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Travel Minimally and Pack Like a Pro

Ever tried to travel minimally and pack your whole life into one big backpack or suitcase? Let me tell you, it’s a challenge!

Whether you’re traveling overseas or staying within your country or state, nobody wants to carry a 50-pound pack from place to place. From flight to bus to train and back again. Or whatever transportation you are taking.

I know all to well on how this feels from backpacking around Australia and Europe for months at a time. I would look over at travelers with one small carry on bag and envied them to no end!

My Dad, on occasion, will call me ‘girly girl’. Now I really don’t consider myself a girly girl, maybe somewhere in between, but you can just imagine how difficult it is to travel minimally when you’ve never had to do it before.

But I was excited to take on the challenge of fitting my stuff into one suitcase for my first trip abroad for a month to Australia. And, then again for three months to Europe. Just to see how little I could travel with.

After traveling numerous times, I feel like with each trip I learned to get by with less and less and definitely feel that having less is more.

travel minimally

Easy Tips to Travel Minimally

Determine Your Essentials

When creating a minimalist packing list, the same question keeps popping up: how much do you need?

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer. The exact amount of pants, shoes, jackets, and electronics depends entirely on the traveler and partly on the destination itself.

The major challenge lies in defining your essentials. By doing this, it will save a lot of time with packing decisions.

(If you like a good challenge, try a money saving challenge.)

Essentials are usually clothes, toiletries, and other travel accessories. They should be versatile and usable in varied climates and locations.

Once determined, the essentials will form the foundation of your minimalist packing list.

Use Packing Cubes

To be completely honest, I have never used these. But I’m convinced after watching numerous packing videos that they are bound to make life on the road easier and more organized.

There is nothing worse than trying to find a sock or pajama top or something that was lost in the midst of my luggage bag, only to destroy the organization of my bag in order to find the item. With the packing cubes, I could simply take them out and place them in a drawer or shelf and easily find what I needed.

Half transparent dividers would also speed up the process of packing by separating the luggage into various small compartments.

Accordingly, I’ll spend less time wondering where to put my microfiber towel and shorts – their location inside the suitcase will be defined by the corresponding packing cube.

They are on my Christmas list this year. So, hopefully my husband is reading this post. (hint, hint)

Use Small Containers

If you’re anything like a non-minimalist, you have an abundance of beauty products that come with bottles of all shapes and sizes. When you are trying to pack these for a trip those large bottles can quickly add weight to your bag and take up considerable space.

On all of my trips, I have utilized small containers to help myself pack minimally and reduce the number of products and large bottles I need to bring.

These are great for storing bulky products like night creams, hand creams, moisturizers, shampoo/conditioner, etc. They can be found at any cheap shop, grocery store, or online. One of my favorites is the Go Toob.

Roll Your Clothing

Rolling your clothing can help you better organize your stuff. It can help you see what you have at a glance rather than piling everything on top of one another.

It also helps to reduce your clothes from getting wrinkled. Also, rolling your socks or underwear and packing them into your sneakers or shoes can save some extra space as well.

Please keep in mind, just because you have extra space doesn’t mean you need to pack extra, especially clothing. Believe it or not, clothes weigh the most.

Clothes in General

It can be amazing how long you can survive with a small wardrobe! If your trip is going to be seven days, then pack for three or four days. (Except socks and undergarments, of course. Unless you have access to a washing machine).

It seems that every time I come back from a trip; I only used half the clothes I packed anyway. Does that ever happen to you?

Pack minimally and ensure that your outfit packing choices can mix and match and give you a range of outfits to choose from. By sticking to 2-3 main colors, you can ensure most clothes can be worn with others and increase your options.

Also, when trying to travel minimally, choose clothes that are lighter fabrics. Wool and heavyweight fleece are sure to keep you warm, but they also tend to be both bulky and heavy.

Check the Weather of Your Destination Before Packing

Every year my family goes camping the first weekend in October. I live in the Midwest so weather can be very unpredictable that time of year. There are years where we’ve had 90-degree weather and years where it snowed and tents were collapsing.

One year, I thought I was all ready for the weekend. I had my hat, gloves, jacket(s), long underwear, etc. And wouldn’t you know, a tropical heatwave came through at 90+ degrees.

Besides a t-shirt or two, I was extremely unprepared.

I knew the next time I traveled I would be more prepared. Before you head to any destination review the weather forecast for the locations you are going and do some research on what to pack for your destination. Don’t pack a bag full of things you won’t need and regret leaving the things you will at home.

If you’re going on a road trip, download this amazing master checklist.

Limit Shoes

When it comes to shoes, packing light is a tricky balancing act between bulk, style, and comfort. The lightest available shoes, such as sandals and ballet flats, may not offer enough support for long days of walking.

If you’ve got a heavier pair you need to bring, wear them when you’re in transit, reserving your suitcase for lighter shoes.

Where possible limit your shoe selections to 2-3 pairs including a pair of comfy walking shoes. Don’t get carried away trying to bring a shoe for each occasion or outfit. Ideally bring something for walking, something dressier and if necessary, something activity appropriate like hiking boots or flip flops.

Go Digital

Give yourself some space from actual books or magazines and get the audible or kindle app before your trip.

Join Google Local Guides before you go and learn how to stay up to date.

Keep Cosmetics Minimal

Make up products can easily get out of hand traveling. In order to travel minimally, stick to your favorite products and don’t bring double. Bring one foundation, one eyeshadow pallet, blush, and so on. Just stick to the basics.

Unless you plan on finding your future husband on this vacation, who are you trying to impress? Even if that’s the case, he’ll eventually see you naked (talking about your face) down the road anyway.

Limit Hair Tools

Pack minimally by not going overboard with the hair stuff. If you are staying in a hotel or Airbnb they will most likely provide you with a sufficient hair dryer. Bring the hair straightener/curler if you absolutely have to.

You’re on holiday, leave the fancy stuff for home!

Limit your Accessories

Keep accessories to a minimum, the last thing you want to worry about is losing a sentimental piece of jewelry. Pick a handful of accessories to bring with you and leave the others at home. 

Wear one piece and pack the other to limit what is in your baggage even further. 

I’m not much of a jewelry person, so I’ll usually just pack a scarf or two. These are great for working double duty as a shawl when getting into churches in Europe or covering for when I’m cold on the plane.

Use Products That Double Up

The lightest option for toiletries, of course, is to pack none and either depend on your hotel to provide you with basics or purchase them when you arrive at your destination.

If you can’t travel without, use your shampoo as soap, shaving cream, and hand soap. This can save you from bringing many other products or buying any at your destination. Moisturizer can be used as eye make up remover as well as shaving cream.

Pack Fast Drying Clothes

When possible pack a few items that can be washed and dried easily to help your clothes dry faster. The quicker your clothes dry the quicker you can be wearing them again.

If You Have Doubts, Don’t Pack It

But what if I decide later on whether I need something or not?

I am convinced that there is no “deciding later” when it comes to traveling minimally.

If you truly needed it, you wouldn’t question its usability or necessity.

Downsize Your Handbag or Wallet

Before you leave for your trip, clear out your wallet of any receipts, cards etc. that you will not be needing. Only bring the essential.

Leave your over-sized handbag at home as well and opt for a smaller bag that will be easier to carry day after day. Preferable an over the shoulder one so your hands can be free.

travel minimally

Travel Minimally and Feel The Weight Lift

Packing light doesn’t mean sacrificing style or comfort, but it does require rethinking such travel basics as suitcases and shoes.

An ounce here, a half-pound there, when you’re packing for a trip, these small increments can add up fast. Do the math and it’s easy to see why this matters: If your checked bag is too big or heavy, you’ll acquire baggage fees on most airlines.

If you are carrying on a suitcase, weight matters even more since you’re the one lifting your bag dozens of times while in transit.

Packing light is hard. But it’s totally worth it! Once you force yourself to pack smarter and lighter, your vacations will become so much more enjoyable.

The travel minimally approach to packing will make you more comfortable and more mobile. Finally, you’ll feel like a bird, not like a pack mule.

Remember, to travel minimally requires lots of time, dedication, and the ability to separate your wants from your needs.

Want more amazing travel posts to read, check these out:

21 Amazing Benefits of Travel and why it’s good for you.

How to stay healthy while traveling.

Staycation, just as fun as a vacation.

Traveling with your teen and NOT losing your shit.


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