23 Sep Minimalist Packing Tips From Travel Experts
Are you sick of lugging INCREDIBLY heavy bags around airports? Are you tired of overpacking? Do you get made fun of for how much luggage you bring with you? Well you’re not alone! I’ve experienced all of those feelings as have many other well-traveled bloggers. We all know the feeling of a backpack that is too heavy. However, we are here to help you lose weight— the luggage weight! As travel experts, we have come together to create the ultimate list of minimalist packing tips. These tips will change the way you travel for the better
Travel Carry-On Only
I will admit, I am a CHRONIC overpacker. I always read stories about people who backpack across Europe with no more than a 30l bag, and I’ve never understood how they manage it! However, I’m beginning to curb my overpacking issues by following this minimalist packing tip: travel carry-on only.
By traveling carry-on only, I am automatically limited in what I can bring. If my carry-on is a backpack, then I am also limited in weight as I can only comfortably carry so much. Step one to packing less is to immediately limit the amount that you can bring. Plus there are SO many benefits to using this minimalist packing tip. For one, airlines now often make checked baggage an extra cost. This means that the more you bring, the more it costs you.
Traveling with only a carry-on also allows you more mobility in your travels. You don’t have to worry about cobblestone streets or crazy buses. Everything can be right on your back and easily transported from one location to another. If you are wondering how in the world you would be able to fit everything in just one bag, keep reading for more tips!
***Affiliate links are used: If you purchase through my links, I will receive a small commission! The support of you purchasing through my link allows me to follow my dreams! So I thank you for all of your support!!!
Decant Larger Toiletries Into Travel-Sized Bottles
Reusable silicone travel-size bottles have been a game-changer in how I pack. Transferring my regular shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and face wash from their full-size bottles into smaller travel bottles takes up way less space in my carry-on and I’m happy to be able to do a small part for the environment.
Aside from making it easier to pack a carry-on, using reusable travel-size bottles are more cost-effective and sustainable since I only buy it once vs. buying a new travel-size bottle for every trip. An added bonus is that I know I’m going to look and feel my best by being able to use my everyday toiletries instead of whatever travel-size item happens to be available at the store.
Oh, and even if I’m checking a bag I still prefer to use reusable travel-size bottles. I once heard some advice that said, even if you are checking a bag and you can bring your full-size bottles, why would you want to? And it’s true! I would never use the contents of an entire shampoo bottle on a trip so now I never have it take up precious packing space.
Contributed by Jessica of Very Obsessed
Bring Items That Have Multiple Functions
One of the best hacks to pack minimally is to only bring along items that can be used for a variety of different settings or functions. For example, when packing an article of clothing, it’s best to pack things that can be used in a multitude of occasions- think a dress that can be thrown over a bathing suit as a cover-up, worn with a pair of leggings to go temple hopping, or dressed up for a night on the town.
With respect to non-clothing items, try to pack items that have multiple uses as well, like a dry bag that can work as a makeshift cooler to carry your drinks to the beach, a bear bag while you’re backcountry camping, and as an actual dry bag while you’re kayaking or doing other water sports. By packing multifunctional items, you won’t have to pack nearly as many things and you’ll be prepared for a diverse array of settings- exactly how every minimalist traveler should be!
Contributed by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler
The Rule of Three
Backpacking, especially for a longer duration, can be a real hassle when it comes to packing light. With just one bag to last for months on an end, it gets daunting to figure out what to pack and what to leave behind. But for me, the rule of three has especially been a saviour in packing light. Packing as per the rule of three essentially means packing only three of everything – three pairs of lowers (trousers/ shorts/ jeans/ skirts); three tops – (shirts, T-shirts, tank tops); three pairs of socks and three pairs of underwear.
All of these, tightly rolled into the good old army rolls help save a lot of space especially while travelling long term. When practising this rule, I also always carry some laundry detergent with me to wash clothes whenever they get dirty and a laundromat service isn’t accessible.
Contributed by Avantika of Wayward Wayfarer
Bring Multi-Use Bar Soap
As a minimalist traveler, I’ve tried various ways to downsize my toiletry bag over the years. I find that shampoo and body soap takes a lot of space and weight, especially when it comes in liquid form. That’s why I was pleased to discover the magic of the Marseille soap whilst I was living in France.
As the name suggests, Marseille soap, or Savon de Marseille, originates from France. Made from natural ingredients such as olive oil and sea salt, this solid block of wonder can be used for an incredible array of purposes.
As you can guess, it can clean your skin and hair. It’s ultra-moisturizing and hypoallergenic, hence suitable for both dry and sensitive skin. Apart from that, you can also use it to wash the dishes, remove stains from textiles, and do your laundry!
As someone who goes camping frequently, Marseille soap has eliminated laundry powder and dishwashing liquid from my packing list. It’s also reduced my consumption of single-use plastic. How wonderful is this product?
Contributed by Dina from Hey Explorer
Invest in Merino Wool Clothing
Getting ready to travel means gathering the right travel gear, and one of the earliest lessons we learned as we tried to minimize our travel gear is to go with Merino wool clothes whenever you can.
Merino wool excels for three reasons: it’s natural, it grows on sheep; it regulates your body temperature by naturally insulating you when it’s cold and transporting sweat away from your body when it’s warm; and, finally, it’s naturally odor resistant – you can wear it for days without offending your companions.
Merino also compresses in your suitcase or pack, saving space. And because you don’t need to change your shirt every day, you can bring fewer items. Obviously, that means less laundry, too. And when you do need to wash a Merino item, you can do it in your hotel sink, hang it up, and it will usually dry by morning.
You can get almost any clothing item in Merino. We always love their shirts, but there are socks, underwear, hoodies, and even shorts and trousers made of Merino.
The only drawback is that Merino can be expensive. But, like I said, you need fewer items. So, spend on what you’ll use, and leave the rest at home.
Contributed by Tom of MNTrips.com
Bring Minimal Shoes
One of the biggest space-stealers in your bag is shoes. Shoes are relatively large and unwieldy, and if you’re travelling long term with multiple pairs, you may end up sacrificing a few necessities.
So, one good tip is to pack only a pair of flip flops and a pair of waterproof hiking boots. In fact, you don’t even need to pack the boots – you can wear them! This way you take up no bag space whenever you’re on the move. Hiking boots also tend to be very comfortable and supportive for the foot, which is ideal when you’re on your feet all day; or even spending the day on a plane.
Waterproof hiking boots have you covered in all conditions – except summer heat, which is what the flip flops are for! I travelled for four months with just these and it was really easy, pairing down all my shoes to nearly nothing.
Katja Mamacos from WanderCapeTown
Buy Toiletries and Child Essentials at Your Destination
One of the absolute easiest ways to travel minimally, especially with a family, is to purchase toiletries, like shampoo and contact lens solution, as well as baby travel essentials, like diapers, over the counter medicines, and sunblock, at your destination.
Our family, which totes around two young boys, travels with the bare minimum when it comes to toiletries. Other than life saving medication and a couple of diapers, we opt to keep our carry-on size suitcases packed without toiletries to save space and travel with less bags overall. Since toiletries, especially for a family, can end up taking up a lot of valuable luggage real estate, we find it easiest to make a quick pit-stop at our destination or plan ahead with a pick-up order.
We always check with our hotel or rental host for what might be included with our stay for free, and purchase small or travel sized toiletries that will still be needed. A typical purchase might include a small toothpaste, fragrance free shampoo, conditioner, and lotion the entire family can use, contact lens solution, disposable razor, and small deodorant. We minimally purchase these essentials, as well, to cut down on waste at the end of the trip!
Contributed by Victoria of Explore with Tori
Create Minimalist Itineraries
Be minimalist when planning a road trip, and stick to a specific area in the country. Instead of trying to see everything, take the time to explore smaller areas. In doing this, you will save yourself stress, time, and money.
We live in Paris, and our French road trips rarely cover more than one French region. Each region has its own top sights and also beautiful hidden gems on secondary roads that are worth exploring. So why drive to another area when we can have so much fun around the corner?
Because the driving distances are shorter, you are also more respectful with the planet, as you are spending less gas. Also, you are helping the small business off of the main tourist tracks.
It is also about quality vs. quantity. Driving lesser kilometers means less time on the road and more time in the places you visit, so you get to know the area you are covering much better. True, countries like France are very tempting, with many interesting things to see and do. But why rush from A to B when you are having fun?
Contributed by Elisa from France Bucket List
Pack a Sarong
From all my years of travel, a sarong has to be the one item I can’t leave home without. A sarong or wrap is usually roughly 3 feet by 4 feet, made of light fabric and can pack away small into your carry-on. The sarong has multiple uses and can save you from missing out on amazing travel experiences amongst other purposes.
Firstly, a sarong can be your blanket or keep you warm on a long airplane, train or bus ride. Really important when you are going somewhere hot and don’t want to pack a bulky sweater. You can also wrap it around your neck like a scarf if you are walking near the ocean in the evenings.
Secondly, the sarong can be your best friend at the beach. Treat it as a cover-up over your bathing suit and lay it down on the sand to act as a beach towel. Wrap it around your head if you are getting too much sun.
Lastly, and most importantly, a sarong can be draped over shoulders and knees for when a dress code is required for temples, churches and religious sites. Don’t miss out on those precious travel memories.
By Haley of Haley Blackall Travels
Do Laundry on the Road
One of the more obvious ways to minimalize your travel experience is to travel lightly. The more you can fit into a carry on bag, the less money that you will spend on airline baggage fees and the less you have to carry around. However, laundry becomes an issue if you plan to travel for longer than a week. You can fill up your bathroom sink to wash a couple pairs of socks or underwear, but that isn’t going to be enough if you have big items like pants or sweatshirts, or you are travelling with children. Besides, it is piecemeal type work.
When I travel, I don’t want to spend each night washing clothes. I want to enjoy myself and take a break from the daily grind. Sending your laundry out through the hotel laundry or another similar service is brutally expensive. I would much prefer to spend that kind of money on a nice meal, an experience, or maybe even a flight!Instead, I plan my itineraries so I either stay at an apartment/home with insuite laundry every 5-7 days or I stay at a hotel with a coin operated laundry facility within an easy taxi or uber drive away. This gives me the advantage of saving money and doing all my laundry at one time. With a little bit of planning, you can even do this in the unlikeliest places.
When we were in Ecuador, we had one night between visiting the rainforest and heading to the Galapagos Islands. We were staying in a nice hotel by the airport. The hotel wanted a fortune for our laundry. Instead, I found a local laundromat, collected the laundry in a garbage bag, called a taxi and headed into a local neighbourhood (after checking with the hotel desk that it was safe to do so). We ended up being able to drop off our laundry at the laundromat for literally a few dollars and then, walking around a very cool neighbourhood that we would never have found but for the laundry.
Contributed by Nicole of Go Far Grow Close
Slow travel is one of the most important minimalist tips I’ve honed in on during my travels.
Slow travel is exactly what it sounds like- spending long amounts of time in one travel destination, rather than hopping frequently from one city to the next.
I know exactly how tempting it is to want to cram as many different places, activities, and tours into a trip as possible. I’ve done that. However, I believe that just because you technically see more that way, you are missing out by not getting to experience places in depth.
For example, let’s say you have one month to travel. Rather than trying to see 4 countries and 12 cities in that span of time, you could stay in one town for an entire month. During that month, you take some weekend trips of course, but really you can become fully immersed in the place you are staying. You’ll actually be able to meet locals, find hole in the wall places to eat, and explore more than just the most touristic sites in the town.
As a bonus, this form of travel is typically far less expensive. Slow travel has allowed me to not only escape tourist traps and get to know places better, but also travel for longer.
Contributed by Haley from Gathering Waves
Download Ebooks to Your Phone
No matter how much of a travel expert we think we are there is always room for improvement. For example, if you are a person who loves to read, why not carry your whole library with you? Back in the day, you may have carried one or two of your favorite hardback books. Today, if you are smart about it, one amazing minimalist packing tip is that you can carry as many books as your smart device will allow. Have you heard of an Amazon Kindle or are you familiar with iBooks? If not, get yours today. You can even get a free 30 day trial for audio books through Audible if you are interested!
The last thing you want is to have a ton of books weighing you down along your journey, especially when you take into account you can use that space (and weight) for other items that can enhance your travel experience. I used a series of exercise books to help me learn some basic Spanish phrases on my travels, the majority of those types of books I have tend to be big and heavy, so downloading all my favorite exercise books to my iPhone before I embarked on my 3-month trip made my backpack so much lighter.
Contributed by Daniel of Layer Culture
Bring a Collapsible Water Bottle
As someone who likes to travel light, carting around my big heavy double-wall insulated reusable water bottle isn’t really efficient. Until recently, I’d solve this by buying just one large plastic water bottle at my destination and refilling it over & over again. But we all know that’s not optimal for our health, and even one plastic bottle is one too many for the environment.
That’s why I was so excited to learn about collapsible water bottles! They still may not be the most eco-friendly water bottles available, as they’re often made out of silicone which is non-recyclable, and non-biodegradable. But silicone has a very long life, and it’s BPA-free, unlike plastic. Opt for a bottle made out of medical-grade silicone and you’ll have a safe and healthy drinking bottle that will last you years! Now that I have one, I can roll it up in my backpack when travelling (saving on space and weight) and refill it time & time again while I’m out exploring far-flung locations. It’s a perfect solution for those that want to do their bit for the planet – even while away from home!
Contributed by Nadine of Zero Waste Memoirs
Use a Scrubba to Do Laundry
My best minimalist packing tip for longer trips is to bring a Scrubba! Scrubba is a portable laundry machine where you just need water and eco-friendly laundry soap. You might also want to bring along a rope to hang your clothes to dry depending on where you are traveling to. They do sell several different sizes depending on if you are looking for the ability to wash a few small items or several bigger items.
This is such a great space-saving device because I save so much space by just washing and re-wearing my clothes while I’m on vacation. The hardest part is taking the time to wash and hang the clothes to dry but it is so worth it. I’ve used this on all my longer trips like camping in the Dakotas or while staying in hostels in Nepal. Both times I was gone for at least 11 days but was able to keep all of my gear in a 60-gallon hiking backpack and still had room for my souvenirs. This is one of my traveling must-haves whenever I go on a longer trip.
Contributed by Tiffany of Pennies, Places, and Paws
Create a Capsule Wardrobe
A capsule wardrobe is a perfect way to travel light while also having plenty of clothing options. Essentially, with just a little planning and color coordinating, you can easily make about 15 different outfits using a small number of staple items.
Some key staples in a capsule wardrobe include black pants (which can be dressed up or down), shorts, a casual top, a dressy top, a jacket, and a thin scarf. With these items alone you can make several different outfits. For example: pair the black pants with each top, and then add the jacket and/or scarf to vary it up even more. Then combine the shorts with each top and then also with the jacket and/or scarf. Scarves can be very light material to pack, and are a great way to add a punch of color to an outfit.
The main tip when selecting the pieces for your capsule wardrobe is to make sure everything matches with everything else. So be sure to stick to neutral tones (black, white, khaki) for your bottom pieces, and pack only one or two statement pieces, like colorful shirts. Now you’re free to mix and match for any occasion on your travels. Having a go-to capsule wardrobe for travel is the ultimate minimalist packing tip.
Contributed by Olivia from the Girl With Blue Sails travel blog
Wear Your Bulkiest Items on the Plane
One of my minimalist packing tips for travel is to avoid packing bulky items. I understand that cold weather destinations require heavy jackets, sweaters, and boots, but they don’t have to go in your suitcase. You can wear these types of items on your travel day. You can even throw on an accessory like a scarf which can save even more room.
To figure out which items to wear, I lay out all the clothes I plan to pack. Then, I generally put a few items back that I think will take up too much room in my suitcase. Next, I assess how I can combine my bulkiest items into a travel day outfit. This space-saving packing trick can make the difference between carrying my luggage on a plane or being forced to check it. Plus, by wearing my bulkier clothes, I can avoid baggage fees, waiting at baggage claim for my suitcase, and I’m prepared for the cold weather when I step out of the airport.
Contributed by Michelle of the The Trav Nav
Solid Toiletries for Travel
One of the best ways to minimise the size of your toiletry bag while travelling is by purchasing solid alternatives to shampoo, shower gel, face wash and even moisturiser!
There are many good reasons for switching to bars and reducing the baggage size, and weight is only one of them! If you travel with hand luggage only with liquid restrictions, bars come in handy as they are not restricted and airport security checks. Solid toiletries also contain fewer chemicals and toxins; some of them are even 100% pure and excellent for your body. And, if that hasn’t convinced you yet, buying solid toiletries dramatically reduces the use of plastic, and we all know how we need to do our bit for the environment.
Many good brands specialise in toiletry bars, and you can easily find them on Amazon and even your local drug store. I managed to find a lovely Garnier shampoo bar in Rossman which is a popular chain in Europe. Don’t be put off by the higher price of the shampoo bar because they will last you much longer than the liquid equivalent.
Contributed by Mal from Raw Mal Roams
Find Multiple Purposes for Your Gear
One minimalist packing tip is to use your gear for multiple different things. Multipurpose items capable of performing various functions invariably result in leaving other things at home. Take flip-flops as an example. They can be used as shower shoes, slippers, and beachwear and help reduce the number of shoes that need to be packed.
A popular multipurpose item is a pashmina. It can be used as a shawl, a scarf to dress up an outfit, a privacy screen, pillowcase, swimsuit cover-up, and a host of other uses. Multipurpose soap can be used as body wash, shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, or shaving cream. Duct tape has so many applications that it’s a staple on many travellers’ packing lists.
Another approach is to look at ways to merge items to eliminate something else. For example, instead of assembling a sewing kit, I pack a needle and thread in a small plastic dispenser containing soap leaves. Wrapping duct tape around a reusable water bottle eliminates the need to pack a travel pack of duct tape.
There are a host of other multipurpose items and applications that help travellers avoid overpacking.
Contributed by Anne of Packing Light Travel
Use Travel Compression Bags
One awesome minimalist packing tip is to use compression bags. I still have my first set of travel compression bags from over a decade ago and I use it on all my trips. It really does help with keeping a small footprint for clothes. And for those times when I need to bring a towel, I also throw it in there and have room for other stuff.
Compression bags are usually made of plastic. Once filled it is zipped up and rolled to push out the air. It does wrinkle clothes a little bit so make sure to unpack and hang your clothes once you reach your destination. Because I use compression bags I am able to bring an extra pair of shoes and some other things since there is more available space in my travel bag. I have a couple and sometimes I organize my clothes according to day, type, or clean and dirty. It is also super useful when traveling to a cold place since all of the bulky cold-weather clothes and accessories can be packed and compressed.
Contributed by Bernadette of Livesozy.com