Going on a trip and wondering how to get away with bringing less? Here’s our quick guide to traveling super light – we have put together an effective minimalist travel packing list and some general advice.

The mere idea of travel puts many in a packing mood – before the trip even begins, we start thinking about what (and how much) to bring.

It’s temping to pack as much as humanly possible. After all, who wouldn’t want to be as comfortable as possible while on the road?

The irony of the situation is that bringing more stuff could actually make your trip worse. More luggage means worrying about keeping track of possessions, hauling massive suitcases, and (a relatively recent development) likely paying additional fees for checked bags.

Whether you’re traveling for a couple of days or half a year, here is some tried and tested packing advice for the minimalist traveler:

1.) There are two types of baggage: carry-on… or lost

Well, not always. There are many situations in which checking a bag in makes sense – especially when you are traveling with specialized gear/equipment that is not allowed in airplane cabins.

However, most travellers eventually discover the joys of bringing just a carry-on bag. It’s always with you, fits in tight spaces, and is generally light on the shoulders. Most importantly, it forces you to adopt the mentality of: less is more.

You will be surprised at how little you actually you need to bring with you. More on that in a second.

Here are a few bags that have become very popular* within the travel community:

The above are all high-quality products, with dependable construction. All were designed with the needs of the traveler in mind. While the Air Boss is somewhat more popular with business travellers (its a duffle bag), any of these will get the job done. Just pick one and be done with it!

2.) Bring less than what you think you need – and then cut that in half 

A good method is to lay everything out on a flat surface before you leave – and evaluate what you actually need. If all of it doesn’t comfortably fit into one carry-on bag… bring less!

The bare essentials are:

  • One or two t-shirts / undershirts
  • One or two long-sleeved shirts (depending on destination climate)
  • Two pairs of pants / trousers
  • A button-down shirt (essentially, something semi-formal)
  • Flip-flops (for indoor and beach use)
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Dress shoes / lace-ups (unless you’re on a specialized trip, such as a hiking expedition)
  • A toiletry kit with the basics
  • 5-7 pairs of socks/underwear
  • Swimwear (depending on your plans)
  • Windbreaker / thin fleece
  • Down jacket (only for extremely cold climates)
  • Waterproof shell (if you’re expecting heavy rain)
  • A phone that lets you swap out SIM cards (preferably, a smartphone)
  • All your travel documents (and photocopies of your passport)

Optional items: camera (with spare battery and memory card), laptop (with charger)

Travellers’ favourites: packing cubes (for making the most out of your carry-on), a locking carabiner (for securing bags to bus/train luggage racks), quick-try towel, an e-reader, notebook and pen, LED flashlight / headlamp, padlock

That’s pretty much it! The list will vary slightly for females, but the basic principle remains the same: bring less than what you think you need.

When choosing between items, opt for versatility and compactness. We recommend that you bring versatile clothing (for example, shirt that goes just as well with jeans or slacks).

3.) When in doubt, aim to BIT (Buy It There)

Don’t worry if you think you may have left something out (e.g. shaving cream/foam). Have faith in your own resourcefulness – if you truly need something, you will find a way to find it (and buy it) at your destination.

Money-saving tip: many hotels keep chargers/adapters/etc. that previous guests left behind. It never hurts to ask the front-desk for unclaimed items before going off and spending money on a new one.

4.) Don’t forget cash

Before you leave, make sure you have at least a small amount of cash (USD $200) in the destination currency.

If you know there will be ATMs upon arrival, that works too (especially if you can avoid withdrawal fees). ATMs often will have the best exchange rates (be wary of international currency exchange booths at airports and transport hubs).

Why is cash still king? There are many places (and businesses) that still don’t accept credit cards. Additionally, it removes the risk of credit/debit card fraud. Most importantly, cash still has a way of moving things along faster (in less developed economies).

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And that’s it! Bring less, clear your head, and have fun on the road!

Less baggage, more memories