It may sound like an oxymoron to say that there are essential items you must have while being a minimalist. To clarify, being a minimalist doesn’t mean only owning a specific amount of items. Yes, there are people out there who only own 51 items or fewer. But that’s not what it means to be a minimalist. Ultimately, the goal is to only own things which bring you joy or serve a purpose. As a traveling minimalist, keep in mind that you don’t need to bring your entire home with you on a two week long trip. Just a few items will do. You’ll be surprised with how much you can live without!
Lately, we’ve been traveling a lot more than usual. In those travels, which I will be posting blogs about soon, I have learned how to pack and to travel as a minimalist. Below I’ve created a list of items that I never travel without. They are the only items that I pack other than my clothes and occasionally my laptop. However, I don’t consider my laptop an essential item. It’s something I can do without if need be.
5 Items for the Traveling Minimalist
1. Proper Luggage
This one may seem pretty obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people insist on having to check their luggage. I’ve been told that I’m not like most women in that I can pack for two weeks in a single carry-on. Whether that’s true or not is beside point. The point is, you can fit essentials in a carry-on no matter what your lifestyle or fashion sense.
As with many things, I purchased my luggage from Amazon. That being said, if you go to Amazon and type “luggage” into the search bar, you’re going to be greeted with thousands of results! Some of them are 5 piece sets…who needs all of that!? When selecting my perfect luggage I took price and reviews into consideration as well as carry-on size measurements. In the end I settled upon this:
And I usually only take one, not both! For less than $50 (click on the picture above to be taken to the Amazon page for more details) I got two sizable and durable pieces of luggage. I never have to worry about someone else taking them because they are never checked – always with me.
2. Smart Phone
It’s true. In today’s day and age there are still people without smart phones. I thought I was the last one to jump on the bandwagon! Smart phones are a great device to have with you during a trip. If you’re traveling abroad, you may need to invest in a travel phone or a separate SIM card for the country you’re going to. However, that is a whole different post. For domestic trips, a smart phone can hail you an Uber/Lyft, it can be used as your boarding pass (as opposed to having to track more paperwork), it serves as your camera, and you can book flights, hotel rooms and rent cars all from the palm of your hand.
We also use popular apps such as Yelp! to find great local places to eat, and Groupon to see if there are local deals for a date night. I often wonder how I ever traveled without a smart phone in the past. They truly make traveling that much more convenient. Not sure about a place? Check TripAdvisor for reviews. The pros to this one are endless.
3. Solar Charger
No joke. This little device saved me in Chicago. When we landed in Chicago this past Christmas, it was -2 degrees and I was naive enough to think that once the weather is below freezing that cold is cold and it all feels the same. Boy, was I wrong! After standing in the sub-zero temperatures waiting for an Uber that was on an entirely different level of a massive and foreign airport, my phone battery went from 53% to dead.
I panicked. That was our lifeline. Rushing back into the airport and embracing the warmth of the indoors, feeling rushed back into my fingers and all I could feel was pain. Early signs of hypothermia? Probably. Not being able to find a spare outlet, I pulled the solar charger out of our luggage and plugged the phone in. Immediate battery life= immediate happiness.
I’d love to be one of those people who can survive off the land…or at least I say things like that. But the reality of it is, I love the convenience of technology. Solar chargers are also great for camping trips if you need an emergency power source. Seriously, it was the best $20 I’ve ever spent. Spending the few days after Christmas in Chicago and Philadelphia, the cold temperatures took their toll on my phones battery. It was nice to know that I always had this back up with us.
There is nothing quite like a good pair of headphones to drown out the noise of the plane’s engine, the screaming baby a few rows back or the city traffic outside of your hotel room window. Investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones is worth it. If you’re like me, you have trouble focusing on your work or writing in noisy, crowded places. I get distracted easily by busy airports, contented with watching people and eavesdropping on interesting conversations. (I know that sounds creepy but my play-writing professor in college said it’s the best way to get realistic dialogue.)
When it comes to noise-canceling, no one does it quite like Bose. They have the most superior sound technology by far and it’s the only brand I trust. But I’m kind of a brand snob now-a-days. Yes, they are a little on the pricier side. The wireless ones are almost double the price of the wired ones! But of the few things I recommend dropping a large sum of money on, I highly recommend these for avid travelers.
5. City Pass
This one is optional depending on where you are traveling to. Applicable to some major US and Canadian cities, the city pass saved tons of money and hours of time! In Chicago, the line to Chicago 360 and Chicago Skydeck had wait times of over 2 hours! I’m not kidding. However, with City Passes, you get to skip the lines. Instead of waiting 2-3 hours in line, you can be in the door, up the elevator, see the main attraction and come back down within 30-40 minutes…while others are still waiting in line and paying more money.
When going on any trip, it’s important to plan ahead. If you can find anything like this that gives you package discounts and lets you skip the line- WORTH IT! I seriously felt like royalty being able to breeze past everyone in line. While traveling, there were very few others in the City Pass/Express Lines. Take advantage of it! And no, I’m not getting any kind of freebie or commission for sending you to them.
Those five essential items (along with underwear) are things that I never travel without. Even as a traveling minimalist, there are certain things I need for my own travel pleasure and peace of mind. Is there something that you can’t travel without? Please let me know in the comments below! I would love to hear your essential items for travel!
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Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.