19th Century Women Travelers: Packing


As my fellow romance writers packed for RWA#13 in Atlanta this week, I wondered what Victorian women travelers took on their trips. Nellie Bly wore a two-piece suit with an overcoat and a cap and carried one small bag containing writing and toiletry necessities.


In contrast, experienced 19th century traveler and writer, Lillias Campbell Davidson, had a list of must-haves such as eau de toilette, smelling salts, a small flask of brandy, and an ivory glove stretcher.


In Hints to Lady Traveller: At Home and Abroad (1889), Miss Davidson also

suggested foot-warmers, well-stuffed feather cushions, a medicine chest, and travel rugs. Since she ventured into more remote areas, she insisted on bringing one item my fellow romance writers should be glad they didn’t have to pack. A portable bathtub.


I don’t travel quite as lightly as Nellie Bly, but I only use one rolling carry-on and a tote bag.

How many bags do you take on trips?


  1. When it comes to an RWA conference, I have a tendency to side with Lillias. Shoes alone take up about one third of my suitcase. You have your fancy pair, a fancy pair with lower heels in case you’re feet are killing you, a flat that is never fancy, but necessary if your back goes out (like it did one year). You get the idea. Never a bath tub or glove stretcher, though.

    • Chris, thanks for sharing how it’s all about the shoes for you! I usually pack 1-2 pairs of shoes in my carry-on bag and wear my flats on the plane. After I’m seated in my row, I change to a pair of slippers. For me, it’s all about comfort and room for clothes in my bag.

  2. I wear the only clothes and boots I need, but I check a bag full of wooden stakes and a mallet. Another with a sawed-off shotgun and an ammunition belt full of silver bullets. Finally, a carry-on filled with garlic, not to be eaten.

    • For those of you who don’t know, Gary is describing what his fictional vampire killing character would pack. When can I read more of Sebastian’s story?

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