Susan Heinrich leans against the side of a small 6-seater airplane while on safari in Botswana. She wears a beige linen shorts romper and is holding a hat.

Travel Essentials for Women


The indispensable items I pack for every trip 

There may be affiliate links within this post which provide me with a commission, at no cost to you. This is a way to help me to provide valuable content. More information at: Privacy & Disclosure.

I used to approach the packing of travel essentials by jamming as much as possible into my luggage and assuming I’d have everything I need. Unfortunately, this leads to overpacking. And I’ve learned that having to manage extraneous bags weighs me down, literally and figuratively. And so, through trial and error and some recent globetrotting, I’ve come up with a list of the important items I now take on every  trip. I hope my list sparks some new ideas and helps you plan a collection of travel essentials, all your own. 

Susan Heinrich at Denver Union Station with Monos travel products: the Monos Check-In Medium roller bag in desert taupe and the Metro backpack in black. Monos luggage is featured in her guide, gifts for travel lovers.

The Travel Essentials





A woman puts a passport inside a hidden zipper pocket inside a blue and white scarf that is around her neck. Travel scarf by Waypoint Goods.

Travel Scarf

Scarves are one of my favorite travel essentials! They shelter you from a breeze or hot sun or cover your shoulders as you tour a church or monument that requires you do so. They’ve saved my hair from an unexpected downpour and add a fun hit of color to a neutral outfit. (They can be an ideal compliment to an otherwise neutral capsule wardrobe.)

You can choose a scarf specifically designed for travel, such as the one pictured above from Waypoint Goods. It comes with a hidden zipper pocket for storing valuables. 

Susan Heinrich stands on the steps of a colorful temple in Luang Prabang, Laos
I had a scarf with me which I used to cover my shoulders when I entered this beautiful temple in Luang Prabang, Laos

Or bring along any scarf you love on your next trip. I especially like cotton. 

view over the rocky mountains from an airplane

Compression Socks

Compression socks are an important travel essential for women who travel on long flights. Sitting for long periods can put us at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. (DVT) My doctor recommended knee-high compression socks for all my long-haul flights and I now pack them for every overseas trip. Even sitting in a car for long periods can cause lead to swelling in the lower legs, so I plan to take them on future road trips as well. The compression of the socks squeezes the legs to increase blood flow back towards your heart. 

I’ve tried several brands and my favorite are the compression socks from Wellow. I recently returned from a trip to Africa and wore them on the 16-hour flight. They were super soft and comfy, and not too tight which I found with some of the others. Their socks come in only a medium level of compression (18-25 mmHg), the range typically recommended for travel. Do check with a doctor if you have any questions about buying and wearing compression socks. 

A woman hiker holds a reusable water bottle out with a red canyon in the distance beyond

Essential for Travel - Reusable Water Bottle

I am not sure what is more essential than staying hydrated, and I drink more water on my travel days when I bring a reusable water bottle. At airports, I fill up my bottle as soon as I am through security, so I have water handy as I wait and don’t have to rely on a flight attendant coming around with a tiny plastic glass of water. 

Just as important, by bringing  bring my own bottle I can avoid buying single-use plastics. The last thing I want to do as a visitor to a new place, is contribute toward their plastics problem. 

A long-tail boat is pictured on the Mekong River in Luang Prabang, Laos. A pink reusable water bottle is pictured in the foreground and a guide is standing in the water holding the tip of the boat.
My reusable water bottle has traveled around the world with me. This is the Mekong River in Laos.

I personally love water bottles by Swell; they make great gifts (from $25) and the classic stainless bottle by New Wave Enviro ($11) has been all over the world with me, including Laos, above. For more options, the New York Times has tested over 100 bottles and selected the 8 Best Water Bottles. I am almost certain that when you bring this travel essential along on your next trip, you’ll never want to travel without it again. 

Susan Heinrich sits on a terrace on the Greek island of Hydronetta, with stunning view of the Hydra coast beyond

Hats for Travel

A hat is another of my favorite travel essentials. Wide-brimmed hats for summer, or a cute baseball hat for spring and fall, depending on where I am traveling and the weather. I have had a basal cell carcinoma on my forehead (skin cancer) so I have to be especially careful about sun exposure. And of course cozy hats are essential for winter. A hat is easy to carry and can make a difference between being comfortable while you explore and getting chilled, or too much sun. A hat can also add an element of chic to an outfit. 

A hat may not be a travel essential for every woman, but I encourage you to at least consider one for your next trip. I love the selection of hats by Kooringal Australia (they ship overseas). In the U.S. they are part of a great collection at Tommy Bahama if you’d prefer to try them on, rather than order online. 

A woman stands on the steps of a yurt surrounded by snow
I love cozy, colorful hats for winter getaways
Susan Heinrich wears the Isla Straw Fedora by Gigi Pip
A wide-brimmed hat is essential for me, on warm-weather trips
Susan Heinrich stands with her camera with the sunset beyond while on safari in Botswana's Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. She wears part of her safari wardrobe: rust shorts and a beige linen utility jacket.
On an African safari I carried a portable charger with me in my backpack

Portable Chargers

I don’t know about you but my phone feels more and more essential and that’s even more true on my travels. I use it for my boarding pass, airline apps, taking photos and videos, navigation using google maps, and for podcasts about the destination (I love Rick Steves for Europe). And I’ve noticed that many museums and attractions now have guides you can download to your phone. With all of that, my phone battery runs down very quickly. I know that when I am off on a full day of exploring, it won’t last. Add to that the unexpected: flight delays and boat trips without power access (such as a river trip in Cambodia, above). 

Luckily, there is a simple solution, a portable battery which I bring with me on every trip. This small, travel essential is easy to carry and allows you to charge as you go. If you are in the market for this handy device, have a look at these top picks by Travel & Leisure Magazine: Best Portable Chargers. 

Susan Heinrich with Boy on Motorbike Street Art in Penang Malaysia

Tote, Crossbody Bag or Backpack for Daily Essentials

The right bag for the trip makes all of the difference. Think about what you will want with you as you tour each and plan accordingly. I always carry my water bottle, unless I’m heading out for the evening when I’ll mostly be in a restaurant. I love crossbody bags such as the one pictured here. But if you have a lot to carry you might want to consider a backpack. I have two, pictured below. One is a small adventure daypack the other is more stylish and ideal for my travel days and for wearing when I know I will be doing a lot of walking and want to bring my DSLR camera. 

Susan Heinrich at Denver Union Station with Monos travel products: the Monos Check-In Medium roller bag in desert taupe and the Metro backpack in black. Monos luggage is featured in her guide, gifts for travel lovers.
This Monos Metro Bacpack is great for travel days and for siteseeing when I have more to carry, such as my DSLR camera.
Susan Heinrich skiing at Steamboat State Lake Park
A sporty dayback for a day of cross country skiing in Colorado

Walking Shoes

Perhaps even more important than the right bag are the right walking shoes. If our feet aren’t happy, we aren’t happy.

Shoes for travel should be comfortable, versatile and practical. The right pairs will depend on where you are going and what you will be doing (cobblestones aren’t especially forgiving for any sort of heel, for example).  

My basic rules of thumb is no more than three pairs of shoes on any trip and two of those should  be shoes you can comfortably wear all day. I say two because even the comfiest shoes can give you blisters if you walk in them long enough (I was recently reminded of this in Paris) and so you need a second pair to alternate. A third pair can be more dressy, say for evenings. The shoes will change with the seasons and destinations of course, but the criteria will not. 

I love loafers because they are practical and versatile and go with so many different outfits. A sandal with some arch support is my go-to essential for warm-weather trips. I have a pair of Olukai Upena sandals (I am wearing them in the photo below, on a trip to India) and they can be worn with shorts, pants and dresses.  And of course, sneakers are very in style right now, and the ultimate versatile travel essential for women. Choose your shoes thoughtfully and you will enjoy the trip so much more. 

Momcation - Susan sitting at the leheyria spring gate, at city palace jaipur

Travel Medical Insurance

Don’t leave home without this essential. “Travel medical” is insurance that will cover your medical expenses in the event that you become injured or sick during your international travels. This is not insurance in the event of trip cancellation; that is separate but can often be a part of the same policy.  Travel medical is intended to cover the costs of an unexpected health emergency. It can also include coverage of trip interruption due to contracting Covid-19. For an in-depth explanation of what to look for in a policy and how to purchase travel medical insurance I suggest you read: How to Buy Insurance. 

If you are located in the US, I can recommend the company I have used for my last few trips to Europe: WanderwellTheir “Trip Protection” plans (cancellation policies) can include travel medical insurance or you have the option to buy travel medical only. 

Awoman runs along a path with palm trees

Extra Prescription Medication

Flight cancellations, illness, a medical emergency – you never know what might delay your trip. I once had an offer to stay in Mexico an extra 4 days, all expenses paid, because the charter company had overbooked its flights. Yes, I stayed and I wouldn’t have been able to if I didn’t have extra prescription medication with me. It’s also possible to misplace medication, so I take extra and keep it separately from the main bottle I access daily.

A Google Map Customized for Your Vacation

Creating a google map specifically for your trip, with all you want to see, do, eat etc. makes navigating a new place much easier. If you are going somewhere like Paris for example, you might want to save restaurants you hope to try, or perhaps a map with Where to Find the Best Views of the Eiffel Tower. Creating maps is fairly straightforward; if you would like to try it this link explains the steps.  Creating Custom Google Maps.  You will need an account with google, which you will already have if you have a “gmail”.

Susan Heinrich exploring the Preah Ko temple in Siem Reap Cambodia. She is pictured walking in profile in front of three temples that date to the 9th century.
Susan exploring the Preah Ko Temple in Siem Reap Cambodia


Travel can bring the chance to experience new places and new people. Depending how far afield you venture you may be visiting a destination within your own country or a new  culture on the other side of the world. Things that are different can sometimes cause stress, such as unfamiliar foods, languages or customs. By approaching these experiences with a sense of curiosity it can allow us to be intrigued by and ultimately appreciate these differences. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading “Travel Essentials for Women.” What do you always take on your travels? Please share your favorite travel essential in comments below. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



About - Midlife Globetrotter

Hey there,

I’m glad you’re here. Can we talk about midlife? I reached my late 40’s, realized my kids were growing up, and adventure began calling in a new way: big travel adventures as well as everyday ones. I want Midlife Globetrotter to be a place where we explore how to add a sense of fun, freedom and meaning to these precious years. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, and all that’s ahead.




More to Explore