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The Minimalist’s Guide to Packing for Australia

The Minimalist’s Guide to Packing for Australia

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Bright, colorful, and outdoorsy Australia has a wide variety of adventures — and climates — for travelers to explore. But between fine dining in cool, seaside Sydney and laid-back snorkel trips in tropical Queensland, how do you pack for all of that?

A month ago, I had the same question as I stared into my closet, faced with the task of packing for a two week trip to Sydney and Queensland filled with a mix of urban and outdoor activities. Although I traveled with just a carry on, my packing list ended up including everything I needed for a two-week trip to Australia in April/May, and not many items I could have left behind.

To help you figure out what to bring for your own trip, scroll on to see my Australia packing list and gear recommendations for 1-2 weeks down under.

The Trip Details

What I Packed for 2 Weeks in Australia

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As a minimalist, I always pack carry on only (except when I’m traveling with my bike ) and Australia was no exception. It was especially important for this trip since I’d be flying within Australia via budget airlines, TigerAir, who had even tighter luggage restrictions than my transpacific flight with United.

Since choosing the right bag is the most important step to packing light — we tend to fill the space we have, so to pack less, give yourself less — I started there.

Luggage: 22L Osprey Talon & 34L Tortuga Setout

For this trip, I packed my 22L Osprey Talon and a generic tote bag. I chose my Osprey over my Tortuga since we planned on hiking and I wanted my luggage to do double duty for travel and trail.

Jon, however, traveled with the 34L Tortuga Setout (it’s 26L but expands to 34L), which is overall better suited for travel thanks its organizational features and 3-side zip.

Clothing: A travel capsule wardrobe for fall in Australia

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I pack by the rule that you don’t have to bring more clothes for two weeks of travel than you would for one week. So, even though we were gone for two weeks, I still tried to keep my clothing packing list as close to my usual 10-items-or-less (plus PJs) travel capsule. I ended up with 12 items and in the end only used 11.

  • 1 lightweight windbreaker by Columbia.

  • 1 sweater by Oak & Fort.

  • 1 jumpsuit by ADAY, one of the best brands for women’s travel clothes.

  • 1 dress

  • 2 t-shirts

  • 2 tank tops

  • 1 long-sleeve shirt

  • 1 pair of jeans by Sezane, my favorite French girl brand.

  • 1 pair of leggings again, by ADAY

  • 1 mini skirt by Gap.

  • PJ shorts and tank. Shorts are actually Alo yoga shorts.

  • 6 pairs of underwear. I brought a mix of underwear I wanted to toss and ExOfficio undies, which are great for travel. They’re quick-dry, so I can easily hand wash them in my morning shower and wear them again the next day.

  • 1 sports bra

  • 1 regular bra

  • 1 bathing suit

Shoes and accessories: Aim for versatility

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Choosing the right shoes for Australia was less about trip length, and more about weather and activities. I wanted a mix of shoes that could stand up to both urban and outdoor adventures, moderate to warm weather, and a good amount of rain.

I then chose accessories I could use to dress up outfits for one or two nice nights out in Sydney.

  • Sneakers by Nike for running and hiking.

  • Slip ons by TOMS for around town.

  • Slip on sandals by Soludos for around town and going out.

  • Necklace

  • Earrings

  • Small black purse from Anthropologie.

Toiletries: Keep them travel-sized

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Since two weeks of travel does not = bring the full shampoo bottle (especially when staying at hotels that provide some essentials) I kept my toiletry bag travel-sized and compact.

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

  • Shampoo and conditioner, in reusable GoToob bottles.

  • Soap, Dr. Bronners, also in a reusable GoToob bottle.

  • Sunscreen. There are several good reef safe sunscreens out there.

  • Bug spray, Ben’s 3.4oz bottle. I’ve tried organic bug spray before, but mosquitoes like me too much — so 30% Deet, it is.

  • Makeup, just eyeliner and lipstick.

  • Deodorant

  • Razor

  • Hair ties

  • Tweezers

  • Basic first aid, band-aids, ibuprofen, and Benadryl.

  • Comb

  • Menstrual cup. Specifically, a Diva Cup, which I love. It’s more compact than pads or tampons for travel, reusable, eco-friendly, leak-proof, and ensures I’m never caught in a “oh fuck I forgot tampons” situation.

Electronics and other essentials: Stick to the basics

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With electronics and other odds and ends, I mostly stuck to items I always pack, with the exception of a few. For example, I typically only bring my laptop if I have work to do, which I did. I also don’t always pack an umbrella or travel towel, but wanted to be prepared for rain in the forecast and hanging out on a boat in the GBR, so these items made it in as well.

  • Phone and charger. My iPhone is unlocked for international SIM cards.

  • Camera and charger. Jon and I use a Sony RX1, which is compact yet still high quality.

  • Laptop and charger. Still rocking the 11” Macbook Air.

  • Small external battery

  • Converter, for Australia you need a type I charger. I used the one by Flight 001, which comes in a 5-in-1 set for all regions.

  • Wallet. I used a change purse I bought in a Swiss flea market.

  • Book. I always try to bring a book that teaches me about, or keeps me present in, my destination. For Australia, it was The Reef by Iain McCalman.

  • Notebook and pen, Moleskine and Muji.

  • Mini umbrella, by Japanese brand, HUS.

  • Travel towel, the medium version of REI’s quick dry towel.

In-Flight essentials: Leave room for little luxuries

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For a flight — especially one as long as the 14-hour haul from San Francisco to Sydney — I always bring these items, and keep them handy for in-flight access to make flying economy just a little less terrible. Most of the small items I packed in a medium-sized pouch, which I could easily put in my seat back pocket.

  • Passport. As long as I have this and my credit card, all will be fine.

  • Eye mask by Muji. Honestly, it’s just OK. Comment below if you have recs for a better one.

  • Headphones. I use my iPhone headphones with the jack adaptor, so I can plug into in-flight entertainment.

  • Tylenol PM. Eye mask + ambient music + Tylenol PM = my secret to sleeping on planes.

  • Thermos by Zojirushi

  • Hand sanitizer by EO.

  • Blanket scarf by Travel Tube Blankets on Etsy. I bought this just before our Australia trip and was super excited to test it out for the first time. Initial thoughts: A+

  • Airplane socks, merino wool all the way.

  • Clean towelettes. I normally pack Alba’s 10-pack of wet wipes, but went for the generic Whole Foods brand this time.

Post Trip Review: What I’d Change About This List

Even though I didn’t pack much, I never felt like I was missing something during our two weeks in Queensland and Sydney. However, I would have made a few changes to the clothes I brought. First, I could have left out one tank, since I never wore it. Second, I would have packed some brighter or more colorful clothes. Sydney fashion is full of fun patterns and bold colors — quite the opposite of my monochromatic San Francisco style.

This was also my first time traveling with the Zojirushi thermos instead of a water bottle. Although I worried about it being too small, it ended up not being a problem. Plus, I loved being able to take my coffees to go after early morning wake up calls, and it kept my wine cold when I used it as an impromptu cup at a picnic. *winning*

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