Ultimate Minimalist Packing Guide for an Easy Vacation

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When it’s time for summer vacation, most of us would like to skip over the packing and organizing to get to the relaxation ASAP. What if you could make getting out the door and onto your beach trip easier? You can. It’s called minimalist travel, and I will explain how to pack so your vacation is a breeze.¬†

Table of Contents
Benefits of Minimalist Vacation Packing
Choosing the Right Luggage
Tips for Packing Clothing
Questions to Ask Yourself
Carry-on Bag

ultimate minimalist vacation packing guide text on pin. photos of suitcases

5 benefits of packing like a minimalist for vacation?

  1. Reduced stress. When you know what your essential items are, it’s quick and easy to pack. You don’t have to worry you’ve forgotten something.
  2. Efficient use of space. You know everything will fit into your bag. 
  3. Increased mobility in crowds, at airports and with taxis/Ubers. Moving through crowds is easier when you don’t have big, bulky luggage.
  4. Faster security checks. 
  5. Less laundry. If you don’t pack a lot of clothing, you don’t have to worry about washing a lot at your destination. (Yes, doing laundry on vacation can be a win!)
  6. Cheaper. If you are flying, those checked luggage fees will get you if you’re hauling loads of bags. Avoid that extra cost.
beach, blanket, hat, sunglasses, beverage, book

Choose the Right Luggage

Limiting how much luggage you’ll pack and take on vacation is a good idea. That starts with your choice of bag. Duffel bags, beach bags, hard-side luggage and giant suitcases can be the right bag for different trips.¬†


Size. Can you use a smaller bag? Depending on whether this is a weekend trip or a longer adventure, you may be able to go with strictly carry-on luggage and skip the checked baggage entirely. (Not to mention that it saves you a bit of money in baggage fees if you are flying.)

Organization. Does your luggage have compartments, dividers or pockets? If you share one bag with another, can you use packing cubes to divide the space?

Weight.¬†Can you carry your bag? This can be a real advantage. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a heavy bag you can’t lift and no baggage cart in sight.¬†

Mobility.¬†If you are going to a resort with pristine beaches and a hard floor to get to your hotel, your wheeled luggage is excellent, but those wheels are not helpful if your beach vacation involves and cabin on a grassy lot at the lake. Maybe it’s better to have a knapsack you can throw on one shoulder.

Recently, I was in Vancouver, walking along the brick seawall and dragging my wheeled bag over it. It was noisy and bumpy, and I could just imagine it was seriously shortening the lifespan of my wheels. 

an open suitcase with vacation packing supplies like a hat shoes, camera. Overall minimalist packing

Tips to Packing Your Clothing.

Pack what you will wear. Take some time to think about what you will be doing so you can be prepared to dress appropriately. Limit the number of shoes because they can be bulky and awkward to pack. Make sure you have good walking shoes if you are going somewhere you’ll do a lot of walking.

Quick drying is another key feature for your travel wardrobe. I know no one wants to do laundry on vacation, but it is the easiest way if you want to take a small suitcase. Laundry strips are an ideal form of laundry detergent for throwing in your bag. Merino wool is great for breathability and wearing more before washing, and it seems to dry quicker for me.

Bring a capsule wardrobe. A vacation can be an excellent opportunity to try a capsule wardrobe because you can only take limited items. Focus on versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits. Clothing worn solo or used for layering will give you more flexibility. 

If you aren’t familiar with capsule wardrobes, read my post all about it!

6-5-4-3-2-1. This is another packing trick that takes some of the guesswork out of packing. Take six pairs of underwear, five pairs of socks, four tops (tank tops, short or long sleeves, outer layer), three bottoms, two pairs of shoes, and one hat. This simple list should be enough for two weeks. Obviously, for a beach getaway, you need to add a bathing suit and maybe a rash guard, but it’s still easy. And don’t forget the laundry strips!

Packing the minimalist way truly can make your vacation an easier when you artfully utilize your space effectively.

Be smart about how you use your space.

Roll clothing items instead of folding them. This is a great way to prevent clothes from getting wrinkled. You can even roll whole outfits together to create that separation in your bag. 

Use negative space: place your small items in shoes or hats to protect them.

Wear your light jacket, coat, or hoodie for travel, as those can be some of your bulkier items to pack. Follow the same for shoes; wear walking shoes and put the easily packed sandals in your bag. Think comfort for your travel outfits, as delays can happen, and it may be a full day before you get to change again. 

Like in decluttering, when it is not a definite yes, then it’s a no. If you are hesitating about taking personal items, then it’s probably items that you can live without for that time away from home.¬†

Use your space, but remember when you come home, luggage never packs as neatly for the trip home. Even if you don’t plan to shop on vacation, you need some room. You don’t have to leave a lot of space; just be mindful.

a suitcase with backpack on a concrete ground and shadows

Questions to think about while packing.

How can I reduce the weight while keeping the function? Can you use your cell phone and leave your laptop at home? If you love to chain-read on vacation, enjoy digital options, like e-books or audiobooks, instead of taking hard copies. 

What habits can I put on hold? Focus on who you are on vacation, not your fantasy self or aspirational self. Is it essential to take your hair straightener or your cosmetics? Could you go without those for a few days? 

Can I put this in a smaller container or get a travel-size sample? If you are flying to your destination, this could also be a security issue if you are putting it into your carry-on bag. Your full-size body wash can stay at home. 

How often do I use this? If I don’t take it, how would I deal?¬†Obviously, this is not talking about sunscreen but about trying to pack light. If you want to practice some sun salutations a couple of times on your break, maybe you can leave the yoga mat at home and use a beach towel‚ÄĒor better yet, head down to the beach for that yoga session.

Is this available at my destination?¬†¬†Remember that you may be able to rent/buy/find some items at your destination rather than hauling them yourself. Do some research ahead. There’s no point in packing your hair dryer if you are staying at a resort that will provide one in your room.

The last thing you pack is your carry-on bag.

Your minimalist packing for vacation is not done just yet. While you might finish packing the big suitcase the night before you leave (and add the toiletry bags for you and any other travelling family in the morning), often the carry-on is packed last. If you are flying, you’ll be permitted your purse if you have one and your one carry-on bag.

If you have checked luggage, your carry-on is your backup in case your suitcase ends up on a different baggage cart for an adventure of its own. Think of it this way: your carry-on is the thing you absolutely don’t want to start your vacation without.

* Medications. This includes prescription medication and over-the-counter medication. (The last thing you want is to be hunting for Tylenol if that post-airline headache gets you). 

*¬†Snacks. If you get hangry, airline pretzels are not enough. These can also help you stick with your personal preference for healthier foods or dietary needs (like gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or food allergies) when there aren’t many options. If it’s a long driving trip, those snacks will hold you until the next town with a restaurant or coffee shop. (I often stash some protein bars in my carry-on!)

* Your entertainment. Yes, you have your cell phone in your purse, but if you still want your e-reader, iPad, and earbuds, put those in your carry-on. A deck of cards of family travel games is helpful if you get delayed.  

* A reusable empty water bottle. If you are flying, wait until you get through security to fill it. If you are driving, it can easily be refilled along the way. Dehydration is not fun. (You may also want a small hand lotion in your bag to combat dry skin.) You can toss your water bottle in your beach bag when you leave your room in the morning.

*¬†A change of clothes. A full outfit is handy if you have room in your carry-on. At the least, clean underwear and a change of shirt is a great thing to have. (Knock on wood, this won’t be your alternative outfit for the first days of this beach holiday).

* Emergency feminine hygiene products. In a perfect world, we would never need this on our vacation, but life is imperfect. 

* A small fleece blanket or lap blanket. Again, if you have room, this can be an additional comfort if you are flying, especially when this vacation is an escape from the cold.

There is no weight limit for carry-on luggage, but lifting it yourself to the overhead compartment is good. (Anyone who has flown before has dealt with that impatient traveller who wants you to get out of their way.)

Bonus Travel Tip: When you pack, put your name and contact details inside your bags. Tags can get pulled off bags in transit. 

Whether going away for spring break or to your dream beach vacation, use these minimalist packing tips on your next trip to ensure you have your beach essentials and less stress in the packing process. Enjoy the sun! I hope the weather forecast cooperates for you!

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