you think! Make sure you have comfortable, tried and tested walking shoes, you inevitably end up walking more than usual and no-one wants blisters after day one. Consider a neutral colour palette for your travel wardrobe - ie Make sure that you can mix and match your clothing items to create more outfits from fewer items. Consider the fabric of your travel clothes, both with regard to breath-ability (particularly in hotter climates) as well as ease of washing (whether you will be making use of a laundromat or washing by hand), you don’t want to have your best silk garment ruined after the first wash. Make sure you have a good idea of the climate where you will be travelling and keep in mind that often public transportation and some public places can be climate controlled (either air-conditioned cold or central heated warm) and very different from the actual outside climate. Bearing this in mind, always make sure that you can layer to either warm-up or cool down easily. Be aware of local customs and cultures and dress accordingly. If you draw attention to yourself as a tourist, you are more likely to be the victim of a scam or personal danger.
Jewellery / Valuables
As much as we all like to feel pretty, we may also have a special piece of jewellery that is either sentimental and impossible (or just plain expensive) to replace. I would strongly recommend that when you travel, you keep in mind that your chances of losing an item of jewellery do increase and that you should either wear and enjoy those jewels with that mindset or otherwise rather leave them safely locked up. Depending on where you are travelling, you should also carefully and sensibly consider just how much 'bling' you should be flashing about. No item of jewellery is worth putting your safety at risk. Personally, I have chosen to no longer travel with a diamond wedding ring and now wear a silicone wedding band. It not only allows me to sleep better at night knowing that I don't have something valuable that I might lose or leave behind, but it is also a lot more practical for wearing 24 hours a day including to exercise, shower and sleep with. To make up for the plain ring, I choose to carry a few pairs of pretty but inexpensive earrings with me that allows me to feel as though I can at least 'dress up' every now and then!
I need to pee..
Let’s be honest, finding a suitable pee-place can often be more challenging for us as women than men. My best bit of advice when it comes to trying to find a hygienic toilet is twofold: Firstly, always act confident that the establishment should have a facility available to you. In other words, confidently ask “Excuse me, where is your restroom?” rather than “Is there a restroom I may use?” or “May I use your restroom please?”. Secondly, consider that sometimes purchasing a cheap drink in a cafe can give you access to a much better facility rather than a public toilet (this is obviously not always true). Both these approaches work particularly well throughout Europe, where in many countries establishments may not actually refuse the use of a restroom and also where purchasing a quick and cheap coffee is more than acceptable to then make use of the toilet. There are also a few “find public toilet” Apps available and I have used these to better and lesser success depending on the country. And then, of course, there is McDonald's, which more often than not will offer a restroom if you order something (or make as though you are going to).