How to pack like a minimalist

Any time I go on a trip, I try to pack lightly. But pretty much everyone says that, don’t they?

Well, let’s start by defining “lightly”. I define it similarly to how I define minimalism: everything you need and nothing more. Except with travel I would say to try and bring even a little less than what you might need. Think of it more as getting by.

At home, I might want to wear a different outfit every day this week. But on vacation, I can easily get by with a few repeats. At home, I prefer to read paperback books. But I can easily get by with ebooks, and so on.

Things to consider when packing
  • Trip duration (how few outfits can I get by with?)
  • Weather conditions (long sleeves, short sleeves, both?)
  • Anticipated activities (hiking boots, beach towel, nice outfit for dinner, modest outfit for visiting a temple?)
  • Storage space on the airplane (will I need to check this bag? how much will that cost?)
  • Risk of losing an item (is it worth bringing my favorite bracelet?)
  • Alternates to your current routine (can I buy coffee at a cafe this week instead of bringing my french press? can I wear my hair curly this week and leave my flat iron at home?)
  • Travel mates’ items (can we share one tube of toothpaste instead of bringing two?)
  • Downtime (will I even have time to read or work on my knitting project there?)
Type of luggage to bring

I do not need a whole luggage set. You do not need a whole luggage set. Luggage sets are for people who over-pack. (tweet that) You really only need one big bag and one small bag. (And just use one of them per trip.)

I used to always admire people in airports who effortlessly pulled along their single piece of small luggage. It looked so easy and manageable. And there I’d be with my huge, heavy bag weighing me down, double checking that I didn’t leave my handbag or smaller carry-on on the seat behind me.

The more bags you have, the more you have to keep track of. The easier it is to leave one behind or for it to get snagged by someone with bad intentions. Any smaller bag I have such as a laptop bag or handbag all fit inside my main bag, so when I’m moving around, I have only one thing to keep track of.


All the clothes I bring follow these guidelines:

  • it’s comfortable
  • it doesn’t need ironing
  • it’s not too bulky or heavy
  • it can be paired with multiple outfits to get multiple wears on the trip
  • it’s not super valuable or special to me

Remember that you have many opportunities to wear something once you’re back home and conditions are different. Do you need to also wear it while on vacation?

Toiletries + Accessories

Again, think about what activities you’ll be doing. Do you really need makeup if you’ll be hiking or on the beach all day? If you’re having one fancy night out, can you get away with wearing your everyday makeup with maybe just one shade of eye shadow to add to it? What areas of your skincare routine can be skipped while you’re away?

Can you wear the same pair of earrings, the same bracelet, and carry the same handbag the whole trip? Wear the same watch, the same tie, the same belt? Usually the answer is yes. (And no one will notice.)


Bring only your lightest pairs of shoes and avoid clunky wedges or boots. I like thin sandals for the beach and a basic pair of (comfy) sneakers for walking. The sandals I wear (similar) are casual, but clean and nice, so they pair perfectly with sundresses for both day and night.

Don’t bring new shoes unless you break them in first. I bought some zero-drop shoes because I knew I’d be doing a lot of walking and hiking on an upcoming trip, and wanted shoes that would be both versatile and healthy for my feet. I bought them about a month before I left and wore them around the house to break them in and also to get my feet and knees used to how barefoot shoes feel.

Books + Music

Do yourself a favor and download all the entertainment you’ll need for the plane and bus rides while you’re still at home and have wifi. Trying to do it on the go can be a hassle and take up precious vacation time, so I like to make myself a few playlists and “borrow” audio books from my local library’s app ahead of time. You can always do more of this on the trip but it’s nice to have at least a few things in case you’re unexpectedly caught without wifi at the last minute. If you go with a paperback book, borrowing from the library is a great option for a trip shorter than a few weeks.

Maintain perspective

Sometimes we start packing so many things and the fear sets in that we might be forgetting something crucial. To calm my nerves about forgetting something, I remind myself that the only thing I really need to be comfortable is a toothbrush. And then of course I remind myself that I can buy one of those anywhere. And then I really feel extra-comfortable with all the luxuries I know I’ve remembered to bring.

Scuba diving in Missouri? Good thing I brought my wet suit!

Being prepared allows you to be spontaneous on your trip. So it can be tempting to over-pack just in case an occasion arises. But really think about the likelihood of an activity before packing for it. And see if something you’re bringing already can double as usable for the activity (for example, bring full length yoga pants instead of shorts for working out, and they can double as an outfit that covers you for a more modest occasion.) And if you do find yourself completely unprepared, you can usually rent equipment or borrow from someone else once you’re there.

Leave your expenses behind

If you’re going to be gone for a month or longer in another country and you’re on a month-to-month cell phone plan, consider cancelling your service while you’re away. With so many other ways to stay in touch, I can easily get by without texting and phone calls (and their international charges!)

Consider pausing other monthly expenses like Netflix or music apps if you wont have time to get your money’s worth while on vacation.


Those are my tips for packing like a pro minimalist! If you have more tips, please share them in the comments below.

Safe travels!

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.