If, by my endeavours, I have in any ways assisted my sisters in their wanderings, or encouraged a single woman to join the path of travellers by land or sea, I shall feel I have achieved the object of my labours.
Thus concludes Lillias Campbell Davidson’s 1889 book entitled Hints to Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad, the very first British travel guide written for women by a woman.
While we have since swapped planes for trains, cars for carriages, and buses for boats, Davidson would be pleased to know that over a century later, many of her practical travel tips (and those of her peers) endure, at least in principle.
Too many sweets given during a journey produces acidity in the stomach, and thereby causes discomfort and fretfulness…
—Hints for Travellers in the Summer by L.H. Yates, 1897
Nothing puts a damper on travel like an upset stomach. Guides of the day warned against consuming roughage such as raw fruits and vegetables and opting instead for mild, plain fare such as crackers and finger sandwiches.
It is wise never to travel unprovided with a small flask of brandy and water.
—Hints to Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad by Lillias Campbell Davidson, 1889.
Whether or not you opt for the brandy, water is essential! Packing a water bottle will undoubtedly help you stay hydrated throughout long days of walking, sunbathing, and sight-seeing.
A traveling costume should be simple in style and quiet in color, materials that will not show dirt being preferable. A waterproof cloak is a very desirable addition, as it may be at any time suddenly needed.
—Household Companion: Book of Etiquette by Alice A. Johnson, Mrs. Janet McKenzie Hill & Dr. Henry Hart Shorne, 1909.
When packing for a trip, efficiency is key. Travel as light as possible, ideally bringing only what you can comfortably carry on your person and only that which is absolutely necessary.
As Davidson suggests above, it is a good idea to pack clothing in neutral colors that won’t easily show stains, allowing you to get more wear out of every outfit. Additionally, neutrals are easily mixed and matched, enabling you to pack less. A Victorian lady’s traveling dress typically included a “mantle” or detachable over-garment to accommodate unexpected weather, fluctuations in temperature, and drafty indoor spaces. In similar fashion, it is a good idea to pack lightweight layers that can be easily donned and removed as need be.
Davidson warns against bringing nice clothes that might be ruined in the course of travel. Comfortable, practical garments should be prioritized with the exception of one dressy outfit to suit special occasions.
Lastly, it was customary for Victorian ladies to pack lightweight linen bags to keep dirty laundry and shoes away from clean clothes.
Victorian travel guides advised packing basic first-aid kit supplies for dressing cuts and blisters as well as pain-relieving medications for aches & pains that could quickly spoil a day of travel. A travel-sized eau de toilette was encouraged as well for keeping fresh during long (and sometimes sweaty!) travel days.
An Adventurous State of Mind
Travel with an open mind and a charitable eye…Do not start with the foregone conclusion that every country which does not invariable provide an eight o’clock breakfast of tea, toast and bacon is not fit for habitation.
—Travelling by Elizabeth A.S. Dawes, 1900.
Traveling often means venturing into the unknown, trading the familiar sights and experiences of the day-to-day for the discovery of a brave new world. Keeping an open mind is essential to truly immersing oneself in the vibrance of exotic cultures and places.
Bon voyage, fellow travelers!
“The Travelling Companions.” 1862 oil-on-canvas painting by British artist Augustus Leopold Egg.
Conger, Cristen. “How to Travel Like a Victorian Lady.” How Stuff Works: Stuff Mom Never Told You. <https://www.stuffmomnevertoldyou.com/blogs/how-to-travel-like-a-victorian-lady10.htm>.
Davidson, Lillias Campbell. Hints to Lady Travellers Abroad and at Home. London: Iliffe and Son 1889.