How To Pack Like a Minimalist Traveler

We all know the importance of traveling light; packing lists are the things many a Pinterest board are made of. And while I’m not one to hate on a good list, I will make the case that traveling minimally is more of a mindset. It’s not just about getting by with one carry-on and wearing three outfits on a plane, but about the overall consumption of stuff and the “necessities” therein.

Whenever I travel, I’m continually amazed on how little I’m able to get by—almost to the point where I’ll think, “Why can’t I live like I’m traveling all of the time?” Sure, part of that could be the thrill of being in a new place; adventure lessens my worry about how great I look or how clean my clothes are (there’s also something to be said for an 8 oz bottle of contact solution), but I think it’s more than that. I think travel carries the potential to reveal what really matters in life, and dang it if simple, slow, minimal living doesn’t always find its way near the top of that list.

So while the below may look like a list, it’s actually more of a guide—things I’ve gleaned on both sides of a trip to make traveling just a little bit…simpler. Here are some suggestions for what to consider if you, like me, are an aspiring minimalist—both in life and in transit.

THE SUITCASE

Source: Jenna Kutcher

Are you a classic over-packer? Invest in a hardshell suitcase. Are you a classic carry-on queen? Invest in a hardshell suitcase. Not only do hardshell suitcases tend to last longer (more bang for the buck, less waste produced over time), but one also serves as a physical bottom line so that you can literally only pack so much. Unlike suitcases that are made from a stretchier material, with a hardshell once that puppy shuts, you’re done. No pass go. No extra wiggle room. You’re locked into a set amount of suitcase space, and I love that. I need that. If you’re a beginning minimalist, you’ll want that, too.

The 360-degree wheel turn with (most) hardshells is also a life-changing feature. Once you’ve experienced the ease of pushing your suitcase in front of you, versus lugging it behind you like a lazy dog on a hot day, there’s no going back.

A great bonus? A hardshell that also comes with its own USB charging port, like the genius Away Carry-On. Its built-in charging station means you won’t be tethered to the crowded airport outlet situation, and you’ll have one less thing cluttering up your purse.

ELECTRONICS

Source: This is Ground

On that note, electronics. Would you believe that people used to travel without a bag full of metal and cords? As someone who works online for a living, the lure of traveling with just a paperback novel and wind-up camera is incredibly enticing; however, it’s not very realistic.

In today’s travel economy there’s a gadget for everything, but don’t fall for the trap that you need everything in order to travel. Figure out what your non-negotiable electronic item is and center your digital needs around that one device. If you’re traveling for work and need your laptop, you probably don’t also need a tablet, an iPad, and an e-reader along for the ride “just in case.” Download your entertainment so that only one plug is needed.

If you want to leave the Macbook behind, consider saving any important documents to Google Drive, then downloading the app to your phone (or tablet) so that you can access without a computer. They’re called smartphones for a reason, and there’s no better time to take advantage of their smartness than while traveling. Sync your Kindle or NOOK via app to take your books on-the-go. If you’re worried about screen size, consider how much time you’ll realistically be reading while on your trip. Is an extra device really worth lugging around just for two transatlantic flights? (Reminder: Flights that will most likely also have in-seat screens with streaming movie and television channels.)

You’ll weigh yourself down with options, literally. So make things easy on yourself by cutting a few cords before you take off.

MAKEUP + TOILETRIES

Source: Katerina Dima

Admit it. Your medicine cabinet is probably filled to the brim with stuff you hardly use. I wasn’t ready to admit this myself until I took a good look at what I packed in my makeup bag for three weeks abroad. I didn’t really need all those potions and bottles so, I’ve started working from the “one ‘til it’s done” rule. Until I’ve used up a product—or unless I’ve had an adverse reaction to something—I’ll try not to buy a new makeup or shower item until it runs out.

This makes traveling a million times easier if the cosmetics bag you pack is the one you’re already using every day. You’ll simply have one liquid foundation, one powder, one mascara, and one eyebrow pencil already on the ready.

Another tip? Invest in travel items that pull twice their weight, like Tata Harper’s Volumizing Lip & Cheek Tint or liquid-less face washes like Tatcha’s Rice Enzyme Powder. Even a classic bar of soap (Osmia Organics’ Luz Enzyme Facial Soap) won’t take up precious space in your TSA-approved ziplock. Don’t forget the beauty of oils, either. Jojoba oil works wonders as a facewash and a moisturizer and a makeup remover and a concealer of split ends. Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps work great as a body wash or in-sink laundry detergent. If you’re into essential oils, lavender oil solves anxiety, sleeplessness, and the need to pack an additional bottle of perfume.

CLOTHES

Source: Happily Grey

Like I said, this isn’t a packing list, but more of a thought-provoking list, so I’m not going to hit heavy the need to pack basics or neutral clothing or how to roll said clothes to save space. But I am going to say a minimalist thinks twice about what she buys and, therefore, knows what she wears.

Think about those pieces of clothing you really enjoy wearing, the go-to pieces you always want with you on a trip. Aren’t those the clothes that you want to spend your money on and check off places on your bucket list in? If we let living minimally be our guide, traveling minimally and, ultimately, packing minimally will naturally result. We’ll have fewer, better articles of clothing to begin with.

Some greats for the clothing essentials? EverlaneCuyana, VETTA, Sotela, Jamie and the Jones, Tradlands and Atelier Delphine to start. There are dozens of small, local designers popping up—most likely in a store or town near you—so do some homework, save some money, then bite the bullet and buy the clothes you really love. And then pack and explore the world in them.

What tips do you have for living and traveling minimally?