The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Minimalist Travel Wardrobe
Make packing easier by building a minimalist travel wardrobe. This guide will help you create a wardrobe that will cut your packing time in half!
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Packing has become an art form over the years.
It’s my dream to be as organized and efficient at packing as Monica from Friends.
I’m a notorious over-packer, yet without fail every trip I think of just one more thing I wish I would have packed (and I’m not just talking about shoes).
I’ve put together the ultimate list of travel essentials for women using all the items I’ve wished I’d packed on previous trips.
I laughed so hard when my boyfriend proudly showed me a set of packing cubes he had just bought. I had never heard of them before and to be honest, they looked and sounded kind of ridiculous.
After trying them for myself on my last trip, I’m now a massive fan. I love theming my cubes—one for shirts, one for
The cubes keep everything in your bag organized, plus it’s way easier to go through your bag when you inevitably have to find something you already packed.
From the time I was a teenager, my mom always told me to apply a moisturizer with sunscreen every day—always reminding me that I’d thank her when I’m older.
Well, I’m obviously not a teenager anymore and I’ll admit she was right. I went to the dermatologist for the first time a few months ago, and they commented I had the skin of someone about a decade younger than my age (thanks, mom).
Travel is incredibly dehydrating for skin, so I love using Clinique Moisture Surge while I travel. It’s great because it’s majorly hydrating, plus it has aloe vera water to soothe irritated skin.
If I need some SPF coverage, I’ll use my everyday moisturizer No.7 Restore and Renew with SPF 30. It’ll keep you from getting burned while out sightseeing while making sure your skin looks nice and refreshed.
No matter what brand you use, make sure to re-apply throughout the day to stay protected.
Portable chargers are a must have these days. They’re small enough to fit in my purse and can charge my phone multiple times before it needs recharged.
It took me a long time to embrace the trend of noise cancelling headphones. They just seemed expensive and way too bulky anytime I seriously considered them.
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a girl who loves the simplicity of ear buds.
Turns out, if you’re like me and still avoiding the insanely popular (but bulky) Bose headphones, they now make noise-canceling earbuds.
Do yourself a favor and invest in some ASAP—it makes all the difference while you’re on that flight with the kids who won’t quit screaming their heads off.
I waited for ages to get a credit card—I’m probably not the only one who’s heard those horror stories of people racking up mountains of credit card debt. And while I understood that credit can have some advantages, for me, I always felt it was best to just work with what I had in my debit account instead of opening the possibility of making an impulse purchase that would put me into debt.
But here’s the thing. Getting a credit card was one of the best investments I’ve made this year. Yes, you have to be responsible with your purchases, but if you’re responsible and have the discipline to pay down your balance, you’ll be fine.
I got the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and it changed my life. I no longer have to worry about carrying cash while traveling to avoid foreign transaction fees, plus I get points on every purchase I make to use toward future travel.
Who doesn’t want free points (money) toward a future adventure? I’ve only had the card since February and already have enough points for my next international flight.
Do your research to see what works best for your lifestyle. I researched and debated for months before choosing Chase. A great resource that I use is The Points Guy—he does a ton of research and lays out pros and cons for each card.
Travel insurance seems more necessary than ever after reading about how it’s covered costs when people had to book emergency trips to their homelands after COVID-19 broke out.
Having it not only offers help during national emergencies but also offers emergency medical assistance, covers cancellation fees, lost luggage, and travel delay expenses. Basically, it helps protect against the unexpected.
Do your research to see what insurance works best for your needs, and check with your credit card—some cards come with basic travel insurance as a perk.
I had no idea these little devices existed until my hotel concierge in Nice asked if I’d like to rent one for my stay.
It’s a game changer!
Normally when I’m in Europe, my phone service is spotty, and I hate wasting time desperately searching for a cafe with free WiFi that works.
Plus, if you find a decent connection, you never know who else is also on the network that could also access your private information—basically, using public WiFi is becoming increasingly unsafe.
During this trip, all I had to do was turn on the device when I needed it and within a minute I had working WiFi without subjecting myself to any extra phone fees or security concerns.
Depending on your needs, you can try renting one through your hotel (if they offer them), or investing in a device.
Honestly, this is a purchase that I’m getting ready to make. Even when we aren’t traveling, I find myself wishing I could take my laptop to the park to work and this little device would make that dream possible.
These are the buying options that I’ve been weighing up—if anyone has any advice, please let me know.
It works best for international travel (from what I’ve read), and connects to up to 5 devices. They have 4g WiFi in over 130 countries by working with local networks to provide service.
Data is paid as you go, so depending on what you need you can pay by the day, week, or month. This is the device I’ve been leaning toward investing in the most.
Fun Fact: The device also doubles as a power bank so you can charge your phone or laptop while using it.
This one works on up to 10 devices with 4g WiFi. The only downside is that you have to figure out your own local SIM card for the device. It has an LCD display that shows the battery and signal strength.
Honestly, the name alone makes me love this little guy. This device works via a smartphone app (so no dealing with local SIM cards). It also has a 12-hour battery life and has competitive pricing for data via the app it works through.
I can’t travel without face wipes—they’re refreshing and keep your skin from breaking out (nobody wants a giant pimple stealing focus in a vacation photo).
I really love the
Plus, they remove waterproof makeup, while remaining gentle and not irritating your eyes or skin.
Microfiber towels are useful and light to pack. I’ve used mine for the beach, for picnics, and even as a blanket.
I like the Dock & Bay towel that a friend gifted me. It comes with a travel pouch that it easily rolls up into, making it small and easy to pack. The microfiber keeps the sand from sticking to the towel at the beach and is absorbent while being thin enough to dry quickly.
After using one of these wipes to get red wine out of a white blouse, I’ve been obsessed with keeping at least one of these in my purse at all times. They’re safe on both normal and dry-cleanable fabrics and come in individual packets.
Seriously, Shout Wipes are a godsend—do yourself a favor and get some for your travel bag ASAP.
I’m one of those people that’s always freezing on planes, trains, and in restaurants. Having a
I’ve invested in a couple over the years—my favorite is an orange one that I bought at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It’s ornate with lots of gold woven in a beautiful pattern. This is one that I save for dressier occasions.
For everyday use, I found a champagne pashmina that’s perfect. It goes with all my outfits, and is one that wouldn’t stress me out if it got torn or too worn out, since it was more affordable.
How many of us have had to desperately look for an old receipt or piece of paper in our bag to use in place of the tissue we really need?
I’ve started keeping a small kleenex in my bag at all times. It’s saved me so much time (and embarrassment) over the years.
We’ve all been there, you get to the security line and the person ahead of you isn’t prepared—likely they’re scrambling to pull out all their liquids and gels from their makeup bag to put in a TSA Ziploc bag.
Save yourself the hassle and pack your makeup in a clear toiletry pouch instead. It’s super easy to just pull out of your carry on and place right into the tray at security.
When I fly, I love using this Sephora designed Beauty On The Fly Bag. It’s TSA approved, affordable, and perfectly fits all my serums, gels, and liquids. The best part is that it’s easy to clean if something leaks (plus it’s secure enough that it keeps leaks from going all over my carry-on).
Dry shampoo can be a lifesaver when you just need a quick touch up to feel normal after a long flight or day of sightseeing.
I love Batiste Dry Shampoo’s travel size version when I travel. It never makes my hair feel gunky like other brands I’ve tried. Just spray it and run your fingers or a brush through your hair and it’ll look instantly refreshed.
I even just keep one in my purse for a quick touch up after a long day of running around. The travel size typically works for about 3-4 uses, so it’s perfect for a quick trip.
These little toothbrushes are perfect to keep with you for long flights and days of non-stop exploring. They come with a bit of toothpaste like gel in them to make your mouth feel fresh.
Ladies, I think we can all agree there are few things worse than being stuck without a hair tie on a hot or windy day. I always keep at least 3-4 in my make-up and at least 1 in my purse at all times.
I’ve forgotten to pack sunglasses more times than I care to admit. It’s the worst feeling arriving at your destination to find yourself squinting to see in the sunshine.
Now I always keep a cheap pair in my purse. I love throwing them on to hide my tired-puffy eyes after a long flight. Plus, they elevate any outfit for a more chic overall vibe and always make you look good in photos.
I always carry chapstick with me—both in everyday life and during travel. I can’t stand having chapped lips, it’s not fun and ruins any possibility of wearing lipstick on a night out exploring during vacations.
I really love Burts Bees Pomegranate because it’s cheap and has a slight rosy tint. If you’re okay spending more, go for Sugar Lip Balm with SPF15. They come in different tints and is my favorite little luxury to grab when at Sephora.
I traveled with just a purse and backpack the last time I went to France, and the second I started getting ready to go to the beach, I realized I had made a packing mistake.
It was the first time I hadn’t used my Tory Burch tote as my carry-on bag—and now I had to fit all my beach stuff into my smaller leather purse.
Ideally, for the sake of space, just use your tote bag as your carry on bag. A tote bag is helpful for all sorts of situations—like if you’re heading to the beach, or anywhere that you’ll need to carry a lot with you as you explore, or even just for shopping.
If you have a bunch of extra space, go ahead and pack the tote bag, then use Away’s Everywhere Bag as your personal item on the plane. It fits a ton and has plenty of pockets to keep you organized!
The Nylon Away Everywhere Bag is the ideal minimalist personal carry-on item. While it’s definitely an investment piece, it’s built to last and so you should get a lot of use out of it.
I’ve always been someone who insists that e-readers will never replace the genuine pleasure of reading an actual book. The smell of the pages, the feel of turning each page—books are one of my favorite things.
That said, Dean (my boyfriend) has converted me—he gave me a Kindle for Christmas this year and it’s a game-changer while traveling!
No longer do you have to pick and choose which books are light enough to carry—with
That’s right, it’s such a simple thing to pack and yet it almost never is in anyone’s bag. I always toss a pack in my luggage before a big trip.
They’ve been lifesavers when I’ve had blisters after walking around sightseeing all day.
These days, I don’t think many of us need a reminder to always have hand sanitizer on hand.
TSA is even allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice.
For reference, any other liquid, gel, or aerosols, have to be 3.4 ounces.
Just use an alcohol-based sanitizer with over 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol, to kill germs and bacteria effectively.
It shocked me the first time I wiped down my airline seat and surrounding area. My first wipe was almost totally black with dirt just after wiping down just the seat. I had 3 filthy wipes by the time I finished wiping down the entire area—seriously, how gross is that?
After that experience, I always keep a pack of Clorox To Go wipes in my purse. Use them to wipe down your seating area anytime you’re traveling.
After getting stuck in a middle seat on a 13 hour overnight flight to San Paulo, I will never again risk getting on a plane without a neck pillow.
It makes such a difference in my ability to relax and sleep sitting up (especially if you can’t lean against the window).
Everyone should invest in a travel pillow for long-haul and early morning flights. This one is super soft, can be twisted or wrapped to make it comfortable in any situation, plus is noise cancelling if you wrap it around your head just right!
The Cabeau Plane Pillow is one of the best purchases I made last year. It’s adjustable, has 360 degree support, plus the cover comes off so you can clean it.
That last bit was a huge selling point for me—it’s amazing how many neck pillows can’t be cleaned.
As a New Yorker, I’ve learned to always have an umbrella in my bag. You never know when a summer storm or downpour may hit, and nobody wants to arrive at their destination soaking wet.
If you’re looking for a small travel umbrella to invest in, check out the Repel Travel Umbrella. It’s been featured on Good Morning America and was rated by Wire Cutter as the Best Umbrella in 2019.
This is such a simple item, yet few people think to pack it when they travel.
Having a pen in my bag has saved me the headache of trying to track one down in airports to fill out customs forms. I’ve also been able to quickly jot down directions and a hotel address as my phone was dying (prior to my portable
I always keep some aspirin in my bag, especially while traveling. It’s saved me so many headaches, hangovers, cramps, and backaches over the years.
Fun Fact: Aspirin is the only medicine you can take during a heart attack that could save your life while you’re waiting for help to arrive.
I have a habit of always forgetting to pack my razor. This leads to using valuable vacation time tracking one down. I don’t think I really need to say more about why we need our razors on trips.
There’s nothing worse than Aunt Flo arriving early. Always keep a tampon in your bag just in case she unexpectedly shows up. Even if you don’t need it, you may run into another woman desperately looking for one (I’ve given away tampons on a plane before to a woman in need).
Also, birth control is a must-pack. Always be prepared, always be safe—enough said.
I always envy the people who can sleep on long-haul flights.
It takes a special type of person to relax and fall asleep in one of those economy seats, especially if you get stuck in the center seat!
On one trip I commented to the woman next to me how lucky she was, and she told me it wasn’t luck, it was Melatonin!
Now I always keep a couple pills on hand while traveling, and I’ve got to admit, they do help me sleep on the plane.
I love traveling with a journal—it’s so much fun being able to look back on where I was in my life during trips. I fill my journals with memories, emotions, and sometimes, life revelations.
Traveling has such a beautiful way of putting things into perspective—write down those thoughts!
Even if I’m not traveling internationally, I always keep my passport with me. You never know when you may need a second form of ID or if an international adventure may present itself.
Example: Once I was on vacation in Florida and had the opportunity to fly to London for New Year at the last minute. If I didn’t have my passport with me on that trip to Florida, I would have had to skip the spontaneous trip to London. That would have been a tragedy.
The lesson is ALWAYS HAVE YOUR PASSPORT.
I only started traveling with my own
Having a mask in your carry-on is a game-changer for sleeping on early morning and long-haul flights.
Invest in either a silk or bamboo one which are less likely to irritate your skin.
I love a good sleep mask, in fact I sleep with one every night! So investing in a silky smooth breathable bamboo one was a no brainer. I can pretty much guarantee you'll never fly long distance again without one of these in your bag.
I can’t wait to be packing for my next trip—I’m sure I’ll be adding to this list afterwards.
It’s my hope that this guide will help you prepare for anything your trip throws at you.
Do you think I missed something? Let me know in the comments below!
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