Minimalist Travel: Pack Light, Leave Nothing But Footprints

Minimalist Travel: How to Pack Light and Leave Nothing But Your Footprints

By Cora Gold, Editor-in-Chief of Revivalist

Have you ever gone on vacation thinking you’ll make several outfit changes a day or worrying that you’ll use up your toiletries halfway through the trip? We’ve all probably been guilty of overpacking, as most of us want to be prepared for any situation. However, there are several downsides to overpacking when traveling.

When planning your next trip, challenge yourself to travel like a minimalist. Not only will minimalist travel knock some weight off your luggage, but it can be better for the environment, too. Here’s how to pack light and leave nothing but your footprints on your next vacation.

Part of a series on Minimalism:

10 Tips to Practice Minimalist Travel

Minimalist Travel: Pack Light, Leave Nothing But Footprints
  1. Pick the Right Luggage

Do as most minimalists do — travel with a backpack you can hand-carry on a plane and conveniently bring anywhere if you change plans or locations. Choosing a carriable bag or suitcase with limited storage will force you to maximize the space and reconsider whether the things you carry are essentials.

Most airlines allow a carry-on under 50 liters with 22 x 14 x 9 inches dimensions. With this option, you can leave the airport without waiting for your checked luggage to be released.

  1. Organize Clothing Using Packing Cubes

Using packing cubes saves you from rummaging through your already-neat suitcase to find a pair of socks buried among your other belongings. They organize your things in categories so you can find them easily when it’s time to use them. Plus, they’re reusable for your next trips, and they’re a better alternative to plastic bags.

Buy a few packing cubes in different sizes. Put your skincare products in one of them and another one for makeup and underwear. You get the gist — group your things according to use and pack them all in one pouch.

  1. Leave Most Toiletries

Most people who travel abroad for the first time overload their suitcases with toiletries. However, there’s no need to pack your entire bathroom.

When you book accommodations, ask the manager or owner if they provide toiletries. If not, you can always buy some at a local drugstore after you arrive at your destination. To make travel sustainable, buy toiletries with biodegradable or recyclable materials or packaging. For example, get a bamboo toothbrush and bar soap packed in paper.

You can also find a shop that offers refill stations. Just bring reusable, TSA-friendly bottles and fill them with what you need. You’ll help reduce single-use plastic and save travel money, as it’s cheaper to refill products than buy disposable ones with ever trip.

  1. Bring Things That Complement Each Other

If you’re traveling by car, you may be tempted to throw in extra clothes or supplies, as you aren’t limited by airline regulations. However, you should still resist the urge to overpack. When driving, heavy suitcases can weigh down your car and reduce your fuel efficiency.

Instead of packing separate outfits for each day of your trip, create a capsule wardrobe. Bring pieces you can mix and match throughout the trip. This strategy will also mean you’ll have less laundry to do, which will also save energy and water usage.

  1. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle

If your itinerary involves miles of walking, a reusable water bottle can save you travel money and keep you hydrated while on the move. A 1.5L of bottled water costs $0.70, which is affordable. However, the prices add up if you spend that amount twice or more daily whenever you explore local spots.

Bring a 1L stainless water bottle and fill it at your hotel before heading out. If you decide to eat lunch at a restaurant, request a refill. You save money and help curb plastic use.

  1. Use Public Transportation

With only your backpack in tow, you can move around more flexibly, especially when hopping from one train to another. Traveling by train or bus can significantly lower the carbon emissions your trips produce.

Communal transportation makes your traveling eco-friendly and more affordable. It also gives you a front-row seat to the most scenic views of local spots from your train or bus windows.

  1. Choose Sustainable Accommodations

Many hotels strive to minimize environmental harm by cooking guest meals with local produce, using key cards to operate room lights and providing eco-friendly toiletries. By selecting a sustainable hotel, you can leave all the generated waste during your stay guilt free, as it won’t end up in landfills but recycled instead. It’s easy to find green lodgings as operators usually highlight this benefit on their websites.

  1. Limit the Number of Footwear You Take

A pair of shoes is large enough to fill up half of a medium-sized suitcase. When packing shoes, be intentional about bringing only essential ones. A good rule of thumb is three types of footwear — one for walking, a flat for casual occasions and a fancier one for nights out.

For the first pair, you can bring sneakers or hiking boots, versatile for walking and outdoor activities. The last two pairs could be a sandal and booties. You can change the pair combination depending on the location and activities you intend to do. For instance, leave or swap the booties if you’re volunteering at an animal shelter in Thailand.

It can also be smart to invest in high quality footwear, rather than cheap pieces. If you plan to walk or hike a lot during your trip, good quality shoes will last longer and prevent you from needing to replace them for your next vacation.

  1. Bring Only Necessary Electronics

The electronic industry accounts for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. A seemingly trivial choice of bringing only essential devices can help cut down these gas emissions.

Do you work remotely? Then a laptop is necessary. You can do almost everything tech-related on your computer, so forget the tablet.

Unless you’re a professional photographer, leave the bulky camera and use your phone instead to take great photos. Carry multi-purpose devices that you will use regularly and are unavailable in hotels.

  1. Buy Sustainable Souvenirs

It’s difficult not to bring a couple of thoughtful items home to commemorate your adventures, especially if you don’t plan to revisit soon. Limit your souvenirs and buy local-made and unique products — not those cliche things produced for travelers, such as magnets or keychains.

Great examples are jewelry made of local materials or home decor items handcrafted by artisans. Buying from local vendors is often more sustainable than purchasing mass-produced items that are more than likely to break.

Travel Light and Make Your Trip More Enjoyable

Packing light means you can make spontaneous changes in your plans without worrying about where to store your belongings. Additionally, you indirectly help the environment. If people choose to travel light, airport staff will need fewer vehicles to transport pieces of luggage, cutting down greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use.

The best benefit of traveling light is it saves you from paying extra for checked luggage or renting a larger car to transport your things to the hotel. Follow these 10 tips to pack lightly, enjoy the experience more and leave nothing but your footprints.

Cora Gold

About the Author

Cora Gold has a passion for writing about life, happiness and sustainability. As Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist, she loves to share her insights and find inspiration from others. Follow Cora on FacebookPinterest and Twitter.