How to Travel Light by Packing Like a Minimalist

If you are familiar with me and my blog, you’ll understand why the topic of packing like a minimalist really excites me. I love minimizing my belongings and I love to travel. It just makes sense that I write a post like this. The following tips and tricks are simple and straightforward so it should be really easy to follow.

A minimalist packer isn’t what everyone desires to be and that’s okay. If you’re interested, you need to be comfortable with simplicity and be able to separate the ‘wants’ from the ‘needs’. Also, if you hate paying for checked baggage, want to breeze through the airport, be more mobile and move more comfortably, you’ll want to continue reading.

Who knew minimalist packing involved so much strategy.

Carry On Only

Sometimes I am a little envious of the cute hard case carry on luggage that some people have but that feeling fades pretty quickly. I think about the hassle you get at many airports of porters, who want to help you carry your bag, lugging hard cases up flights of stairs or over cobblestone streets, running to catch the last train of the day and realize that a backpack is the way to go. Packing like a minimalist is all about the carry on!

As you have read, there are plenty of advantages of only having carry on. Having a smaller bag will force you to pack less and pack smarter. The more you travel, the more you’ll realize how little you really need. Bonus: you won’t have to worry about lost luggage!

Check out the Travel Made Simple blog by Ali who has pulled information from over 170+ airlines and their carry on guidelines as of October 2019. I think the safest limit in litres for a carry on is between 35-40L for majority of airlines. Do your due diligence and double check!

Bag Options For Minimalist Packing:

My go to is the Farpoint Osprey 40L. This bag has 2 different sizes, laptop compartment, hip straps, front loading, bright interior, stowaway straps, lifetime warranty. I have had this bag for the past 5 years and it has treated me really well and has taken me from Spain to Portugal to Iceland, to Hawaii.

Mitch carries the Minaal 1.0 35L that has a very sleek look and has very similar specs as my Osprey: laptop compartment, hip straps, stowaway straps, front loading, and lifetime guarantee.

The most recommended bag from a lot of bloggers and reviewers seems to be the Tortuga Setout 35L. This bag has a removable hip belt which means you don’t need to get a fanny pack! Plus, it also has the laptop feature, is front loading and has lockable zippers.

A quick nod to Tentree’s Mobius 35L pack. Made with sustainably sourced materials, this bag is the most eco-progressive backpack. Plus, for everything you purchase on the site, they plant 10 trees! The Mobius can go from a 16L and expand to a 35L with its clamshell roll top opening feature so you can easily use it as a day pack as well. Don’t fret though because the back opens up and has a computer compartment. One major con: no hip belt to help distribute the weight.

There are so many beautiful packs out there that have different functions for the different type of traveller . Sometimes, backpacks just don’t work for everyone. I get it, if you have a bad back or children or maybe even have to bring a CPAP machine, a backpack may not work. This doesn’t mean you can’t have minimalist packing approach in other areas.

Use Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes

I cannot stress using packing cubes enough. Clothes are compartmentalized, and compact. Packing cubes compress clothes down allowing more room in your pack and they make things easier to sort through. Enough said. Once you get them, you’ll never go back!  I’m not sure what makes these a minimalist packing hack, but they sure do make your pack look clean and organized!

Simplify Your Toiletries

Keep it simple. Embrace your natural beauty and let your skin breath and your hair free. Toiletries take up so much room and can add a lot of weight to your pack. To pack your toiletries minimally, you have to be comfortable in your own skin and not be scared to leave things at home.

Minimally packing your toiletries can be a tough one but TSA has some pretty strict rules when it comes to carry on liquids so make sure you’re within the limits or you’ll see your expensive cleanser in the trash.

By the way, there’s no need to bring toner. Leave your make up at home. Bring a tinted moisturizer that has an SPF, a tinted chapstick and maybe some masacara and you’re set. Wearing a ton of makeup while you’re on an adventure, in the hot sun or in the pouring rain will not bode well for you so ditch it! It’s better to spend more time travelling than worrying about your face.

Try not to deal with liquids at all if you can help it. Grab a sunscreen stick instead of lotion and check out Dr.Bronner’s Organic Bar Soap as it functions as face, body, and hair wash.

Dr Bronner’s Organic Bar Soap for the Minimalist Traveller

Ditch your hair straightener. Who has the time anyways when you’re rushing to catch the tour bus. Most of the time you’ll probably end up tying your hair back.

For a more unconventional tip, if you want to be a hard core minimalist packer but can’t live without makeup, you could always get permanent eyeliner, nanobrows and a lip tint. If you’re in the Calgary, AB area, do check out Joelle Wong as she is an amazing cosmetic tattooist!

Hot tip, help save the environment and get yourself a mentrual cup. No need to pack tampons and pads.

To hold the toiletries you do decide to bring, you’ll need a small travel case, preferably one that hangs as washrooms tend to be tight and fairly small. Check out the Muji Suspended case as it is small and compact. A ziplock back could do the trick at stowing toiletries away as well.

Ditch the Technology (unless you need it for work)

Minimalist packing also involves downsizing the amount of tech you bring.  An e-reader is a great alternative to physical books, but they take up space. Instead, download audiobooks on to your phone.  I may be taking it too far on this one but hey, it’s one less piece of technology to deal with.

If you aren’t going to be workationing and have no real use for your laptop, leave it at home. Your bag will be so much lighter and you won’t have to constantly worry about it locking it up or getting it stolen.  Enjoy your vacation with less tech.

Minimize the Wardrobe

Don’t pack for more than a week. Apparently on average people only really wear 20% of their entire wardrobe. Keep this in mind while packing. We don’t need to pack as much as we think we do. This can be really tricky for some so make a packing list and try to follow the suggestions below to help you narrow down your wardrobe into a more manageable minimalistic approach to packing. I’m sure you’ll be able to minimize your pack!

Neutral colours – packing neutral coloured clothes makes it easier to mix and match your outfits. If you’re thinking about packing a beautiful top that only goes with let’s say jeans, leave it behind.

Layers – instead of bringing large bulky sweaters, consider layering up clothes. When your clothes work together, they go a much further distance. Clothes that are great on their own but can double up for warmth, even better!

Don’t pack for more than a week – there is always the option to do laundry whether at a local laundromat or in your accomodation with a Scrubba wash bag or in a sink. Carrying one of these things around defeats the purpose of travelling minimally but some sinks don’t cut it.

Shoes – shoes take up prime real estate so don’t bring more than two pairs. A nice walking shoe that can look great with a dress and a pair of runners for hikes and long walks is all you really need.  Flipflops are a must and they take up barely any space. I love heel and they look great but you will probably only wear them once….if even that. Leave them at home!

Optimize for comfort – you want to be comfortable when you’re travelling and be able to move and breath. Opt for clothes that are breathable and can wash/dry quickly. Wearing tight uncomfortable thick clothing can ruin a trip and keep you from having a good time.

Versatility – function over fashion ladies! An item that can serve different functions is your best friend. For example, a sarong could be used as a scarf, a blanket, a dress, or a towel. A bandana could be used a washcloth, headband, and neckwarmer. My ultimate favorite item that I take everywhere with me is my Vinyassa scarf which I have mentioned in many of my posts. This scarf can be used as a blanket, a scarf, a tshirt, a cardigan, and a towel. I love love love it. Mine is from Lululemon and as pricey as it may be, I think it was definitely worth it!

Also, if you can’t mix and match your clothing with at least two other items, not worth to bring

Repeat Outfit Offender – don’t be scared to wear outfits two or three days in a row. Unless they’re soiled or have a stench, you’re travelling… no one is going to notice or care.  If you really want to pack like a minimalist, you’re going to have to be okay with this possibly happening.

If in Doubt, Leave it Out

Have you heard of ‘shopping’? It’s a thing.  If you’ve forgotten anything, you can most certainly find it while on the road.

When the excitement and adventure of a trip is all said and done, try to remember what you didn’t end up using or only used once or twice on the trip so that you know for next time (I hope there is a next trip for you coming up soon) what not to bring! Happy travels and good like with your minimalist approach to packing.

Interested in reading more about minimalism and travelling, check out these posts:

Too Busy to Declutter? I Think Not!

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Hey there, I'm Cristine (aka Nomadgirlfriend). I want to quit my job so I can travel more. I just need to figure out the digital world so I can start making money to feed my wanderlust with my digital nomad partner. I welcome you to join my on this journey of self discovery and new adventures!

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