I’m a huge fan of minimalist packing so I can be fairly meticulous when it comes to what items I travel with. I like to conserve space and limit my carry-on baggage (because let’s be honest, no one likes hauling a heavy bag on and off the plane) by selecting items that are practical, versatile, and necessary.
By combining my love of minimalism and list-making I was able to research over a dozen different packing lists procured from several travel sites (here’s my personal Travel board on Pinterest) to compile my own master packing list which I then painstakingly reviewed for my particular needs.
Throughout my travels I’ll often leave notes for myself concerning what I’ve packed: what did/didn’t work, what I should have brought vs what I didn’t end up using. If anything, I’d say I’m a bit of an under packer. I’ll always pack things (especially medication) that I can only buy at home in Canada, but I’m fine with purchasing anything else that I may need on the go.
You’ll also notice that there are some items that I just won’t travel with. For example, I don’t pack a camera. My limited photography skills are modestly managed by the use of the camera on my iPhone 6 and I prefer not to have the burden of carrying another electronic device while I travel.
This is just personal preference. Believe me, I can appreciate the picture quality you get from a decent camera; I’m pretty darn jealous of all the beautiful travel photos that some people post on Instagram! However, my general rule of thumb is, “if it’ll ruin your vacation if you lose it, then don’t bring it.” With the lone exception of the jade bracelet that I’ve worn since I was a teenager, I leave all my valuables at home.
With all that being said, here’s what I usually bring with me on my travels:
Some of the items have been linked for your reference on which brands I use and where to buy them. Notable mentions have been marked with an asterisk (*).
- Medium-sized luggage
- 24 to 28 inches – with my home address and contact information somewhere easily visible on the inside.
- Overnight bag
- For carry-on.
- Luggage tags
- Luggage locks
- Packing cubes*
Packing cubes* are essential. I can’t even begin to explain how convenient they are and how much time and energy they’ve saved me from having to repack my bag while on the go. They’re light, efficient, and they do an amazing job at separating clothes for usage and/or cleanliness as well as compressing items for more efficient use of luggage space.
- For evenings out and about.
- Zippered wallet
- Coin purse*
- Document wallet
Coin purses* are so convenient when travelling with foreign cash, especially in places that have local markets. As a foreign traveller you never want to be seen pulling out your wallet too often in public places. A coin purse is a great alternative to carrying small amounts of cash and all the spare change you accumulate on your travels.
- and spare Passport photos*.
- Driver’s license
- Insurance card(s)
- Debit card
- Credit card(s)
- Canadian, American, and the local currency.
Let’s face it, no one ever goes on vacation and anticipates losing their Passport. But hey, sh*t happens. Not only will having a set of current Passport photos* save you from having to take an “I’m-miserable-because-I-just-lost-my-passport-in-a-foreign-country-and-my-vacation-is-ruined” photo, but it’ll help expedite the process of getting a temporary Passport from the nearest foreign embassy.
- Travel documents/Itinerary/IDs (online)
- Insurance info (online)
- Hotel info (online)
- Canadian Embassies info* (online)
Whenever I leave the country I always register my foreign travel plans with the Government of Canada. I also travel with the contact information for the Canadian Embassies* in each of the cities that I’ll be visiting. This includes: the address, telephone number, e-mail, and quickest route to the embassy from my hotel room. I’ll even follow them on Twitter!
- iPhone & charging cable
- Portable battery & charging cable
- Travel adapter/converter
- Journal & pen*
- Permanent marker*
Yes, I bought the entire collection of the Lord of the Rings Moleskines.
You never know when inspiration will hit. Having a journal* and a few good writing tools nearby will make a world of difference if you’re trying to keep record of your travels. Also, permanent markers* are like the duct tape of writing tools. They’re useful for any situation!
- Travel pillow
- Extra pillow case
- Bed bugs are real!!!
- Silk sleeping bag liner
- For those nights sleeping on questionable bedsheets.
- Microfiber travel towel
- Flip flops*
This may seem silly to some people, but I always travel with a pair of cheap flip flops* to use as slippers in my hotel/hostel rooms and bathrooms. They’re inexpensive, easy to pack, and they’re great in a pinch.
- Wrinkle release spray*
- Static guard
- Laundry soap packets
- Tide to Go
- Ziplock bags
- Tissue packs
- Antibacterial hand wipes
- Hand sanitizer
They come in travel sized versions as well!
One of the toughest things about minimalist packing is the need to create the perfect travel wardrobe that you can mix & match outfits with. After my first trip to Europe I went through my journal and found a very passionate message to myself: “Pack clothes that look good wrinkly!!” After I discovered Downy’s wrinkle release spray*, I didn’t have that problem! You spray your desired pieces of clothing, use your hands to smooth out any visible wrinkles, and hang to dry. Give it a half an hour and all the wrinkles have disappeared! For better results I like to hang it in the bathroom while I take a hot shower and let the steam help the solution permeate the fabric. As an extra bonus, the scent is fantastic and it makes your clothes smell freshly cleaned!
- Eyeglasses, case, & microfiber cloth
- Two sets of contacts
- One to use, one to lose.
- Contact solution
- Eye drops
- Sunglasses & case
- My jade bracelet
- Hair brush
- Hair ties
- Soap & scrubber*
- Tooth floss
Seriously, this thing is the best travel alternative to a loofah.
This scrubber* is amazing and now that I’ve started using it I can’t imagine travelling without it. It’s a small mesh pouch that cinches around most standard soap bars so it’s easier to pack than body wash and it’ll last twice as long. It’s perfect for use in the shower for a thick lather and scrub and conveniently hangs to dry. I carry mine around in a small ziplock bag.
- Vitamin E oil*
- Facial toner
- SPF is a MUST-HAVE.
- Body/hand lotion
- Cotton swabs
- Feminine products
- Nail clippers
- Nail file
I buy Vitamin E oil from Winners/Homesense for a discounted price!
I take my skin care regimen very seriously and this doesn’t change even when I travel. Vitamin E oil* keeps my face and underarms smooth, supple, and free of discolouration. I rub some on every morning before applying my moisturizer and lotion.
- Eyebrow pencil*
- Face powder
- Concealer stick
- This blush, lipstick, & lip gloss trio reacts to the pH levels in your skin to create the perfect pinkish hue for your skin tone. So magical!
- Eye lash curler
- Hand mirror
- My face powder compact comes with a built-in mirror.
- Make up wipes
- Make up remover pen
- This product is life-saving and only costs $3.00.
Purr-fect brows courtesy of Chaylene Tough at Studio Sashiko.
Ladies and gentlemen, we can all agree that eyebrow maintenance can be a pain in the ass. Last year I paid about $400 for microblading*: a semi-permanent pigmentation of individually-drawn eyebrow hairs. This has been the best cosmetic decision of my life. I now wake up every day with perfect eyebrows. Imagine that.
That’s about it for the essentials of my packing list. However, I also travel with a basic first aid kit and a personal pharmacy:
First Aid Kit
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Alcohol wipes
- Tensor bandage
- Medical tape
- Sewing kit
- Safety pins
- Safety whistle
- DayQuil; Tylenol Cold & Flu; Buckley’s Complete; Contact
- It helps to have a variety!
- Cold FX
- Vitamin C
- Throat lozenges
- Green tea bags
- Prescription medication
It may seem like I pack a lot of medication* but trust me when I say that the alternative is being sick and miserable and needing to find affordable and effective medication in a foreign country. A lot of the friends I’ve met while travelling have benefited from “Dr. Ho’s” little bag of medicine!
Well folks, there it is!
Like I said, I’m a fan of minimalist packing. There are dozens of other items that I could’ve included but this is my basic packing list – I’ll add and remove items depending on my destination and/or itinerary.
Packing lists should always cater to your own specific needs, so be sure to include items that you use in your daily routines!
Click here for a downloadable PDF of my packing list!
What are some of your go-to items when packing for trips? Let me know in the comments section below!
(Featured image: Kathryn Ho, www.instagram.com/khitters)