The Minimalist’s Guide to Packing for Travel

by Dani Howell January 31, 2019
ReadThe Minimalist’s Guide to Packing for Travel Photo by Resi Kling

I used to be that person who could barely fit everything into a large suitcase for even a weeklong trip. I brought everything I might need. Barely used half of it. Then, convinced myself it was still a good way to pack because what if I had needed one of those items. (Spoiler alert: I never did.)

The truth is, packing so much made it difficult to find what I did need, created a mess whenever I looked for something specific, and weighed so much that traveling was a major pain. When I started adopting minimalist practices, I knew I had to rethink my approach to packing for trips. Now, I’m able to pack quicker, use way less space and, therefore, take smaller baggage (hello, carry-on only), and easily move my luggage from destination to destination. I recently took a nearly two-week trip and was able to fit everything into a carry-on bag—with room to spare.

How to pack like a minimalist

When deciding what to bring, I pick up each item I’m thinking of packing and ask myself “Do I need this?” and, if the answer isn’t a quick “yes,” I put it back in my closet. This step helps decrease the initial amount I try to bring. The rest requires a bit more planning, and you have to accept that you’ll have to do laundry. Also, some of the clothing options may vary depending on the climate and purpose of your travel. Use your best judgment.


Pack clothes you can mix and match. Also, consider rolling them in your bag. It usually results in fewer wrinkles, and it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.

I usually pack one pair of black pants and wear a pair of jeans. This gives you a bit of variety, and both go with almost anything. If you know you’ll mainly wear dresses or a skirt, you can stick with one pair of pants. Also, bring a pair of shorts if you’re going somewhere hot.

I try to stick with packing four tops and wearing a fifth. Keep the pants in mind when choosing shirts. Make sure each shirt can match both pairs. Also, have at least one dressier option in case you go out for a nice meal or event. Dresses more your style? Stick with two or three tops and pack one or two dresses.

Pack one pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt that can function as sleepwear or workout gear (just make sure to wash if you’re using it as the latter).

Wear either a jacket, sweatshirt, or hoodie—you never know when it might get cold.

Pack two pairs of shoes. Depending on where I’m going, I’ll usually wear a pair of boots and pack either a pair of sandals or sneakers.

Pack five pairs of underwear and three or four pairs of socks. If I’m packing sneakers, I’ll put the socks in them because it saves space and helps the shoes keep their shape.


If you have a Dopp kit packed, just throw that in your bag.

Otherwise, pack a toothbrush and toothpaste, floss, soap, deodorant, a razor, a comb, lotion, any makeup essentials, and a small container of shampoo and conditioner (unless you’re staying at hotels that will have some).


There are a few gadgets I never travel without: my phone and charger, an e-reader, and my headphones.

And remember, if you end up needing something you don’t have, you can almost always buy it at your destination. Let that be your just-in-case backup plan.


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