Nine times out of ten, when I travel solo I stay in hostels. I might choose the new trendy boutique hostels over the crazy big party hostels these days, but I am still a strong advocate of solo female travelers staying in hostels. Hostels are a great way to meet people, save money, and are just as safe as an Airbnb or hotel. That being said – they do present some unique challenges – such as the shower that is down the hallway or the snoring stranger sleeping in the bottom bunk. That is why I’ve created this hostel packing list – with the solo female traveler in mind. This hostel packing list details everything you need to have a safe and fun hostel stay.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a tiny bit of income if you decide to make a purchase or booking.
What to Pack for the Gear
First and foremost, let’s talk about what you’re going to pack the following items in. When I travel internationally, I travel carry-on only with a backpack. This helps keep my hands free for things like passports, boarding passes, and peanut m&ms. When I travel domestically, I tend to just bring a carry on roller bag. No matter what you choose, the smaller the better.
The backpack I use is an Osprey Farpoint 40L with a detachable 10 L backpack which I use for day trips. I love the waist belt because it helps take the pressure off of my shoulders!
The carry on roller bag that I use is nothing to write home about. It’s super old and the zipper is breaking – but it still works!
Yes – packing cubes are on every packing list you’ll ever read for a reason. They are awesome. Packing cubes keep my stuff contained and organized. I know exactly where to find my underwear!
Buy my favorite packing cubes here!
Speaking of clothing, take half of what you initially intend to bring. Bring quality footwear that you know you can walk miles in without getting a blister (what kind of shoe is that for you because I can’t find a solid pair of shoes!). If you never wear high heels – why would you pack them?
Always pack a swimsuit yes – even in the middle of winter. Helllooo thermal spas!
And stick to the same color palette. Mine was grey and black, but I’ve gotten a bit more adventurous and added in some blue. I know, getting crazy over here! If you need a pop of color, bring a scarf or some cheap jewelry to liven up your outfit a bit!
What to Pack for the Shower Down the Hallway
Some hostels I stayed in actually have a full bathroom in the dorm room – which is such a treat! However, more still have the bathrooms in the hallway. Which means when it’s time for you to get ready for the day you’ve got to carry all of your shower stuff with you without dropping it or your towel! These items on your hostel packing list will make this process way easier.
Quick Dry Towel
Admittedly, these are kind of the worst in terms of luxury. But the perks of having it dry quickly and pack down nice and small to fit in your backpack are worth it!
Purchase your quick dry towel here.
We are talking about shared showers here. Yes – the hostel staff may be brilliant at cleaning them. But they surely don’t clean it after every person. Protect your feet with rubber flip flops. Which can also be used at the beach!
I never used to travel with a robe, and then one trip I decided to throw it in and now I won’t travel anywhere without it. It’s so much nicer to walk down the hall in a robe than in a small quick dry towel when you forget your change of clothes. Or when it’s a hair washing day, I can use my towel to wrap up my hair and my robe to wrap up my body so my hair doesn’t continue to drip once I’ve already dried off. And there are just some days you don’t feel like putting pants on right away – enter the robe. I use one that was a bridesmaid’s gift for my best friend’s wedding.
This robe is basically the exact same as the one I have!
So you’re walking down the hall, trying to balance your towel, robe, change of clothes, a shampoo bottle, soap, and your toothbrush. Why is it that the toothbrush is always the one that drops to the floor?!? Condense your stuff in a small toiletry bag. I use the same one I use for TSA. It was actually a part of a much larger toiletry bag from Eagle Creek. I didn’t have need for the whole thing, so I just took the clear part off and it fits everything I need. Now – if I drop it the bag hits the floor – not my toothbrush!
This toiletry bag is clear (perfect for TSA) and comes with TSA approved tubes for your liquids!
What to Pack for Sound Sleep
Have you ever climbed into your hostel bunk bed hoping for a solid night of much needed sleep? Only to be woken up by a hostel roommate who just arrived from travel (or the bars) at 2:00 am or someone who needs to check out at 4:00 am to catch the train. And as the lights switch on and off, doors open and close, and of course bags zip and unzip, you lay there wishing you splurged for that private room.
Unfortunately, we can’t control the actions of other people who don’t understand or care to follow the unwritten hostel rules so we must take care of protecting our own precious sleep.
I love my eye mask. I use it on planes, buses, and in hostel dorm rooms. It helps keep the light out when my hostel roomies need it to pack their bags – which means I can sleep just a little bit longer!
Purchase your eye mask here (it comes with ear plugs!)
Honestly, I haven’t found ear plugs that stay in my ears all night long. They always end up falling out – usually right around the time someone starts to pack their bag at 5:00 am. Can’t we all just agree to pack the night before!?!
For those nights when things just won’t quiet down – I keep my headphones close by so I can listen to a bit of white noise or music. I find this works better for me than ear plugs.
What to Pack for Your Health
Staying in hostels you come in close contact with other people’s germs. I have slept above someone coughing all night long (and I’ve also been that person). Sorry guys. To stay healthy and maintain my energy so I can explore these items are always in my backpack.
Reusable Water Bottle
RIP to all of the Hydroflasks I’ve accidentally left on buses and in hostel dorm rooms that now have new owners 🙁 But seriously, invest in a reusable water bottle that you can fill up at the hostel before you head out for the day and then at cafes along the way. Staying hydrated is crucial when traveling and there’s no need to use plastic water bottles!
After a good night out, electrolytes help me feel better almost instantly. Especially, when I can’t stomach any food right away. I travel with the Nuum hydration tablets. Just pop one into a glass of water – let it fizz up – and drink up! As an added bonus these tablets come in a variety of flavors.
Find your favorite flavor with this sampler pack!
Each trip I try a different type of walking shoe – in an effort to be both cute and comfortable. Inevitably, no matter how well broken in the shoe is, I end up with a heel blister. I don’t get it and it drives me crazy! So I always pack multiple bandaids and sometimes even moleskin to protect my feet. So I can comfortably keep exploring.
Always make sure you have any medications with you that you may need. If you get headaches frequently be sure to have the medication you need to help the pain ease. And if you take prescription medication – ensure that you pack enough to last the length of your trip – and then a few days. Also, bring with you a copy of the prescription just in case you do need a refill.
The Diva Cup is on every single packing list I create because I freaking love it so much. I bought mine two years ago and haven’t used a tampon or pad since. Do you know the kind of crap they put in tampons…and why are they so expensive?! Once you get past the “gross factor” of the diva cup, I promise you will love it too. It can be worn for 10 hours at a time – so hey long bus trips – no problem. I’ve never had a leak issue and I can’t feel it. If you only get one thing from this hostel packing list I sincerely hope it’s the Diva Cup.
Seriously, what are you waiting for? Buy the Diva Cup here!
Ladies – don’t rely on the guy to have these and don’t rely on a corner store to be open when you need them. Always keep a few on hand.
What to Pack for Safety
Sharing a space with complete strangers understandably brings up personal safety concerns. Most hostel dorm rooms come with lockers either underneath the bed or stacked against the wall, where you can stash your most valuable possessions. The lockers are where I put my electronics, passport, extra cash, and really anything else that will fit. I tend to leave my clothes in my backpack – if someone wants to steal them – they can go right ahead. Just another reason I travel with insurance.
In regards to my own safety, I am grateful that I haven’t had any issues of someone trying to harm me. I stay at highly rated hostels that take security seriously. Which means they don’t allow anyone not staying at the hostel to enter and there are locks on every door. There are ways to safeguard both ourselves and our possessions.
I travel with multiple travel locks – mostly because I inevitably lose one, but also so I can lock up multiple items at once. I use one to lock the locker – as locks are typically not provided by the hostel. But if you forget they sometimes have them for purchase. I use the second lock to lock up my backpack and then I slide my backpack underneath the bed – if it doesn’t fit in the locker.
Purchase your travel locks here.
This is not practical for a dorm room situation with people coming and going at all times. But if you splurge for a private room or are renting an Airbnb – then I highly suggest using this door alarm. It will first scare off the intruder and wake you up so you can take action to protect yourself and your belongings.
Purchase your door alarm here.
Knowing the hostel address when you arrive at your destination is crucial to getting there safely. Plot the hostel address on your maps app of choice (I use Google Maps offline) to ensure you are heading in the right direction. Also – write it down in your travel notebook, with the cross street information – just in case your phone dies. Locals may not know the name of the hostel, but they can point you in the right direction with street names and other landmark information. So be as detailed as possible.
Photocopies of Your Documents
I tend to lock up my original documents in the locker in the hostel and keep a photocopy of my passport with me. This way when I go out, I can still use it without running a huge risk of losing it. Also keep extra copies of your passport photo in a separate location from your passport. Just in case the real thing does get lost – you have easy access to what you’ll need for a new one!
What to Pack for Connection
I’m not talking about connection to other people – although – we will get to that in an upcoming section. I’m talking about what you need on your hostel packing list to stay connected and charged up – electronically.
A universal adapter is a must when traveling – especially when you’re planning to visit a variety of countries! Carrying a bunch of adapters is clunky and takes up more space than you’d think. A universal adapter decreases the clunk factor and ensures that your devices get the proper charge.
Purchase your universal adapter here.
So you leave the hostel for the day with a full charge on your phone and camera. Hours, and thousands of photos later, both are about to die and you’re much too tired to walk all the way back to the hostel to charge up. Plus, you’d prefer to call an Uber, but the phone will die before the app connects you to a driver! This is why a portable charger is essential for traveling. It allows you to stay out all day long, exploring, taking photos, using the maps, without having to be plugged into a wall or return to your hostel all the time. Just make sure that it is charged up before you head out – otherwise – what’s the point?
Get your portable charger here.
Multiport USB Charger
Why are there so many cords?!? My watch has a cord, my phone has a cord, my Powerbank has a cord, my kindle has a cord…how am I supposed to charge all the things at once. Well with a multiport USB charger. That’s how.
When I first started traveling, I had so many plugs for the USB cords and then I quickly realized that I’m lucky if there are two outlets near my bed to charge up. So in the Quito airport on my way to the Galapagos – I purchased a multiport USB charger and I’ve been using it ever since. It has four ports for USB cords and only requires one outlet. Problem solved!
This multiport USB charger is very similar to the one I use!
Now, if you don’t need reliable WiFi when you travel – then this is unnecessary. But as someone who books as I travel, blogs while I travel, and likes to Skype with friends back home – a reliable and strong WiFi signal is vital. In the beginning of my travels. I would just use my phone’s hotspot. But I quickly ran up the bill and even that signal wasn’t all that great if I’m being honest.
So I’ve been researching my options for a portable pocket WiFi system that isn’t too expensive for what I need it to do (see above). And I’ve decided to invest in the Skyroam WiFi system. It doubles as a Powerbank, has a solid battery life, and doesn’t come with any contracts. I pay for what I use. Now, I’m just patiently awaiting its arrival!
Purchase your Skyroam WiFi system here!
What to Pack for a Good Time
One of the top reasons to stay at hostels, especially as a solo traveler, is to meet people. You can chat with people in your dorm room, over breakfast, and in the common area. Many hostels also offer free (or very cheap) tours of the city you can join and meet people that way! I also always travel with a few things to help increase my chances of meeting people and having a good time.
Deck of Cards
Nothing breaks down walls learning new card games from around the world or sharing one of your favorites. Plus – they can be used for drinking games 😉
PMA – Positive Mental Attitude
A saying from my former athletics career – but one that holds true for most instances in life. Having a positive mental attitude entering a hostel can take your time from meh to awesome. In fact, the only times I’ve had a terrible experience at a hostel is when I was in a negative headspace. So enter with the intention of meeting some cool people and having a good time – and I promise, you will!
And there you have it – everything you need to pack for a hostel stay. Am I forgetting anything? Let me know what your must-haves are for your hostel packing list!