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7 Minimalist Packing Tips For Your Next Trip

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I’m just wrapping up an incredible trip to Europe (stay tuned for Book Two!) where I packed for two weeks in a tiny carry-on. My packing list (linked here) was mainly successful, but I did pick up some useful tips and takeaways for next time. My top tips straight ahead…
carry-on packing tips

Hold Onto Your Hat

While I love wearing a structured hat in real life, traveling with a hat proved to be cumbersome, and I ended up accidentally leaving my beloved felt fedora in an overhead bin in a plane in Stockholm. Next time, I’ll skip the hat, or just bring the packable straw hat that I picked up from Target for $8. Also eyeing these super chic packable hats from Janessa Leone.

Have a Laundry Plan

I learned that most hotels have laundry services available, but I picked up a couple mini packets of liquid detergent, and I was able to easily wash the items I wanted to wear again in the sink and hang them to dry. Next time I would pack even lighter and just plan to do a little laundry mid-way through my trip. Also, If you’re anything like me, it’s always helpful to have a stain stick or wipes in your handbag so you’re not walking around with ketchup stains on your favorite white blouse.

Try a Trench

During my travels to four countries the weather varied vastly, from cold and rainy to humid and sunny. While I’ve never been a trench coat person, I noticed that all of the chic women had one – the perfect light, rain-resistant layer that works for all seasons. It will be my next investment piece for sure. I also wish I had packed or bought a tiny umbrella that could have fit in my handbag. Paris proved to be quite the rain soaked adventure!

Sneakers for the Win

Another surprise: Everyone wears sneakers in Europe. I took up valuable space in my suitcase packing high heel booties for dinners out, but quickly realized I could have skipped them. Even at the nicest restaurants I noticed most people were quite well dressed (blazers, slacks, red lipstick, nice handbags), but got away with wearing super comfortable sneakers.

Pack a Portable Phone Charger

When I travel, I like to walk everywhere using Google Maps, which, it turns out, quickly drains my phone battery. Next time, I’ll be sure to pack this portable phone charger (or battery pack) so I can stay out all day knowing I won’t lose access to a map. Pro tip: I now pack all of my chargers and adapters in this durable clear pouch in my handbag so I never have to hunt them down.

Hold the Toiletries

I always go very light when I pack toiletries (deodorant, face wash, moisturizer, SPF, powder, mascara, lipgloss, and toothpaste), and found that every hotel I stayed at had nice hand cream, shampoo, conditioner, and even extras like razors, toothpaste, and earplugs. My advice? Keep toiletries to a bare minimum, especially because in Europe you have to squeeze everything into a tiny plastic bag (removed from your suitcase) every-time you go through security. Update: I’m now using this TSA approved clear pouch for toiletries in my carry-on.

Bring a Duffle

Even if you pack super light it’s likely that you’ll want to bring home a few souvenirs from your trip. I had several frequent-traveler friends recommend the same stylish, packable Longchamp duffle that is on my list for my next trip. It’s super compact, lightweight, and weatherproof – ideal for bringing home anything extra you picked up on your travels.

Hope these tips prove helpful on your next trip, and if you have any of your own, please share in the comments below.

P.S. While I typically travel without much cash, I’d also suggest bringing a small amount of foreign currency for tipping at hotels and restaurants.

Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson

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41 comments on “7 Minimalist Packing Tips For Your Next Trip

  1. Wondering what you carry as your “everything bag”/purse? I’m torn between a purse with several handy pockets/compartments and a Longchamp-type bag organized w packing cubes and clear organizing bags.

    1. I took a pretty massive leather tote as my handbag (with organized pouches inside) and I also brought a light crossbody bag for walking around Europe all day. Xx

  2. I mentioned an umbrella in your last post specifically thinking of yes.. Paris.. I was often rained out!
    Another tip— when deciding whether to take along my charger battery – mine weighs a TON and for my situation was dissuaded — so maybe there are lighter options ..I know nothing about yr recommendation — may be happily light.
    Yes trench so great— for dinner out too..
    Possible to mention yr favorite stain stick and stain wipes?
    And yes the duffle is beloved — always on plane s.
    A lady leaving Paris once had a gigantic red one.. was very striking 👋 Thanks great posts!

    1. Ha! I didn’t listen and learned my lesson about the umbrella. I was able to borrow one from the hotel a few times but really wish I had my own compact version for sudden downpours! As for stain solutions, I stuck with good old Shout for this trip because it works so well and comes in a stick or mini travel wipes. Xx

  3. Just beware that the Longchamp duffel do NOT have a shoulder strap! I am a huge Longchamp fan, own a number of their bags but decided against that particular duffel.

  4. Shira, I am currently packing for five weeks in France and Italy. I live on the sunny Central Coast of CA and don’t think about rain , unfortunately. You have answered several questions I had in your recent article. Great advice, thank you! Nancy

    1. To be fair I didn’t go to super fancy restaurants on this trip, but even just observing the street style I saw primarily sneakers paired with elevated separates and blazers or trench coats! Xx

    2. It’s a fashion thing and has been around for a while, we call them trainers in the UK and they are chunky in design. Worn with maxi flowery dresses and usually with a denim jacket, or leather biker jacket.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Love how Europeans wear their sneakers / trainers in style – so chic, comfortable and practical. Win-win!

  5. Great takeaways! I’m shocked to hear that everyone was wearing sneakers. I don’t love them but I recognize their usefulness. Instead, I’m always looking for slip-ons that are comfortable, not too sporty, and can pair well with dresses or jeans. I love my bucket hat because it folds down and fits into my tiny purse. I also have been wanting a trench and would love to know which one you decide on. For a packable duffle (and other light travel bags), I’d recommend Baggu. Very fun prints that make me happy — and they’re very affordable!

    1. Thanks so much for the recs! And I guess I should clarify that everyone was wearing *stylish* sneakers not their old running shoes – ha!

  6. Please bring us along for your quest for a trench! I’m headed to Paris at the end of September with my kids, so I want to be functional but cool. Could be hot, cold, rainy… seems like a trench is in order, but where to begin? I want it to be timeless but not stodgy. I’ll be looking out for your choices!

      1. I found a fabulous green trench at Massimo Dutti recently, and love it. The quality and cut are great, and they have a huge selection of them!!

  7. I love the travel hat from Lilliput. That’s a necessity for me.
    Thanks for all your tips!
    Do you have packing tips for a world trip of 6 months?
    Thanks, Claudia

  8. My tip is waterproof sneakers! I only recently found out they exist, and they are miraculous! I have walked through puddles and my feet stayed totally dry. Mine are Vessi. I bought slip-ons (because I didn’t want to fuss with laces), which I don’t think look as nice as the other styles, but they have served me well on long walks (although I did need to buy arch inserts for more support). I will admit that after 9+ months of daily wear, one of my shoes *may* be letting a little water in; perhaps a seam is giving way a bit? It’s hard for me to tell for sure. But even if that’s the case, I still think they were more than worth it. I can’t say what they are like for all-day wear, but I bought them for long walks and they have stayed comfortable for those.

  9. Love these tips, thank you! I’m off to Italy in a few weeks and this is super helpful. I’m really enjoying your book! Thanks again, Rae

  10. Thanks for sharing these Shira. Heading to Paris in June and especially love the portable phone charger tip and hearing about the sneakers! xo Laura

  11. This was so helpful! I love that I’m not the only one who thinks analytically about my packing. 🙂 I love your posts, Shira!

    I wonder if Europeans wear sneakers more because they tend to walk more than we do? Although my host when I studied in Madrid wore a skirt with high heels every day all day, even around the house and to go walk for her errands! She was in her 70s! haha Good for her!

    1. Good for her indeed! I was quite inspired by the walking culture, and loved seeing how women managed to be super chic and stylish while still comfortable. Xx

  12. This post is awesome! I just got back from London and will be in Paris in November.
    I hear you on sneakers, I need to lift my game there. Everyone in London had effortlessly cool but comfortable looking sneakers.
    Toiletries are so hard! I always take too much and don’t end up using it all. Would love more tips here.
    I definitely want a trench for Paris but I’ve never found one that flatters – I’ll be following your journey on this too!
    I always take my Longchamp shoulder bag with me on trips so I don’t have to stress about purchase overflow. It’s also handy if you need another/different day bag.
    Thanks again for sharing. I always learn so much for your posts.

    1. Agreed on sneakers. I saw a ton of Veja throughout Europe which looked great with dresses and jeans alike. Maybe I’ll do a toiletry post! Xx

    1. I just found one used for $30 on Ebay that I love. Vintage Gap of all things. Keep you posted! Xx

  13. I’ll be in Scandinavia for two weeks in July and am hoping to get it all in one carry on!

    Maps.me is also great. You can download a map and then you don’t have to use your data or be on wifi.

    I have an anker charger that’s not much bigger than a lipstick that’s saved me a couple of times.

  14. Agree to all of the above as well as a scarf. Not a blanket scarf (too bulky and not useful) but a nice light weight scarf. Mornings can be chilly and if you get cold later you can wear it. I too have learned so much from my travels to france! I do all of the above and ageee 100 percent on your observations!!

  15. Thank you for the minimalist packing tips and capsule checklist. Super helpful!
    Do you have any suggestions for minimal packing kids items to go on a road trip? I always end up hauling too any individual bags 🙂

    1. You’re very welcome! When it comes to kid road trips I used to pack my girls together in one carry-on (just clothes, pj’s, essentials) and then let them each take one small backpack in the car with games, art, snacks, etc. It can also be helpful to have a car organizer that you stock with tissues, hand sanitizer, water bottles, etc, so they don’t get strewn all over the place! I also swear by a trash bag hung on the back of a seat for the kids to use. Xx

  16. Thank you for all the travel tips! I am interested in your spinner luggage recommendations. I am still a fan of soft-sided luggage for its expansion and compression options, though I know Instagram-worthy hardsided bags are everywhere. I wonder what you prefer and if you’ve found the “perfect” carry-on and/or checked bag?

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