Be Minimalist With Travel Packing

The term ‘minimalism’ has reached new heights of global popularity in the last two years. With many opting to do away with clutter causing items, electronic clutter and even mental clutter and to ‘do more with less’. 

The term ‘minimalist’ may generate visions of rooms void of furniture and persons which have less than 100 possessions in total. Though this is one form of minimalism, minimalism varies as much as does the colour spectrum. What we are discussing today is a much milder and more convenient form of minimalism via minimalist travel packing for a more sustainable trip. Enjoy your travels more while lugging around less!

Although packing may not seem like something that could be sustainable in one way or the other, it is. Packing light not only allows for the traveller to have less stress and weight (literally), but with bags that weigh less in the cargo hold, airplanes are able to use less fuel on the flights. From the beginning to end of the trip, packing and conservation minded decisions which comes with the mindset of packing lightly and keeping luggages minimal, can actually have an astounding positive affect on the sustainability of the trip. Even if it wasn’t the intention.


Yes, it is possible to fit everything you need in a single piece of luggage this size.

Minimalist travel packing means maximising the items you have. What this means in practice is that multi-use items are the key to success. Use a smaller piece of luggage. Just like a bigger plate will have more food on it, a larger piece of luggage will be filled with more items. Using a smaller suitcase will give the traveller only the room necessary for a minimalist packing. Leave the clothing items which can only be used for a certain circumstance, at home. Rather, pack items which can be worn across multiple situations. Clothing items such as jeans are a go-to for minimalist packing.

Always take into account the culture of the destination location when packing. One example is that in many cultures, it is preferred to keep shoulders and knees covered. In cases such as these, it is always best to pack for the possibility so avoid the short shorts and tank tops, and rather pack below the knee cargo shorts, conservative denim and below the knee short sleeved dresses for ladies. 

Pack for the purpose of your trip. If the travel is for business, then business attire which can easily convert from office to dinner should be the focus with one additional outfit for free time activities. If leisure is the purpose for travel, then comfortable wear that can go from tourism activities to dinner should be the focus.

Avoid bringing ‘just in case’ items. Experience tells us that in most cases , those ‘just in case’ items will remain in the suitcase adding no value to the trip. An umbrella would be a possible exception to this, as it is always good to have a small travel umbrella available.

When packing hygiene items, pack only what is used. Small shampoo and conditioners in reusable travel bottles are the perfect size for travelling with liquids in hand luggage. Using compression bags or packing cubes will help to fit more items in a smaller space while being better organised about it.  

Most toiletry and hygiene products can be purchased at the destination in order to avoid having to pack them. If there is an item, such as medications that the traveller is concerned they will not be able to purchase at the destination, for example if travelling to a developing country, then the traveller may want to bring the medication as well as the prescription information with them. Always check the laws regarding certain prescriptions in the destination country before packing medications.

Listed below are some items to consider as an overall approach when packing for 1 week or longer trips:

  • Life saving or necessary medications
  • 1 pair of conservative denim that can be worn for a multitude of occasions
  • 2 shirts: 1 casual, 1 conservative
  • If the trip is leisure, 1 item comfort/leisure wear  


  • If the travel is business, 2 sets of business clothing (depending on duration of trip)
  • A small travel packet of powdered laundry soap in case hand washing is necessary
  • Necessary travel documents 
  • Travel size shampoo, conditioner, dental care products and soap 
  • A reusable bag for shopping or day trips

Packing for Children

Minimalist packing for children can be more challenging, as children need more items, depending upon their age, than do adults. No parent wants to be left with a child crying for a favourite toy item which is sitting nicely on a shelf at home. 

Minimalist packing for children is possible though, with a bit of thought and an organised mind.  Listed below are some items to consider with the packing (depending on age):

  • Hygiene items and necessities 
  • If there is a possibility for washing, packing only a few changes of clothing should suffice 
  • The favourite small toy or item
  • Resealable bag of snacks
  • Activities such as portable games and chargers or colouring books and crayons

Extend your minimalism to your accommodation

Minimalism does not stop with luggage. Sustainable actions can be taken at the chosen accommodation as well, in order to reduce water usage.

Have you ever noticed the signage at hotels which instructs with the ways guests can signal what they would prefer done with their towels, by their placement? Or that a guest can choose not to have their bed linens changed daily?  Both of these actions save water in the destination, by not washing the guests laundry items every day. 

Souvenir shopping

Minimalist travel packing also applies to bags returning home or moving onto another destination with you. As with any item, selecting a high quality item such as a locally made handicraft or that specialty item you can’t get out of your mind, will act as a long term reminder of your trip and special memories. High quality items last longer and are typically taken better care of by their owners. As opposed to the lower quality, mass produced souvenirs typically found in souvenir shops around the world which consumers regularly indulge in but rarely care for. All too often these trinkets find themselves in the landfills or rubbish heaps. Lower quality materials and mass production practices make lower quality souvenirs the norm, rather than the exception. 

Wouldn’t you rather have a gorgeous something special with happy memories and maybe even the good feeling of contributing to local communities with your purchases, as opposed to experiencing buyers remorse when opening your luggage at home only to find souvenirs which were not personal to your trip? Whatever souvenir takes your fancy, be it those in a souvenir shop or those handicraft items, the general question to ask oneself is: Will I keep this for a long time as a happy memory of my travels? If the answer is ‘yes’ then get it and enjoy!

Dealing with ‘less stuff’ enables the traveller to spend more time enjoying their travels and less time keeping their items organised. This is why minimalist travel packing is an important aspect to enjoy your sustainable trip!

Would you like to receive more inspiration direct to your email inbox?
Please click here to register for our newsletter!