Minimalism in Travel │ How to Travel as a Minimalist

You'd think by now, being a minimalist for about seven years, I'd figure out how to travel concisely.

Window boxes of flowers in Charleston, South Carolina

But, you'd be wrong. This is mostly because I have a fear of not having what I need. Which is ridiculously unwarranted and also a very common sentiment amongst those who travel.

Not once have I traveled and wished I'd brought more. I've always wished I'd brought less. 

In fact, the push - the impetus, if you will - that got me into minimalism was a trip to Italy with one of my best friends. We each had one small suitcase for about 10 days because we had to travel that way.

Let me tell you, that was the best trip of my life for many reasons. I was with a best friend, I was in Italy - one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I was living more freely than I had ever lived. We flitted about the country with a small bag and it was a burden off my shoulders I never realized I had placed on them.

As I said, this trip literally transformed my thinking about stuff. From my closet to all of my personal belongings in my home.

Having just gotten back from a trip to the Carolinas last week, a wonderful trip, (if you haven't been to Charleston, holy moly ... that place is magical... go!) I still overpacked. We stayed with my gracious sister-in-law. Her place is beautiful, as is the greater Charlotte area.

The weather was cold and warm so we had to pack for both seasons, yet, I still brought shirts pants, and jackets I didn't wear.

Here are a few things I muttered to myself (while  shaking my head in disappointment that I couldn't learn from my past) as I was repacking my bags to leave the Carolinas and head home:

1. One jacket is enough: I packed four. I can hear you right now. "You a minimalist, packed four jackets?" In my defense, one was a cardigan. A cardigan I might add that I've had for 27 years, that I had purchased as I was about to embark on my first trip to Europe as a young girl. It was officially a vintage cardigan. And I lost it. Why? Because I had too many jackets to keep track of! It's replaceable, but dang it. I was hoping to keep it for another 27 years. 

Anyway, one medium-weight jacket, instead of a lightweight one, a cardigan, a jean jacket, and another jacket would have sufficed. I was out of control. If you get cold, layer up on the shirts you brought, not the jackets. Plus, they take way less room. Don't do what I did. One jacket and be done.

2. I wore three pairs of jeans instead of five: I'm a jeans person. But, thinking I want to vary my wardrobe while on vacation is such a common mistake. Why am I varying things on vacation? Of all times, I should be bringing less and mixing and matching to vary things that way instead. I should be focusing on what I'm seeing out and about on my trip rather than on my wardrobe. 

For eight days of travel, three pairs of pants are plenty. My wonderful sister-in-law also gave us access to her laundry, so if I had partaken of a fiasco, saying spilling coffee all over me, then I could've easily thrown them in the wash, and voila. All is well. I still only needed three pairs of pants.

3. Too many toiletries: There is something about toiletries for a traveling woman that makes us want to tear our hair out. We have all of our normal toiletries, and then we have the makeup bag. There is so much to look after. And shuffle through. And complain about. 

I did all of that. And I still forgot to bring enough shampoo. My issue, as mentioned above, is that I have too many choices of one thing. Like three chapsticks, a lip gloss, and then a lipstick. It drives me mad because I think I'll want all of them, and then I only use one. Ladies, put one in the purse, and one in the travel bag, and be done with it! We don't need so many choices when we travel. We need to focus on what's around us, what we're sightseeing, rather than the personal effects in our bags.

And if we really need choices, then hop into a drugstore and get what we need. Which is what I did with the shampoo mishap.

I've pared down greatly in my toiletries at home, but there is something about traveling that makes me say, "Maybe I need this, and this, and this one..." Nope. Nope. Nope. One lotion, one lipgloss, one razor... one and done. 

While I'm always a work in progress to traveling minimally, I will say that I've gotten better. And there's always room for improvement. There's a huge learning curve with travel and what to pack for me, but I'm trending up on the curve! By golly, I think I'm learning what I really need when I travel and what I don't. (Even if most of the time, it's the stuff I don't need that I bring!) 

Hope this helps on your next travel. Remember, less is more. Even when you think you'll need more, you almost always (seriously) won't. And you can make do with what you have. Which is the whole concept behind minimalism.

Challenge yourself to pack as minimalist as possible on your next trip. I bet you'll love it and feel freer than ever. Let me know how it goes.



  1. I'm so glad I found your blog. I got here as one of your articles was featured on No Sidebar. Travel is one of my problem areas so I intend to take your advice and pare it down. Thank you so much for this article, I'm now going to read al of your other articles.

  2. Thank you so much! I'm glad you found me. I hope you can glean from me what NOT to do. LOL. This blog is for people like us and they're articles I wished I had when I began going through the trenches of learning minimalism. ♥ Enjoy!