Less is more: How to pack like a minimalist

When I was at university in Norway, I spent a year in the UK as part of my degree. Moving from one country to another when you’re only allowed 20 kg in the hold + 5 kg hand luggage is a bit of a challenge, to put it mildly. Reports from students who had done the same thing before me taught me one important thing, though: don’t bring too much stuff. They all felt they had packed too many belongings, only to realise that they could buy pretty much everything they needed there – and cheaper, too.

This experience was probably an important part of why I became a minimalist. It taught me that less is more, and that there is no need to pack for every eventuality. Unless you’re visiting a very remote corner of the world, you will be able to buy what you need to get by.

These days I rarely go away for more than 10 days (because of my Albert-monkey), so I always travel with hand baggage / cabin luggage / carry-on only.

Starting the first leg of my trip to Cyprus - Devon to Surrey by train
Starting the first leg of my trip to Cyprus: Devon to Surrey by train

If you’re curious to see what a minimalist would pack for 10 days away (2 in the UK, 8 in Cyprus), keep scrolling. Obviously you don’t need very bulky clothes in Cyprus – even in October – but I used the same bag when I went to Norway for a week in March (when there was still snow everywhere), so this is totally doable.

I love the Cabin Max Edinburgh backpack - it is 50x40x20 cm so you don't need to worry whether it will be allowed on board or not.

I ordered the Cabin Max Edinburgh carry-on backpack pictured above in March, before my trip to Norway. It is designed to match the hand luggage allowance of most airlines and measures 50 x 40 x 20 cm , so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you will be allowed to bring your luggage into the cabin. I love it – it is designed like a suitcase, but has all the benefits of a backpack. Most airlines (though not easyJet) also allow you to bring a ‘personal item’, in my case a Michael Kors Jet Set tote bag, in addition to your cabin luggage. This is all I need for 10 days away, and it leaves room for presents and souvenirs as well. (Here’s a handy list from Skyscanner where you can check the hand luggage allowances of most popular airlines.)

I always pack my Cath Kidston backpack - it takes no space at all and can be tucked into its own pocket. Sadly, they seem to have discontinued this model.

So here’s what I packed:

Cath Kidston Little Birds backpack (discontinued – similar here)
Dulcis Stardust gold kitten heels (preloved fleamarket find)
Tesco white crossover sandals (discontinued – similar here)
Adidas Infinitex swimsuit
Decathlon microfibre xxl towel (discontinued – similar here)
Rab silk sleeping bag liner

I love my Cath Kidston backpack, and bring it on most of my trips. You never know when an extra bag might come in handy, and this one takes up no space at all as it can be tucked into its own front pocket. Since it is made of nylon, it is very practical as a beach bag, though it is great for sightseeing and shopping as well. It is a shame that this model been discontinued, but the new ones are very similar.

I always bring a big towel, no matter where I’m staying. If I’m crashing with friends I think it is only fair to spare them the extra laundry, and many hotels won’t let you bring hotel towels to the beach, so a towel is a must. So far, this Decathlon microfibre xxl towel has been my towel of choice, but from now on I will bring one of the Turkish towels I bought in Nicosia – they take up even less space and probably dry just as quickly. And they’re prettier, too. (You can find similar towels on Etsy.)

The Rab silk sleeping bag liner feels so amazingly soft and luxurious against my skin that I sleep in it every night, even at home! I have two so I don’t have to go without on washing day, though to be fair, they dry so quickly that I could probably make do with one. It is great for when you’re spending a night or two with friends – just as the towel, it saves them having to do a lot of laundry just because you’ve stayed there for a few nights. I’m also a little squeamish about hotel bedlinen – they’re not always washed at 90C, and after one unfortunate incident with some extremely smelly bedlinen at a hotel chain that shall remain nameless (they are usually very good!), I prefer to keep an additional layer between myself and whatever’s provided…

Nifty trick: Pack your underwear into your favourite handbag, and voilá - you have two handbags to choose from!
Top tip: No need for packing cubes – just stuff your underwear and bikini into your favourite handbag, and voilá – you have two handbags to choose from on your trip!

I also packed:

Michael Kors Jet Set crossbody bag
Underwear for 10 days
Harry Potter sleepwear (similar top & shorts at Primark)
3 tops (2 white, 1 navy)
2 dresses (one sundress, one formal; both navy)
1 long-sleeve top with thumb holes (white)
2 camisoles (1 navy, 1 pink)
2 pairs of shorts (1 navy, 1 pink)
1 pair of trousers (navy)
1 below-the-knee leggings for hiking (grey)

I always try to colour-coordinate my clothes so I can mix and match while I’m away, and navy and white is a classic combo. Also, after numerous trips where I’ve had to beg a friend or relative for a t-shirt to sleep in, I have finally learnt to bring sleepwear – and you can’t go wrong with some Gryffindor merch!

Even if you’re going somewhere hot like Cyprus, I recommend bringing a warm-ish top and bottoms. I always get really cold in the evenings when I’ve been out in the sun all day!

Eavh half zips up, so everything is kept neat and tidy
Each half of the Cabin Max zips up, so everything is kept neat and tidy
You never forget to padlock your zip once you've experienced seeing all your personal belongings spread out on the luggage belt, so I use it even for cabin luggage!
You never forget to padlock your zip once you’ve seen all your personal belongings doing the rounds on a luggage belt – so I use it even for cabin luggage!
My travelling outfit - not exactly stylish, but those trainers came in very handy when my friend and I were exploring Paphos and Nicosia!
My travelling outfit is hardly stylish, but when I’m travelling, comfort is everything! My Nike Zoom Vomero 9 trainers were great for exploring Paphos and Nicosia on foot, and the warmer clothing and Berghaus raincoat (it’s a men’s model; they’re always much cheaper!) were great while I was travelling by train in the UK.


And that's it! Bon voyage!
All zipped up and ready to go!

If you’ve read this far – thank you! By now you’re probably wondering what I pack in my tote bag? Whether or not you would like to travel like a minimalist with hand luggage only, there are some things you should always bring on board your flight. I will share my packing tips for your ‘personal item’ in my next blog post, so stay tuned and don’t forget to subscribe in the side bar!

2 comments Add yours
  1. A very interesting and useful post. I like how the bag opens like a suitcase and I can’t believe you got so much in it. I recently went over to Ireland for one night and took just a small overnight bag – I’m going again next week for two nights this time and will use the same bag, but after reading this I’m very tempted to get one like yours for any future longer trips 🙂

    1. Thank you, Eunice! Yes, I absolutely love the Cabin Max – I suspect it uses Tardis technology, it is definitely bigger on the inside! 😉 I just realised that I forgot to show the laptop pocket and the two front pockets in my post, but I simply didn’t need them! They are very handy for magazines and anything you might buy at the airport, though. Happy travels to Ireland!

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