How to Travel Like a Minimalist

My first taste of living with minimalism was during my semester abroad in college. 

I loved college, but by the fall semester of my junior year, I was totally burnt out. I was ready to leave life behind as I knew it. I was ready to cut the cord with life’s complications. I was ready to spend a semester abroad in my family’s homeland, Greece.

I suspected, but didn’t realize just how liberating it would be to live out of a suitcase for five months. Just me, some clothes, some shoes, a few basic supplies, my journal and my music. I didn’t even bring my cell phone or a computer! 

I felt like I could actually breathe again.

Traveling through Turkey on spring break, I went 10 days living out of a backpack and loved every minute. And it’s a good thing, too - there were many twists and turns. My friend and I had no plan at all. It was choose your own adventure - my favorite kind!

After my semester ended, I spent another 10 days island hopping across the Aegean, and then made a quick stop in London to visit my cousin on the way back to the states. This time, I had to take that one suitcase everywhere with me - and how I longed for it to be just me and my backpack again!

It was your average suitcase, but I did find that it weighed me down. I had to lug it around on boats, trains, up and down stairs. I had to take the time to check it in at the airport several times. And then, there’s waiting for it at the carousel. Tedious.

Now, I am committed to traveling with just a carry on.

I love the freedom that I feel from traveling - the sense of possibility. It’s just not worth it for me to be weighed down. Flexibility and agility are my top priorities when it comes to packing for a trip.

If you’ve been daydreaming about a simpler life, travel is a great opportunity to get a taste of minimalism. This past month, my husband and I traveled to Israel, and spent a couple of days in Paris on our way back to the US. Here are some strategies we used to make the most of our carry-on luggage.

Make a plan

We looked up weather, both the predictions and the averages, for the countries we would be visiting, while considering the activities we would do there. This is where we started with our packing list, so we wouldn’t be tempted to pack things we wouldn’t need on the trip.

Keep it simple

When your goal is to pack light, the most effective wardrobe strategy is to pack things that will all go together. Aside from my wedding outfit and swimwear, I mostly packed neutral basic tops to wear with jeans. I packed another pair of sandals and wore my ballet flats on the plane.

Wear your layers

I knew I probably wouldn’t need many layers in Israel, but it was possible that I would need them in Paris. I wore my spring layers (a long cardigan, a trench coat, and a scarf) on the plane so I wouldn’t have to pack them. Plus, I was able to use them to stay cozy on the plane ride.

Leave space for shopping

I do like to be able to pick something up on my travels if it catches my eye. I did not have any sundresses in my wardrobe from last summer, so I left space in my suitcase in case I found something cute, knowing that I’d be just fine with my basics if I didn’t find anything (but you know I did).


It’s easy for me to go overboard when it comes to beauty products. With my only my carry-on luggage, I was only allowed to bring a quart sized bag of liquids! This required me to take a step back, prioritize my essentials, and leave behind everything else. And it wasn’t the end of the world! 

Our trip was a total whirlwind, and it was so key that we didn’t waste any time dealing with checking our bags or waiting to pick them up. Packing light also allowed greater flow and ease in dealing with ground transportation. 

Arriving back home from the trip, it was simple to unpack. I could really relax and and focus on nursing my jet lag before diving back into work, rather than doing heaps of laundry.

I really believe in this uncluttered way of life that I have cultivated, and that I have built a career into teaching others about. Yet, applying it to the container of a 10-day trip really refreshed my love for it that much more. If you’ve been thinking of decluttering and you have a trip coming up, I highly recommend packing light and seeing how it makes you feel! 

With Love & Gratitude,

Anna Brunelle