International Travel Minimalist Packing with Pumpjack Piddlewick

Minimalist packing is all about planning not about how long you are going. When I travel I like to keep things simple. I travel light.

Luggage is a luxury

Like many airlines these days they are treating luggage like a luxury. The more you wish to take the more you have to pay. I prefer the cheapest which means I get to bring one ‘carry on’ the size of a laptop case (or small backpack) on to the plane.

If you can picture it: 41 cm x 31 cm x 12 cm (or 16 inches x 12 x 5). Think laptop case length and width, but deeper. Yeah, that’s right, international travel with a tiny case. Serious minimalist packing.

Minimalist Packing – How To

I actually enjoy minimalist packing, working out what to bring, and now how to pack it. There is something almost therapeutic about getting all I need into a tiny case. Working out how to get the most from what I can fit.

I came across the Kon Mari way of managing your wardrobe about a number of years ago. I am not nearly that extreme, but it did give me some good tips that I do use. (Though a tad repetitive, I can recommend her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying, from our affiliate*, if you wish to declutter a bit – or a lot).

My 2 Colour Concept

What I learned long ago when travelling is to start with colour. Taking into account my current wardrobe, where I am going and the season, I pick 2 base colours. These are usually quite basic like black & white or blue & brown/tan. And then I choose 1 accent colour. 90% of what I pack will be in the base colours, the other 10%, give or take, will be my accent. And my accent colour is not specific to one colour, but rather a general tone.

My last trip I went for black and white as it was summer (white) but also I had to do a lot of physical work, possibly dirtying my clothing (black). My accent was orange (rust/tan). In a sense it is rather like a capsule wardrobe concept, in that everything can go with everything, meaning your clothes give you more options of mix and match whilst travelling.

5 Tips for Minimalist Packing:

  1. Season. Try, if you have a choice, to travel during warmer months, or to warmer climates. Travelling minimally in warmer months is always much easier as clothing is generally thinner and there is often less material.
  2. Shop. Unless you are going to some place extremely isolated, remember you can essentially buy what you need (or forgot) at the other end too. No need to take the kitchen sink. If you find you need it at the other end, buy it. (For me it’s a great excuse to visit secondhand boutiques.) Keep this thought in mind when you are trying to overstuff your bag. Especially with any hair or shaving products, for example.
  3. Top to Bottom. Tops are smaller than bottoms. Take more tops, wear bottoms (trousers, shorts, skirt) more than once. For a three week trip I will pack for 1 week with the intent of wearing tops twice and bottoms 3 times. And one sun dress for good and wash day.
  4. Layer up. Wear your bulkier/heavier items whilst travelling, and layer. You may be going from one type of climate to another, but also airports are often quite hot whilst air planes can be quite cold. By layering you don’t have to worry what the temperature is, simply add or remove layers as you need. I can sincerely recommend a pashmina / large scarf amongst your layers. I would never travel without it. It makes a great blanket on a long flight, pillow when bunched up, sarong if you go to the beach, even a hat if you know how to tie it right.
  5. Pack vertical. This is such a great tip. Instead of stacking your clothes on top of each other in your suitcase, fold them so they make little blocks. (This is the bit I really took from the Kon Mari method.) You then put these blocks of clothes into your suitcase side by side, so you can see what you have in your bag at all times. It also makes life much easier if you are not staying in one place, so not unpacking your suitcase.

What’s in My Bag?

As mentioned, if I am going for 3 weeks, I pack clothes for 1 week, with the intention to wear things twice and wash them when needed. My suitcase (or really laptop bag – more pockets, and a shoulder strap) measures 41 cm x 31 cm x 12 cm (or 16 inches x 12 x 5). Packing into this space will also include a second pair of shoes, toiletries and my laptop. It is a laptop bag after all.

On the day of travel I will wear jeans (black) with plain t-shirt and button over top (both white). Bra and underwear (white). Comfy leather shoes (tan) with socks (tan). A comfortable all purpose cotton jacket (tan) and a pashmina (orange).

And here’s what I packed:

6 shirts ranging in types and sleeve lengths from tank top (x 2) to long sleeve. (A mix of black, white, cream and some patterned in both)

A pair of trousers (white)

Shorts (tan)

A light summer dress (patterned black on white)

A short sleeve shrug (black)

1 short nightshirt (quick drying)

5 pairs underwear – mix of types (black & white)

1 bra (black)

2 pairs socks

Pair of ballerinas / flat shoes (black)

Tiny black purse with long chain that can be worn cross body so I don’t have to use my laptop case as a handbag.

Electronics: My Kindle, phone and laptop plus electrical cord and adaptor. I will charge my kindle and phone by usb from the laptop.

Toiletries: Vitamin E oil (60ml). I use on my face for washing and moisturising, as well as moisturiser for body. Eye drops. It’s an international flight and I find eye drops wonderful for tired eyes. My favourite lipstick. A comb. I will buy a disposable razor, toothbrush and toothpaste when I arrive. (They still haven’t invented the toothbrush holder that doesn’t leave your brush wet and manky so I prefer to buy for whilst I am there. See tip 2 above.)

And That’s It

Well, passport and tickets of course – though now often available on your phone. In fact, one day I want to travel with just a passport and credit card. Now that would be minimalist packing.

All the clothing fits folded in the bottom of my laptop bag. Undies and socks tucked into my shoes. Laptop on top. Kindle, phone, passport, tickets and toiletries in an outside pocket.

No extras.

Planning is Crucial

By planning ahead, you can decided what you really need, and what you can do without. I choose my colours and then start to make a list. I add to or change it as I think of things, find out if it hasn’t been washed in time, etc.

The important bit in minimalist packing is – stick to it! I always surprise myself on the day of packing (the day before I travel), how much I wish to include more, especially if there is room. I stop myself by keeping my list to hand of what I planned. If necessary, I may substitute. But I don’t add more.

Changing Times

It used to be travelling with only a small case was considered odd. I remember a number of times arriving at the other end of an international flight and not heading to the baggage carousel but straight to the exit. This always prompted an official to stop me and ask me if that was my only bag. These days, with changes in airlines offerings, there is definitely less of that.

Even without today’s restrictions I can really recommend travelling small. Less things to worry about whilst in transit, clothes are to hand whilst travelling if you wish to freshen up, no aching back / shoulder / hand at the other end, no matter how long it takes you to get to your destination, and best of all – no lost luggage. That is incentive enough, don’t you think? Ok, and now a days, you may save money, too.


My kindle is well loaded with reading material so I am guaranteed not to get bored during my journey. I chose to be affiliated with, particularly for our Vive le Livre Book Club, as they support independent and small bookshops. Here’s a taste of some of the books I recommend:

From the USA:

From the UK:

If you would like to read more about Affiliates, visit the Nourishing Pumpjack & Piddlewick page.


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