Packing For Minimalists: How To Pack For Any Trip

Minimalism is the new ‘having lots of stuff’, and everyone seems to be on board. If you’re embracing the less-is-more attitude these days, you may be wondering how to extend this style of living to your travel packing. It can be tough since we all want to take everything so we’re never stuck without our home comforts. But don’t worry, we’ve got the ultimate guide to packing for minimalists, right here…

Packing for minimalists, suitcase

Effective packing really depends on where you’re going. You’ll need completely different things when packing for a day out in England to packing for a month-long trip around south east Asia. Luckily both options and everything in between can be done by creating your own minimalist packing system.

To make this guide as easy as possible to use, we’ve split it up by trip length, and by the type of trip, so you can find the best tips for you. We’ve even included a handy basic packing list so you can bookmark this page and come back to it again and again for every trip you go on.

We’ve always got tonnes of interesting travel tips for England for the best trip, but if you’re ready for some extreme minimalist travel tips that will help you no matter what kind of trip you’re going on, and no matter how far, keep reading…

Packing for minimalists: Tips for starting the packing process

Before you even start, the best way to look at minimalist packing is; instead of getting everything you want to take and trying to cram it into your suitcase, do it the other way around and start by looking at your empty suitcase, then make a list of ONLY what you need.

Minimalist packing tips, empty suitcase

1. Pack a capsule travel wardrobe

Clothes tend to take up the most space, so find versatile clothing that can be worn in different situations and in different ways. Think capsule wardrobe; reversible items, multi-wear dresses, durable denim shorts that go with every top you have, plain, unpatterned things that can be worn several days in a row if needed, and no one will know the difference. Genius!

This does mean you’ll need to take travel wash and do laundry more often, but it’s sometimes worth it so you only need to carry a few outfits with you. Since most of us only wear a fraction of our wardrobe throughout the week anyway, you likely won’t need much.

To pack your clothes, accessories such as packing cubes (like these!) are handy to group everything together.

Packing clothes for a trip, minimalist packing

2. Take only one or two accessories

It’s time to ditch the accessories. You may think you need multiple hats, scarfs, sarongs, earrings, belts, hairbands and so on, but let’s face it; these things are ‘wants’, not ‘needs’.

Much like the Marie Kondo method — which encourages people tidying their home to ask themselves “does this spark joy?” — you should be asking yourself “am I actually going to wear this?” each time you attempt to add something to your suitcase. It doesn’t mean you can’t bring any accessories, but pick a small handful and stick to a simple style that can be worn over and over. Classic items in plain colours are best so you can wear them with multiple outfits.

3. Take just one pair of shoes if you can

We all love to switch up our shoes at home, but do you really need to when travelling? If you’re going hiking or going to the beach you may need your boots or flip-flops. But, if you’re going on a city break or an exploration holiday, and there’s a way to take only one pair of shoes (preferably a comfy pair of walking shoes!) and wear them every day of your trip, try to do this.

Having multiple colours or styles is unnecessary when packing as a minimalist. You just need comfy, sturdy shoes that go with all outfits you’re bringing. Here are our top tips on choosing the best travel shoes for your next trip.

4. Downsize your devices

There’s the camera, the Kindle, the electric shaver, the aromatherapy diffuser gadget that you simply can’t live without. But… could you live without these things for just a few days, a week, or however long your trip is?

Use the Kindle app on your phone to read, and use your phone’s built-in camera so you’re only taking one device with you.

And we know that phones haven’t been designed with an electric shaver app yet (come on Apple!), but maybe you can make do with a much smaller plastic razor for the trip to save on space and weight. Think outside the box to find innovative ways to accomplish what you need to without carrying bulky items.

5. Combine your toiletries

Toiletries often take up lots of space, and are usually things you can buy at your destination or will be given at your accommodation. If not, focus on packing things that can be used for multiple purposes, such as body wash that doubles as shampoo. Fill-your-own mini reusable bottles are perfect for taking the toiletries you love without the hassle of bulky bottles — these will keep your packing organised and tidy, and you’ll be carrying nothing oversized.

You can also go shopping for innovative, eco-friendly items that can also be space saving. For example, packaging-free shampoo/soap bars that will reduce in size as you use them, rather than having a bottle take up space. If you’re based in London, here are some great sustainable shops that refill things like shampoo, body wash, deodorant, and more — there are many others around the country.

Travel packing list

Packing for minimalists: Your Basic Packing List

Everyone needs different things when travelling depending on your age, health, whether or not you’re bringing kids, the type of trip you’re going on, and so on. But this packing list should help you make sure you have the basics down. We’ve also added a few tips here for minimising what you take on your next trip.

  • Passport or ID (don’t forget this!)
  • Important documents, credit cards and cash/currency
  • Any medication you need
  • Tops: Try to pick a small number that can be worn with one pair of bottoms, such as jeans or shorts
  • Bottoms: Try to take just one or two bottoms that you can match with every top. Don’t forget to pack a thin belt if you need it
  • Underwear: Pants, bras and socks. If you plan to wash your tops regularly while travelling to save on space, you can do the same for your underwear and just take a few pairs. Always best to keep one of those pairs in your hand luggage, just in case your main luggage goes missing — you never know!
  • One pair of shoes to make use of for the whole trip
  • Mini essentials: A mini toothbrush/toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo, skincare products, small hairbrush or comb, etc.
  • Hair accessories or styling tools
  • Sunglasses, prescription glasses or contact lenses: Sometimes these can be kept inside the same glasses case to save bringing another box
  • Minimal makeup: A lick of mascara often does the trick!
  • Electronics: Your phone and headphones are the most important, and don’t forget your chargers!
  • Travel adapters if you’re heading outside of the UK

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s look at how to stay minimal for each different type of trip you might go on. Here we go…

Packing for minimalists: A day out

We’re all about helping you do days out in England in the best way, so we can’t resist giving you some tips for packing for a simple day out. You don’t need a lot, and you can do this in a minimalist way too. Grab yourself a small backpack or whatever you feel comfortable walking around with for the day.

Backpack, going on a day out in England

When packing for a day out, here are some handy things to remember:

  • A collapsible water bottle: You can fill this up on-the-go — one of our top tips for saving money on days out!
  • A small document wallet: Keep anything important inside, such as attraction tickets
  • Some small snacks: Take these so you don’t need to spend much when you’re out and about, and you never go hungry!
  • Sunglasses: If you can get prescription sunglasses you’ll only need to bring one pair
  • A poncho: Just in case it rains, as this is much smaller and lighter than an umbrella
  • Plasters: In case of any blisters. Days out often involve a lot of walking so these are handy to have instead of extra socks
  • Your phone: Download all the apps you need for a great day out, like Trainline, CityMapper, and more

If you’re planning on doing a day hike, you’ll find more tips here: Packing for a Day Hike: 14 Things You NEED to Bring

Packing for minimalists: Overnight or a weekend away

A weekend away is another great way to see different areas of England, but if you’re staying overnight you’ll probably need a few more things with you. You can pretty much pack what’s in your day out bag (list above) but there are a few more things to consider taking on an overnight stay.

Packing for a weekend away, packing for minimalists

You can still pack like a minimalist during a weekend away, by:

  • Using the T-shirts you wear during the day as pajamas, so you only need to bring bottoms (or just sleep in your undies!)
  • Finding a skin cleanser that also doubles as a makeup remover, so you only need to bring one bottle along with you. Or if you feel comfortable, go au naturel with the makeup so you don’t need to think about it at all
  • Using a duffle bag or backpack to pack your things in, instead of taking a small suitcase (it’s amazing the space you can get if you roll things up!)
  • With everything you put in your bag, ask yourself: “could I do without this for one or two nights?” If the answer is yes, take it out

Packing for minimalists: A week or longer

Going away for a week, a fortnight, or a month? It’s time to up the ante even more, but although you’ll need a few extra things, you can still keep it simple and minimalist to save on space and avoid dragging a super heavy suitcase through the airport. Remember, most of us can do without quite a lot of our things in the short term, so if it’s only for a week to a month, ask yourself that question again: “do I really need this?”

Packing for a long-term trip as a minimalist

Here are some tips for your minimalist packing list for a week or more:

  • Pack a bathing suit or trunks for the pool or sunbathing, and if you won’t be doing much swimming, these can sometimes double as an extra set of underwear
  • Create a mini first aid kit. You may not think this is an essential, but it’s always handy to have! You can remove bulky items like bandages, since any injuries that require one will usually mean you’ll go to the local pharmacy in your destination. Instead, bring the smallest, handiest items like plasters and paracetamol
  • Invest in a pair of travel straighteners if you prefer to do your hair while on holiday. This will help you avoid bringing full-size ones. Also, remember to check the hotel or Airbnb you’re heading to in case they have a hairdryer, as this is a bulky item you won’t always need
  • Bring a multi-wear dress. If you’re going out while on your trip, choose a dress that you can style in a different way each time you wear it, so you’ll have multiple outfits in one
  • Bring travel wash so you can wash your clothes every few days and only bring a handful of outfits to save space
  • If you’re travelling with other people, take turns to carry some of the necessary bulky items, such as a camera or extra phone battery pack. This can limit your weight throughout your trip
  • If you’re travelling solo, utilise travel groups on Facebook to find other solo travellers who you can meet with to share useful items. Remember, don’t meet anyone in private. Arrange to meet in a public place so you’re safe
  • If you’re going for a whole month, you might end up getting your period while away. Avoid having to carry tampons or towels, and bring a space-saving (and eco-friendly!) menstrual cup
  • When you’re away for as long as a month you might find yourself needing other personal hygiene items like nail clippers, razors, tweezers, a nail file, and more. Invest in a multi-tool that does all or most of these things so you don’t need to carry and keep track of multiple items

Now let’s look at some minimalist packing tips based on the type of trip you’re going on…

Packing for minimalists: City breaks

If you’re heading away on a city break and looking for minimalist packing for Europe trips or a city further afield, we have some great tips to keep things light and simple. Depending on how long you’re going for, you might even get away with going your whole trip with just a small rucksack.

City break packing for minimalists

City breaks often require:

  • Comfy shoes: Travel in the shoes you plan to wear for the whole trip so you don’t need to fit them in your backpack
  • A ‘walking around’ outfit and a ‘going out’ outfit: If you get creative here, you can wear something simple that works for both, for example, a pair of black trousers paired with a casual T-shirt for the day, and a blouse for the evening. Remember to hang up your ‘going out’ clothes when you arrive to get rid of any creases!
  • A small document wallet: This is always handy to have for keeping any documents organised, for example, your flight boarding passes and any attractions you may have booked while there
  • A belly bag: These are usually small and flexible enough to be easily packed in your rucksack, and this is always handy to have as a safe way to walk around the city with your important documents, attraction tickets and phone

Packing for minimalists: A week in the sun

Oooh yes, it’s the summer holidays! Possibly everyone’s favourite thing to pack for. Despite the fact that we all love to take everything but the kitchen sink with us to our favourite holiday destinations, there are some hacks to help you remain a minimalist.

In general, try to focus on removing items that you like to have, and don’t like to be without — such as hair curlers, gym equipment, or your laptop. Ask yourself if you can manage without it for the length of your trip (you can probably think of an innovative way around it, like changing up your hairstyle, or using the hotel gym).

Beach bag packing for minimalists

For hot countries and beach breaks, here are a few things you might be able to minimise:

  • Sunscreen: Pop this in a small reusable bottle to save on space, just remember to write on it what factor SPF it is
  • Mini bug spray can: Take only as much as you need for the length of time you’re going, or look up where you might be able to get this when you arrive. Most airports sell things like this
  • Beach towels: These can be super inconvenient to take on holiday since they are so bulky. If you plan to lie out, consider if you can hire a beach lounger instead and only bring a small, microfibre towel to save on space
  • Souvenirs: Don’t be tempted to pick up large, bulky items that will completely ruin your minimalist packing. Stick to simple, light, small things if you can find them. If you’re buying for other people, sometimes a simple postcard says ‘wish you were here’ just as well as an ornament or shell necklace

One other great tip is to pack a week in advance, then take another look at everything before you go. Chances are you’ll realise that if you’ve packed something you forgot about and didn’t need for a week, you can probably take it out.

Packing for minimalists: Cold countries

When you’re going to a cold country, many of the above packing tips sometimes go out the window. It’s all about those cosy layers, hats, scarves and more. So how do you get around this?

Minimalist packing for cold countries

Here are our tips for packing for a trip to a cold country:

  • Invest in a light but padded jacket that you can wear throughout your trip, from the airport to the snow! It’s also handy to pick something with a zip-in-zip-out layer, so you can adjust for the temperature without packing too many more clothes
  • There’s no getting around it if you need a hat, scarf and gloves. All you can do is pick items made from warm materials like wool, and that aren’t too bulky. Leave the bobble hat at home and bring the beanie!
  • One great hack is to invest in a jacket (like the one mentioned above) that has pockets to fit all your other warm items. If you can fit your hat, scarf and gloves inside the pockets you may never need to find room for these in your case at all
  • If you’re planning to ski… hire the gear. If you’re a pro-skier or you absolutely love it, it might make sense for you to have your own equipment that you take to your destination, but if you’re a casual skier who goes once a year, it’s usually easier to hire everything you need when you get there (and keep your packing minimal!)

Packing for minimalists: Hiking and adventure holidays

We love a hiking holiday here at Day Out In England. It’s why we’ve added a few hiking guides and great hiking spots. Check out the best English hiking trails and the equipment you need, and read on for our minimalist tips for hiking.

Minimalist packing for hiking holidays

Hiking is a lot of fun, but you do need to pack a few extra things you wouldn’t usually bring. Such as:

  • Waterproofs: Wear these on your travels to avoid having to pack them in your backpack. They might feel a little cumbersome to walk around with in the airport, but it’s often worth it for the extra space you’ll have in your backpack
  • Hiking boots: Again, if you can wear these on your travels, it’s usually space-saving and lets you pack a pair of small shoes or even flip flops for walking around any campsites you end up at.
  • Shoe cleaner: If you’re doing lots of travelling and want to take just one pair of boots for the whole trip, it may be worth investing in a travel-sized shoe cleaning kit so you can get rid of any mud from your hike and re-wear them for multiple occasions. Hiking boots are always in fashion when you’re travelling!
  • Torch: Invest in a mini torch/flashlight that hangs from your backpack. This is an easy thing to add on to your packing without taking up more space inside your bag

How To Pack For Your Trip As A Minimalist

Desperate to get out your suitcase or backpack and start packing for your next trip?? These tips should help you pack in the most efficient, minimalist way possible, while making sure you’re never without the things you need.

Our best advice for packing minimally would be to imagine your suitcase doesn’t arrive at your destination and you have to quickly buy the basics… what is the bare minimum you would buy? Also, once you’ve packed for your minimalist trip, don’t forget to write out a list and save it somewhere so you can come back to it again and again.

It can be a lot of fun to narrow down your packing in order to keep things light, easy to manage, and simple to keep track of while on the road. Let us know if you have any more tips that others might find helpful, and we’ll keep adding them in!

Caitlin McAllister

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