Best Minimalist Carry-On Packing List for All Vacations 2024

kaylee janell in an airport with her blue luggage and black duffle bag.

Are you looking to save money and hassle by only packing a carry-on for your next trip, but feeling overwhelmed by the thought of fitting all your essentials into such limited space? As someone who has been traveling every two months with only a carry-on bag for the past few years, I understand the challenge of figuring out how to pack enough clothes, toiletries, and miscellaneous items into a single suitcase.

When I moved to Italy for three months I was in my hard-core minimalist phase, I opted to take less clothing than I should have. While it was liberating to not be weighed down by a massive suitcase, my outfits quickly became repetitive and I ended up regretting it… I’ve since learned from those mistakes and am here to help you know how you can pack better than I did and more efficiently.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive guide on the best minimalist carry-on-only packing list that goes beyond just what kind of clothes to bring, then you’ve come to the right place! In this post, I will provide an insider’s perspective on how to maximize your packing space with minimal effort.

From my personal experience and expertise, I will cover exactly what can fit in your personal item bag and carry-on luggage as well as provide tips on choosing the right items like clothing, toiletries, and miscellaneous items.

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Let’s Get Into the Minimalist Packing List!

What To Pack In Your Personal Item Bag?

A blue luggage and duffle bag sitting in an airport

Packing is just one step in planning your dream vacation. Of course, it’s the most fun part for me because that means we’ll be leaving soon! This section is for your personal item bag that will stay near you while traveling. I love the duffle bag that I use because it is a mid-sized weekender with tons of pockets inside. It passes as a personal item on budget airlines but still gives me plenty of room to carry my most important things with me.

In your personal item bag, you should store an electronics case, a water bottle, your purse or travel backpack that you will be using for your trip, and your liquids clear bag for TSA to easily check. If you’re taking your tablet with you, it would be in here too. This is for entertainment on your journey. But you can replace it with a book or Kindle.

You should also store your noise-canceling headphones and some plane snacks, and you should still have room for more things you might bring back with you. Most of the items listed below will most likely be kept in your purse inside the duffle bag. Unless you need easy access to it like your passport, then it goes in one of the travel bag pockets.

  • Passports (for international travel)
  • Wallet
  • Insurance cards
  • Keys
  • Phone + charger
  • Tablet + charger
  • Headphones
  • Travel confirmations
  • (e)Books, Music, Podcasts
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Travel pillow
  • Motion sickness remedy
  • Notebook + pen
  • Sunglasses
  • Vaccine card
  • Crossbody purse/ travel backpack
  • Extra outfit (for Cruises, since they take your carry-on luggage)

Learn how to Plan Your Dream Vacation step by step here!

What Clothing To Pack In A Carry-On?

kaylee wearing a leather jacket and jeans in las vegas in front of the canales.

I use a set of slim packing cubes where I place pre-planned outfits or a capsule wardrobe in each packing cube. Then I try to plan ahead on weather conditions and the activities in which we will be participating. When going on longer trips I’ll use other methods of inserting my clothes. You can use items multiple times in different outfit combinations but make sure to use fresh underclothes each time.

I highly recommend this awesome packing cube for shoes that fit 3 pairs and you can wear the bulkiest ones on the plane to make for a total of 4 pairs you take. This lets you have more shoe choices and outfit variations. Use a jewelry case for your extra accessories and roll your belt into a pair of shoes if you’re not wearing it on a travel day.

*I have not yet found a solution to packing hats as I don’t like to fold or roll them, so as of right now I just wear them. But I’ll let you know if I do find an alternative.

  • Underwear
  • Bras
  • Socks
  • Outfits (one for each day)
  • Sweater
  • Rugged shoes
  • Casual shoes
  • Sandals
  • Boots
  • Swimsuit
  • Cover-up
  • Hat
  • Jewelry
  • Sleepwear
  • Belt

Here Are 109 Activity Ideas You Can Add To Your Bucket List!

I created a fun and really cool itinerary template. It’s made to be in brochure form that way you can easily walk around with it or store it in a bag. You can download it for FREE by signing up below!

What Toiletries To Pack In A Carry-On?

a black toiletry bag laying on a bed

I use a toiletry bag that comes with loads of pockets and a hook for easy hanging. If I am taking a road trip I place everything on the list below (besides the 1st aid) in the bag and it all fits neatly. If I am taking a plane to my destination I put the liquids in the clear TSA-approved bag that it comes with and place that in my duffle bag for easy access.

When I am settled in the hotel I move the items back into the hanging bag to keep all of my items in one place and tidy. Then the clear bag doubles as a wet bag for my swimsuit while out on excursions because I don’t want my bikini to soak my purse.

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Hair comb
  • Body wash
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Lotion
  • Shower cap
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Hairbrush
  • Styling products and hair ties
  • Face wash and face cream
  • Makeup
  • Sunscreen
  • Perfume/Cologne
  • Feminine hygiene
  • Nail kit
  • Glasses cleaner
  • Q-tips
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Prescriptions and birth control
  • First Aid
  • Toner
  • Baby oil and baby powder

What Miscellaneous Items To Pack In A Carry-On?

a luggage open showing its packing cubes and bags

This section is for the rest of your stuff that you may or may not need. It includes the things that make traveling away from all of your belongings easier, as well as the items that make you feel safer while doing crazy things on the other side of the world. I don’t want to touch too much about how I store these things in this post but you can read my How to organize your carry-on luggage for all my juicy organization hacks!

Read How To organize your carry-on luggage Here!

Destination-Specific Items To Pack In A Carry-On

kaylee standing in front of the roman colosseum with an umbrella as it rains.

With these items, they are only for specific destinations, so you might not be taking them all on the same trip. When considering your Minimalist Carry-On Packing List, it’s essential to account for the climate at your destination. For colder climates, packing a few warm and versatile clothing layers is key to staying comfortable.

Pack thermal undergarments, a lightweight but warm jacket, and waterproof shoes for potential snow or rain. Conversely, for warmer climates, lightweight, breathable fabrics are your go-to. Pack clothes that can be layered for cooler evenings.

Addressing humidity calls for a slightly different approach, where quick-drying fabrics become your best friend. Since I created a travel bucket list I know all the regions I will be visiting already and know what conditions to expect. By focusing on the climate, you can ensure you’re prepared for your journey, no matter where your travels take you.

Here Are 119 Destination Ideas To Add To Your Bucket List!

Why Use A Carry-On Only When Traveling?

A minimalist packing list is a great way to make sure you have the essentials and still stay within the weight limit of your airline. It also saves time by ensuring that you don’t need to check any bags. You’ll be able to breeze through security, get on your flight quicker, and arrive at your destination with less stress.

Converting to minimalism drastically changes how you travel by reducing the amount of items you have to carry with you. Plus, a minimalist packing list is an environmentally friendly way to travel since you will be using fewer resources and less energy than if you were lugging around several heavy suitcases.

I started using this simple luggage organization system that has been working great for my trips and I have not had a need for more space since! The system is that I keep all of my clothes, shoes, toiletries, and miscellaneous items in my luggage and pack the most important things with me in the duffle bag along with what I will need for my journey. You don’t have to be a minimalist in order to pack light, you might have other types of travel styles because there are other creative ways to optimize the packing process.

FAQs

What Is Minimalism?

Minimalism is a lifestyle approach that advocates for living with fewer material possessions and packing light. It supports the idea of eliminating excess, keeping only what is essential, transforming you through travel, and truly adding value to one’s life. By focusing less on material goods and more on experiences and relationships, minimalism aims to promote satisfaction, freedom, and happiness.

This allows you to travel more and discover new cultures, make time for relationships with family and friends, and pursue passions that bring joy. In the context of a minimalist carry-on packing list, it refers to packing only the essentials to facilitate mobility, efficiency, and enjoyment during travel. Using this travel packing list will help you at the start of your minimalist travel journey if you are committed.

How Do I Maximize My Carry On Packing?

To optimize your minimalist carry-on packing list, embrace a minimalist approach. Focus on versatile items, mix and match clothing, and utilize packing aids such as packing cubes or compression bags to save space. Opt for travel-size toiletries and consider wearing your heaviest items during travel. Roll clothes instead of folding them and pack heavier items at the bottom of your suitcase, with lighter items on top. Remember, less is more when it comes to your minimalist packing list.

I love my Travel Planner because it has everything I need to make a great trip!

What Are My Recommended Resources For Planning A Trip?

When planning my trip, I use my trusted trio of CheapOair, Viator, and Booking.com to provide a comprehensive solution for everything I need.

CheapOair is a go-to resource for affordable flight tickets. With its extensive network of over 600 airlines, it offers a wide array of choices, enabling you to easily compare prices and select the best deal that suits your budget and travel schedule.

Viator on the other hand, is an excellent platform for booking tours and activities. It provides access to thousands of sightseeing tours, attractions, and events in over 1,500 locations worldwide. It ensures you don’t miss out on the unique experiences each destination has to offer.

Booking.com is your reliable partner for accommodations. With over 28 million listings including hotels, apartments, and hostels, you can find the perfect place to stay that fits your budget and preference.

Together, these platforms make trip planning convenient, cost-effective, and fun. They ensure you have everything you need, from flights and accommodations to activities – at your fingertips.

Check Out My Resources Page For All My Recommended Travel Tools!

Final Thoughts-

We covered the best minimalist carry-on-only packing list so that you can save time and money while still having everything you need. Highlighting what items to pack in both your personal item bag and carry-on luggage including clothing, toiletries, and miscellaneous items such as books, snacks, technology, and essential documents.

Thanks to my expertise as a frequent traveler, I have been taking only a carry-on for the past four years despite traveling in all kinds of weather, you can feel confident that these tips will help make your next trip successful and stress-free.

Happy exploring!

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