Traveling As A Minimalist: How Much To Do & Pack
Have you ever spent hours and hours shopping and deciding what to pack for a trip? Have you ever hoped to only bring a carry-on with you on your flight, only to end up packing a huge suitcase at the last minute?
Or have you ever come back from vacation feeling more exhausted than you were before you left? I have totally done all of these things before I started living a more simple lifestyle. Thankfully, traveling as a minimalist is much more simple.
Where I was stressed out and overwhelmed trying to figure out what to pack before, I am now able to quickly decide what I need. One thing that really helps when it comes to packing my clothes is the fact that I now have a capsule wardrobe.
Having a capsule wardrobe means I own fewer items, and what I do own all coordinates so I can mix and match to create outfits easily. This makes packing so much easier!
I can put together multiple outfits to bring quickly and with a fewer amount of items. Learn how to create your own capsule wardrobe with me!
Another thing that has changed for me since living a more minimal lifestyle is the way I plan my time on a trip. Before I would make a packing list of all the things I want to do, trying to cram in as much as possible.
Part of this was the fear that this would be the only time I got to visit that particular location. Or worse, I would fear this would be my last vacation for A LONG TIME. Traveling as a minimalist is thankfully very different.
Want to know more about minimalism? Check out this post
Benefits of Traveling as a minimalist
There are three ways that being a minimalist has helped traveling be less stressful, and some are more obvious than others. Minimalist travel has truly made traveling more enjoyable!
1. Minimalist travel helps you be intentional with your time.
First, I am able to see the value in doing less, so I now plan less to do on my trips. I have a clear purpose (or two) for my trip, so I don’t fill it with unnecessary things.
For instance, we have a trip coming up where we are spending 10 days in California visiting family. I know that the purpose of this trip is to spend quality time with my family, as well as have some fun as a family.
So, when I’m planning my time there I will think about these purposes and plan accordingly. I want to have enough breathing room in the schedule so that I can be flexible for the people I love. And, I don’t want to do so much that we come back broke and exhausted. 😉
2. Minimalist travel leads to minimalist packing.
Second, minimalist travel helps me to travel lighter. I don’t pack unnecessary things, so I am freed up to travel more easily (and on less money!)
I only pack the essentials, so I can more easily stick to a smaller bag. This saves me on luggage fees as well as making it easier for me to move around while in transit. You can explore an area so much more this way!
3. Minimalist travel allows you to travel more.
Third, being a minimalist means that I have more time and money for taking trips if I want to spend my time and money that way. That means the pressure is off! I don’t need to stress about cramming in all the things because I may never get back there again.
I know that if I end up absolutely loving our chosen destination, I will likely be able to go back and do new things. And I know that I will be able to take more trips than I was able to before, so I don’t stress about making every vacation “the best trip ever!!!”.
Traveling as a minimalist is so much easier, so much more simple, and so much less stressful!
What is minimalist packing?
Minimalist Packing for Travel
Traveling as a minimalist means that I pack less than I did before. There are two ways to really narrow down what you should bring: (1) look at the weather, and (2) list the types of activities you need to pack for.
When I was thinking about what to pack for our upcoming trip to California, I looked at these two areas first to know what to pack. I looked up seasonal temperatures, as well as the forecast.
It looked like it could be anywhere from 50° to 75°F where we are staying in Southern California. So obviously, I wouldn’t be needing winter coats but should bring sweatshirts and jackets instead.
I also considered what types of activities we would be doing. I listed eating out, checking out Universal Studios, going to a hockey game, taking family photos, going to church, swimming and sitting by the pool, hanging out at the house, and seeing Disney On Ice. Now, I simply made sure to choose items that fit those activities.
Obviously, there are some other things to consider for minimalist travel. How long is your trip? Where are you staying? What could you re-wear? Could you do laundry during your trip if you need to? Could you use the hotel’s hairdryer or toiletries?
Ask yourself these types of questions in order to decide what to bring…as well as what to leave behind. Minimalist packing for travel is about only bringing what you actually need.
Check out another one of my posts on how to pack in just a carry-on for 2 weeks!
Size of suitcase
If you are flying, try to only bring a carry-on for minimalist travel whenever possible. It will save you money, be less of a hassle to drag around, and you don’t have to worry about the airline losing your luggage. Check out this post on traveling with just a backpack!
Even if you aren’t flying, try to bring the smallest bag possible and pack travel-size toiletries. You can buy small bottles and fill them with your products at home! This will prevent you from needing a huge toiletry bag in addition to your suitcase.
Again, consider which products you actually need for this trip so you don’t overpack.
If you are looking for some awesome carry-on backpacks for your minimalist packing, check out this super helpful post on the blog, Unwork to Travel. Travel backpacks aren’t the same as hiking backpacks.
They are more like a suitcase that you wear on your back, making it super easy to get out your things when you need them! This is a great option if you travel to places where it would be easier to not have a bag to carry or roll around.
How do I maximize my suitcase’s space?
Traveling as a minimalist usually means bringing the smallest bag possible. But how do you pack a carry-on-sized suitcase for a week-long trip…or longer? There are so many great tutorials out there showing you how to pack most effectively and efficiently.
The best tip I’ve found for fitting the most stuff in your suitcase is to roll up your clothes. Rolling them up makes things easy to find later and keeps everything compact. You can even utilize the space inside your shoes by placing rolled up socks inside.
Also, consider wearing your larger items like boots on the plane and packing your smaller items like flip-flops. And use resealable bags to keep small items together or to protect from spills.
I also have an entire post with space-saving packing hacks to help you! These tips will be a great help in your attempts at minimalist packing for travel.
You can buy organizers or dividers for your suitcase, but if you are using a small suitcase, I don’t see the point. Everything should fit tightly enough that it doesn’t move around, but not so tightly that you can’t get anything out.
Minimalist travel also means packing items that work hard for you. They might serve multiple purposes, or they might work so well that you don’t need to bring something else.
Minimalist packing requires you to be smart about what you pack. When you are limited on space, the items you choose to pack need to be worth it.
I mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again: plan multiple outfits with the same set of clothes. This is easier if you already have a capsule wardrobe, but it is worth it even if you don’t.
What Are The Travel Essentials I Need To Pack?
Deciding how to pack light as a minimalist will depend on your style, itinerary, and packing checklist. Here are a few questions to answer first:
- What will the weather be like?
- What will I be doing?
- How long is my trip?
- Where am I staying?
Essential Personal Care Items
Although we need personal care items, you have to ask when will we need them. Can you get them when you arrive?
Toiletries are bulky and take up extra space. Using ziploc bags or a toiletry bag can aid in organization and space-saving.
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
- Hairbrush or comb
- Soap or body wash, facial cleanser
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Hair product
- Makeup (select one neutral look)
- Prescription meds
Essential Clothing Items
Consider packing clothes in compression bags or small bags like packing folders or packing cubes to keep the size of your items minimal.
- Tops/shirts (i.e. tank, short-sleeved shirt, long-sleeved shirt, blouse)
- Layers to mix-and-match (i.e. cardigan, sweatshirt, jacket, coat)
- Bottoms (i.e. pants, jeans, leggings, skirt, shorts)
- Swimwear (ie bathing suit, sarong, flip flops)
- Purse or bag
- Footwear (i.e. sneakers, sandals, flats, heels, boots)
Other possible essentials (depending on weather and activities planned): dress, swimsuit, sunglasses, accessories
Other Essential Items
- Travel documents and ID
- Cash and credit cards
- Phone, charger, earbuds
How much should I do on my trip for minimalist travel?
Obviously how much you do on your trips is up to you and can be different for everyone based on stage of life, energy level, and the purpose of the trip. Traveling as a minimalist simply means you are intentional about what you decide to do.
For some that may mean they hit every museum in the area. For others that may mean they relax by the pool or beach sipping cocktails the entire time. Or, maybe you are a social butterfly so you want to make sure to hang out with the locals and make some new connections.
I recommend having at least one thing planned every day, leaving room for relaxation and spontaneity. By having one thing planned ahead of time, you don’t need to stress while you are on vacation.
By only having a couple of things planned each day, you also don’t need to stress trying to get from one thing to the next. And, you are able to be flexible when the unexpected happens.
All of this is much easier if you plan your trips in such a way where you aren’t trying to see all of the touristy things. Instead, trying living like the locals. This will actually allow you to experience more of what the location has to offer in such a unique and intimate way.
Travel Planning Printable
Come up with a flexible plan before your next trip! I have a travel planning printable that will help you get started. Sign up now to receive my FREE 3-page “My Travel Plan” printable workbook.
You can use this free printable workbook to create a must-see and do list and plan when you will make it happen. (Book the hotel, buy the tickets, make the reservations.)
In addition, make a list of things that might be nice to do while you are there so if you suddenly have the time and energy to do something, you have a few ideas.
And don’t worry. If you find that you loved your destination and didn’t get to do everything you had hoped, make a plan to go back! Traveling as a minimalist means you get to travel more. 🙂
Remember, if you are a minimalist, the key to traveling well is to pack less and do less! Packing less and doing less frees you up to enjoy your travels more.
How do you go about packing for trips? How do you decide how much to do and what to do? Share with us in the comments!
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.
Thanks, Matthew! You’re definitely not alone in this. Happy travels!
This is a great post! We are currently planning our first trip to Europe and trying to do it in backpacks! It is so hard not to try to do a million things in these amazing cities but we are trying to only plan one or two big things a day so that we can really enjoy it!