Travel Light, Travel Right: Minimalist Packing Tips for Solo Explorers

Learn how to travel light without sacrificing essentials, and stay organized on the go

Solo adventures can be daunting, and it doesn’t always start when you’ve stepped onto a plane, ship, bus, or train.  Sometimes, it starts with a widely open empty suitcase and a pile of clothes on the side. If only we could fit everything we think we’ll ever need, you know, “just in case.” 

But we also want to avoid the stress of lugging a suitcase heavier than our body weight through cobbled streets and up steep staircases or break our backs hiking through uneven terrain with a backpack like Atlas would the world. 

Years of solo travelling, whether by necessity or adventure has wisened me up when it comes to packing. After all, the most important things you need usually come down to three things– a wallet, phone and passport. Everything else can be picked up along the way. But that wouldn’t do for many of us. Buying necessities you already have is an extra cost. We could also use the additional space for a piece of quirky ceramic or that puffy jacket you’ve convinced yourself you can’t live without.


Pack a capsule wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is a curated collection of versatile clothing items that mix and match effortlessly. Pick out essentials with your destination in mind and pare down the number of items for each.  It helps to plan and visualize your outfits per day. 

For example, you could pack a skirt, comfortable pants, shorts, a few tops, a pair of light stylish flats, and sneakers. For men, that could be a pair of jeans, a collared shirt, some casual tops, sneakers and light loafers.  A crisp white shirt can be casual or formal depending on how you style it. Remember the millennial gift that the early aughts taught us? The day-to-night outfits. It’s a similar concept, which brings me to my second tip–


Style with Accessories

Accessories are your best friend. During my years in luxury retail, I have styled many who were rearing to go on their revenge travels to Portugal, Italy and wherever country was willing to welcome them. Belts, jewelry, a pair of stylish sunglasses, maybe one packable hat– all these are light items that can change up your look in an instant. Capsule wardrobes are often basics and neutrals but you can quirk things up with a colourful bag, hair ties or chunky bracelets. As much as we enjoy travelling for the experience, there’s always that part of us who want to preserve the memory while looking good. 


Embrace Digital Solutions

Long haul trips can have moments of lull,  rather than being weighed down by a book or two, an e-book or using reading apps on your smartphone can save space and weight. Apps like Libby offer access to your library’s e-books and audiobooks. 


Opt for Practicality

Minimalist packing is pretty much practical packing. Check your accommodations to see what they provide. They’ll often have items you won’t need to pack such as hairdryers, towels, toiletries and house slippers. If you still prefer bringing your own, decant the liquid into reusable bottles. Store them in clear plastic for a more convenient security check at airports.  

It might seem an obvious tip but I’ve seen people who’ve packed hairdryers for trips when their accommodations supplied one. I have also seen someone pack entire tubs of lotion, skincare, and haircare into their suitcase only to return with these items after the trip. 

For longer trips, consider packing quick-dry clothes. Most quick-dry fabrics are made of synthetic materials but these garments are often lighter, thinner and easier to wash and reuse.

Pack a reusable or foldable bag. Wear bulkier clothing in transit, it can be inconvenient but it can save you additional luggage space for unexpected purchases or souvenirs. But to be a true minimalist traveller, consider experience over objects!

Compartmentalize your belongings using packing cubes or pouches. One of the reasons people overpack is because they think they’ll need everything from their regular lives.  When you see your clothes and travel items organized, it switches your perspective. You’re reminded that travelling is temporary,  making you more attuned to pack minimally and enjoy your solo adventure without the excess baggage.