6 Tips to Travel Like a Minimalist this Summer!

Lake Atitlan - Paul Castello

Lake Atitlan - Paul Castello

Packing light isn’t something that comes super naturally to me, but the more I practice, the easier it becomes.

Proud mom moment, making a stranger take a photo of me and my babies, I mean luggage.

Proud mom moment, making a stranger take a photo of me and my babies, I mean luggage.

Every time that I force myself to creatively pair items together from a streamlined selection, I experience the lightness that comes from having to manage less stuff, overall. It also dismantles the myth that I need a certain variety to be comfortable or feel self-expressed. That’s the thing about striving for a simpler, sustainable lifestyle — it has always been a practice for Cary and myself. We were not natural-born minimalists; we don’t claim to have been space-optimizing, life-hacking little toddlers. I think it’s important to remember that. New Minimalism is a philosophy and a practice that comes from a slowing down and a paying attention.  It takes an iterative approach and is a muscle that you strengthen over time. 


Travel is the perfect (set amount) of time to experiment with less.


While it is my tendency to pack more than those “extreme” minimalists out there, I have solidified the habit of never checking a bag, so automatically that means I have to fit everything in a carry-on size. I’ve also found that I’m simply not a fan of wheeling around a hard case with wheels. I know!  The look so chic!  But it’s so much easier to navigate stairs and subways and buses with everything strapped to my back. So instead of a rolling bag, I hack my duffle bag into a backpack by using the carrying straps as shoulder straps. It’s not the most comfortable option but as long as I can carry it on both shoulders, my chiropractor says it isn’t terrible for my spine. For me, at this point in my life, the added mobility is more important than being uncomfortable here and there (talk to me in 5 years and it might be a different story). So while I’m “young” and able-bodied, I’ll carry my stuff.  For this trip, I’m traveling to Mexico and Guatemala for 3 weeks, and packed in a small duffle bag and small backpack!  I’m was pretty proud of myself when I was all finished and ready to go.

How can you fit all your items into a small carry-on bag? 

Outlined here for you are 6 tips to help you achieve your minimalist packing goals (and relish in the subsequent freedoms):

1. Assess your activities and adjust your wardrobe accordingly:

Notice the duffle isn’t stuffed to the brim which allows for some goodies to come home with me!

Notice the duffle isn’t stuffed to the brim which allows for some goodies to come home with me!

This particular trip includes exploring Mexico City for 10 days, Antigua for 4, and then some quiet time at a yoga retreat in the mountains of Guatemala. I opted for Converse sneakers over running shoes since I’ll be mostly in cities. If I go for a hike or two in the mountains, I’ll just wear the Converse. Normally I would only bring one pair of yoga leggings on a trip. In this case, I packed two knowing I would be practicing everyday for 6 days. I also plan to buy a pair of huaraches (leather sandals) while traveling so I didn’t bring any sandals with me to avoid carrying duplicates.

2. Check the weather:

You may find that unusual weather means you need more, or less layers than expected, which also means you can slim down on the types of clothing you were initially expecting to wear. in doing so I realized that I needed one thin, cashmere sweater and a light shell for rain, and less hot weather, summery garb.

3. Plan to hand-wash:

I will be gone for 23 days and packed 5 pairs of underwear and 4 pairs of socks! Hand washing can easily be done in a hotel sink and hung to dry. Select underwear made from quick-drying fabric to ensure drying is a breeze (hehe, get it?). My favorite, everyday underwear is made by Lululemon. It is tissue thin and will dry overnight even in colder, damp climes. For socks, if I were going to a colder climate I would probably bring 1-2 more pairs, but I imagine this will suffice.

4. Slim down your reusable/zero-waste arsenal:

Just one (insulated) water bottle can be used for both hot tea and cold drinks. Toting around a metal fork sounds crazy but it’s super handy and I seem to get by without a spoon. Chopsticks are a nice alternative, too. A cloth napkin doesn’t have to be used exclusively while eating, and can be used for all sorts of things. An extra tote bag that folds flat will allow for flexibility when you need more capacity (say you want to pick up some groceries as you pass a market).

5. Multi-purpose, non-toxic soap is your new BFF:

Did you know you can wash your water bottle, your clothes and your face with JUST ONE soap?! My favorite is Follain’s Everything Soap, which Cary first turned me onto. I must admit that while at home I love my capsule fleet of face products for my morning routine, but while traveling I channel Tim Gunn and make it work.

6. Lighten your mental load:

Jet planes emit a LOT of carbon into the atmosphere. Feeling the weight of guilt knowing that you are contributing to carbon emissions? Offset your carbon impact by purchasing carbon credits, or donate to a cause that is directly addressing climate change and remediation. As a member of 1% for the Planet, New Minimalism chose this year to donate to the San Francisco Bike Coalition because the safer the streets, the more people riding bikes and walking, and the less carbon emissions in our beautiful city.


What are your travel-light tips?

Please jump over to Instagram to leave your comment!

As you know, we are continually optimizing and would love to hear them!

Antigua - Paul Castello

Antigua - Paul Castello