When you’re traveling alone, it’s easy to become overly dependent on others when something goes wrong or you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation. After all, being alone means being independent, right? Right!
But that doesn’t mean you should be completely self-reliant at all times and in every way.
By keeping these things in your backpack while traveling alone, you can rely on yourself to deal with minor issues and stay safe in unfamiliar surroundings.
A small amount of cash goes a long way. Try to only bring out what you need in public, like when you want to buy something or pay for transportation.
Leave your cards and credit cards behind, because they’re too much of a target for thieves and pickpockets, who can easily take these from your backpack without you noticing.
If someone does get your wallet, make sure that you cancel all your cards immediately; in many cases, it’s possible to do so within 24 hours. It’s also important that you keep backup copies of all important documents — like insurance info and itineraries — elsewhere (on paper is great) just in case anything happens to them on your trip.
You should always have identification on you. Make sure to have an updated driver’s license or state ID, and a passport if you are planning on traveling internationally. If your ID isn’t up-to-date, remember to update it when you have time in between trips.
You don’t want to arrive at your next destination only to be denied entry because of your expired ID! Also, bring at least one copy of these documents with you in case something happens to your originals.
It is highly unlikely that you will ever need them; however, if something does happen and you find yourself stranded somewhere alone, they could prove invaluable.
3. Spare Locks and Keys
One of the easiest ways to fall victim to theft is to lose your keys or lock pick. A good rule of thumb is to bring two copies of each key for every door you need access to in your new city and leave one with a trusted friend.
Bring a copy of both your house and car keys—and make sure that you have copies on you at all times (don’t leave them in your hotel room, for example).
Take photos of your home key, because unless you’re moving far away from it, chances are you can just mail it back if you do lose it. Speaking from experience, once I lost my apartment key while visiting San Francisco.
4. Reading Material
Now, I’m not saying you need to bring a book or two with you everywhere you go, but it is important to have something entertaining if you get stuck somewhere. For example, sitting at an airport gate? Bring a book. Waiting in line at customs?
Bring a book. Running errands and waiting for friends? Bring a book. The more productive your travels are the better chance of making progress on those things back home that keep piling up while you’re away.
And really: no matter where you go, your phone will be able to help entertain (or distract) you – so consider bringing less technology than usual so that reading is just another option when things get boring.
5. A Small Bag for Shopping
When you travel alone, you have to get all your shopping done at once and that is why it is important to keep a bag just for shopping in your backpack.
This way when you get back to your hotel room, you will have an easy time unpacking. If you don’t do it that way, then it will be like opening a Pandora box when you finally get back home from traveling.
The more organized things are, and having one bag for everything; makes life so much easier on yourself.
6. Emergency Contact Information
It’s hard to predict when an emergency will strike, but it’s a good idea to have someone on hand who can help if you find yourself in trouble. Keeping your phone number or email address on hand—along with an explanation of where you are and what your plans are—is just good common sense.
The same goes for any allergy info, health conditions, and even directions to your accommodations; write down everything that could be relevant so that people know what they’re dealing with.
7. Duct Tape (Yes, Duct Tape!)
You never know when you might need to patch something up or hold a broken strap together.
Duct tape is extremely strong and durable and can be found just about anywhere in urban areas. Pack a few feet in your bag for added versatility. (Aka if your straps break on your backpack/bag, you can use duct tape to hold it all together.)
8. A Compact Camera
Photography can be more than a way to document your travels, it can be a way to connect with local people. But lugging around your DSLR everywhere is going to be awkward and make you stick out like a sore thumb.
Take one of those small compact cameras instead, you’ll still get great shots without standing out or being seen as an outsider.
You’ll also have less weight on your shoulders when taking long treks across town. If photography isn’t really your thing then don’t worry about it, they don’t take up that much space and will come in handy in other areas of your trip.
9. Some Extra Batteries
It’s a good idea to keep some extra batteries on hand for your phone, camera, and any other gadgets you may bring with you.
You never know when your devices will run out of juice and having a few backups handy can save your bacon.
Just don’t forget to bring along a charger as well; that way you won’t have to fiddle with any wires when you find yourself in need of power.
10. Special Medication
If you’re traveling overseas and have a severe allergy or chronic condition, carry your medication in a ziplock bag and clearly mark it with emergency contact information. Also be sure to have copies of your prescriptions, emergency medical directives, and physician/hospital contacts at hand—and don’t forget to pack some sort of portable charger for your phone!
I highly recommend these external chargers from Voltaic Systems that are compatible with any USB device.
They come in a variety of sizes ranging from 15-watt solar panels that provide enough power to charge all of my mobile devices at once during a full day of sunlight to something as small as an iPhone pocket battery pack.