Minimalist Travel – Guide to Success From a Happy Traveler

Travel writer Rick Steves once said that there are two kinds of people: those who pack light, and those who wish they had. But what is more stressful before a trip out of town than figuring out what all to pack?

Minimalist travel involves planning and packing lightly, with only the most needed items, to help ensure easy travels and great experiences. There is minimal, ultra-minimal, and extreme minimal travel, each with a unique approach to travelers’ needs, and all aimed at living happier experiences.

When packing for a trip it is easy to get overwhelmed with the what-ifs and just in cases. What if it rains? I should bring a nice outfit just in case I meet the love of my life. But 9/10 times you just end up with a heavy suitcase and a raincoat you never wear. By planning ahead about what is absolutely necessary to pack and weeding out the what-if and just in case choices, you can get better at minimalist travel.

What Does Minimalist Travel Mean?

Minimalist travel is a form of travel where a person only packs material possessions that are absolutely necessary. This frees up space and weight and mental energy, allowing them more freedom to enjoy their travels and be present in the moment in the places they are visiting.

Plane flying high in the sky - Minimalist Travel - Gone Minimal
Plane flying high in the sky

Ultra Minimalist Travel

Ultra minimalist travel, like minimalism travel, is the art of packing as little as possible to be able to explore your destination as easily and comfortably as possible. It involves including only the very most essential items for comfort and visiting.

Extreme Minimalist Travel

Extreme minimalist travel aims to fit all necessary belongings in one bag and mostly consists of sustainable and reusable goods. This is a “backpacker” type of approach. Since single bags can fit on most carry-ons on airplanes, buses, trains, and easily in cars, this method usually allows for the most flexibility and ease when traveling.

Here is a helpful video providing insights into one-bag travel:

How Do I Travel in a Minimalist Way?

Planning ahead is the key to traveling in a minimalist way. Often time over packing comes from impulse decisions and not giving yourself enough time to plan what you really need for your trip. Thus, having a good packing plan and ensuring the items one has each serve one or multiple important purposeds, helps ensure the objects can be minimal so the experiences can be great.

What Does a Minimalist Carry?

Minimalists carry only the necessities for their trip. They also carry a smaller bag- this essentially forces you to pack only what you can carry in the smaller bag and question what you need versus what you don’t. A couple changes of clothes, any medicine you take, comfortable shoes, toiletries, etc.

How Can I Pack Less Clothes for Travel?

Firstly, using a smaller bag or only a carry-on so you don’t have any choice but to pack light. Plan ahead as well, check what the weather will be for your trip so you know what clothes to pack based on the weather and what activities you’ll be doing.

Planning ahead is the key to traveling in a minimalist way.

How Do You Pack Minimalist for a Week?

Start with packing only half a week worth of clothes and limit the amount of shoes you pack. There are very few places you can travel that won’t have some kind of laundry facility. Plan what you’re going to pack in advance based on the weather, and what you plan on doing that way you can avoid packing anything “just in case.”

What Are the Most Forgotten Items When Traveling?

Phone chargers get forgotten at home often because we typically charge our phones before we leave and forget to pack them when we leave. Umbrellas are often forgotten as well, we sometimes think idealistically of vacation weather and pack based on what we hope the weather will be rather than what it really is.

How Do I Pack Minimal for a Vacation?

 Pack what you know you will wear, and items of clothing that you can mix and match to make different outfits. Layout everything you plan on packing before packing it so it’s easier to sus out what is necessary and what is not.

Suitcase with traveling essentials - Minimalist Travel - Gone Minimal
Suitcase with traveling essentials

Benefits of Minimalist Travel

Never Have to Check a Bag at the AirportThe best way to ensure that you pack light is by restricting the size of your bag. When we know we’re checking a large bag, we allow ourselves to pack our “just in case” items that might not actually get used at all. So packing all your items only in a carry on ensures that you’re packing only what you can carry and subsequently only what’s necessary.
Packing Takes 10 MinutesPacking should only take 10 minutes, but planning should take more time. When you leave all the packing and planning for the last minute there’s a higher chance of impulse packing. So the planning of what you will pack should take time and intention so when you put everything in your bag it takes 10 minutes or less.
You Know You Have Everything You NeedPlanning what you’re going to pack in advance means you won’t be making any rushed decisions about what to bring. Subsequently if you give yourself the time to plan or make a list of everything you want to bring, you can guarantee that you’ll have everything you need and nothing will be forgotten.
You Can Run if You Need ToAs long as your vacation isn’t on the moon, then there are very few places where you can’t get what you need if you’ve forgotten something. You can run to the store to get anything that it turns out you need, or have forgotten. It’s good to prepare to all weather situations and encounters but being over prepared can quickly lead to overpacking. If you’re taken by surprise by a sudden rainstorm and you didn’t pack an umbrella, it’s totally possible to go out and buy one.

Helpful Insights:

Minimalist Travel Gear

While carrying fewer things is a key element of minimalist travel, having the right minimalist travel gear can help make that easier. Some items serve multiple purposes, have less weight, make packing easier, and make traveling faster. Let’s explore some of these helpful items.

Minimalist Travel Bag

There are many options for minimalist travel bags, should you choose to go with a larger bag for travel. What you’re looking for is enough space to carry your belongings without being so big that you end up overpacking. Having a travel bag can be good for longer stays, and if you don’t plan on moving around too much from city to city.

Some recommendations are:

  • Pakt Bag
  • The Go Bag

Minimalist Travel Backpack

Backpacks are the ideal travel tool for short trips (under a couple weeks) especially if your trip entails city hopping or a lot of movement. It’s all the belongings you need that can be easily carried on your person at any and all times. Backpacks tend to have compartments and pockets that make carrying your phone and wallet not only easier but more accessible.

Some travel friendly backpacks are:

  • Transit Backpack
  • Smart Backpack
  • Osprey Backpacks

Best Minimalist Travel Wallet

When traveling, we tend to need more documents on our person. IDs, passports, different currencies. It’s important to have a wallet that works well to hold all your important papers while also being secure for wherever you might travel.

Recommended wallets:

  • Coffee Run Wallet
  • Lojel Travel Wallet
  • Bellroy Travel Wallet
Always pack minimal for a road trip - Minimalist Travel - Gone Minimal
Always pack minimal for a road trip

Minimalist Travel Wardrobe

When packing your clothes, you want to keep in mind outfits that are versatile and practical. It’s good to prepare for the worst when it comes to the outfits you pack, but without proper planning that can quickly lead to overpacking. Check the weather, only bring a rain coat if it’s supposed to rain, and if you’re caught by a sudden downpour, no shame in stopping to buy an umbrella. There are many lists online for minimalist wardrobe choices such as this one and many others.

Minimalist Travel Shoes

What shoes you bring depends on what your trip entails. Only bring the shoes you know for a fact you will wear and the ones you do bring should be comfortable. Just like all your minimalist packing decisions, the shoes you wear should be consciously chosen based on your needs for travel. Though you don’t have to buy a new pair of shoes for every trip you take, here are some recommendations of good pairs:

  • Patnoflex Travel Shoes
  • Vivo Barefoot Shoes
  • Allbirds 

Minimalist Travel Makeup

Your friends who wear makeup can tell you that it often takes up a lot of space, especially while traveling. There are a few solutions to the chaos that is traveling with makeup. The first thing to consider is what makeup you find absolutely necessary to your trip if any. SPF is always a must, no matter where you’re going. Full coverage foundation might not be necessary for snorkelling and a bold lip might get a little messed up during skiing. So based on the activities you plan on doing, plan accordingly with your makeup. There are also travel makeup kits made for the minimalist traveler like:

  • The Subtl Beauty Starter Pack
  • Bare Minerals Rescue Kit
  •  Loads Everyday MVPs

Minimalist Art for the Traveler

Once we’re back home, it’s nice to have things to look at, to inspire, and to remind us of the world around us. Minimalist art can help enhance out living spaces, and put beauty around us. We also might want art to be a part of our personal journey, by getting minimalist tattoos to represent places one has been, their growth, and the personal journey they’re traveling on.

Minimalist Travel Posters

If the aesthetics of minimalism are what attract you, then there are many options for minimalist art that you can bring home to remind you of your trip. It’s always best to purchase souvenirs from local artists, posters are no exception, but you can still help local artists with posters that remind you of your time. When traveling minimally, your bags have already been meticulously ordered so there likely isn’t a lot of room for souvenirs.

There are a couple things you can do! Firstly you can see if there are local artists in the area you’re visiting who sell their art online. That way you can support local artists and wait until you have the space to house their art. You can also check out online shops like Etsy for minimalist style posters of the places you’ve been.

Minimalist Travel Tattoos

If you like permanent art displayed on your skin, tattoos can be a great souvenir for a trip. They don’t take up extra space like most souvenirs, and are a great reminder of a trip well travelled—if you can handle a little pain. Getting a small piece of ink in the places you visit can be a great record of the places you’ve been and you are helping local tattoo artists in their business.

Other Resources:

Packing is usually the worst part of traveling, that and having to lug your heavy suitcase around a new city. This is why minimalist travel can be so helpful to travelers. All it takes is a little research and a little planning before hand.

Related Topics:

What Should You Not Forget When Traveling?

The most common items forgotten while traveling are socks and phone chargers. Luckily these items can be bought pretty much anywhere in the world. Always remember your passport or ID, currency for the place you’re going and a list of phone numbers of people you can call in case you make a habit of forgetting your charger.

What Is a Minimalist Packing Party?

A minimalist packing party is a gathering or party where a group of people pack up their homes as if they were moving out. You have one day to pack up everything in your home and then when you unpack everything you get to decide what is really necessary for you to own and what you can give away.

Similar Posts