Around France

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’m hoping you’ll share some 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” I mean 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 here’s 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 which are sure to happen. You can wear them throughout your trip whether you’re dressing smart or casual. “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 a lot of time in an airport or train station. Wear comfortable shoes. Hopefully they’re the heaviest shoes you’ll be bringing along 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, if you get overheated, you can’t take it off. 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 important to be comfortable, but don’t dress down to the point you avoid going into 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 day to night time chic. On a recent three week trip, I packed one knit dress, three knit 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 stylish cover-up.

Jacket and/or rain gear.  “Must haves.”  Some of the new, lightweight jackets that fold into small bags are ideal. Check out the Ultra Light Down collection at UNIQLO.

Shoes. Of all my addictions, shoes are not. The shoes I wear are almost always chosen mostly for comfort, not style. My brother used to say when he’d notice my shoes, “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 shoe that’s comfy — usually a ballerina flat. The color choice is usually black, yet for warmer weather I may go for beige or light colors.

Evening

A long knit skirt and top takes me where I want to go, night or day. Accessories make the difference. You can change an ordinary daytime outfit into something stunning for evening with jewelry and/or a belt. Be careful, however, not to overload your bag. Scarves are ideal for “dress-up” and they give 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 along hand sanitizer, face wipes, a hairbrush and a few basic cosmetics so you can 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 piece of luggage that contains all but your basic 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 certain 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

 

Categories: Around France

49 replies »

  1. You have such a cute little style and I admire it! From a few years of traveling now packing light is still so hard especially when you want to stay looking trendy. But you’re style is very simple yet very photogenic. Way to go lol and thanks for the inspiration to keep trying to find my style when packing light!

    • Packing light is definitely an art. I mess up sometime but usually it’s because I slip up and overpack… then I pay the price. Lugging a heavy suitcase is no fun at all. Thanks for the note. Keep packing!

    • Thank you! Just looked them up online. So cute. Since my fall, though, I’m having to wear shoes with more support — mary janes, mostly… Happy to pass this on, though. Thanks for the note!

  2. For travel I find a long jersey knit skirt to be the most comfortable especially on long flights. Pants can be binding and there is no need to have them drop to the floor in airplane toilets. You can easily pull them up at the waistline. I usually wear a short sleeve knit top and cardi and never travel without a scarf that I can bury my face in. It is one of the best ways to protect from nearby passengers’ coughs and sneezes.
    I also find that the long skirts are ideal for sightseeing, can be cool in the summer and warm on cooler trips not to mention that they can be rolled in a ball when packing and still look great.

  3. Your tips are great even for women who are younger and not going solo! I always carry a small, lightweight travel alarm clock, because I like to be able to see what time it is in the middle of the night and to have an extra alarm (b/c paranoid about missing a flight). I always take a few ziplock bags, not so much as packing cubes, but to store things that I might buy on route (often food) that could spill. And I usually package a lightweight collapsing umbrella (climate and season-dependent).

    • Thank you! I’m nervous about missing a flight, too. I set multiple clocks. Can you believe, returning from the US, I bring back a box of the xtra large ziplock bags! Just not the same in France.

  4. I replaced all of my packing cubes with heavy weight clear plastic bags.The bags allow you to see what is inside, so you don’t have to rummage through several cubes to find what you are looking for. In fact, I pack a lot ot my travel items in plastic bags. Not only is it easy to find what you are looking for, but in the event something leaks, your items are protected.

    • Yes, I use plastic bags a lot. Although I like the packing cubes, too, to organize clothes. The fact they’re square edged seems to work best for rolling clothes and stacking. Thanks, Teri. I know you pack and unpack a lot!

  5. As a petite female, who would be less than a formidable opponent for anyone wishing me harm, I now make sure I always have a whistle with me. It gives me piece of mind in case I feel the need to make some noise. Also, I ALWAYS travel with healthy snacks. With all of the horror stories about planes stuck on the tramac for extended periods of time, natural disasters, power outages, etc, I like to know that I can survive for more than a few days if access to food becomes an issue. Great story Deborah. Thanks for your insights.

  6. Sam Edelman ballet flats. I have black, but they come in colours. The most comfortable flat you’ll ever own. Just got home from three months in Nice, France. Wish I had thought of the long skirt. Took the flats and Addidus white leather sneakers I wore on the flight/trains, and one other black pair of sneakers. I took only black One pair jeans, two other easy wash pants. Light weight sweaters, but will take something shortsleeved next year. Took four scarves, next year will take two. Will take less jewelry next year. I use packing cubes and LOVE them. Will take less toiletries, as of course you can buy them there lol. Did take my S.A.M. down jacket (it was freezing when I left and when I returned) and will get the Uniqulo light weight jacket for when I need something lighter. I also took a raincoat that rolls up (got in Paris years ago) and used it when the down jacket was too much. I travel with my small dog, so she is my carryon and my backpack is my personal item. And yes, you can find one that is pretty much pickpocket proof. Need to get a much better luggage, as the one I had almost killed me. Interested in suggestions.
    Love your blog, and if you are ever in Nice in the winter, hope to connect.

    • Would you believe I purchased a really inexpensive hard-sided carry-on suitcase from Carrefour and it’s perfect. I’m just waiting for the zipper to split. Them I might spurge for something better as one reader suggested. I need to check out the flats. Thanks for the tip. Yes, I’d love to connect in Nice. Keep me posted when you’re there.

  7. I’m 63, but have always been the lightest woman packer I know. A few ideas:
    • No matter where you go in the world people launder their clothes. Whether you visit the local coin laundry, pay the hotel for laundry, wash clothes in the bathroom sink of your lodgings, or pay a local vendor to wash your clothing, don’t pack extra stuff because you think you need a whole trip’s worth of clean clothes. I was recently in Nerja, Spain and spent a relaxing hour in a tiny coin laundry that was immaculate and had efficient, not-very-expensive machines.
    • No one but you will care a whit if you wear the same outfit several times. As long as you’re clean and tidy, you’ll be fine. And if you think wrinkles are untidy, know that most wrinkles fall out within an hour of donning a garment.
    • Never take a garment unless you’ll wear it several times. I have a friend whose dream was to visit the Casino de Monte Carlo. She dragged an evening gown that required its own suitcase all over Europe; when she got to Monte Carlo she found out people dressed casually even in the casino. Lesson learned.
    • If you run out of anything you’re likely to be able to buy it at your destination. People everywhere use soap, brush their teeth and comb their hair.
    • When you get home, as you unpack, note anything you didn’t use or wear. Next time leave it home.
    • When in doubt leave it out. Really.
    • Use packing cubes. You can use them to organize by outfit or by clothing type. Most folks who try them love them.
    • Don’t put up with bad luggage. Today’s bags are sturdy, lightweight and easy to maneuver. You deserve a functional bag.
    • I second using a backpack as your everyday carry. It’s much more comfortable than a purse carried on one shoulder or dangling from your hand. Do look for a secure one. Many now have the zippers on the side touching your body. My packpack was robbed in Barcelona; I’m in the process of choosing a new one now.

    • Oh my, Dorothy. Thank you so much for all your tips. I agree with them all! I’d love to know the backpack you decide to purchase. I generally carry my backpack under my arm, like a shoulder bag if I’m in a situation when I don’t feel it’s safe. But I’m still concerned. What type of packing cubes do you use? Happy travels!

  8. I always have a pashmina with me. It can be a scarf, wrap, and blanket on a plane. What brand knits do you buy? I’ve heard great things about All birds. Really enjoy your blog.

    • Love pashminas! A perfect choice for dress or fun. My knits are Lularoe, although my salesperson has stopped her business. No problem, though… I have bought plenty! I’ll look up All birds…. thanks, Pam

  9. As a long time backpacker I’ve learned how to pack light, carrying no more than is absolutely necessary. If I feel I’ve left something out or need something I didn’t think of, I’ll buy it. One thing that I love…my packing cubes. When it’s time to pack for a trip the packing cubes are the first thing I put out. A set of 3 light weight nylon zipper bags, they come in small, medium and large. They make staying organized a snap. My slacks and shirts are neatly folded in the large, undies, tees and p.j.s go in the medium and the small cube usually holds lots of miscellaneous small items like phone and iPad cords, small flashlight, adapters, etc. This makes finding that shirt (or whatever) you want easy; just grab the cube that you know it’s in. Traveling got so much easier when I started using these cubes. I got some for my husband – formally the messiest traveler I knew!
    Glad you mentioned Uniqlo. I never leave home without that ultra light down jacket, It may be 80 degrees in Chamonix but when you step off the cable car at the top of Aguille du Midi it’s freezing!!

    • I totally forgot to mention packing cubes! I love them too, although I need to replace mine. Bought a really cheap version and the zippers are breaking. What brand do you buy? Love that Uniqlo vest too! Considering about a full-length one. What do you think? Thanks for the ideas!

    • My packing cubes came from LL Bean but they no longer carry them. I ordered my husband’s from eBags. I just looked at the selections and picked one. The only label on the bags is “Travel”. They have held up well. I haven’t worn a full length down jacket/vest but am sure I’d like it. In fact, I think I’ll order one. Thanks for putting that idea in my head.
      Let me mention some pants that I just bought…Columbia Omni-shield. I bought them in grey and in black. They are light weight, should pack well and are water repellent. They are attractive yet multi-purpose…I’ve worn them hiking then changed shirts and worn them out for lunch and they’ve looked great in both scenarios.
      I am headed to the Alps in July on a hiking trip and these pants will serve me well on the trail during the day and out to dinner in the evening.

      • I have some Columbia pants and find they’re great for trips like Nepal, but not so good for places like Nice. Would love to have a link to where you find yours. Wish the Uniqlo long coat had a hood. However I use the vest so much it’s prolly worth a try. Do you have the heavier Uniqlo coat. Thinking…

        • These are the Columbia women’s ”anytime pull on pants”…a slim leg, trim look, no waist style which is perfect for me. And oh, so comfy! I don’t want a waist, belt loops or any of that. I bought mine here in the states at Academy Sports but you could get them from the Columbia website, I’m sure. In fact, I noticed that they come in khaki and I’m going to order them in that color. I’m sure I know the Columbia pants you’re talking about (that you already have) because I have a couple of pairs. These new ones I’ve found are nothing like those.
          I don’t have a heavier down coat. Here in No. Georgia we just don’t have cold enough weather to warrant the purchase of something heavier than the ultra light…at least, to me. It has to get in the low 20’’s for me to need anything other than ultra light…and how often does that happen here?! Never did this winter! But Uniqlo down items are such a good buy, why not have one of everything?

          • I’ll check out the pants, Vicky. Thanks. Not sure I need the heavier cost, either. Layering is probably best. Think I’ll definitely order the thinner long coat, though. Stay in touch. Happy travels!

  10. What a handy reminder post as I pack for 2 weeks in the UK. I have found that jeans are a must have for me – darker denim and black – slim leg rolled up for day if warmer – look smart with runners, or flats for night. With lightweight shirts in different patterns, a tank top underneath if it gets too warm can be worn under the uniqluo vests already mentioned if colder. Still a challenge keeping it light – but Im getting better at packing as I get older (I think)! I like your idea of a long knit skirt for night – now I just need to squeeze one into my bag 🙂

    • Wish I looked better in jeans. Maybe I haven’t tried the right brand. Suggestion? We should buy stock in Uniqlo vests! And the long skirt? It’s great for daytime, too in certain places. Would love to hear back about the jeans. Have a great visit to UK… Thanks!

      • Try the Not Your Daughters Jeans brand (a US label) – slim, skinny, straight all flattering. My go to jeans are always Levi’s however – again a style and length for everyone!

        • OK. Got it. I moved away from Levi’s to Old Navy. Perhaps I need to check again… and NYD’s too. Thanks for the update.

  11. I’ve also heard good things about the Allbird tennis shoes, but haven’t tried them yet. I also like the Rothy’s ballet flats. They’ve never hurt my feet or rubbed blisters. I wouldn’t wear them for super long hikes, but they are great for travel and site seeing. In addition, they are made from recycled water bottles and can be washed in cold water.

    • Thanks, Laura. So good to hear from you! I’ll definitely look up Allbird and Rothy’s. Shoes are my biggest issue. Love keeping up with you. Hugs to all.

  12. Hello. I would pack just a few clothes in complimenting colours that mix/max to make multiple outfits. Swimsuits & underwear can be hand washed & dried. Bring a few scarfs/shawls for modity, beach cover, cover up in religious places & to add some colour to outfits- beach throw, even use it for changing under it & to keep snug on flights/boats, chilly nights. Enjoy!

    • Thanks for mentioning the cover up in religious places. A scarf is an good solution. If you need to cover your head, too. Really appreciate your tips.

  13. The more you travel the lighter you pack ! Found out I never wear a sport jacket, only need one pair of jeans, can re wear clothes when renting apartment or house with washing machine. Do the same as you suggest back pack and carry-on with good 4 wheels -lighter is smarter ! Who wants to drag a dresser with wheels !!!

    • Totally agree, John. The more you travel and the older you get, the more important to carry less. I always challenge myself to remember what someone else was wearing a day or two before. I never can! So who cares if it’s a repeat… Thanks for your ideas.

  14. I am glad you mentioned Uniqlo ultralite down. I go nowhere without one of their vests, which I own in several colors. They easily pack into the bag they come with and weigh nothing. They can substitute for a tiny pillow or lumbar support. I would add individually wrapped sanitary wipes to your list. I am not a germaphobe but I also don’t want to spend my holiday in some strange bed. The pull-down trays on planes and the remotes in hotel rooms are particularly nasty overlooked hiding places.

    • So true! I’m thinking of buying the vest in the long size, too. For under light coats and on its own. Thanks!

  15. Less is definitely more when it comes to carefree travel! Like you I choose lightweight knits and wrinkle free fabrics that mix and match (usually black and grey). I am trying out the Hawaii Rip Skirt this year in a knee-length wrap design in a black/white pattern. Because this will be a late Spring trip I’ve purchased stylish ankle length pants. I’m also going to try the Allbird brand washable tennis shoe. In my onboard backpack I pack disposable toothbrushes that are ready to go, no water needed, and a small packet of wipes. I minimize all my toiletries including makeup: one lipstick, one nail polish, polish remover wipes, one small perfume. If you run out of something you have a reason to shop!
    Definitely dress in layers on the plane to save space in the luggage, to stay warm, and/or to create a pillow. LOVE knee length super comfy dresses with tights for the flight with slip on flats. Scarves are my go to accessory, and I leave any chunky jewelry behind.
    Can’t wait to hear what other readers suggest! I leave for a two month trip to UK/France/Sweden in just 3 weeks!

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