When you’re a solo female traveler, you have to be pretty self-sufficient. You don’t have friends, family or significant others watching out for you. That makes having a well-packed day bag super important to enjoying your trip. I spent a full year traveling by myself and went on countless day trips, from exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii to bathing an elephant in Thailand. No matter where I was, I used the same day bag and nailed down the perfect day bag packing list. Whether you’re on a day trip or out sightseeing on a longer vacation, this is the best day bag for solo female travelers and everything that should be inside it.
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The Best Day Bag for Solo Female Travelers
A lot of highly recommended day bags are small backpacks, but when you’re a solo female traveler keeping everything on your back isn’t safe. When you’re traveling alone, you need to be able to keep an eye on your belongings yourself. Some people solve this by carrying their backpacks on their bellies, but I honestly think that looks ridiculous and makes travelers even more conspicuous.
The actual best day bag for solo female travelers is a cross-body bag. You can keep your bag within your sight at all times. You can even discreetly keep a hand over the zipper if it’s crowded or you’re in an area known for having pickpockets. Wearing the strap properly across your body also makes it very difficult for anyone to grab your bag off your shoulder.
My favorite brand for day bags is TravelOn. Their bags add a lot of extra anti-theft measures like mesh lining and cable-reinforced straps so your bag can’t be cut open. (While I’ve never had this happen to me personally, nor have I seen it firsthand, it’s one of those things people warn you about and better safe than sorry.) I have two TravelOn bags — a medium cross-body bag and a larger laptop-friendly tote. They are both super durable and filled with organizational pockets!
Essential Day Bag Packing List for Solo Female Travelers
Inside my day bag, I also carry an extra tote. Envirosax brand totes fold up to almost nothing, but are surprisingly roomy unfolded. It gives me extra space for groceries or souvenirs if I’m out shopping. On beach days, it’s great to have a waterproof bag to keep a wet swimsuit separate from my other things. It’s just a nice backup to have on hand.
Before starting your trip, make sure your smartphone is unlocked. Here’s how to tell if your phone is already unlocked and how to unlock it on each provider.
Don’t risk being caught out with a dead phone. Anker makes an external battery that is about the size of a tube of lipstick and carries a full extra charge for your phone.
Yes, your smartphone can take really good photos, but cameras still capture better quality, especially in lower light or with faster moving subjects. Cameras also have better zoom. It is still worth packing a camera in your day bag.
I use a Fujifilm Finepix S4200 (link is to a very similar, though not exact, model). It’s a bridge or mirrorless camera, which means it has some manual settings, offering me finer control, but it isn’t as bulky as a DSLR camera. I’ve used it for several years and have no complaints.
I keep it in a small camera bag — barely more than a sleeve — within my day bag for extra protection. I carry extra AA batteries and a spare memory card in the camera bag’s pockets.
For your safety, never keep all your money in one place. Your wallet should only have enough local currency to get you through the day and a debit or credit card for emergencies. If you want to be extra careful, it’s worth having a spare stash of US dollars hidden elsewhere in your day bag. Another extra protective measure worth considering is an RFID-blocking lining, which prevents scanners from reading sensitive information like your passport through the bag.
Even if the forecast is cloudy, make sure you have sunglasses and sunscreen in your day bag. I use a solid stick sunscreen so it’s one less thing to worry about in my liquid bag in the airport. While we’re talking sun protection, make sure your lip balm has SPF too.
There is no substitute for washing your hands, but hand sanitizer will save you in a pinch. TSA regulations have recently relaxed so you can travel with larger bottles of hand sanitizer, but I always go for wet wipes over gel. With wipes, I can also sanitize surfaces like armrests.
First Aid Kit
If you haven’t caught the theme yet, a well-packed day bag is all about being prepared for emergencies. You can buy small travel first aid kits, but at the very least you should pack Band-Aids and pain reliever in your day bag. You might also include Neosporin for cuts and scrapes, aloe vera for sunburn, moleskin for blisters, or antihistamines for allergies. Naturally, if you take prescription medication, it should be in your first aid bag as well.
Even though we’re past the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s nice to have a face mask on hand. It’s a good habit for the times you do need one.
Notepad and Pen
On my round-the-world trip, I stayed on budget one very simple way. I carried a mini notepad and wrote down every penny I spent as I spent it. (This is also how years later I can tell you exactly what it cost to travel the world for a year.) I cannot recommend this method enough for budget travelers.
Last, but certainly not least, stay hydrated! To save space, I’m a huge fan of the many collapsible water bottles on the market. On my world trip, I carried a Platypus which folds down flat, but I found it awkward to carry when full and the opening was to small to fit my UV water purifier inside. Instead I recommend a bottle that squashes or spirals down or something like the Nomader, which is what I carry currently.
These day bag essentials will get you through almost any day trip you can imagine. For more packing tips, check out how I lived out of a carry-on backpack for a year.