Minimalist Travel Packing Guide: How we spent our two week honeymoon exploring Portugal and Morocco with only our backpacks.
This is an article that hopefully gets you to ditch the rollerbag and checked baggage and embrace minimalist style when you travel. Good luck! You can do it! 💕
When I suggested a winter New Years Eve wedding (with pizza!) to Drew, he loved the idea. Then came the question of where do we go on our honeymoon? New Zealand? Peru? Europe? Africa? We knew we had to honeymoon immediately after our wedding — given our work schedules, we wanted to ensure we actually took one! After a lot of research, we decided that Portugal and Morocco would be fun, thrilling, affordable and exotic… warm compared to our Buffalo climate but cold to keep the insane typical summertime crowds away. Yeah!
We were determined to travel light — with each of us carrying a backpack. Not a giant hiking like bag either — a bag that meets carry on standards for European travel which is much smaller and lighter than the USA! We embrace a fairly minimal lifestyle already, so we understand how important it is to have the freedom to wander with ease. Additionally, Lisbon is known for its steep hills and cobblestone sidewalks and Marrakech is known for chaotic souks and narrow streets. There was no way we were going to haul anything we didn’t need with us. With the weather fluctuating being between 45 — 70 degrees Fahrenheit and rain in the forecast, we knew we had to be creative with our packing gear! Simple task, right?!
Exploring the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
Side note: There are BIG advantages to winter weather packing — all you need is a cute coat that works, a scarf you love, a few pair of smart wool socks and your favorite boots and you should be good to go. Oh and ladies, leggings are your best friend.
Well, we’re excited to say — we did it! We looked and felt great as we spent 14 days wandering Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Guimarães, Sintra, Ouarzazate and Marrakech. We explored neighborhoods, castles, kasbahs, churches, ruins, the infamous Marrakech souks, the Atlas Mountains and yes, a ride on a dromedary (camel). We ate all the cheese, drank all the wine, espresso and Moroccan mint tea and ate as much bread, olives and tagine in Marrakech as we could. We always felt comfy and cute! Sticking with simple colors (black, navy), having smart footwear, combining our toiletry bag and having layering options really helped make it a really epic two week honeymoon.
Arabic Camel Rides in Marrakech.
The reality is that most people think they need everything but if you really plan ahead, you can feel fabulous everyday with little effort!
Tips / Tricks we learned:
- Get an Airbnb with laundry but beware — dryers are rare. We ended up hanging most our things during our first leg of the journey above a space heater. Our Airbnb in Porto had a dryer and we felt like we hit the jackpot!
- Smart wool socks and water resistant shoes are a must. As we wandered, we never worried about our feet. When we explored Braga, our tour guide was freezing but we were not.
Pretty fun tourist photo spot in Porto, Portugal.
- Castile soap is really awesome. Works for everything! But it was definitely nice to have an Airbnb in Porto with body gel, shampoo and conditioner. You can always buy this stuff when you get here.
- Travel hairspray & other travel products are impossible to find. Drew went through an entire travel size bottle of hairspray within a week!(Lol, how do you think his hair looks so good?!) This became a problem when we needed to fly to Marrakech and back — he could buy hairspray locally but couldn’t take a full size bottle and thus, he opted to not use hairspray for the remainder of the trip.
- Compression travel bags are your absolute best friend. Keeps things so organized and clean!
- CALL YOUR BANKS and let them know you’re traveling. We had a nightmare time with our local bank despite letting them know we were traveling… but luckily the bank staff worked it out and we had credit cards and arranged for $400 Euro to be mailed to us prior to our departure.
- CUSTOMS. Don’t underestimate the time needed at customs and always get the travel airline insurance. We missed our flight to Marrakech because our connecting flight from Porto to Lisbon was 15 min late and the line was so long at customs, we didn’t stand a chance. Because we had the insurance, we were auto booked on the next flight for no additional charge — only a few hours later.
- Of course, Don’t wait until the last minute to pack. We were thankful we thought ahead to buy several items (and also thankful for amazons 2 day shipping, lol!!)
Me and my ibagbar backpack I got got $40 on Amazon.
I stuck with the same color pallet (black and navy) clothes that could layer and be cute. I aimed for a simple, chic look. I planned ahead and bought an “ibagbar” backpack on Amazon which has a silly name but is an incredible travel pack because it has a zillion pockets and opens from the side. I definitely packed a few times before we departed to get it right and removed MANY items last minute.
I bought and wore in a pair of Ralph Lauren rubber ankle rain boots — they kept my feet dry and comfy. I only bought one black coat that is water resistant and insulated. Simple and easy! My huge Zara scarf was warm and cute — it came in handy many times. Last minute, I grabbed my favorite (and very worn) leather cross body bag and threw it in my backpack. What an amazing bag to bring — small yet large enough to fit everything we needed and it has a smaller safe pocket for passports. I opted for a “travel” outfit that was the heaviest items — green pants, rain boots, heavy sweater. I wore it every time we had to fly to keep my bag lighter. All my clothes were rolled and organized into compression bags!
Exploring the Souks in Marrakech. I did buy a leather backpack!
Here is what I crammed into my bag.
- Black leggings — Spanx
- Black leather leggings — ASOS
- Green moto pants — The Gap
- Zebra T-Shirt — H&M
- Back collar sleeveless shirt — N/A
- Black t shirt — ASOS
- Grey t shirt — ASOS
- Blue sweater — H&M
- Blue long sleeve shirt — Modern Nostalgia
- Brown overshirt — some boutique shop in Toronto, made in Montreal.
- Black hoodie — Kohl’s
- Black tank top -H&M
- Black pullover — Betabrand
- Black jacket — Mountain Warehouse
- Scarf — Zara
- Socks — 2 smart wool / 2 ankle
- Underwear (6)
- Bras (4 braletts)
- Nike sneakers / Boots / Sandals
- Bathing suit (never wore!)
Marrakech & Portugal have incredible tile everywhere!
Makeup / Pretty Stuff
- Mascara / Shimmery blush / concealer
- Lipstick & Lip balm
- Nail polish
- Hairbrush / straightener / 4 hair ties
- Face wipes
- Basics — tooth brush / paste / deodorant / contacts / first aid stuff
- Anker Charger / iPad / Adapter / Cords
Saying goodbye to Porto, Portugal.
Randoms we’re glad we brought:
- Castile soap because works for everything!
- Hair straightener (mini / dual charge) because it kept my bangs fresh.
- A First aid kit / Travel Kit…for when Drew got an upset stomach in Marrakech and needed aspirin and Imodium.
- The iPad (this was a no laptop trip!) because we still wanted to watch Black Mirror, even when we were in Europe.
- Anker — Powercore Charger… because it was super helpful and large enough to charge our phones many times. It came in handy nearly everyday. Highly recommend!
- European Adapter — no brainer!
Things we bought during Travel :
- Sunscreen (very expensive — $25Euro)
- Razor — man & woman
Drew with his water proof Patagonia bag.
I aimed for comfort and style — pretty much my everyday gear. One pair of sneakers and one pair of boots. I almost brought my 70liter camping bag but opted for my grey Patagonia waterproof backpack instead which was comfortable, smaller and easily passed the strict carry on rules. My clothes were a lot heavier than Bernice’s so she took the toiletries bag. I also opted to buy a scarf in Marrakech, too… mainly for style but it was also functional!
This Frank & Oak Jacket is on point.
- Jeans (2) — Levi Commuter
- Comfy pants (2) — Lulu Lemon
- Shorts (1)
- T Shirts (3)
- Button down shirts (3) — H&M
- Sweater (2) — H&M
- Hoodie (2) — H&M
- Underwear (7)
- Socks (7)
- Sneakers (1)
- Navy Rain coat — Frank & Oak
- Puffy jacket
Castles in Europe are fun to explore!
In conclusion — you CAN and you SHOULD spend your winter travel and / or winter honeymoon looking fabulous and being prepared without spending hundreds of dollars on checking bags and energy dragging roller bags a mile up the stairs of a cobblestone street inside the Alfama district in Lisbon. Being flexible will give you a freedom you’ll love and appreciate! Winter travel is definitely awesome — smaller crowds and affordable hotel and airfare prices. Lastly, if you’re worried about being minimal, rest assured that you can pretty much always buy something when you get to your destination. Don’t stress!!
Bernice & Drew
Jorge’s Castle in Lisbon, Portugal.
Ps. Lisbon is extremely rich in history. Porto is romantic and beautiful. Marrakech is a chaotic city you should absolutely let yourself get lost in. ❤️