How To Travel Like A Minimalist: Packing List And More

how to travel like a minimalist


Traveling like a minimalist means striking the balance of finding comfort while away from home, but not being weighed down by excess stuff either. Choosing minimalist travel has changed my packing process entirely and made everything easier for me.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Having a minimalist mindset while traveling has taken all the hassle and headache out of my traveling experience. Packing light allows me to have what I need without being weighed down, and focus on the experience of the trip itself.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Is Minimalist Travel?

What Is Minimalist Travel

Minimalist travel and packing like a minimalist are less about the type of trip you’re taking and more about your mindset. Traveling like a minimalist looks like packing the items that are truly necessary for your travel experience and leaving behind the rest so that you can focus on the experience, not on lugging a heavy suitcase.

Traveling like a minimalist doesn’t mean that you have to limit yourself completely and refrain from packing what you need for your trip. It just means that you skip packing for the what ifs and set your sights on the things you know you’ll need.

travel and pack like a minimalist
It’s less about how many bags you lug along and more about making sure every item that goes into them is something you’ll get use out of. Skip the rain coat if expecting sunny weather, or the makeup kit you haven’t used in years, and stick to the essentials.

what is minimalist living

Minimalist Travel Packing List: Essentials Only

Minimalist Travel Packing List

When I’m packing for any trip, I divide my needs into smaller categories to make the packing process more manageable and keep track of what I actually need. I start with my travel capsule wardrobe, then pack my toiletries. I prefer to organize things into packing cubes to keep the chaos at bay while on the move.

After covering those two main categories, I migrate to the things I use every day and whatever else I need for the specific trip I am taking.

Minimalist Travel Capsule Wardrobe

Minimalist Travel Capsule Wardrobe

Traveling with a well-planned capsule wardrobe is the move for any vacation, especially if you’re trying to travel like a minimalist. Clothes are a major culprit that take up a lot of space in a suitcase or bag. Create your own capsule wardrobe to minimize your luggage.

minimalist packing for travelBuilding a successful minimalist travel capsule wardrobe is all about strategic, intentional planning. It’s easy to pack way more clothing than you actually need when your approach is just throwing whatever you think you need in a bag. When you plan each outfit specifically, you’ll ensure what you have is actually what you need.

To do this, you’ll want to think through several things. Check the weather for the entirety of your trip, and choose items that will work with the climate you’ll be in. It’s also important to pack high-quality, staple pieces that can be worn more than once, especially for longer trips where you’ll have access to a washer and dryer.

Similar to personal uniforms, capsule wardrobes work best when you have a few base pieces like neutral shirts and pants, and then accentuate with only a few pieces that can give the outfit an entirely new look.

A Basic Travel Capsule Might Include

  • Two T-shirts
  • Two long sleeves or tank tops
  • Two pairs of shorts or jeans
  • One dress or suit
  • Sweater or swimwear
  • Pajamas
  • Four pairs of underwear
  • Four pairs of socks
  • Sneakers
  • Sandals
how to build a capsule wardrobe

My own capsule wardrobe is pretty simple, but you can make it as decorative or basic as you prefer. Of course, this basic list will need to be adjusted based on the weather on your trip, if you have plans to go out somewhere fancy, or any other trip-specific clothing needs that might come up.

Minimalist Travel Toiletries

Minimalist Travel Toiletries

Toiletries are probably the second biggest category of travel items that can suck the space from your suitcase. Of course, it’s different for women and men, and it also depends on how basic your daily routine is.

Ryans Minimalist Travel ToiletriesHowever, I’ve found that there are several essentials when it comes to toiletries that I make sure to have on me when packing like a minimalist, and some that I know I can survive without.

If I’m going to a place that doesn’t provide basics, I tend to pack a two-in-one bar that can I use as my shampoo, bodywash and facewash — my favorite is the Duke Cannon’s Midnight Swim Bars or their Shampoo Pucks in Gold Rush Scent.

For the larger bar, I cut a chunk off to suit the length of my trip put in a Matador flat pack soap bar bag. The pucks come in a small tin which is super convenient. I’m not one to overcomplicate things with multiple products, but I also don’t have temperamental skin or hair.

Basic Toiletries To Pack As A Minimalist

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body soap
  • Facial cleanser or wipes
  • Chapstick
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Deodorant
  • Basic makeup
  • Daily medications
  • Feminine products
Basic Toiletries To Pack

When it comes to packing my toiletries as space-consciously as possible, I use Gotoobs to hold my liquid toiletries, which have never leaked on me, and I put that in a bag inside my larger toiletry bag where I keep everything else. This saves me space and keeps my liquid toiletries separate to help prevent leaks or spills in transport.

Toiletries You Can Travel Without

  • Extra lotions or skin creams
  • Entire makeup bag
  • Multiple hair styling tools
  • Hair accessories
  • Nail polish
  • Essential oils or perfumes
Toiletries You Can Travel Without

Ryan’s Minimalist Toiletries

Ryans Minimalist Toiletries

My personal toiletry kit has a two-in-one soap puck, deodorant, razor, comb, tooth brush, toothpaste tablets, and a nail clipper. I use the shampoo puck as body and face wash, then also use it for shaving.

minimalist travel convenience itemsI also sometimes bring along a few convenience items, all individually wrapped. While I don’t like all the wasteful packaging, having medications in their original wrapping makes going through security at airports much easier.

The two white tablets in the photo are mini hand towels that expand — those along with the face wipes are a godsend when you’ve been traveling for a long time and need to wash up when you don’t have access to a shower. The Purell packets are also good because their size won’t bring much attention as a single use packet going through airport security.

For longer trips, I’ll often add shaving cream, a mini sewing kit, and lotion.

Minimalist Daily Travel Essentials

Minimalist Daily Essentials For Travel

One of the best things to do when it comes to packing the rest of your miscellaneous daily items is to have a central location in your home where these items live regularly. This could look like a catchall tray, a storage bin, or a backpack or travel bag.

Keep daily essentials like chargers, electronics, a water bottle, and more in this spot. Then, when you’re preparing for a trip, you can move all of your essentials to your luggage quickly. You’ll save yourself the mental space of having to fish through your closet or under your bed for your lesser-used items that are still essentials.

Daily Essentials For Minimalist Packing

  • Laptop
  • Phone
  • Charging cords
  • Headphones
  • Keys and wallet
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Identification (license/passport)
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Chapstick
  • Pens
  • Book/notebook
  • Snacks
  • First-aid kit
minimalist travel essentials

Ryan’s Daily Minimalist Essentials

Ryans Daily Minimalist Essentials

When I’m packing my minimalist travel bag, I usually put all of these daily essentials in a separate travel bag than my clothes and toiletries. If I’m flying, this is what I fill my carry-on with for easy access. Even if I’m road-tripping in a car or travel van, I usually put these items in a carry-all pouch that goes in my backpack.

Trip-Specific Items For Minimalist Travel

Trip Specific Items

Once I’ve covered all my daily essentials and basic needs, I usually have about half a suitcase of room left to focus on items specific to my trip. This could be anything from ski gear to a surfboard to your bridesmaid dress to a nylon tent and off-grid camping cookware.

I don’t know about you, but the process of packing always feels super tedious and mentally draining to me. Covering all of your basics first is one of the best ways to pack like a minimalist and make the packing process way less daunting. You knock out all the more thought-intensive categories first, then just focus on the fun stuff.

How To Pack Like A Minimalist: Best Travel Gear

Best Minimalist Travel Gear

In addition to having a packing strategy and following a packing list, using savvy packing gadgets can help you travel light. Investing in these simple products can make your minimalist packing life a whole lot easier.

Amazon Basics 4 Piece Packing Travel Organizer Cubes

Four Piece Packing Cube Set

The last thing I want when I’m packing for a long trip is to have all of my items thrown lackadaisically into my suitcase. This four-piece packing cube set helps me keep me luggage organized and all of my loose items separated into categories in my suitcase.

GoToobs by Humangear

GoToobs And GoTubbs By Humangear

Created by Humangear, the GoToobs and GoTubbs are essential containers when it comes to packing my toiletries for a trip. The GoToobs are perfect for transporting liquid toiletries like body soap, shampoo, and conditioner, while the GoTubbs are ideal for things like bobby pins or daily meds.

Packism Clear Toiletry Bags

Packism Clear Toiletry Bag

Like I mentioned in my advice above, when I pack my toiletries, I like to separate my wet toiletries from my dry toiletries. These small, clear toiletry bags by Packism are an ideal size to store all my liquid toiletries and then nestle into my larger suitcase or carry on.

Their transparency also means they’re TSA approved. With these toiletry bags, you don’t have to shove all of your liquids into a Ziploc before boarding the plane.

Matador Toiletry Bag And Soap Bar Case

Matador Toiletry Bag And Soap Bar Case

Matador has several storage products that are ideal for traveling like a minimalist. Their wet toiletry bag for men and their FlatPak soap bar case are convenient, waterproof, easily storable options for transporting wet toiletries with no leaks or spills.

General Medi Store First Aid Kit

General Medi Store First Aid Kit

Packing like a minimalist means being prepared for anything while still packing light. I love this mini first-aid kit because its 0.35-lb. size, mesh material, and carabiner clip make it so easy to transport. 110 pieces fit into this small kit, including an emergency foil blanket, CPR respirator, medical scissors, bandages, and more.

Nomader Collapsible Leak Proof Water Bottle

Nomader Collapsible Leak-Proof Water Bottle

This collapsible water bottle by Nomader is one of my favorite water bottles for long hikes, camping, or any other kind of nomadic, minimalist travel. It’s fully leakproof and folds up flat after each use.

things you only need to buy once in a lifetime

Build A Minimalist Travel Backpack For Solo Travel

Minimalist Travel Backpack For Solo Travel

Minimalist travel can mean packing strategically and minimally for a getaway with your family, but it can also mean backpacking around the world alone as a nomadic traveler — one of my personal favorite ways to travel. Along with this comes preparing a travel backpack to live life as a nomad on the open road.

For me, traveling solo has been something that has set me free and given me experiences that I could never have had by just staying home. In the past decade, I’ve had the privilege of traveling 23 countries including Canada, Australia, and several European and Latin American countries.

I owe a huge part of getting to go on these adventures to minimalist living. When the idea of travel becomes less like a gigantic ordeal involving months of stressful planning and fitting everything you own into your luggage, and more like a few essentials, a backpack, and the world as your playground, it’s easier to make your travel dreams happen.

Minimalist Travel Backpack

Best Minimalist Travel Backpacks For Solo Travel

Best Minimalist Travel Backpacks For Solo Travel

Fitting all of the belongings I need into a simple travel backpack always provides me with a deeply freeing feeling. Choosing a minimalist travel backpack that will support you fully, last for years without tearing, and have room for all your travel gadgets and gizmos is a must.

I have a couple of personal favorite travel backpacks that I would recommend for regular use. The first one is the GoRuck GR1. The GR1 is ridiculously sturdy and ideal for strenuous hikes or camping trips. I also love the Osprey Porter 46 Travel Backpack. It has an extremely strong hip belt and sturdy shoulder straps, and multiple compartments for storing all the gear you might need.

How To Pack Your Minimalist Travel Backpack

How To Pack Your Minimalist Travel Backpack

Figuring out how to pack your travel backpack is a whole other can of worms. Of course, this will also heavily depend on where you’re going on your trip, how long you’ll be gone, and what your essential needs will be.

There are a few things I make sure to always have with me when I pack my minimalist travel bag for camping, off-griding, or any kind of basic travel.

Travel Backpacking List

  • Basic hygiene supplies
  • First-aid kit
  • Sleeping bag and sleeping pad
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Water treatment supplies
  • Snacks/food
  • Clothes
  • Flashlight
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Map/compass/GPS
  • Small tools/repair kit
Travel Backpacking Items

off grid solar cooking

Does Minimalist Travel Make Life Better?

Does Minimalist Travel Make Life Better

I can’t necessarily speak to whether or not traveling like a minimalist can improve everyone’s life, but it has certainly improved mine. For me, minimalism has always been about making room for the things that make me happy and are necessary to living a full life, while leaving out the rest.

Applying this mantra to the way I travel has taken the stress out of my travels and given me a sense of liberation I can’t fully articulate. I hope you’ll pack a backpack, spend some time in nature, and feel the freedom that I’m talking about for yourself.

Minimalist Travel Can Make Life Better

Your Turn!

  • How will you pack like a minimalist on your next vacation?
  • What items will you pack verses go without?
  1. Thanks for this article. I’m planning to visit some family living in Mexico and bought a overhead suitcase to use for traveling..made a stateside trip and and stuff it with what I thought I’d need for a 3week trip..with your list ideas, I’ll make smarter packing & weight decisions..looking forward to hassle freely out of country trip more now..

  2. Great post. Very helpful. Thank you.

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