Everyone travelling abroad packs a little differently. There are two main groups of packers: The “less is more” type and the “it is better to pack more because you never know” type. In this article, we will be focusing on the packing style of the “less is more” type, otherwise known as minimalist packers. A minimalist is a person who intentionally lives with only the things you will need. As a minimalist, you choose to have and be surrounded by fewer material items. Of course, being a minimalist or being an over-packer will not impact your trip in any way. However, with baggage restrictions and heavy backpacks in mind, let’s talk about a few ways you can err on the side of minimalism.
Read more: The Ultimate Packing Guide for Teaching Abroad
If you want to learn how to pack lightly, keep reading and note the tips provided. Remember, everyone packs differently, so your minimalist packing might look different from another minimalist. It is all about your preferences and where and when you are travelling. This list is an example of what you can pack, but take it upon yourself to add or limit what you take. Most minimalists travel with a small roller suitcase, duffle bag, or large backpack to carry all their belongings. If you are ruthless, you shouldn’t need any more luggage for your trip.
Sound impossible! Read on for the ultimate packing guide for minimalist and light packing.
Read more: Why You Should Teach English Abroad in 2021
Before we begin, there are two essential rules you must keep in mind before packing:
1. Pack culturally appropriate apparel
Before you start online shopping for new crop tops and ripped jeans, you need to research what is and isn’t culturally acceptable to the country. In Europe, it is customary to dress up for a formal or special occasion. We recommend packing an elegant ensemble for such an occasion. In the Middle East, you could disrespect the country’s culture by walking around with your arms and legs exposed. We recommend packing long sleeve shirts as well as long skirts or trousers. Every country has a different dress code that must be followed. The goal is to look like you belong until you start to fit in!
2. Pack for the weather
Whether you are staying for a month or a year, you will need to plan your accessories and clothing items around the weather. Research the temperature of every month and note if the country has a history of heatwaves, rain, or snowy seasons. If so, please be sure to pack any necessary items fitted for those weather conditions. Check out our optional clothing for more ideas!
So, here we go: your essential travel packing list:
- Plane Ticket
- As well as any other transportation tickets
- Drivers Licence/ Identification Card
- Social Secretary Card (if you have)
- Medical Insurance Card
- Vaccine Card (if needed)
- List of Important Numbers
- Credit/Debit Card
- Tip: It is best to have a mix of both your currency and the foreign currency
- Tip: Check with your local bank or airport for a currency exchange
All documents listed above are necessary for you to travel and live successfully in a new country. The majority of these documents are small and can fit inside a wallet. Remember to keep your passport and “larger” documents together in fear of misplacing them. Many of these documents are harder to replace when you are not in your home country.
Ideally, you want soft copies as well as hard copies of these documents, in case you misplace them. Scan them before you leave and make sure you have access to them on your phone or laptop.
While we’re not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t wear, let’s talk about a few do’s and don’ts.
If you are going abroad to teach, find out what clothes are preferred for work. Some schools prefer women to wear skirts while some countries require long sleeves and covered shoulders. You might need gym sneakers or smart shoes, or a tie. Find out before you go so you at least have a few outfits for work as soon as you arrive.
Be smart. Depending on the country you are visiting, you may not need certain clothing items. For example, if you are travelling to Greece, you will not pack snow boots and a sweater. You are more likely to pack sandals and shorts. You will need to research your country’s climate and pack accordingly.
Pack items which are easily foldable and low maintenance. You don’t want to have to find an iron whenever you need a new outfit! Comfy clothes are usually a win, like leggings, jeans, shorts, t-shirts, dresses. Be sure to choose items which you can mix and match, so pack clothes which can be used in a number of different combinations.
Go for comfy (read: flat) shoes over heels! You’re likely to spend a lot of time on your feet. If you must, bring your fave pair of heels – but leave the rest of your shoe cupboard at home!
Accessories are a nice-to-have but not essential, so only pack if you have space. Again, there is no need to pack all your necklaces or earrings, so be picky about which you will wear the most often.
Remember, there will probably be markets or shops wherever you are going, so if find you are in need of a particular item, you can pop to a shop and buy a local version.
- Portable Charger
- Computer *optional*
- Tablet *optional*
- Camera *optional*
Due to limited space in your travel bag, you may or may not take your computer or tablet. You can go to an internet shop or a local library. But we highly recommend having some sort of laptop so you can fully enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle to the fullest.
When you are abroad, it is tempting to take hundreds of photos on your phone, and you quickly run out of storage. Consider travelling with a real camera! The images will have a professional quality, and you can give your phone a break. Remember to pack all smaller electronic accessories together to avoid misplacement.
A typical minimalist could pack soap, dental products, and hair washing products and call it a day. Other minimalists may need some more products. Depending on preference, you may not need all of these products. Again, if you desperately need something you’ll be able to find it wherever you are going. Besides, when your toothpaste runs out you’ll need to make a trip to the store anyway!
Ladies, it is a good idea (as always!) to pack sanitaryware – you never know what might be on offer where you are going and it might not be what you are used to.
Also, a basic medical kit is recommended, especially with nausea tablets, painkillers, diarrhea medication and sleeping pills. If you take any chronic medication, make sure you have enough of it to last or else ask your doctor for a prescription for when you need it.
Example of Toiletries Kit
- Sunscreen with high SPF
- Reusable Water Bottle
- Travel Size Tissues
- Travel Size Hand Sanitizer
- First Aid Kit
- Primarily: band aids, ointment, alcoholic wipes
- (Small) umbrella
- Reusable face mask
The items on this are entirely optional! If you have no room in your bag, these items can be bought at any pharmacy. However, depending on what country you are travelling to, these items may be more expensive than in your home country.
If you are packing to teach English abroad, then you also need to give some thought to what you might need in the classroom. Stationery can more than likely be bought when you arrive but it doesn’t hurt to take a pen and notebook for your first day. You might want to take a few personal belongings which might come in handy in the classroom, such as souvenirs from your country or photos, but try not to choose anh big items. Don’t worry about lugging any books around the world with you. Your school should provide you with everything you need and, if you have any resources you would like to take with you, there is sure to be a digital version of it which you can take instead.
These are our must-have items for the minimalist packer. Is there anything we’ve forgotten?
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