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A Minimalist Packing List for Females Who Don’t Want to Look Like Crap

The Subtle Art of Creating a Minimalist Packing List for Females (And You’ll Still Be Photo Ready)

We’ve all skipped the minimalist packing list and packed way too much for our first trip (#travelfail).


After lugging around a behemoth bag that makes you look like a demented drug mule from Brokedown Palace, you quickly ascertain that maybe creating a minimalist packing list for females is a good idea.

In Truth Though:

Everyone wants to look good but no one wants to haul around luggage that gives you perpetual backs spasms and a spinal column that virtually cries out, “No more weight!” (Hello, Doogie Houser, I need help. Stat).

How I feel every time I try and pack.

And Me?

Yes, even this elastic wearing, makeup-less, non-glamorous traveler doesn’t wanna look like total crap in her Instagram photos (Smise Kelly, Smise for the love of God).

But How?

Well, this is the question of the hour, isn’t it? What kind of sorcery do you need to look good while packing less?

Well, this post is here to help (Not like you got that from the title or anything. LoL).

I Swear:

I am gonna create a minimalist packing list for females that will actually help you pack less but still look good and maybe even better!

But Since You Have a Life:

Let’s stop with the nonsense and look at some minimalist packing tips that won’t have strangers throwing change at you because they think you’re homeless.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. 

If you’re booking a trip right now then I IMPLORE you to get travel insurance – even if it’s not from me.

After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed. 

Truth be told though, I’ve never traveled without travel insurance and don’t think you should either – especially since I think we’ve all had plans drastically change because of the pandemic. 

Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here.

1. Packing Cubes are Your New Best Friend

The Truth:

When I go on any trip (Cold, warm, long, short), I always carry two bags: one backpack and one day bag. Both fit on the airplane and NEVER exceed the carry-on weight limit of a budget airline like Norwegian (I Love).

But How?

One of the main reasons I can do this is because of packing cubes; an ultra-minimalist packing girl’s new BFF!

Clothing is typically packed in very compact fabric containers called packing cubes, which are frequently rectangular in shape. They are compact enough to accommodate many in a carry-on luggage, suitcase, or backpack and have a zip-closed closure.

Clothing compression (to a limited extent) and packing organization are both maintained by packing cubes. This is vital. A well-organized bag will make packing and repacking easier for you and will make it easier to find items fast.

You May Be Wondering?

Why are they so important? No, they are not gilded with gold. What they actually do is help squeeze out any dead space in between your clothes so that you have more room in your bag.


Just think of those vacuum sealed bags that suck out all the air. Because of them, everything shrinks like 10,000%. So yeah, that’s kind of how these work.

No Worries:

The bags don’t have to be fancy though. You could use a large Ziploc bag and it would work the same way.

2. Buy Carry On Bags that You Don’t Mind walking Around With.

Let’s be real, some of those industrial-looking, travel backpacks are absolutely heinous. I mean, my dad wouldn’t even carry one, let alone me. So why on Earth would you schlepp a bag around that makes you look like a sherpa?

That’s Why:

You need to get a bag that is functional but that looks good when you’re walking around during the day and night. Sure it needs to be big enough to hold all your stuff, but not so big that it looks like luggage.

So What’s My Go to Carry On?

Believe it or not, I bring two bags with me on every trip and I love them. I have a fjallraven backpack that is deceptively large, super cute, and come in a bunch of colors.

But That’s Not All:

I also have a Longchamp, over the shoulder bag that is great because it holds a ton of stuff but is also fashionable enough to pass as an evening bag if I want to go out for dinner or look like a mildly important person. I usually get a feminine looking color to make me look mildly fashionable.

Whatever You Do, Do Not:

Get a huge ass bag. The bigger your bag, the more you will cram in there. Therefore, go for a smaller bag so that it is humanly impossible for you to pack more than you need.

3. Pack Wrinkle Free Fabrics

Raise your hand if you want to bring an iron or a steamer with you on vacation? No one? Yeah, me either.


I have never used an iron or a steamer in my life. I know, super weird but that’s why I am super familiar with fabrics that DON”T
wrinkle. No way am I doing any of that crap on vacation. Nope, not my idea of a hopping good time.


When you pack, try and pack items that are made of wool, lyocell (a semisynthetic form of rayon), polyester (I swear, it’s not as gross as you think), cashmere (if you have a trust fund), knit, and spandex.

The Result:

You could probably stomp on these fabrics like they stomped on the grapes in that  I Love Lucy wine making episode, and you’ll probably still look all put together and wrinkle-free for an impromptu photo op.


4. Pack a pair of Boots and a Cute Pair of Walking Shoes

I generally stay away from sneakers when traveling because I look like I’m either going to the gym or like I’m a soccer mom in training. Both of which are not my fave looks.


No way in hell am I walking around a city in a heel of any kind. Not only do they make my feet scream, “Mercy” but I also tend to look like a little girl who is incapable of walking in her mom’s heels. Only not cute because I’m an adult.

I am that baby calf.

The Solution:

That’s why generally speaking (unless it’s insanely hot), I wear a pair of black, zip-up boots on the plane, and then pack a pair of comfy ballet flats or cute, slip-on sneakers.


Not only do the boots dress up almost any outfit, but they are easy to get on and off (great for airport security) and keep your feet warm on notoriously cold planes (I found the polar vortex). Plus if you wear your heavy boots you’ll free up some room to pack other things.


Onto my pair of comfy flats. Whether I wear slip-on sneakers or ballet flats, I usually stick with black since it goes with almost everything and doesn’t show the dirt (this way I don’t look like a slob). So you can look nice and still manage to be comfortable while saving space in your carry on. A total win all around.


Roll all your clothes, don’t pack bulky jeans that retain odors, and pack your socks/underwear rolled up together and placed inside your shoes, to save room.

5. Pack 3 of everything and that’s it (besides underwear).

Look, the key to packing like a minimalist and creating a minimalist travel wardrobe is mixing and matching. So whatever you pack, make sure it’s neutral enough to be worn with anything else you pack. This way you can create a bunch of outfits without packing too much.

I know it’s Shocking:

So true, it hurts.

But you can actually wear things twice without smelling like a barnyard. Just be smart about it and you’ll be fine. And if you’re worried about being stank, just stuff some dryer sheets in your carry-on and you’ll be smelling fresh, clean, and totally pristine.


If you get cold, pack either a warm wool sweater, a cardigan, or a nice looking sweatshirt so that you can look good without freezing to death. I mean, some jackets look great but when it actually comes to keeping you warm, not so much.

It Gets Better:

Really wanna stay warm but not look like you came out of a Walmart catalog? Pashminas are perfect! Not only are they warm, but they can also act like a blanket/pillow on the plane. Plus, if you purchase a colorful one, they can add a pop of color to your outfit and jazz things up a bit (insert awful jazz hands here).

One More Thing:

Sometimes I’ll sub out a shirt/pant combo for a dress that I can dress up with black leggings and a cardigan. Just depends on where you’re going and what you’re doing.

6. Buy an Inflatable neck pillow and a roll-up water Bottle

Not gonna lie, both of these items have changed the travel game for me. I almost sort of feel like I’m doing extreme minimalist travel. Except I’m not Bear Grylls or anything. 

I mean:

Half the time my water bottle and neck pillow took up so much room in my bag that I couldn’t pack much else. They were just so big and bulky but there was no way that I could leave them at home. The necessary evils of packing.


This is where the inflatable neck pillow comes in. You can now have the comfort of a neck pillow without using up so much real estate in your bag.

But It Gets Better:

Same goes for your water bottle too. Just squeeze out the excess air, roll it up, and you’re good to go, with a ton of extra space for packing travel essentials like candy bars for the plane. Trust me, you don’t want me hangry.

7. Accessorize

Instead of bringing like fifty different outfits on vacation, diversify outfits with small accessories like hats, scarves, and jewelry. These items don’t take up a ton of room and can still add a much-needed pop of color to an otherwise blah outfit. And yes, that’s a technical term.

But Always Remember:

Never pack anything that you can’t bear to lose. So yeah, that engagement ring that your mom bequeathed to you, I would leave it at home.


Trust me, when you travel things can and will go wrong. Therefore, you don’t want to have a post-apocalyptic meltdown because someone lost your bag with a priceless family heirloom inside.

No Really:

Don’t stress away your vacation. I mean, if you bring something super valuable, all you’ll do is freak out because someone might lose or steal it. So yes, better leave that jewel-encrusted chastity belt at home, sigh.

8. Leave the Makeup at Home

Okay, I know some people probably think I’m insane for saying this but for the love of God, leave the makeup at home. You don’t need to spend your vacation doing your make up. Instead, bring a few small items, like cover-up, eyeliner, mascara, and lip gloss.

This Way:

You can still look put together without carrying around a crap ton of makeup. I mean, cover up for pimples, eyeliner/mascara, for the smokey eyes, and lip gloss for your lips and as a blush. Boom, you’ll look like a rockstar without packing like one.

I’m Gonna Go Rogue Here:

his is how I look doing my makeup, only not as cool and trendy as Lady Gaga.

So I like to bring a minimal amount of liquids with me when I travel, just cause they are a pain in the ass.

Therefore, I usually will pack a bar of shampoo and use that as my shampoo, body wash, and face cleanser. I know my dermatologist might freak out but whatever.

This trick helps me save space, stay clean, and pack fewer liquids.

One Last Thing:

Oh, and always carry baby wipes so that if you have an accident, like slide down a muddy hill on your ass (not like that actually happened to me or anything), you can clean yourself off and don’t have to walk around all day, looking like you pooped yourself.

9. Only Bring a Few Items that You Really Love

I think as women, we tend to overpack because we want to be prepared for any and every situation humanly possible. You know, kind of like, “Oh, I better pack this wetsuit just in case we go cage diving with Great White Sharks while we’re in South Dakota.”

The Truth:

Don’t pack crap you don’t like or never wear because you want a “selection to choose from”. Just pack a few items that you really like wearing because if you are happy and confident then it’s totally gonna show in your photos and in how you carry yourself.

Minimalist Packing List
See what I did here? The hat and sunnies are protective yet mildly fashionable…if you’re blind. LoL.


Embrace the fab life of minimalism and be your best self in a few of your best pieces. Come on, we all have those clothes that we love and that we instantly feel like a model in (Insert duck face here. No bathroom selfies please).

I Almost Forgot:

Light clothes tend to look like crap after a few washes. Or if you’re clumsy like me, they’ll be smeared with rainbow sprinkle stains in about 2.5 seconds (No, this shirt is not tie-dye).

That’s why I try and pack darker colors. Not only are stains (no one likes pit stains) less obvious, but the colors aren’t as likely to bleed into one another in the wash (or if they do it doesn’t matter because you can’t tell).

10. Bring Hair Product

Okay, I know you probably think I’m nuts but hear me out. Now I don’t mean a flat iron and a blow dryer. First of all, tons of hotels have blow dryers and secondly, ain’t nobody got room in their carry on for that.

What I Really Mean Is:

If you know your hair frizzes like a beast when you don’t straighten it, then embrace the frizz girl and bring some hair product that will enhance your curls.

I’m lucky because my hair is naturally straight, but if I’m feeling mildly industrious, I just throw some spray in my hair, scrunch my hair up, and then I’m good to go with a nice curl. Boom, that simple.

So Yes:

Even a fashion-challenged person like me can still manage to look halfway decent without packing a ton of stuff.

11. Limit your toiletries

It totally depends on your particular preferences with this one. Close followers of minimalism may conclude that the only equipment they must pack is a toothbrush.

Others who are less experienced travelers could decide to take smaller versions of all the liquids, cleansers, and small tools they will require.

All of these things can fit into a tiny travel pouch for toiletries, which will be handy if you ever need it.

As a general guideline, keep in mind that you probably won’t need every single cleanser and lip balm you typically use each day.

Make an effort to cross off any non-essential items from your list of toiletries as well.

When traveling, you most certainly do not need to look flawless or have perfectly gelled hair, so be careful to decide which items and routines you can leave behind.

Final Call for this Minimalist Packing List for Females

Look, even if you think this article was whack and that I am totally full of crap, just remember one thing; anything you forget you can always buy there.

The Truth:

In reality, you’re gonna forget stuff and that’s okay.

Don’t stress and ruin your vacation because you forget a pair of shoes. It’s all good.

No need to pack for the Arctic tundra because they have stores there and nine times out of ten you’ll totally be able to buy whatever you’re looking for.


Vacation is supposed to be fun so don’t let the stress of packing overwhelm you. Keep it easy, fun, and lighthearted and remember that it will all work out fine.


For Real:

I once had my entire bag stolen out of a train station luggage locker in Stockholm, Sweden. So if I lived to tell the tale then you can survive any and all packing debacles too.


Thursday 19th of December 2019

What a great list and I love your quirky sense of humor. ;) I’ve done several trips including a month long trip to Lima, Peru with the same bag set up - my Le Pliage tote and Kanken, it was perfect.


Thursday 19th of December 2019

Oh thank you so much for reading and that is awesome! Sounds like you've got it all figured out!


Saturday 19th of January 2019

Thanks for the tips! I am preparing for winter trip to Japan and could not decide which clothes/jeans/Shoes to take. Now I need to make a list based on this post!


Monday 21st of January 2019

I am so happy you found it helpful. And have an amazing time! Wish i was visiting Japan.


Saturday 22nd of September 2018

Wow, that's indeed a perfect minimalist packing list for Females. Loved the way you how you described the solution to every problem & the question arises during packing. A must-read article for everyone.


Sunday 23rd of September 2018

Oh thank you so much. I am so glad to hear that you found it useful.

Kathy Gutierrez

Tuesday 28th of August 2018

I am preparing for a six week trip to the UK, Ireland, and Germany. I am going to have to pack a medium sized suitcase and a carry-on. I am just learning how to do the minimalist thing because I am the queen of over packing. I know between now and April 3rd, 2019 I will pack and unpack a dozen times!

By the way, I swear by packing cubes!! And, I always roll my clothes! What a great way to save space and lessen wrinkles!


Wednesday 29th of August 2018

I am so excited for you! That sounds like a really fun trip. And right? Packing cubes and rolling clothes are life and I used to do the same thing. Now, no matter how long the trip, I only pack a handbag and carryon backpack! Thanks for visiting and let me know how the trip goes!

Neal Rivkin

Monday 9th of July 2018

This post has supplied me some good ideas for my new blog. It's always nice to find decent content that encourages new ideas, thanks.


Monday 9th of July 2018

So glad to hear that you think so

Comments are closed.